Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Church History of Eusebius/Book II/Chapter 5
Chapter V.—Philo’s Embassy to Caius in Behalf of the Jews.
1. Philo has given us an account, in five books, of the misfortunes of the Jews under Caius. He recounts at the same time the madness of Caius: how he called himself a god, and performed as emperor innumerable acts of tyranny; and he describes further the miseries of the Jews under him, and gives a report of the embassy upon which he himself was sent to Rome in behalf of his fellow-countrymen in Alexandria; how when he appeared before Caius in behalf of the laws of his fathers he received nothing but laughter and ridicule, and almost incurred the risk of his life.
2. Josephus also makes mention of these things in the eighteenth book of his Antiquities, in the following words: “A sedition having arisen in Alexandria between the Jews that dwell there and the Greeks, three deputies were chosen from each faction and went to Caius.
3. One of the Alexandrian deputies was Apion, who uttered many slanders against the Jews; among other things saying that they neglected the honors due to Cæsar. For while all other subjects of Rome erected altars and temples to Caius, and in all other respects treated him just as they did the gods, they alone considered it disgraceful to honor him with statues and to swear by his name.
4. And when Apion had uttered many severe charges by which he hoped that Caius would be aroused, as indeed was likely, Philo, the chief of the Jewish embassy, a man celebrated in every respect, a brother of Alexander the Alabarch, and not unskilled in philosophy, was prepared to enter upon a defense in reply to his accusations.
5. But Caius prevented him and ordered him to leave, and being very angry, it was plain that he meditated some severe measure against them. And Philo departed covered with insult and told the Jews that were with him to be of good courage; for while Caius was raging against them he was in fact already contending with God.”
6. Thus far Josephus. And Philo himself, in the work On the Embassywhich he wrote, describes accurately and in detail the things which were done by him at that time. But I shall omit the most of them and record only those things which will make clearly evident to the reader that the misfortunes of the Jews came upon them not long after their daring deeds against Christ and on account of the same.
7. And in the first place he relates that at Rome in the reign of Tiberius, Sejanus, who at that time enjoyed great influence with the emperor, made every effort to destroy the Jewish nation utterly; and that in Judea, Pilate, under whom the crimes against the Saviour were committed, attempted something contrary to the Jewish law in respect to the temple, which was at that time still standing in Jerusalem, and excited them to the greatest tumults.
- Upon this work, see Schürer, p. 855 sqq. According to him, the whole work embraced five books, and probably bore the title περὶ ἀρετῶν καὶ πρεσβείας πρὸς Γ€ϊον. Eusebius cites what seems to be the same work under these two different titles in this and in the next chapter; and the conclusion that they were but one work is confirmed by the fact that Eusebius (in chap. 18) mentions the work under the title On the Virtues, which he says that Philo humorously prefixed to his work, describing the impiety of Caius. The omission of the title ἡ πρεσβεία in so complete a catalogue of Philo’s works makes its identification with περὶ ἀρετῶν very probable. Of the five, only the third and fourth are extant,—εἰς Φλ€κκον, Adversus Flaccum, and περὶ πρεσβείας πρὸς Γ€ϊον, de legatione ad Cajum (found in Mangey’s ed. Vol. II. p. 517–600). Book I., which is lost, contained, probably, a general introduction; Book II., which is also lost, contained an account of the oppression of the Jews during the time of Tiberius, by Sejanus in Rome, and by Pilate in Judea (see below, note 9); Book III., Adversus Flaccum (still extant), contains an account of the persecution of the Jews of Alexandria at the beginning of the reign of Caius; Book IV., Legatio ad Cajum (still extant), describes the sufferings which came upon the Jews as a result of Caius’ command that divine honors should everywhere be paid him; Book V., the παλινωδία (which is lost), contained an account of the change for the better in the Jews’ condition through the death of Caius, and the edict of toleration published by Claudius. Upon the other works of Philo, see chap. 18, below.
- The occasion of this embassy was a terrible disturbance which had arisen between the Jews and Greeks in Alexandria, and had continued with occasional interruptions for more than a year. Much blood had been shed, and affairs were becoming constantly worse. All efforts to secure peace utterly failed, and finally, in 40 a.d., the Greeks dispatched an embassy to the emperor, hoping to secure from him an edict for the extermination of the Jews. The Jews, on their side, followed the example of the Greeks, sending an embassy for their own defense, with Philo at its head. The result was as Eusebius relates, and the Jews were left in a worse condition than before, from which, however, they were speedily relieved by the death of Caius. Claudius, who succeeded Caius, restored to them for a time religious freedom and all the rights which they had hitherto enjoyed.
