Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Byzantium & the imperial anti-Jewish enterprises /

Βυζάντιο & αυτοκρατορικές αντιϊουδαϊκές επιχειρήσεις


«The first known systematic attempts to convert Jews in the Middle Ages originated in the Byzantine Empire. Its Jewish subjects in the east and in southern Italy became the least fortunate target of these religious campaigns. Although the latter still enjoyed papal protection by the end of the sixth century, their conditions changed after the fall of Byzantine Syria and Palestine into Arab hands. The relative severity of these imperial anti-Jewish enterprises may be attributed to their initiation by emperors. Unlike the crude separation between church and state in Latin Europe, Byzantine emperors acted on behalf of both the Empire and the Church.

In the first half of the seventh century, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (610–641) outlawed Judaism and ordered the forcible baptism of all Jewish subjects. How effective these decrees were in reality is difficult to tell. In Palestine Heraclius expelled the Jews from Jerusalem, ordered the disturbance of synagogue services on weekdays, and forbade the recital of the Shema. In 630, Heraclius is said to have authorized the massacre of Jews in nearby Jerusalem and in the Galilee.
[...] A new series of religious edicts surface a century later. Emperor Leo III (717–741) called for the conversion of all Jews, as well as Christians of the Paulician and the Manichean heresies. These sects rejected the Catholic principle of Trinity that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Son and the Father. It is believed that the close connection between these heretics and a militant messianic Jewish movement brought Leo’s rage on all Jews.

[...] Emperor Basil I (867–886) renewed his predecessors’ attempts. This time, a number of Jewish writers provide a relatively detailed picture of the events. The important eleventh-century book of genealogies, The Chronicle of (Megillat) Ahimaatz, relates Basil’s active role in this campaign. He “tried to turn them [the Jews of Byzantium] from the Torah and to convert them to the worthless religion.” Basil did so by outlawing the study of Torah in the Jewish communities of his empire.

[...] Around 945, Demetrios of Cyzicus still praised the emperor for converting “numerous Hebrews from their ancestral error, and refuted Athinganoi and Paulicians.”»


* Shmuel Shepkaru,
Jewish Martyrs in the Pagan and Christian Worlds,
[Ιουδαίοι Μάρτυρες στον Παγανιστικό και στον Χριστιανικό Κόσμο],
Cambridge University Press, 2005,
p./σ. 108, 109, 129.

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