Alexandrian riots (38)

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The Alexandrian pogrom,[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11] or Alexandrian riots,[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27] were attacks directed against Jews in 38 CE in Roman Alexandria, Egypt.

The Roman emperor Caligula did not trust the prefect of Egypt, Aulus Avilius Flaccus. Flaccus had been loyal to Tiberius, had conspired against Caligula's mother and had connections with Egyptian separatists.[28] In 38 CE, Caligula sent Herod Agrippa to Alexandria unannounced to check on Flaccus.[29] According to Philo, the visit was met with jeers from the Greek population who saw Agrippa as the king of the Jews.[30] Flaccus tried to placate both the Greek population and Caligula by having statues of the emperor placed in Jewish synagogues.[31] As a result, riots broke out in the city.[why?][32] Caligula responded by removing Flaccus from his position and executing him.[33]

Riots again erupted in Alexandria in 40 CE between Jews and Greeks.[34] Jews were accused of not honouring the emperor.[34] Disputes occurred in the city of Jamnia.[35] Jews were angered by the erection of a clay altar and destroyed it.[35] In response, Caligula ordered the erection of a statue of himself in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem,[36] a demand in conflict with Jewish monotheism.[37] In this context, Philo of Alexandria wrote that Caligula "regarded the Jews with most especial suspicion, as if they were the only persons who cherished wishes opposed to his".[37]

The sole source is Philo of Alexandria, himself a Jew, who witnessed the riots and afterwards led the Jewish delegation to Caligula, and requested the re-establishment of legal Jewish residence in Alexandria.[1] Philo's writings on the topic are found in two sources: In Flaccum[38] (meaning "Against Flaccus"), which is wholly devoted to the riots, and Legatio ad Gaium[39] (meaning "Embassy to Caligula"), which makes some references to the event in its introduction.[40] Scholarly research around the subject has been divided on certain points, including whether the Alexandrian Jews fought to keep their citizenship or to acquire it, whether they evaded the payment of the poll-tax or prevented any attempts to impose it on them, and whether they were safeguarding their identity against the Greeks or against the Egyptians.[12]


Sandra Gambetti states that "[s]cholars have frequently labeled the Alexandrian events of 38 CE as the first pogrom in history, and have often explained them in terms of an ante litteram explosion of anti-Semitism." In her book The Alexandrian Riots of 38 CE and the Persecution of the Jews (2009), however, Gambetti "deliberately avoids any words or expressions that in any way connect, explicitly or implicitly, the Alexandrian events of 38 CE to later events in modern... Jewish experience" as – in her view – this would "require[] a comparative re-discussion of two historical frames".[12]

