A persistent meme among skeptics is that there are numerous ancient writers and historians who fail to mention Jesus and this is evidence that Jesus did not exist. The source for this particular meme appears to be John Remsburg, a teacher and member of the Kansas State Horticultural Society. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Remsburg published a book, The Christ. The book itself is little remembered, but a list of ancient writers contained within it has reached a limited level of infamy on the internet. Now known as "Remsburg's List" and sometimes sensationalized as "A Silence that Screams," the list is used to supposedly show how many ancient writers did not mention Jesus and therefore suggest or prove that Jesus did not exist or was nothing like the Gospels' portrayal.
J.P. Holding has done a comprehensive take down of this list, leaving little direct work to be done. As he concludes:
In almost all cases, Remsberg's writers are either the sort who would not mention Jesus anyway (being writers of either fiction, poetry, or on mundane and practical matters like oratory and agriculture, or historians or writers of another time or place). The few left over, like Plutarch or Tacitus, either did mention Jesus or else would be too bigoted to make the special diversion, unless (as with Tacitus) they had some corollary reason to look into the movement (Tacitus was trying to show Nero's cruelty).
Glenn Miller, while not addressing "A Screaming Silence" directly, also effectively refutes the argument that we would expect non-Christian ancient historians to give Jesus much attention.
To look at the failings of the theory from another perspective, let us examine the non-Christian evidence for the existence and ministry of Paul of Tarsus. Unlike Jesus, Paul had an official position as a leader among the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. Unlike Jesus, Paul traveled widely across the Roman Empire. He was involved in formal legal proceedings, including exercising his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar. Paul also reportedly appeared before King Agrippa and two Roman Governors, was a miracle worker, and made the case for his faith in Rome. Unlike Jesus, Paul was a prolific writer, dispatching weighty correspondence throughout the Roman Empire. Yet he leaves no trace among Roman, Jewish, or Greek historians. Here, Jesus fares better, meriting explicit references by Josephus (see my defense of those references) and Tacitus. Paul is by almost every measure a better candidate than Jesus to have been mentioned by a contemporary secular historian, yet there is more silence about him than about Jesus.
As discussed by Holding and Miller, the failure of the elite historians of the Roman Empire to refer to figures like Jesus and Paul should not surprise us. They were by and large elitist, usually high Roman officials, and little concerned with Judaea or the few notable figures produced by the region. To look at this from yet another perspective, let us look at one of the leading Roman historians, Cassius Dio. The cream of the crop, Cassius Dio found it good practice not only to ignore Paul and Jesus, but the thousands Christians and their notable leaders throughout the Roman Empire. For Cassius Dio not only ignores Paul and Jesus, he fails to mention Christians themselves, despite having written in the third century A.D. By this time, there were -- according to sociologist Rodney Stark -- over a million Christians throughout the empire. There were notable persecutions of Christians by Nero and Maximinus Thrax and prominent Christian writers, such as Tertullian, Origen, and Justin Martyr. Christians had been discussed in Imperial correspondence and even mocked by notale Roman satirist, Lucian. Cassius Dio could not possibly have been ignorant of Christianity by this point, nor about its founder, Jesus.
It cannot be argued that the omissions are due to topic or time period selection. Books 57-80 of his Roman History cover 14 through 229 A.D. Classicist Peter Swan concludes that Cassius Dio's silence about Jesus and Christianity "can be taken as a pointed snub." Peter Michael Swan, The Augustan Succession, A Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio's ROMAN HISTORY Books 55-56, page 5. Indeed, Swan points out that Dio's silence is particularly notable when it comes to the miracle of the rain. "The motivation of Dio's silence is most apparent where he recounts how a heaven-sent rain saved Marcus Aurelius' 'Thundering Legion' from imminent destruction at the hands of German enemies (71.8.1-4). He gives no hint that there was a competing Christian version of the miracle. This his epitomist the monk Xiphilinus inserts on the well-founded suspicion that Dio has suppressed it (71.9.1-10.5). Swan, op. cit., page 5. So Cassius Dio is a perfect example of a Roman historian writing about the period of time and a subject that would encompass Paul, Jesus, and Christians, with access to plenty of information about them, yet deliberately avoids any mention of them.
Holding and Miller, and all the historians who adhere to the consensus view, are right to dismiss the argument from supposed silence as an argument against Jesus' existence.