Barbarians and Jews: Jews and Judaism in the Early Medieval West 9782503581019

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Barbarians and Jews: Jews and Judaism in the Early Medieval West

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DIASPORA New Perspectives on Jewish History and Culture 4 Series Editors Prof. Simha Goldin, Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center, Tel Aviv University Prof. Aharon Oppenheimer, Department of Jewish History, Tel Aviv University Prof. Johannes Heil, Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Heidelberg Prof. Joseph Shatzmiller, Duke University, Durham, NC

The Diaspora Series is dedicated to research into the heritage of the Jewish people and its culture and the varied ways this culture impacted on Europe. Pre-modern Europe bears witness to a diversity of subject areas concerned with the Diaspora. Not only did it see the emergence and continuance of Jewish migration, it also reveals the formation of interrelated communities. Jews throughout Europe were not simply the distant or settled ‘other’; they also formed a vital part of the social, cultural, and intellectual life of the European Middle Ages. The Diaspora Series seeks to explore this diverse and sometimes contradictory phenomenon in all its complexity. The Diaspora series deals with Jewish life during the Middle Ages.

BARBARIANS AND JEWS Jews and Judaism in the Early Medieval West

Edited by

Yitzhak Hen and Thomas F. X. Noble



The Diaspora Series is published on behalf of the Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center, Tel Aviv University.

Cover image: The Israelites in the Desert (detail from the Stuttgart Psalter). Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Biblia folio 23, fol. 93v.

© 21, Brepols Publishers n. v., Turnhout, Belgium. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. ISBN 978-2-503-58101-9 E-ISBN 978-2-503-58102-6 DOI 10.1484/M.DIASPORA-EB.5.115825 ISSN 2565-9456 E-ISSN 2565-9464 D/2018/0095/160 Printed on acid-free paper.

Table of Contents

List of Contributors




List of Abbreviations




Yitzhak Hen Disputed Identifications: Jews and the Use of Biblical Models in the Barbarian Kingdoms


Walter Pohl Jews and Christians in Vandal Africa


Jonathan P. Conant Barbarians and Jews in Early Medieval Spain: Shifting Constellations of Religion and Identity


Wolfram Drews Between Old and New Barbarians: The Jews of Southern Italy during the ‘Dark Ages’


Giancarlo Lacerenza A Double-Edged Sword: Jews and the Rhetoric of Power in Ostrogothic Italy Yitzhak Hen and Gerda Heydemann


The Prophesied Rule of a ‘Circumcised People’: A Travelling Tradition from the Seventh-Century Mediterranean


Stefan Esders Ego, Bar-Iona: Jews and the Language of Forced Conversion in Columbanian Circles


Yaniv Fox Jews in Early Medieval Penitential Literature


Rob Meens Friendly Barbarians?The Jews under Christian Rule in Northern Europe


Johannes Heil Knowledge of the History of the Jews in the Early Middle Ages 231 Rosamond McKitterick and Graeme Ward Jewish Double Portraits: Hrabanus Maurus and his Commentary on 1 & 2 Samuel


Piet Hoogeveen Tales from the East: Jewish Episodes in Early Medieval Travel Narratives


Ora Limor Images and the Imaginary Jew in the Early Byzantine World


Thomas F. X. Noble Index


List of Contributors

Jonathan Conant, Associate Professor of History and Classics, Department of History, Brown University Wolfram Drews, Professor of Medieval History, Historisches Seminar, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster Stefan Esders, Professor of Late Antique and Early Medieval History, Friederich-Meinecke-Institut für Geschichte Geschichte der Spätantike und des frühen Mittelalters, Freie Universität Berlin Yaniv Fox, Senior Lecturer of Late Antique and Medieval History, Department of General History, Bar-Ilan University Johannes Heil, Professor of Jewish History and Culture, Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg  Yitzhak Hen, Professor of Medieval History, Department of History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Director of the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies Gerda Heydemann, Marie S. Curie Individual Fellow, FriederichMeinecke-Institut für Geschichte der Spätantike und des frühen Mittelalters, Freie Universität Berlin Piet Hoogeveen, Independent Historian and Theologian

Giancarlo Lacerenza, Professor of Biblical Hebrew Language and Literature, Department of Asian, African and Mediterranean Studies, University of Naples L’Orientale Ora Limor, Professor Emerita of Medieval History, The Open University of Israel Rosamond McKitterick, Professor Emerita of Medieval History, University of Cambridge, Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and Chair of the Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters of the British School at Rome Rob Meens, Senior Lecturer, Department of History and Art History, Utrecht University Thomas F. X. Noble, Andrew V. Tackes Professor Emeritus, University of Notre Dame Walter Pohl, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Vienna and Director of the Institute for Medieval Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences Graeme Ward, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Jesus College, University of Oxford


The present volume had its inception in the international conference Barbarians and Jews that was held at Tel Aviv University in May 2009. Since then, however, the plan and content of this collection of papers were changed dramatically. A few of the original contributors opted out of this enterprise and several others were invited to join in, so that the final result is significantly different from what was envisaged at the beginning. This volume could not have been published without the help and advice of many friends and colleagues. We would first wish to express our deepest gratitude to the contributors for their cooperation and forbearance. We are equally indebted to Simha Goldin and the staff of the Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Centre at Tel Aviv University, who organised the conference in 2009 and sponsored the publication of this volume. Finally, warm thanks should go to our superb copy-editor, Sara Tropper, and to the staff of Brepols Publishers for seeing the book through the press.

List of Abbreviations


Bibliothèque nationale de France Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis (Turnhout, 1966– ) Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina (Turnhout, 1952– ) The Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. 4 — The Late Roman and Rabbinic Period, ed. by Steven T. Katz (Cambridge, 2006) Codex Justinianus, ed. by Paul Krüger, in CJS vol. 2 (Berlin, 1877) Corpus Juris Civilis, ed. by Paul Krüger, Theodore Mommsen, Rudolf Schöll, and Wilhelm Kroll, 3 vols (Berlin, 1877–95) Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (Vienna, 1866– ) Theodosiani libri XVI cum constitutionibus Sirmondianis et leges novellae ad Theodosianum pertinentes, ed. Theodor Mommsen and Paul M. Meyer, 2 vols (Berlin, 1905) Journal of Early Christian Studies Journal of Theological Studies Monumenta Germaniae Historica Auctores Antiquissimi (Berlin, 1877–1919) Epistulae (Berlin, 1887–1939) Scriptores rerum Germanicarum in usum scholarum (Hannover, 1871– ) Scriptores rerum Langobardicarum et Italicarum (Hannover, 1878) Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum (Hannover, 1884–1951) Scriptores in folio (Berlin, 1826– ) Patrologiae cursus completus, series graeca, ed. by J.-P. Migne, 161 vols (Paris, 1857–66)

PL PLS SC Settimane

Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina, ed. by J.-P. Migne, 221 vols (Paris, 1841–64) Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina: Supplementum, ed. by Adalbert Hamman, 5 vols (Paris, 1958–74) Sources chrétiennes (Paris, 1941– ) Settimane di studio del Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo (Spoleto, 1954– )

Yitzhak Hen Introduction

At the beginning of his inaugural lecture, delivered before the University of Oxford on Guy Fawkes Day, 1974, John Michael Wallace-Hadrill, the doyen of early medieval studies in Britain, noted — with characteristic wit — that ‘the public shape of the earlier Middle Ages, at least in the West, is the only thing about them that we need not question’.1 According to him, from Late Antiquity to the seventh century and from the pre-medieval period to the tenth century, the public shape of the early Middle Ages was determined by collapse and invasion at the start, and by invasion and collapse at the end. ‘It will never be much altered. Somehow these large issues of upheaval can slacken their hold on the imagination, or at least on the English imagination. One looks for life. Where is it?’,2 he asked, and immediately answered: ‘it is in the groups in which early medieval people arranged themselves that we find purposeful life that is worth pondering’.3 Significantly, Wallace-Hadrill chose to begin his discussion of what modern historians would term ‘the creation and transformation of identities in the early Middle Ages’ with an incisive glance at the Jewish communities of the early medieval West.4 Much has changed in our perception of the public shape of the early Middle Ages since Wallace-Hardill delivered his inaugural lecture. The past forty or so years have seen an immense resurgence of scholarly interest in issues related to the transformation of the Roman world and 1 John-Michael Wallace-Hadrill, ‘Early Medieval History’, in Wallace-Hadrill, Early Medieval History (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975), pp. 1–18, at p. 1. 2 Wallace-Hadrill, ‘Early medieval history’, p. 1. 3 Wallace-Hadrill, ‘Early medieval history’, p. 8. 4 Wallace-Hadrill, ‘Early medieval history’, pp. 6–8.

Barbarians and Jews. Jews and Judaism in the Early Medieval West, ed. by Y. Hen and T. F. X. Noble, DIASPORA 4 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 1–9 © FHG DOI 10.1484/M.DIASPORA-EB.5.116403


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the emergence of early medieval Europe. This appreciation was inspired by the work of scholars such as Peter Brown, Robert Markus, Pierre Riché, John Michael Wallace-Hadrill, and Herwig Wolfram, and taken forward by younger generations of scholars from all over Europe and North America.5 Such a proliferation of scholarship yielded a better understanding of the period and a welcome re-evaluation of the Barbarian contribution to what is commonly known as western civilization.6 Countering Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, modern scholarship is disclosing just how profoundly effective and dynamic were the shifts that marked the transformation of the Roman world. Today, there is a general scholarly consensus that this transformation was characterized more by evolution than revolution; more by accommodation than crisis. Scholars of all stripes, from historians to archaeologists to literary critics, now endorse the notion of an abiding continuity.7 Far from initiating an age of obscurity and decline, the various barbarian kingdoms which succeeded the Roman Empire in the West saw themselves as part of a Roman

This resurgence of interest is best reflected in the laudable project entitled ‘The Transformation of the Roman World’ (sponsored by the European Science Foundation) and the series of books that came out of it. On this project, see I. N. Wood, ‘Report: The European Science Foundation’s Program on the Transformation of the Roman World and the Emergence of Early Medieval Europe’, Early Medieval Europe 6 (1997), 217–27. 6 The amount of literature re-assessing the role of the Barbarians in the transformation of the Roman world is enormous and cannot be listed here. For some recent examples, see Guy Halsall, Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376–568 (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2007); Yitzhak Hen, Roman Barbarians: The Royal Court and Culture in the Early Medieval West (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007). See also the various papers collected in The Long Morning of Medieval Europe: New Directions in Early Medieval Studies, ed. by Jennifer R. Davis and Michael McCormick (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008). 7 This shift in our understanding of the period is best manifested in the work of Peter Brown, especially in his ground-breaking book The World of Late Antiquity (London, 1971) and his more recent The Rise of Western Christendom, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2012). For some other recent examples, see Peter Garnsey and Caroline Humfress, The Evolution of the Late Antique World (Cambridge: Orchard Academic Press, 2001); Michael McCormick, Origins of European Economy. Communication and Commerce, ad 300–900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Julia M. H. Smith, Europe after Rome: A New Cultural History, 500–1000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), and Chris Wickham, Framing the Early Middle Ages, Europe and the Mediterranean, 400–800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) and The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 2009). 5



continuum, corroborating Emmanuel Kant’s aphorism that in mundo non datur hiatus, non datur saltus, non datur casus, non datur fatum.8 It is, then, quite surprising that against the background of this scholarly outburst, the Jews of the early medieval West, by and large, have been left out. The initiative taken by Wallace-Hadrill in 1974, and again in his brief comments on the Jews in 1983,9 was followed up by few historians. The positivist approach which dominated Jewish studies since the mid-nineteenth century was adopted and disseminated by twentieth-century scholars,10 foremost among them Bernhard Blumenkranz and his followers.11 The compelling character of this approach is still evident in some recent surveys of the history of early medieval Jews and Judaism,12 and when compared with the burgeoning literature on the early Middle Ages in general, these studies are conspicuous in their lack of engagement with recent developments in late antique and early Despite the huge amount of recent scholarship on the transformation of the Roman world, some neo-Gibbonian voices are still alive and kicking. See, e.g., Bryan Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) Peter Heather, The Fall of the Roman Empire. A New History (London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005); Peter Heather, Empires and Barbarians (London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2009). 9 See John-Michael Wallace-Hadrill, The Frankish Church (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 390–403. 10 See Edward Peters, ‘Settlement, Assimilation, Distinctive Identity: a Century of Historians and Historiography of Medieval German Jewry, 1902–2002’, The Jewish Quarterly Review 97 (2007), pp. 237–79. 11 See, e.g., Bernhard Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens dans le monde occidental, 430–1096, Études Juives 2 (Paris: Mouton, 1960); Bernhard Blumenkranz, Les auteurs chrétiens latins du Moyen Age sur les juifs et le judaïsme, Études Juives 4 (Paris: Mouton, 1963); Bernhard Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens, patristique et moyen âge (London: Variorum, 1977). On the work of Blumenkranz and its legacy, see Jews and Christians in Medieval Europe: The Historiographical Legacy of Bernhard Blumenkranz, ed. by Philippe Buc, Martha Keil and John V. Tolan, Religion and Law in Medieval Christian and Musclim Societies 7 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015). 12 See, e.g., Michael Toch, ‘Dunkle Jahrhunderte’: Gab es jüdisches Frühmittelalter?, Arye Maimon-Vortrag 3 (Trier: Arye-Maimon-Institut für Geschichte der Juden, 2001); Michael Toch, ‘The Jews in Europe, 500–1050’, in The New Cambridge Medieval History, I c. 500–c. 700, ed. by Paul Fouracre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 547–70; Michael Toch, The Economic History of European Jews: Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013); Jonathan Elukin, Living Together, Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish-Christian Relations in the Middle Ages (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007); Aron C. Sterk, ‘Latino-Romaniotes: the continuity of Jewish communities in the western diaspora, 400–700’, Melilah: Manchester Journal of Jewish Studies 9 (2012), 21–49. For some criticism, see Friedrich Lotter, ‘Totale Finsterins über “Dunklen Jahrhunderten”: Zum Methodenverständnis von Michael Toch und seinen Folgen’, Aschkenas 11 (2001), 215–31; David Nirenberg, ‘HED TK’, The New Republic, 13 February 2008, 46–51. 8


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medieval studies. It took almost half a century for historians to break free of Blumenkranz’s shadow,13 and only in recent years, scholars such as Friedrich Lotter, Johannes Heil, and Wolfram Drews, to name just a few of the most outstanding ones, developed new theories which challenged the conservative views of late antique and early medieval Jewish history.14 Andrew Scheil’s book The Footsteps of Israel: Understanding Jews in Anglo-Saxon England, is an excellent case in point for the shift in scholarly emphasis.15 Although there is no evidence for Jewish communities in England before the Norman Conquest of 1066, our sources from Anglo-Saxon England brim with allusions to Jews and Judaism. Hence, although absent in any real physical sense, the Jews in Anglo-Saxon England ‘were nevertheless present as imaginative, textual construct, manifest only in the distorted shadow cast by Christian tradition’.16 Jews and anti-Jewish discourse, as Scheil elegantly demonstrates, were an integral part of the structure of medieval Christianity, and their meaning was constantly redefined, adjusted, and transformed. ‘By repudiating Judaism, defining it as lack, Christianity inexorably yokes itself into a tormented relationship with its sibling. This ambivalence gives the Jews a curious ideological mobility, a capacity to be deployed as sheer rhetoric in the flux of everyday life’.17 This is exactly what WallaceHadrill meant when he wrote that ‘it is only when we grasp how frail

As far as the high and later Middle Ages are concerned, this break took place much earlier. This is not the place to rehearse all the relevant literature on the matter. It will suffice to mention here the work of scholars such as William Chester Jordan, Israel Jacob Yuval, Jeremy Cohen, Elliott Horowitz, Ora Limor, and Miri Rubin, to name only a few of the most prominent ones. 14 See, e.g., Friedrich Lotter, ‘Sind christliche Quellen der Erforschung der Geschichte der Juden im Frühmittelalter weitgehend unbrauchbar?’, Historische Zeitschrift 278 (2004), 311–27; Friedrich Lotter, ‘Zur sozialen Hierarchie der Jundenheit in Spätantike und frühmittelalter’, Aschkenas 13 (2003), 333–59; Friedrich Lotter, ‘Die Voraussezungen christlich-jüdischer Koexistenz und deren Infragestellung durch Zwangsbekehrung und Vertreibung in Spätantke und Frühmittelalter’, Aschkenas 16 (2006), 291–365. Johannes Heil, Kompilation order Konstruktion? Die Juden in der Pauluskommentaren des 9. Jahrhunderts, Forschungen zur Geschichte der Juden. Abteilung A, Abhandlungen 6 (Hannover: Hahn, 1998); Wolfram Drews, The Unknown Neighbour: The Jew in the Thought of Isidore of Seville, The Medieval Mediterranean 57 (Brill: Leiden and Boston 2006). 15 Andrew P. Scheil, The Footsteps of Israel: Understanding Jews in Anglo-Saxon England (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2004). 16 Scheil, The Footsteps of Israel, p. 3. 17 Scheil, The Footsteps of Israel, p. 313. 13



was the hold of organized Christianity and how various its practices that the reaction to Judaism makes sense’.18 A similar approach, although from a completely different angle, was taken by Paula Fredriksen in her book on Augustine and the Jews.19 Fuelled by anti-Jewish sentiment that emerged during the first three centuries of Christianity, anti-Judaism became a standard theological trope that served to demarcate Christian identity throughout the third and the fourth centuries. Augustine, argues Fredriksen, was different. A period of astounding creativity between 396 and 430 led Augustine to a new theological vision of Jews and Judaism, which was significantly different not only from his Manichean opponents but also from his fellow Christian thinkers. Fredriksen notes the development of a virulent Christian anti-Judaism in the first centuries by reaching back to the creation of strong bonds between ethnicity and religious loyalty in the Hellenistic period. She also carefully delineates the various influences and developments that brought Augustine to his original stance in defence of the Jews. Yet, even Augustine, who constructed a creative and positive theology of Jews and Judaism in his formal writings, made use of the traditional hostile Contra Iudaeos invective in his sermons.20 The medium and the audience, so it seems, dictated both Augustine’s theological position and his rhetoric, and his immense influence on the evolution of medieval thought and letters perpetuated a dichotomised attitude towards Jews and Judaism.21 Wallace-Hadrill, The Frankish Church, p. 403. See also Robert I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950–1250, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), pp. 141–42. 19 See Paula Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defence of Jews and Judaism (New York: Doubleday, 2008). For some thoughtful appraisals of Fredriksen’s achievement, see Jeremy Cohen, ‘Revisiting Augustine’s Doctrine of Jewish Witness’, The Journal of Religion 89 (2009), 564–78; Peter Brown, ‘A Surprise from Saint Augustine’, The New York Review of Book, 11 June 2009. For some criticism, see David Nirenberg, ‘Slay them not!’, The New Republic, 18 March 2009. 20 See Paula Fredriksen, ‘Jewish Romans, Christian Romans, and the PostRoman West: the Social Correlates of the Conta Iudaeos Tradition’, in Conflicts and Religious Convesation in Latin Christendom: Studies in Honour of Ora Limor, ed. by Israel J. Yuval and Ram Ben-Shalom, Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages 17 (Brepols: Turnhout, 2014), pp. 23–53; Paula Fredriksen, ‘Augustine and “thinking with” Jews: Rhetoric Pro- and Contra Iudaeos tradition’, Ancient Jew Review (online publication; 13 February 2018). A similar dichotomy is apparent in the writings of Cassiodorus; see the paper by Hen and Heydemann, below. 21 See, e.g., Bernard of Clairvaux, who banned Christians from harming Jews, but at the same time interlaced his sermons and letters with anti-Jewish statements. On Bernard and the Jews, see David Berger, ‘The Attitude of St Bernard of Clairvaux 18


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A generation after Augustine, when Arianism and Romanitas grabbed the attention of Christian discourse in the West, Jews and Judaism, real or imaginary, still played a major role in the making of new identities and the formation of new loyalties. Jews were part and parcel of Christianity’s historical notion, and they never ceased to be a crucial reference-point in understanding the past, the present, and the future of individuals and groups. It is precisely at this moment in time that the papers collected here take over. The first papers in this volume deal with the Barbarian kingdoms of the post-Roman world. The examination begins with a look at the ways in which biblical models of ethnicity, especially in relation to the Israelites of the Old Testament, were used for the structuring of identity in the late antique and early medieval world (Pohl). Four papers that consider the evidence for Jewish existence and interaction with Christian society in Vandal North Africa (Conant), Visigothic Spain (Drews), and Ostrogothic Italy (Lacerenza; Hen and Heydemann) follow suit and explore each case against a broader background of political, cultural and religious developments. The Merovingian Kingdoms are treated by three papers, which tackle the issue from three different angles — the migration of the Heraclius legend, which supposedly led to the forced conversion of Jews at the behest of King Dagobert I (Esders);22 the changing attitudes towards Jews in Columbanian circles, which played a crucial role in Merovingian politics as well as in the evolution of western monasticism (Fox); and the penitential literature from the early medieval West, with its distinctive shift from references to ‘hermeneutic’ Jews to allusions of encounters with ‘real’ Jews that took place (Meens). A re-evaluation of the Jews in the Carolingian world (Heil) is complemented by two papers that examine how Josephus’ depiction of Jewish history influenced the shaping of Carolingian cultural memory (McKitterick and Ward), and on the influence of Hrabanus Maurus’ exegesis on the formation of a Christian image of Jews (Hoogeveen). The volume ends with two papers that take an eastern vantage point — one on the role of Jews and Jewish traditions in Holy Land itineraries and travel literature from the early medieval West (Limor) and the towards the Jews’, Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research 40 (1972), 89–108. 22 This traumatic event is also recorded by Jewish chroniclers of the later Middle Ages, such as Jacob HaCohen; see Yaniv Fox, Through Distant Eyes: The Birth of a Merovingian Story, 575–1575 (forthcoming).



other on the place of the ‘imaginary’ Jew in debates over images among Byzantine intellectuals from the seventh century onwards (Noble). The essays in this volume were written independently of one another by some of the most prominent historians of the early medieval West, and they address a wide variety of topics, sources, and geographies. Hence, the volume’s internal organisation is basically chronological, and there has been no attempt to harmonise the viewpoints or to present a coherent thesis. The common ground among the collected papers is their attempt to understand and explain various aspects of Jewish history within the broader historical context of the post-Roman Barbarian world. All the sources discussed by the contributors reveal a remarkable tension between the ‘imaginary’ (or ‘hermeneutical’) Jew and the ‘real’ one. On the one hand, encounters with real Jews had a certain impact on the ways in which the ‘imaginary’ Jew was constructed; on the other, the ‘imaginary’ Jew dictated many of the attitudes towards the Jews of the early medieval West. Augustine’s positive theological understanding of Jews and Judaism never did die out, but it was occasionally overshadowed by anti-Jewish sentiments that had evolved in patristic literature. Indeed, throughout the early Middle Ages, anti-Jewish invective remained the engine of Christian theology, especially in the context of debates and polemics among Christians.23 The most conspicuous absence in this volume is that of contemporaneous Jewish sources, simply because no such sources survive from the early medieval West.24 Apart from some tombstones, a few of which are discussed below,25 one has to rely on a plethora of Greek and Latin non-Jewish sources, all written by Christians, who, more often than not, were also clerics. These sources — whether legal, administrative or narrative — tell the story of the Jews from an utterly Christian perspective, and therefore cannot be regarded as paragons of writing history sine ira et studio. We lack the Jewish side of the story — we do not even know whether the Jews had an equivalent Hebrew term for the Greek βάρβαροi or the Latin barbari — and that anomaly makes our job as historians even more challenging and intriguing, and sometimes 23 See, e.g., Averil Keely, ‘Arians and Jews in the Histories of Gregory of Tours’, Journal of Medieval History 23 (1997), 103–15; Kati Ihnat, ‘Liturgy against apostasy: Marian commemoration and the Jews in Visigothic Spain’, Early Medieval Europe 25 (2017), 443–65. 24 This may partially account for the incomplete picture portrayed by some of the positivist historians of earlier generations. 25 See the paper by Lacerenza, below.


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impossible. Throughout the period covered by this volume, the heart of Jewish life, demographically as well as culturally, was in the East, while western communities (even those of Italy and Spain) left but an imperceptible imprint on Jewish lore. A faint echo of contemporaneous Jewish sentiments can, perhaps, be found in the prayer Vehu Rachum (‘He is merciful’), which, according to some late traditions, was composed around the turn of the seventh century in response to assaults on the Jews of southern France and Spain:26 And He is merciful, forgiving of sin and will not destroy. Many times He withdraws His anger and does not fully arouse His wrath. May You, God, not withhold Your mercy from us; may Your kindness and truth always protect us. Deliver us, God our Lord, gather us from the nations, so that we may thankfully acknowledge Your holy name and glory in Your praise. If You, God, were to keep an account of sins, my God, who could endure? Do not act with us as would be appropriate because of our sins, and do not requite us as appropriate for our transgressions. If our sins bear witness against us, O God, act for the sake of Your name. Remember Your mercies O God, and Your acts of kindness, for they have existed for all time. May God answer us on the day of [our] distress; may the name of the God of Yaakov fortify us. God, deliver us. May the King answer us on the day we call. Our Father, our King, be gracious unto us and answer us; although we have no deeds [to rely upon], act charitably with us for the sake of Your name. And now God, our Lord, Who took Your people out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand and made Yourself renowned until this very day, we have sinned, and we have acted wickedly. God, in all of Your righteousness, may Your anger and Your wrath be diverted from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain, for due to our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors, Jerusalem and Your people have become an object of scorn for all those around us. And now, God, listen to the prayers of Your servant

The origins and provenance of this prayer, which is said on Mondays and Thursdays after the morning prayer [Shacharith], are practically unknown. On the attribution to the seventh century, see Alfredo M. Rabello, The Jews in Visigothic Spain in the Light of the Legislation (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Centre, 1983), pp. 209–11 [Hebrew]. See also Ismar Elbogen, Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive Study, trans. by Raymond P. Scheindlin, based on the original 1913 German edition and the 1972 Hebrew edition (Philadelphia, New York and Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society, 1993), pp. 69–70. 26



‫‪and his pleas and shine Your countenance upon Your Sanctuary which‬‬ ‫‪is desolate, for [Your] sake, my Lord.27‬‬

‫‪This prayer, which is a pastiche of prayers written by at least three dif‬‬‫‪ferent authors, begins with a statement on the nature of sin and ends‬‬ ‫‪with some hints at persecutions. In its subject matter and plangent tone,‬‬ ‫‪Vehu Rachum accords extremely well with the traditional view of Jewish‬‬ ‫‪history as a vale of tears. As the papers collected below demonstrate,‬‬ ‫‪however, sorrow is only one sense among many experienced by Jews of‬‬ ‫‪the early medieval West.‬‬

