corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Encyclopedias

The Catholic Encyclopedia

History of the Jews

Resource Toolbox

(Yehúd`m; Ioudaismos ).

Of the two terms, Jews and Judaism , the former denotes usually the Israelites or descendants of Jacob (Israel) in contrast to Gentile races; the latter, the creed and worship of the Jews in contrast to Christianity, Mohammedanism, etc. In a separate article we will treat of Judaism as a religious communion with its special system of faith, rites, customs, etc. (See JUDAISM.) Here, we shall cover the history of the Jews since the return from the Babylonian Exile, from which time the Israelites received the name of Jews (for their earlier history, see ISRAELITES).

This history may be divided into various periods in accordance with the leading phases which may be distinguished in the existence of the Jewish race since the Return in 538 B.C.

(1)Persian Suzerainty (538-333 B.C.)

In October, 538 B.C., Babylon opened its gates to the Persian army, and a few weeks later the great conqueror of Babylonia, Cyrus, made his triumphal entry into the fallen city. One of the official acts of the new ruler in Babylon was to give to the exiled Jews full liberty to return to Juda (see I Esdras, i). The substance of Cyrus's decree in their favour is in striking harmony with other known decrees of that monarch, with his general policy of clemency and toleration towards the conquered races of his empire, and with his natural desire to have on the Egyptian border a commonwealth as large as possible, bound to Persia by the strongest ties of gratitude. A comparatively large number of Jewish exiles (50,000 according to I Esdras, ii, 64, 65) availed themselves of Cyrus's permission. Their official leader was Zorobabel, a descendant of the royal family of Juda, whom the Persian monarch had invested with the governorship of the sub-province of Juda, and entrusted with the precious vessels which had belonged to Yahweh's House. There appeared also by his side the priest "Josue, the son of Josedec", probably as the religious head of the returning community. The returned exiles, who mostly belonged to the tribes of Benjamin and Juda, settled chiefly in the neighborhood of Jerusalem. They at once organized a council of twelve elders, and this council, which was naturally presided over by Zorobabel, controlled and guided the internal affairs of the community, under the suzerainty of Persia. Without delay, too, they set up a new altar, and had it ready to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in 537 B.C. Henceforth, the ritual system was religiously carried out. The foundation of the second Temple was laid in the second month of the second year after the Return, but no further headway was made for fifteen or sixteen years, owing to the active interference and positive misrepresentations to the Persian kings by the Samaritans to whom the Jews had denied a share in the work of rebuilding the House of the Lord. Meantime, the Jews themselves lost much of their interest in the reconstruction of the Temple; and it is only in 520 B.C. that the Prophets Aggæus and Zacharias succeeded in rousing them from their supineness. Pecuniary help came too from the Jewish community in Babylon, and also, a little later, from the Persian king. Thus encouraged, they made rapid progress and on 3 March, 515 B.C., the new Temple was solemnly dedicated. The Jewish leaders next started on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, and here again met with the hostility of the Samaritans, whose complaints at the Court of Persia were most successful under Artaxerxes I "Longimanus" (464-124 B.C.), who issued orders strictly forbidding the Jews to proceed with the work.

The special mission of Esdras and Nehemias in behalf of the struggling Palestinian community and their strenuous efforts to lift up its moral tone need not to be dwelt upon here (see ESDRAS; NEHEMIAS). Suffice it to say that, to whatever precise time their labours should be assigned (see CAPTIVITIES), the scribe Esdras and the satrap Nehemias left their permanent impress on their fellow-Jews. After Esdras's death, which probably occurred not long before the end of the Persian rule over in Juda in 333 B.C., little is distinctly known of the history of the Palestinian Jews. It seems, however, that under the satraps of Coele-Syria, the action of the high-priest had a very considerable influence upon their religious and civil matters alike (cfr. Josephus, "Antiq. Of the Jews", XI, vii), and that their community enjoyed a steadily increasing prosperity, hardly marred by the deportation of a certain number of Jews to distant regions like Hyrcania, which probably occurred under Artaxerxes III (358-337 B.C.). During the Persian period, the Jews who had preferred to stay in Babylonia remained constantly in touch with the returned exiles, sending them, at times, material help, and formed a flourishing community deeply attached to the faith and to the traditions of their race. Within the same period falls the formation of the Jewish colony at Elaphantine (Upper Egypt), which was for a while supplied with a temple of its own, and the faithfulness of which to Persia is witness by Judeo-Aramean papyri recently discovered. Lastly, the institutions of Judaism which seem to have more particularly developed during the Persian domination are the Synagogues, with their educational and religious features, and the Scribes with their peculiar skill in the law.

(2) Greek Period (333-168 B.C.)

A new period in the history of the Jews opens with the defeat of Darius III (335-330 B.C.) by Alexander the Great at Issus, in Cilicia. This victory of the young conqueror of Persia undoubtedly brought the Palestinian Jews into direct contact with Greek civilization, whatever may be thought of the exact historical value of what Josephus relates (Antiq. of the Jews, XI, viii, 3-5) concerning Alexander's personal visit to Jerusalem. Alexander allowed them the free enjoyment of their religious and civil liberties, and rewarded those of them who went to war with him against Egypt and settled in Alexandria, a city of his foundation, by granting them equal civic rights with the Macedonians. Again, when the Samaritans rebelled against him, he added a part of Samaria to Judea (331 B.C.). After Alexander's untimely death (323 B.C.), Palestine had an ample share of the troubles which arose out of the partition of his vast empire among his captains. Placed between Syria and Egypt, it became the bone of contention between their respective rulers. At first, as a part of Coele-Syria, it passed naturally into the possession of Laomedon of Mytiline. But as early as 320 B.C., it was seized by the Egyptian Ptolemy I (323-285 B.C.) who, on a Sabbath-day took Jerusalem, and carried away many Samaritans and Jews into Egypt A few years later (315 B.C.), it fell into the power of Syria; but after the battle of Ipsus in Phrygia (301 B.C.), it was annexed to Egypt and remained so practically a whole century(301-202 B.C.). Seleucus I, who founded Antioch about 300 B.C., attracted the Jews to his new capital by granting them equal rights with his Greek subjects; and thence they gradually extended into the principal cities of Asia Minor. The rule of the first three Ptolemies was even more popular with the Jews than that of the Seleucids. Ptolemy I (Soter) settled many of them in Alexandria and Cyrene, whence they gradually spread over the whole country, and attained to eminence in science, art, and even literature, as is proved by the numerous Judeo-Greek fragments which have survived. Under Ptolemy II (Philadelphus), the Hebrew Pentateuch was first rendered into Greek; and this, in turn, led in the course of time to the complete translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint. His successor, Euergetes (247-222 B.C.), is particularly credited, after a successful campaign in Syria, with having offered rich presents at the Temple in Jerusalem. Again, the annual tribute demanded by the early Ptolemies was apparently light; and as long as it was paid regularly, the Palestinian Jews were left free to manage their own affairs under their high-priests at whose side stood the Gerusia of Jerusalem, as a council of state, including the priestly aristocracy. In this wise, things went well under the high-priesthood of Simon the Just (310-291 B.C.), and that of his two brothers, Eleazar II (291-276 B.C.) and Manasses (276-250 B.C.).

