Jews in the Ancient World

compiled by William

23 March 2004

The general opinion of...

Tacitus, Roman historian of the 1st century AD (pre-christian):

"...all their other customs, which are at once perverse and disgusting, owe their strength to their very badness . . . they regard the rest of mankind with all the hatred of enemies..."

"While the East was under the sway of the Assyrians, the Medes, and the Persians, Jews were the most contemptible of the subject tribes. When the Macedonians became supreme, King Antiochus strove to destroy the national superstition, and to introduce Greek civilization, but was prevented by his war with the Parthians from at all improving this vilest of nations..."

"Circumcision was adopted by them as a mark of difference from other men. Those who come over to their religion adopt the practice, and have this lesson first instilled into them, to despise all gods, to disown their country, and set at nought parents, children, and brethren..."

(From The Histories, Book IV: here )

A public notice posted by the Emperor Tiberius Claudius (1st century AD, pre-christian) to the inhabitants of the Greek city of Alexandria in Egypt, regarding the outbreak of public disturbances between Jews and Greeks:

"As for the question, which party was responsible for the riots and feud (or rather, if the truth be told, the war) with the Jews...I was unwilling to make a strict inquiry, though guarding within me a store of immutable indignation against whichever party renews the conflict. And I tell you once and for all that unless you put a stop to this ruinous and obstinate enmity against each other, I shall be driven to show what a benevolent Prince can be when turned to righteous indignation...

I explicitly order the Jews not to agitate for more privileges than they formerly possessed, and not in the future to send out a separate embassy as though they lived in a separate city (a thing unprecedented), and not to force their way into gymnasiarchic or cosmetic games, while enjoying their own privileges and sharing a great abundance of advantages in a city not their own, and not to bring in or admit Jews who come down the river from Egypt or from Syria, a proceeding which will compel me to conceive serious suspicions. Otherwise I will by all means take vengeance on them as fomenters of which is a general plague infecting the whole world.

(from Select Papyri II [Loeb Classical Library] (ed. A.S.Hunt and G.C. Edgar) (1934), pp. 78-89, adapted.)

The Greek Geographer Strabo: "There is hardly any place on the whole of the earth which is not dominated by the Jews." (Geographica, 63 BC - 24 AD)

Greek historian Hecataeus of Abdera: "[T]heir way of living . . . was devoted to seclusion from human kind and hatred of non-Jews." (cited in Michael Grant, The Jews in the Roman World (Dorset Press, 1984), p. 24.)

And later,

Koran 4:161 That they [Jews] took usury, though they were forbidden; and that they devoured men's substance wrongfully; -- we have prepared for those among them who reject faith a grievous punishment.

The Jews themselves:

Deuteronomy 23:20 Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury.

Isaiah 61:06 shall eat the riches of the Gentiles.


See also Rockwell on Jewish Parasitism in the Old Testament.


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