Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVIII.32.1-3

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The Diaspora Revolt
Name of the author: 
Cassius Dio
Date: 
207 CE to 229 CE
Place: 
Rome
Language: 
Greek
Category: 
Roman and Greek
Literary genre: 
History
Title of work: 
Roman History
Reference: 
LXVIII.32.1-3
Commentary: 

For a short biographical presentation of Cassius Dio and of his main work, the Roman History, see Cassius Dio, Roman History XXXVII.16-17.

The text presented here comes from the sixty-eighth book of Cassius Dio’s Roman History, a book starting with Nerva’s accession to power. It is one of the books that has not been preserved at all. As a consequence, we only know of it through the Epitome made by the byzantine monk John Xiphilinus at the end of the eleventh century CE (John Xiphilinus’ Epitome includes books 36 to 80). This text is fundamental, as it is one of the few literary sources dealing with the revolt among the Jewish Diaspora at the beginning of the 2nd century CE.

In this passage, Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus deals with the various regions in the Empire that had been affected by Jewish riots at the end of Trajan’s reign, namely Cyrene, Egypt and Cyprus. It is interesting to compare his version of the events with that proposed by Eusebius of Caesarea in Ecclesiastical History IV.2 and in his Chronicle (that we know of only through Jerome’s Latin version and an Armenian version written in the sixth century). Eusebius writes that in Egypt, especially in Alexandria, and also in Cyrene, many Jews revolted against the Greeks living with them. After some Jewish successes, some Greeks fled to Alexandria where they killed the Jewish inhabitants in the city. Then, the Jews of Cyrene revolted and plundered many Egyptian districts under the leadership of a “king” (basileus) called Loucoua. Then, Eusebius narrates that in 117 CE Trajan sent to Egypt a commander named Marcius Turbo, with foot soldiers, ships and cavalry, and that, after long and hard fights, he killed thousands of Jews from Cyrene and from Egypt. The character of Marcius Turbo appears also in the Historia Augusta, more precisely in the Life of Hadrian when the author narrates: “He (i.e. Hadrian) disarmed Lusius Quietus, suspected of having aspired to Empire, by taking him off the Moorish fellow men that he was in charge of, and he nominated Marcius Turbo, who had just crushed the Jews (Iudaeis conpressis), in order that he put the revolt of Mauretania down” (Historia Augusta, Life of Hadrian V.8). Marcius Turbo would thus have been recalled by Hadrian in 118 CE, having crushed the Jewish revolt in Egypt, in order that he could submit the revolts of Lusius Quietus in Mauretania. It is interesting to note that Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus probably alludes to the same Lusius Quietus when, in the last sentence of the text presented here, he deals with a Λούσιος who would have been sent by Trajan to subdue the Jews. However, Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus did not make explicit what role he played during the revolt. In Eusebius’s version of the events, we have more details about him: “In addition, as the emperor (i.e. Trajan) suspected the Jews in Mesopotamia would also attack the peoples of that country, he ordered Lusius Quietus to clear the province of them”. Lusius Quietus is thus said to have killed many Jews in Mesopotamia, and it is probably after this successful operation that Trajan appointed him governor of Judea in 117 CE (for his career, see PIR2 L 439). This last point raises the question of the involvement of the Jews of Judea in the revolt. There is no document that makes explicit whether or not the Diaspora revolt spread to Judea. However, the Roman power did its best to prevent any risk of contagion of the revolt in the region. In order to strengthen the control over it, Trajan nominated Lusius Quietus as its governor, he changed Judea’s status from praetorian to consular, and he also probably ordered the settlement of a second permanent legion in the province (see Goodman, Rome & Jerusalem, p. 481; on the supplementary legion, the Legio II Traiana, see Isaac and Roll, “Legio II Traiana in Judea”; on the question of whether the Jews in Judea participated in the revolt of 116-117 CE and on the connection with the Jewish sources mentioning the “war of Kitos,” see Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 219-257; Mishnah Sotah 9:14; Tosefta Sotah 15:6, 8-9). The fact that Cassius Dio and Eusebius do not list Judea among the regions involved in the revolt of 116-117 CE may indicate that, even if there had been trouble before or after Lusius Quietus’s arrival in the province, they must have not been as important as the ones in the other regions mentioned.