Matters proved less satisfactory under Onias II (250-226 B.C.), who withheld the tribute for several years from his Egyptian suzerain. Under Onias's son and successor, Simon II (226-298 B.C.), whose godly rule is highly praised in Ecclesiasticus (chap. iv), the condition of Palestine became precarious owing to the renewed conflicts between Egypt and Syria for the possession of Coele-Syria and Judea. In the end, however, the Syrian king, Antiochus II, remained master of Palestine and did his utmost to secure the loyalty of the Jews not only of Judea, but also of Mesopotamia and Babylon. Seleucus IV (187-175 B.C.) pursued at first the conciliatory policy of his father, and the Judean Jews prospered during the opening years of Onias III (198-175). Soon, however, intestine strife disturbed the pontiff's wise rule, and Seleucus, misled by Simon, the governor of the Temple, sent his treasurer, Heliodorus, to seize the Temple funds. The failure of Heliodorus's mission led eventually to Onias's imprisonment and deposition from the high-priesthood. This deposition purchased from the new king, Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), by Jason, an unworthy brother of Onias, was the real triumph of Hellenism in Jerusalem. The man who, in turn, supplanted Jason was Menelaus, another hellenizing leader, whom craft and gold maintained in office, despite the complaints of the Jews to the Syrian monarch. At length, a popular revolt occurred against Menelaus, which Antiochus put down with great barbarity, and which resulted in his leaving Menelaus in charge of the high-priesthood, while two foreign officers became Governors of Jerusalem and Samaria respectively (170).

(3) The Machabean Age (168-63 B.C.)

The whole period which has just been described, was marked by the steady growth and widespread influence of hellenistic culture. Towards its end, the Jewish high-priests themselves not only assumed Greek names and adopted Greek manners, but became the ardent champions of Hellenism. In fact, Antiochus IV thought that the time had now come to unify the various races of his dominions by thoroughly hellenizing them. His general edict for that purpose met probably with unexpected opposition on the part of most Palestinian Jews. Hence, by special letters he ordered the utter destruction of Yahweh's worship in Jerusalem and in all towns of Judea: under the penalty of death everything distinctly Jewish was prohibited, and Greek idolatry prescribed (168 B.C.). The Holy City had recently been dismantled, and a part of it (Acra) transformed into a Syrian citadel. Now its Temple was dedicated to Zeus, to whom sacrifices were offered upon an idol-altar erected over Yahweh's altar. In like manner, in all the townships of Juda altars were set up and heathen sacrifices offered. In the dire persecution which ensued, all resistance seemed impossible. In the little town of Modin, however, an aged priest, Mattathias, boldly raised the standard of revolt. At his death (167 B.C.), he appointed his son Judas, surnamed Machabeus, to head the forces which had gradually gathered around him. Under Judas's able leadership, the Machabean troops won several victories, and in December, 165 B.C., Jerusalem was re-entered, the Temple cleansed, and Divine worship renewed.

The struggle was a hard one against the numerous armies of Antiochus V and Demetrius I, the next Syrian kings; yet it was heroically maintained, with varying success, by Judas until his death on the battlefield (161 B.C.). One of his brothers, Jonathan, became his successor in command for the next eighteen years (161-143 B.C.). The new leader was not only able to re-enter and fortify Jerusalem, but was also recognized as high-priest of the Jews by the Syrian Crown, and as an ally by Rome and Sparta. It was not given him, however to restore his country to complete independence: he was treacherously captured and soon afterwards put to death by the Syrian general, Tryphon. Another brother of Judas, Simon (143-135 B.C.), then assumed the leadership, and under him the Jews attained to a high degree of happiness and prosperity. He repaired the fortresses of Judea, took and destroyed the citadel of Acra (142 B.C.), and renewed the treaties with Rome and Lacedæmon. In 141 B.C., he was proclaimed by a national assembly "prince and high-priest for ever, till there should arise a faithful prophet". He exercised the right of coinage and may be considered as the founder of the Asmonean, or last Jewish, dynasty. The rule of John Hyrcanus I, Simon's successor, lasted 30 years. His career was marked by a series of conquests, notably by the reduction of Samaria and the forcible conversion of Idumea. He sided with the aristocratic Sadducees against the more rigid defenders of the Theocracy, the Pharisees, the successors of the Assideans. The oldest parts of the "Sibylline Oracles" and of the "Book of Enoch" are probably remainders of the literature of his day. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Aristobulus I (Heb. name, Judas), who was the first Machabean ruler to assume the title of king. He reigned but one year, conquered and proselytized a part of Galilee. His brother Alexander Jannæus (Heb. name Jonathan) occupied the throne twenty-six years (104-78 B.C.). During the civil war which broke out between him and his subjects he was long unsuccessful; but he finally got the better of his opponents, and wreaked frightful vengeance upon them. He also succeeded at a later date in conquering and Judaizing the whole country east of the Jordan.

On acceding to the kingdom, his widow Alexandra (Heb. name, Salome) practically surrendered the rule to the Pharisees. But this did not secure the peace of the realm, for Alexandra's death alone prevented her being involved in a new civil war. The strife which soon arose after her death (69 B.C.), between her two sons Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, who were favoured by the Pharisees and the Sadducees respectively, was skilfully kept up by Antipater, the ambitious Governor of Idumea and father of Herod the Great. It gradually led both brothers to submit to the arbitration of Pompey, then commanding the Roman forces in the East. The wary imperator finally decided in favour of Hyrcanus, marched on Jerusalem, and stormed the temple, whereupon a carnage ensued. This brought to an end the short era of independence which the Machabees had secured for the country (63 B.C.). It was during the Machabean Age that occurred the building of a Jewish temple at Leontopolis in the Delta, and the transformation of the Jewish Gerusia into the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. Among the literary products of the same period are to reckoned the deuterocanonical Books of the Machabees, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus; and the apocryphal "Psalms of Solomon", "Book of Jubilees", and "Assumption of Moses"; to which many scholars add the Book of Daniel and several sacred hymns embodied in our Psalter.

