Skip to comments.Op-Ed: Rethinking Early Roman Anti-Semitism
Posted on 04/16/2012 2:30:13 PM PDT by Eleutheria5
The Jewish Revolt that led to the destruction of the Second Temple is erroneously held to be the start of Roman anti-Semitism, while it is actually more of the same - the belief Jews are sinister, evil and threatening.
That anti-Jewish prejudice features among Latin authors of the early Principate cannot be doubted.
For example, in the Cena Trimalchionis, which is a part of the satirical novel Satyricon, written during Neros reign, two freedmen- Habinnas and Trimalchio- have a discussion on the slaves they own. The former mentions a particular favorite of his, but adds that his duo vitia (two vices) are that recutitus est et stertit (he is circumcised- i.e. a Jew- and he snores- Petronius 68.8).
It has commonly been held that the Jewish Revolt (66-73 CE) marked a turning point in anti-Semitism among Romans. Namely, prior to the Jewish revolt, it has been widely argued that Jews were merely seen as silly rather than sinister or threatening in any way, with, for example, the dietary laws and prohibition against working on the Sabbath sometimes subjected to mockery.
However, I do not find such a view of Roman anti-Semitism tenable. In this context....
The historian Tacitus (Annals II.85) provides further details:
And there was a discussion about the expulsion of the Egyptian and Jewish rites, followed by a senatorial decree that 4000 freedmen infected with that superstition and of suitable age should be brought to the island of Sardinia in order to keep a check on the activities of bandits there; and, if any of them perished because of the harshness of the climate, it would be a cheap loss; the rest were to leave Italy unless they abandoned their profane rites before a certain day.
(Excerpt) Read more at israelnationalnews.com ...
Leave for the perverts of ancient times to obsess about their slave’s junk.
Tacitus was pretty blunt.
The Romans weren’t the only ones. Aristophanes talks a lot about it, too. See, for example, Akharnians, Lines 153-164, where a Thracian ambassador comes with a troop of supposedly fearsom Adamantian warriors to help in the Pelopenesian wars, and the hero Dikaiopolis reveals their genitals before all, proving that they are circumcised and therefore not only foreign but also cowardly. But Aristophanes merely used it as proof of foreign-ness, not Jewishness per se. Those ancient types were awful concerned with penile matters.
Suetonius mentions an expulsion of Jews from the city of Rome during the reign of Claudius (an event also mentioned in the New Testament).
Philo Judaeus' account of his embassy to Gaius (Caligula) is worth reading--first-hand account of what it was like to meet Caligula in person. Caligula mocks and sneers at the Jews.
Almost like Obama talking about a Republican.
Suetonius wasn't particularly enamored with Judaism either.
The Romans looked down on any foreigners, except Greeks. They despised any people who did not bow down to Roman domination. Look what they did to the Carthaginians.
The Carthaginians were Phonecians, hated by Romans, Greeks and Israelites. The Romans actually came up with the idea of giving their foreign provinces seats in the Senate and limited home rule. Not consistently practiced, but a great idea that outlived their empire. The United States adopted it, which is why there are now 50 states, all represented in both houses of Congress, and all with limited autonomy over local matters. In this context, Rome remained xenophobic, especially towards Judaeans, whom they regarded as trouble-makers for good reason (we rebelled against them several times, the last, under Bar Kochba, resulting in our prolonged exile).
Well, it’s easy to look back at ancient history, anywhere in the world, and see those folks as totally sexually depraved. I think we’re a bit myopic, since we live ages after Christian cultures spread the concept of “modesty” throughout the world, so we just take it for granted.
Nowadays, we seem to be returning to pagan standards, so maybe that explains the escalation of genitalia humor in our tv and movies. In another 50 years, I bet all the prime time sitcoms will look like something they have to put on after midnight on Cinemax now.
The big difference is, Aristophanes, with his troops of players wearing giant leather fali outside their costumes was at least funny and enduring. Even the old TV show Bonanza did a rather low key version of the Lysistrata once. No giant fali, unless you count the guns, and no blatantly sexual jokes, but it managed to stay true to the old Athenian comic’s story.
The word Virgil used was debellare, "war down". A couple of notches harder than "despise".
It's also a fact of literary and theatrical history, that as farces and debauches and raunchy, low-brow comedy gradually took over the Roman "theater", Roman letters produced no more men -- ever -- who wrote plays comparable to those of Terence and Plautus. Roman theater died with the last of Roman virtue, as the "values" of the forum overflowed and beslimed everything, like a backed-up sewer.