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Caligula, Caius Caesar Augustus°


CALIGULA, CAIUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS °, Roman emperor 37–41 c.e. The years of Caligula's rule mark a transition in the relationship between the Roman Empire and the Jews. For the first time in the history of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, the two sides came almost to a general clash of arms. At Caligula's accession, no sign of a change for the worse was detectable. Vitellius, governor of Syria, made the Jews in Judea swear allegiance to the new emperor. Agrippa i, a long-time friend of the new ruler and who had been imprisoned under Tiberius' rule, was freed and granted Philip Herod's territory in northeastern Palestine, along with a royal title (Jos., Ant., 18:237), which no Jewish ruler in Judea had been granted since Herod's death over 40 years earlier. Agrippa maintained his friendship with the emperor throughout the latter's lifetime and, under him, enjoyed an extension of his kingdom. Meanwhile, serious events were taking place in Alexandria, Egypt, that undermined the position of its Jewish community. The tension between the Greeks, who were taking advantage of Avilius *Flaccus' fear of deposition by Caligula, and the Jews reached serious proportions. The position of the Jews was somewhat ameliorated when Flaccus was deposed and a new governor appointed. Both sides were subsequently permitted to send delegations to the emperor in order to present their respective cases. It seems, however, that no final settlement was reached during Caligula's reign. More serious developments took place in Judea itself against the background of tension between the Jewish and the gentile populations as a result of Caligula's desire to impose his worship on all his subjects. The gentile population of Jabneh, encouraged by his attitude, set up an altar to the emperor, which was promptly destroyed by the Jewish majority. The emperor's reaction was to order a golden statue to be set up in the Temple itself, and, in anticipation of the inevitable reaction of the outraged Jews, ordered *Petronius, governor of Syria, to lead an army into Judea. Only the successful delaying tactics of Petronius and Caligula's assassination (January 24, 41 c.e.) staved off further calamity. However, the memory of the events that had taken place during Caligula's reign, and fear of their recurrence (Tacitus, Annales, 12:54) caused the relationship between the Roman government and the masses of the Jewish people to deteriorate.


Philo, In Flaccum, passim; idem, De Legatione ad Gaium, passim; Jos., Wars, 2:181ff.; Jos., Ant., 17:25ff.; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19014), 495ff.; Schuerer, Hist, index; Graetz, Gesch, 3, pt. 2 (19065), 761ff.; Balsdon, in: Journal of Roman Studies, 24 (1934), 19ff.; Smallwood, in: Latomus, 16 (1957), 3ff.

[Menahem Stern]

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