(4) Early Roman Supremacy (63 B.C.-A.D. 70)

The fall of Jerusalem in 63 B.C. marks the beginning of Judea's vassalage to Rome. Pompey, its conqueror, dismantled the Holy City, recognized Hyrcanus II as high-priest and ethnarch, but withdrew from his jurisdiction all territory outside of Judea proper, and strictly forbade him all further conquests. Then he proceeded homewards carrying with him numerous captives, who greatly increased, if indeed they did not begin, the Jewish community in Rome. Soon Judea became a prey to several discords, in the midst of which the weak Hyrcanus lost more and more of his authority, and his virtual master, the Idumean Antipater, grew proportionately in favour with the suzerains of the land. Upon the final defeat of Pompey at Pharsalus (48 B.C.) by Julius Cæsar, Antipater promptly sided with the victor, and rendered him signal services in Egypt. His reward was the full recognition of Hyrcanus as high-priest and ethnarch; and for himself the rights of Roman citizenship and the office of procurator over the whole of Palestine. He next proceeded to rebuild the walls of the Holy City, and to appoint two of his sons, Phasael and Herod, Governors of Jerusalem and Galilee respectively. From this time forth Herod's fortune grew rapidly, until in the Roman capital, whither he had fled from the wrath of the Nationalist party, he reached the goal of his ambition. The Idumean Herod ascended the Throne of David, and his long reign (37-4 B.C.) forms in several respects a glorious epoch in the history of the Jews (see HEROD THE GREAT). Upon the whole, however, it was disastrous for the Jews of Palestine. Its first part (37-25 B.C.) was chiefly spent in getting rid of the surviving Asmoneans. By their death he, indeed, made the throne more secure for himself, but also alienated the mass of his subjects who were deeply attached to the Machabean family. To this grievance he gradually added others no less hateful to the national party. The people hated him as a bloody tyrant bent on destroying the worship of God, and hated still more the Romans who maintained him on the throne, and whose suzerainty was to be thrown off at the first opportunity. It was a short time before the death of Herod that Jesus, the true King of the Jews, was born, and the Holy Innocents were massacred.

Herod's death was the signal for an insurrection which spread gradually and was finally put down by Varus, the Governor of Syria. Next followed the practical ratification of the last will of Herod by Augustus. The principal heir was Archelaus, who was appointed ethnarch of Idumean, Judea, and Samaria, with the promise of the royal title on condition that he should rule to the emperor's satisfaction. For his mis-rule, Augustus deposed him (A.D. 6), and put in his stead a Roman procurator. Henceforward, Judea continued as a part of the province of Syria, except for a brief interval (A.D. 41-44), during which Herod Agrippa I held sway over all the dominions of Herod the Great. The Roman procurators of Judea resided in Cæsaria, and went to Jerusalem only on special occasions. They were subalterns of the Syrian governors, commanded the military, maintained peace and took care of the revenue. They generally abstained from meddling with the religious affairs, especially for fear of arousing the violence of the Zealots of the time, who regarded as unlawful the payment of tribute to Cæsar. The local government was largely left in the hands of the Sadducean priestly aristocracy, and the Sanhedrin was the supreme court of justice, deprived, however (about A.D. 30), of the power of carrying a sentence of death. It was under Pontius Pilate (A.D. 26-36), one of the procurators appointed by Tiberius, that Jesus was crucified.

Up to the reign of Caligula (37-44), the Jews enjoyed, without any serious interruption, the universal toleration which Roman policy permitted to the religion of the subject states. But when that emperor ordered that Divine honours should be paid to him, they generally refused to submit. Petronius, the Roman Governor of Syria, received peremptory orders to use violence, if necessary, to set up Caligula's statue in the Temple at Jerusalem. At Alexandria a fearful massacre took place, and it looked as if all the Jews of Palestine were doomed to perish. Petronius, however, delayed the execution of the decree, and in fact, escaped punishment only through the murder of Caligula in A.D. 41. The Jews were saved, and with the accession of Claudius, who owed the imperial dignity chiefly to the efforts of Herod Agrippa, a brighter day dawned for them. Through gratitude, Claudius conferred upon Agrippa the whole kingdom of Herod the Great, and upon the Jews at home and abroad valuable privileges. Agrippa's careful government made itself felt throughout the entire community, and the Sanhedrin, now under the presidency of Gamaliel I, St. Paul's teacher, had more authority than ever before. Yet the national party remained in an almost constant state of mutiny, while the Christians were persecuted by Agrippa. Upon Agrippa's death (A.D. 44), the country was again subjected to Roman procurators, and this was the prelude to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish people. Nearly all the seven procurators who ruled Judea from A.D. 44 to 66 acted as though they sought to drive its population to despair and revolt. Gradually, the confusion became so great and so general as manifestly to presage the dissolution of the commonwealth. At length, in A.D. 66, in spite of the precautionary efforts of Agrippa II, the party of the Zealots burst into an open rebellion, which was terminated (A.D. 70) by the capture of Jerusalem by Titus, the destruction of the Temple, and the massacre and the banishment of hundreds of thousands of the unhappy people, who were scattered among their brethren in all parts of the world. According to Eusebius, the Christians of Jerusalem, forewarned by their Master, escaped the horrors of the last siege, by removing in due time to Pella, east of the Jordan. Prominent among the Jewish writers of the first century of our era are Philo, who pleaded the Jewish cause at Rome before Caligula, and Josephus, who acted as Jewish Governor of Galilee during the final revolt against Rome, and described its vicissitudes and horrors in a thrilling, and probably also in an exaggerated, manner.

(5) Last Days of Pagan Rome (A.D. 70-320)

Rome exulted over fallen Jerusalem, and struck coins commemorative of the hard won victory. The chief leaders of the defence, a long train of heavily chained captives, the vessels of the Temple, the seven-branched candlestick, the golden table, and a roll of the Law, graced Titus's triumph in the imperial city. And yet three strong fortresses in Palestine still held out against the Romans: Herodium, Machærus, and Masada. The first two fell in A.D. 71, and the third, the following year, which thus witnessed the complete conquest of Judea. For a while longer, certain fugitive Judean Zealots strove to foment a rebellion in Egypt and in Cyrenaica. But their efforts soon came to naught, and Vespasian availed himself of the Egyptian commotion to close for ever the temple of Onias in Heliopolis. At this juncture, it looked as though the distinct groups of Jewish families were henceforth destined to drift separately, finally to be absorbed by the various nations in the midst of which they chanced to live. This danger was, however, averted by the rapid concentration of the surviving Jews in two great communities, mostly independent of each other, and corresponding to the two great divisions of the world at the time. The first naturally comprised all the Jews who lived this side of the Euphrates. Not long after the fall of Jerusalem and its subsequent misfortunes, they gradually acknowledged the authority of a new Sanhedrin, which, in whatever way it arose, was actually constituted at Jamnia (Jabne), under the presidency of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai. Together with the Sanhedrin [now the supreme Court (Bêth Din) of the Western communities], there was at Jamnia a school in which Jochanan inculcated the oral Law (specifically the Halacha) handed down by the fathers, and delivered expository lectures (Hagada) on the other Hebrew Scriptures distinct from the written Law (Pentateuch). Jochanan's successor as the head of the Sanhedrin (A.D. 80) was Rabbi Gamaliel II, who took the title of Nasi ("prince": among the Romans, "patriarch"). He also lived at Jamnia, and presided over its school, on the model of which other schools were gradually formed in the neighbourhood. He finally transmitted (A.D. 118) to his successors, the "patriarchs of the West", a religious authority to which obedience and reverence were henceforth paid, even after the seat of this authority was shifted first to Sephoris, and finally to Tiberias.