‫‪ From the Siddur (i.e. the Jewish prayer-book):‬‬ ‫וְ הּוא ַרחּום יְ כַ ֵפר ָעֹון וְ ל ֹא יַ ְש ִחית‪ .‬וְ ִה ְר ָבה לְ ָה ִשיב ַאּפֹו וְ ל ֹא יָ ִעיר כָ ל ֲח ָמתֹו‪ַ :‬א ָתה יְ יָ‪ .‬ל ֹא ִתכְ לָ א ַר ֲח ֶמיָך‬ ‫ֹלהינּו וְ ַק ְבצֵ נּו ִמן ַהּגֹויִ ם‪ .‬לְ הֹודֹות לְ ֵשם ָק ְד ֶשָך‪ .‬לְ ִה ְש ַת ֵב ַח‬ ‫הֹוש ֵיענּו יְ יָ ֱא ֵ‬ ‫ִמ ֶמּנּו‪ַ .‬ח ְס ְדָך וַ ֲא ִמ ְתָך ָת ִמיד יִ צְ רּונּו‪ִ :‬‬ ‫ִב ְת ִהלָ ֶתָך‪ִ :‬אם ֲעֹונֹות ִת ְש ָמר יָ ּה‪ֲ .‬אדֹנָ י ִמי יַ ֲעמֹד‪ :‬כִ י ַע ְמָך ַה ְסלִ ָיחה לְ ַמ ַען ִתוָ ֵרא‪ :‬ל ֹא כַ ֲח ָט ֵאינּו ַתעֲ ֶשה לָ נּו‬ ‫וְ ל ֹא כַ ֲעֹונ ֵֹתינּו ִתגְ מֹל ָעלֵ ינּו‪ִ :‬אם ֲעֹונֵ ינּו ָענּו ָבנּו‪ .‬יְ יָ‪ֲ .‬ע ֵשה לְ ַמ ַען ְש ֶמָך‪ :‬זְ כֹר ַר ֲח ֶמיָך יְ יָ וַ ֲח ָס ֶדיָך‪ .‬כִ י ֵמעֹולָ ם‬ ‫הֹושיעָ ה‪ַ .‬ה ֶמלֶ ְך יַ ֲענֵ נּו ְביֹום ָק ְר ֵאנּו‪ָ :‬א ִבינּו ַמלְ כֵ נּו ָחנֵ נּו‬ ‫ֹלהי יַ ֲעקֹב‪ :‬יְ יָ ִ‬ ‫ֵה ָמה‪ :‬יַ ֲענֵ נּו יְ יָ ְביֹום צָ ָרה‪ .‬יְ ַשגְ ֵבנּו ֵשם ֱא ֵ‬ ‫ֹלהינּו‪ְ .‬ש ַמע קֹול‬ ‫הוש ֵיענּו לְ ַמ ַען ְש ֶמָך‪ֲ :‬אדֹונֵ ינּו ֱא ֵ‬ ‫וַ ֲענֵ נּו‪ .‬כִ י ֵאין ָבנּו ַמ ֲע ִשים‪ֲ .‬ע ֵשה ִע ָמנּו צְ ָד ָקה כְ רֹב ַר ֲח ֶמיָך וְ ִ‬ ‫את ֶאת עַ ְמָך‬ ‫ֹלהינּו‪ֲ .‬א ֶשר הֹוצֵ ָ‬ ‫הוש ֵיענּו לְ ַמ ַען ְש ֶמָך‪ :‬וְ ַע ָתה ֲאדֹנָ י ֱא ֵ‬ ‫בֹותינּו וְ ִ‬ ‫ַת ֲחנּונֵ ינּו‪ּ .‬וזְ כָ ר לָ נּו ֶאת ְב ִרית ֲא ֵ‬ ‫ֵמ ֶא ֶרץ ִמצְ ַריִ ם ְביָ ד ֲחזָ ָקה וַ ַת ַעׂש לְ ָך ֵשם כַ ּיֹום ַהזֶ ה‪ָ .‬ח ָטאנּו ָר ָשעְ נּו‪ֲ :‬אדֹנָ י‪ ,‬כְ כָ ל צִ ְדק ֶֹתָך יָ ָשב נָ א ַא ְפָך וַ ֲח ָמ ְתָך‬ ‫רּושלַ יִ ם וְ ַע ְמָך לְ ֶח ְר ָפה לְ כָ ל ְס ִביב ֵֹתינּו‪ :‬וְ עַ ָתה‬ ‫רּושלַ יִ ם ַהר ָק ְד ֶשָך‪ .‬כִ י ַב ֲח ָט ֵאינּו ַּוב ֲעֹונֹות ֲאב ֵֹתינּו‪ ,‬יְ ָ‬ ‫ֵמ ִע ְירָך יְ ָ‬ ‫ֹלהינּו ֶאל ְת ִפלַ ת ַע ְב ְדָך וְ ֶאל ַת ֲחנּונָ יו‪ .‬וְ ָה ֵאר ָפנֶ יָך ַעל ִמ ְק ָד ְשָך ַה ָש ֵמם‪ .‬לְ ַמעַ ן ֲאדֹנָ י‪:‬‬ ‫ְש ַמע ֱא ֵ‬ ‫‪I cite the English translation from Chabad’s online Siddur.‬‬ ‫‪27‬‬

Walter Pohl Disputed Identifications: Jews and the Use of Biblical Models in the Barbarian Kingdoms*

The people of Israel represented an epistemological challenge to late antique and early medieval Christians. Christian authors employed several strategies to detach the spiritual and historical promise of the chosen people of the Old Testament from the Jews of their own day. Under the new covenant, the populus Christianus was rooted in the many gentes that it came to comprise, and the Old Testament rhetoric of election was reinterpreted in this context. In medieval Europe, the Church came to be organised in Landeskirchen, within the frontiers of the respective states and realms. One influential current of thought has assumed that this lapse into Christian particularism was due to the pervasive influence of ‘Germanic’ ethnic thinking that superseded Christian universalist attitudes and created separate Gentilkirchen.1 However, Peter * The research leading to these results was supported by the Austrian Research Fund (FWF) under the SFB Grant ‘VISCOM’, F42-G18. I am grateful to Gerda Heydemann, Graeme Ward and Nicola Edelmann for help and suggestions. A first brief synthesis of the argument is found in Walter Pohl, ‘Christian and barbarian identities in the early medieval West: introduction’, in Post-Roman Transitions: Christian and Barbarian Identities in the Early Medieval West, ed. by Walter Pohl and Gerda Heydemann, Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, 14 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 1–46. 1 Arnold Angenendt, ‘Der eine Adam und die vielen Stammväter. Idee und Wirklichkeit der Origo gentis im Mittelalter’, in Herkunft und Ursprung: historische und mythische Formen der Legitimation, ed. by Peter Wunderli (Sigmaringen: Hiersemann, 1994), pp. 27–52; Lutz von Padberg, ‘Unus populus ex diversis gentibus. Gentilismus und Einheit im früheren Mittelalter’, in Der Umgang mit dem Fremden in der Vormoderne: Studien zur Akkulturation in bildungshistorischer Sicht, ed. by Christoph Lüth et al. (Köln: Böhlau, 1997), pp. 155–93, at p. 184. The word ‘gentil’ was used in German scholarship for the ethnic world-view of the early Germans; see Walter Pohl, ‘Gentilismus’, in Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde 2nd ed., 11 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1998), pp. 91–101. Barbarians and Jews. Jews and Judaism in the Early Medieval West, ed. by Y. Hen and T. F. X. Noble, DIASPORA 4 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 11–28 © FHG DOI 10.1484/M.DIASPORA-EB.5.116404


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Brown has more convincingly described the development of these ‘micro-Christendoms’ in the post-Roman West in the context of ‘the Rise of Western Christendom’: ‘Often singularly ill-informed about their neighbours, or deeply distrustful of them, the leaders of each “microChristendom” fastened with fierce loyalty on those features that seemed to reflect in microcosm, in their own land, the imagined, all-embracing macrocosm of a world-wide Christianity’.2 Particular political, ethnic, and ecclesiastical identities were seen as reflecting all the traits that made the Church universal, and often, as reflecting them better than other Churches. The Israel of the Old Testament as a model acquired a rather ambivalent significance, as Mayke de Jong has argued: The idea that all the early medieval ‘micro-Christendoms’ in the West perceived themselves as so many ‘New Israels’ has recently attracted some justified criticism, but all the same, the Old Testament histories and their authoritative tales of kings past were a constant source of inspiration and trepidation for early medieval rulers and their learned courtiers.3

How, then, did the Old Testament affect the role of the early medieval gentes after the dissolution of the Roman Empire?4 Obviously, it could be used as a resource of identification in the early medieval kingdoms of the Latin West. That, however, was not simply a question of styling one or another people as God’s elect. More importantly, the Bible prominently featured ethnic distinctions. The Old Testament could help to interpret and legitimize the new world of ethnically defined kingdoms in Europe. The Bible, more than any other text in Western culture, served as a ‘Great Code’ (as Northrop Frye has called it), a master-narrative that could inspire and empower a great variety of codes and narratives

Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, ad 200–1000, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), pp. 13–20 and 355–79, here at p. 364. 3 Mayke de Jong, ‘Ecclesia and the Early Medieval Polity’, in Staat im frühen Mittelalter, ed. by Stuart Airlie, Helmut Reimitz and Walter Pohl, Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters, 11 (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2006), pp. 113–32, at p. 120. 4 For the historical context, and for the role of ethnicity in early medieval Europe, see Walter Pohl, ‘Introduction: Strategies of Identification. A Methodological Profile’, in Strategies of Identification: Ethnicity and Religion in Early Medieval Europe, ed. by Walter Pohl and Gerda Heydemann, Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, 13 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012), pp. 1–64; Pohl, ‘Christian and Barbarian Identities’. 2

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that gave meaning to political, social, and cultural practices.5 This was not a straightforward operation: the Great Code was so successful precisely because it could be used for diverse aims and arguments. This also applies to its treatment of ethnicity. Apart from more or less subtle stylizations of single chosen peoples within a biblical matrix (which were relatively rare in the early Middle Ages6), what mattered most was that the Old Testament encouraged using ethnic distinctions as a structuring principle of the social world. This is a field that has awaited comprehensive treatment.7 Indeed, studies of late antique and early medieval identities have often juxtaposed ethnicity and Christianity. Ethnicity was seen as a particularist, barbarian, predominantly military, and rather crude way of forming communities, largely based on oral traditions. Christianity, on the other hand, was regarded as universal, Roman, literate, mainly representing civilian attitudes, and thus as a much more sophisticated way of constructing communities. In line with this model, European history has often been portrayed as a struggle between universal and national principles. The same model was used to contrast Jewish ethnic particularism with universal Christianity.8 It is, of course, true that many Northrop Frye, The Great Code: The Bible in Literature (Chicago: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982). 6 Mary Garrison, ‘The Franks as the New Israel? Education for an Identity from Pippin to Charlemagne’, in The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages, ed. by Yitzhak Hen and Matthew Innes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 114–61; Gerda Heydemann and Walter Pohl, ‘The Rhetoric of Election – 1 Peter 2.9 and the Franks’, in Religious Franks: Religion and Power in the Frankish Kingdoms. Studies in Honour of Mayke de Jong, ed. by Rob Meens et al. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016), pp. 13–31. 7 For some relevant approaches to the subject, see Arno Borst, Der Turmbau von Babel: Geschichte der Meinungen über Ursprung und Vielfalt der Sprachen und Völker, 4 vols (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1957–63; repr. München: dtv, 1995); Adrian Hastings, The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Anthony D. Smith, Chosen Peoples: Sacred Sources of National Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); The Calling of the Nations: Exegesis, Ethnography, and Empire in a Biblical-Historic Present, ed. by Mark Vessey, Sharon V. Betcher, Robert A. Daum and Harry O. Maier (Toronto/Buffalo/ London: University of Toronto Press, 2011). More work has been done on early medieval Britain, for instance, Daniel Anlezark, Water and Fire: The Myth of the Flood in Anglo-Saxon England (Manchester/New York: Manchester University Press, 2006); Stephen J. Harris, Race and Ethnicity in Anglo-Saxon Literature (New York/London: Routledge, 2003), pp. 45–129. 8 For a critique of this approach, see John M. G. Barclay, ‘Universalism and Particularism: Twin Components of both Judaism and Early Christianity’, in A Vision for the Church: Studies in Early Christian Ecclesiology in Honour of J. P. M. Sweet, ed. by Markus Bockmuehl and Michael G. Thompson (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 5


Walter Pohl

Christians of the period, influenced by Paul or Augustine, promoted a universalist, supra-ethnic perspective. The dichotomy between ecclesia and populus Christianus vs. the gentes is well attested in the sources. However, as Mayke de Jong has maintained, ‘rather than following the dichotomies created by early medieval authors, these should be made into central topics of research’.9 The Bible provided detailed models for different forms of ethnic identification. If we are seeking to understand why ethnic rule gained some legitimacy in post-Roman Europe, this connection should be explored. To a considerable extent, the political role of ethnicity in Latin Europe was not a barbarian import.10 Far from being antithetical to the universal Church, it became possible precisely through Christianity and within the Church. The simple fact that (apart from a few rather transient steppe empires) only Christian realms achieved long-term supra-regional rule in medieval Europe substantiates this claim. In the Old Testament, ethnicity plays a key role. God’s covenant was with a people, the people of Israel.11 Belonging to the chosen people implied accepting an enormous moral responsibility. More often than not, God’s own people strayed from the covenant, and it was duly punished. The moral and ritual drama in which God’s protection and His punishment were enacted often unfolded in scenarios of ethnic conflict. Surrounding peoples, from the Egyptians and Philistines to Assyrians and Babylonians, served as instruments of God’s wrath. One may debate whether such an ‘ethnic view’ of the Ancient Orient is correct, and what exactly it meant in the course of the complex history of the Hebrew Bible. Regardless of that, the question pertinent to our purposes is what Christians in the Latin West could learn from the Bible about ethnicity. In the Old Testament, early medieval readers could easily distinguish a 1997), pp. 207–24; Caroline Johnson Hodge, If Sons, then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); David G. Horrell, ‘“Race”, “Nation”, “People”: Ethnic Identity-Construction in 1 Peter 2. 9’, New Testament Studies, 58 (2011), 123–43. 9 De Jong, ‘Ecclesia’, p. 118. 10 Walter Pohl, ‘Introduction: Ethnicity, Religion and Empire’, in Visions of Community in the Post-Roman World: The West, Byzantium and the Islamic World, 300–1100, ed. by Walter Pohl, Clemens Gantner and Richard Payne (Farnham/ Burlington: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 1–23. 11 For instance, Leviticus 20.26: ‘You must be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the other peoples to be mine’; Jeremiah 31.31–34: ‘I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land […] I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people’.

Disputed Identifications


landscape of gentes and reges not unlike their own, and very much unlike the Roman Empire. The manifold meanings of ethnicity in the Hebrew Bible are a rather vexed question.12 In biblical scholarship, the question of ethnicity has often been regarded as an unwanted element that could obscure the spiritual message both of Judaism and Christianity. Debates implicitly or explicitly revolve around the question whether the Hebrew Bible presented an ethnocentrist vision. Jewish and Christian apologists tended to treat the role of ethnicity with reserve, emphasizing Jewish openness to all nations and Christian universality.13 In a sense that paradoxically reverses the debate of the first Christian centuries when the Christians had been accused (for instance, by Celsus) that they ‘did not have continuity with Judaism, and their laws had no traditional sanction, and that therefore they lacked national legitimacy’.14 Judith Lieu and Denise Buell have discussed the extensive use of ethnic terms for the early Christians.15 In response, it has been argued that terms such as the Greek genos or ethnos or the Latin gens cannot truly be considered ethnic if they appear in a Christian context.16 The debate in Biblical Studies also reflects a tendency in much contemporary historical and anthropological research to regard ethnicity as a bad thing that is best explained away as modern projection, a cultural construction, or an imagined community.17 Erich Gruen has forcefully Otto Bächli, Israel und die Völker. Eine Studie zum Deuteronomium (Zürich/ Stuttgart: Zwingli-Verlag, 1962); Christiana van Houten, The Alien in Israelite Law (Sheffield: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 1991); Kenton L. Sparks, Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel: Prolegomena to the Study of Ethnic Sentiments and Their Expression in the Hebrew Bible (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1998); Ethnicity and the Bible, ed. by Mark G. Brett (Boston/Leiden: Brill, 2002); Steven Grosby, Biblical Ideas of Nationality: Ancient and Modern (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2002); Smith, Chosen Peoples. 13 See, for instance, Joseph Ratzinger, Die Einheit der Nationen — Eine Vision der Kirchenväter (Salzburg: Anton Pustet, 22005 [11971]). 14 Louis H. Feldman, Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 197. 15 Judith M. Lieu, Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Denise K. Buell, Why this New Race? Ethnic Reasoning in Early Christianity (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2005). 16 Aaron P. Johnson, Ethnicity and Argumentation in Eusebius’ Praeparatio Evangelica. Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 25–54. 17 Walter Pohl, ‘Comparing Communities – the Limits of Typology’, in History and Anthropology 26, 1 (2015), Special Issue: Visions of Community: Comparative Approaches to Medieval Forms of Identity in Europe and Asia, ed. by Andre Gingrich and Christina Lutter, 18–35. 12


Walter Pohl

argued that Greeks, Romans, and even Jews ‘did not, on the whole, trouble themselves about the purity of the bloodline, and, unlike moderns, they probably did not agonize much about ethnicity’.18 As already becomes obvious in this concluding phrase of his argument, Gruen sets up a very narrowly defined model of ethnicity to demonstrate that it did not matter in Antiquity. Gruen’s definition of ethnicity can only be deduced from the way in which he brushes away one type of evidence for ancient ethnicity after the other: Ethnicity is ‘indistinguishable from race’ (p. 2); it presumes autochthony and can be excluded if any migrations even of distant forefathers appear in the sources (p. 3); it excludes intermingling (p. 4) or mixed marriages (p. 6); it not only implies a contempt for the inferiority of others, but that inferiority also has to be racially explained and sought in the blood, not in cultural customs (p. 8); if religion is seen as an important factor of identity it cannot be ethnic (p. 9); ethnicity must entail hostility towards other peoples (p. 10); it corresponds to a ‘fixed nature, inherent in the people’ (p. 12) in which one is ‘trapped’ and which does not allow any change of lifestyle (p. 11); and it is established by ‘nature, not nurture’ (p. 13). This is clearly a reductio ad absurdum of the concept of ethnicity. Nowadays, nobody would qualify for belonging to an ethnic group whose forebears ever migrated (or are believed to have migrated), or who wears jeans and drinks Coca-Cola, or who does not hate other ethnic groups and believes that their bad habits are in the blood. His blunt conclusions aside, Gruen’s argument is valuable because it challenges us to test definitions of ethnicity against the evidence.19 If we choose a weak definition that typically lists some features such as a common culture, a shared past, and a sense of solidarity, then it also applies to religious, civic, political, territorial, and many other forms of identity, not only to ethnicity.20 I agree with Gruen that, heuristically speaking, ideas of common origin as a distinctive feature of ethnicity are more adequate. However, we should apply more realistic criteria to judge when such ideas can be assumed. The Latin, and to an extent also the Greek terminology is based on procreation (gens, genos/genus, natio) Erich Gruen, ‘Did Ancient Identity Depend on Ethnicity? A Preliminary Probe’, in Phoenix 67.1/2 (2013), 1–22. 19 For the following, see Pohl, ‘Strategies of Identification’. 20 This is where the very sound argument in Horell, ‘“Race”, “Nation”, “People”’, becomes unwieldy at the very end: ‘One might also question whether such constructionist definitions of ethnic identity imply that any religious group might be defined as an ethnic group, if it exhibits all or most of the above characteristics. I think the answer to this would be affirmative, at least potentially.’ (p. 141). 18

Disputed Identifications


and clearly suggests common descent. Ethnos has a different etymology and a broader semantic range (for instance, it can also refer to a swarm of bees — but they are usually of common origin! — p. 1 and pp. 13–20). We cannot expect that notions of common origin are regularly made explicit in our sources. Why should they, if the author could expect that his audience would understand it that way? Even for us, there are enough clues to this implicit understanding in the sources. The Bible, for instance, provides a clear genealogy of peoples derived from the sons of Noah. In most cases, we can still clearly decipher when terms such as ethnos or gens are used for peoples and carry an ethnic meaning, and when they are employed in a more metaphorical sense. In some cases, ethnic terms and ethnonyms may only approximately correspond to scholarly definitions of ethnicity. But on the whole, they allowed for the distinguishing between peoples and thus provided orientation in a complex social world. It is this function of placing social groups within a largely coherent system of distinctions, however fuzzy it may have been at the margins, which can meaningfully be called ‘ethnicity’. Ethnicity can then be regarded as a system of distinctions between more or less analogous social groups which are generally perceived as being naturally constituted by their common origin. As a next step, we should differentiate between ethnicity as a relational and cognitive system, on the one hand, and ethnic identity/ethnic group as it emerges from the social practice of identification, on the other. That step may also be helpful in determining whether the early Christians were in any sense an ethnic group. Distinguishing themselves from Greeks and Jews, they could be classed as a tertium genus in a matrix that included ethnicity. Some Christians may have found that reassuring, while others, such as Tertullian, refused this ethnic dimension of their identity.21 The insistent use of ethnic language tells us a lot about the early Christians’ search for identity, which we could not appreciate if we decided that this language was not ethnic at all. But there would be little heuristic value in arguing that the Christians actually were an ethnic group. Of course, one will rarely find a group that is only ethnic, without having to rely on further identifications with a territory, a political unit, and a religious cult. Identities on the ground were necessarily composite. Ethnic identifications could matter more or less in them. More See the different interpretations in Horell, ‘“Race”, “Nation”, “People”’, p. 133, and Gruen, ‘Did Ancient Identity Depend on Ethnicity’, p. 19. 21


Walter Pohl

often than not, they included a strong religious dimension. It is therefore doubtful whether it makes much sense to debate whether Jewish identity was either religious or ethnic. Distinguishing between ethnic and religious identifications is certainly a legitimate level of analysis; but the distinction has its limits, for both modes of identification are often closely intertwined, especially in the Jewish case. Ethnic language may be used to describe religious affiliations and vice versa. That is not a flaw in the language (‘no stability holds in the vocabulary’22). It reflected the actual dynamic of Jewish identity, which was both ethnic and religious. It surely makes sense to discuss whether religious or ethnic modes of identification prevailed at a certain time or were more important to certain groups of people, although these identifications may not always be clearly distinguishable.23 All societies develop symbolic codes for the construction and delimitation of communities, which is an elementary operation in the production of social realities. As the sociologist Bernhard Giesen has shown, this distinction between insiders and outsiders can, in some cases, be relatively pragmatic and straightforward, depending on the degree of familiarity with and the social distance towards strangers. In other cases, the delineation between in-group and out-group can be charged with additional meanings (for instance, good and bad; high and low; civilized and barbarian), which will increase its impact.24 Both ethnicity and religion offer powerful mechanisms of inclusion/exclusion that can be easily combined to reinforce the symbolic charge. Certainly, Judaism and Christianity provided codes of collective identity which carried highly symbolical significance. Nothing less than the question of salvation or condemnation depended on membership in the group, whether it was ‘the people of Israel’ or ‘the Church’. But that is not the bottom line. After all, many ethnic or religious groups had their exclusive gods who afforded protection, and sometimes also promised salvation, only to members. What was special about both Gruen, ‘Did Ancient Identity Depend on Ethnicity’, p. 1. Sparks, Ethnicity, p. 328 and p. 325, acknowledging the ‘dynamic interplay between ethnic and religious modes of identity’, but still pointing to a decision: ‘Throughout the [post-exilic] period that we have examined, ethnicity seems to have played a secondary role to Israelite and Judean concerns about religious identity’. See also Love L. Sechrest, A Former Jew: Paul and the Dialectics of Race (London and New York: T.&T. Clark, 2009). 24 Bernhard Giesen, ‘Codes kollektiver Identität’, in Religion und Identität: im Horizont des Pluralismus, ed. by Werner Gephart and Hans Waldenfels (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1999), pp. 13–43, at 14. 22 23

Disputed Identifications


Judaism and Christianity is that they not only drew highly charged boundaries between them and the rest of the world, the goyim, the gentes or the pagans, but that at the same time, they dynamized these identities. These affiliations only became meaningful along the high-tension line of the history of salvation. To enjoy the benefits of the covenant, one not only had to belong to the people of Israel, one needed to accept an elaborate system of beliefs and follow a set of rigid moral and ritual rules. The Christians had similarly ambitious expectations; it was not enough to be baptized and to follow the standard religious procedures to attain salvation. Thus, as envisaged by Augustine, an invisible ‘City of God’ emerged alongside the civitas terrena, which only comprised part of the Christians or their clerics. The boundaries between inside and outside were constantly renegotiated. Insiders could become apostates even without meaning to; outsiders could be drawn into Christian communities, sometimes without fully realizing the implications of this move. The God of the Hebrew Bible could call outsiders into his flock, and he could certainly use foreign peoples as his instruments. The Christian God extended this call with the goal to bring all the gentes into the fold, and he continued to use pagan peoples to punish Christian sinners. To complicate matters, the Christians essentially continued to use the symbolic language of the Hebrew Bible to define belonging and otherness, although their cosmological outlook was quite different. This biblical matrix was inescapably dynamic: which of the gentes, and who among them would heed the call for salvation and join the Christian populus? Who would relapse, and how could one be part of the civitas Dei, in accordance with the unfathomable will of God? Which of the gentes would be able to attain divine protection by its faith and its deeds? Such a dynamic sense of the mysterious workings of divine favour and intervention among the nations could not but shape contemporary perceptions of the meaning of ethnic communities and impinge on their political uses. From a Christian point of view, it implied strong moral responsibilities because even the sins of some members could put the promise of God’s protection at risk.25 Of course, the Christian appropriation of the ‘code of collective identity’ of the Hebrew Bible also created real problems for the perception of the Jews.26 The people of Israel had not only been driven from Heydemann and Pohl, ‘The Rhetoric of Election’. Feldman, Jew and Gentile; Robert Chazan, Fashioning Jewish Identity in Medieval Western Christendom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Israel Jacob Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in 25



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the centre of its sacred topography into the diaspora but, in Christian eyes, the Jews had been dislodged from the symbolic centre of the history of salvation. Generations of Christian authors had to cope with the overwhelming evidence of the Old Testament about the unique role of the Jews as the chosen people. The ‘Israel according to the Flesh’ (1 Corinthians 10.18) of the Christian era was therefore written out of contemporary sacred history, and the place of the Jews in the Christian order of things remained contested.27 They were perceived both as a gens and as a heretical sect that had strayed from God, for instance, in the Histories of Gregory of Tours.28 The transformation of the ethnic structure of the Old Testament left a kind of ‘floating gap’ which had to be filled with other identifications of God’s people. This turned out to be a key element in the uses of the Old Testament discourse of collective identity by late antique and early medieval authors.29 Early Christians had appropriated the notion of the chosen people of Israel and styled themselves as the ‘new’ Israel. The first letter of Peter (I Peter 2.9–10), building on Exodus 19.5, informed the early Christians: ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people’,30 a passage often discussed in later exegesis. Paul’s epistle to the Romans (Romans 9.6–13) contends: ‘For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants […] This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants’. Thus, it is divine choice and not biological pedigree that truly matters.31 Still, Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 2007). 27 But see Paula Frederiksen, Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism (New York: Doubleday, 2008). 28 Avril Keely, ‘Arians and Jews in the Histories of Gregory of Tours’, Journal of Medieval History, 23/2 (1997), 103–15. 29 See Gerda Heydemann, ‘Biblical Israel and the Christian gentes. Social metaphors and concepts of community in Cassiodorus’ Expositio psalmorum’, in Strategies of Identification: Ethnicity and Religion in Early Medieval Europe, ed. by Walter Pohl and Gerda Heydemann, Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages 13 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), pp. 143–208. 30 Vos autem genus electum, regale sacerdotium, gens sancta, populus adquisitionis […] qui aliquando non populus, nunc autem populus Dei. See Heydemann and Pohl, ‘The rhetoric of election’. 31 Yuval, Two Nations, pp. 12–13.

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genealogy remained an argument, and the notion that the Christians (but also the pagans) were physically descended from Abraham continued to be a matter of polemic. The story of Jacob and Esau, with its bitter struggle between brothers, provided one focus of debate; Christians and Jews could identify each other with the Edomites.32 This polemic often implied the deliberate use of ethnic terminology for the early Church. Denise Buell has collected many instances, for example, Justin the Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, written c. ad 160, which defines Christians as ‘the true and spiritual Israelite ethnos’ and ‘the genos of Judah, Jacob, Israel and Abraham’.33 Of course, to hold the people of Israel as a model for Christian identity was also problematic.34 As the Church expanded, allegorical interpretations became one way out of the dilemma. In regarding the Ecclesia as a whole as the new Israel, the accent shifted from the notion of gens, which carried ethnic and genealogical connotations, to the civic concept of populus as developed in the Roman empire.35 The populus Romanus consisted of many gentes and thus provided a model of inclusion that was more suited to the needs of the Church triumphant than the direct analogy with the People of Israel. The Church Fathers therefore generally argued against any direct historical or genealogical identification of the Christians with Israel, or their definition as a gens. To give just a few examples among many: Ambrose wrote explicitly that ‘we, who are assembled from different peoples, cannot usurp the designation of one gens’.36 And Augustine, in his Enarrationes in Psalmos, comments upon Psalm 82:37 ‘But Israel Yuval, Two Nations, pp. 3–10. Later, fictive biblical genealogies became common in Anglo-Saxon England, where they appeared at the time of King Alfred, in the late ninth century: Anlezark, Water and Fire, pp. 241–90. 33 Buell, Why this New Race?, p. 99. 34 Gerda Heydemann, ‘People(s) of God? Biblical Exegesis and the Language of Community in Late Antique and Early Medieval Europe’, in Meanings of Community across Medieval Eurasia, ed. by Eirik Hovden, Christina Lutter, and Walter Pohl (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 27–60. 35 For the distinction of gens and populus as models of peoplehood in Late Antiquity, see Patrick J. Geary, The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002), p. 55. 36 Ambrose, Explanatio super psalmos XII, 36.7, ed. by Michael Petschenig and Michaela Zelzer, CSEL, 64 (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999), p. 75: ‘Nos de diversis populis congregati vocabulum unius gentis non possumus usurpare […] Christi populus diceremur.’ 37 Augustinus, Enarrationes in psalmos, ed. by Eligius Dekkers and Johannes Fraipont, 3 vols, CC SL, vol. 39 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1956), ps. 82.5, p. 1142: ‘Israel autem hic debet intelligi utique semen Abrahae, cui dicit Apostolus, Ergo Abrahae semen 32


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must be understood here as the semen of Abraham, about which the Apostle says, And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3.29): not Israel according to the flesh, about which he says, Look at the people of Israel (Videte Israel secundum carnem, I Corinthians 10.18)’. More directly, the North African sixth-century author Verecundus states that the Christians are not a gens like the others ‘who live gathered together in one place, like the gens Iudaeorum […] or like any other, the Gothic or the Parthian or the Herul people […] But we are dispersed across the whole world’.38 His choice of stable settlement as the criterion by which to distinguish the Jews from the Christians has a rather ironic sense to it — clearly, it is the Jews of the Old Testament rather than those of the diaspora who are being discussed. Between the fourth and sixth centuries, the notion of an all-encompassing populus Christianus, shaped after the model of Rome, could serve as a basis for the ideology of a Christian Empire. As the idea of an allencompassing Christian Rome faded, space for the accommodation of Christian gentes within the flock opened up.39 If a new people could be converted, this was seen as a sign of divine providence. Avitus of Vienne wrote to Clovis on the occasion of his baptism: ‘God has made your people completely his own through you’.40 In this view, conversion of a pagan people represented divine election. Saint Patrick called the Irish a ‘people just now coming to the faith, which the Lord has chosen from the ends of the earth’.41 Pope Gregory the Great attributed the English mission to divine providence in his letter to Augustine: ‘For I know that Almighty God has displayed great miracles through your Love in estis, secundum promissionem haeredes (Galatians 3.29): non Israel secundum carnem, de quo dicit, Videte Israel secundum carnem (I Corinthians 10.18).’ See also vol. 40, ps. 104.1.5, p. 1538. I owe this and the following passage to Gerda Heydemann. 38 Verecundus Iuncensis, Commentarii super cantica ecclesiastica, 22, ed. by Roland Demeulenaere, CC SL, 93 (Turnholt: Brepols, 1976), p. 40, about Deuteronomy 32.21: ‘Et ego zelabo in non gente: Non gentem posuit Christianos, qui non sicut ceterae gentium nationes uno in loco habitant congregati, sicut gens videlicet Iudaeorum (ibi sexcenta milia fuerunt adunata) vel sicut quaelibet, Gothica vel Parthica seu Herula. Sed nos dispersi per totum diffusae latitudinis orbem.’ 39 See Gerda Heydemann, Exegese, Rhetorik und politische Gemeinschaft im 6. Jahrhundert. Studien zum Psalmenkommentar des Cassiodor (doctoral thesis: Vienna 2013; publication in preparation). 40 Avitus of Vienne, Letters and Selected Prose, transl. with an introd. and notes by Danuta Shanzer and Ian Wood, Translated Texts for Historians, 38 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2002), p. 373. 41 Patricius, Confessiones, 35, ed. and trans. by Allan B. E. Hood, St Patrick: His Writings and Muirchu’s Life (London: Phillimore, 1978), p. 49; Brown, Rise, p. 132.

