When he was assassinated, he was mourned by the Jews more than by any other nation, and for a long time after they continued to weep over his tomb both by day and night (Suetonius, Divus Iulius, 84).
Hail, Caesar! Why?
Julius Caesar was a Roman leader. During the civil war between him and Pompey (49 B.C.E.), Caesar freed Aristobulus II, the deposed ruler of Judea, planning to send him to Syria, along with troops to aid him to recover his throne. Pompey’s supporters, however, succeeded in poisoning Aristobulus before he could leave Rome (cf. Dio Cassius 41:18, 1). At the same time, Hyrcanus II and Antipater, in common with the other vassal rulers in the East, remained loyal to Pompey and even sent him troops for the battle of Pharsalus (48 B.C.E.); but after Caesar’s victory and his conquest of the Orient, they went over to the side of the victor. When Caesar besieged Alexandria, Hyrcanus was one of the Oriental rulers who sent him reinforcements, and Hyrcanus’s letter influenced the Jews living in the “territory of Onias” to grant the invading army free passage. Upon his return to Syria, Caesar ratified Hyrcanus’ appointment as high priest and granted Antipater Roman citizenship and exemption from taxes. The efforts of Aristobulus’ younger son Antigonus to turn Caesar against Hyrcanus and Antipater met with failure. At the same time, Caesar nullified Gabinius’ Judean settlement and even attempted to correct some of Pompey’s abuses against the Jews. In a series of decrees and through decisions made by the Senate at his instigation, Caesar instituted a new administration in Judea. He permitted the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem, restored to Judea the port of Jaffa, and confirmed Hyrcanus and his descendants after him as high priests and ethnarchs of Judea. Hyrcanus’ realm now included Judea, Jaffa, and the Jewish settlements in Galilee and Transjordan. He also ratified Hyrcanus’ ownership of the Hasmonean territory in the “Great Valley of Jezreel.” The annual taxation of Judea was set as 12.5% of the produce of the land, with total exemption during the sabbatical year. Extortion by the military was forbidden under any pretext. Caesar’s settlement favored the continued rise of the House of Antipater. Caesar permitted Jewish organization in the Diaspora, and his tolerant attitude to Diaspora Jewry was emulated by the rulers of the provinces. Caesar’s enmity toward Pompey, who had conquered Jerusalem and defiled the Holy of Holies, led to a positive attitude toward him among the Jews. His restoration of the unity of Judea, his deference toward the high priest, Hyrcanus II, and his tolerant attitude toward the Diaspora Jews increased the sympathy of the Jewish masses for him. When he was assassinated, he was mourned by the Jews more than by any other nation, and for a long time after they continued to weep over his tomb both by day and night (Suetonius, Divus Iulius, 84).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jos., Ant., 14:123–48, 156–7, 192–216, 268–70; Jos., Wars, 1:183–203, 218; Buechler, in: Festschrift Steinschneider (1896), 91–109; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19014), 342ff.; O. Roth, Rom und die Hasmonaeer (1914), 47ff.; Momigliano, in: Annali della Realescuola normale superiore di Pisa (1934), 192ff.; A. Schalit, Koenig Herodes (1969), index.