The supremacy of "Rabbinism", thus firmly established among the Western Jews, prevailed likewise in the other great community which comprised all the Jewish families east of the Euphrates. The chief of this Babylonian community assumed the title of Resh-Galutha (prince of the Captivity), and was a powerful feudatory of the Parthian Empire. He was the supreme judge of the minor communities, both in civil and in criminal matters, and exercised in many other ways a wellnigh absolute authority over them. The principal districts under his jurisdiction were those of Nares, Sora, Pumbeditha, Nahardea, Nahar-Paked, and Machuzza, whose rabbinical schools were destined to enjoy the greatest fame and influence. The patriarchs of the West possessed much less temporal authority than the princes of the Captivity; and this was only natural in view of the suspicious watchfulness which Vespasian and Titus exercised over the Jews of the Empire. A garrison of 800 men occupied the ruins of Jerusalem to prevent its reconstruction by the religious zeal of its former inhabitants, and in order to do away with all possible pretenders to the Jewish Throne or to the Messianic dignity as strict search was made for all who claimed descent from the royal House of David. Under Domitian (A.D. 81-96), the Fiscus Judaicus, or tax of two drachmas established by Vespasian for the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, was exacted from the Jews with the utmost rigour, and they were involved in the persecutions which this tyrant carried on against Christians. The reign of Nerva (A.D. 96-98) gave a brief interval of peace to the Jews; but in that of Trajan (98-117),while the Roman legions had been withdrawn from Africa to fight against Parthia, the Jewish population of Egypt and Cyrene took up arms against the Greeks of those districts, and on both sides dreadful atrocities were committed. Thence the flame spread to Cyprus where the Jews massacred, we are told, 240,000 of their fellow-citizens. Hadrian sent forces to suppress the uprising in that island, and forbade any Jew to set his foot on its soil. Next, the revolt in Egypt and Cyrene was put down. Meanwhile the Jews of Mesopotamia, dissatisfied with the Romans who had just conquered the Parthians, endeavoured to get rid of the Fiscus Judaicus now imposed upon them. Their insurrection was soon suppressed by Lucius Quintus, who was then appointed to the government of Judea, where it is probable that disturbances were feared.

The next year (A.D. 117), Hadrian became emperor. This was a fortunate occurrence for the Jews of Babylonia, for as the new Cæsar gave up Trajan's conquests beyond the Euphrates, they came again under the milder rule of their ancient sovereigns. But it proved most unfortunate for the Jewish population of the Roman world. Hadrian issued an edict forbidding circumcision, the reading of the Law, and the observance of the Sabbath. He next made known his intention to establish a Roman colony in Jerusalem, and to erect a fane to Jupiter on the site of Yahweh's fallen Temple. At this juncture, it was announced that the Messia had just appeared. His name, Bar-Cochba, "Son of the Star", seemed to fulfil the ancient prophecy: "a star shall rise out of Jacob" (Numbers, xxiv,17). Rabbi Aqiba, the most learned and venerated of the Sanhedrists of the day, distinctly acknowledged the claims of the new Messia. Jewish warriors of all countries flocked around Bar-Cochba, and he maintained his cause against Hadrian for two years. But Roman tactics and discipline gradually prevailed. The Jewish strongholds fell one after another before Julius Severus, the Roman general; Jerusalem was taken; and at length (A.D. 135), the fortress of Bither, the last refuge of the rebels, was captured and razed to the ground. Bar-Cochba had been slain; and sometime later, Rabbi Aqiba was seized and executed, but his seven leading pupils fortunately escaped to Nisibis and Nahardea. Dreadful massacres followed the suppression of the revolt; of the fugitives who escaped death many fled to Arabia, whence that country obtained its Jewish population; and the rest were sold into slavery. To annihilate for ever all hopes of the restoration of a Jewish kingdom, a new city was founded on the site of Jerusalem and peopled by a colony of foreigners. The city received the name of Ælia Capitolina, and no Jew was allowed to reside in it or even approach its environs. The Christians, now fully distinguished from the Jews, were permitted to establish themselves within the walls, and Ælia became the seat of a flourishing bishopric.

Under Antoninus Pius (138-161), Hadrian's laws were repealed, and the active persecution against the Jews came to an end. Aqiba's disciples then returned to Palestine and reorganized the Sanhedrin at Usha, in Galilee (140), under the presidency of Simon II, the son of Gamaliel II. Simon's patriarchate was not free from the petty oppression of the Roman officials, which the Palestinian Jews particularly felt and resented. On the occasion, therefore, of the warlike preparations of the Parthians against Rome, a fresh revolt broke out in Judea during the last year of Antoninus's reign. It was speedily suppressed under the next emperor, Marcus Aurelius (161-180), and followed by a re-enactment of Hadrian's extreme measures which, however, were soon annulled or never carried out. In 165, Rabbi Juda I succeeded Simon II as president of the Sanhedrin and patriarch of the West. The most important of his acts is the completion of the Mishna oral Law (about 189), which, concurrently with the Bible, became the principal source of rabbinical study, and a kind of constitution which even now holds together the scattered members of the Jewish race. As Rabbi Juda was in office for over thirty years, he was the last Jewish patriarch who had to complain of the vexations of the pagan rulers of Rome. Under Caracalla (211-217), the Jews received the rights of citizenship; and under his successors the various disabilities by which they had been affected were gradually removed. Even such rabid persecutors of the Christians as Decius (249-251), Valerian (253-260), and Diocletian (284-305) left the Jews unmolested. During this period of peace, the patriarchs of the West frequently sent their legates to the various synagogues to ascertain their actual condition and collect the tax from which Juda III and his successors drew their income. In Babylonia, the Jewish communities and schools were flourishing under the princes of the Captivity, and except for a short space of time immediately after the conquest of the Parthians by the neo-Persians, and during the ephemeral rule of Odenathus at Palmyra, they enjoyed quiet and independence. The condition of the Jews in Arabia and China, at this time, is not known with any degree of certainty.