First, Eusebius insists much less than Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus on the violence of the Jews that were revolting. When the latter narrates the attacks led by Jews against the Greek and Roman populations of Cyrene, he enumerates various acts of excessive cruelty perpetrated by them: cannibalism, cutting up of the enemies’ bodies, reuse of their skin or entrails, or condemnation to the beasts. As noted by Benjamin Isaac, this insistence of Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus on these inhuman acts is noteworthy as, in the narrative he proposes of the Bar Kokhba revolt, he only mentions the violence of the fights and the number of victims. By enumerating such cruel acts Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus wanted to discredit the Jews by assimilating them to savage enemies (note also the difference with the Bar Kokhba revolt which is characterised as a war/polemos; see Isaac, “Cassius Dio,” p. 76). Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus’s narrative of the Diaspora revolt is also different from that of Eusebius where they deal with the leaders of the Jewish revolt from Cyrene. Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus mentions a certain Andreas, whereas Eusebius deals with a man called Loucoua. Finally, there are two other important differences between the two narratives. First, Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus mentions the fact that there had been troubles in Cyprus and that the Jews were led by Artemion. In the Ecclesiastical History it does not appear, whereas in Eusebius’s Chronicle, it is stated that the Jews destroyed the city of Salamis and killed its inhabitants (Eusebius, Chronicle Trajanus XIX, a. 115; on Cyprus see Epitaph for a soldier who fought the Jewish Revolt in Cyprus (AE 1992, 1689)). Second, unlike Cassius Dio, Eusebius mentions that there had been also a revolt of Jews in Mesopotamia and that Lusius Quietus had been sent to subdue it (Ecclesiastical History IV.2; Eusebius, Chronicle Trajanus XIX, a. 115; later restated by other Christian authors as Orosius, History against the Pagans VII.12.7). So, combining these two narratives, we can conclude that the Diaspora revolt affected Cyrene, Egypt, Cyprus and also a region in Mesopotamia. However, the importance of the differences between Cassius Dio and Eusebius’s narratives may show that Eusebius did not use Cassius Dio’s work to compose his version of the revolt (see Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 158-161).

The narratives of Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus and Eusebius remain however unclear on two crucial points which are interconnected: the chronology of the events and the cause(s) of the burst of the revolt.

First, we ignore whether all these revolts started or not around the same period in the various areas of the Empire. What remains undoubted is that the revolt spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean when Trajan was completing his Parthian conquest. In fact, in the autumn of 113 CE Trajan had left Rome to wage a war against Parthia. He may have arrived at Antioch in Syria at the beginning of 114 CE, and then made a first campaign in Armenia that he ended around the summer of 114 CE. Next, Trajan campaigned against the Parthians through Mesopotamia. We can ignore most of Trajan’s troops movements during these operations, except that he spent the winter 114/115 CE at Edessa and the winter 115/116 CE at Antioch, but also that he received from the Senate the title Parthicus the 20th or 21th February 116 CE, perhaps for his conquest of Nisibis and Batnae (see Fasti Ostienses and Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVIII.23.2). Then, Trajan went down to Ctesiphon later in 116 CE where the Great King was chased. According to Cassius Dio’s narrative, while Trajan sailed towards the Persian Gulf, numerous revolts burst into the districts he had previously conquered. The emperor would have heard about the situation when he was at Babylon, probably still in 116 CE (Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVIII.29.4-30.1). Cassius Dio writes that Trajan sent the commanders Lusius and Maximus against the rebels, a fact which may echo Eusebius’s narrative that Lusius Quietus was sent to fight the Jews in Mesopotamia (for that perspective, see Pucci Ben Zeev, “The Uprisings,” p. 99). After that the situation was brought under control, Trajan went to Arabia and started operations against the people of Hatra who also revolted at the end of 116 or perhaps in 117 CE. His attempted siege was a failure, Trajan had to depart and it is just after this event that he started to fail in health – he died in August 117 CE (LXVIII.31.1-4). Therefore, there is a connection between the start of the revolts in the various regions of the Empire and the fact that Trajan was fulfilling his campaign in Mesopotamia. Some scholars have suggested that the revolt erupted precisely when Trajan was leading this Parthian campaign because the numerous Jews who lived peacefully and enjoyably under the authority of the Parthian kings, refused to be submitted by Rome and so they assimilated it to an oppressive power (Pucci Ben Zeev, “The Uprisings,” p. 99-100).

