Anti-Judaism refers to the oldest hatred against Jews. Anti-Semitism in Greco-Rome was based on religious, political, and socioeconomic differences between Christians and the Jews. The rivalry between the two groups led to persecution, destruction of homes, and expulsion of Jews from Rome. Also, the Jewish communities in Europe faced hostilities, forcing them to resettle in other places. The western Jews made a significant contribution in the arts, literature, and other areas in the European culture. Eastern Jews isolated themselves from other communities in the country, and they were involved in European politics. Religious, political, and socio-economic factors influenced anti-Semitism in Greece and Rome.
Origins of Prejudice toward Jewish/Hebrew People
The prejudice against Jewish people in Greek and Rome ranged from some negative statements, casual mockery, attacks, and expulsions. Jews are the only ethnic or religious group that faced hostility in every nation that they settled in large numbers. The first record indicates the anti-Semitism during the Roman Empire started in the 1st century. Various scholars and emperor influenced the hatred between the two groups.
The First Written Record about Jewish-Roman Hatred in Greco-Rome
The first record of a Greco-Roman attack on the Jews was during the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the expulsion of Jews in the year 70 CE (Berenbaum). Christianity spread around the world in the first century, despite the resistance from the Jewish people. As a result, the Roman Empire referred to Jews as an alien ethnic group condemned to perpetual migration.
Anti-Jewish Rhetoric and in Pre-Christian Era
The violence against Jewish people began in a pre-Christian era, from persistent stereotypes about the community for their resistance to worshiping rulers and polytheism. Due to this, Jews were denied citizenship, lived in harsh conditions, and they were persecuted for retaining their culture rather than taking on the cultural beliefs and religion of the rulers (History). The early Christians in Europe were against Jewish people in a bid to convert Jews into Christianity. Moreover, the Jewish people were labeled as “blood libel” for the allegations of kidnapping Christian children to use their blood during Passover (History). The religious attitude towards Judaism also influenced anti-Jewish political and economic policies in Greek and Roman. However, Admirand (42-45) argue that the Christians misunderstood Jewish community because Jews were a minority. Indeed, the Romans believed that Jews should only help them in burying the dead and caring for the sick.
Examples of Influential anti-Semitic Scholars and Rulers
Cicero, a Roman orator, was one of the distinguished founders of anti-Judaism rhetoric. Cicero attacked Jews and claimed that they differed with the dignity of the Roman Empire and its institutions (Kaufman). He also referred to Jewish people as unpatriotic foreigners in the Roman Empire. Besides, the great orator mocked the Jews for abstention from pork and other absurdities. Moreover, Cicero claimed that Jewish community belongs to repulsive force and form a state of rascals.
The teaching of St. Augustine, a persuasive theologian of the time, described the Jewish people as rebels and Devil companions (Berenbaum). Besides, Martin Luther spread prejudice against the Jews in his teachings. Later, Luther changed attitude towards Jews and denounced his Judaism faith. After denouncing Judaism, Luther called for the persecution of the Jewish people to stop the spread of the religion. Also, He condemned the Jews and proposed punitive actions against Judaism. Egypt was part of the Roman Empire during the time of Augustine, leading to a larger sphere of influence. His proposal involved setting schools and synagogues on fire in honor of Christendom, destroying houses, and taking away their prayer books. Luther also proposed the taking golden treasures and other valuables from the Jewish people. Titus led the Roman army during the infamous siege of Jerusalem, where more than 600,000 Jews lost lives and many were sold into slavery (Kaufman). Therefore, the Jewish community suffered when the Roman military was under the leadership of Titus.
Emperor Caligula declined the citizenship of Jewish community members in 38 C.E. (Flannery 21). The ruler crowned the Jews into beaches, ghettos, and cemeteries. The emperor also ordered for the torture, murder, and humiliation of the Jews in Rome.
Emperor Constantine established laws to limit Jewish people’s freedom and property ownership. For example, the regulations forbid Jews from holding congregations or entering Jerusalem except during the commemoration of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. Besides, the Christians were not allowed to celebrate the Passover with Jews. Also, the Jewish population faced religious intolerance from the state and church (Rutgers 56-74). The state outlawed the conversion of Romans to Judaism. Indeed, the discrimination against the Jewish population intensified in the 5th century due to the rivalry between the two groups. The Roman Empire barred Jews from joining the army, civil service, and other professional services to limit their socio-economic development. Gritsch (6) argues that Rome led other states against the Jewish people in Europe to suppress the religion. Therefore, the Roman Empire was the leading force against the Jewish people during the period.