(6) Christian Emperors and Barbarian Kings (320-628)

The accession of Christianity to the throne of the Cæsars by the conversion of Constantine, opens a new era in the history of the Jews. The equality of rights to which the pagan emperors had admitted them was gradually restricted by the head of the Christian State. Under Constantine (306-337), the restrictions were few in number, and due to his interest in the welfare of his Christian subjects and in the promotion of the true religion. He made the passage from Christianity to Judaism a penal offence; prohibited the Jews from circumcising their Christian slaves; protected converts from Judaism against the fiery vengeance of their former coreligionists; but never deprived them of their citizenship, and never went beyond constraining them -- with the exception of their rabbis -- to take upon themselves certain public offices which had become particularly burdensome. These laws were re-enacted and made more severe by his son Constans I (337-350), who attached the death penalty to marriages between Jews and Christians. The severity of these and other laws of Constans was but too fully justified by the dreadful excesses of the Jews in Alexandria, and by their temporary revolt in Judea. The accession of Julian the Apostate, in 361, made a new diversion in their favour. This emperor decreed the rebuilding of the Temple on Mt. Moria and the full restoration of Jewish worship, apparently with a view to secure the influence of the Mesopotamian Jews in his expedition against the Persians. The Jews were triumphant, but their triumph was short-lived; sudden flames burst forth from Mr. Moria and rendered impossible the rebuilding of the Temple; Julian perished in his Persian War, and his successor, Jovian (363-364), reverted to Constans' policy. The next emperors, Valens and Valentinian, reinstated the Jews in their former rights, except, however, the exemption from the public services. Under Gratian, Theodosius I, and Arcadius, they likewise enjoyed the protection of the Throne; but under Theodosius II (402-450), emboldened by their long immunity from persecution, they manifested a spirit of intolerance and crime which let to violent tumults between them and the Christians in various parts of the Eastern Roman Empire, and apparently also to the prohibition of building new synagogues and from discharging any state employment. It was under Theodosius II that the patriarchate of the West, then held by Gamaliel VI, came to an end (425). Some time before (c. 375), the Jerusalem Talmud was finished, a work which, however important for Judaism, is less complete, in regard to both its Mishna and its Gemara, than the Babylonian Talmud, the compilation of which was terminated by the heads of the Babylonian schools about 499, despite the violent persecutions of the Persian kings, Jezdijird III (440-457) and Firuz (457-484). The immediate result of Firuz's persecution was the emigration of Jewish colonists in the south as far as Arabia, and in the east as far as India where they founded a little Jewish state on the coast of Malabar which lasted till 1520. Under Qubad I, Firuz's son and successor, the prince of the Captivity, Mar-Zutra II, managed to maintain for seven years an independent Jewish state in Babylonia; but in 518, the Byzantine successors of Theodosius II enforced his anti-Jewish laws with great rigour, and, as a result, the intellectual life and former jurisdiction of the Judean Jews became virtually extinct.

In the West the Jews fared decidedly better during the fifth century than in the East. They of course suffered many evils during the invasions of the northern barbarians who flooded the Western Empire after its permanent separation in 395 from the Eastern Empire of Constantinople. In the midst of the political convulsions naturally entailed by these invasions, the Jews gradually became the masters of the commerce, which the conquerors of the Western Empire, addicted to the arts of war, had neither time nor inclination to pursue. In the various states which soon arose out of that dismembered empire, the numerous Jewish colonies do not seem for a long time to have been subjected to restrictive measures, except in connection with their slave trade. The Vandals left them free to exercise their religion. They were justly treated in Italy, by the kings of the Ostrogoths, and by the Roman pontiffs; in Gaul, by the early Merovingians generally; and in Spain, by the Visigoths down to the conversion of King Recared to Catholicism (589), or rather down to the accession of Sisebut (612), who, deploring the fact that Recared's anti-Jewish laws had been little more than a dead letter, resolved at once to enforce them, and in fact added to them first the injunction that the Jews should release the slaves in their possession, and next, that they should choose between baptism and banishment. Anti-Jewish legislation was framed at a much earlier date in the Frankish dominions. Hostility towards the Jews showed itself first in Burgundy, under King Sigismund (517), and thence it spread over the Frankish countries. In 554, Childebert I of Paris forbade them to appear on the street at Eastertide; in 581, Chilperic compelled them to receive baptism; in 613, Clotaire II sanctioned new decrees against them; and in 629, Dagobert bade them choose between baptism and expulsion. Thus the laws against the Jews both in Spain and in France reached gradually a degree of severity unknown even to such Eastern persecutors of Judaism as Justinian I (527-5650 and Heraclius (610-641). Yet, the edicts of these Byzantine emperors were vexatious enough. In fact, Justinian's decrees so exasperated the Palestinian Jews that despite the persecutions of their Mesopotamian fellow-Jews by the Persian kings, Jusrau I (531-579), Hormizdas IV (579-591), and Kusrau II (590-628), they seized the first opportunity to avenge themselves by siding with Kusrau II in his war against Heraclius. During the Persian invasion and occupation of Palestine, they committed dreadful excesses against the Christians, which finally met with a merited punishment in the persecution which Heraclius, again master of Judea, started against them.

(7) The Mohammedan Ascendancy (628-1038)

The rise of Mohammedanism, with whose power the Arabian Jews cane in contact when it was yet in its infancy, marks the beginning of a new period in Jewish history. Several centuries before Mohammed's birth (c. 570), the Jews had effected important settlements in Arabia, and in the course of time, they had acquired a considerable influence upon the heathen population. In fact, it is certain that at one time, there existed in Southern Arabia (Yemen), an Arab-Jewish kingdom which was brought to an end in 530 by a Christian king of Abyssinia. But although they had lost their royal estate, the Arabian Jews were still numerous and powerful, in the Hedjaz, north of Yemen. There was indeed but a small Jewish population in Mecca, Mohammed's birthplace; yet it is probable that contact with the Jews of that city was one of the means by which the founder of Islam became acquainted with Judaism, its beliefs, and it Patriarchs. This acquaintance became naturally closer after the Hegira (Flight) of Mohammed (622) to Medina, the chief centre of the Arabian Jews. To win the Israelites to his cause, the "prophet" made various concessions to their religion and adopted some of their customs. As this was useless, and as the Jews were a constant menace to his cause, he resolved to get rid of their tribes one after another. He first put an end to the Jews in the vicinity of Medina, and next (628) subjected those of the district of Khaibar and of Wadi al-Kura to an annual tribute of half the produce of the soil. After Mohammed's death (A.D. 632), Caliph Abu-Bekr tolerated the Jewish remnant in Khaibar and al-Kura; but this toleration ceased under Omar, the prophet's second successor. During Omar's short caliphate (634-644), Syria, Ph nicia, Persia, Egypt, and Jerusalem fell under the sway of Islam. The Jews were fairly well treated by their new masters. Omar's so-called "Covenant" (640) imposed indeed restrictions upon Jews in the whole Mohammedan world, but these restrictions do not seem to have been carried out during his lifetime.

In return for the valuable assistance of the Babylonian Jews in Omar's campaigns against Persia, this caliph granted them several privileges, among which may be mentioned the recognition of their exilarch Bostanaï (642). Under Islam's fourth caliph, Ali (656-661), the Jewish community of Irak (Babylonia) became more fully organized and assumed the appearance of an independent state, in which the Talmudic schools of Sora and Pumbeditha flourished again. The exilarch and the head of the school of Sora, with his new name of Gaon (658), were of equal rank. The former's office was political, the latter's distinctly religious. The exilarch, both in bearing and in mode of life, was a prince. Thus it came to pass that the Jews scattered through the Mohammedan world persuaded themselves that in Abraham's own country there survived a prince of the Captivity who had regained the sceptre of David. For them, the heads of the Babylonian schools were the representatives of the ideal times of the Talmud. The farther the dominion of the Ommiads (661-750) was extended, the more adherents were gained for the Jewish Babylonian chiefs. The great liberty which the Jews enjoyed under Islam's rule allowed them to cultivate Paitanism or neo-Hebraic poetry and to begin their Massoretic labours (see Massora).