Cassius Dio’s narrative gives the impression that the Jewish revolt started first in the region of Cyrene, yet the imprecision of the expression Καὶ ἐν τούτῳ οἱ κατὰ Κυρήνην Ἰουδαῖοι prevents us from situating the beginning of the tensions in 115 or in 116 CE precisely. In the Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius writes that the revolt started in 115 CE and implies that it may have started first in Alexandria. It is thus important to confront these pieces of information with other sources.
Thanks to the papyrological corpus, of which around sixteen papyri are more or less directly related to the Jewish revolt, it is from Egypt that we have more information for the extent and the chronology of the revolt (documents gathered in CPJ II 435-450). The troubles caused by the Jews in Egypt concerned many regions; they affected the city of Alexandria, a city in which tensions between Greeks and Jews are attested from the third century BCE and had been endemic during the first and beginning of the second century CE. Under Trajan, before the outbreak of the revolt, some papyri mention the existence of tensions between Greek and Jewish populations in the city. CPJ II 157 (= P. Oxy. 1242), dated from Trajan’s reign, mentions the sending of two concurrent embassies to the emperor, and implies that the Greeks from Alexandria had recently perpetrated violence against the Jews (on the problem of the historical value of this text which belongs to the “Acts of the Alexandrines,” see Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 133-136). Moreover, the papyrus CPJ II 435 of the 14th October 115 CE, which is a copy of an edict of the Roman prefect Rutilius Lupus, also attests that Greeks made exactions against Jews in Alexandria, exactions that the Roman power decided to punish (Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 137-140). These two documents thus show the Jewish revolt had not already started in 115 CE. This point can be confirmed by the fact that tax receipts attesting that the Jewish tax and other taxes continued to be paid by Jews exist up to the 18th May 116 CE (see the ostraka CPJ II 227 from Apollinopolis Magna; Barnes, “Trajan and the Jews,” p. 157-158). The terminus post quem of the outbreak of the Jewish revolt in Egypt can thus be fixed in May 116 CE. By then, a letter dated to 19th June 116 CE and coming from the familial archive of Apollonios, the strategos of the district of Apollinopolis-Heptakomias, attests that Apollonios asked someone to buy weapons for him (see Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 167-168). We know that troubles affected the region of Memphis (CPJ II 438-439), the Fayum (CPJ II 449), Oxyrhynchos (CPJ II 445, 447, 450), the Herakleopolite nome (CPJ II 445), the Kynopolite nome (CPJ II 445), the Hermopolite nome (CPJ II 436, 438, 442, 443, 446), and finally the nome of Lycopolite (CPJ II 444) and Apollinopolis (CPJ II 436) (Pucci Ben Zeev, “The Uprisings,” p. 95). Concerning the end of the Jewish revolt in Egypt, the papyrus CPJ II 443 preserves a letter that the strategos of Apollinopolis-Heptakomias Apollonios sent to the Roman prefect for a leave of sixty days to take care of his private affairs and properties which needed all his attention after the fights. This letter is dated from the 28th November 117 CE, however we understand that it was not the first time that Apollonios wrote to the prefect, a situation thus implying that the fights may have ended at the end of the summer 117 CE, perhaps at the very beginning of Hadrian’s reign (see Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 153-156).

To sum up, Eusebius of Caesarea must be wrong when he writes that the revolt started in Egypt in 115 CE. The re-readings of some papyri, but also of the various literary accounts, may indicate that the Diaspora revolt must have occurred in Egypt between the summer of 116 and that of 117 CE. There remain thus the questions regarding the chronological order of all the revolts and of whether they happened simultaneously or not. Re-interpreting Cassius Dio-Xiphilinus’s narrative of Trajan’s Parthian campaigns and of the Diaspora revolt, Timothy D. Barnes has suggested that the Jews of Mesopotamia would have been the first to take up arms and that they would have been followed by those of Libya, Egypt and Cyprus (see Barnes, “Trajan and the Jews,” p. 154-162). As rightly recalled by Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev, the testimonies we have for Libya and Cyprus are scarce. For Cyprus we only know thanks to the epitaph of Caius Valerius Rufus that the terminus post quem of the revolt should be placed on the 20th or 21th February 116 CE, that is after that Trajan had been granted the title of Parthicus (see Epitaph for a soldier who fought the Jewish Revolt in Cyprus (AE 1992, 1689); and Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 185). For Libya, the inscriptions we have are all dated in the aftermath of the revolt, making it impossible to assert whether the revolt happened before, after or at the same time that the ones in Egypt or in Mesopotamia (Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 261). If we follow Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev’s reconstitutions, we have however firmer information concerning the chronology of the Jewish revolt in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. As we saw, it must have happened in Egypt after the end of May 116 CE. In Mesopotamia, the terminus post quem of the revolt of the already “conquered districts” can be fixed in April or May 116 CE (on Mesopotamia, see Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 214-215, 261). These elements have thus led Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev to the conclusion that all of the revolts could have happened roughly at the same time in the different regions of the Empire; a contemporaneity which could thus explain the lack of consistency in the order of presentation of the various revolts in Cassius Dio and Eusebius’s testimonies (see Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 262). Finally, the question of whether these revolts had been commonly organized remains very speculative. We would rather think that each of the Jewish communities that rose up had their own reasons to which, as we will we see, could be a mix of local enmities and of a general aversion towards the policy led by the Roman government in their province. This diversity of the local situations does not exclude the fact that many of the Jews who were revolting may have known that the authority of the Empire was challenged by other members of their people, in other regions of the Empire; a situation that may have encouraged them to pursue their revolt.