- Josephus, Ant. XVIII. 8. 1.
- This sedition, mentioned above, began in 38 a.d., soon after the accession of Caius. The Jews, since the time of Alexander the Great, when they had come in great numbers to the newly founded city, Alexandria, had enjoyed with occasional interruptions high favor there, and were among the most influential inhabitants. They possessed all the rights of citizenship and stood upon an equality with their neighbors in all respects. When Alexandria fell into the hands of the Romans, all the inhabitants, Jews as well as Greeks, were compelled to take a position subordinate to the conquerors, but their condition was not worse than that of their neighbors. They had always, however, been hated more or less by their fellow-citizens on account of their prosperity, which was the result of superior education and industry. This enmity came to a crisis under Caius, when the financial condition of Egypt was very bad, and the inhabitants felt themselves unusually burdened by the Roman demands. The old hatred for their more prosperous neighbors broke out afresh, and the terrible disturbance mentioned was the result. The refusal of the Jews to worship Caius as a God was made a pretext for attacking them, and it was this refusal which gained for them the hatred of Caius himself.
- Apion, chief of the Greek deputies, was a grammarian of Alexandria who had won great fame as a writer and Greek scholar. He seems to have been very unscrupulous and profligate, and was a bitter and persistent enemy of the Jews, whom he attacked very severely in at least two of his works—the Egyptian History and a special work Against the Jews, neither of which is extant. He was very unscrupulous in his attacks, inventing the most absurd and malicious falsehoods, which were quite generally believed, and were the means of spreading still more widely the common hatred of the Jews. Against him Josephus wrote his celebrated work, Contra Apionem (more fully de antiquitate Judæorum contra Apionem), which is still extant, and in the second book of which he exposes the ignorance and mendacity of Apion. In the Pseudo-Clementines he plays an important (but of course fictitious) role as an antagonist of the Gospel. The extant fragments of Apion’s works are given, according to Lightfoot, in Müller’s Fragm. Hist. Græc. II. 506 sq., and in Fabricius’ Bibl. Græc. I. 503, and VII. 50. Compare Lightfoot’s article in Smith and Wace’s Dict. of Christ. Biog.
- The Alabarch was the chief magistrate of the Jews at Alexandria. Alexander was a very rich and influential Jew, who was widely known and held in high esteem. His son Tiberius Alexander was appointed procurator of Judea in 46 a.d., as successor of Cuspius Fadus. Philo thus belonged to a high and noble Jewish family. The accuracy of Josephus’ statement that Philo was the brother of the Alabarch Alexander has been denied (e.g., by Ewald. Gesch. des Jüdischen Volkes, Vol. VI. p. 235), and the Alabarch has been assumed to have been the nephew of Philo, but this without sufficient ground (compare Schürer, ibid. p. 832, note 5).
- See note 1, above. The work is cited here under the title ἡ πρεσβεία (Legatio).
- The Jews in Rome had enjoyed the favor of Augustus, and had increased greatly in numbers and influence there. They were first disturbed by Tiberius, who was very hostile to them, and to whose notice all the worst sides of Jewish character were brought by their enemies, especially by Sejanus, who had great influence with the emperor, and was moreover a deadly enemy of the Jews. The Jews were driven out of Rome, and suffered many acts of violence. After the death of Sejanus, which took place in 31 a.d., they were allowed to return, and their former rights were restored.
- Pilate proved himself exceedingly tyrannical and was very obnoxious to the Jews, offending them greatly at different times during his administration by disregarding their religious scruples as no procurator before him had ventured to do. Soon after his accession he changed his quarters from Cæsarea to Jerusalem, and introduced the Roman standard into the Holy City. The result was a great tumult, and Pilate was forced to yield and withdraw the offensive ensigns (Josephus, B. J. II. 9. 2; see the next chapter). At another time he offended the Jews by hanging in his palace some shields inscribed with the names of heathen deities, which he removed only upon an express order of Tiberius (Philo, ad Caium, chap. 38). Again, he appropriated a part of the treasure of the temple to the construction of an aqueduct, which caused another terrible tumult which was quelled only after much bloodshed (Josephus, B. J. II. 9. 4; see the next chapter). For further particulars about Pilate, see chap. 7, below.