Meantime, their fellow-Jews were less fortunate in Spain, where most rulers of the seventh century enacted severe laws against Judaism. Towards the end of that century, Egica forbade them to own lands and houses, to repair to or trade with North Africa, and even to transact business with Christians. Having next discovered a plot of the Jews with the Moors to overthrow the Visigothic rule, he sentenced to slavery all the Jews of his states and ordered that their children of seven years and upwards be given to Christians to be educated. This condition of things came to an end under Roderic, Egica's second successor and last Visigothic King of Spain. With numerous Jews in their army, the Mohammedans crossed from Africa into Andalusia, defeated and slew Roderic (July, 711); Spain was gradually conquered; and in 720, the Saracens occupied Septimania, north of the Pyrenees, a dependency of the Gothic Kingdom. In Mohammedan Spain, the Jews, to whose help the conquerors largely owed their victories, obtained their liberty. In fact, it was now given to the Jews at large to enjoy a long period of nearly unbroken peace and security. Apart from the persecutions started in 720 by the Caliph of Damascus, Omar II, and in 723 by the Byzantine emperor, Leo III, they prospered everywhere till about the middle of the ninth century. It was during this period that the great Kingdom of the Chazars, which was situated west of the Caspian Sea, and had caused the Persians to tremble, embraced Judaism (c. 745); its rulers remained exclusively Jewish above two centuries and a half. After the caliphs of the Ommiad dynasty, one of whom had a Jew as his mint-master, those of the Abassides, till after Harun al-Rashid (d. 809), do not seem to have seriously disturbed their Jewish subjects; during that time, the Babylonian Talmudic schools were crowded with hearers, and had it not been for their internal dissension, religious (Karaites) and political (contests for the dignity of exilarch), the Jews of Babylon would have been as happy as they were renowned for their learning. In Mohammedan Spain (with its separate Caliphate of Cordova since A.D. 756), the Jews were undoubtedly prosperous during the century now under review, although details concerning their condition during that time are actually wanting. In France, the Jewish population was not submitted to any serious restrictions under either Pepin (752-768) or Charlemagne (764-814), while under Louis I (814-840) it even enjoyed special favours and privileges, the king having for his confidential adviser his Jewish physician name Zedekiah, and actively protecting Jewish interests against powerful opponents.

Thus, with the exception of a passing persecution under the two sons of Harun al-Rashid, the Jews were left unmolested for about 100 years. But with the middle of the ninth century, and nearly everywhere, this ceases to be the case. In the East, Jewish persecutions were resumed by the Byzantine emperors of the Macedonian dynasty (842-1056), and by the Abasside Caliph al-Motawakel, who, in 853, re-enacted the Covenant of Omar, and under whose successors in the Caliphate of Bagdad, the Jewish community of Irak lost more and more of its prestige and was supplanted in this respect by that of Spain: the exilarchate gradually ceased to be an office of the State and finally perished (c. 940), owing chiefly to the dissensions between the Gaons of Sora and Pumbeditha; and the Gaonate itself, for a while made famous by Saadiah, ultimately disappeared through the oppression of the weak caliphate (c. 1038). Under the Fatimite dynasty of caliphs (909-1171), whose rule extended over North Africa, Egypt, and Syria, the Jews were worse off still. About the middle of the tenth century, the Jewish Kingdom of the Chazars was destroyed by the Russians. In the West, the lot of the Jews was also that of a despised and persecuted race. Charles the Bald (840-877) protected them effectively, it is true, but his weak Carlovingian successors and the early Capetians lacked sufficient authority for doing so. In Italy, as early as 855, Louis II ordered the banishment of all Italian Jews, and his order failed to have the intended effect only because of the distracted condition of the realm at the time. In Germany, where "Jew" was synonymous with "merchant", the emperors were long satisfied with exacting a special tax from their Jewish subjects; but finally Henry II (1002-1024) expelled from Mainz the Jews who refused to be baptized, and it is probable that his decree was applied to other communities.

Spain (Navarre, Castile, and Leon) also persecuted the Jews, although towards the end of the tenth century, its rulers placed them in many respects on an equality with the rest of the population. In Mohammedan Spain, however, the Jewish race was politically and religiously free. Under such patrons of science and art as the Ommiad caliphs, Abd-er-Rhamman III (d. 961), Al-Hakem (d. 976), and the regent Al-Mansur (d. 1002), the Jews greatly increased in Moorish Spain, and became famous for learning as well as for commercial and industrial activity. The Talmudic schools of Cordova, Lucena, and Granada took the place of those of Sora and Pumbeditha, under the high patronage of the Jewish statesmen Hasdai, Jacob Ibn-Jau, and Samuel Halevi. During this period, an Arabic translation of the Mishna was made in Spain by Ibn-Abitur, and the first commentaries on the Talmud were composed at Mainz by Gershom ben Juda (d. 1028).

(8) Era of the Crusades (1023-1300)

In many respects, Mohammedan Spain owed a great deal to its Jewish population; yet, in 1066, the Jews were expelled from the Kingdom of Granada. In many ways, too, the young kingdoms of Christian Spain were indebted to their Jewish inhabitants; nevertheless, Ferdinand the Great subjected them to vexatious measures and was only prevented from drawing the sword against them by the intervention of the Spanish clergy. These, however, were but passing storms; for Alfonso VI (1071-1109) soon freely used Jews in his diplomatic and military operations, while in the Mohammedan states distinct from Granada, Jewish culture reached the zenith of its splendour. The era of Jewish persecutions really began with the First Crusade (1096-1099). The crusaders enacted in May-July, 1096, bloody scenes against the Jews of Trier, Worms, Mainz, Cologne, and other Rhenish towns, and repeated them as they went along in the cities on the Main and the Danube, even as far as Hungary, bishops and princes being mostly on the side of the victims, but proving, for various reasons, powerless to protect them effectively. On the capture of Jerusalem, 15 July, 1099, the crusaders wreaked a frightful vengeance on the Jews of the fallen city.

