The Mediterranean Diaspora in Late Antiquity: What Christianity Cost the Jews

ISBN : 9780190222277

Ross Shepard Kraemer
416 Pages
156 x 156 mm
Pub date
Dec 2019
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The Mediterranean Diaspora in Late Antiquity examines the fate of Jews living in the Mediterranean Jewish diaspora after the Roman emperor Constantine threw his patronage to the emerging orthodox (Nicene) Christian churches. By the fifth century, much of the rich material evidence for Greek and Latin-speaking Jews in the diaspora diminishes sharply. Ross Shepard Kraemer argues that this increasing absence of evidence is evidence of increasing absence of Jews themselves. Literary sources, late antique Roman laws, and archaeological remains illuminate how Christian bishops and emperors used a variety of tactics to coerce Jews into conversion: violence, threats of violence, deprivation of various legal rights, exclusion from imperial employment, and others. Unlike other non-orthodox Christians, Jews who resisted conversion were reluctantly tolerated, perhaps because of beliefs that Christ's return required their conversion. In response to these pressures, Jews leveraged political and social networks for legal protection, retaliated with their own acts of violence, and sometimes became Christians. Some may have emigrated to regions where imperial laws were more laxly enforced, or which were under control of non-orthodox (Arian) Christians. Increasingly, they embraced forms of Jewish practice that constructed tighter social boundaries around them. The Mediterranean Diaspora in Late Antiquity concludes that by the beginning of the seventh century, the orthodox Christianization of the Roman Empire had cost diaspora Jews-and all non-orthodox persons, including Christians-dearly.


Chapter 1: The Absence of Evidence as the Evidence of Absence
Chapter 2: Five hundred and forty souls were added to Christ
The Letter of Severus of Minorca on the Conversion of the Jews, early 5th century?
Chapter 3: You Shall Have Freedom from Care...During My Reign
Letter 51, The Emperor Julian to the Collectivity of the Jews, March 1, 363 (perhaps spurious)
Chapter 4: The Sect of the Jews is Prohibited by no law
Th 16.8.9, Theodosios I, at Constantinople, Sept 23, 393
Valentinian, Gratian and Theodosios I (395)
Chapter 5: Their synagogues shall remain in their accustomed peace
CTh 16.8.12, Arkadios at Constantinople, June 17, 397
Honorius, Arkadios and Valentinian II, 395-408
Chapter 6: No Synagogues shall be constructed from now on
CTh 16.8.25 Theodosios II, at Constantinople, February 15, 423
Honorius and Theodosios II, 408-423
Chapter 7: We deny to the Jews and to the pagani, the right to practice law and to serve in the state service.
Sirmondian Constitution 6, Galla Placidia in the name of 5 year old Valentinian, and Theodosios II, Summer
Theodosios II in his majority, 423-50
Chapter 8: We do not grant that their synagogues shall stand, but want them to be converted in form to churches.
Novella 37, Justinian, August 1, 535
In the Aftermath of Theodosios in the East, 450-604
Chapter 9: In what has been allowed to them, [the Jews] should not sustain any prejudice.
Gregory the Great, to Victor, bishop of Palermo, Letters Book 8. no. 25, June 598
In the Aftermath of Theodosios in the West, 450-604
Chapter 10: Here rests Faustina, aged 14 years, 5 months...Two apostoli and two rebbites sang lamentations...
Latin epitaph from Venosa, Italy, JIWE 1.86, Late 5th-early 6th century, The Price of (Christian) Orthodoxy

About the author: 

Ross Shepard Kraemer is Professor Emerita of Religious Studies and Judaic Studies at Brown University, where she specialized in early Christianity and other religions of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean, including ancient Judaism. She holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Princeton University, and a B.A. from Smith College. Her many publications have focused particularly on gender and women's religions in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean, and on aspects of Jews and Judaism in the late antique Mediterranean diaspora.

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