Additionally, Pope Innocent III excommunicated people who supported Judaism in public. Also, he dismissed all Jews that held public offices and demanded every Jew to wear a yellow badge to ensure that they were conspicuous among the Romans. Likewise, the subsequent popes supported anti-Semitism, leading to relentless persecutions of Jews in the Greco-Rome world.
Dio Cassius, a historian, stated that Jewish uprising weakened Romans and Greeks. He argued that the Jews ate the victim’s flesh, and many perished due to the influence of Judaism during the period (Rutgers 56-74). Cassius influenced Jew-Roman hatred in the 2nd century. The scholars and leaders had a significant impact on anti-Semitism in Greco-Rome.
The Cause of biases against the Jewish People
The causes of the prejudice and hostility against Judaism in Rome were religious, political, and socioeconomic. The Jewish people are monotheistic; pagans viewed Jews as disloyal for refusing to worship rulers as gods (Berenbaum). Also, the rivalry between Christianity and Judaism started after the crucifixion of Jesus, according to Romans customs. Initially, the competition was theological and later became political and socioeconomic. The development of the Christian church in a Greco-Rome world inspired the establishment of anti-Semitic laws to curtail the freedom of Jews and segregate them to minimize their threat to Christianity.
Additionally, both Jews and Romans were responsible for the hatred between the two groups. The members of both groups justified their divine revelation as the basis of their teachings (Blech 188). Also, the agenda of corrupt individuals in the Greco-Rome world contributed to anti-Semitism. Moreover, the divine authority assumed by both groups allowed the execution of nonbelievers. The Romans believed that Jews killed Jesus, the Son of God, while the Jewish community claimed that they are the chosen people of God. Due to these allegations, Jews were barred from political and economic opportunities.
Reasons for Anti-Semitism
The Romans wanted to replace Judaism because the New Testament was a fulfillment of the Old Testament. Roman clergies taught people that God had replaced Judaism with Christianity. Also, the early Christian teachers argued that the role Jews was to prepare the way for the Son of God (Berenbaum). Besides, the time for Judaism was over and its existence after the death of Jesus was against the Roman Empire’s authority. Indeed, Jews continued to reject Christianity. According to Weatherly (54), the Romans claimed that Jewish people were responsible for the death of Jesus. Thus, the Romans were determined to suppress the spread of Judaism.
Jewish people in Judea rebelled the Roman Empire rule. The rebellion against the Romans started in Jerusalem before spreading to the Middle East. The Roman Empire took many years to reclaim the lost territory. Judea was necessary for the Romans’ dominance over the Jewish people. Roman anti-Semitism was similar to Greek, their predecessor. Flannery (18) posits that Greek passed their attitude towards Jews to Romans. However, the Roman approach was more complicated than their predecessors’ because they knew how to put of rebellions.
The Gospel of John and Paul in the New Testament also contributed to hatred for Jews. The Gospel demonized Jews for their contribution to the death of Jesus. Likewise, Christians believed that they were the chosen people of God under the New Testament. The biases against the Jews were rumors and lies without any truth. For example, the claim that the Jewish community used Christian children in rituals was baseless. There was no proof of any allegations against the Israelites. Many biases towards the Jews were stereotypes based on personal interests. Moreover, Romans used stereotypes to limit the Jews’ political and economic performance. Laqueur (4) argues that there were economic and social influences in anti-Semitism, such as recruitment in the military and other positions because Jews threatened Romans
Jewish People in Ancient World
The Greco-Rome leaders exiled Jews as retaliation for their denial that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah. Besides, Romans declared Christianity the state religion in the 4th century. The Jewish people experienced hostility from Christians, such as the burning and attack of synagogues. Also, the intermarriages between the Christians and the unconverted Jewish population was prohibited.
List of Expungements
The Romans viewed the Jewish community as a peculiar and disloyal community and the Romans exiled many Jews. Emperor Tibet ordered the expulsion of the Jewish community from Rome in the year 19 CE. Besides, a significant number of Jews were killed in Alexandrian pogrom between 37 CE and 41 CE. The Romans killed Jews during the siege of mountain Fortress.
Another group of Jews was exiled from Judea during the era of Emperor Hadrian. The expulsion of the Jews created Jewish diaspora. Likewise, the Roman emperor also expelled Jews from Jerusalem in the second century.
