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Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caracalla

(188-217 C.E.)

CARACALLA, MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS°, Roman emperor 211–217, the eldest son of Emperor Septimius *Severus . The reign of Caracalla was a continuation of the period of rapprochement between the Roman Empire and the Jewish people begun by his father Severus. Contemporary legal sources (Corpus Juris Civilis, Digesta 50:2, 3) indicate that both emperors granted Jews honorary offices in the cities of the Empire on the condition that their religion not come into play. The Church Father *Jerome also refers to their friendship with the Jews in his commentary on Daniel (11:34), and an inscription found in the Kasyoun synagogue in Galilee (Frey, Corpus, 2, no. 972) expresses the friendship of the Jews with these two emperors. Some scholars hold that *Judah ha-Nasi 's friendship with Antoninus refers to Caracalla, who was also known by this name. According to Historia Augusta (Caracalla 1:6), Caracalla was a child of seven when he first disclosed his sympathy toward Jews. This source also mentions that Septimius Severus agreed that his son was to hold a triumphal procession, and the Senate voted for a "Jewish triumph" (Severus 16:6–8). Caracalla's political move to grant Roman citizenship to all free residents of the empire (212 C.E.) naturally affected the masses of Jews as well, and though its purpose was to simplify taxation and legal procedures in the empire, its effect was that parity was nominally granted to the Jews for the first time.


S. Krauss, Antoninus und Rabbi (1910); W. Reusch, Der historische Wert der Caracallavita in den Scriptores Historiae Augustae (1913), 10f.; M. Avi-Yonah, Bi-Ymei Roma u-Vizantiyyon (1952), index; Juster, Juifs, 2 (1914), 23–25, 30–35.

[Menahem Stern]

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

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