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the nation which He has willed to be chosen’.42 From the Pauline and Augustinian points of view, conversion would have rendered ethnicity quite meaningless. But, in fact, having been called upon by divine providence could also reinforce ethnic identities. Thus, ideas of election and the subtle comparison of one’s own people to biblical parallels became current in the early medieval kingdoms. Bede, writing about the period when the Angles and Saxons were pagans and had not yet received Christian teachings from the Britons, concludes: ‘Nevertheless, God in his goodness did not reject His people whom He foreknew, but he had appointed a much worthier herald of truth to bring the people to the faith’.43 Providence could bring a people closer to salvation but also subject it to hardships. Gildas, a fifth/sixth-century British author, paralleled the misfortunes of Israel — ‘a people that was peculiarly His own among all nations, a royal stock, a holy gens’ — with those of the Britons of his day.44 Divine election could never be taken for granted, as the Old Testament clearly demonstrated; it depended on proper conduct, especially of kings, bishops and priests, and on God’s mercy. Divine intervention in favour of a Christian gens after the model of the Old Testament was sought in battles, just as Constantine and Clovis had reputedly been granted victory by God. In the late sixth century, John of Biclaro directly ascribes a victory of the Visigoths over the Franks under King Reccared to God’s intervention and compares it to the victory of Gideon over the Midianites, one of many Old Testament examples.45 This also becomes clear in the early medieval liturgy of war.46 An early seventh-century liturgical manuscript at Reichenau asks the Lord to give victory to the kings of the Franks: ‘You who are the only good king, the only one who can give, bestow victory on the kings of Gregorius Magnus, Registrum Epistularum, XI.36, ed. by Dag Norberg, CC SL, 140a (Turnholt: Brepols, 1982), p. 926: Scio enim quia omnipotens Deus per dilectionem tuam in gente quam eligi voluit magna miracula ostendit. 43 Beda, Historia Ecclesiastica, I.22, ed. and trans. by Bertram Colgrave and Roger A. B. Mynors, Oxford Medieval Texts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 68: Sed non tamen divina pietas plebem suam, quam prescivit, deseruit, quin multo digniores genti memoratae praecones veritatis, per quos crederet, destinavit. 44 Gildas, De excidio Britanniae, 1.13, trans. Michael Winterbottom (London: Phillimore, 1978), p. 15. 45 John of Biclaro, 91, transl. with notes and introd. by Kenneth Baxter Wolf, Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1990), p. 77. 46 Walter Pohl, ‘Liturgie di guerra nei regni altomedievali’, Rivista di Storia del Cristianesimo, 5/1 (2008), 29–44; Michael McCormick, Eternal Victory: Triumphal Rulership in Late Antiquity, Byzantium and the Early Medieval West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). 42


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the Franks’, as he had liberated Israel from the plagues of Egypt.47 The Missa pro principe preserved in the eighth-century Bobbio Missal invokes God’s help for the prince with the words: ‘So let him, oh Lord, by the right hand of your virtue always be the victor in triumph over all adversaries, as you once helped Moses’.48 The Carolingian period witnessed systematic attempts to extend the liturgy of war to the Christian people in the entire kingdom; everybody should take part in prayers, litanies, fasting, and processions for victory over the enemies. Regardless of whether the Carolingians (and the popes in the second half of the eighth century) initiated or only continued this practice and irrespective of its efficacy, the effort represented a clear attempt to extend the boundaries of an ethnic identity to a territorially defined population through the medium of Christian liturgy. Christian kingdoms and peoples could aspire to divine favour and seek to model themselves, to varying degrees, on biblical precedent.49 Precisely how such a possibility shaped their identities is in many respects an open question. Yet on a deeper level, the Bible offered codes of ethnicity implying that peoples could exercise collective agency. The biblical panorama of a world of gentes could legitimize the political role of ethnic identities in the history of Western Europe. It was not the ethnocentric model of a single chosen people surrounded by enemies that became productive in the West. Rather, a relatively stable plurality of Christian peoples and nations emerged, all of which could compete for the grace of God. Of course, the wide horizons of Christian proselytizing sanctioned the idea of a multitude of essentially equivalent peoples, all of whom were called to salvation. Yet, the idea that God, as creator of the whole 47 Cod. Augiensis CCLIII, published in Alban Dold, Das Palimpsestsakramentar im Codex Augiensis CXII. Ein Meßbuch ältester Struktur aus dem Alpengebiet (Beuron: Druckerei und Verlag der Kunstschule der Erzabtei Beuron, 1925), p. 71: ‘Qui sulus es rix bonus, sulus pristans, prista Francurum rigibus victuriam ut liberati a ribelli suo saluentur quia tu sulus pius omnipotens eternus qui liberasti israhel de omnibus malum egipto.’ 48 ‘Ita eum, Domine, per dexteram virtutis tui contra omnes adversarius semper esse iubeas cum triumphis victorem, sicut condam auxiliatus es Moysen.’ See Mary Garrison,‘The Missa pro principe in the Bobbio Missal’, in The Bobbio Missal: Liturgy and Religious Culture in Merovingian Gaul, ed. by Yitzhak Hen and Rob Meens, Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology 11 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 187–205, with English translation of the mass (pp. 201–03). 49 See Yitzhak Hen, ‘The Uses of the Bible and the Perception of Kingship in Merovingian Gaul’, Early Medieval Europe, 7 (1998), 277–89, and other contributions in the same issue.

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world, had called many or all gentes is already prominent in the Hebrew Bible.50 A number of the pertinent passages were commented upon in early medieval exegesis. In Genesis 17.5, the Lord tells Abraham: ‘I will make you the father of a multitude of nations’. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (4.16–17) echoes this passage: ‘The promise may be certain to all the descendants — not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)’. Psalm 22.27– 29 is even more inclusive: ‘Let all the people of the earth acknowledge the Lord and turn to him! Let all the nations worship you! For the Lord is king and rules over the nations. All of the thriving people of the earth will join the celebration and worship’. Christian commentators saw that as an expression of the Christian message. For instance, Cassiodorus concludes that the preceding passage, ‘All you descendants of Israel, stand in awe of Him!’, thus must also refer to all peoples: ‘The semen of Israel does not mean that of one people, but is understood as the fullness of all peoples, which clearly the Church must unite’.51 While the Pauline vision required that this multitude of nations be merged into a Christian whole, the post-Roman Christian world consisted of many gentes. Most scholars assume that this happened because ethnic realities in the post-Roman world were stronger than the universal vision of the Church. Yet, ethnic ‘realities’ themselves were still in the course of formation in the fifth and sixth centuries. Why did the kingdoms of the Franks and Lombards replace Roman rule and not the kingdoms of Gaul and Italy? These ethnic identifications only evolved gradually in the Christian kingdoms. Christian discourse must have played a part here. One of the key texts in this respect is Prosper’s De vocatione omnium gentium, a mid-fifth-century treatise against Pelagianism.52 Pelagius had argued that the road to salvation was in the 50 This is not the place to go into the question of the different historical layers of the Hebrew Bible and their contexts, which may have had different implications for the role of ethnicity in the respective texts. See Horst Seebass, ‘Identität als Volk des einen Gottes. Identität im Alten Testament’, in Religion und Identität: im Horizont des Pluralismus, ed. by Werner Gephart and Hans Waldenfels (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1999), pp. 87–104. 51 ‘Semen Israel non unius populus significatur, sed cunctarum gentium cognoscitur plenitudo, unde constat Ecclesiam colligendam’. Cassiodorus, Explanation of the Psalms, transl. Patrick G. Walsh, vol. 1 (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1990), pp. 235– 40. See Heydemann, Exegese. 52 Prosper, De vocatione omnium gentium, ed. by Roland J. Teske and Dorothea Weber, CSEL, 97 (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2009). See Alexander Hwang, Intrepid Lover of Perfect Grace: The Life and Thought


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personal moral responsibility of each individual. His opponents, first and foremost Augustine, tried to show that on the contrary, it was only by God’s grace that one could attain salvation.53 However, there was a problem with this reasoning. Why did God’s grace work so unevenly among individuals, so that some could not even receive His teachings? Prosper argued that God could not have called all individuals equally, but that he would eventually call all peoples to salvation. Some might receive the calling earlier and others later, but none would be left out. Prosper adduces several biblical verses to show that God ‘has never denied the gifts of his goodness to any of the gentes’. The diversity of the gentes is a heavenly gift; all of them belong to God in their quality as peoples. All nations are called to salvation, but it depends on God’s grace which of its members can attain it. On the other hand, the Old Testament could supply examples that one sinner could provoke punishment for the whole people, as in the case of Achan in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 1.7–9). Thus, salvation depended as much on the community as on the individual. God’s grace could work through representatives, but the entire people would be involved. This flexible concept of ethnicity could also be useful in describing the complex realities of early medieval kingdoms. In the eighth century, Omnes Franci could mean a few hundred political leaders, tens of thousands of warriors fighting in the Frankish army, or the whole population of the Frankish realm.54 Thus, when Frankish historiography speaks of the Franks, it often refers to only a part of them, those who represent the people.55 Early medieval ethnic language does not depict clearly delineated social groups but a complex concept with multiple layers of significance. Biblical discourse also gave eschatological meaning to enemies, even to the worst of barbarians. Examples of divine punishment abound in the Old Testament. One of the passages cited most frequently by late antique and early medieval authors is Psalm 83.4, in which the enemies of Prosper of Aquitaine (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2009). For a fuller discussion of Prosper, see Pohl, ‘Post-Roman Transitions: Introduction’, pp. 20–21. 53 For Pelagianism, see Robert A. Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 40–46. 54 Walter Pohl, ‘Aux origines d’une Europe ethnique: Identités en transformation entre antiquité et moyen âge’, Annales: Histoire, Sciences sociales, 60/1 (2005), 183–208. 55 See Helmut Reimitz, History, Frankish Identity and the Framing of Western Ethnicity, 550–850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

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of Israel threaten to unite against the people of God. They say, ‘Come on, let’s annihilate them so they are no longer a nation (disperdamus eos de gente)! Then the name of Israel will be remembered no more’. Cassiodorus, like many other authors of the period, parallels this to the Antichrist threatening the Christians with extinction.56 But these passages were always also open to a more literal reading. Such models became important with the barbarian invasions from the late fourth century onwards, which were subtly integrated into the Christian history of salvation. Christian apologists could not leave these disruptions of the Roman order unexplained. Following Old Testament models, it was easy enough to picture barbarian peoples as the ‘scourge of God’. Salvian underlined the moral superiority of the conquering barbarians over the sinful Romans, and Pope Leo I interpreted the attacks of the Huns as divine punishment, an idea certainly inspired by the Old Testament.57 Interpretations could be controversial; for example, were the Goths and Huns (identified with the ancient Massagetes) the Gog and Magog of the visions of Ezechiel and the Apocalypse?58 In any case, all of these events were depicted in distinctly ethnic language; new names of peoples were identified with familiar names from the biblical and classical repertoire. Even derisive outside identifications would soon proudly be turned into elements of self-identity, an operation achieved by Christian intellectuals in the regna. Thus, Isidore, in his Gothic history, claims that the Goths were descended from the people of Gog, regardless of the apocalyptic context of that name.59 Authors who had come to feel at home in the post-Roman regna could employ various biblical identifications to flatter barbarian rulers, create consent among their Christian subjects, and define their own roles as

Heydemann, Exegese. Leonis Papae I epistularum collectiones, ed. by Edvardvs Schwartz, Acta Conciliorvm Oecvmenicorvm 2, 4 (Berolini: de Gruyter, 1932), p. 65; Huns as virga furoris Dei: Isidorus, Historia Gothorum, 28–29, ed. by Theodor Mommsen, MGH AA 11 (Berlin: Weidmann, 1894), pp. 268–95, p. 279. 58 Mark Humphries, ‘Gog is the Goth: biblical barbarians in Ambrose of Milan’s De fide’, in Unclassical Traditions: Alternatives to the Classical Past in Late Antiquity, ed. by Richard Flower, Christopher Kelly, and Michael Williams (Cambridge: The Cambridge Philological Society, 2010), pp. 44–57; Veronika Wieser, ‘Roms wilde Völker. Grenzüberschreitungen und Untergangsstimm(ung)en im letzten Jahrhundert des römischen Imperiums’, in Völker der Endzeit: Apokalyptische Vorstellungen und politische Szenarien, ed. by Wolfram Brandes, Felicitas Schmieder, and Rebekka Voss (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2016) pp. 23–50. 59 Isidorus, Historia Gothorum, 1, p. 268. 56 57


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instruments of God’s will.60 Soon, they employed a wide range of biblical models. The biblical matrix made it easier for Christian subjects to accept their new rulers, and for bishops to collaborate with them. It is not unlikely that it also paved the way for the ethnic definition of the new realms. After all, these were gentes that had been received into the Christian fold. Of course, ethnicity was neither a Jewish nor a Christian invention. Neither was it a constant phenomenon; the significance of ethnic identities for the shaping of large communities varied greatly throughout the course of history. I have argued that the Bible attached an intricate set of meanings to ethnicity, thus providing a wealth of options to give shape to ethnic communities, and to legitimize the claims of those who ruled in their name. Arguably, the development of ethnic states (and in the long run, modern nations) in most parts of Europe was the paradoxical result of the early medieval attempt to create a Christian community guided by spiritual resources, inspired by the sense of urgency and the reluctance to compromise which such an enterprise required. The rich and ambiguous Jewish experience, as recounted in the Old Testament, provided scripts for a wide variety of changes and constellations, helping to channel the contingency of events in a post-classical age into a meaningful political landscape. In doing so, it charged ethnic identifications with providential significance, validating political strategies that sought to endow the new kingdoms with ethnic distinctiveness while remaining attached to the larger social whole of Latin Christendom.

See Yitzhak Hen, Roman Barbarians: The Royal Court and Culture in the Early Medieval West (London/New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007). 60

Jonathan P. Conant Jews and Christians in Vandal Africa

Accounts of fifth- and sixth-century North Africa have not often lingered over the impact of the Vandal kingdom on the lives of the local Jewish community.1 This is not — or is not entirely — a question of scholarly oversight: the sources from which to assess this impact are spare in the extreme. No Jewish writings survive from this time and place, and though African Jews erected inscriptions with some frequency in Late Antiquity, most cannot be precisely dated, and none have been assigned on palaeographical, archaeological, or other grounds to the Vandal period.2 A small handful of Carthaginian rabbis are cited in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmudim, but here, too, dating is an issue, as is the nature of the evidence — if any — that texts of this genre can provide regarding rabbinic culture or Jewish society more broadly in North Africa itself.3 Archaeological evidence for local Jewish 1 On the Vandal kingdom, see most recently Roland Steinacher, Die Vandalen: Aufstieg und Fall eines Barbarenreichs (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2016); Yves Modéran, Les Vandales et l’Empire romain, ed. by Michel-Yves Perrin (Arles: Editions Errance, 2014); Ralf Bockman, Capital Continuous: A Study of Vandal Carthage and Central North Africa from an Archaeological Perspective (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2013); Jonathan Conant, Staying Roman: Conquest and Identity in Africa and the Mediterranean, 439–700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 19–195; Andy Merrills and Richard Miles, The Vandals (Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010); and now Robin Whelan, Being Christian in Vandal Africa: The Politics of Orthodoxy in the Post-Imperial West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017). 2 Yann Le Bohec, ‘Inscriptions juives et judaïsantes de l’Afrique romaine’, Antiquités africaines, 17 (1981), pp. 165–207; however, see also Karen B. Stern, Inscribing Devotion and Death: Archaeological Evidence for Jewish Populations of North Africa, Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 161 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp. 15–20. 3 See e.g. James B. Rives, Religion and Authority in Roman Carthage from Augustus to Constantine (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 219–20 and Stern, Inscribing Devotion, pp. 95–97; and in general Shaye J. D. Cohen, ‘Epigraphical

Barbarians and Jews. Jews and Judaism in the Early Medieval West, ed. by Y. Hen and T. F. X. Noble, DIASPORA 4 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 29–46 © FHG DOI 10.1484/M.DIASPORA-EB.5.116405


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populations is also scant for the Vandal century.4 The near-total absence of Jewish sources unavoidably leaves us at the mercy of Christian authors from the Vandal and early Byzantine periods. Such Christian writings must, of course, be treated with great caution as sources for the African Jewish community, especially given the overwhelmingly polemical nature and anti-Jewish assumptions of these histories, letters, theological tracts, sermons, imperial laws, and church canons. Yet, these are the texts that we must engage if we are to ask how local Jewish populations were affected by the Vandal take-over of Africa. In confronting this question, scholars have tended to argue or assume that African Jews welcomed the Vandal regime, under which they experienced a period of relative toleration and religious liberty.5 Of course, any argument about Jews in the Vandal kingdom is necessarily somewhat speculative, but in light of the Vandal kings’ treatment of their subjects’ property rights and religious freedoms in general, there seems little reason to think that Africa’s new rulers treated Jews much differently than had the later Roman emperors. In the wake of the acrimonious Vandal-era conflict between Arian and Catholic Christians, however, it would seem that Rabbis’, Jewish Quarterly Review, 72 (1981), 1–17; idem, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); Seth Schwartz, ‘Rabbinization in the Sixth Century’, in The Talmud Yerushalmi and Greco-Roman Culture, ed. by Peter Schäffer, 3 vols, Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 71, 79, and 93 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998–2002), III, pp. 55–69; Seth Schwartz, Imperialism in Jewish Society, 200 B.C.E.–640 C.E. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999); idem, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). 4 See below, notes 30–33 and 53. 5 See e.g., Michael Rachmuth, ‘Die Juden in Nordafrika bis zur Invasion der Araber (644 der gew. Zeitrechnung)’, Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums, 50 (1906), 22–58 (p. 44); André N. Chouraqui, Between East and West: A History of the Jews of North Africa, trans. by Michael M. Bernet (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968), pp. 24–26; H. Z. Hirschberg, A History of the Jews in North Africa, 2d ed., 2 vols (Leiden: Brill, 1974–81), I, p. 55; Bernard S. Bachrach, Early Medieval Jewish Policy in Western Europe (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977), p. 33; Raúl González Salinero, ‘The Anti-Judaism of Quodvultdeus in the Vandal and Catholic Context of the 5th Century in North Africa’, Revue des Etudes Juives, 155 (1996), 447–59 (pp. 456–58); though see more recently Raúl González Salinero, ‘Judíos y arrianos: el mito de un acercamiento inexistente’, Sefarad, 64 (2004), 27–74, esp. pp. 36–37. John Lund, ‘A Synagogue at Carthage? MenorahLamps from the Danish Excavations’, Journal of Roman Archaeology, 8 (1995), 245–62 (p. 259) suggests more cautiously that the entire period from the fourth to the sixth century ‘could well represent the high-point of popularity for the Jewish faith’ in Carthage.

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even late-Roman levels of toleration were deemed insufferable by Nicene political and ecclesiastical authorities in the wake of the sixth-century imperial reconquest.

Wealth Of course, Jews were probably not completely unaffected by the disturbances of the Vandal invasion and conquest of Africa. By all accounts, this was a violent affair. In the spring of 429, the Vandal king Geiseric and his followers crossed the Straits of Gibraltar from Spain to the westernmost Maghrib; a year later they were besieging Augustine’s see of Hippo Regius. Though Vandal forces did not meet much in the way of imperial military resistance in the course of their advance, our sources recount with horror that war nonetheless brought death, rape, enslavement, dispossession, and displacement to the African hinterland.6 In the mid-fifth century, Romano-African aristocrats and Catholic clergymen fled across the Mediterranean as refugees. Doubtless, some would have fled the conflict before it reached them, but others were said to have been banished.7 Moreover, after capturing the provincial metropolis of Carthage in 439, Geiseric is said to have established hereditary tax-free allotments for his army on the numerous prosperous rural estates of Africa Proconsularis and to have claimed the best properties in Byzacena and Numidia for the royal domain. Less productive land was left in the hands of its original owners but was reported to have

Augustine, Epistula 228, ed. by A. Goldbacher, 4 vols, CSEL, 34, 44, 57–58 (Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1895–1923), III, pp. 484–96; Augustine, Sermones 344–45, PLS 3, 417–840; Possidius of Calama, Vita Augustini XXVIII.4–13, ed. by Michele Pellegrino, in Vita di S. Agostino, Verba seniorum 4 (Alba: Edizioni Paoline, 1955), pp. 148–56; Capreolus of Carthage, Epistula ad synodum Ephesinum, in Acta Conciliorum Oecuminicorum, ed. by Eduard Schwartz (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1914–83), I/2, pp. 64–65; Leo I, Epistula 12.8 and 12.11, PL 59, 653, 655; Quodvultdeus of Carthage, De tempore barbarico II 5, ed. by R. Braun, in Opera Quoduultdeo Carthaginiensi episcopo tributa, CC SL, 60 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1976), pp. 471–86 (pp. 476–78); Victor of Vita, Historia persecutionis Africanae provinciae I.3–12, ed. by Michael Petschenig, CSEL, 7 (Vienna: C. Geroldi filium, 1881), pp. 3–7 [henceforth Vict. Vit.]. On these sources and the challenges that they pose, see Eric Fournier, ‘The Vandal Conquest of North Africa: The Origins of a Historiographical Persona’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 68 (2017), 687–718. For a succinct account of the Vandal invasion, see Merrills and Miles, Vandals, pp. 50–55. 7 Conant, Staying Roman, pp. 68–90. 6


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been heavily taxed.8 Whether these arrangements entailed the actual expropriation of land or were enacted through fiscal measures is still debated.9 To be sure, our sources’ reports of Vandal atrocities are at least in part shaded by passion, rumour, and rhetoric; but there is little reason to doubt that the immediate effect of the Vandal invasion was to disrupt African society, probably at all levels. To what extent this disruption touched the African Jewish community will likely always remain an open question. The sources that so vigorously denounce the horrors of the conquest were all written by Nicene Christians, who were uninterested in the Jewish experience of war. It seems probable that, like their Christian neighbours, those Jews who had the means and the foresight to flee the Vandal advance would have sought refuge in safer harbours. However, the only Jewish African whom we can see abroad in the Mediterranean in all of Late Antiquity was a Mauretanian named Gaudiosus who died and was buried in Naples at some not-precisely-datable point in the fifth century. He lived to be an old man — about eighty, according to his epitaph — and he seems to have achieved local civic prominence in Campania. But the other details of Gaudiosus’s life elude us: where in Mauretania he came from, for example; or why he left Africa, and whether it was before or after the Vandal invasion.10 Procopius, De Bello Vandalico I.5.11–15, ed. by Jakob Haury, in Opera omnia, 4 vols (Leipzig: Teubner, 1905–13; repr. 1962–64), I, pp. 333–34 [henceforth Proc. BV]; Vict. Vit. I.13, p. 7; see also Valentinian III, Novella 34.2–3 (ad 451), in CTh, II, p. 141. 9 Expropriation v. fiscal arrangements: Walter Goffart, ‘Administrative Methods of Barbarian Settlement in the Fifth Century: The Definitive Account’, in Gallien in Spätantike und Frümittelalter: Kulturgeschichte einer Region, ed. by Steffen Dieffenbach, Millennium-Studien zu Kultur und Geschichte des ersten Jahrtausends n. Chr./Millennium Studies in the Culture and History of the First Millennium C.E., 43 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013), pp. 45–56; Modéran, Vandales, pp. 155–79; Andreas Schwarcz, ‘The Settlement of the Vandals in North Africa’, in Vandals, Romans, and Berbers: New Perspectives on Late Antique North Africa, ed. by A. H. Merrills (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), pp. 49–57; Yves Modéran, ‘L’établissement territorial des Vandales en Afrique’, Antiquité tardive, 10 (2002), pp. 87–122; Jean Durliat, ‘Les transferts fonciers après la reconquête byzantine en Afrique et en Italie’, in Aux sources de la gestion publique, ed. by E. Magnou-Nortier, 2 vols (Lille: Presses universitaires de Lille, 1993–95), II, pp. 89–121; and Jean Durliant, ‘Le salaire de la paix sociale dans les royaumes barbares (Ve–VIe siècles)’, in Anerkennung und Integration. Zu den wirtschaftlichen Grundlagen der Völkerwanderungszeit 400–600, ed. by Herwig Wolfram and Andreas Schwarcz, Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Frühmittelalterforschung, 11 (Vienna: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1988), pp. 21–72. 10 Gaudiosus: David Noy, Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe I: Italy (excluding the City of Rome), Spain and Gaul (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 50–51, no. 31 and Cesare Colafemmina, ‘Gaudiosus senior cibis Mauretaniae; notes 8

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As for those who stayed behind, if Jews were among the wealthy owners of flourishing rural estates, there is no reason to think that they were spared in Geiseric’s reorganization of the province, whatever it looked like in practical terms. However, that is not the pattern of Jewish landholding that we seem to glimpse in the late Roman sources. In one of his letters, for example, Augustine of Hippo mentions that some small fields (agelli) had become a bone of contention between one Bishop Victor and a local Jewish landholder named Licinius. Before Licinius acquired them, these fields had been owned by his mother; and she had apparently sold them twice, first to the individuals from whom Licinius had bought them back, and then a second time to Bishop Victor.11 Licinius and his mother would seem to have been smallholders; prosperous perhaps, for they owned at least one slave, but probably not vast estateowners. Augustine also once polemically observed in a sermon that Jews would do better to card wool or to tend to their fields on the Sabbath rather than to pass their time dancing or in the theatre — a remark that suggests late antique Numidian Catholics were used to thinking of their Jewish neighbours not only as farmers and stock-raisers, but also as poor enough to need to dirty their own hands in the practical dayto-day tasks of running a farm.12 Smallholdings like these are unlikely to have been much affected by the arrangements that Geiseric made for his family and followers. At least, in the 490s, local peasants continued to cultivate small plots of olive, fruit, and nut trees in the wadi valleys of the Vandal kingdom’s mountainous hinterland on an estate that was under the dominium of a certain Flavius Geminius Catullinus.13 Under normal circumstances, the Vandals’ Romano-African subjects certainly seem to have enjoyed the right to own, inherit, give, and receive property, and some were even said to command extensive fortunes.14 We also sur quelques inscriptions d’épitaphes juives de Naples (Ve–VIe siècles)’, in Présence juive au Maghreb. Hommage Haim Zafrani, ed. by Nicole S. Serfaty and Joseph Tedghi (Saint-Denis: Editions Bouchene, 2004), pp. 103–08. Thanks to Mark Handley for these references. Refugees: see above, note 7. 11 Augustine, Epistula 8*, ed. by Johannes Divjak, in Epistolae ex duobus codicibus nuper in lucem prolatae, CSEL, 88 (Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1981), pp. 41– 42. However, see also Hirschberg, History of the Jews, I, p. 67. 12 Augustine, Sermo 9.3.3, PL 38, 75–91 (col. 77); Hirschberg, History of the Jews, I, p. 65. 13 Tablettes Albertini. Actes privés de l’ époque vandale (fin du Ve siècle), ed. by Christian Courtois et al., 2 vols (Paris: Arts et métiers graphiques, 1952). On marginal lands, see also Proc. BV I.5.15, 1:333. 14 Vict. Vit. I.48–50, II.23, and III.27, pp. 21–22, 32, and 85; Vita S. Fulgentii episcopi Ruspensis 5, ed. by G.-G. Lapeyre, in Vie de Saint Fulgence de Ruspe (Paris:


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hear of lawsuits — at least some of which were successful — in which those who were deprived of patrimonies later sought their restitution.15 In general, then, if Jewish landowners’ holdings were small or marginal enough, there is no reason to suppose that they were not allowed to continue to farm them. Prosperous Jews would also seem to have continued to be members of the slave-owning class in Vandal Africa. Indeed, after the imperial reconquest of the Vandal kingdom in 533–34, the Byzantine emperor Justinian was horrified to learn that African Jews could own Christian slaves of Nicene confession.16 The concept was apparently deeply repugnant to the emperor, who had already tried to end the practice in the eastern Mediterranean and who now moved quickly to suppress it in Africa too.17 Christian slaves, however, were probably only part of the equation: slaving in late ancient North Africa had long focused on the region’s indigenous ‘Moors’, who were regarded as pagans well into the sixth century, at least by contemporary Christian authors.18 Moreover, Justinian’s fulminations notwithstanding, it is not at all clear how widespread Jewish ownership of Christian slaves was in the Vandal kingdom, or whether it was officially countenanced by the regime and if so, under what conditions. None of the three laws or fragments of P. Lethielleux, 1929), p. 29; ibid. 10–11, pp. 59–61. 15 Vita Fulgentii 1, p. 11 and Blossius Aemilius Dracontius, Laudes Dei III.654–57, ed. by Claude Moussy and Colette Camus, in Œuvres, 4 vols (Paris, 1985–95), I, pp. 151–233 and II, pp. 16–191 (II, p. 48). See also Vict. Vit. III.9, p. 75 and Quodvultdeus, Adversus quinque haereses VI.17, ed. by Braun, in Opera, pp. 259–301 (p. 282). 16 CJ I.3.54(56).8–11, p. 38; Justinian, Novella 37.7, ed. by Schöll and Kroll, CJC, III, pp. 244–45 (p. 245); Amnon Linder, The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987), pp. 375–89. 17 CJ I.10.2, p. 62; Linder, Imperial Legislation, pp. 370–71; and see above, previous note. 18 ‘Moorish’ slaves: see e.g. Expositio totius mundi et gentium 61, ed. by Jean Rougé, SC, 124 (Paris: Editions du CERF, 1966) p. 200; Anthologia Latina 173, ed. by David R. Shackleton Bailey (Stuttgart: Teubner, 1982), I.1, p. 122; Fulgentius of Ruspe, Epistula 11.2, ed. by Jean Fraipont, in S. Fulgentii episcopi Ruspensis opera, 2 vols, CC SL, 91–91A (Turnhout: Brepols, 1968), I, p. 360. Moorish paganism: Augustine, Epistula 199.12.46, III, pp. 284–85; Salvian of Marseilles, De gubernatione Dei IV.17.82, ed. by Georges Lagarrigue, SC, 220 (Paris: Editions du CERF, 1975), p. 296; Proc. BV I.8.18; Flavius Cresconius Corippus, Iohannidos seu de bellis Libycis II.109–11, III.81–140, V.494–502, VI.145–90, and VIII.300–17, ed. by J. Diggle and Francis R. D. Goodyear (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), pp. 30, 50– 52, 111, 118–20, and 176–77; but see also Yves Modéran, Les Maures et l’Afrique romaine (IVe–VIIe siècle), Bibliothèque des écoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome 314 (Rome: Ecole française de Rome, 2003), pp. 510–40.