Alexandria in the Third Century B.C.E
Jewish people settled in the eastern part of Alexandria at the beginning of the third century. The Jews engaged in commerce and various crafts. However, the Jews’ position in Alexandria deteriorated when the Roman Empire took over Alexandria (Jewish Virtual Library). The Romans sought to distinguish the Egyptians as subject people who paid poll tax and Greeks as citizens with all rights (Jewish Virtual Library). The Jews began seeking citizenship to attain the status of Greeks; however, the Alexandrians opposed the proposal and this led to anti-Jewish riots in 38 C.E. (Jewish Virtual Library). As a result, many Jews were killed, and their synagogues closed. Besides, the Romans confined all Jewish people to one corner of Alexandria.
Excuses or Reasons for Banishments
The Jewish population declined to convert to Christianity, leading to a rivalry between the two religious groups. Also, the Jews had peculiar cultural practices and unwillingness to change to Christianity. Moreover, Jewish population occupied the low-class in the Roman Empire. Therefore, the Romans believed that Jews were beggars who did not add value to the economy. Besides, most of the Jews were illiterate, leading with a low number of sages and intellectuals from the community. The contemporary Christians in Rome opposed the Jew’s custom to worship God without images and prevented the Romans and Greeks from bringing idols into Jerusalem. The Jewish community did not permit the worship of animals or pictures, including that of the Roman Emperors.
The Hebrews disapproved pagans, practiced circumcision, and abstained from eating pork. However, the Greeks and Romans perceived circumcision as an embarrassment in the society. The Romans also accused the Jews of human sacrifice and superstitious, and the practice of Sabbath. Indeed, the contemporary Romans did not appreciate Judaism and the idea that Jews were the chosen people of God. The anti-gentile concept among the Jewish population led to a perception that the world was created specifically for Jews, and Gentiles were sinners. Moreover, the Jewish population believed they were “chosen race” while the Gentiles were sinners. Romans and Greeks noticed Jewish were more successful than Christians in attracting converts. Therefore, the Romans were resentful for the increase in the number of converts to Judaism. According to Gold (29), the Jewish community believed Jerusalem was their holy city.
The Romans were intolerant of religious competition from Jews due to their contribution to the death of Jesus and converting Christians to Judaism (Flannery 19). Besides, religious rituals were part of daily Romans life, and images of their gods were almost everywhere and in every aspect of private and public life. However, Judaism was more demanding than Greco-Rome gods were, thereby compromising Jewish-Roman relations (Flannery 19).
Jewish People Settlement and After Expulsion and its Impact
The expulsion of Jews led their geographical dispersion to Spain, Portugal, Brazil, France, Austria, Crimea, Hungary, and Germany among other nations, as shown in Figure 1 below. Some rulers and societies afforded a degree of tolerance to the Jews. However, the Jews faced hostility in Spain, England, Sicily, Crimea, and Germany, among others due to contemporary anti-Judaism.
The Jewish community re-settled in Holland, Poland, Maghreb, Italy, and the Ottoman Empire as shown in figure 1 above. Also, Julius (148) argues that the Jewish communities contributed to the development of literature, arts, and education in Europe.
Impact in their New Settlement after Expulsion
The Jewish community participated in trade and influenced the culture of their new settlements. Besides, the Jewish community traders accumulated wealth and others were involved in economic development as writers, poets, and philosophers. Moreover, the settlement of the Jews in large cities after the expulsion influenced their lifestyle and increased social mobility. The western Jews lost their traditions and became the most creative group in Europe. However, Jewish communities in the East retained their culture and lived as a separate nation (Lazare 108). Likewise, anti-Semitism in Russia and Poland isolated Jews and increased their participation in politics.
Why Jew had to Impact the European Society with their Skills
The Jewish community contributed to cultural changes by working together with local communities to improve the art, education, and the economy. The Jews made a significant contribution to sciences, arts, and humanities. Indeed, Jews participated in chemistry, biology, and physics in Berlin. Therefore, the Jewish community influenced the art, literature, sciences, and other areas of education and culture in Europe.
The rivalry between Romans and Jews started with differing religious belief on the “chosen people of God.” The religious, socioeconomic, and political interests contributed to anti-Semitism in Greco-Rome. The hatred between Romans and Jews during the Roman Empire occurred after the death of Jesus. Both groups had differing religious faith about the selected people of God. The religious differences resulted in the expulsion of Jews. Moreover, Jews were isolated, leading to poor socioeconomic inequalities between the Jewish population and Romans. Jews also faced discrimination in politics.
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