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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Greece 02: Bible and Roman times

The first Jews in Greece

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Greece,
                              vol. 7, col. 869-870: map of Jewish
                              communities in Greece [[of Greece in the
                              boundaries of 1919]]
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Greece, vol. 7, col. 869-870: map of Jewish communities in Greece
[[of Greece in the boundaries of 1919]]

Major Jewish settlements in Greece. Jews are known to have settled in Greece in all the above periods, but in very few places was their settlement continuous, even within any specific period. Although there were Jews in many cities in the contemporary period, their numbers were insignificant except in Athens (1967, 2,800 approx.), Salonika (1968, 1,300 approx.), and Larissa (1967, 450 approx.).

from: Greece; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 7

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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[[According to Jewish archaeologists this is the only temple, see Silberman / Finkelstein: The Bible Unearthed]].

Although the earliest known Jews on the Greek mainland are to be found only from the third century B.C.E., it is highly probable that Jews traveled or were forcibly transported to Greece by way of Cyprus, Ionia, and the Greek isles by various enemies of Judah during the biblical period (cf. Joel 4:6; Isa. 66:19; see *Javan).

[The first known Jew in Greece: Moschos - Jewish communities in Greece in Biblical and Roman times]

The first Greek Jew known by name is "Moschos, son of Moschion the Jews", a slave mentioned in an inscription, dated approximately 300-250 B.C.E., at Oropus, a small state between Athens and Boeotia. This date coincides with the reign of the Spartan king *Areios I (309-265), who, according to later sources, corresponded with the Judean high priest Onias (I Macc. 12:20-1, Jos., Ant., 12:225).

If this fact is to be accepted (cf. S. Schueller, in: JSS, 1 (1956), 268), one can assume that such a correspondence entailed a certain amount of Jewish travel to Greece and is thereby possibly connected with the establishment of a local Jewish community. Further growth of the Jewish community probably took place as a result of the Hasmonean uprising, when numbers of Jews were sold into slavery. At least two inscriptions from Delphi (Frey, Corpus, 1 (1936), nos. 709, 710) from the middle of the second century B.C.E. refer to Jewish slaves. among those Jewish fugitives to reach Sparta during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the high priest Jason (II Macc. 5:9).

During the Hasmonean period the Jewish community in Greece spread to the important centers of the country, and from the list of cities in I Maccabees 15:23 - probably dating to the year 142 B.C.E. - it appears that Jews already resided at *Sparta, Delos, Sicyon, Samos, *Rhodes, *Kos, Gortyna (on *Crete), Cnidus, and *Cyprus (cf. F.M. Abel: Les Livres des Maccabés [["The Maccabean Books"]] (1949), 269). A similar list of Jewish communities in Greece is transmitted by Philo (Legatio ad Gaium, 281-2), and thus reflects the situation during the first century C.E.

Among those places containing Jews Philo lists "Thessaly, Boeotia, Macedonia, Aetolia, Attica, Argos, Corinth, and most of the best parts of the Peloponnesus. Not only are the mainlands full of Jewish colonies but also the most highly esteemed of the islands of Euboea, Cyprus, and Crete." That a sizable Jewish colony existed at Delos is further attested by the Jewish inscriptions in the area, including a number from the local synagogue (Frey, Corpus, 1 (1936), nos. 725-731; cf. Jos., Ant., 14:231-2, regarding Jews of Delos who are also Roman citizens).

It may be assumed that the community at Rhodes was in close contact with the Judean king Herod, who is known to have generally supported the needs of the island (Jos., Wars 1:424; 7:21; Ant., 16:147). The Jews of Crete are also mentioned by Josephus in reference to the imposter claiming to be the prince Alexander, who had been put to death by Herod (Jos., Wars, 2:103). The second wife of Josephus was also a resident of Crete (Jos., Life, 427).

[66-70: Jewish immigration during the Jewish war]

The Jewish population of Greece probably grew considerably during and after the (col. 868)

Jewish War (66-70), and in one case Josephus relates that Vespasian sent 6,000 youths from Palestine to work for Nero at the Isthmus of Corinth (Wars, 3:540).

