This young-adult book discusses the special status the Jews had under the Romans (91). It’s interesting that they lost that status, with a vengeance, in the period when Jerusalem was destroyed, so I wonder if their fall made Christian persecution more likely, with it being viewed as just another Jewish sect (Nero’s reign was A.D. 54-68; the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70). This excerpt from the book (id.):
To most Romans Judaea wa a small, almost worthless place, filled with incomprehensible, sullen subjects. Emperor Augustus had made the area an equestrian province; that is, it was ruled by a governor from the equestrian class. (The most important provinces were imperial and senatorial.) The governor of Judaea, who was called a procurator, maintained only a small army garrison, and assignment to Judaea was often looked upon by officials and soldiers as a punishment; there they could not accrue the riches or enjoy the sophistication found in other eastern provinces. On top of that, the inhabitants of the region bitterly resented the Roman presence.
The Jews occupied a special place in the Roman Empire. They were the only people who managed to gain exemptions from standard Roman provincial policies. Although they were baffled by the Jews’ insistence on worshiping only one god, the Romans recognized the special nature of the Jewish religion and the central place it held in the lives of the Jews. The Jews were exempt from military service. Perhaps even more surprising is that Rome allowed the Jews living in other provinces to send contributions — not to the treasury at Rome — but to the temple in Jerusalem.