The Jewish Community In Italy Essay

2737 words - 11 pages

The Jewish Community in Italy
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For centuries, there has been a Jewish community in parts of present-day Italy, dating back to the Roman Empire. In addition to religious differences, Jews were faced with political challenges as well. The Emperor was included in the pantheon of Roman tradition, which added a political obligation to religious, and thus Roman citizens were required to ?conciliate the gods.? For Jews, this requirement created many consequences.[1] According to estimates, there were five to seven million Jews in the Roman Empire during this time. The relations between the Jews and the Romans have always been complicated. For in 186 B.C. measures were taken against the Bacchanalia, but in 161 B.C., a friendly treaty was made with the Maccabees. In 139 B.C., the Jews were banished from Rome, yet Julius Caeasar gave Jews privileges, allowing them to meet on the Sabbath and settle their religious disputes privately. Despite the ambiguous treatment of the Jews, the Romans usually blamed the Jews for any disorder in the Empire.

Ancient writers, Josephus and Tacitus, discussed the Jews banishment from Rome in 19 C.E.? The Roman senate also sent 4,000 Jewish men to Sardinia to put down an uprising there. Though the harsh climate could potentially kill the men, it was but a small loss to the Roman government.[2] Modern historians assume that the Tiberius? reason for the banishment was a ?deep-seated animosity against the Jews fostered by their reputation for exclusiveness and their assumption of superior righteousness.?[3] Yet, Josephus attributed the cause to a ?worthless? Jew from Judea and three other men who persuaded Fulvia, a Roman woman, to give goods for the Jerusalem temple, but used her gifts for their own purposes.[4] Once again, in 49 C.E., the government banished the Jews?in Acts, Paul references Claudius's order for the Jews to leave Rome.

In addition to those geographically in Italy, many Jews were subject to Roman rule. After the tyrannical emperor Nero committed suicide and violent civil war, Vespasian, of the Flavian dynasty, gained control. In Judea, Roman rule seemingly contradicted the common Jewish religious-nationalist sentiments, but Roman rulers established various privileges for those with Hebraic religious beliefs. Jews, throughout the Empire, were not required to engage in emperor worship, since it was directly contrary to their monotheistic beliefs. Yet, the Jews and the Romans did clash on various issues; one example took place during the reign of Caligula, when he ?ordered that a golden statue of himself be placed in Jerusalem?s temple.?[5] After the Jews firmly resisted, Caligula rescinded his order.

?In 66 A.D., as a result of the encouragement of militant Jews, the Jewish community initiated a war of liberation. A five-month siege during 70 A.D., by the Romans, significantly hurt the Jews, and soon after, the Romans captured and destroyed the Jerusalem...

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