[Jews on Cyprus - massacre to non-Jews - ban of all Jews - Trajan's restrictions]

An extremely large and powerful Jewish community also existed by the second century on Cyprus, for during the Jewish wars under *Trajan (115-7) the capital of Cyprus, Salamis, was laid waste by Jewish inhabitants and thousands of non-Jews were murdered. The consequence of this uprising, however, was a total ban on Jewish residence on the island, under pain of death (Dio Cassius 68:32; Eusebius: Chronicon 2:164).

After Trajan, Hadrian (117-138) retorted with severe penal laws against the Jews, prohibiting circumcision, but these laws were allowed to lapse by Antoninus Pius (138-161), and henceforth the Jews were accorded a larger degree of tolerance.

From the second century they were subject to the spiritual jurisdiction of a hereditary patriarch resident in Palestine. The Jews of the Diaspora early forgot Hebrew and adopted Greek (except for liturgical purposes), using a translation of the Bible - the Septuagint - which was begun at Alexandria under Ptolemy II.

Apart from Cyprus, Greek Jews did not suffer any particular upheaval during the (col. 869)

Roman period, and the ancient Jewish settlement served as a foundation for the Jewish settlement during the Byzantine period (from 330 C.E., see below) - when the capital of the Roman Empire was removed to Constantinople - and a basis for Jewish settlement on other Balkan countries (see individual countries).

[I.G.]> (col. 870)

Jews in [Greek] Asia Minor

Jewish settlements - synagogues - Josephus - attractive Judaism

from: Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Asia Minor, vol. 3

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Asia
                            Minor, vol. 3, col. 747-748: Map of Asia
                            Minor with the ancient Jeiwsh settlements
                            [[in Greece before the Muslim invasion]]
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Asia Minor, vol. 3, col. 747-748: Map of Asia Minor with the ancient Jeiwsh settlements [[in Greece before the Muslim invasion]]

Mentioned Jewish settlements: in Pontus: Simope, Amisus; in Paphlagonia: Amastris; in Bithynia: Claudiopolis, Chalcedon (Constantinople, Istanbul), Nicomedia, Nicaea; in Mysia: Adramythi, Pergamum; in Galatia: Ancyra (Ankara), Germa, Pessinus (Justinianopolis); in Cappadocia: Mazaca (Caesarea); in Lycaonia: Iconium, Lystra; in Cilicia: Tarsus, Olba, Seleucia, Korykus; on Cyprus: Laphetus, Salamis, Paphos, Golgi; in Pamphylia: Side, Selinus, Anemurion; in Pisidia: Termessus, Phaselis; in Lycia: Tlos, Patara, Limyra; in Caria: Hyllarima, Iassus, Miletus, Myndus, Halicarnassus, Cnidus; in Lycia and Ionia: Thyatira, Phocaea, Magnesia, Smyrna (Izmir), Teos, Ephesus, Sala, Hierapolis, Laodicea, Nysa, Tralles, Priene.

[Jewish settlements - synagogues - Josephus]

<ASIA MINOR. The westernmost peninsula of Asia, also known as Anatolia.

There is no specific information as to when Jews first reached Asia Minor, but it was probably not later than the sixth century B.C.E. Evidence is found in Joel (4:4-6) which apparently refers to slave traders of the Phoenician coastal cities. In Isaiah (66:19) too, there is some evidence that Jews were living in certain regions of Asia Minor at that time.The Sepharad of Obadiah (1:20) is apparently *Sardis in Asia Minor. According to a report by Clearchus of Soli (mid-fourth century B.C.E.), a disciple of Aristotle, Aristotle met a Jew in Asia Minor who was "a Greek not only by speech but also in spirit." At the end of the third century B.C.E. *Antiochus III issued a command to transfer 2,000 Jewish families from Babylonia to *Phrygia and *Lydia in order to settle them in the fortified cities as garrisons.