The second main question to be asked pertains to the causes of these various riots. First, we can remark that there exist common features between the various communities concerned by the Diaspora revolt, which could explain why these communities revolted in 116/117 CE. Martin Goodman must be correct when he recalls that this burst of violence in the various Jewish communities of the Diaspora could be explained by the accumulation of lost illusions since Trajan’s arrival to power. Indeed, Nerva’s reign may have represented a time of relative improvement of conditions for the Jews throughout the Empire, compared with the time of Domitian. This improvement may have passed over the fact that he would have tried to limit the abuses that had been perpetrated under the previous emperor in the framework of the perception of the Jewish tax. According to Martin Goodman, Nerva may have even temporarily suppressed the Jewish tax (this last point remains however debated, see Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVIII.1-2; Suetonius, Life of Domitian XII.1-2; Sestertius depicting the head of Nerva and a palm tree (97 CE)). Thus, the fact that Nerva chose as a successor a man whose father had commanded troops during the Jewish war and that one of Trajan’s immediate measures may have been to reinstate the perception of the Jewish tax – an act that confirmed that the Jerusalem temple would not be rebuilt –, could explain why the Jews throughout the Empire were hostile to him. To have spent ten years enduring their situation, and then to have seen Trajan multiplying the military campaigns to enforce his reputation of military commander, and realised that Rome would not permit them to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple, may have led some of the Jews of the Diaspora to choose to revolt against Rome (see Goodman, Rome & Jerusalem, p. 475-476, 480). Among the other deep causes explaining why these Jewish communities in Egypt, Libya and Cyprus rose up, Martin Hengel has pointed out the fact the Jews of these regions had previously enjoyed relative prosperity under the Ptolemaic government. However, their political, social and economical situation became worse after the Roman conquest because the Roman authorities were more inclined to support the Greek citizens at their expense (see Hengel, “Messianiche Hoffnung”; Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 125-127) – a situation that may echo that of the Jews of Mesopotamia who may have revolted against Rome in 116 CE because they thought that it was a more enjoyable condition to live under the Parthian kings than to be subjugated by Roman emperors (for the chronological reconstitution of the events in Mesopotamia and the fact that the Jewish revolt may have occurred in 116-117 CE, see Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 212-217). This unbalanced treatment of the Greek citizens and of the Jews created various and chronic tensions throughout the first century CE. We have previously mentioned the example of Alexandria, but it is also interesting to note that in 73 CE, the Jewish community of Cyrene had also been affected by exactions led by a leader called Jonathan who enticed the less well-off to kill Jews in the city (Josephus, Jewish War VII.437-455). These punitive operations provoked the death of 3000 of the wealthy Jews in the city, a tragic episode that must have created, among the surviving Jews of Cyrene, important resentment. The Diaspora revolt should be interpreted as the result of the long-term accumulation of frustration and rancour among these local provincial communities, which violently erupted in 116 CE. It is thus meaningful that many destructions perpetrated by Jews in these localities targeted the economic interests of their enemies, who often were their neighbours. This point is well attested in Egypt by various papyri, most of them dated from after the revolt, in which some Greek landowners complained about the damages that the Jews inflicted on their lands or homes (see for instance CPJ II 443 and 447). By consequence, these sources also show the local and personal dimensions of the attacks committed by the revolted Jews.