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laws that survive from Vandal Africa address the issue of Jewish slaveholding.19 However, the few hints that we do have suggest that Vandal law was generally late Roman in its inspiration; and though imperial legislation had long sought to restrict Jewish ownership of non-Jewish slaves, in 415, the western emperor Honorius had nonetheless confirmed the right of Jews to possess Christian slaves as long as they were not converted to Judaism. Two years later, the eastern emperor Theodosius II followed suit, explicitly clarifying, however, that Jews could neither buy Christian slaves nor receive them as gifts, but could only acquire them through inheritance. Theodosius’s subsequent legislation nonetheless suggests that it proved difficult for imperial authorities to enforce the prohibition against Jews purchasing Christian slaves.20 In the Vandal kingdom, too, slave merchants and their clients may well have chosen to overlook whatever legal niceties were meant to regulate their dealings. The only surviving deed from the Vandal kingdom concerning the sale of a slave follows good Roman form in identifying the boy in question by name, gender, colour, age, character, and legal status; while the buyer and sellers are identified only by name and as citizens of their respective towns or fundi. As far as the recorded transaction went, religion was not an issue.21 In short, then, though the evidence is thin, it seems likely that prosperous African Jews probably continued to be slave-owners, landholders, and to control other property throughout the Vandal period. Vict. Vit. II.3–4, II.39, and III.3–14, pp. 25, 39, and 72–78. CTh. XVI.9.3 (6 November 415), I, p. 896 and in general Eusebius, Vita Constantini IV.27, ed. by I. A. Heikel, Die Griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte, 7 (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1902), p. 127; Constitutio Sirmondianis 4 (21 October 335), ed. Mommsen and Meyer, in CTh., I, pp. 910–11 = CTh. XVI.9.1, I, pp. 895–96; CTh. XVI.9.2 (13 August 339), I, p. 896 = CJ I.10.1, p. 62; CTh. III.1.5 (September 384), I, pp. 128–29; CTh. XVI.8.22 (20 October 415), I, pp. 892–93; CTh. XVI.9.4 (10 April 417), I, pp. 896–97; CTh. XVI.9.5 (9 April 423), I, p. 897 = CJ I.9.16, p. 62; Theodosius II, Novella 3.4 (31 January 438), ed. by Mommsen and Meyer, in CTh. II, pp. 7–11 (p. 8) = CJ I.7.5, p. 60; Helmut Castritius, ‘The Jews of North Africa at the Time of Augustine of Hippo — Their Social and Legal Position’, in Proceedings of the Ninth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, August 4–12, 1985, ed. by David Assaf, 5 vols (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1986–88), BI, pp. 31–37, at p. 33; and Linder, Imperial Legislation, pp. 82–85, 138–51, 174–77, 267– 74, 277–80, 289–95, and 323–37. 21 Tablettes Albertini, act II, p. 217. Pace Merrills and Miles, Vandals, p. 194, in the context of a Roman slave sale ‘non erroneum’ should be read as ‘not a runaway’ rather than ‘not a heretic’. See e.g. Peter Arzt-Grabner, ‘“Neither a Truant nor a Fugitive”: Some Remarks on the Sale of Slaves in Roman Egypt and Other Provinces’, in Proceedings of the 25th International Congress of Papyrology, ed. by Traianos Gagos and Adam Hyatt (Ann Arbor: Scholarly Publishing Office, University of Michigan Library, 2010), pp. 21–32. 19



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Persecution The Vandals’ religious policy is also unlikely to have much changed the legal or social status of Jews in North Africa. From their capture of Carthage until at least the 520s, the Vandal kings pursued a consistent political strategy that made subscription to the Arian Christian creed the official precondition of a position at court or of high office within the African kingdom. By the early sixth century, at the latest, the same stipulation also seems to have applied to operation as a shipper (navicularius).22 These moves were denounced by Christian authors of Nicene confession as elements in a larger Vandal persecution of their faith; indeed, for all the bombastic rhetoric deployed by Catholic polemicists, the persecution seems, for the most part, to have entailed the loss — or at least the severe curtailment — of access to power on the part of the Catholic ruling class in Africa. In fact, the Vandal Arianizing policy does not seem to have been consistently enforced with respect to Catholic office-holders, and it is at least conceivable that this may have been true for Jews as well.23 But at the same time, by the later fifth and sixth centuries, theoretical exclusion from positions of power was hardly new to the Jewish inhabitants of the Mediterranean world. Indeed, by the time of the Vandal capture of Carthage in 439, the western emperors Honorius and Valentinian III had both issued laws excluding Jews from civil and military service at the imperial level.24 Similar laws were passed in the East in the fifth and sixth centuries.25 To be sure, if there were any Jews among the seemingly diminishing number of African navicularii in the Vandal period, the requirement that they convert to Arian Christianity would doubtless have been an oppressive, even a crippling imposition on them, but from a Jewish point of view, exclusion from positions of civil or military power by the Vandal kings simply Court: Vict. Vit. I.43, II.10, and II.23, pp. 18–19, 27, and 32; see also Proc. BV I.8.9–10, 1:346–47. Court and navicularii: Fulgentius of Ruspe, Abecedarium lines 247–53, ed. by Fraipont, in Opera, II, p. 884. On Christian sectarian conflict in Vandal Africa, see esp. Whelan, Being Christian; Conant, Staying Roman, pp. 159–86; Merrills and Miles, Vandals, pp. 177–203; Tankred Howe, Vandalen, Barbaren und Arianer bei Victor von Vita, Studien zur alten Geschichte 7 (Frankfurt am Main: VA, Verlag Antike, 2007); Yves Modéran, ‘Une guerre de religion: les deux églises d’Afrique à l’époque vandale’, Antiquité tardive 11 (2003), 21–44. 23 See e.g., Vict. Vit. I.19–21, I.43–50, II.10–11, II.23, and III.27, pp. 9–10, 19–22, 27–28, 32, and 85. 24 CTh. XVI.8.24 (10 March 418), I, p. 893; Constitutio Sirmondianis 6 (9 July 425), pp. 911–12; Linder, Imperial Legislation, pp. 280–83 and 305–13. 25 Theodosius II, Novella 3.2 (31 January 438), p. 8 = CJ I.9.18, p. 62; CJ I.5.12 (April/July 527), pp. 53–55; Linder, Imperial Legislation, pp. 323–37 and 356–67. 22

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represented a continuation of late Roman imperial policy, and as such can hardly have come as a novel blow.26 In terms of worship and ritual, it is harder to gauge the effects of the Vandals’ aggressive Arianism on their Jewish subjects. In 484, Huneric, the most fervently pious of the Vandal kings, issued an edict demanding the conversion of all his Catholic subjects to Arianism. Jewish conversion, by contrast, seems neither to have been required nor to have been expected: although Huneric explicitly addressed his edict to all of his subjects (uniuersis populis nostro regno subiectis), the force of the king’s will focused specifically on the suppression of the Nicene church and its adherents.27 Moreover, the edict of 484 — totalizing, violent, but shortlived in its execution — appears to have been the exception rather than the rule, even in the troubled history of Arian-Catholic relations in the Vandal kingdom. For the most part, the Vandal kings sought to subvert the Nicene ecclesiastical hierarchy through the confiscation of church property, the loss of privileged status, the interdiction of new ordinations, and exile.28 If similar measures were ever directed against African Jews, our sources are silent about it. In fact, we have some reason to doubt whether the Vandals did ever expropriate synagogues on a significant scale, for they were apparently still — or at least again — in the possession of Africa’s Jewish communities in the 530s when Justinian’s armies recaptured the region for the empire.29 The nature of these buildings is not well understood. The only ancient synagogue that has so far been positively identified in the territory African navicularii: Michael McCormick, ‘Bateaux de vie, bateaux de mort: maladie, commerce, transports annonaires et le passage économique du bas-empire au moyen age’, in Morfologie Sociali e Culturali in Europa fra Tarda Antichità e Alto Medioevo, Settimane, 45 (Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 1998), pp. 35–122, at pp. 93–96. On Jewish navicularii, see CTh. XIII.5.18 (18 February 390), p. 752 and Jean Juster, Les juifs dans l’empire romain. Leur condition juridique, économique et sociale, 2 vols (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1914), II, pp. 264–65. See also Synesius of Cyrene, Epistola 4, PG 66, 1328–41 for a fifth-century Jewish ship captain (kybernētēs) operating between Alexandria and Cyrene. 27 Vict. Vit. III.3–14, pp. 72–78, esp. ibid. III.12, p. 77. 28 Confiscation of property: Prosper, Epitoma de chronicon s.aa. 437 and 439, ed. by Theodor Mommsen, MGH AA, 9 (Berlin: Weidmann, 1892), pp. 385–485, at pp. 475 and 477; Vict. Vit. I.9, I.14–16, and III.2, pp. 5–6, 7–8, and 72; Victor Tonnennensis, Chronicon s.a. 466.30, ed. Carmen Cardelle de Hartmann, CC SL 173A (Turnhout: Brepols, 2001), pp. 1–55 (p. 11). Prohibition of ordinations: Vict. Vit. I.23– 24, I.29, II.2, II.6, pp. 11, 13, 24, and 26; Prosper Tiro add. s.a. 454, ed. by Mommsen, MGH AA, 9, p. 490. Exile: Vict. Vit. I.22, I.39–40, I.51, II.26–37, III.15–20, III.34–38, pp. 10–11, 17–18, 22, 33–38, 78–81, and 89–91; Vita Fulgentii 3 and 17–18, pp. 21 and 87–91; Victor Tonnennensis, Chronicon s.a. 497.78, p. 24. 29 Justinian, Novella 37.8, p. 245. 26


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of late Roman Africa is located at Naro (modern Hammam Lif, Tunisia), about 40 kilometres southeast of Carthage along the Gulf of Tunis. Historians have long been eager to claim the site for their period, and its stunning floor mosaics have been assigned to every point between the third and the sixth century. While the synagogue itself may well have been in use in the Vandal era, though, both stylistic and archaeological considerations currently point to a Byzantine date for the mosaics.30 In Leptis Magna, J. B. Ward-Perkins has speculated that the south chapel of the Severan basilica may have been remodelled for use as a synagogue in the fifth century. Unlike in Naro, however, neither inscriptions nor distinctively Jewish iconography help to identify the structure’s function: it was the presence of an eastward-facing niche, a raised seat, and low benches along the walls that suggested to Ward-Perkins a place of religious assembly akin to that at Dura-Europos in Syria. If the remodelled edifice were indeed a synagogue, then it would seem to date to the period of Vandal dominance in Africa, for the latest public inscription in the Severan forum dates to the reigns of Honorius and Theodosius II (408–23), and after the sixth-century Byzantine reconquest, the basilica was refashioned once again, this time into a church.31 In Carthage, John Lund has suggested that yet another synagogue may have been located north of the Theodosian Walls, on an unexcavated terrace overlooking the seashore. The site may well have had some sort of Jewish ritual significance throughout the late Roman, Vandal, and Byzantine periods, for the nearby Danish excavations uncovered an unusually dense concentration of terracotta lamps stamped with images of five-, seven-, and nine-branched menorot in layers dating from the late fourth to the sixth Franklin M. Biebel, ‘The Mosaics of Hammam Lif ’, Art Bulletin, 18 (1936), pp. 540–51 (p. 550) and Rachel Hachlili, Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology in the Diaspora, Handbuch der Orientalistik/Handbook of Oriental Studies, 1/35 (Leiden: Brill, 1998), p. 209. Sixth-century date: see esp. Katherine M. D. Dunbabin, The Mosaics of Roman North Africa. Studies in Iconography and Patronage (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), p. 194 n. 32 and Jean-Pierre Darmon, ‘Les mosaïques de la synagogue de Hammam Lif: un réexamen du dossier’, in Fifth International Colloquium on Ancient Mosaics, ed. by Peter Johnson, Roger Ling, and David J. Smith, 2 vols, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series, 9 = Colloque international pour l’étude de la mosaïque antique, 5 (Ann Arbor: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 1994–95), II, pp. 7–29, at pp. 25–28, now with the evidence of Lund, ‘Synagogue at Carthage?’, pp. 250–51. Accepted by Stern, Inscribing Devotion, p. 195. 31 John B. Ward-Perkins, ‘Excavations in the Severan Basilica at Lepcis Magna, 1951’, Papers of the British School at Rome, 20 (1952), pp. 111–21. Cautiously accepted by Hachlili, Ancient Jewish Art, pp. 49–51; Stern, Inscribing Devotion, p. 196, n. 2 is more sceptical. 30

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century.32 Similar lamps have been found in a contemporary Christian context, but the site may nonetheless attest to continuity of Jewish worship or ritual under the Vandal regime.33 Of course, if Vandals or other Arians did harass Jewish worshippers, it would not be surprising if our Catholic sources failed to mention the fact. Yet it is perhaps also significant that those same sources do not accuse Jews and Arians of any collaboration.34 It is, of course, dangerous to argue from silence, but late antique polemicists were hardly shy about making such accusations when they thought they would stick. Thus, for example, in the late Roman period, both Augustine and the emperor Honorius hinted darkly that Jews, Donatists, and others were conspiring to undermine the triumph of Nicene Christianity in Africa — allegations that speak more to the fears of the powerful than to the actions of Africa’s religious dissenters.35 Similarly, writing in the darkest days of Vandal rule, the Catholic African historian Victor of Vita gleefully reported that the persecuting king Huneric had learned to his disgust that Manichaeism was rife among the local Arian population.36 A passage that was probably later interpolated into Victor’s history indicates that a Donatist named Nicasius had converted to Arianism, and in one of his letters the Nicene bishop Fulgentius of Ruspe blisteringly attacks one of his own former co-religionists for having done the same thing.37 Accusations of apostasy, of course, are not allegations of collusion, but it is hard to imagine that, if African Jews had been collaborating with — or indeed even noticeably benefitting from — the Vandal regime, the region’s Nicene intelligentsia would have remained silent about the fact. In fact, we have very little reason to believe that Arians in the Vandal kingdom were any more sympathetic to Jews than Catholics had been under the Roman Empire. Like their Nicene counterparts, Arian Christians generally appear to have perceived themselves as the New

Lund, ‘Synagogue at Carthage?’, passim. Jean Deneauve, ‘Un dépotoir paléochrétien sur la colline de Byrsa a Carthage’, Antiquités africaines, 8 (1974), pp. 133–56 (p. 149 no. 34 and fig. 12.34). 34 On this point, see also James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study in the Origins of Antisemitism (New York: Athenaeum, 1969; repr. 1974), p. 147. 35 Augustine, Sermo 62.12.18, PL 38,  414–23 (col.  423); CTh. XVI.5.44 (24 November 408), p. 870; Constitutio Sirmondianis 14 (15 January 409), pp. 918–19. See in general Brent D. Shaw, Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 260–306. 36 Vict. Vit. II.1–2, p. 24. 37 Vict. Vit. III.71, p. 107; Fulgentius of Ruspe, Epistula 9.1.1, I, pp. 283–84. 32 33


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Israel in Late Antiquity.38 Certainly, the author of what appears to be the only extant Arian Contra Iudaeos treatise makes it painfully clear that, in his opinion, Christianity had superseded Judaism.39 The text was probably composed in northern Italy in the age of Theoderic the Great, but there is no reason to assume that attitudes were drastically different in the Vandal kingdom. Indeed, it is tempting to believe that the concept that Christians were the true heirs of Judaism may have had some special resonance with Arians living in Africa in the later fifth and sixth centuries, for in his raid on the city of Rome in 455, Geiseric was said to have seized and brought to Carthage the Temple treasures that Titus had carried off from his own sack of Jerusalem over three and a half centuries earlier. Presumably, this included both the Menorah and the Showbread table, and perhaps also the Scrolls of the Pentateuch.40 In any case, the author of the Arian Contra Iudaeos begins his screed by declaring that Jews had been condemned by divine providence from the beginning of the world.41 Indeed, he maintains, the Law had only ever been necessary in order to purge Jews of the superstitions that they had learned in Egypt.42 But Jews loved the earthly letter and did not seek spiritual grace, and so they clung to circumcision of the flesh and lacked the true circumcision of the heart.43 They opposed the truth, and were without either hope or faith. Worse, they were children of the devil 38 See e.g., Anonymi in Iob commentarius, ed. by Kenneth B. Steinhauser, CSEL 96 (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2006) and below, next note. Steinhauser attributes the text to 380s Milan, but a case can be made for sixth-century Africa: see Leslie Dossey, ‘The Last Days of Vandal Africa: An Arian Commentary on Job and its Historical Context’, Journal of Theological Studies, n.s. 54 (2003), 60–138. On the anti-Jewish attitudes and assumptions of the text, see González Salinero, ‘Judíos y arrianos’, p. 61. 39 Contra Iudaeos qui sunt secundum litteram Iudei no(n) secundum sp(iritu)m I.1, ed. by Roger Gryson in Scripta Arriana Latina, CC SL, 87 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1982), pp. 93–117 (p. 93). On the attribution to northern Italy, see Yitzhak Hen, Western Arianism: Politics and Religious Culture in the Early Medieval West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). On the genre, see Heinz Schreckenberg, Die christlichen Adversus-Judaeos-Texte und ihr literarisches und historisches Umfeld (1.11. Jh.), 4th ed., Europäische Hochschulschriften ser. 23, 172 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1999). 40 Proc. BV II.9.5 with ibid. I.5.1–5 and Josephus, De bello Iudaico VII.148–50 and VII.158–62, ed. by Justus von Destinon and Benedikt Niese, in Flavii Iosephi Opera, 2d ed., 7 vols (Berlin: Weidmann, 1955), VI, pp. 590–92. 41 Contra Iudaeos I.1, p. 93: ‘hic populus a mu(n)|[di ini]tio diuina prouidentia reproba|[tu]r.’ 42 Contra Iudaeos X.4, pp. 110–11. 43 Earthly letter: Contra Iudaeos IX.5, p. 108. Circumcision: ibid. V.3, pp. 100–01 and see also ibid. VI, p. 102 and ibid. VIII.1, p. 105.

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and did his bidding.44 Jews were collectively guilty throughout time and space for the death of Christ.45 As the younger was superior to the elder, Christians rather than Jews were the true heirs to the faith of Abraham and Isaac; yet Jews sometimes dared to disparage the Christian faith and insult its adherents.46 To be sure, in the age of grace Jews were not completely irredeemable. Paul, after all, had turned to Christ; and our anonymous author, too, sought to convert Jews to Christianity, ‘so that friends are made of enemies and Christians of antichrists’.47 But for those who would not convert, he warned, there remained the eternal prison and the judgment of God. Jews, he flatly declared, were clearly found guilty.48 Such views were hardly unique among Arian intellectuals in Late Antiquity.49 Indeed, they were probably widespread among the Arian bishops and priests who, under the Vandal regime, enjoyed positions of prominence that seem frequently to have been shaded with political implications.50 The Vandal kings themselves were also deeply committed Arians, and in the wake of their stunningly improbable conquest of Africa they appear to have embraced a royal ideology that stressed both God’s role in securing for them their power and their kingdom, and their own role as agents of the Christian God’s will.51 It would thus be somewhat surprising if the Vandal kings pursued policies that were notably more philo-Judaic than those of their imperial predecessors. Nor does it seem likely that African Jews looked to Arians as natural allies either politically or theologically. At least, the author of the Contra Contra Iudaeos V.1–2 and V.5, pp. 100–01. Contra Iudaeos 8, pp. 105–06. 46 Younger and elder: Contra Iudaeos 1, pp. 93–94. Faith of Abraham: ibid. 7, pp. 103–05. Disparaging Christianity: ibid. V.1, p. 100. 47 Contra Iudaeos X.1, p. 109: ‘ut fi|ant de inimicis amici et de anticr(ist)is | cr(ist) iani.’ Paul: ibid. I.5 and VII.7, pp. 94 and 104–05. 48 Contra Iudaeos IX.7–8, pp. 108–09. 49 González Salinero, ‘Judíos y arrianos’, pp. 58–73. 50 Political implications: see e.g. Vict. Vit. I.41–42, I.44, II.8, II.13, II.16, II.39, III.29–30, III.42–48, pp. 18–19, 26–30, 39, 86–87, and 93–96; and María Elvira Gil Egea, Africa en tiempos de los vándalos: continuidad y mutaciones de las estructuras sociopolíticas romanas, Memorias del Seminario de Historia Antigua, 7 (Alcalá de Henares: Universidad de Alcalá, 1998), pp. 288–89. 51 Committed Arians: Proc. BV II.9.14 and see above, notes 22, 27–28, and 50. Royal ideology: Jordanes, De origine actibusque Getarum 33.169, ed. Francesco Giunta and Antonino Grillone, Fonti per la storia d’Italia, 117 (Rome: Istituto Palazzo Borromini, 1991), p. 72; Vict. Vit. II.39, III.3, and III.14, pp. 39, 73, and 78; Dracontius, Satisfactio ad Gunthamundum regem Wandalorum 41 and 107–08, ed. by Moussy, in Œuvres, II, pp. 176–91 (pp. 178 and 181); Gil Egea, Africa, p. 317; see further Conant, Staying Roman, p. 183. 44 45


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Judaeos imagined Jews objecting to Arian Christianity (no less than to Catholicism) on the basis of its departure from strict monotheism.52

Catholics and Jews Finally, the Vandal period also seems not to have witnessed any significant reconciliation between Africa’s Catholic hierarchy and the region’s Jewish communities. To be sure, it seems likely that on a daily basis mundane contacts between Jews and Christians (of all varieties) did continue: they probably remained neighbours, perhaps rubbed shoulders in the same slave markets, and apparently patronized the same artisans. Certainly, the pottery workshops of El Mahrine — which were so central to the production of the red-slipped plates, cups, and bowls that are found on sites across Africa and throughout the Mediterranean, many of them with Christian themes — also created lamps decorated with menorot similar to those found in the Danish excavations at Carthage.53 It is even conceivable that the pull of philo-Judaism on African Catholics may have intensified during the period of Arian ascendancy. Before the Vandal invasion, the primary practical concern of the Catholic ecclesiastical hierarchy in Africa concerning the region’s Jewish population had been restricting the circumstances in which Jews could bring legal action against Christians.54 To judge from the Shortening of the Canons, 52 Contra Iudaeos X.2, p. 110; see also ibid. III.2, IV.5, IV.8, XII.2–4, XIII.1, and XIII.3, pp. 97, 99–100, and 112–14. 53 Lund, ‘Synagogue at Carthage?’, p. 248; Michael Mackensen, Die spätantiken Sigillata- und Lampentöpfereien von El Mahrine (Nordtunesien). Studien zur Nordafrikanischen Feinkeramik des 4. bis 7. Jahrhunderts, 2 vols, Münchner Beiträge zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte, 50 (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1993), II, p. 514, no. 18, with I, p. 133, fig. 34.2. The mosaicists who paved the Naro synagogue likely also worked on Christian churches: Darmon, ‘Mosaïques de la synagogue de Hammam Lif ’, p. 28; Stern, Inscribing Devotion, pp. 219–22; Hachlili, Ancient Jewish Art, p. 209; Dunbabin, Mosaics, pp. 194–95; Erwin R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the GrecoRoman Period, 13 vols, Bollingen Series, 37 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1953–68), II, pp. 97–98; Biebel, ‘Mosaics of Hammam-Lif ’, p. 550. 54 Concilium Carthaginense 129 (30 May 419), ed. by Charles Munier, Concilia Africae a. 345-a. 525, CC SL 149 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1974), pp. 229–32 (p. 231) and Concilium Hipponense 6 (24 September 427), ed. by Munier, Concilia Africae, pp. 250– 53 (p. 252). On these regulations, see Helmut Castritius, ‘North African Church Laws and Secular Legislation against the Jews and their Influence on Medieval Canon Law’, in Proceedings of the Tenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, ed. by David Assaf, 7 vols (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1990), BII, pp. 45–51. See also in general Claudia Setzer, ‘Jews, Jewish Christians, and Judaizers in North Africa’, in Putting Body & Soul Together. Essays in Honor of Robin Scroggs, ed. by Virginia

