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AUGUSTUS (called later Caius Julius Cæsar Octavianus):

The first Roman emperor that bore the honorary title of "Augustus"; born Sept. 23, 63 B.C.; died at Nola, Campania, Aug. 19, 14 C.E. He was the son of Caius Octavius. In his attitude toward the Jews he continued the friendly policy of his uncle, Julius Cæsar, who had made him his sole heir. With a great anxiety to arouse and to further at Rome interest in the national religion, he combined a broad tolerance for other faiths. Though he sanctioned the course of his nephew Claudius, who, while touring the Orient, had neglected to sacrifice at the Temple of Jerusalem, he showed his sympathy clearly on other occasions, both by sending gifts to the Jewish sanctuary and by causing the daily sacrifice to be offered up in his name.

His Edicts.

Augustus renewed the edicts which Julius Cæsar had promulgated in behalf of the Jews living at Cyrene and in Asia Minor, granting them perfect freedom of worship, sanctioning the collection of money for the Temple, and proclaiming as inviolable their sacred books and synagogues (Josephus, "Ant." xvi. 6, §§ 1-7). Particular regard was paid to their Sabbath; neither on that day, nor on its eve after the ninth hour, could the Jews be required to appear in court; while in Rome, if a public distribution of corn occurred on a Sabbath, needy Jews were entitled to claim their share on the day following. The contemporary Jewish population of Rome was quite considerable, as appears beyond question from the several synagogues the origin of which may be traced to the Augustan age. To one synagogue the name "of the Augustesians" (συναγὼγ Aὐγνστησίων) was given, in honor of the emperor.

Friendship with Herod.

The friendship between Augustus and Herod the Great began after the victory at Actium (Sept. 2, 31 B.C.), which rendered the former sole ruler of the Roman domain. Herod lost no time in passing over to the side of the victor, to whom he proffered allthe homage and loyalty which thitherto he had yielded to Antony. Augustus, accepting the offer, confirmed the royal position of Herod and bestowed upon him, after the suicide of Antony and Cleopatra, all the provinces of which he had been bereft through the influence of the latter (Josephus, "Ant." xv. 6, § 7). He tried also to aid the harassed Jewish king in his domestic troubles, by effecting a temporary reconciliation between him and the two sons of Mariamne, Alexander and Aristobulus (ib. xvi. 4, § 4). Herod showed his appreciation of his patron's favors by naming his new capital, built up out of Samaria, "Sebastè" (Greek for "Augustus," which title the emperor had just then assumed), in honor of the emperor, and its magnificent seaport, which occupied twelve years in the building, "Cæsarea" (ib. xv. 8, § 5; 9, § 6).

Judea During His Reign.

Under Augustus, moreover, Judea forfeited the actual or nominal independence it had possessed for a century and a half, and was made a Roman province. After the death of Herod (3 C.E.), an embassy of fifty prominent men from Jerusalem betook itself to Rome to protest against the continuance of the tyrannical rule of the Herodian dynasty, and to plead with Augustus for the annexation of Judea to Syria, and the appointment of a mild magistracy which would leave to Judea internal autonomy. About 8,000 Roman Jews joined the delegation, which was received by the emperor at the Temple of Apollo. The preliminary result of this movement was that Augustus divided Herod's realm between Archelaus—whom he appointed ethnarch, promising him the kingly title if good conduct should warrant such reward—and Philip and Antipas; making liberal provisions, also, for Salome, Herod's sister, and for his two daughters (ib. xvii. 11, § 5). At this juncture Augustus rendered another good service to Judea by unmasking and punishing a pretender to Herod's throne, who, emerging from Sidon, had passed for Alexander, one of Mariamne's slain sons, and who, on his triumphal journey from Puteoli to Rome, had gained many a follower among the credulous Jews (ib. xvii. 12).

Augustus Banishes Archelaus.

The rule of Archelaus, however, was tyrannous; and about ten years after his accession another embassy of leading Jews appeared before Augustus with an arraignment of his cruel despotism. The emperor thereupon summoned him to Rome, and banished him and his wife, Glaphyra, to Vienne, a city of Gaul, now in the lsère department, France. His wealth was confiscated, while Quirinius, a prominent senator, accompanied by Coponius, was delegated to Syria and Judea (6-7 C.E.) for the purpose of taking a census of those provinces and of introducing the Roman system of poll and property taxation, as well as of making the proper disposal of the belongings of Archelaus.

The census proved highly unpopular, particularly among the Zealots, a band of resolute republicans led by Judas the Galilean, or the Gaulanite, and by Zadok, who saw in this innovation a menace to national and personal liberty, and opposed it accordingly, though without permanent success. In some places open resistance even may have occurred (Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 1, § 1; xx. 5, § 2; idem, "B. J." ii. 8, § 1; 17, § 8; Luke ii. 1-3; Acts v. 37). Judea thus became wholly a Roman province of the second order, not incorporated into Syria, as Josephus says, but having an imperial representative in the person of a procurator, who resided at Cæsarea.

New marks of loyalty were shown to Augustus by his Herodian protégés. Antipas fortified Sepphoris, the chief city of Galilee, dedicating it to the emperor; while the new fortress at Betharamptha he named "Julias," after the emperor's wife. Similarly, Philip built an important city at the head of the Jordan valley, styling it "Cæsarea Philippi," in distinction from its namesake built by Herod the Great; while he enlarged and embellished Bethsaida, near the Lake of Gennesaret, and called it also "Julias," after the daughter of Augustus (Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 2, § 1).

Bibliography:
  • Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, 4th ed., iii. 229 et seq.,
  • Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, i. 11-14;
  • Berliner, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, i. 21, 62;
  • Mommsen, Römische Gesch. v. 504 et seq.;
  • Schürer, Gesch. der Juden, i. index, s.v. Octavianus Augustus.
G. H. G. E.
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