Suetonius on Chrestus and the expulsion of the Jews.

Is Chrestus a mistake for Christus?


One of the ancient pagan testimonia.

Refer also to A Minor Compilation of Readings of Suetonius' Nero 16.2, an article by Erik Zara.*

* Confer pages 355-376 of Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (Liber Annuus 61), Jerusalem 2012, Inpulsore Cherestro? Suetonius’ Divus Claudius 25.4 in Sources and Manuscripts, by Jobjorn Boman.

Suetonius, Nero 16.2 (translation slightly modified from J. C. Rolfe):

Multa sub eo et animadversa severe et coercita nec minus instituta: adhibitus sumptibus modus; publicae cenae ad sportulas redactae; interdictum ne quid in popinis cocti praeter legumina aut holera veniret, cum antea nullum non obsonii genus proponeretur; afflicti suppliciis Christiani, genus hominum superstitionis novae ac maleficae; vetiti quadrigariorum lusus, quibus inveterata licentia passim vagantibus fallere ac furari per iocum ius erat; pantomimorum factiones cum ipsis simul relegatae.

During his reign many abuses were severely punished and put down, and no fewer new laws were made. A limit was set to expenditures; the public banquets were confined to a distribution of food; the sale of any kind of cooked viands in the taverns was forbidden, with the exception of pulse and vegetables, whereas before every sort of dainty was exposed for sale. Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition. He put an end to the diversions of the chariot drivers, who from immunity of long standing claimed the right of ranging at large and amusing themselves by cheating and robbing the people. The pantomimic actors and their partisans were banished from the city.

Suetonius, Claudius 25.1-5 (translation slightly modified from J. C. Rolfe):

Equestris militias ita ordinavit, ut post cohortem alam, post alam tribunatum legionis daret; stipendiaque instituit et imaginariae militiae genus, quod vocatur supra numerum, quo absentes et titulo tenus fungerentur. milites domus senatorias salutandi causa ingredi etiam patrum decreto prohibuit. libertinos, qui se pro equitibus R. agerent, publicavit, ingratos et de quibus patroni quererentur revocavit in servitutem advocatisque eorum negavit se adversus libertos ipsorum ius dicturum.

He rearranged the military career of the knights, assigning a division of cavalry after a cohort, and next the tribunate of a legion. He also instituted a series of military positions and a kind of fictitious service, which is called supernumerary and could be performed in absentia and in name only. He even had the fathers pass a decree forbidding soldiers to enter the houses of senators to pay their respects. He confiscated the property of those freedmen who passed as Roman knights, and reduced to slavery again such as were ungrateful and a cause of complaint to their patrons, declaring to their advocates that he would not entertain a suit against their own freedmen.

Cum quidam aegra et adfecta mancipia in insulam Aesculapi[i] taedio medendi exponerent, omnes qui exponerentur liberos esse sanxit, nec redire in dicionem domini, si convaluissent; quod si quis necare quem mallet quam exponere, caedis crimine teneri. viatores ne per Italiae oppida nisi aut pedibus aut sella aut lectica transirent, monuit edicto. Puteolis et Ostiae singulas cohortes ad arcendos incendiorum casus collocavit.

When certain men were exposing their sick and worn out slaves on the island of Aesculapius because of the trouble of treating them, Claudius decreed that all such slaves were free and that, if they recovered, they should not return to the control of their master; but, if anyone preferred to kill such a slave rather than to abandon him, he was liable to the charge of murder. He provided by an edict that travellers should not pass through the towns of Italy except on foot, or in a chair or litter. He stationed a cohort at Puteoli and one at Ostia, to guard against the danger of fires.

Peregrinae condicionis homines uetuit usurpare Romana nomina dum taxat gentilicia. civitatem R. usurpantes in campo Esquilino securi percussit. provincias Achaiam et Macedoniam, quas Tiberius ad curam suam transtulerat, senatui reddidit. Lyciis ob exitiabiles inter se discordias libertatem ademit, Rhodiis ob paenitentiam veterum delictorum reddidit. Iliensibus quasi Romanae gentis auctoribus tributa in perpetuum remisit recitata vetere epistula Graeca senatus populique R. Seleuco regi amicitiam et societatem ita demum pollicentis, si consanguineos suos Ilienses ab omni onere immunes praestitisset.

He forbade men of foreign birth to use the Roman names so far as those of the clans were concerned. Those who usurped the privileges of Roman citizenship he executed in the Esquiline field. He restored to the senate the provinces of Achaia and Macedonia, which Tiberius had taken into his own charge. He deprived the Lycians of their independence because of deadly intestine feuds, and restored theirs to the Rhodians, since they had given up their former faults. He allowed the people of Ilium perpetual exemption from tribute on the ground that they were the founders of the Roman race, reading an ancient letter of the senate and people of Rome written in Greek to king Seleucus, in which they promised him their friendship and alliance only on condition that he should keep their kinsfolk of Ilium free from every burden.

Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit. Germanorum legatis in orchestra sedere permisit, simplicitate eorum et fiducia commotus, quod in popularia deducti, cum animadvertissent Parthos et Armenios sedentis in senatu, ad eadem loca sponte transierant, nihilo deteriorem virtutem aut condicionem suam praedicantes.

Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome. He allowed the envoys of the Germans to sit in the orchestra, led by their naïve self-confidence; for when they had been taken to the seats occupied by the common people and saw the Parthian and Armenian envoys sitting with the senate, they moved of their own accord to the same part of the theater, protesting that their merits and rank were no whit inferior.

Druidarum religionem apud Gallos dirae immanitatis et tantum civibus sub Augusto interdictam penitus abolevit; contra sacra Eleusinia etiam transferre ex Attica Romam conatus est, templumque in Sicilia Veneris Erycinae vetustate conlapsum ut ex aerario pop. R. reficeretur, auctor fuit. cum regibus foedus in foro i[e]cit porca caesa ac uetere fetialium praefatione adhibita. sed et haec et cetera totumque adeo ex parte magna principatum non tam suo quam uxorum libertorumque arbitrio administravit, talis ubique plerumque, qualem esse eum aut expediret illis aut liberet.

He utterly abolished the cruel and inhuman religion of the Druids among the Gauls, which under Augustus had merely been prohibited to Roman citizens; on the other hand he even attempted to transfer the Eleusinian rites from Attica to Rome, and had the temple of Venus Erycina in Sicily, which had fallen to ruin through age, restored at the expense of the treasury of the Roman people. He struck his treaties with foreign princes in the Forum, sacrificing a pig and reciting the ancient formula of the fetial priests. But these and other acts, and in fact almost the whole conduct of his reign, were dictated not so much by his own judgment as that of his wives and freedmen, since he nearly always acted in accordance with their interests and desires.