Nero was a Roman emperor from 54–68 C.E. Nero reigned during a critical period in the relations between the Jews of Judea and imperial Rome. His reign saw the decline of the authority of the procurators in Judea and the outbreak of the Jewish War. He seems to have had no personal enmity against the Jews. Indeed, he supported Jewish vassal rulers and extended the borders of the kingdom of Agrippa II to include Tiberias and a number of other towns (Jos., Ant., 20:159; Jos., Wars, 2:252). He also bestowed Armenia Minor upon Aristobulus, son of the Jewish king of Chalcis (Ant., 20:158).
In a dispute that broke out between the leaders of the high priesthood and the Jerusalem populace on the one side, and Agrippa and the procurator Festus on the other, over the wall that had been erected to prevent Agrippa’s palace from overlooking the Temple court, he decided in favor of the former (Ant., 20:195). His wife Poppaea Sabina, who had a certain sympathy for the Jews, had a hand in this decision. Nero’s persecutions after the fire in Rome affected only the Christians but not the Jews. However, a number of factors combined to damage relations between the Jews of Eretz Israel and the Roman government.
The excesses and extravagances of the court were reflected in monetary extortion in the provinces, including Judea. Moreover, the rise of hellenizing elements in the administration benefited the non-Jewish inhabitants of the country while damaging the interests of the Jews. The procurators of Judea in Nero’s time apart from Festus (60–62 C E.) were Felix (52–60 C.E.), who had already been appointed by Claudius, Albinus (62–64 C.E.), and Gessius Florus (64–66 C.E.). They were the worst in the history of the Roman government of the country, and their rule saw the collapse of law and order in Judea. This was particularly so during the procuratorship of Florus, a Greek from Asia Minor, whose oppressive rule showed nothing but hatred toward the Jewish population. The situation was particularly bad in Caesarea, where, in a municipal dispute between the Jews and the Syrians, Nero decided against the Jews, annulling their privileges. Florus’ conduct also caused the outbreak of disturbances in Jerusalem, which led up to the great revolt of 66. Nero, determined to crush the rebels, sent Vespasian at the head of a large army to the country. Galilee was speedily reconquered by the Roman forces, but Jerusalem continued to hold out. According to talmudic tradition Nero became a proselyte (Git. 56a).
Schuerer, Hist, index; M. Radin, The Jews Among the Greeks and Romans (1915), 285–6, 294–8, 315–9; H. Dessau, Geschichte der roemischen Kaiserzeit, 2 pt. 2 (1930), 800–16; A. Momigliano, in: CAH, 10 (1934), 854–61.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.