We should also question the religious motivation(s) of the Jewish rebels. Some scholars have proposed to explain the outbreak of the revolt by the fact that, at that time, there would have been a “general ferment [that] may have prevailed in Jewish circles in response to circulating prophecies about the fall of Rome, and in response to the strong earthquake that took place in the winter of 115 at Antioch” (see Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 141). As Cassius Dio and Eusebius mention the existence of various leaders of the Jewish revolt, leaders among whom Loukoua was called “king” by Eusebius; it has also been suggested that these men were messianic figures responding to contemporary eschatological inclination and promising that the revolt of the Jews throughout the Empire would initiate a new age. Among the other arguments used to prove how messianism could have played an important role in the revolt, there is, first, the scale of the destructions, especially in Cyrene, which gives the impression that the Jews did not want to come back. Second, there is the idea that the march of the Jewish Cyrenian into Egypt was undertaken “to prepare for a return from exile into Judaea” (see Horbury, “The Beginnings,” p. 297, and the bibliography n. 39-44). However, the messianic nature of the Diaspora revolt remains a debated subject and the elements which can be quoted to prove it remain scarce (on the idea that the revolt had a messianic element from its beginning, see Horbury, “The Beginnings,” p. 297-303; on the scarcity of the evidence see Pucci Ben Zeev, “The Uprisings,” p. 94).
Contrary to the narrative he gives of the origins of the Bar Kokhba revolt, Cassius Dio does not state that religious motivations had been the main trigger for the outburst of the Diaspora revolt (see Isaac, “Cassius Dio,” p. 68-72; Cassius Dio, Roman History LXIX.12-14), yet considering the nature of some of the destructions perpetrated by the revolted Jews, it is possible to imagine the religious and political motivations of the Jews. For instance, the inscriptions found in the city of Cyrene and attesting the numerous restorations undertaken under Hadrian in 119 CE show that the monuments targeted by the Jews were both religious monuments and/or monuments which were the centres of the social and political life in the city. The tumultus Iudaicus affected the temple of Hecate (see The Temple of Hecate and the Jewish Riot in Cyrene), the baths (AE 1928, 2), the Caesareum (SEG 17, 804) and the basilica (see Dedication for the rebuilding of the Basilica of Cyrene (AE 1974, 672)). Archaeological evidence also demonstrates that the temples of Apollo, Zeus, Demeter, Artemis and Isis in the city had been damaged or destroyed. As stated by Martin Goodman, we cannot be sure that the destructions specifically targeted pagan cults, as they could also have been the result of more global destructions, however the number of religious monuments affected by these destructions remains impressive (see Applebaum, Jews and Greeks, p. 269-285; Goodman, Rome & Jerusalem, p. 480). In Egypt, near Alexandria, Appian narrates that the shrine of Nemesis had been destroyed during the revolt (Appian, Civil Wars II.90); and it is probable that the city suffered major damage (in the Chronicle of Eusebius, Hadrian I, it is stated that Hadrian “rebuilt Alexandria after it was destroyed by the Jews”). The fact that the Jews attacked temples or, like in Cyrene, the basilica, which was the meeting place for the Roman proconsul during his visits to the city and the location for all judicial proceedings, shows that the violence perpetrated by these Jewish communities may have had an anti-Roman and anti-Gentile dimension. By then, in Egypt, some papyri have been interpreted by some scholars as attesting that the Greeks themselves perceived the religious nature of the destructions perpetrated by the Jews as they qualified them as “impious Jews” (ἀνόσιοι Ἰουδαῖοι). This is the case of the papyri CPJ II 438 (which might be dated from the summer 117 CE and deals with Jewish victories in the Hermopolite nome) and CPJ II 443 (dated from the 28th November 117 CE and which is an official communication between the strategos Apollonios, who qualifies the Jews as such, and the prefect of Egypt). For Alexander Fuks who has commented on these papyri in the Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, the adjective “impious,” ἀνόσιοι, had been used in these documents to refer to the iconoclastic and anti-religious character of the destructions operated by the Jews. Nevertheless, Joseph Mélèze-Modrzejewski has rightly suggested that, used in such an official context (especially for the letter between the strategos and the prefect), the adjective ἀνόσιοι had less to do with the fact that they destroyed temples, than with the fact that they were guilty of the crime of maiestas. Indeed, by taking up arms against Roman power, Jews were guilty of being the instigators of a sedition, a crime which fell under the category of the crimen maiestatis because it harmed the person and the security of the princeps (see Mélèze-Modrzejewski, “Ἰουδαῖοι ἀφῃρημένοι,” p. 356-357).
Another element – even if its dating remains uncertain – may be interesting to quote in order to hypothesize on the motivations of the revolted Jews. A symbolic milestone dated from 118 CE and discovered within the walls of Cyrene praised the emperor Hadrian for having repaired the road between Cyrene and Apollonia, a road that had been “turned up and destroyed (because of) the Jewish revolt” (Rebuilding the Cyrene-Apollonia road). This inscription is particularly interesting because it gives information about the fact that the Jewish rebels also destroyed the road network, and because it has been associated with another inscription discovered 27 km from Cyrene, at Ein Targhuna, on the road that led to Ptolemais. This inscription is a menorah carved into the rock-cut road that some scholars as interpreted as having been carved by the Jewish rebels themselves (Applebaum, Jews and Greeks, p. 237; Lüderitz, Corpus jüdischer, p. 46). Thus, if the inscribed graffito of the menorah on the road to Ptolemais had been effectively made by the Jews, it would show how the latter had been determined to leave a permanent expression of the Jewish victory over Rome, a victory symbolized here by a religious symbol, the Menorah.

