Caligula and the Jews
The calamities that Jews suffered during the reign of Vespasian and at various times under later emperors have created a popular impression that Jews and Romans were traditionally sworn enemies. But it was not in fact until Caligula’s reign that relations between the two underwent a serious crisis. The difficulties that arose were complex, and not properly understood. They involved two different branches of Judaism. There were, on the one hand, those Jews who had continued to live in the original region of Jewish settlement, loosely referred to as Judea, with its main centre in Jerusalem. There were also, presenting a different set of social and religious problems, the Jews of the diaspora, whose situation arose from their expulsion from Judea and exile in Babylon in the sixth century BC, and the subsequent creation of large Jewish communities in Mesopotamia. There had been various periods of emigration since, marked most notably by the influx of Jews into Egypt after the time of Alexander. By the reign of Caligula, the diaspora Jews were scattered among the various provinces of the empire, as well as in Rome and Italy.