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composed by the Carthaginian deacon Ferrandus sometime between 527 and 546, this provision was still at issue into the late Vandal or early Byzantine period; but Ferrandus’s work also reveals a deeper concern with Judaizing than is evident in the early African church councils. In his synopsis of the canons, the deacon reproduced stipulations from councils at Antioch and Laodicea in Phrygia to the effect that Christian clergy should not celebrate the Paschal feast with Jews, and that Christians should not observe the Jewish Sabbath or take unleavened bread from Jews.55 Slightly earlier in the sixth century, in a letter written to a layman named Peter who planned to travel to Jerusalem and had requested a statement of orthodox belief so as to avoid being lured into heresy, Fulgentius of Ruspe had insisted: ‘Hold most firmly and never doubt that not only pagans but also all Jews and all heretics and schismatics who end this life outside the Catholic church will pass “into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matthew 25.41]’.56 When it came to disentangling Judaism and Christianity, it would seem that there could still be no compromise. Yet it is striking how little attention Catholic authors in general paid to combating Judaism in works that survive from the Vandal period. Those to whom this struggle was a major concern would seem, in the main, to have been members of an older, late Roman generation: the Christian biographer Gennadius of Marseille tells us that the fifthcentury Bishop Voconius of Castellanum in Mauretania wrote a treatise, Against the Enemies of the Church, which focused on both Jews and heretics, and two similar works survive that have been attributed to Quodvultdeus, the bishop of Carthage at the time of the Vandals’ capture of the city.57 These works sought to defend Nicene Christianity Wiles, Alexander Brown, and Graydon F. Snyder (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), pp. 185–200. 55 Ferrandus, Breviatio canonum 69, 181, 185, 186, and 196, ed. by Munier, Concilia Africae, pp. 284–311 (pp. 293 and 302–03). 56 Fulgentius of Ruspe, De fide ad Petrum 81, ed. by Fraipont, in Opera, II, pp. 709–60 (p. 757): ‘Firmissime tene et nullatenus dubites, non solum omnes paganos, sed et omnes Iudaeos et omnes haereticos atque schismaticos, qui extra Ecclesiam catholicam praesentem finiunt uitam, in ignem aeternum ituros, qui paratus est diabolo et angelis eius.’ See also Fulgentius, Ad Euthymium I.13.1–2, ed. by Fraipont, in Opera, II, pp. 649–707 (pp. 660–61). 57 Gennadius, De viris inlustribus 79, ed. by Ernest Cushing Richardson, in Hieronymus liber De viris inlustribus; Gennadius liber De viris inlustribus, Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, 14/1 (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1896), pp. 57–97, at p. 88; Quodvultdeus of Carthage, Contra Iudaeos, paganos et Arrianos, ed. by Braun, in Opera, pp. 227–58 and Quodvultdeus, Adversus quinque haereses, ed. by Braun, in Opera, pp. 259–301. On these works, see Bernhard


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against all comers, including not only Jews but also Arians, pagans, Manicheans, and Sabellians. ‘Let the Jew hear what the Lord said through the prophet’, Quodvultdeus thundered, ‘let the Arian hear, and let all hear who say that the Son of God either is not or is lesser. “I am God”, he said, “and there is no other” [Isaiah 45.22]’.58 But over the course of the later fifth and sixth centuries, as Catholics became anxiously aware of the distinctive and very real threat that royally sponsored Arianism posed to the theological loyalties of their flocks, virtually all of their polemical energies went into shoring up the eroding barrier between the local Christian faith communities.59 When Vandal-era African Catholics did turn their attention to Judaism, their statements tended still to be shaped by the hermeneutical modes of thought characteristic of the late Roman era. Perhaps the most striking innovation came from the pen of Quodvultdeus, who espoused a vision of the ultimate fate of Jews that departed significantly from that of Augustine, and in a darker direction. In his City of God, Augustine had predicted that at the End of Days Jews would accept the Christian faith.60 Quodvultdeus, by contrast — by then writing in exile in Naples — believed that Antichrist would arise from among the ranks of the Persian Jewish diaspora; and since Jews everywhere were still awaiting the coming of the Messiah, the bishop reasoned that they would follow the false saviour to their own perdition.61 At times, too, it would seem that Jews could become rhetorical stand-ins for the Catholics’ Arian persecutors. Thus, for example, Victor Blumenkranz, Les auteurs chrétiens latins du moyen âge sur les juifs et le judaïsme, Etudes juives 3 (Paris: Mouton, 1963; repr. Louvain: Peeters, 2007), pp. 20–22; on their attribution, however, see also Manlio Simonetti, ‘Studi sulla letteratura cristiana d’Africa in età vandalica’, Rendiconti del Istituto Lombardo di Lettere e Scienze: Classe di Lettere Morali e Storiche, 83 (1950), pp. 407–24, at pp. 413–24. 58 Quodvultdeus, Adversus quinque haereses IV.39, p. 275: ‘Audiat adhuc Iudaeus quid per prophetam dominus dicat, audiat Arrianus, audient et omnes qui filium dei aut non esse au esse minorem dicunt. Ego, inquit, deus et non est alius.’ 59 Conant, Staying Roman, pp. 172–75. 60 Augustine, De civitate Dei 20.30, ed. by Bernhard Dombart and Alfons Kalb, 2 vols, CC SL, 48 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1955), II, pp. 755–58. On Augustine’s attitudes toward Jews in general, see esp. Paula Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews. A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism (New York: Doubleday, 2008); eadem, ‘Excaecati Occulta Justitia Dei: Augustine on Jews and Judaism’, Journal of Early Christian Studies, 3 (1995), 299–324. 61 Quodvultdeus, Liber de promissionum II.35.78–79 and D.9.17, ed. by Braun, in Opera, pp. 1–223 (pp. 143–45 and 201–02); Daniel Van Slyke, Quodvultdeus of Carthage. The Apocalyptic Theology of a Roman African in Exile, Early Christian Studies, 5 (Strathfield: St Paul’s, 2003), pp. 281–83.

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of Vita twisted the gospel account in order to draw an explicit parallel between the Arians of his own day and New Testament Jews who, according to Victor, had wanted to kill Lazarus after Christ raised him from the dead. So too, Victor writes, local Arian bishops had wanted to kill a certain Felix, a well-known citizen of Carthage who was cured of his blindness by the city’s Catholic bishop, Eugenius.62 Similarly, when preaching a sermon on the stoning of St Stephen, an anonymous African bishop invited his audience to understand their own experiences under the Vandals’ Arian regime in light of that of the protomartyr at the hands of New Testament Jews. Like Stephen at his moment of witness, the bishop exhorted his flock, ‘I see Christ sitting in his glory, standing up for my salvation. He is my witness in heaven; shall I not be his witness on earth? If I will have confessed him among men, he too will confess me among his angels. But if I deny him on earth, he also shall deny me in heaven’.63 The bishop’s focus, of course, was on persecution and witness, not on Jews; but it would nevertheless seem that New Testament stories of what — from a sixth-century African perspective — was read as Jewish rejection of and hostility to early Christianity could still be deployed to rhetorical effect in order to provide valuable lessons for contemporary Catholics.

Conclusions Given the evidentiary base from which we have to work, any conclusions about the effects of the Vandal occupation of Africa on local Jewish populations must necessarily remain tentative. After the initial disorder of the conquest itself, however, it seems likely that the new Vandal regime maintained much the same policies toward Jews as had the late imperial administration, with the important difference that those who wielded power in African society were now Christians of the Arian rather than the Nicene confession. This was important to Jews not because it affected their control of property, their exercise of their religion, Vict. Vit. II.51, p. 44 (cf. John 11). Pseudo-Fulgentius, Sermo 3 (In natali S. Stephani), PL 65, 860–62, esp. 861– 62: ‘Video Christum in sua gloria sedentem, pro mea salute astantem. Ipse mihi testis est in coelis, ego ei non ero testis in terris? Si eum fuero confessus coram hominibus, confitebitur etiam ipse me coram angelis suis. Si autem negavero eum in terris, et ipse me negabit in coelis.’ See also Ps.-Fulgentius, Sermo 2 (In natali S. Stephani), PL 65, 859–60 and ibid. 68 (De martyribus), PL 65, 940–41. 62 63


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or how the ruling class perceived them; to all appearances, it did not. Rather, it was important to Jews because the sudden ascendancy of Arians and the relegation of Catholics to the position of heretics, with all of the coercive force of the Vandal kingdom directed against them, sparked a newly intense and bitter struggle — primarily in Africa, but with reverberations in both Rome and Constantinople — for moral and political dominance within Christian society. This was a fight in which Jews were marginal at best and could be rhetorically associated with the forces of heresy and persecution at worst. When Justinian’s reconquest of Africa finally put an end to this conflict, Jews became collateral damage in the imperial re-imposition of Roman order and the reassertion of Catholic supremacy within the province — concepts that the very struggle between Catholics and Arians in Africa had helped to make synonymous. Along with Arians, Donatists, and anyone else who locally rejected imperially sponsored Christian dogma, Jews were banned from public office and forbidden to worship. Ecclesiastical property previously expropriated by heretics was to be returned to its Catholic owners; Jewish synagogues were to be seized and converted into churches.64 As the sixth-century Naro synagogue attests, the ban was perhaps not enforced consistently or for very long, but it set a disturbing precedent. For as Roman emperors came ever more intensively to define political fidelity in terms of adherence to the imperially sponsored version of Christianity, Jews were inevitably perceived as a population whose loyalties to the empire were suspect.

Justinian, Novella 37, pp. 244–45. On this law, see esp. Charles Saumagne, ‘Etude sur la propriété ecclésiastique à Carthage d’après les novelles 36 et 37 de Justinien’, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 22 (1913), pp. 77–87; Linder, Imperial Legislation, pp. 381–89; and Merrills and Miles, Vandals, pp. 248–51. In Cyrenaica Justinian was similarly said to have turned the synagogue of Boreion into a church and to have converted the local Jewish population to Christianity, presumably by force: Procopius, De aedificiis VI.2.22, ed. by Haury, in Opera omnia, IV, p. 175. For a good recent overview of Jewish history in the Justinianic period, see Nicholas de Lange, ‘Jews in the Age of Justinian’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian, ed. by Michael Maas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 401–26. On Justinian’s Jewish legislation, see Alfredo Mordechai Rabello, ‘Justinian and the Revision of Jewish Legal Status’, in CHJ, pp. 1073–76; Leonard V. Rutgers, ‘Justinian’s Novella 146 between Jews and Christians’, in Jewish Culture and Society under the Christian Roman Empire, ed. by Richard Kalmin and Seth Schwartz, Interdisciplinary Studies in Ancient Culture and Religion 3 (Louvain: Peeters, 2003), pp. 385–407; and Linder, Imperial Legislation, pp. 356–411. 64

Wolfram Drews Barbarians and Jews in Early Medieval Spain: Shifting Constellations of Religion and Identity

Barbarians and Jews were unequal groups in Antiquity. The term ‘Barbarian’ was applied to strangers living outside the oikoumene, a cultural concept based on a claim to high civilizational standards. ‘Barbarians’ would never have perceived or labelled themselves as such.1 The case of Jews was different. Their self-perception as Jews constituted the heart of their identity. To be sure, their group also originated outside the Greek and Roman oikoumene, as did various groups of Barbarians. Unlike the latter, however, the Jews had been drawn into the world of ancient civilization already in the Hellenistic period. Furthermore, they adapted elements of Hellenistic (and to a much lesser degree, Roman) culture, while maintaining their own identity, based on a revealed religion specific to their group. Any analysis of the interaction between Barbarians and Jews in the early Middle Ages must bear in mind the Greco-Roman civilization, which by then had shaped the entire Mediterranean world for centuries. I shall approach my topic first from a general vantage point, comparing the positions and horizons of Barbarians and Jews. Next, I shall consider the example of forced conversions in early medieval Spain. In conclusion, I shall offer some remarks on the Frankish situation that are meant to put the Spanish case into perspective. Ultimately, I aim to provide at least a partial account for the deterioration of the situation of the Jews in one particular Barbarian kingdom. The Jews did not aspire to join the Greco-Roman world: they were conquered by Hellenistic kings and Roman generals. However, after Wolfgang Speyer/Ilona Opelt, ‘Barbar  I’, Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum Suppl. 1 (1992), 811–95. 1

Barbarians and Jews. Jews and Judaism in the Early Medieval West, ed. by Y. Hen and T. F. X. Noble, DIASPORA 4 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 47–67 © FHG DOI 10.1484/M.DIASPORA-EB.5.116406


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they had been absorbed by larger empires, significant segments of the Jewish elite adopted Hellenistic culture, while maintaining their religion as a cornerstone of their identity.2 Of course, from at least the Hasmonean period onwards, there were intermittent internal Jewish conflicts regarding the extent to which a combination of Greek culture and Jewish religion was permissible.3 However, by the time Rabbinic Judaism emerged in Late Antiquity, the Jews were fully engaged with the leading civilization of the day, all the while maintaining their separate identity.4 Moreover, Jewish communities flourished outside the Roman Empire, that is, under Sasanian rule in Mesopotamia.5 Things were different with those known as Barbarians, who were the paradigmatic outsiders of the ancient world. Some Barbarian groups were repelled by the Roman military but others were able to cross the borders of the limes and settled on Roman territory. When this happened, Barbarian groups tended to lose contact with their kin beyond the borders — the Franks, who settled close to the Roman border on either side of the Rhine, being an obvious exception.6 Research on the ethnogenesis of Barbarian groups has shown that Barbarian identity was not fixed; on the contrary, the parameters defining a particular group could change significantly, permitting the integration of people

2 Martin Hengel, Judentum und Hellenismus. Studien zu ihrer Begegnung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung Palästinas bis zur Mitte des 2. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 10 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 31988); The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture 1–3. Texte und Studien zum antiken Judentum 71, 79, 93, ed. by Peter Schäfer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998–2002). 3 David Volgger, ‘1 Makk 1: Der Konflikt zwischen Hellenen und Juden — Die Makkabäische Reichspropaganda’, Antonianum 73 (1998), pp. 459–81; Shaye J. D. Cohen, ‘Religion, Ethnicity and “Hellenis” in the Emergence of Jewish Identity in Maccabean Palestine’, in Religion and Religious Practice in the Seleucid Kingdom, ed. by Per Bilde, et al. (Aarhus: Universitetsforlag, 1990), pp. 204–24; Elias Bickermann, Der Gott der Makkabäer. Untersuchungen über Sinn und Ursprung der makkabäischen Erhebung (Berlin: Schocken, 1937). 4 Mark J. Geller, ‘An Akkadian Vademecum in the Babylonian Talmud’, in From Athens to Jerusalem. Medicine in Hellenized Jewish Lore and in Early Christian Literature, ed. by Samuel Kottek and Manfred Horstmanshoff (Rotterdam: Erasmus Pub, 2000), pp. 13–32; Pieter Willem van der Horst, ‘Two Notes on Hellenistic Lore in Early Rabbinic Literature’, JSQ 1 (1993/94), 252–62. 5 David M. Goodblatt, Rabbinic Instruction in Sasanian Babylonia. Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 9 (Leiden: Brill, 1975). 6 Heike Grahn-Hoek, ‘Salii — Franci ipsi — (gentes) qui et Franci. Zur Ethnogenese der Franken und den Anfängen der fränkischen Südwestbewegung bis zum Ende des 4. Jahrhunderts’, Rheinische Vierteljahrsblätter 69 (2005), 1–69.

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of heterogeneous origin into Barbarian communities.7 Perhaps the most important criterion was the military one: those who joined the group to fight under the authority of a Barbarian leader were accepted as members of that group. Nonetheless, a consciousness of belonging to one group was often founded on the belief in ties of kinship, in the imagined descent from common forebears. Thus, no stable criteria delimited the identity of a ‘Barbarian’.8 Many Barbarian groups did not even feature dynastic continuity, which would have provided a stable ground for a continuously developing frame of identity. However, once a Barbarian group had been Romanized and Christianized, dynastic continuity might have become a relevant point of reference for it.9 The installation of Barbarian kingdoms on Roman territory from the fifth century onwards was followed by accelerated processes of acculturation.10 Barbarians took on the Roman language and religion 7 For the construction of collective identities, see Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, ‘World History and the Construction of Collective Identities’, in World History. Ideologies, Structures, and Identities, ed. by Philip Pomper, Richard H. Elphick, and Richard T. Vann (Malden/Oxford: Wiley, 1998), pp. 106–10. For ethnogenesis, see Walter Pohl, ‘Tradition, Ethnogenese und literarische Gestaltung: eine Zwischenbilanz’, in Ethnogenese und Überlieferung. Angewandte Methoden der Frühmittelalterforschung. Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 31, ed. by Karl Brunner and Brigitte Merta (Vienna/Munich: Oldenbourg, 1994), pp. 9–26; Herwig Friesinger and Falko Daim (eds), Typen der Ethnogenese unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Bayern II. Denkschriften der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.-Hist. Kl. 204; Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Frühmittelalterforschung 13 (Vienna: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaft, 1990); Jörg Jarnut, ‘Aspekte frühmittelalterlicher Ethnogenese in historischer Sicht’, in Herrschaft und Ethnogenese im Frühmittelalter. Gesammelte Aufsätze. Festgabe zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. by Jörg Jarnu and Matthias Becher (Münster: Scriptorum, 2002), pp. 19–27; for criticism, see Charles R. Bowlus, ‘Ethnogenesis: The Tyranny of a Concept’, in On Barbarian Identity. Critical Approaches to Ethnicity in the Early Middle Ages. Studies in the Early Middle Ages 4, ed. by Andrew Gillet (Turnhout: Brepols, 2002), pp. 241–56. 8 Peter Heather, ‘The Creation of the Visigoths’, in The Visigoths. From the Migration Period to the Seventh Century. An Ethnographic Perspective. Studies in Historical Archaeoethnology 4, ed. by Peter Heather (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 1999), pp. 41–72; Sebastian Brather, ‘Ethnic Identities as Constructions of Archaeology. The Case of the Alamanni’, in On Barbarian Identity (note 7), ed. by Andrew Gillet, pp. 149–75; Walter Pohl, ‘Telling the Difference. Signs of Ethnic Identity’, in Strategies of Distinction. The Transformation of the Roman World 2, ed. by Walter Pohl and Helmut Reimitz (Leiden: Brill, 1998), pp. 17–69. 9 Andrew H. Merrills, ‘The Secret of My Succession: Dynasty and Crisis in Vandal North Africa’, EME 18 (2010), 135–59. 10 Herwig Wolfram, The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1997), pp. 102–22.


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even when they embraced Arian Christianity, which was at times the official religion of the empire. When they managed to maintain a separate group consciousness, it was often closely connected to a ruling dynasty of Barbarian descent (such as the Frankish Merovingians or the Ostrogothic Amals),11 sometimes coupled with a specific form of Christianity, such as Arianism.12 The profound changes that occurred over time to Barbarian identity signal that objective factors were not responsible for its historical continuity. Instead, it was the subjective belief in group coherence that fuelled this continuity. Why did Barbarians strive to maintain a sense of distinctiveness at all? Becoming Roman all at once would have been the practical route, especially since Roman identity was rather flexible. After all, such an identity could be combined with layers of different identities, local, religious or cultural.13 Two suggestions might be offered in this regard. First, in late antiquity, being Roman was closely connected to Byzantium and to the legitimate Roman emperor in Constantinople. Romans were Byzantines, who were distinct from Barbarians. Second, and more importantly, if a Barbarian king wished to remain in power, he could not survive as a kind of chieftain at the head of a Barbarian tribe. Rather, he had to rule over the Roman provincial population, using Roman infrastructure and tax returns. Had Barbarians become Romans in one fell swoop, they would have been immediately absorbed by the Roman population, thus undermining the claim of the Barbarian elite to rulership. Only if they managed to maintain their Barbarian identity could they both remain in power and leverage the services of the Roman bureaucracy and administration. Again, things were different with the Jews. They had no ambition to rule over the Roman Empire nor did they seek to exploit provincial Roman resources. Unlike the Barbarians of late antiquity, they had become Hellenized (and partly Romanized) centuries before; that is, they had already become part of the Roman world. Their identity was based on religion, even though that religion changed, too, especially after the 11 Peter J. Heather, ‘Cassiodorus and the Rise of the Amals: Genealogy and the Goths under Hun Domination’, Journal of Roman Studies 79 (1989), 103–28. 12 Patrick Amory, People and Identity in Ostrogothic Italy, 489–554. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4/33 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). 13 Geoffrey Greatrex, ‘Roman Identity in the Sixth Century’, in Ethnicity and Culture in Late Antiquity, ed. by Stephen Mitchell and Geoffrey Greatrex, (London: Duckworth, 2000), pp. 267–92; John Matthews, ‘Roman Law and Barbarian Identity in the Late Roman West’, ibid., pp. 31–44.

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destruction of the Temple and in the course of the gradual emergence and dissemination of Rabbinic Judaism. Although the Rabbinic corpus adapted some characteristic traits of Hellenistic culture, such as the model of the chain of tradition taken over from philosophical schools,14 the concept of a normative legal code15 and even words of Greek or Roman origin, the Jewish religion remained distinctly separate. After 212, Jews were Roman citizens, but they had a religion of their own. They were not Barbarians since they had been subjects of the Roman emperor for centuries, and, more importantly, they met the cultural and civilizational standards of the Greco-Roman oikoumene.16

The interrelationship of Jews, Barbarians, and Romans in early medieval Spain In the early sixth century, the focus of the Visigothic kingdom shifted from southern Gaul to the Iberian Peninsula. In the preceding century, the Goths had settled in Aquitaine, originally as federate allies of the Romans. Already in the east, they had adopted the Arian form of Christianity, to which they adhered until the end of the sixth century. They ruled over the vast majority of provincial Romans, including Catholic Christians, Jews, as well as individuals and groups still loyal to forms of traditional religion labelled as paganism by Christian authorities. The Gothic king maintained order in the interest of the provincial Roman population, and he legislated in the interest of the members of his Gothic group. Until the early sixth century, the Gothic monarchy was marked by tenuous dynastic continuity within the royal house of the Balths.17 The right of the king to govern the Roman population was Anthony J. Saldarini, ‘The End of the Rabbinic Chain of Tradition’, Journal of Biblical Literature 93 (1974), 97–106. 15 Catherine Hezser, ‘The Codification of Legal Knowledge in Late Antiquity: The Talmud Yerushalmi and Roman Law Codes’, in The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture I. Texte und Studien zum antiken Judentum 71, ed. by Peter Schäfer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998), pp. 581–641. 16 See Eisenstadt, following Shaye Cohen: ‘This development also made possible the important “Hellenistic” phenomenon of “conversion” to Judaism. Cohen further claims that the Hellenistic world not only served as a foil against which the Jews redefined themselves, but also provided the very conceptions that underlay the new Jewish self-definition.’ (Eisenstadt, World History [note 7], p. 113). The reference is to Shaye J. D. Cohen, ‘Religion, Ethnicity and “Hellenism”’ (note 3). 17 For the very precarious state of Gothic succession, see Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain. Unity in Diversity. 400–1000 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1983, 14


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first granted to him by the western Roman emperor, who entrusted him with the maintenance of peace in his province as a Roman ally. In the fifth or early sixth century, it appears that the Gothic kings had no interest in the Jewish communities of their realm.18 Of course, the Goths had originally been Barbarians. But were they still seen as such after they had moved into the empire?19 The conquest and sack of Rome in 410 may have appeared as a Barbarian act to Roman contemporaries, and shortly thereafter King Athaulf is famously said to have claimed that he originally wanted to convert Romania into Gothia.20 However, events rather turned out the other way round: the Goths became more and more Romanized, and, by the middle of the sixth century, only their Arian confession stood as a sign of distinction. In sixth-century Spain, the formerly Barbarian Goths formed a tiny ruling elite vis à vis a large provincial Roman majority, comprised of Catholic Christians and Jews. Culturally, the Goths had become assimilated with the Romans; shared civilizational standards obliterated the traditional distinction between Greco-Roman culture and Barbarian lack of any such culture. The Barbarians in Spain had become Roman in all but name and religion. King Leovigild, while still opposed to the Byzantine, or Roman, form of Christianity, introduced Byzantine ceremonies at the Gothic court in the 580s. The process of Romanization was largely complete when, in the year 587, King Reccared converted to

1995), p. 36; Wolfram, The Roman Empire (note 10), pp. 260–62. 18 Alexander Pierre Bronisch, Die Judengesetzgebung im katholischen Westgotenreich von Toledo. Forschungen zur Geschichte der Juden A/17 (Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2005), p. 22. 19 David Lambert, ‘The Barbarians in Salvian’s De Gubernatione Dei’, in Ethnicity and Culture in Late Antiquity (note 13), ed. by Mitchell and Greatrex, pp. 103–16; Jan Badewien, Geschichtstheologie und Sozialkritik im Werk Salvians von Marseille. Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte 32 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980). 20 Orosius, Historia adversum Paganos, VII.43.4–6, translated in Stephen Williams, Diocletian and the Roman Recovery (London: Routledge, 1985), p. 218: ‘At first I wanted to erase the Roman name and convert all Roman territory into a Gothic empire: I longed for Romania to become Gothia, and Athaulf to be what Caesar Augustus had been. But long experience has taught me that the ungoverned wildness of the Goths will never submit to laws, and that without law a state is not a state. Therefore I have more prudently chosen the different glory of reviving the Roman name with Gothic vigour, and I hope to be acknowledged by posterity as the initiator of a Roman restoration, since it is impossible for me to alter the character of this Empire.’ 2

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the Catholic form of Christianity,21 to be followed by all the Goths two years later at the third Council of Toledo.22 From then on, no official cultural or religious marker divided the formerly Barbarian Goths and the Christian majority of Hispanic Romans.23 A problem then arose for the Gothic elite: how could they maintain their claim to rulership if they merged with the majority of the population? Were they not likely to be replaced by capable, indigenous provincial Romans? After all, King Ervig, who reigned from 680 to 687, was descended from a Byzantine father of possibly Armenian descent (named Ardabastus), who had come as an exile to Visigothic Spain. If there was no dynastic continuity within a royal house of Gothic ancestry, how could the identity of a Gothic kingdom be maintained, and, more importantly, how could the sovereignty of a Gothic elite be legitimized? Let us consider King Sisebut. A Gothic aristocrat who bore a Barbarian name and was not descended from previous Gothic kings, Siebut was elected to royal office in 612.24 His cultural capacity was impressive: he composed Latin treatises such as a bishop’s vita, letters, and even poems. In terms of breeding, Sisebut was certainly on par with his Roman contemporaries, whose cultural outlook he shared.25 His classical education was not matched by theological erudition, however, and in violation of traditional church policies, he advocated forced baptisms of Jews throughout his realm, apparently without requesting ecclesiastical sanction for his unprecedented measures.

Biagio Saitta, ‘La conversione di Reccaredo: Necessità politica o convizione personale?’, in Concilio III de Toledo. XIV Centenario 589–1989 (Toledo: Arzobispado de Toledo, 1991), pp. 375–84. 22 Manuel C. Díaz y Díaz, ‘Los discursos del rey Recaredo: El Tomus’, ibid., pp. 223–36; Peter Linehan, ‘Impacto del III concilio de Toledo en las relaciones iglesiaestado durante el medioevo’, ibid., pp. 427–39. 23 For the ‘disappearance’ of Arianism, see Roger Collins, ‘¿Dónde estaban los arrianos en el año 589?’, ibid., pp. 211–22; repr.: Collins, Law, Culture and Regionalism in Early Medieval Spain (Aldershot: Variorum, 1992). 24 On Sisebut’s career, see Yitzhak Hen, Roman Barbarians. The Royal Court and Culture in the Early Medieval West (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), pp. 128 f.; on his cultural outlook, ibid., pp. 134 f. ‘No early medieval ruler had reached this level of sophistication and creativity’, (ibid., p. 139). 25 Wolfram Drews, Juden und Judentum bei Isidor von Sevilla. Studien zum Traktat ‘De fide catholica contra Iudaeos’. Berliner Historische Studien 34 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2001), pp. 73 f.; 365 ff.; id., The Unknown Neighbour: The Jew in the Thought of Isidore of Seville. The Medieval Mediterranean 59 (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2006), pp. 19; 114 ff. 21


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What drove Sisebut to implement severe anti-Jewish policies? I have argued elsewhere that he may have been looking back to his predecessor Reccared, who was responsible for the conversion of the Goths to Catholicism in 589, only slightly more than two decades before Sisebut’s accession.26 Pope Gregory the Great had lauded Reccared’s apostolic efforts, affirming that he had brought an entire people to the true faith. The king had thus gained eternal reward, opined the pope.27 Sisebut may have wanted to follow suit with the Jews. From his correspondence with the Lombard king Adaloald and with his own son, we know that he was unsure of his salvation; he sought to gain religious merits that would speak in his favour on the day of the Last Judgment. Notably, at the beginning of his second anti-Jewish law, he mentions his search for salvation (salutifera remedia): Universis populis ad regni nostri provincias pertinentibus salutifera remedia nobis gentique nostre conquirimus, cum fidei nostre coniunctos de infidorum manibus clementer eripimus.28 At the end of that law, the king mentions the Last Judgment ( futuri etiam examinis terribile cum patuerit tempus)29 and immediately before that, he reiterates his quest for both personal and ‘national’ salvation: Hanc vero legem, quam pietatis et religionis amore concepimus pro nostro populique nostri remedio.30 This was an entirely personal motive, and there is no evidence that Sibebut’s policies were encouraged or even endorsed by the leading churchmen of his time. However, since baptism was considered to be an irrevocable sacrament, the church and society at large subsequently had to come to terms with their baptized Jews.

