SUETONIUS°


SUETONIUS° (Caius Suetonius Tranquillus; c. 69–140 C.E.), Roman biographer. Suetonius' "Lives of the Caesars" (De Vita Caesarum) yields a good deal of information on the Jews under the Julio-Claudian and Flavian emperors. Details which do not occur elsewhere are his observations on the mourning by the Jews after the murder of *Julius Caesar (Divus Iulius, 84), the negative attitude of *Augustus to Judaism (Divus Augustus, 93), the anecdote about *Tiberius and the Jewish grammarian Diogenes on the island of Rhodes (Tiberius, 32), and the account of the interrogation of a Jewish nonagenarian in connection with the Jewish tax under *Domitian (Domitianus, 12). He mentions (contradicted by Dio) Claudius' expulsion of the Jews from Rome because of a riot caused by a certain Chrestus: this seems to constitute a reference to the early diffusion of Christianity. He also refers to Josephus' prediction that Vespasian would become emperor. While Suetonius' attitude toward Christianity is clearly derogatory (Nero, 16), he refrains from expressing an opinion on Judaism, and similarly does not explicitly censure the spread of Oriental cults in Rome. Suetonius, however, was closely attached to his ancestral Roman religion, and he stresses the negative attitude of Augustus, his ideal ruler, toward the Jewish and Egyptian cults equally. The general impression one gains of his attitude is that foreign cults are associated with unworthy emperors.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Reinach, Textes, 327–33; H.J. Leon, The Jews of Ancient Rome (1960), 23–27.

[Menahem Stern]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.