In public declaration to Alexandria. This declaration is

In lectures, we have learned about the Roman Empire and the
Julio-Claudian family. Claudius is one of the Julio-Claudian Emperors reigning
from 41 AD to 54 AD. In the early years of his reign, there were mounting
tensions between the Jewish and Greek communities in Alexandria. This caused a
series of public disturbances and riots between the mainly Greek and the
minority Jewish population where continuous battles were fought on the streets.
The Roman authorities in Alexandria to appeal to the Emperor Claudius for aid
and to which he sent the following public declaration to Alexandria. This
declaration is famously known as “Letter to the Alexandrians”.

                Rome is
known for their vast provincial territory from the Mediterranean to Minor Asia.
As a result, methods of communication between Emperors and subjects are
necessary to effectively manage their territories. In the letter, we can
recognize the three main points Claudius addresses to the Alexandrians: to
accept the honors given to his accession, to consider and grant Alexandrians
favors based on their requests, and to settle the conflict between the Greeks
and the Jews. Claudius did not come up with these subjects himself. “An embassy
was sent by the Alexandrians to bestow various honors on him and to request
favors and the solution to the explosive relationship between Greeks and Jews,
which had erupted into riots and massacres (Letter
of Claudius, 285). This occasion gives us an idea about the communication
between the Roman emperors and the subjects to a certain degree. Throughout the
letter, we can clearly see that such communications were usually initiated by
the subjects to the Emperors. The Roman emperors fulfilled their role by making
responses or giving decisions or verdicts to their subjects whether in Rome or
in oversea provinces.

                The
second half section of the letter shows how Claudius and other Roman Emperors exercised
efficient crowd control on their provinces. Claudius appeased the Greeks and
the Jews by balancing the rights and privileges of both sides. First, he
maintained the citizenship to all the “ephebes” except those who were
originally slaves. Then he complimented the people in Alexandria for their
proposal of triennial magistrates to ensure the incorruptible legislative
system of the city. As for the proposal of the Council, which would not bring
utility to the Empire, Claudius cautiously had Aemilius Rectus do further
inquiry without straightforwardly rejecting the request (Letter of Claudius, 287). In response to the feud between the
Greeks and Jews, Claudius admonished and reconciled both the Greeks and the
Jews in Alexandria after hearing from both sides. He orders the Greeks to leave
the Jews practice their customs and worship their God. On the other hand, he
conjured the Jews not to “agitate, intrude athletic or cosmetic games, and bring
more Jews from Egypt and Syria into Alexandria” (Letter of Claudius, 288). All these acts and laws made by Claudius
serve to keep the peace and harmony among the peoples and cultures in
Alexandria and all Roman provinces in general. The Roman Emperors know that
many of their oversea provinces are culturally diverse. Therefore, they need to
be flexible in their policies to prevent political revolts and rebellions. People
and religious groups considered as potential threats to ruin this public
security could be executed by the imperial empire. Evidently, Christianity
presented a problem to Roman rulers because the Christians seem to place
individual’s commitment to their faith above the traditional Roman loyalty and
public service to the state. This led to the crucifixion and execution of Jesus
in Jerusalem in 30 AD as Roman regional governor Pontius Pilate feared Jesus
might start a Jewish revolt (Martin, Ancient
Rome, 151).    

                Besides
the wise strategies in crowd control, the letter also illustrates the culture
of punishment from the Roman Empire toward the riots and rebellions. In the
letter, Claudius strictly warned the Alexandrians that if they continue to have
“ruinous and obstinate enmity against each other”, he will have to intervene
and impose military retribution on the city: “I shall be driven to show what a
benevolent emperor can be when turned to righteous indignation” (Letter of Claudius, 287). While
admonishing and tolerating both the Greeks and the Jews, Claudius specifically
warned the Jews “to not bring in or admit Jews from Syria or those who sail
down from Egypt” if they still want to reside in Roman territory and avoid the
imperial retribution from Rome. Otherwise, he will “by all means proceed
against them as fomenters of what is a general plague infecting the whole world”
(Letter of Claudius, 288). The kind
of threat and punishment presented in this letter is not an exceptional
occasion in Roman culture. Throughout history, terror retributions to the rebellious
riots had appeared many times, especially in the destruction of Corinth and
Carthage centuries before this letter. Martin states that after the victory of the
Fourth Macedonian war in 146 BC, Rome destroyed the city of Corinth and sold
its citizens as slaves to show the consequence of the resistance to Roman
domination (Martin, Ancient Rome,
78). The year 146 BC also witnessed the total demolishment of Carthage at the
end of the Third Punic War due to the incitement of Roman senator Marcus Cato,
who fears the potential threat from Carthage and desires to expand Roman power
across the Mediterranean region (Martin, Ancient
Rome, 78).