In the first century, Jews were expelled from Rome on various occasions. Ancient literary sources offer contradictory information on these expulsions. As a result, scholars have offered different reconstructions of what really happened. In contrast to earlier scholarship on the subject, this article seeks to place the expulsions of Jews from first-century Rome into the larger framework of Roman policy toward both Jews and other non-Roman peoples. It is argued that the decision to banish Jews from Rome resulted from pragmatic and not from specifically anti-Jewish considerations: Roman magistrates just wanted to maintain law and order. It is then suggested that the reasons underlying the decision to expel Jews from Rome were essentially the same as those triggering expulsions of other groups such as Isis worshipers, devotees of Bacchus, or astrologers. Such evidence serves to illustrate the two main theses of this article. First, it is argued that in late Republican and early Imperial times, Rome never developed a systematic "Jewish policy." During this period, Rome rather responded to situations when confronted with disputes over Jewish rights. This conclusion then serves to bolster the second thesis of this paper, namely that in the first century, Rome never pursued a consistent policy of tolerance (or intolerance) toward its Jewish subjects.
- Copyright 1994 The Regents of the University of California