In conclusion, even if it is possible only to hypothesize on the reasons that caused the outbreak of the Diaspora revolt, it seems that the places against which some Jews perpetrated some violence, especially in Cyrene and in Alexandria, may indicate that their anger was directed especially towards pagan religious buildings and towards places directly connected to the imperial cult or the administration of justice by Roman officers. However, the symbolic character of these destructions should not hide the fact that the violence between Jews and Greeks, Romans or even indigenous populations were also motivated by interpersonal conflicts and local tensions existing from a more or less lengthy period. In Mesopotamia, however, the Jewish revolt against Rome may have been instigated by different motivations, as its aim was to resist Roman conquest.
Even if we do not know much about the consequences for both sides of the Diaspora Revolt, it is clear the Roman power had been obliged to exert major military effort (on Rome’s military reaction see Pucci Ben Zeev, “The Uprisings,” p. 96-98). From the Jewish side, it is difficult to evaluate the importance of the human losses, as Cassius Dio’s count must have been exaggerated. Nevertheless, it is probable that in Cyprus or in Cyrene, the repression led by Roman armies resulted in the near disappearance of the Jewish communities in these very places. For instance, one century after the events, Cassius Dio speaks of the banishment of the Jews from Cyprus in the present tense, indicating thus that the exclusion of the Jews was still then in effect (Smallwood, Jews under Roman Rule, p. 415). In Egypt, and especially in Alexandria, the Jews did not disappear during the revolt; the papyrus CPJ II 158a actually attests that some Jews protested to a Roman emperor, probably Hadrian. However, in Alexandria and even more in the rest of the Egyptian districts, the number of Jews must have decreased severely after the revolt. One could quote as an example the fact that, at Edfu, whereas no less than around seventy tax receipts are attested for the period 71-116 CE, the year 117 CE marks a break as no other tax receipt are attested until 151 CE (Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 152-153). In addition, the Jews who were settled in Egypt must have endured severe sanctions under Hadrian. For instance, various papyri show that, probably after the issue of an imperial decree, the Jewish rebels saw their properties confiscated by local authorities and attest also the creation of a “Jewish register,” Ἰουδαικὸς λόγος, (CPJ II 445 and 448; SB 12 10893; P. Köln II 97, on that documentation see Mélèze-Modrzejewski, “Ἰουδαῖοι ἀφῃρημένοι,” p. 340-361; Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 186-190). Finally, it is also interesting to note that some local communities entertained the memory of their victory over the revolted Jews, sometimes many years after the events. This can be seen in the Oxyrhynchite district thanks to the papyrus CPJ II 450, which attests that, in 199 CE, under Septimius Severus and Caracalla, the Greek inhabitants of the Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus still celebrated an annual festival to commemorate the day of the victory over the Jews. These inhabitants continued to recall that they had remained loyal to Rome during the revolt of 116-117 CE in order to benefit from imperial favours. So this example, as Cassius Dio’s assessment about the actual state of Cyprus, show that Greeks and Romans continued to maintain the memory of the Roman victory, even eighty years after the events.

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Cassius Dio, Roman History LXVIII.32.1-3
Author(s) of this publication: Marie Roux
Publishing date: Mon, 09/24/2018 - 13:45
URL: http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/cassius-dio-roman-history%C2%A0lxviii321-3
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