Petronius, Publius°

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PETRONIUS, PUBLIUS°

PETRONIUS, PUBLIUS° , governor of *Syria, 39–42 c.e. Petronius was ordered by Emperor Caligula to place his statue in the Temple at Jerusalem and to use force if necessary to overcome the resistance of the Jews. When they learned of the order, the Jews flocked to Petronius' headquarters at Acre to plead for annulment of this decree. Realizing that the Jews were prepared to sacrifice their lives, Petronius wrote to Caligula advancing reasons for a delay in installing the statue. The response was an impatient command to carry out the imperial order immediately. Meanwhile, as a result of Agrippa i's intercession, Caligula was prevailed upon to rescind his instructions. Unaware of this, Petronius again wrote to Caligula, who, in a rage, ordered him to commit suicide: this order reached him, however, after the news of Caligula's murder in 41 c.e. Petronius's friendship toward the Jews was demonstrated again when some Greek youths of the city of Dora set up a statue of the emperor in the local synagogue. In response to Agrippa i's remonstration Petronius ordered the magistrates of the city to send him the offenders; he enjoined them to allow everyone freely to practice his ancestral faith. Petronius' conduct is indicative not only of a desire to preserve order in the Roman provinces but also of his favorable attitude toward Judaism, which is ascribed by *Philo to his search for knowledge and to his close contact with Jews in the provinces of Syria and Asia, where he had previously been as proconsul.

bibliography:

Philo, De Legatione ad Caium, 31, 33; Jos., Ant., 18:261–309; 19:301f.; Pauly-Wissowa, 37 (1937), 1199–201, no. 24; Schuerer, Hist, 207–10, 219; Stern, in: Zion, 29 (1964), 155–67.

[Lea Roth]