The interval between the First and the Second Crusade was a time of respite and recuperation for the Jewish race. In England, in Germany, and even in Palestine, they were left unmolested; while in Spain and in France, they attained to a high degree of prosperity and influence, and actively pursued literary and Talmudic studies under the guidance of Juda Halevi and the sons of Rashi. Yet, in 1146, on the eve of the Second Crusade, there began against them the violent persecution of the Almohades in Northern Africa and Southern Spain which brought about the speedy ruin of the Jewish synagogues and schools and would have resulted in the practical annihilation of the Jews of Mohammedan Spain had not most of them found a refuge in the Christian dominions of Alfonso VIII (d. 1157). Then came the Second Crusade (1147-1149) with its atrocities against the Jews in Cologne, Mainz, Worms, Speyer, and Strasburg, despite the protestations of St. Bernard and of Eugenius III, and the efforts of the German prelates and the Emperor Conrad III in their behalf; and with its most deplorable result, namely the greater enslavement of the German Jews to the Crown. The next fifty years were, on the whole, for the Jewish race a period of peace and prosperity; in Spain, where Juda Ibn-Ezra was steward of the palace to Alfonso VIII; in Mesopotamia, where Mohammed Almuktafi revived the dignity of exilarch; in the Two Sicilies, where the Jews had equal rights with the rest of the population; in Italy, where Pope Alexander II was favourable to them, and the Third Lateran Council (1179) passed decrees protecting their religious liberty; in England and its French provinces, where the Jews were very flourishing under Henry Plantagenet (c. 1189); in France itself, where under the kind rule of Louis VI and Louis VII (1108-1180) they greatly prospered in every direction. And yet, in some of these countries there was a deep-seated hatred of the Jewish race and its religion. It manifested itself in 1171 when the Jews of Blois were burned on the charge of having used Christian blood in their Passover, and it allowed Philip Augustus in the year of his accession (1180) to decree the confiscation of all the unmovable goods of his Jewish subjects and their banishment from his domains.

This feeling showed itself particularly on the occasion of the Third Crusade (1189-1192). The Jews were massacred on the day of the coronation of Richard I (3 Sept, 1189) and soon afterwards in several English towns (1190). About the same time, crusaders murdered them at different places from the district of the Rhine to Vienna. When again in 1198 a new crusade (1202-1204) was preached, many barons of northern France got released from their debts to Jewish creditors, and then drove them out of their dominions. Philip Augustus received indeed the exiles in his own territory, but he was chiefly actuated by covetousness. The Jews appealed to Innocent III to curb the violence of the crusaders; and in answer, the pontiff issued a Constitution which rigorously forbade mob violence and forced baptism, but which apparently had little or no effect.

The year 1204, in which closed the Fourth Crusade, marked the beginning of still heavier misfortunes for the Jews. That very year witnessed the death of Maimonides, the greatest Jewish authority of the twelfth century, and the first of the many efforts of Innocent III to prevent Christian princes from showing favour to their Jewish subjects. Soon afterwards, the Jews of southern France suffered grievously during the war against the Albigenses which ended only in 1228. In 1210, those of England were ill-treated by King John Lackland and their wealth confiscated to the Exchequer. Next, the Jews of Toledo were put to death by crusaders (1212). The conciliar legislation of the time was generally unfavourable to the Jews, and it culminated in the anti-Jewish measures of the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215), among which may be mentioned the exclusion of Jews from all public offices, and the decree that they should wear a Jew badge. Besides being thus legislated against, the Jews were divided amongst themselves with regard to the orthodoxy of the writings of Maimonides. Gradually, the Lateran decrees against them were enforced wherever this was possible, and active persecutions from kings and crusaders were started, the rulers of England being particularly conspicuous for their extortions of money from their Jewish subjects.

In many places, the severity of the Lateran decrees was outdone, so that in 1235 Gregory IX felt called upon to confirm the Constitution of Innocent III, and in 1247 Innocent IV issued a Bull reprobating the false accusations and various excesses of the time against the Jews. Writing to the bishops of France and of Germany the latter pontiff says:

Certain of the clergy, and princes, nobles and great lords of your cities and dioceses have falsely devised certain godless plans against the Jews, unjustly depriving them by force of their property, and appropriating it themselves; . . . they falsely charge them with dividing up among themselves on the Passover the heart of a murdered boy. . . . In their malice, they ascribe every murder, wherever it chance to occur, to the Jews. And on the ground of these and other fabrications, they are filled with rage against them, rob them of their possessions without any formal accusation, without confession, and without legal trial and conviction, contrary to the privileges granted to them by the Apostolic See. . . . They oppress the Jews by starvation, imprisonment, and by tortures and sufferings; they afflict them with all kinds of punishments, and sometimes even condemn them to death, so the Jews, although living under Christian princes, are in a worse plight than were their ancestors in the land of the Pharaohs. They are driven to leave in despair the land in which their fathers have dwelt since the memory of man. . . . Since it is our pleasure that they shall not be disturbed, . . . we ordain that ye behave towards them in a friendly and kind manner. Whenever any unjust attacks upon them come under your notice, redress their injuries, and do not suffer them to be visited in the future by similar tribulations.
The protestations of the Roman pontiffs do not seem to have been much heeded in the Christian states generally. In 1254, nearly all the French Jews were banished by St. Louis from the king's domains. Between 1257 and 1266, Alfonso X of Castile compiled a code of laws which contained several clauses against the Jews and countenanced the blood accusation which had been contradicted by Innocent IV. During the last years of Henry III (d. 1272), the Jews of England fared worse and worse. About this time, Pope Gregory X issued a Bull ordaining that no injury be inflicted upon their persons or their property (1273); but the popular hatred against them on the charge of usury, use of Christian blood at their Passover, etc., could not be restrained; and the thirteenth century which had witnessed their persecution in all parts of Christendom, except Austria, Portugal, and Italy, closed with their total expulsion from England in 1200, under Edward I, and their carnage in Germany in 1283 and 1298. During the same period, public disputations had been resorted to but with little success for the conversion of the Jews. Further light on the severity of measures enacted by popes or councils concerning the Jews, as well on the motives of popular prejudice and hatred, will be found below, under section JUDAISM: (4) Judaism and Church Legislation.

(9) Last Part of the Middle Ages (1300-1500)

At the beginning of the fourteenth century, Jewish rabbis were divided concerning the value of the Zohar, the sacred book of the Kabalists (see KABBALA), which Moses of Leon had recently published. A still deeper division prevailed among them with regard to the cultivation of Aristotle's philosophy and the humanistic sciences and literature, and it resulted in 1305 in a public ban on the part of several Jewish leaders against the study of science. The next year (1306), Philip IV plundered and expelled all the French Jews, some of whom travelled as far as Palestine to enjoy there freedom under the rule of the mameluke sultan, Nassir Mohammed (d. 1341), while most remained on the border of France, thinking that the royal avarice which had caused their banishment would bring about their early return. Meantime, their coreligionists of Castile narrowly escaped the carrying out of stringent measures against their own rights and privileges (1313). The banished French Jews were actually recalled in 1315 by Louis X, and admitted for twelve years. But as early as 1320, there arose against them the bloody persecution of some 40,000 pastoureaux who pretended to be on their way to the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1321, the Jews were accused by the lepers of having poisoned the wells and rivers, whereupon a new persecution ensued. The same year, owing to intrigues against them, the Jews of Rome, then very flourishing in society and literature, would have been expelled from Roman territory by John XXII who resided in Avignon, had it not been for the timely intervention of Robert of Anjou, Vicar-General of the Papal States. In Castile, where the Jews possessed great influence with Alfonso XI (1312-1350), the various plans against them actually failed, and the king showed himself favourable to them till the day of his death. Their enemies were more successful in Navarre on the occasion of the war of independence which this province waged against France. As the Jews were apparently in the way of the secession, they were subjected to a violent persecution during the course of the war (1328), and to oppressive measures after Navarre had become a separate kingdom.