26 Drews, Juden und Judentum bei Isidor von Sevilla (note 25), pp. 80 f.; id., The Unknown Neighbour (note 25), pp. 21–29. Cf. Alfredo Mordechai Rabello, ‘La conversione di Reccaredo al cattolicesimo (587) e le sue ripercussioni sulla situazione giuridica degli Ebrei in Spagna’, Index 12 (1983/84), 377–90. 27 Olegario García de la Fuente, ‘Leovigildo, Hermenegildo, Recaredo y Leandro en los dialogi de Gregorio Magno’, in Concilio III de Toledo. XIV centenario 589–1989 (note 21), pp. 393–402; Domingo Ramos Lissón, ‘Grégoire le Grand, Léandre et Reccarède’, in Gregorio Magno e il suo tempo. XIX Incontro di studiosi dell’antichità cristiana in collaborazione con l’École Française de Rome, Roma 9–12 maggio 1990 (Rome: Institutum Patristicum ‘Augustinianum’, 1991), I: Studi storici. Studia Ephemeridis ‘Augustinianum’ 33, pp. 187–98. 28 Lex Visigothorum 12.2.14, ed. Karl Zeumer, MGH LNG 1 (Hannover: Hahn, 1902), p. 420. 29 Lex Visigothorum 12.2.14, ed. Zeumer, p. 423. 30 Lex Visigothorum 12.2.14, ed. Zeumer, p. 422.

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Barbarian kingdoms in comparative perspective King Reccared had wanted to free the Goths of their isolation from their Christian Roman subjects by uniting the two groups under one religion within the Catholic Church. The fragility of Gothic identity, however, proved to be a difficult hurdle, as without it, the Goths would have been left without clear parameters to substantiate their claim to rulership. To illustrate this point, let us look briefly at a contemporary parallel, Merovingian Gaul. Unlike the so-called Eastern Germanic peoples, such as the Goths, the Franks, according to Gregory of Tours, had not converted to the Arian form of Christianity, instead choosing the Roman and Catholic faith of the provincial Roman population of Gaul. On the heels of Clovis’ baptism, Frankish kings were hailed by episcopal authors such as Avitus of Vienne as rightful rulers imbued with social, cultural, and political virtue, pleasing to God.31 Moreover, the Franks were governed by a dynasty, the Merovingians, whose legitimacy was apparently unquestioned until the accession of the Carolingians in the eighth century. Before that time, every usurper was well advised to base his claims on Merovingian descent. This provided for some political stability at the top echelons of society if we compare this to the frequent cases of usurpation and overthrow in Visigothic Spain, the so-called Gothic disease (morbus Gothorum). Over the long course of Merovingian rule, Barbarian Franks and provincial Romans came together as a new political community, namely, Franks living under the authority of legitimate Merovingian kings, professing Catholic Christianity. The community of the Franks was gradually extended to include all the leading sectors of the population. Frankish identity evolved, but it did not experience rupture. It was precisely in this respect that the case of Visigothic Spain diverged. In the third quarter of the sixth century, furious controversies had exploded between Catholics and Arians when King Leovigild tried to promote Arianism, strengthening the Arian Church as the cornerstone of Gothic identity.32 Apparently, also one Catholic bishop, See Avitus’s letter to Clovis: MGH AA 6.2, 75 nr. 46: Vos de toto priscae originis stemmate sola nobilitate contentus. For the sacral dimension of Merovingian kingship in the sixth and seventh centuries see Franz-Reiner Erkens, ‘Der Herrscher als gotes drút. Zur Sakralität des ungesalbten ostfränkischen Königs’, Historisches Jahrbuch 118 (1998), 1–39, at p. 21. 32 Roger Collins, ‘King Leovigild and the Conversion of the Visigoths’, in El Concilio IV de Toledo, Toledo 1991, pp. 1–12; A. Maya, ‘De Leovigildo perseguidor y Masona mártir’, Emérita 62 (1994), pp. 167–86. On Leovigild in general, see Karl 31


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Vincentius of Zaragoza, converted to Arianism.33 However, Leovigild’s attempt was aborted, and his son Reccared converted to Catholicism, which must have appeared as a major turning point to contemporaries, given the fiery polemics during the time of his father’s rule. Reccared surrendered the main pillar of Gothic identity but remained king of the Goths. Unlike Merovingian Gaul, Gothic Spain saw no political development or movement in the parameters defining the identity of its Barbarian rulers. Frequent monarchial usurpations thwarted any dynastic or political stability. Attempts made by the fathers of the fourth Council of Toledo in 633 to forestall further political coups proved unsuccessful. This sense of imbalance was amplified by the presence of a not-insignificant number of forcibly baptised Jews, who strove to return to their ancestral faith.34 Jewish identity was far more resilient than any Barbarian one. Based as it was on a revealed religion recorded in written documents, it could survive in the Greco-Roman diaspora without disappearing into the larger Roman population.35 By contrast, the Barbarian elites could only sustain group coherence in a ruling position; anything else would have meant merger with the Roman population. Only with a Barbarian king at the helm could they hope to hang on as a group on Roman soil. The Jews, for their part, had a long tradition of managing as a separate minority within Roman society by maintaining the religion of their forebears, as explained to the Romans centuries before by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.36 The Barbarian Goths, however, had no ancestral religion to maintain, once they had embraced Catholic Christianity. While the Jews had preserved their cultural and religious capital, the

Friedrich Stroheker, ‘Leowigild’, Die Welt als Geschichte 5 (1939), pp. 446–85, repr. in ibid., Germanentum und Spätantike (Zürich-Stuttgart: Artemis-Verlag, 1965), pp. 134–91. 33 Isid. hist. Goth. 50. 34 Wolfram Drews, ‘Jews as Pagans? Polemical Definitions of Identity in Visigothic Spain’, EME 11 (2002), 189–207. 35 Wolfram Drews, ‘Diaspora Jewish Communities in Early Medieval Europe: Structural Conditions for Survival and Expansion’, in Visions of Community in the Post-Roman World. The West, Byzantium and the Islamic World, 300–1100, ed. by Walter Pohl, Clemens Gantner, and Richard Payne (Farnham/Burlington: Routledge, 2012), pp. 391–401. 36 Bernd Schröder, Die ‘väterlichen’ Gesetze. Flavius Josephus als Vermittler von Halachah an Griechen und Römer. Texte und Studien zum antiken Judentum 53 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996).

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Barbarians had surrendered most aspects of theirs, taking on the imperial traditions of Rome. The western Barbarians appropriated Roman traditions, which included the Roman religion. They laid claim to the Catholic form of Christianity as an entrée billet to late antique culture, to borrow a famous formulation of Heinrich Heine. This political instrumentalization of religion turned out to be a phenomenon characteristic of medieval political culture. While the Merovingians lived and ruled as Catholic Christians without emphasizing the Roman tradition, their Carolingian successors used the Roman Christian tradition embodied by the pope to buttress their own legitimacy. The Gothic kings, in turn, adapted the Catholic tradition of their Roman subjects for their own purposes, making the Catholic faith the cornerstone of both their identity and of political order throughout the seventh century.37 This politicization of religion entailed a political transformation of patristic anti-Judaism that formed part of the Catholic heritage. Anti-Jewish policies pursued by Barbarian kings were not nourished by any specific Barbarian traditions. Rather, they were a transformation of the Roman Christian heritage they had met on Roman soil. The violent anti-Judaism of King Sisebut was probably prompted by his personal religious insecurity and his ‘apostolic’ aspirations, but, significantly, the latter would have been unthinkable without the papal endorsement of Reccared’s policies. Religion had turned into a political tool and a political argument of the first order in the wake of the transformation of the Roman world in late antiquity. The political instrumentalization of Christianity was also a feature of early Byzantium, as well as of other Barbarian kingdoms. Catholic clergy urged Christian rulers to orient their lives and policies toward Christian virtues and to look to David, Solomon, and Constantine as role models. Emperor Justinian interfered in Jewish community affairs, trying to regulate the use of different Bible translations.38 However, he knew that a conversion of the Jews was only This is tantamount to the ‘Hispano-Gothic ideology’ postulated by Jacques Fontaine in New Cambridge Medieval History 1, 750 (cited by Hen, Roman Barbarians [note 24], p. 151). 38 Giuseppe Veltri, ‘Die Novelle 146 peri Hebraion: Das Verbot des Targumvortrags in Justinians Politik’, in Die Septuaginta zwischen Judentum und Christentum. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 72, ed. by Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994), pp. 116–30; Eberhard Klingenberg, ‘Justinians Novellen zur Judengesetzgebung’, Aschkenas 8 (1998), pp. 7–27; Leonard V. Rutgers, ‘Justinian’s Novella 146 between Jews and Christians’, in Jewish Culture and Society under the Christian Roman Empire. 37


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to be expected at the end of times. Frankish kings remained within the traditional frame of imperial Jewish policies, too.39 It was above all the precarious Gothic monarchy that posed a threat to the survival of Judaism on its territory. Such instability can be traced to a lack of dynastic continuity, which was characteristic of other Barbarian kingdoms and Byzantium as well.40 Yet, Visigothic vicissitudes were exacerbated by the religious tensions of the second half of the sixth century. The Gothic kingdom hosted one of the largest Jewish communities of all Barbarian kingdoms, especially in the more Romanized regions of Southern and Mediterranean Spain. It was perhaps the size of this community that may have suggested to Sisebut that the conversion of an entire people would be counted in his favour on the day of the Last Judgment. Barbarians’ first contact with Jews took place after they reached Roman territory. Only when they became part of the transforming Roman world did Barbarians take notice of the Jews; only then did they have to react to their existence. In general, Barbarian leaders had little reason to interfere in Jewish affairs. It was only after individual leaders had adopted the tradition of Roman and Christian thinking about the Jews did those leaders position themselves with regard to the Jewish diaspora. This was mostly an individual affair. Good cases in point are the Frankish kings of the early medieval period: as a rule, Merovingians and Carolingians did not occupy themselves with their Jewish subjects.41 This may partly be due to the fact that the number of Jews in the centres of the Frankish world north of the Loire River seems to have been quite small. From a structural point of view, Barbarian groups had little reason to wrangle with the Jews. Their leaders took over Roman provinces, they appropriated Roman tax revenues, they legislated for their own group and on occasion also for their Roman subjects, relying on the Interdisciplinary Studies in Ancient Culture and Religion 3, ed. by Richard Kalmin and Seth Schwarz (Leuven: Peeters, 2003), pp. 385–407. 39 Paul Mikat, Die Judengesetzgebung der merowingisch-fränkischen Konzilien. Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vorträge G 335 (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1995); Christof Geisel, Die Juden im Frankenreich. Von den Merowingern bis zum Tode Ludwigs des Frommen. Freiburger Beiträge zur Mittelalterlichen Geschichte 10 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Verlag, 1998). 40 Collins, Early Medieval Spain (note 17), p. 111. 41 For local instances of anti-Jewish activities (which occurred in Clermont in 576) see Michel Rouche, ‘Les baptêmes forcés de Juifs en Gaule mérovingienne et dans l’Empire d’Orient’, in De l’antijudaïsme antique à l’antisémitisme contemporain, ed. by Valentin Nikiprowetzky (Lille: Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1979), pp. 105–24.

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help of Roman jurists. None of these activities turned their attention to the Jews. Only when Barbarian leaders became aware of anti-Jewish traditions existing within the Roman heritage did they occasionally occupy themselves with the Jews in their territory.42 A good case in point is King Sisebut: his cultural toolkit was shot through with Roman tradition, and it was from this tradition that he received his anti-Jewish attitudes. The anti-Jewish language of his decrees has nothing vitally Visigothic about it.

Barbarian Theologies? At most, we might suggest a single element that could be termed ‘Barbarian’, namely, a particular theological overbearance — a far-reaching interpretation of Christian theological thinking that was, in fact, a departure from the tradition of the Church. Sisebut imagined himself in a class with Christian theologians, perhaps inspired by the example of Justinian, who had meddled in church affairs on several occasions.43 However, Justinian had not overturned church teaching on decisive issues without consulting theological experts. It is true that he issued theological letters and encyclicals, even interfering in the internal affairs of Jewish communities.44 In general, however, he acted within the evolving theological tradition, and he respected church institutions, even calling the second Council of Constantinople that came to be regarded as an 42 For traditions of anti-Judaism see Peter Schäfer, Judeophobia. Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World (Cambridge, MA-London: Harvard University Press, 1997); Bruno Rochette, ‘Juifs et Romains. Y a-t-il eu un antijudaïsme romain?’, Revue des Études Juives 160 (2001), 1–31; Heinz Schreckenberg, Die christlichen AdversusJudaeos-Texte und ihr literarisches und historisches Umfeld (1.-11. Jahrhundert). Europäische Hochschulschriften 23/172, (Frankfurt am Main et al.: Peter Lang Verlag, 1982); Raúl González Salinero, El antijudaismo cristiano occidental (siglos IV y V) (Madrid: Trotta, 2000). 43 Fergus Millar, ‘Rome, Constantinople and the Near Eastern Church under Justinian: Two Synods of C.E. 536’, Journal of Roman Studies 98 (2008), pp. 62–82; Mischa Meier, Justinian. Herrschaft, Reich und Religion (Munich: Beck, 2004); Edward Watts, ‘Justinian, Malalas, and the End of Athenian Philosophical Teaching in A.D. 529’, Journal of Roman Studies 94 (2004), 168–82. 44 Albert I. Baumgarten, ‘Justinian and the Jews’, in Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Memorial Volume, ed. by Leo Landman (New York: Ktav Pub. 1980), pp. 37–44; Catherine Brewer, ‘The Status of the Jews in Roman Legislation: The Reign of Justinian 527–565 C.E.’, European Judaism 38 (2005), pp. 127–39; Nicholas de Lange, ‘Jews in the Age of Justinian’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian, ed. by Michael Maas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 401–26.


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ecumenical synod. Sisebut hardly consulted the leading theological experts of his day when he took his unprecedented anti-Jewish measures. This overweening theological attitude might be compared to a Merovingian parallel. Gregory of Tours relates that around 580 King Chilperic I composed a treatise on the Trinity which was in blatant contradiction with traditional Church teaching.45 Chilperic allegedly removed the distinction between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; furthermore, he criticized traditional theological parlance, which applied the term ‘person’ to the Godhead. Chilperic held that this term should only refer to carnal human beings, not to God. The king even tried to force the bishops to accept his radical theological innovations. Gregory of Tours, however, refused to follow him, pointing to the teachings of the apostles, which Chilperic had accepted at his baptism. Would it be carrying things too far to suggest that it may have been a tendency of some Barbarian kings to favour theological speculations that were not ratified by traditional Church teaching? To be sure, Byzantine emperors sometimes introduced theological changes, such as the teaching associated with monotheletism, also in the seventh century.46 However, they always won the backing of at least part of the episcopate. The Merovingian Chilperic failed utterly in this respect. His doctrines clearly diverged from apostolic traditions, and he gained no institutional support.47 The same may be said of Sisebut’s anti-Jewish policies. We have no evidence of any endorsement by prominent churchmen during his lifetime. Apparently, however, he was able to push his theological innovation through on his own (although we do not know to what extent he succeeded). Only when the Church became aware of numbers of ‘relapsing’ Jews did the fourth Council of Toledo legislate on the problem of forcibly baptised Jews in 633. The fathers of that council did not promote Sisebut’s policies, ruling out any attempts at forced baptism in the Greg. Tur. hist. 5.44 (MGH SRM 1.1, 252 ff.); Bernhard Jussen, ‘Wie die poströmischen Könige sich in Selbstdarstellung übten’, in Die Macht des Königs. Herrschaft in Europa vom Frühmittelalter bis in die Neuzeit, ed. by Bernhard Jussen (Munich: Beck, 2005), pp. 14–26. 46 Karl-Heinz Uthemann, ‘Der Neuchalkedonismus als Vorbereitung des Monotheletismus. Ein Beitrag zum eigentlichen Anliegen des Neuchalkedonismus’, Studia Patristica 29 (1997), pp. 373–413; Wolfram Brandes, ‘Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Seventh Century. Prosopographical Observations on Monotheletism’, Proceedings of the British Academy 118 (2003), pp. 103–11. 47 Guy Halsall, ‘Nero and Herod? The Death of Chilperic and Gregory’s Writing of History’, in The World of Gregory of Tours, Cultures, Beliefs and Traditions 8, ed. by Kathleen Anne Mitchell and Ian N. Wood (Leiden: Brill, 2002), pp. 337–50. 45

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future. However, for sacramental reasons, baptised Jews had to remain Christians. Neither Chilperic nor Sisebut won ecclesiastical accolades for their theological novelties. Can we term their unprecedented actions ‘Barbarian’? If we look at the theological positions and ecclesiastical policies of the Carolingians, we see that the second Frankish dynasty was far more traditional in its religious programme. The Carolingians followed the Roman Church more or less closely, even if we concede that Charlemagne disagreed with Pope Leo III on the issue of adding the filioque to the creed. However, no Carolingian ruler ever advocated as radical a departure from Catholic tradition as Chilperic or Sisebut. On the contrary, the early Carolingians introduced, among other things, Roman canon law and Benedict’s rule, which was perceived as quintessentially Roman in character. Significantly, Charlemagne refrained from publishing the most important Carolingian theological treatise, the Libri Carolini (Opus Caroli regis contra synodum), once he realized that Pope Hadrian did not endorse its theological doctrines. Generally speaking, the Carolingians faithfully followed the theological direction of Rome.48 To be sure, most Barbarian kings did not overstep the boundaries of traditional theology. There were no structural reasons for far-reaching dogmatic innovations; these were due to personal predilections of individual Barbarian kings. In the case of the Visigoths, originally there was little potential for conflict between them and the Jewish element of the Hispano-Roman population. It was from the Catholic majority of their subjects that the Goths learned about the Jews. When they converted from Arianism to Catholicism, they joined a Christian community that had cultivated a centuries-long tradition of theological anti-Judaism. Of course, there is very little evidence for adversus Iudaeos treatises in late antique Spain. While Sisebut must have known that the Catholic Church expected the eventual conversion of the Jews, he was apparently unaware that this was reserved for the end of days. The specific Spanish circumstances that obtained shortly after the Gothic conversion to Catholicism, coupled with personal religious insecurity on the part of the ruler, led to a radicalization of anti-Jewish positions. This radicalization was precipitated by individual, contingent reasons (which For different interpretations of the reception of the Iconolcast controversy in Francia see Ann Freeman, ‘Carolingian Orthodoxy and the Fate of the Libri Carolini’, in Viator 16 (1985), pp. 65–108 and Thomas Noble, Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), pp. 158–243. 48


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lay in Sisebut’s personality), but structurally it had been prepared by the conditions of the Gothic conversion of the 580s. The combination of these personal and structural factors triggered the single most severe anti-Jewish outburst in all the Barbarian kingdoms. A comparison with the other realms shows that this deterioration was exceptional and contingent. I submit that Sisebut’s anti-Jewish animus can be explained in one of two ways. The first concerns his aforementioned missionary zeal, which was fuelled by the example of his predecessor Reccared, who had converted the Goths to Catholicism.49 This proselytizing mission may have been intensified by personal religious insecurity as regards individual salvation. The second possibility is that Sisebut may have been subject to a theological misunderstanding. We might speculate that he regarded anti-Judaism as an essential part of Catholic faith, which had to be put into practice by Catholic monarchs. If this was the case, he failed to realize that traditional Roman anti-Judaism was far less virulent. Justinian’s measures, for instance, were limited to individual Jewish communities, even if we agree that his involvement in regulating the use of Bible translations in synagogue services was meant to prepare the Jews for Christian missionary activities, as argued by Giuseppe Veltri.50 Heraclius only introduced his more profound anti-Jewish policies after Sisebut’s time; they should be attributed to heightened religious tensions in the wake of the existential conflict between the Byzantines and the Sasanian Empire.51 The emperor not only prepared and conducted 49 That Reccared served as a model for Sisebut during his reign can also be concluded from the fact that he named his infant son, born after his accession, after precisely this king. After his death, Reccared II reigned for just a few days (cf. Isid. hist. Goth. 61). 50 Veltri, ‘Die Novelle 146 peri Hebraion’ (note 38). 51 Stefan Esders, ‘Herakleios, Dagobert und die “beschnittenen Völker”: Die Umwälzungen des Mittelmeerraums im 7. Jahrhundert in der Chronik des sog. Fredegar’, in Jenseits der Grenzen. Beiträge zur spätantiken und frühmittelalterlichen Geschichtsschreibung. Millennium-Studien 25, ed. by Andreas Glotz, Hartmut Leppin, and Heinrich Schlange-Schöningen (Berlin-New York: de Gruyter, 2009), pp. 239–311; James Howard-Johnson, ‘Heraclius’ Persian Campaigns and the Revival of the East Roman Empire 622/630’, War in History 6 (1999), pp. 1–44; James Howard-Johnson, ‘The Official History of Heraclius’ Persian Campaigns’, in The Roman and Byzantine Army in the East, ed. by Edward Dabrowa (Kraków: Krukarnia Uniwersytete Jagiellońskiego, 1994), pp. 57–87; Mary Whitby, ‘A New Image for a New Age. George of Pisidia on the Emperor Heraclius’, ibid., pp. 197–225; Mischa Meier, ‘Der christliche Kaiser zieht (nicht) in den Krieg: “Religionskriege” in der Spätantike?’, in Krieg und Christentum. Religiöse Gewalttheorien in der Kriegserfahrung des Westens: Krieg in der Geschichte 50, ed. by Andreas Holzem (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2009), pp. 254–78.

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this anti-Persian war with religious propaganda, he also inaugurated a new period in Byzantine anti-Judaism. However, for chronological reasons he cannot have been a model for Sisebut. After the conversion of the Visigoths, the Catholic faith was combined with Gothic identity in a new way. The Gothic elite blended in with the Catholic Hispano-Roman majority while maintaining their claim to rulership. All the Gothic kings up until 711, the year of the Muslim conquest, bore Gothic names, indicating that they were chosen from a specific group that considered itself Gothic. The requirement of Gothic descent was even spelled out in ecclesiastical legislation.52 The religious, more specifically anti-Jewish policies of some, but not all Gothic kings may have been an attempt to parade the political competence of a ruler, a practical declaration of orthodoxy. This may have been an attempt to prove that the Gothic elites were willing to safeguard the Catholic religion of the Hispano-Roman population the Goths themselves had only recently adopted. The Frankish rulers of post-Roman Gaul were not faced with such problems. They had long ago accepted the faith of the provincial majority, and, already in the early sixth century, the Merovingian monarchs had been acclaimed as the embodiments of virtuous, Christian kingship by Catholic bishops such as Avitus of Vienne.53 The Merovingians, who had no personal, dynastic, or ‘national’ record of anti-Catholic policies, were in no need of pro-Catholic demonstrations of piety.54 In addition, they could rely on dynastic tradition, which supplied a steady foundation for their rule. King Sisebut was in a far less comfortable position. His political precarity may have induced him to showcase his classical Roman education Conc. Tol. VI, c. 17 (ad 638), in La Colección Canónica Hispana, V: Concilios Hispanos: Segunda Parte, ed. by Gonzalo Martínez Díez/Felix Rodríguez, Monumenta Hispaniae Sacra, Serie Canónica 5 (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1992), pp. 326 f.: ‘Nullus … servilem originem trahens vel extraneae gentis homo, nisi genere Gotus et moribus dignus provehatur ad apicem regni.’ Cf. Drews, Juden und Judentum bei Isidor von Sevilla (note 25), p. 61; Drews, The Unknown Neighbour (note 25), p. 10. 53 ‘Et quicquid felicitas usque hic praestiterat, addet hic sanctitas … non minus eminet sanctitas quam potestas’ (MGH AA 6.2, 76 nr. 46). 54 Tellingly, it was not a Barbarian king, but a Gallo-Roman bishop, Gregory of Tours, who coupled the regional identity of Gaul with orthodoxy (credulitas pura) or ‘our religion’ (nostra religio); see Bernhard Jussen, ‘Liturgie und Legitimation, oder: Wie die Gallo-Romanen das Römische Reich beendeten’, in Institutionen und Ereignis. Über historische Praktiken und Vorstellungen gesellschaftlichen Ordnens, ed. by Reinhard Blänkner/Bernhard Jussen, Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte 138 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998), p. 119. 52


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and Catholic orthodoxy, the latter by way of anti-Jewish policies. And, rather unlike the Merovingian regime, his rule cried out for legitimation. In seeking such a mainstay and hoping to curry favour in the eyes of the Christian God and perhaps also of the provincial Roman majority, he seems to have devised a new, radicalized form of Catholic anti-Judaism.

Barbarian kings and ecclesiastical institutions In 631, the usurper Sisenand, backed by a widespread Visigothic conspiracy and Frankish support, violently overthrew his predecessor Suinthila, calling a church council afterwards to legitimize his accession. This clear indication that he sought ecclesiastical support was tantamount to a quest for religious approval. Moreover, perhaps as early as the first half of the seventh century, but surely in the second, the Goths adopted a biblical ritual to bolster their religious legitimacy: they introduced the rite of royal anointment into the inauguration ceremonies. Gothic kings, then, were on incessant hunt for symbolic and religious capital that might stabilize their rule. When the Carolingians replaced the Merovingians in the eighth century, they also needed religious legitimation for their usurpation.55 As the Visigoths had done before, they used the rite of anointment, but more importantly, they relied on institutions that could provide them with symbolic capital. Crucially, the Roman papacy endorsed the Carolingian usurpation by letters of admonition, by establishing links of spiritual kinship, and by anointing the new rulers. When the Carolingians interfered with theological doctrines, they were careful not to overstep the boundaries of tradition. They limited their involvement to the spheres of Christology, the Trinity, and the veneration of images, avoiding any interference in the affairs of the Jews.56

55 Josef Semmler, Der Dynastiewechsel von 751 und die fränkische Königssalbung. Studia humaniora, series minor 6 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 2003); Arnold Angenendt, ‘Pippins Königserhebung und Salbung’, in Der Dynastiewechsel von 751. Vorgeschichte, Legitimationsstrategien und Erinnerung, ed. by Matthias Becher and Jörg Jarnut (Münster: Scriptorium, 2004), pp. 179–209; id., ‘Rex et sacerdos. Zur Genesis der Königssalbung’, in Tradition als historische Kraft. FS Karl Hauck, ed. by Norbert Kamp and Joachim Wollasch (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1982), pp. 100–18. 56 Wolfram Drews, Die Karolinger und die Abbasiden von Bagdad. Legitimationsstrategien frühmittelalterlicher Herrscherdynastien im transkulturellen

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By contrast, Sisebut was not inclined to rely on ecclesiastical institutions. It was only his successors who called general councils to their capital city, Toledo, to legislate on the affairs of the kingdom, including the succession to the throne and attitudes towards the Jews. That several kings called ‘national’ councils after 633 attests to the pursuit of these monarchs for institutional backing and stability, something Sisebut seems to have neglected during his rule. Lack of dynastic continuity and heightened religious tensions since the end of the sixth century seem to have spurred a crisis of identity at the beginning of the following century. This situation might also be described as a crisis of social configuration: Gothic Barbarians had not yet found their place in the changing post-Roman world. Indeed, some members of the Barbarian elites were still searching for their proper role at the pinnacle of a provincial, post-Roman society. Social and religious constellations were still flexible, which led King Sisebut, who had probably converted to Catholicism in his youth, to assert his religious identity in an extraordinary way. This alone is not sufficient to explain his measures, not the least because his personal outlook was the single most important factor in initiating the policies of forced baptism. But Sisebut’s anxiety may have been triggered by more structural conditions, such as political unpredictability and the problem of the proper religious conduct of an orthodox king at the head of a recently converted elite that had so far been religiously opposed to the majority of its subjects. Instability, both personal and institutional, was the main ground for the sudden deterioration in conditions for Jews in the second decade of the seventh century. At first, it was provoked by a minority opinion within the Gothic elite, but when the ‘problem’ of the unwillingly baptized Jews had been created, the Church and society at large had to deal with it. In 589, Gothic identity had been forged with Catholic faith, but when Sisebut’s decision defined the Catholic faith professed by Christian Hispano-Romans and Goths more specifically as anti-Jewish, he added a missionary impulse to traditional Catholicism. As a result, the traditional Roman order was transformed into a more Catholic order labelled as Gothic. Identity and social order thus rested on religion, not on dynastic continuity. Whereas being a Frank meant being a subject of a Merovingian king, irrespective of individual Roman or Vergleich, Europa im Mittelalter. Abhandlungen und Beiträge zur historischen Komparatistik 12 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2009), pp. 278–97.


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Barbarian descent or religion, being a Goth in seventh-century Spain meant professing the Catholic faith. The Frankish realms enjoyed a less volatile political and religious situation, due to dynastic tradition and the early conversion of the Barbarian invaders to the Catholic religion of most of their Roman subjects. Consequently, questions of identity were less contested; the Frankish world evolved gradually, without the need to sharpen the self-image of the ruling elites by opposing it to rhetorically constructed paradigmatic outsiders, such as the Jews. By the time of the Carolingian usurpation, the formerly Barbarian Franks had become an integral part of the post-Roman world. This made it easier for them to establish institutional links with the Roman papacy. Institutional support provided by the church secured the Carolingian usurpation against any possible internal rivals. It is worth mentioning that this ecclesiastical support did not result in any deterioration in the situation of the Jews under the early Carolingians.

