This post will continue my July 20 comments examining the expulsions of the Jews in ancient Rome as a possible historical precedent for Donald Trump's plan to expel to 12 million Latino, Asian and other non-European immigrants from the United States. The following discussion is based on an April, 1994 article by Leonard Victor Rutgers in Classical Antiquity Vol. 13, No.1 (p.56-74) entitled Roman Policy towards the Jews: Expulsions from the City of Rome during the First Century C.E.

The author first discusses the expulsion of the Jews under the emperor Tiberius in 19 C.E., as follows:

"Various authors relate how in 19 C.E. Jews as well as worshipers of Isis were expelled from Rome."

(Of course, "Isis" in the above passage refers to the goddess Isis who was worshiped in Egypt and many parts of the Middle East in ancient times, not to the inhuman terrorist organization which has been carrying out savage killings and mass murders of other Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia 2,000 years later!)

Rutgers first examines the argument raised by some ancient historians that the Jews might have been expelled for religious reasons, just as Donald Trump originally proposed banning all of the world's Muslims from entering the US purely on religious grounds, regardless of whether there was any reason or not to suspect that any given individual might have terrorist connections. Rutgers writes:

"Dio, [the ancient historian Dio Cassius] by contrast, is very explicit as to why he Jews were expelled from Rome: Jews were proselytizing on too large a scale. Although this explanation is straightforward, it is nevertheless not very plausible."

Neither, one might comment, is the often heard 21st century accusation that Muslim immigrants want to "impose Sharia Law" on the United States very plausible.

After examining various arguments by ancient historians that the Jews may have been trying to convert Roman citizens to Judaism in large numbers, or that there many Romans who might have been looking to Judaism for spiritual guidance, Rutgers writes:

" is simply impossible to maintain that in early 1st century Rome conversions to Judaism were taking place on a large scale; nor, more important, can one tell whether Roman authorities thought such conversions were actually taking place."

Rutgers then goes on to mention, and refute, another possible explanation for the motives that might have led to the expulsion of the Jews

"Another explanation for the expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 19 C.E. favors political over religious concerns. The evidence for this thesis, however, is even more scanty than for a religious one. H. Solin, unsatisfied with Josephus' explanation of the event [as motivated by religious persecution] designated the Jews of Rome as a 'staendiges Ferment der Unruhe' [constant source of unrest], but he does not ofer any evidence of this. There is no such evidence in the ancient sources."

Instead, Rutgers attributes the theory that the Jews might have been a source of social or political disturbances in 1st century Rome to mid-19th century German anti-semirism, as expressed in the following passage which Rutgers quotes from Law Professor Theodore Mommsen'sfamous 1850 work Roemische Geschichte [History of Rome]:

"Auch in der alten Welt war das Judentum ein wirksames Ferment des Kosmopolitismus und der nationalen Dekomposition usw."

Since the above quoted statement by Mommsen is, if anything, even more offensive than Donald Trump's bigoted characterization of the millions of Mexican immigrants he has pledged to deport as "criminals" and "rapists", I will leave it untranslated.

(It is no credit to the history of the Nobel Prize that Mommsen received that award in 1902 for the above work containing this kind of virulent anti-semitism - which was also being promoted by the great operatic composer Richard Wagner around the same time as Mommsen wrote, and which was later to have such a great influence on Adolf Hitler.)

Rutgers also very carefully and thoroughly demolishes an attempt by another modern commentator M.H. Williams, to use the great Roman writer, lawyer and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero as an authority for concluding that the Jews of Rome in the early 1st century A.D. were a potential source of disorder or a threat to public safety:

"Cicero, it is true, depicts the Jews of Rome in his
Pro Flacco as a disorderly lot, but his remarks are not trustworthy. In other defense speeches, Cicero discredits non-Jewish opponents using exactly the same kind of expressions he applies to the Jews on this occasion.

The same writer continues:

It is obvious, therefore, that Cicero's negative comments on the Jews of Rome are rhetorical devices too stereotypical to be of much evidential value. In addition, even if these comments are correct, they predate the events of 19 C.E. by some eighty years."

Since the Jews were, in fact, not engaging in activities that were likely to offend the religious sensibilities of the non-Jewish Roman majority, and they were not a threat to public safety according to any reliable contemporary evidence, why were they expelled from Rome in 19 A.D.?

Rutgers offers the following explanation:

"Williams suggests, furthermore, that the real reason why the Roman Senate expelled the Jews in 19 C.E. was to suppress the unrest caused by a deficiency in Rome's corn supply that same year. This cannot be proven, as she herself suggests, but the suggestion certainly has its merits.

He continues:

"It was quite common for the Roman authorities to expel easily identifiable groups from Rome in times of political turmoil. Such expulsions were ordered not for religious reasons, but to maintain law and order.

And then the above author asks, in conclusion:

"Why, for example, were
the Jews chosen to be expelled for reasons of law and order? What had the Jews done to interfere with the law? How would an expulsion of Jews (as opposed to any other group in the city populace) have aided the reestablishment of law and order? One simply cannot tell."

In the case of the 12 million Mexican and other non-white immigrants whom Trump has promised to deport, his defenders point to the fact that they are in the United States without legal permission, and therefore conducting mass deportation would purportedly merely be a matter of upholding the immigration laws.

But is this a sufficient answer? Are these millions of immigrants, even if in this country without authorization, really a threat to public safety, especially in view of a Judicial Watch study cited in one of my recent posts showing that "illegal immigrants" in the US have a lower crime rate than American citizens?

How much respect for the law and for basic human rights would there be in sending Trump's police state "Deportation Task Force" which Senator Ted Cruz, himself no defender of illegal immigration, has condemned as "jackboots", to conduct midnight raids across America, tear millions of American citizen spouses and children away from their husbands, wives or parents; while locking millions of unauthorized immigrants, most of whom are hardworking, taxpaying and contributing members of society, up in concentration camp like "detention centers" pending expulsion from this country with minimal, if any, chances to assert their legal rights in court?

Just as historians are unable to answer the question of what real benefit there was to Roman society in the 1st Century A.D. by expelling the Jews, other than the apparent political advantage to the governing class of making a targeted ethnic-religious minority immigrant group scapegoats for food shortages or other economic or social problems which may have existed at the time. it would be instructive to hear Donald Trump explain what real benefit there would be to America by expelling 12 million Mexican and other minority immigrants, a far greater number of people than the number of Jews expelled from ancient Rome, other than his own political advantage in exploiting long-standing prejudice and hatred.

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law