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JUVENAL ° (c. 50–c. 127 c.e.), the most famous Roman satirist, a rhetorician by profession. Juvenal is most bitter against those foreigners – Greeks, Syrians, and especially Jews – who have, in his opinion, brought about the decline and fall of the old Roman way of life.

In Satire 14:96–106, he derides those who sympathize with Judaism, reverencing the Sabbath, worshipping clouds and a heavenly divinity (cf. *Hecataeus, Varro, *Strabo, and *Petronius Arbiter), and avoiding pork. Their children, he says, go still further (so also *Tacitus, Hist. 5:5), undergoing circumcision. He also denounces these proselytes for despising Roman statutes while observing the law which Moses had handed down in a secret scroll (perhaps a reference to Judaism as a mystery, as seen by the Romans generally or as seen in *Philo, who may have been known to Juvenal through *pseudo-Longinus), hating anyone who is not one of them (so also Tacitus, loc. cit.), to the point of being unwilling to direct a non-Jew to the road that he seeks or a thirsty man to a fountain (perhaps an allusion to the baptism required of proselytes). Lewy has indicated that to show the way to wanderers and to give drink to the thirsty were basic to Juvenal's Stoic philosophy, for which reason he felt so strongly about them. He also condemns the Judaizers for showing laziness by abstaining from work on the Sabbath (so also *Seneca the Younger).

Juvenal mocks at the poverty among the Jews (3:12–16; 6:542–7), though perhaps this is a reflection merely of the Jewish tradition of charity. Synagogues in particular, he says, are the haunts of beggars (3:296). The Jews, for a very small fee, interpret dreams and tell fortunes for credulous Romans (6:542–7). Juvenal also mentions an incestuous relationship between *Agrippa ii and his sister *Berenice and contemptuously speaks of the poverty and piety of the Jewish kings who observe the Sabbath with bare feet (6:156–60), perhaps referring to the belief that Jews fasted on the Sabbath (cf. Strabo, *Augustus, *Pompeius Trogus, and Petronius Arbiter), which may be an allusion to the Day of Atonement, as possibly in *Horace's "thirtieth Sabbath" (Satires 1:9, 69).


Reinach, Textes, 290–3; J. Lewy, in: Sefer Yoḥanan Lewy (1949), 1–2; L.H. Feldman, in: Transactions… of the American Philological Association, 81 (1950), 200–8.

[Louis Harry Feldman]

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