Conclusion Comparison with the Frankish situation has shown that there was no inherent structural reason for radical policies on the part of Barbarian rulers regarding the Jews. The shifting position of Barbarian invaders vis à vis their Roman subjects as well as external and internal rivals and opponents laid the ground for any individual positioning towards the Jews. The Visigothic example is the most extreme one, involving a heightened emphasis on the religious factor in defining the identity of the ruling elite. The situation of the Jews deteriorated when the old binary opposition of ‘Roman’ versus ‘Barbarian’ was replaced with new binary paradigms such as ‘good and bad’, ‘just and unjust’, and ‘Christian and Jewish’.57 In this move, categories of Roman law were superseded by a discourse of orthodoxy, which had the potential to influence the perception and treatment of Jews. It may be helpful to take a final comparative look at the situation in Spain in later medieval and modern times. Some scholars have argued that the presence or absence of religion in the public sphere in Spain is 57 See Jussen, ‘Liturgie und Legitimation’ (note 54), p. 120, referring to the biography of Bishop Caesarius of Arles (vit. Caesar. 2.49): omnes omnino boni malive, iusti et iniusti, Christiani vel Iudaei.

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a decisive factor in defining political positions. The famous controversy between Américo Castro and Claudio Sánchez Albornoz around the concept of convivencia also dealt with the religious identity of Spain, more particularly in the medieval and early modern periods.58 The earliest example of this tendency in Spanish history — if we follow this line of argument — is perhaps the conversion of the Visigoths and the ensuing forced baptism of Spanish Jews. Both instances point to a religious definition of group cohesion and the exclusion of religious alternatives. However, this was not a distinctly Barbarian inclination, but at most — we might say with hindsight — a Spanish one. It ought to be discussed in light of the conditions of certain periods in Spanish history that shaped the factors impacting identities of Spanish communities. Across early medieval kingdoms of the western world, Barbarian elites upheld Roman political and religious traditions, as a rule maintaining the Jewish policies of their Roman predecessors. As we have seen, there was no characteristically Barbarian contribution to the deterioration in the situation of the Jews in the post-Roman Latin world. Rather, the decline can be explained by a combination of structural and individual factors peculiar to early medieval Spain.

58 Américo Castro, España en su historia. Cristianos, moros y judíos (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1948); Américo Castro, La realidad histórica de España. Biblioteca Porrúa 4 (Mexico: Porrua, 1954); Claudio Sánchez Albornoz, España, un enigma histórico (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1956); Claudio Sánchez Albornoz., España y el Islam (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1943); José Luis Gómez Martínez, Américo Castro y el origen de los españoles. Historia de una polémica. Biblioteca románica hispánica 2; Estudios y Ensayos 230 (Madrid: Gredos, 1975).

Giancarlo Lacerenza Between Old and New Barbarians: The Jews of Southern Italy during the ‘Dark Ages’

The period from the fifth to the ninth century witnessed profound changes that provoked a substantial shift in the role of Jews in European society. As is well known, this evolution had its roots in the Christianization of the Roman Empire in the late fourth century, especially under Theodosius I (347–95), which led to the marginalization of Jews in the budding Christian society. Anti-Jewish attitudes soon manifested themselves even outside the strictly religious sphere, impacting the very status of the Jew in society. Initially, this was accomplished through the instrument of legislation. Our understanding of the subsequent period, however, is clouded by a daunting scarcity of sources. I aim to outline the aforementioned historical changes as they occurred in peninsular southern Italy. A brief overview of the juridical context will provide a frame of reference for evidence that we will discuss in greater detail further on.1

See, for instance, in Jeremy Cohen, ‘Roman Imperial Policy toward the Jews from Costantine until the End of the Patriachate’, Byzantine Studies, 3 (1976), 1–29; Alfredo Mordechai Rabello, ‘The Legal Condition of the Jews in the Roman Empire’, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt, ed. by Hildegard Temporini and Wolfgang Haase, II.13 (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1980), pp. 662–762; Amnon Linder, The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987); Linder, The Jews in the Legal Sources of the Early Middle Ages (ibid., 1998); Linder, ‘The Legal Status of the Jews in the Roman Empire’, in The Cambridge History of Judaism, IV. The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period, ed. by Steven T. Katz (Cambridge/ New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 128–73. 1

Barbarians and Jews. Jews and Judaism in the Early Medieval West, ed. by Y. Hen and T. F. X. Noble, DIASPORA 4 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 69–91 © FHG DOI 10.1484/M.DIASPORA-EB.5.116407


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The Legal Framework About a hundred years after the issuing — and rapid failure — of the Milan Edict of 313, and almost sixty years after the banning of paganism in 380, the promulgation of the Codex Theodosianus in 439 bears witness to a changed perception of the Jews in the now confessional and Christian empire. This is particularly well reflected in section 16.8, entitled De iudaeis, caelicolis et samaritanis.2 Despite an abiding attitude of relative tolerance, on juridical and social grounds the Jews found themselves labeled as a nefaria secta and trapped in a paradoxical situation that I have elsewhere defined as ‘subordinate integration’.3 In the time of Antoninus Pius, Jews were granted limited permission to hold public office, notably to honores such as municipal offices. Now, Jews are again mentioned in Constantinian legislation, this time with reference to their exemption from munera. The patriarchs and the presbyteri paid full munera while the hierei archisynagogi and patres synagogarum were subject only to munera corporalia (CTh 16.8.2,4). Under Theodosius I, while the Jews maintained their right of association, which no law had ever prohibited — Iudaeorum sectam nulla lege prohibitam satis constat (CTh 16.8.9) — they were still required to attend town curiae. At the same time, there was an increase in measures aimed at separating the Christian from the Jewish world, such as through the prohibition of mixed marriages.4 The imperial authority had sought for some time to prevent conversion to Judaism, most notably by introducing the crime of apostasy. Christians who converted to the Jewish faith had already been at least partly prosecutable through the laws against circumcision. Now, in the age of Theodosius II (401–50), they were further Klaus Dieter Reichardt, ‘Die Judengesetzgebung im Codex Theodosianus’, Kairos, 20 (1978), 16–39; Marianne Dacy, ‘The Jews in the Theodosian Code’, Australian Journal of Jewish Studies, 16 (2002), 52–76; Hagith Sivan, ‘Canonizing Law in Late Antiquity: Legal Constructs of Judaism in the Theodosian Code’, in Homer, the Bible, and Beyond: Literary and Religious Canons in the Ancient World, ed. by Margalit Finkelberg and Guy G. Stroumsa (Leiden: Brill, 2003), pp. 213–55. 3 Giancarlo Lacerenza, ‘I precedenti delle leggi razziali nel mondo antico: analogie, differenze’, in Atti delle Giornate di studio per i settant’anni delle leggi razziali in Italia (Napoli, 17 e 25 novembre 2008), ed. by Giancarlo Lacerenza and Rosanna Spadaccini, Archivio di Studi Ebraici, 1 (Napoli: Centro di Studi Ebraici — Università ‘L’Orientale’, 2009), pp. 37–45. 4 On the Jews and town curiae, Giovanni de Bonfils, Omnes … ad implenda ­munia teneantur. Ebrei curie e prefetture fra IV e V secolo (Bari: Cacucci, 1998); on the mixed marriages, Alfredo Mordechai Rabello, ‘Il problema dei matrimoni fra Ebrei e Cristiani nella legislazione imperiale e in quella della chiesa (IV–VI secolo)’, Atti dell’Accademia Romanistica Costantiniana, 7 (1988), 213–24. 2

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threatened with confiscation of property and the loss of rights, including testamentary capacity. In 429, in Galilee, the institution of the patriarchate also came to an end, despite the prestige and privileges it still enjoyed during the early years of Theodosius’ rule.5 Leaving aside several contradictions, Christian imperial legislation concerning Judaism focuses on progressively depriving the Jews of their autonomy and privileges, and restructuring their scope of action to answer the needs and scruples of the majority. An example of this thrust is the prohibition (of 425), addressed especially to the Jews, of attending shows on the holiest days of the Christian calendar — Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, and the Epiphany. A more severe measure, issued shortly thereafter, was the prohibition on erecting new synagogues. Only the restoration of previously existing synagogues was allowed, ne qua iudaica synagoga in novam fabricam surgat, fulciendi veteres permissa licentia, quae ruinam minantur [‘in order that no new synagogues shall be built, just permitting to restore those threatening to fall into ruins’; CJ 1.9.18, year 439]. Strangely, the harsh norms against the Jews enforced early in the reign of Justinian (527–565) — including the definitive abrogation of Jewish autonomy in the managing of religious affairs (cf. already CJ 1.9.8) — do not seem to have drawn strong opposition or even to have left an enduring impression, either in the eastern or the western Jewish world.6 The last phase of the age of Justinian, however, was especially significant for Jewish history, since some of the new laws issued after the Codex Iustiniani — the so-called Novellae — directly concerned the Jews. Among these, Novella 146 (year 553) was especially important. In the name of the general and apparently liberal objective of permitting the use of Greek in synagogal liturgy — or of any local idiom allowing the biblical text to be better understood — the Novella prohibited the use of texts or teachings that could lead to divergent interpretations of the Scriptures. Thus, while it did not ban the use of Hebrew, it explicitly forbade the teaching of the oral tradition — the deuterōsis, as it is called in the text. Consequently, the whole apparatus of rabbinic exegesis of the biblical text, which was based on the transmission of an adogmatic Lee I. Levine, The Rabbinic Class of Roman Palestine in Late Antiquity (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1990); Richard Kalmin, The Sage in Jewish Society of Late Antiquity (London/New York: Routledge, 1999); Giovanni de Bonfils, I Patriarchi della legislazione tardo antica (Bari: Cacucci, 2006); David Goodblatt, ‘The Political and Social History of the Jewish Community in the Land of Israel, c. 235–638’, in CHJ, IV, pp. 404–30. 6 Alfredo Mordechai Rabello, Giustiniano, Ebrei e Samaritani alla luce delle fonti storico-letterarie, ecclesiastiche e giuridiche (Milano: Giuffrè, 1987–88). 5


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and non-conclusive superimposition of opinions and maxims, was outlawed.7 The Novellae 45, 131, and 146 (respectively issued in 537, 545, and 553) confirmed previous prohibitions and introduced new ones, notably concerning the possibility for Jews to purchase former Church property. They also reintroduced obligations, such as, once again, that of accepting onerous offices in local administrations, notwithstanding the fact that Jews had long been excluded from all honors connected to those offices. On the strength of the general legislative orientation, local ecclesiastical authorities often felt authorized to impose upon Jewish communities residing within their territories obligations that in some cases became norms. These included the requirement that Jews attend homilies on festive days or to observe silence in the performance of synagogal rites, on pain of the transformation of the synagogue into a church; or, again, the prohibition of appearing in public during the Easter period. Such abuses were not infrequent, and on several occasions induced civil justice to take action against religious authorities and sometimes even against the heads of the clergy. Pope Gregory I the Great’s (591–604) warnings addressed to Italian bishops who molested the Jews have been well researched; shortly, we will examine an example of such abuse. Laudable as these actions in defense of the Jews were, however, they were inevitably coupled with conversionary aims. Moreover, such behavior was quite exceptional.

Italy: Fifth–Eighth Centuries Tracing the Jewish situation through the more obscure centuries of the Middle Ages, among peoples who were not simply ‘Greeks’, ‘Romans’, or even ‘Egyptians’, is an arduous task. As is well known, this period is very poorly documented. Significant documentary evidence for Italy, Provence and, later, the Rhine region appears only around the ninth century.8 This picture is not true, however, for the Euro-Mediterranean Vittore Colorni, ‘L’uso del greco nella liturgia del giudaismo ellenistico e la Novella 146 di Giustiniano’, in Colorni, Judaica minora. Saggi sulla storia dell’ebraismo italiano dall’antichità all’età moderna (Milano: Giuffrè, 1983), pp. 1–66; Leonard V. Rutgers, ‘Justinian’s Novella 146 Between Jews and Christians’, in Jewish Culture and Society under the Christian Roman Empire, ed. by Richard Lee Kalmin and Seth Schwartz (Leuven: Peeters, 2003), pp. 385–407. 8 Bernhard Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens dans le monde occidental, 430–1096 (Paris: Mouton, 1960). 7

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area, where from the fifth to the eighth centuries a number of written and archaeological testimonies have survived, especially from southern Italy, Sicily, and Spain. In this peculiar context of dynamic co-existence and socio-legal conflicts among various political forces acting contemporaneously on the same ground, these precious testimonies of Jewish life enable us to see, even through a cloudy mirror of scattered evidence and Genizah silence, how the Jews were changed and changed themselves (or resisted change) before different kinds of authorities and cultural pressure.9 In general terms, and given the ties between Judaea and Rome, dealing with Italy means first of all that we may be confronting the oldest Jewry of the western diaspora.10 The ‘Rome’ referred to in ancient and late antique sources, however, is not always to be identified with the urban space at the center of Italian peninsula. Indeed, since the first century ce, the inflow of Jewish slaves in Roman Italy boosted the Jewish population not only of Rome but also of the vast southern Due to its specific status, even in the ‘barbarian’ ages, given the presence of the popes, Rome shall not be considered here. It must be observed, however, that — strangely enough — despite the evidence available, to date few attempts have been made to describe the Jewish presence in Rome in the period between the last stage of Late Antiquity and the High Middle Ages. At its best, a partial picture is available till the sixth century, thanks to a few funerary inscriptions, among the latest of the local Jewish catacombs and burial places. On this documentation, largely limited to fourth to fifth century, see Harry J. Leon, The Jews of Ancient Rome (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1960); Leonard V. Rutgers, The Jews in Late Ancient Rome: Evidence of Cultural Interaction in the Roman Diaspora, Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 126 (Leiden: Brill, 1995; repr. 2000); David Noy, Foreigners at Rome: Citizens and Strangers (London/Swansea: Duckworth — Classical Press of Wales, 2000), esp. pp. 255–67; Noy, ‘Immigrant and Jewish Families at Rome in the 2nd–5th Centuries’, in Les frontières du profane dans l’antiquité tardive, ed. by Éric Rebillard and Claire Sotinel (Rome: École Française de Rome, 2010), pp. 199–211. 10 As introductory readings, Heikki Solin, ‘Juden und Syrer im westlichen Teil der römischen Welt’, in ANRW, II.29.2 (1983), pp. 587–789, 1222–49; Fergus Millar, ‘The Jews of the Graeco-Roman Diaspora between Paganism and Christianity’, in The Jews among Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire, ed. by Judith Lieu and others (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 97–132; Martin Goodman, ‘Jews and Judaism in the Mediterranean Diaspora in the Late-Roman Period: The Limitations of Evidence’, Journal of Mediterranean History, 4 (1994), 208–24; James M. G. Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to Trajan (323 B.C.E.–117 C.E.) (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996); Studies on the Jewish Diaspora in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods, ed. by. Benjamin Isaac and Aharon Oppenheimer (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University — Ramot, 1996); Leonard V. Rutgers, The Hidden Heritage of Diaspora Judaism (Leuven: Peeters, 1998); Margaret H. Williams, The Jews among the Greek and Romans: A Diasporan Sourcebook (London — Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998); Erich S. Gruen, Diaspora: Jews amidst Greeks and Romans (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2002). 9


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Italian area, where important productive activities, mainly agricultural in nature, had long been concentrated. Ancient sources provide only generic information about this demographic increase, which is described more explicitly only in early medieval sources, such as the Sefer Yosippon. But various archaeological, and especially epigraphic finds from Campania and Apulia, point to a sizable Jewish presence in southern Italy in late Roman times.11 In quantitative terms, the most abundant evidence comes notably from the girdle between the presentday regions of Campania and, passing through northern Calabria with the Apulian-Lucanian area, the extreme borders of the Salento peninsula. Considering all the available evidence, it has been noted that in the first few centuries ce, southern Italy already had a resident Jewish population of considerable size.12 The antiquity and diffusion of these settlements might account for the apparently exaggerated claim of the Yosippon about the number of captives from Judaea carried by Titus into Italy soon after the destruction of the Temple, allegedly established between Taranto and Otranto.13 Hence, it is no surprise that during the darkest period of Jewish history in Europe, around the seventh and eighth centuries, some believed that southern Italy — the Jewish Magna Gracia, or Iṭalyah šel Yawan — could be regarded as a kind of new promised land, identifying it with the ‘fat land’ of Jacob.14 Indeed, this fertile country was a magnet for powers in different periods. Already in the sixth century, southern Italy entered into a peculiar situation. Its division into East and West, with the pope at the borders, led to a variety of approaches in dealing with the Jews. The Goths, early ‘barbarians’ who, for a period of time, controlled territories there, initially practiced toleration towards the Jews. When a good part of their territory fell under the control of Byzantium, however, they were suddenly affected by the harsh legislation imposed by Justinian (527–565). Nonetheless, in the remaining territories controlled by the Lombards — and subsequently in the Langobardia minor in general — the climate Giancarlo Lacerenza, ‘Le iscrizioni giudaiche in Italia dal I al VI secolo: tipologie, origine, distribuzione’, in I beni culturali ebraici in Italia, ed. by Mauro Perani (Ravenna: Longo, 2003), pp. 71–92. 12 David Noy, ‘Jews in Italy in the 1st–6th Centuries C.E.’, in The Jews of Italy: Memory and Identity, ed. by Bernard Cooperman and Barbara Garvin (Potomac: Maryland University Press, 2000), pp. 47–64; Leonard V. Rutgers, ‘The Jews of Italy, c. 235–638’, in CHJ, IV, pp. 492–508. 13 The Josippon [Josephus Gorionides], ed. by David Flusser (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1978–80; 19812), I, pp. 432–33. 14 See Berešiṯ Rabbah 67.6 (on Genesis 27.28). 11

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remained more relaxed. And even there, when in Lombard territories the hand of the Church of Rome made itself felt, local religious authorities had more influence on Jewish living conditions than the Lombard dukes themselves.15 Another element of interference was the authority of the Roman-Byzantine imperial juridical corpus — that is, the Codex Iustiniani and the Novellae — which made itself felt well beyond the areas directly or indirectly controlled by Byzantium. This is evident, for instance, in the prohibition for Jews to purchase ecclesiastical property (Novella 131). Below, we portray a few moments of Jewish social and cultural life in these territories and demonstrate the ways in which different ambient instances influenced the Jews in these highly attractive but also difficult and disputed territories.

Naples In 476, the last of the Roman emperors of the West, Romulus Augustulus, was exiled far from Rome to a fortress surrounded by the sea known as the Castrum Lucullanum, today Castel dell’Ovo, in the bay of Naples. The city, at the centre of the region still called Campania felix, was taken over by the Goths, along with the rest of Italy, but remained under their control for only fifty years. In 536 it was indeed In general, Ottorino Bertolini, ‘Longobardi e Bizantini nell’Italia meridionale. La politica dei principi longobardi fra Occidente e Oriente dai problemi della “renovatio” dell’impero in Occidente con Carlo Magno alla sua crisi con Carlo III “il grosso” (774–788)’, in Benevento, Montevergine, Salerno, Amalfi. Atti del III Congresso Internazionale di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo (Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 1959), pp. 103–24; Vera von Falkenhausen, ‘I Longobardi meridionali’, in Storia d’Italia, 3. Il Mezzogiorno dai Bizantini a Federico II, ed. by Giuseppe Galasso (Utet: Torino, 1977), pp. 249–364; Stefano Gasparri, ‘L’Italia meridionale contesa tra Bizantini, Longobardi, Franchi e Saraceni’, in Storia della società italiana, 5. L’Italia dell’Alto Medioevo (Milano: Teti, 1984), pp. 169–97; Paolo Delogu, ‘La giustizia nell’Italia meridionale longobarda’, in La giustizia nell’Alto medioevo (secoli IX–XI), Settimane del Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 44 (Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 1997), pp. 257–308. Among the few studies on the Jewish presence in Lombard Italy, see Gian Piero Bognetti, ‘Les inscriptions juives de Venosa et le problème des rapports entre les Lombards et l’Orient’, Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 1954, pp. 193–202 (also in Bognetti, L’età longobarda, Milano: Giuffrè, 1967, III, pp. 507–18); Cesare Colafemmina, ‘Insediamenti e condizione degli Ebrei nell’Italia meridionale ed insulare’, in Gli Ebrei nell’Alto Medioevo, Settimane 26 (Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 1980), pp. 197–227. See also Samuele Rocca, ‘The Impact of the Barbarian Invasions on the Jews of Roman Italy: New Perspectives’, Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia 14 (2016), 41–56. 15


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conquered by the Byzantines, who succeeded in maintaining control of the city for centuries. Eventually, Naples even became an autonomous Byzantine dukedom, managing to successfully hold out against pressure from the much vaster surrounding area dominated by the Lombards. This dukedom only fell in the twelfth century, more precisely in 1137, when all the Italian South was gradually taken over by the Normans.16 In the transition from Arian-Gothic to Byzantine domination, the Jewish population of Naples experienced a significant worsening of its condition, from a situation of relative prosperity to one marked by crises and sudden changes. In the early Imperial age, the local community was probably connected to the flourishing Alexandrine colony. The Alexandrines resided in the Vicus Alexandrinorum along the lower decumanus, in a neighborhood accordingly called Regio Nilensis (the Nile region: so named because a river traversed it). In this period, the Jews must also have lived in this area, more specifically near the stretch of the town walls looking out towards the sea, as indicated by several clues. Notably, several passages in Procopius’ Gothic War (1.8.41, 10.24–26), and some medieval sources mention in the same place a synagogue, which seems to have been active for several centuries.17 It is likely that at the time of the Vandalic incursions, in the fifth century, the Jewish population of Naples was boosted by an influx of fugitives from unfortified surrounding areas, notably the nearby town and ancient harbour of Puteoli (Pozzuoli). In that period, moreover, Puteoli, which had hosted an old and prosperous Jewish community mentioned several times by Philo Alexandrinus and Flavius Josephus, was in the process of disappearing under water as its coasts subsided under the effect of bradyseism. Finds within the ancient urban perimeter confirm the presence of Jews in Naples in late ancient times, but several documents bear witness to the presence of Jews in various other cities of Campania, such as Capua and Abellinum, and especially in the Nocera-Sarno plain, an agricultural environment, which has yielded several epitaphs in Greek.18 16 Barbara M. Kreutz, Before the Normans: Southern Italy in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996); Paul Arthur, Naples: From Roman Town to City-State (London: British School of Archaeology in Rome, 2002); Amedeo Feniello, Napoli: società ed economia (902–1137), Nuovi Studi Storici, 89 (Roma: Istituto Storico per il Medio Evo, 2011). 17 Giancarlo Lacerenza, ‘La topografia storica delle giudecche di Napoli nei secoli X-XVI’, Materia giudaica, 11 (2006), 113–42. 18 For a general overview of these inscriptions, see Elena Miranda, ‘Iscrizioni giudaiche del napoletano’, in Roma, la Campania e l’Oriente cristiano antico, ed. by Luigi Cirillo and Giancarlo Rinaldi (Napoli: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 2000), pp. 189–209. The corpus I shall refer to for Jewish epigraphic material is David Noy,

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We shall discuss one of them19 here because it mentions a rebbi Abba Mari, ‘the honoured one’, who was, as his name suggests, probably of Palestinian origin. This inscription belongs to the fifth century, and it is difficult not to recognize in Abba Mari a religious leader of the local community, given his titles and the use of Greek in an almost totally Latin cultural context.20 It seems not without significance that two other texts found in the same Nolan area, near the ancient town of Nuceria Alfaterna, are both in Greek and commemorate respectively a scribe (grammateus) Pedonius and his wife Myrina, presbytera: literally, ‘priestess’.21 In late ancient times, this area was marked by a strong Christian environment — many palaeo-Christian monuments testify to this situation to this day — and arguably, Jews were subject to varying levels of compulsion to convert. The Jews of Naples and its surrounding areas were not unaffected by the Theodosian laws of 438, which drastically curtailed the Jews’ social status and impacted on conversions in the western Mediterranean. In this light, we ought to consider that, in 444, when describing the funerary cortege of John I, bishop of Naples, the presbyter Uranius mentions the presence of a great number of neophyti (cum ingenti neophytorum pompa, ‘with a large retinue of neophytes’). Considering the period, these must have been converted Jews, not pagans.22 In any case, the Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe, I. Italy (Excluding the City of Rome), Spain and Gaul (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993; hereafter, JIWE I); and Noy, Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe, II. The City of Rome, ibid., 1995; JIWE II). 19 JIWE I.22 (found in Brusciano, maybe belonging to Nola). 20 Nonetheless, it seems that not every ancient inscription mentioning a ‘rabbi’ is a record of rabbinic positions. Of about sixty texts mentioning a ‘rabbi’ considered by Shaye J. D. Cohen, ‘Epigraphical Rabbis’, Jewish Quarterly Review, 72 (1981), 1–17, very few would refer to effective rabbinical figures. The term is simply used as honorific title. This seems not to have been the case, however, of the Abba Mari epitaph and of other southern Italian texts mentioning ‘rabbis’ (also from Naples and Venosa). On this evidence, see Giancarlo Lacerenza, ‘Rabbis in Jewish Inscriptions of South Italy from Late Antiquity to the High Middle Ages’, in Diversity and Rabbinisation: Jewish Texts et Societies between 400 and 1000 ce: International Conference, Paris, 24–26 June 2015, ed. by Gavin McDowell, Ron Naiweld, Judith Schlanger, and Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra (forthcoming). 21 David Noy, ‘Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe: Addenda et Corrigenda’ in Hebraica hereditas. Studi in onore di Cesare Colafemmina, ed. by Giancarlo Lacerenza, Series Minor, 70 (Napoli: Università ‘L’Orientale’, 2005), pp. 123–42 (p. 128, nr. 41ab). As for presbytera, various interpretations have been advanced to explain titles of this kind applied to women: the widest discussion is still in Bernadette J. Brooten, Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogues (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1982). Personally, I am convinced that in most cases this title — sometimes applied to infants — denotes a sacerdotal rank of kohanim and not a religious function. 22 Uranius, Ad Pacatum, 11 (PL 53, 866).