In Germany, they fared still worse during the riots and the civil wars under Louis IV (1314-1347). For two consecutive years (1336, 1337), the Armleder, or peasants wearing a piece of leather wound around arm, inflicted untold sufferings upon the Jewish inhabitants of Alsace and the Rhineland as far as Swabia. In 1337,also, on the charge of having profaned a consecrated Host, the Jews of Bavaria were subjected to a slaughter which soon extended to those of Bohemia, Moravia, and Austria, although Benedict XII had issued a Bull promising an inquiry into the matter. Besides, Louis IV, who always treated his Jewish subjects as mere slaves, subjected them (c. 1342) to a new and most onerous poll-tax. Greater Jewish massacres occurred in 1348-1349 while the fearful scourge, known as the "Black Death", desolated Europe. The report that the Jews had caused the scourge by poisoning the wells used by Christians, spread rapidly and was believed in most towns of Central Europe, despite the Bulls issued by Clement VI in July and September, 1348, declaring their falsity. Despite the fact, too, that the same pontiff had solemnly ordered that Jews be not forced into baptism, that their sabbaths, festivals, synagogues, and cemeteries be respected, that no new exactions be imposed on them, they were plundered and murdered in many countries of Central and Northern Europe. The next years were, on the whole, a period of respite from persecution for the Jewish race. In Castile, the Jews attained to a great influence under Don Pedro (1360-1369), and the misfortunes which then befell them arose partly from the prevalent view that they availed themselves of their power to lap up the people's possessions with their tax-farming, and partly from their constant loyalty to Don Pedro's cause, during the civil war which broke out between him and Don Henry. The latter, after reaching the throne, showed himself friendly to the Jews, and agree only reluctantly to some of the restrictive measures urged by the Cortes in 1371. In Germany, they were readmitted as early as 1355 into the very towns which had sworn that for 100 or 200 years no Jew should dwell within their walls.

In France, they were granted special privileges by King John (1361), which they enjoyed to the full extent under his successor, Charles V (1364-1380). But the last twenty years of the fourteenth century were again disastrous for the European Jews. In France, scarcely was Charles V dead, when popular riots were started against them because of their extortionate usury and encouragement to baptized Jews to recant, and finally brought about the permanent exile of the Jewish population (1394). In Spain, the reign of John I (d. 1390) witnessed a great curtailing of the Jews' power and privileges; and that of Henry III (d. 1406) was marked by bloody assaults in many cities of Castile and Aragon and even in the island of Majorca, on account of which numerous Jews embraced Christianity. In Germany (1384), and in Bohemia (1389, 1399), the Jews were likewise persecuted. Boniface IX had protested, but in vain, against such outrages and slaughters (1389); and it is only in his states, in Italy, and in Portugal, that the Jewish race had any measure of peace during these years of carnage.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Jews enjoyed some manner of respite in nearly al the countries where they had been allowed to stay or whither they had fled from persecuting France and Spain. But these peaceful days did not last long. As early as 1408 , there appeared in the name of the infant King of Castile, John II, an edict which revived the dormant anti-Jewish statutes of Alfonso X; and soon afterwards (1412), a severer edict was issued, intended to isolate the Jews from the Christians lest intercourse should injure the true Faith, and calculated to induce them to give up their religion. In fact, degraded in every way, parked in "Juderias", and deprived of practically every means of subsistence, many Jews surrendered to the exhortations of St. Vincent Ferrer, and received baptism, while the others persevered in Judaism and saw their misery somewhat alleviated by the royal edict of 1414. The persecution gradually extended to all the provinces of Spain, where St. Vincent also effected many conversions. At length, brighter days dawned for the Spanish Jews upon the death of Ferdinand, King of Aragon (1416) and of Catherine, Regent of Castile (1419), and upon the publication of the following solemn declaration of Martin V (1419), in their behalf: "Whereas the Jews are made to the image of God, and a remnant of them will one day be saved, and whereas they have besought our protection: following in the footsteps of our predecessors we command that they be not molested in their synagogues; that their laws, rights, and customs be not assailed; that they be not baptized by force, constrained to observe Christian festivals, nor to wear any new badges, and they be not hindered in their business relations with Christians." But then began new persecutions against the Jewish population of Central Europe. In their distress, the Austrian and the German Jews appealed to the same pontiff who, in 1420, also raised his voice in their favour, and who, in 1422, confirmed the ancient privileges of their race. Nevertheless, the Jews of Cologne were expelled in 1426, and those of several towns of southern Germany burned on the old blood accusation (1431). To add to their misfortune, the Council of Basle renewed the old and devised new restrictive measures against the Jews (1434); the unfavourable Archduke of Austria, Albert, became Emperor of Germany (1437-1439); and the new pope, Eugenius IV (1431-1447), at first well-disposed towards them, showed himself by this time less friendly to them.

Meantime, the Jewish communities of Castile prospered under John II, who promoted several Jews to public offices, and who in 1432 confirmed the statute of the Jewish Synod of Avila prescribing the establishment of separate schools. In the course of time, however, Spanish Christians complained to the pope of the arrogance of the Castilian Jews, and, in consequence, Eugenius IV issued an unfavourable Bull (1442) which greatly reduced Jewish prosperity and influence in Spain, and which was practically repeated in 1451 by Nicholas V (1447-1455). This pontiff was distinctly opposed to mob violence against the Jews, and he enjoined upon the Inquisitors of the Faith not only to refrain from exciting the popular hatred against them, but even to see that they should not be forcibly baptized or otherwise molested. And yet, under Nicholas V, severe persecutions befell the Jews of Central Europe, and their fugitives found a friendly refuge almost exclusively in the new Turkish Empire started by Mohammed II, the conqueror of Constantinople in 1453. The German emperor, Frederick III, was weak and vacillating, so that practically down to the end of his reign (1493), the Jews remaining in Central Europe were repeatedly subjected to miseries and humiliations. The Jews of Italy fared better during the same period, owing to the fact that the flourishing republics of Venice, Florence, Genoa, and Pisa appreciated and needed them as capitalists and diplomatists; and it is worthy of notice that the Italian Jews were very prompt in availing themselves of the newly invented art of typograp

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Obstat, Nihil. Lafort, Remy, Censor. Entry for 'History of the Jews'. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, January 25th, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
Search for…
Enter query in the box:
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology