AUGUSTUS° (Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus; 63 B.C.E.–14 C.E.), first Roman emperor (27 B.C.E.). The policies of Augustus toward the Jews of the Roman Empire in general, and the inhabitants of Judea in particular, followed the favorable line established by Julius *Caesar. But with respect to Judea, the emperor's personal friendship with Herod probably played the decisive role. Herod's rule in Judea (37–4 B.C.E.) was contemporaneous with the rule of Augustus, and a close relationship existed between the two monarchs. It was Augustus, together with Mark Antony, who had been instrumental in the Senate's appointment of Herod as ruler of Judea (Jos., Ant., 14:383; Wars, 1:283–5). After the defeat of Antony at Actium (31 B.C.E.), Herod had been summoned by Augustus to Rhodes to explain his relations with the defeated Antony, and had succeeded in gaining the favor and friendship of the new emperor. After Augustus had confirmed his rule, and occupied
Jews throughout the Diaspora were favorably treated by Augustus. In one edict the rights of Jews in Asia Minor were upheld, including the privilege of sending money to the Temple treasury (Ant., 16:102 ff.). Augustus also issued decrees in favor of the Jews of Cyrene (ibid., 169 ff.). He also ensured the "inviolability of their sacred books and synagogues" and exempted them from the need to give bond to appear in court on the Sabbath or Friday after the ninth hour. The emperor's praise of his grandson, Gaius, for not worshiping in Jerusalem (Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum, 2:93) does not imply antagonism toward the Jews, but reflects his rejection, in general, of the Eastern religious rites which were penetrating Rome at that time. Probably in Augustus' lifetime, several synagogues were founded in Rome (cf. the Synagog Augustasion).
Vogelstein-Rieger, 1 (1895), 11 ff.; Juster, Juifs, 1 (1914), 149 ff.; Schuerer, Hist, index; Schuerer, Gesch, index, S.V. Octavianus Ausgustus; A. Schalit, Hordos ha-Melekh (19643), 507.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.