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Ostrogoth Theodoric’s later takeover of Campania (494–526) marked a reversal of this anti-Jewish trend. Direct testimony in this regard is provided by inscriptions from an above-ground cemetery found in an area that was suburban at the time.23 The epitaphs, which bear no date, have been attributed to between the fourth and the sixth century. In the epitaph of a certain Barbarus (JIWE I.27) we read, however, a ‘sixth indiction’, which would place all these texts — all of which but one are formally consistent — between the end of the fifth and the beginning of the sixth century, hence, within the period of Gothic domination. All the inscriptions found in this once isolated place are in Latin — except for one, which is in Greek — and draw on a formulaic repertory similar to that of coeval Christian epitaphs. However, they also display typical Hebrew expressions such as šalom, šalom ‘al menuḥateḵa, amen, sela. In one case, the name of the deceased (Numerius) is transcribed in Jewish characters, and the dead man is qualified as ebreus. Notably, only three out of ten of the individuals mentioned in these epitaphs are qualified as ‘Jews’, and none of them as iudaei, but hebraei. This includes the aforementioned Numerius, ebreus; Criscentia, daughter of Pascasus, ebrea; Flaes, ebreus.24 No satisfactory explanation has yet been given for the shift from the commonest designation of ‘Jew’ to ‘Hebrew’, which also appears several times in Rome, where a ‘synagogue of the Hebrews’ (tōn hebreōn) existed.25 If the hypothesis that its bearers were speakers or users of Hebrew and Aramaic, is correct — as it seems to me — then we should consider in Naples the presence of Jews, among the other provenances, of Palestinian origins as well, as the honoured Rabbi Abba Mari of Brusciano probably also was. Moreover, the recipient of the only Greek epitaph in the group ( JIWE I.30) also appears to hail from Palestine. This was Binyamin of Caesarea, a community leader (prostatēs) further distinguished because the other deceased carry only Latin names. In his short epitaph, he is called kaesareus, the use of Greek pointing to the Palestinian city, Caesarea — where, according to some Talmudic sources (such as Talmud Yerušalmi, Berakhoth 3.1.6a), the synagogal liturgy was also celebrated in Greek — rather than Elisabetta Serrao, ‘Nuove iscrizioni da un sepolcreto giudaico di Napoli’, Puteoli 12–13 (1988–89), pp. 103–17; JIWE I.27–35; Miranda, ‘Iscrizioni’. 24 Respectively, JIWE I.33, 35, and 37. The association of the Flaes epitaph — now at the Jewish Museum in New York — to this bundle of texts has been demonstrated in Giancarlo Lacerenza, ‘Frustula iudaica neapolitana’, Annali dell’Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli, 58 (1998), pp. 334–46 (120–21). 25 Although it is mentioned in Greek epitaphs a bit earlier, dated to the thirdfourth centuries ( JIWE II.2, 33, 578–79). 23

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to Caesarea in Mauritania (Africa). From a possibly coeval text from Naples, of unknown provenance, we also learn about the existence of a Rebbi Abundantius. Under the epitaph of his daughter Venus, two lines in Hebrews characters can be read, partially translating the Latin text.26 Nevertheless, it is fairly certain that this group of Jews buried in late Gothic Naples was effectively of mixed provenance since a North African origin for at least a couple of the deceased — notably Gaudiosus, civis Mauritaniae, and possibly Erena, whose name was common at Cyrene — can be identified. Furthermore, others were ‘Italian’ but not Neapolitan: namely, the above-mentioned Barbarus, from Venafrum (northern Campania), and the young Hereni, with her father Thelesinus, from Rome (JIWE I.28). It is surprising, and probably also significant, that such a limited piece of evidence can show us how composite was the Jewish community of Naples in the late Gothic age. If a conclusion can be drawn from these data, it is that the city was regarded — at least in those decades — as a safe place to live, despite the obvious risks connected with the Christian institutions. For the subsequent period, we have a fairly vivid picture of Naples on the eve of the Byzantine conquest (536) thanks to Procopius of Caesarea, who in his Gothic War gave an account of the Roman-Byzantine ‘reconquest’ of Southern Italy.27 Procopius relates that when the town authorities met to decide if the city should surrender to the imperial army, as many other areas in southern Italy already had, or — as a minority argued — resist and support the Goths, it was the Jewish community that tipped the scales in favor of the minority side. The Jews guaranteed grain supplies to the city during the siege and offered to man the most dangerous stretch of the walls, the one facing the sea. Clearly, then, we are dealing here with a demographically strong and politically influential Neapolitan Jewish community which also played an important economic role. It is likely the Jews who were most engaged in the peregrina commercia (foreign trade) that Cassiodorus tells us were conducted

JIWE I.36; for the Hebrew text, Lacerenza, ‘Frustula’, pp. 339–41, nr. 5. Procopius, De Bello Gothico, I.viii.41, x.24–26. Procopius. History of the Wars, Books V and VI, ed. by Henry B. Dewing, Loeb Classical Library (London/Cambridge MA: Heinemann — Harvard University Press, 1953), pp. 68–107; Ludovico Gatto, ‘L’Italia meridionale ne La guerra gotica di Procopio di Cesarea: gli aspetti militari, politici ed economico-sociali’, in Incontri di popoli e culture tra V e IX secolo. Atti delle V Giornate di studio sull’età romanobarbarica (Benevento 1997), ed. by Marcello Rotili (Napoli: Arte Tipografica, 1998), pp. 31–58. 26 27


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along the coast of Campania in those years.28 Procopius reports that during the twenty days of the siege, the Jews fought strenuously and laid down their weapons only after the city had been captured, using a stratagem from a whole other direction. The whole account shows the degree to which the Jews feared a transition from the Gothic regime — which espoused the relatively liberal attitude of Arianism — to the orbit of Byzantium. Justinian’s attitude towards Judaism had already become manifest, especially in Africa, in the immediately preceding years. Indeed, Naples did follow a similar pattern, the Byzantines adopting harsh measures against those who had supported their rivals. In all likelihood, the Jews were among the principal victims of the massacres carried out in the city in the wake of the invasion both by the Byzantine general Belisarios29 and by the Neapolitan citizens themselves, who reserved a cruel treatment for Pastor and Asclepiodotos, the two Christian leaders of the pro-Gothic minority faction.30 For some decades after these events, no further information is available. At the beginning of the seventh century, however, the letters of Pope Gregory the Great again shed light on the lives of the Jews of Naples. These missives indicate that in a short time, the Jews’ condition had undergone several changes. In those years, Gregory was busy dealing with conflicts that were igniting everywhere between local ecclesiastic authorities — which frequently were in fact regarded as the principal authority — and the Jewish population. Thus, his correspondence tells us a great deal about these clashes.31 As regards Naples, Gregory repeat Cassiodorus, Variae, IV.5 (ed. Mommsen, p. 117): ‘Atque ideo devotio tua praesenti auctoritate cognoscat omnes navicularios Campaniae, Lucaniae sive Tusciae fideiussoribus idoneis se debere committere, ut cum victualibus speciebus tantum proficiscantur ad Gallias, habituri licentiam distrahendi sic ut inter emptorem venditoremque convenerit’ (‘Having heard that there is [a] dearth in our Gaulish Provinces we direct your Devotion to take bonds from the shipmasters along the whole western coast of Italy — Lucania, Campania, and Thuscia — that they will go with supplies of food only to the Gauls, having liberty to dispose of their cargoes as may be agreed between buyer and seller’; transl. Hodgkin 1896). As for the Jewish role during the siege of Naples, cf. Nicola Ferorelli, ‘La partecipazione degli Ebrei alla difesa di Napoli contro Belisario’, Il Vessillo Israelitico, 63 (1915), 146–47; Eliodoro Savino, ‘Ebrei a Napoli nel VI sec. d.C.’, in Hebraica hereditas, pp. 301–15. 29 Procopius, De Bello Gothico, I.x.28–29. 30 Procopius, De Bello Gothico, I.x.46–47. 31 Sofia Boesch Gajano, ‘Per una storia degli Ebrei in Occidente fra Antichità e Medioevo. La testimonianza di Gregorio Magno’, Quaderni Medievali, 8 (December 1979), 12–43; Ernst Bammel, ‘Gregor der Grosse und die Juden’, in Gregorio Magno e il suo tempo. XIX Incontro di studiosi dell’antichità cristiana, Roma 28

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edly mentions the economic activities of the local Jews, some of which appear to have had an international scope. Thus, despite the feared Byzantine domination, the community still included members involved successfully in foreign trade. Notably, Gregory mentions the key role of Neapolitan Jews in maritime trade, and especially in the importation of slaves, whom they purchased from other merchants in Gaul.32 This commerce was especially beneficial for Byzantine officials (who are explicitly mentioned as buyers), since most of the slave workforce, and above all the rural slaves, was outside the dukedom, and hence under the control of their enemies, the Lombards. This role of Jewish merchants as go-betweens raised a juridical-religious problem since Jews were not allowed to own Christian slaves. It is worth dwelling on a case on which Gregory was consulted in 599 by the then-bishop of Naples, Fortunatus. According to the bishop, a Neapolitan Jew named Basilius, some of whose sons had converted to Christianity, had taken advantage of their conversion to fictitiously donate some slaves to them, so that even should these slaves, who were pagans, convert to Christianity they could continue to serve in his home. In this case, Gregory urged Bishop Fortunatus to limit himself to making sure that the slaves were baptized and that Basilius’ sons did not send them to work in their father’s house.33 Thus, bishops in Naples as well as elsewhere in Italy sought every occasion to make life difficult for the Jews. Gregory’s last recorded intervention concerning the Neapolitan Jews, in the year 602, concerned yet another conflict arising from religious controversy. This time, however, it was the Neapolitan Jews themselves who turned to the pope. They complained that several citizens, encouraged by the Bishop Paschasius, regularly interrupted, sometimes violently, the performance of Jewish rites on Christian holidays. In this case, Gregory intervened in defense of the Jews. He wrote directly to the bishop to remind him that Neapolitan Jews had long been granted (longis retro temporibus) the

1990 (Roma: Institutum Patristicum ‘Augustinianum’, 1991), II, pp. 283–91; Lisania Giordano, Giustizia e potere giudiziario ecclesiastico nell’epistolario di Gregorio Magno, Quaderni di Vetera Christianorum, 25 (Bari: Edipuglia, 1998). 32 Gregory the Great, Epistulae, (ed. Norberg) IV.9 (year 596). On these activities, see Giancarlo Lacerenza, ‘Attività ebraiche nella Napoli medievale: un excursus’, in Tra storia e urbanistica. Colonie mercantili e minoranze etniche in Campania tra Medioevo ed Età moderna, ed. by Teresa Colletta, Storia dell’Urbanistica / Campania, 8 (Roma: Kappa, 2008), pp. 33–40. 33 Gregory the Great, Epistulae, IX.36 (35) and IX.61.


Giancarlo Lacerenza

right to perform religious ceremonies even on Christian festive days. The pope’s closing words to Paschasius are worth quoting here: Qui sincera intentione extraneos ad christianam religionem, ad fidem cupiunt rectam adducere, blandimentis debent, non asperitatibus, studere, ne quorum mentem reddita piana ratio poterat provocare, pellat procul adversitas. Nam quicumque aliter agunt et eos sub hoc velamine a consueta ritus sui volunt cultura sospendere, suas illi magisquam Dei probantur causas attendere.34

For the following period and until the ninth century, our sources for Naples grow increasingly silent: but this is not without reason. We know that the city witnessed a general demographic decline as a consequence of several epidemics and that it was torn by the conflict between the iconodules and iconoclasts, concluded with the city’s definitive casting off of the authority of Byzantium under the bishop-duke Stephanus II (768–800). Throughout this period, however, we have reason to believe that the Jewish community lived on uninterruptedly since an act stipulated in Naples in February 984 mentions a sinagoga hebreorum right below the ducal palace.35 This synagogue building must have been the same one of the Roman period, and certainly prior to 439, when — as seen above — the erection of new synagogues was prohibited by Theodosius II. Recent archaeological investigations have shed new light on economic activities in this neighborhood between the sixth and eighth century, showing that in the area just below the synagogue a small glass factory and possibly dye-works were established. While this can only be regarded as circumstantial evidence, between Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, both glassmaking and dyeing were activities usually performed by Jews.36

34 ‘Those who with sincere intent wish to bring to the true faith all who are alien from the Christian religion should do so with pleasant words, not harsh ones; lest they be driven away by a hostile attitude, rather than appealed to by calm reasoning. Thus, whosoever act otherwise and would suspend people from their accustomed rites with such behavior, appear to be intent on their own cause rather than on God’s’ (transl. Barmby, 1898); Gregory the Great, Epistulae, XIII.13 (15). 35 Lacerenza, ‘La topografia’, pp. 120–23. 36 Daniela Giampaola, ‘Dagli studi di Bartolommeo Capasso agli scavi della metropolitana: ricerche sulle mura di Napoli e sull’evoluzione del paesaggio costiero’, Napoli Nobilissima, 5th series, 5 (2004), 35–56 (pp. 45–46, 50–52); Lacerenza, ‘La topografia’, p. 117 fn. 24.

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Venosa In an area only slightly more to the south of the Campania region, we find that the transition from Late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages determined there quite different living conditions for the Jews. The area in question lies in the modern region of Basilicata; in its middle is the most important and best-known site in the archaeology of southern Italian Jews: Venosa, in Roman age included in Apulia. The ancient Venusia is especially remarkable for its celebrated Jewish catacombs, discovered in 1853, which have yielded a rich epigraphic documentation.37 The main Jewish cemetery stood very close to the Christian catacombs in an area outside the town. This consisted of several superimposed tunnels, only a small part of which has been explored. More than seventy epigraphs were found here, mostly painted or scratched on the plaster used to seal the tombs. The only one bearing a date, the epitaph of Augusta, is from the year 521. The others seem to date from the fourth century to the late sixth.38 Apparently, from Roman times to the Middle Ages, Venosa housed a large Jewish population. The inscriptions from the catacomb, some of which are quite elaborate, indicate that Jews were well integrated in local society and many of them even enjoyed high status, as various mentions of public offices bear out. The influence of Judaism on the local community is confirmed by the presence of proselytes — or at least ‘God-fearers’ — in another cemetery in the same hill, the socalled ‘Lauridia hypogeum’.39 The community offices included, as in Rome and elsewhere, presbyters, gerusiarchs, archisynagogoi, and patres synagogae; a bilingual Greek-Hebrew epitaph (JIWE I.48) mentions a didaskalos Iakobōs, a teacher. In the Latin-Hebrew epitaph of the young girl Faustina (JIWE I.86), there are mentioned duo apostuli et duo rebbites, two apostles and two rabbis, who sang dirges for the deceased girl: ‘rabbis’ must be considered here as a religious title.40 In its strange 37 Epitaphs in JIWE I.42–112; for the history of these discoveries, Giancarlo Lacerenza, ‘Le antichità giudaiche di Venosa. Storia e documenti’, Archivio Storico per le Province Napoletane, 116 (1998), pp. 293–418. 38 For the epitaph of Augusta, see JIWE I.107 and below. For the chronology of the remaining inscriptions, Noy, in JIWE I, pp. xviii–xxi; Noy, ‘The Jewish Communities of Leontopolis and Venosa’, in Studies in Early Jewish Epigraphy, ed. by Jan Willelm van Henten and Pieter Willelm van der Horst (Leiden: Brill, 1994), pp. 162–82. 39 JIWE I.113–16 and p. xvii. 40 As for the apostles, many scholars identified them as envoys of the Palestinian patriarchate to Gothic-Byzantine Jewish communities in Italy, passing by Venosa at


Giancarlo Lacerenza

mixture of late Latin, Greek words and letters, and Hebrew expressions, the text reads as follows:41 Hic cisqued Faustina filia Faustini pat(ris), annorum quattuordeci, mηnsurum quinque, que fuet unica pare[n]turum. Quei dixerunt trηnus duo apostuli e[t] duo rebbites. Et satis grande(m) dolurem fecet parentebus, et lagremas cibitati. ‫משכה ש[ל] פווסטינה נוח נפש שלום‬ Que fuet pronepus Faustini pat(ris), nepus Biti et Acelli, qui fuerunt maiures cibitatis. Here rests Faustina, daughter of Faustinus the father, aged fourteen years five months. She was her parents’ only child. Two apostles and two rabbis spoke the dirges for her, and she made great enough grief for her parents and tears for the community. (Hebrew) Resting-place of Faustina. May her soul rest! Peace. She was the great-granddaughter of Faustinus the father, granddaughter of Vitus and Asellus, who were leaders of the community.

Such inscriptions signal the change in social status of the members of the Venosa Jewish community between the fifth and the sixth century. But to appreciate this change, we need to know that ever since the thirties of the sixth century, the territory of Venosa was disputed between the Goths and Byzantines. After 570, the town officially came under the control of the Lombards, more specifically of the duchy of Benevento. Now, Faustina’s epitaph — which in my opinion can be dated, on paleographical grounds, not before the late sixth century, and hence in the late Byzantine or early Lombard phase — provides an explicit clue as to the decline of her family, the Faustini, namely, the enumeration of the time of Faustina’s death. The patriarchate in Galilee, however, was suppressed in 425, and the text is certainly later. I have argued elsewhere that the term apostuli here could simply refer to local representatives of the assembly during the synagogal liturgy, that is, the šeluḥei ṣibbur: Giancarlo Lacerenza, ‘Ebraiche liturgie e peregrini apostuli nell’Italia bizantina’, in Una manna buona per Mantova. Man Tov le-Man Tovah. Studi in onore di Vittore Colorni per il suo 92° compleanno, ed. by Mauro Perani, Accademia Nazionale Virgiliana di Scienze Lettere e Arti, Miscellanea, 14 (Firenze: Olschki, 2004), pp. 61–72. Presently, however, I am not convinced even of this hypothesis: see Lacerenza, ‘Rabbis in Jewish Inscriptions’ (forthcoming). 41 My reading along with David Noy’s translation in JIWE.

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the past honors of her ancestors, who had been town administrators; a dignity that, in the time of our text, legislation forbade to Jews.42 The inscription’s insistence on ancestors’ high positions and their honores — as well its silence regarding the present situation — appears to merge with the commemoration of the dead girl in a single nostalgic sentiment: a longing for lost times. Another noteworthy sign of the changes that occurred between the seventh and eighth centuries, this time cultural in nature, concerns the language employed in funerary epigraphs. As is well known, the Venosa catacomb inscriptions provide clear evidence of a gradual rediscovery of Hebrew in religious contexts and are among the earliest examples of its revival in the liturgical practices of the western diaspora.43 While the earlier inscriptions are all in Greek, there is a gradual switch to Latin. Hebrew initially makes its appearance only in the usual stereotypical formulas, but later becomes increasingly common. The epitaph of the old presbyter Secundinus, written mostly in Greek in Hebrew characters, bears this out, so giving us one of the earliest examples of JudaeoGreek (JIWE I.75; my translation): ‫שלום על מישהבו ∙ טפוס סהקונדינו פרסוביטרו ∙ קימיטי אן ירינא ∙ אטון אוג־‬ ∙ ‫דואנטא‬ šalom ʿal miškaḇo / tafos Sekoundinou presbyterou / (e)koimēthē en eirēnē / etōn ogdoēnta Peace on his resting place. Tomb of Secundinus (the) elder, who fell asleep in peace, aged eighty. 42 Pieter Willelm van der Horst, Ancient Jewish Epitaphs. An Introductory Survey of a Millennium of Jewish Funerary Epigraphy (300 bce–700 ce) (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1991), p. 100; JIWE I, p. 119; Francesco Grelle, ‘Patroni ebrei in città tardoantiche’, in Epigrafia e territorio. Politica e società. Temi di antichità romane, ed. by Mario Pani (Bari: Edipuglia, 1994) III, pp. 139–58 (p. 152) (same article in Studi in ricordo di A. F. Panzera, Bari: Cacucci, 1995, III, pp. 1427–45); Margaret Williams, ‘The Jews of Early Byzantine Venusia: The Family of Faustinus I, the Father’, Journal of Jewish Studies, 50 (1999), pp. 38–52. 43 Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, ‘Iscrizioni inedite o mal note, greche, latine, ebraiche, di antichi sepolcri giudaici del Napolitano’, in Atti del IV Congresso Internazionale degli Orientalisti (Firenze 1878) (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1880), I, pp. 239–354 (p. 276); Shlomo Simonsohn, ‘The Hebrew Revival among Early Medieval European Jews’, in Salo W. Baron Jubilee Volume, ed. by Saul Lieberman and Arthur Hyman (Jerusalem/ New York: American Academy for Jewish Research - Columbia University Press, 1974), II, pp. 831–58; David Noy, ‘Writing in Tongues: The Use of Greek, Latin and Hebrew in Jewish Inscriptions from Roman Italy’, Journal of Jewish Studies, 48 (1997), 300–11.


Giancarlo Lacerenza

After the end of the sixth century, the catacomb was no longer in use, and there is a short gap in documentation. There is a fragment from the seventh or eighth century, however, showing that in this period the Jews had shifted to the use of Hebrew, perhaps exclusively.44 Indeed, when the texts become numerous again — no longer in the catacomb, but in a ninth-century burial ground (the earlier epitaph is of 808, the most recent of 848) — we no longer find traces of Greek and Latin: Hebrew is the only language.45 What happened in the meanwhile? This significant cultural mutation can be understood in several ways. Undoubtedly, however, the fact that the Jews in their inscriptions dropped the use of the local epigraphic languages, Latin and Greek, indicates that they no longer wanted, needed to, or could represent themselves as integrated in the surrounding social context. In other words, their cultural identity was felt as irreversibly different. By the time of the ninth-century Venosa inscriptions, we are in the full Lombard age, albeit with constant Byzantine interference. We have but a sketchy idea of this conflict and of the Lombard dukes’ attitude towards the Jewish presence, which at the time was still significant in southern Italy.46 One could interpret the emerging, in this area, of Jewish culture and the use of Hebrew between the eighth (or late 44 Cesare Colafemmina, ‘Hebrew Inscriptions of the Early Medieval Period in Southern Italy’, in The Jews of Italy, pp. 65–81 (p. 81 fn. 23). 45 These ninth-century inscriptions, most of which were re-employed in medieval burials, churches and edifices, are still scattered through many publications: some are collected in Ascoli, ‘Iscrizioni’; and in Umberto Cassuto, ‘Ha-ketovot ha-‘ivriot šel ha me’ah ha-teši‘it be-Venosa’, Kedem, 2 (1945), 99–120 (Hebrew; ‘The Hebrew Inscriptions of the ninth century in Venosa’); others appear in various articles of Cesare Colafemmina, ‘Un’iscrizione venosina inedita dell’822’, Rassegna Mensile d’Israel, 43 (1977), 261–63; Colafemmina, ‘Tre iscrizioni ebraiche inedite di Venosa e Potenza’, Vetera Christianorum, 20 (1983), 443–47; Colafemmina, ‘Una nuova iscrizione ebraica a Venosa’, Vetera Christianorum, 21 (1984), 197–202; Colafemmina, ‘Iscrizione ebraica inedita di Lavello’, Vetera Christianorum, 23 (1986), 171–76; Colafemmina, ‘Tre nuove iscrizioni ebraiche a Venosa’, Vetera Christianorum, 24 (1987), 201–09; Colafemmina, ‘Epigraphica hebraica Venusina’, Vetera Christianorum, 30 (1993), pp. 353–58. An early inscription of 808 in Giancarlo Lacerenza, ‘L’epitaffio di Abigail da Venosa’, Henoch, 11 (1989), 319–25. A comprehensive survey of great part of these epitaphs can now be found in Giancarlo Lacerenza, ‘L’epigrafia ebraica in Basilicata e Puglia dal IV secolo all’alto Medioevo’, in Ketav, sefer, miktav. La cultura ebraica scritta tra Basilicata e Puglia, ed. by Mariapina Mascolo (Bari: Edizioni di Pagina, 2014), pp. 189–252. 46 Stefano Palmieri, ‘Mobilità etnica e mobilità sociale nel Mezzogiorno longobardo’, Archivio Storico per le Province Napoletane, 20 (1981), 31–104; Palmieri, ‘Le componenti etniche: contrasti e fusioni’, in Storia del Mezzogiorno, III. Alto Medioevo, ed. by Giuseppe Galasso and others (Napoli: Edizioni del Sole, 1990), pp. 43–72; Palmieri, ‘Ebrei e cristiani nell’Italia meridionale fra Antichità e Medioevo’, Annali dell’Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Storici, 27 (2012–13), 835–1010; and 28 (2014–15), 101–280.

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seventh) and ninth century, in various ways. Without question, however, alongside the civic and social regression of the Jews, this period witnessed a distinct — and possibly unprecedented for the time — flourishing of Jewish culture. We must conclude that this change — which we observe as much in the Byzantine-controlled areas as in the Lombard ones — was stimulated by the resumption of relations with representatives of eastern Judaism sent to the West; not just from Palestine, as had up to then been more often the case, but also from Babylonia. We find a sign of this influence — already claimed in literary traditions, such as those transmitted in the Megillat Aḥima‘aṣ — in a funerary inscription of the late eighth century discovered at Lavello (not far from Venosa). The inscription attests knowledge of rabbinical literature, even quoting, according to some scholars, at least two passages from the Babylonian Talmud (Berakoth 17a and 58b; maybe also Ḥullin 131a), the earliest to have come down to us from the Latin West.47

The Salento Our last exploration centers on the Puglia region and, more specifically, the Salento peninsula (which was long called Calabria, not to be confused with the region today bearing the same name). Here, we are no longer in a politically disputed area, but in one that had solid ties to the Byzantine Empire and whose only external enemies were, from a certain period onward, the Muslims.48 In this context of greater political stability, disturbed between the seventh and ninth centuries only by frequent Muslim incursions, the explicit attitude towards the Jewish population was one of hostility and growing intolerance. Surprisingly, however, bearable forms of coexistence were reached. Indeed, the local Jews managed to establish a cultural and religious climate that for centuries was hardly rivaled in Europe.49 Cesare Colafemmina, ‘Una nuova epigrafe ebraica altomedievale a Lavello’, Vetera Christianorum, 29 (1992), pp. 411–21; Colafemmina, ‘Hebrew Inscriptions’, pp. 71–77. 48 Jules Gay, L’Italie méridionale et l’empire byzantin depuis l’avènement de Basile I jusqu’ à la prise de Bari par les Normands (867–1071) (Paris: Fontemoing, 1904); André Guillou, ‘L’Italia bizantina dalla caduta di Ravenna all’avvento dei Normanni’, in Storia d’Italia, 3, pp. 1–126. More specifically, Ad Ovest di Bisanzio. Il Salento nel medioevo, ed. by Benedetto Vetere (Galatina: Congedo, 1990). 49 Roberto Bonfil, ‘Tra due mondi: prospettive di ricerca sulla storia culturale degli Ebre idell’Italia meridionale’, in Italia Judaica. Atti del Convegno Internazionale 47


Giancarlo Lacerenza

The Jewish communities of Puglia had centuries-old roots in this area. As mentioned by the author of the Sefer Yosippon, local Jewish leaders believed that they had been the first of their faith to become established on Italian soil. It is likely that at least during the early Roman principate, a Jewish community existed at Brundisium (present-day Brindisi), an important port of trade with the Orient and reportedly a destination for ships from Judaea. There is no definitely dated evidence, however, of a Jewish presence in Puglia before the year 398, when the first western emperor, Honorius, issued a decree obliging the Jews of many towns of Apulia and Calabria (that is, the whole Puglia region as it is known today, a portion of Basilicata there included) to fill the office of decurion. As we have seen, the general obligation to munera had been abolished by Constantine, but it was reintroduced by Valentinian II in 383 (Cod. Theod. 12.1.158). Thus, as had been ruled long before, under Septimius Severus, the Jews were again required to participate in town curiae and assume all the associated duties, both religious and economic. Honorius’ decree indicates that in Apulia Calabriamque there must have been towns where part, if not the majority of the leisure class was Jewish. It further attests to the presence of Jews among the maiores of several towns of late antique southern Italy, confirmed by epigraphic evidence — as we have seen in Venosa, on the borders of this same territory. Yet, to date, the importance of the Jewish element has not been reflected, at least for an earlier period, in archaeological and epigraphic documentation. Otranto (ancient Hydruntum), which was for centuries an important Jewish center, has yielded a single epitaph dated to the third century (JIWE I.134). At Lupiae (present-day Lecce), the presence of Jews in Late Antiquity is only indirectly attested by the above-mentioned epitaph from Venosa of 521, which mentions the deceased Augusta’s grandfather Simon from Lecce: she is said indeed to be nepus Symonatis p(atris) Lypiensium (JIWE I.107). At Taranto, it appears that the necropolis of Montedoro, datable between the fifth and sixth century, housed both Christian and Jewish graveyards, and two inscriptions feature typical Jewish names in Greek shape — Azaryah, Daudatos (Nethan’el), Elias, Jacob, and Susanna. The verso of the epitaph of Daudatos, son of Azaryah (JIWE I.118), carries a Hebrew text — one of the earliest and longest known epigraphs of this kind — is among the earliest bearing eulogies, including the characteristic ‫תנוח‬

(Bari 1981) (Roma: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, 1990), pp. 135–58.

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‫‘ נפשו בצרור החיים‬may his soul be bound up in the bundle of life’ (from I Samuel 25.29). We do not know much about the living conditions of local Jews under the Byzantine emperor Leo III (717–741). However, from the end of the eighth century onward, we possess information about the Salento area, thanks to extant evidence from important and active communities, such as those of Taranto, Oria, Brindisi, and Otranto. These communities experienced a cultural floruit that was to have repercussions for centuries, prompting the famous aphorism by the Provençal glosser Ya‘aqov ben Me’ir (or Rabbenu Tam, c. 1100–71): ‘From Bari comes forth the Torah and from Otranto the word of God’, a paraphrasing of Isaiah 2.3. In the same period, Avraham ibn Daud, in his Sefer ha-Qabbalah, presented the legend according to which three of the most important Jewish study centers of the Mediterranean (Fustat, Qairawan, and Cordoba) had their origin in the fortuitous dispersion of as many Apulian wise men, who had set sail from Bari towards Mesopotamia but had been kidnapped and sold into slavery by Andalusian Muslims.50 It is far from coincidental, then, that it is this part of southern Italy which yields epigraphic evidence showing, among other things, how quickly the local Jews absorbed and adapted the cultural models developed elsewhere, creating something new. Such cultural creativity during the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ is well illustrated in the epitaph of a woman named Hannah, who probably died in Oria towards the end of the seventh century. An elaborate, though quite small, memorial stone features an inscription in rhymed acrostic Hebrew verses that is more accurately written and far more poetically conceived than the shorter Latin text roughly carved on its top:51 ic requiescit d(omi)na Anna filia r(ebbitis) Guliu etate LVI a(n) ni LVI ‫שוכבת פה אשה נבונה‬ 50 On this story see, among the others, Gerson D. Cohen, ‘The Story of the Four Captives’, Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, 29 (1960–61), pp. 55–131; Moshe Gil, ‘The Babylonian Yeshivot and the Maghrib in the Early Middle Ages’, Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, 57 (1990–91), pp. 69– 120 (pp. 90–97). 51 With slight modifications, text and translation from JIWE I.195, both derivate from the reading of Cesare Colafemmina, ‘Note su di una iscrizione ebraico-latina di Oria’, Vetera Christianorum, 25 (1988), pp. 641–51. In acrostic (on the stone) it can be read the name ‫שמואל‬, Shemuel. For a new reading and interpretation, Mauro Perani, ‘A proposito dell’iscrizione sepolcrale ebraico-latina di Anna figlia di Rabbi Giuliu da Oria’, Sefer yuḥasin, n.s. 2 (2014), pp. 65–91.


Giancarlo Lacerenza

‫מוכנת בכל מצװת אמונה‬ ‫ותמצא פני אל חנינה‬ ‫ליקיצת מי מנה‬ ‫זו שנפ>ט