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Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a, Roman orator and statesman. In 59 B.C.E., Cicero delivered a speech in Rome on behalf of his client Flaccus (Pro Flacco), who was accused of having seized gold contributed by the Jews to the Temple, while he was proconsul of Asia. In his oration he describes Judaism as a barbaric superstition that should be opposed, and criticizes the Jews of Rome for playing too prominent a part in public assemblies. It is probable that Cicero spoke not from conviction so much as in the interest of his client. Cicero’s observations indicate that the Jews ranked among the lower classes of the Roman population, attended popular assemblies, and took part in political life. Cicero attacks Gabinius Aulus, the governor of Syria, for handing tax farmers as slaves to the Jews and Syrians, “races born to be slaves” (De Provinciis Consularibus 5:10). Plutarch (Cicero 7) attributes to Cicero the pun, “What has a Jew to do with a pig?” He supposedly said this when prosecuting Verres, governor of Sicily (verres = boar in Latin). Verres was defended by Cecilius, a Roman quaestor sympathetic to Judaism.


Reinach, Textes, 237–41; Hermann, in: Attidel primo congresso degli studi ciceroniani, 1 (1961), 113–7; M. Radin, Jew.s Among the Greeks and the Romans (1915), 220–35; J. Lewy, in: Zion, 7 (1941/42), 109–34; Reinach, in: REJ, 26 (1893), 36–46.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.