Adalbert Polacek referred to the event as a holocaust in his work Holocaust, Two Millenia Ago,[41] a characterization that Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev believes is "misleading and methodologically unsound."[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gambetti, Sandra, "Alexandrian Pogrom", in Levy, Richard S. (2005). Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 9. ISBN 1-85109-439-3
  2. ^ Louis H. Feldman, Shaye J. D. Cohen, Joshua J. Schwartz (2007). Studies in Josephus And the Varieties of Ancient Judaism. Brill Publishers. p. 93. ISBN 9789004153899
  3. ^ John M. G. Barclay (1996). Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE – 117 CE). University of California Press. p. 51. ISBN 9780520218437
  4. ^ Donald Harman Akenson (1998). Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds. McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 129. ISBN 9780773517813
  5. ^ Irving M. Zeitlin (2012). Jews: The Making of a Diaspora People. Polity. p. 73. ISBN 9780745660172.
  6. ^ Kathy Ehrensperger (2004). That We May Be Mutually Encouraged: Feminism and the New Perspective in Pauline Studies. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 87. ISBN 9780567026408
  7. ^ Erich S. Gruen (2004). Diaspora: Jews Amidst Greeks and Romans. Harvard University Press. p. 377. ISBN 9780674016064
  8. ^ Peter Frick (1999). Divine Providence in Philo of Alexandria. Mohr Siebeck. p. 12. ISBN 9783161471414
  9. ^ Stephen Anthony Cummins (2001). Paul and the Crucified Christ in Antioch: Maccabean Martyrdom and Galatians 1 and 2. Cambridge University Press. p. 153. ISBN 9780521662017
  10. ^ John-Paul Lotz (2007). Ignatius and Concord: The Background and Use of the Language of Concord in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch. Peter Lang. p. 98. ISBN 9780820486987
  11. ^ John Raymond Bartlett (2002). Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman Cities. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN 9780415186384
  12. ^ a b c Gambetti, Sandra, The Alexandrian Riots of 38 C.E. and the Persecution of the Jews: A Historical Reconstruction, pages 11-12
  13. ^ The Alexandrian Riot in 38 CE, p139-145, in The Exodus Story in the Wisdom of Solomon: A Study in Biblical Interpretation, by Samuel Cheon
  14. ^ "The Alexandrian Riots, 38-41 CE", in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt, edited by Christina Riggs
  15. ^ Introduction to Philonis Alexandrini Legatio Ad Gaium, 1961, Brill
  16. ^ Greek and Jew: Philo and the Alexandrian Riots of 38-41 CE, Schwartz, Matthew B., March 2000
  17. ^ "The Attack on the Jews in Alexandria", in Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World, by Louis H. Feldman, pp113-117
  18. ^ Philo's 'In Flaccum': Ethnicity and Social Space in Roman Alexandria, Richard Alston, Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Oct., 1997), pp. 165-175, Published by: Cambridge University Press
  19. ^ Sympathy for the Devil, Philo on Flaccus and Rome, in Studia Philonica Annual XXIV, 2012, edited by David T. Runia, Gregory E. Sterling, pages 167-182
  20. ^ The Roman World: 44 BC - AD 180, by Martin Goodman, Jane Sherwood, p269
  21. ^ Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations, by Philip A. Harland, p218
  22. ^ The Jews in Egypt and Alexandria, in The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian, by E. Mary Smallwood, p220-256
  23. ^ The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt: The Struggle for Equal Rights, by Aryē Kāšēr, p166
  24. ^ Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora, by John Joseph Collins, p118 and 137
  25. ^ Josephus by Norman Bentwich, p44
  26. ^ A Psychoanalytic History of the Jews, by Avner Falk, p303
  27. ^ "Anti-Semitism and Anti-Romanism in Egypt", in Origins of Anti-Semitism, by John G. Gager, p43-52
  28. ^ Philo of Alexandria, Flaccus III.8, IV.21.
  29. ^ Philo of Alexandria, Flaccus V.26–28.
  30. ^ Philo of Alexandria, Flaccus V.29.
  31. ^ Philo of Alexandria, Flaccus VI.43.
  32. ^ Philo of Alexandria, Flaccus VII.45.
  33. ^ Philo of Alexandria, Flaccus XXI.185.
  34. ^ a b Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.8.1.
  35. ^ a b Philo of Alexandria, On the Embassy to Gaius XXX.201.
  36. ^ Philo of Alexandria, On the Embassy to Gaius XXX.203.
  37. ^ a b Philo of Alexandria, On the Embassy to Gaius XVI.115.
  38. ^ Philo of Alexandria, "In Flaccum"
  39. ^ Philo of Alexandria, "Legatio ad Gaium"
  40. ^ Gambetti, p13
  41. ^ Runia, D.T.; Keizer, H.M. (2000). Philo of Alexandria: An Annotated Bibliography, 1987-1996 : with Addenda for 1937-1986. Brill. p. 331. ISBN 9789004116825.
  42. ^ Runia, D.T.; Keizer, H.M. (2000). Philo of Alexandria: An Annotated Bibliography, 1987-1996 : with Addenda for 1937-1986. Brill. p. 117. ISBN 9789004116825.