The first synagogues in Asia Minor were apparently built at that time. Important evidence of the distribution of Jews in Asia Minor has been preserved in the Roman circular of 139 B.C.E. to the Hellenistic cities and states. It mentions Caria, Pamphylia, and Lycia as places of Jewish settlement (I Macc. 15:23). Cicero's account of the confiscation of the money which the Jews of Pergamum, Adramythion, Laodicea, and Apamea had designated for the Temple in Jerusalem, during the governorship of L. Valerius Flaccus, provides additional evidence of the spread of Jews in Asia Minor. *Philo of Alexandria testifies that in his day in Asia Minor, as in Syria, there were many Jews.

[Josephus' "Antiquities" - attractive Jewish religion for some Greek populations]

But the most extensive and detailed information on Jewish settlements throughout Asia Minor is furnished by numerous inscriptions and documents preserved by Josephus (col. 746)

in Antiquities (book 14), and by accounts of the Jewish communities in the New Testament - in Acts and in Paul's Epistles. According to these inscriptions, Jews were settled in the following regions of Asia Minor: Ionia, Mysia, Lydia, Caria, Lycia, Phrygia, Lycaonia, Cappadocia, Galatia, Bithynia, Pahplagonia, Pisidia, Cilicia, and other localities. It may be assumed that the Jews in the cities of Asia Minor did not possess full citizenship, although probably many individuals enjoyed an exceptional status. Josephus states that Seleucus I Nicator (305-280 B.C.E.) had already given the Jews equal rights. But as the Jewish population grew in the cities of Ionia and in other regions, the hostility of the Greeks increased. In 14 B.C.E., the Jews of Ionia complained to Marcus Vipsanius *Agrippa,requesting that he confirm their special privileges. As a result of the intercession of Herod, who was staying with Agrippa at that time, these rights were confirmed. In this respect the numerous documents assembled in Josephus' Antiquities are of considerable importance.They include a defense of the Jewish religion from attacks by non-Jews in the Diaspora as well as resolutions of Greek cities (Sardis, Halicarnassus) on the need to guarantee the Jews their religious rights.

there is reason to suppose that Jewish influence in Asia Minor was then considerable. Judaism attracted both the enlightened Gentiles and the masses. There is cogent proof of this at Apamea whose inhabitants associated the biblical story of the Deluge with legends connected with their city and inscribed Noah's ark on their coins. Jewish customs became popular throughout the towns of Asia Minor. Josephus reports that the kindling of Sabbath lights was customary among Gentiles. Many attended synagogues on Sabbaths and festivals. A movement of worshipers of the Supreme God, "God fearers" was very popular (col. 747)

throughout Asia Minor, and many groups of pagans practiced the cult of the "Supreme God" without renouncing their own religions. The fact that Jews were also conspicuously active in municipal government attests to their firm economic and social standing in Asia Minor. For later history see *Byzantine Empire, *Ottoman Empire, *Turkey.


-- Jos., Ant., 12:119, 147ff.; 14; 223ff., 234ff., 241 ff.; 16:27.;
-- Jos., Apion, 1:176 ff.; 2:39, 282;
-- Cicero: Pro Flacco, 28:69
-- Philo: De Legatione ad Gaium, 33:245; 36:381
--  Klausner: Bayit Sheni, 3 (1950), 243-50
-- J. Klausner: Mi-Yeshu ad Paulus, 1 (1954), 18-59
-- Juster: Juifs [[Engl.: Jews]], 1 (1914), 188-94
-- Frey: Corpus, 2 (1952), 8-54
-- A. Galanté: Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie, 2 vols. (1937-39)
-- On Jewish military colonies in Phrygia and Syria, see Schalit, in: JQR, 50 (1960/61), 289 ff.

[A.SCH.]> (col. 748)
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Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Greece, vol. 7,
                    col. 867-868
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Greece, vol. 7, col. 867-868
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Greece, vol. 7,
                    col. 869-870
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Greece, vol. 7, col. 869-870
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Asia Minor, vol.
                    3, col. 746
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Asia Minor, vol. 3, col. 746
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Asia Minor, vol.
                    3, col. 747-748
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Asia Minor, vol. 3, col. 747-748

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