- Western and central Europe had had Jewish residents since Roman times, and even though anti-Jewish prejudice had led to repeated instances of mob violence, legal discrimination, and pressure for conversion, those communities never entirely disappeared over any broad area and for any extended time, with the exception of Spain and Portugal after the expulsion of all unconverted Jews in 1492 and 1496 respectively. Wherever they lived, Jews constituted separate communities that in the eyes of the law were resident aliens theoretically under the protection of the ruler.Jews were excluded from occupations that required membership in guilds (most of which had a religious element) and also in most regions from ownership of agricultural land. Hence the only occupations open to them were marginal ones, including mercantile activity and moneylending, since trade was regarded as ethically questionable and canon law forbade Christians to lend money at interest. Wealthy Jewish merchants with good business connections and liquid assets were useful to rulers, who relied on them for loans and financial services and hence granted them some protection while in many cases also exploiting the threat of popular violence to extort gifts and favorable terms on loans. Local Jewish communities generally regulated their own religious and family matters.The larger communities often contained learned scholars, usually specialists in biblical interpretation, philosophy, medicine, and such occult arts as astrology and magic. From the second half of the 15th century, beginning in Italy, some Christian humanists became interested in Hebrew language and in several fields of Jewish learning. Prominent examples were Giovanni Pico della Mirandola in Italy and Johann Reuchlin in Germany. In return, Jewish scholars like Yohanan Alemanno of Florence, who had assisted Pico's study of Jewish learning, became interested in the revived Platonism found in the translations and original treatises of Marsilio Ficino. Another prominent Jewish scholar, exiled from Portugal, was Leone Ebreo, whose Dialoghi d'amore /Dialogues on Love explored the Platonic idea of love and tried to relate Renaissance Neoplatonic thought to the Jewish mystical writings known as Cabala.As the large Jewish populations of Spain and Portugal were dismantled by persecution, conversion, and exile, Italy became the principal center of Jewish life in western and central Europe. Rome in particular had a large and highly cultivated Jewish population since the popes, although imposing many limitations, rejected a policy of forced conversion. At Venice, Rome, and other places Jews were permitted to live only in an officially defined ghetto. The pressures of living separate from the rest of society and of constantly facing the threat of having their privileges further restricted may explain the intense mystical developments and the many Messianic prophecies that arose within Jewish communities, especially from the late 16th century.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.
Look at other dictionaries:
Jews — Jews arrived in Belgium as early as the Roman conquest. They have been mentioned in sources dating from 1200 as living in Brabant. In a will of 1261, Henry III, duke of Brabant, ordered Jews and usurers expelled from the duchy. The community… … Historical Dictionary of Brussels
Jews — Jews comprised one of the most sizeable and important minorities in Byzantium (q.v.). Benjamin of Tudela (q.v.) describes Jewish communities in numerous cities, including many cities in Greece (q.v.). He mentions 2,000 Jews living in Thebes (q … Historical dictionary of Byzantium
Jews — Ethnoreligious group. At one time, Russia possessed the largest population of Jews worldwide; the country still has one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. Historically, Jew (ievrei) was treated as an ethnonational category in Russia… … Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation
Jews — Without the benefit of clairvoyance, one might have argued in the 1920s that the situation of Germany s Jews was that of complete and final arrival. Emancipated by Bismarck in the 1860s and 1870s, the Jews had weathered a bitter but contained… … Historical dictionary of Weimar Republik
Jews — There is reason to think that Jews may have been living in and around the future city of Vienna when the Romans arrived there around 15 BCE. However, the history of the Jews in the Austrian lands replicates the history of the diaspora in many… … Historical dictionary of Austria
Jews — From Spain and Portugal, the first Jews (Sephardim) immi grated to the Republic in the 1590s, especially after the blockade of the River Scheldt since 1585, which impeded commerce with the harbor of Antwerp from the sea. In 1619, the… … Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands
Jews — According to Biblical tradition, *Joseph, sold into slavery and sent down to Egypt, eventually gained status and wealth and brought his family (the tribe of Israel) to his new homeland. Centuries later, their descendants became part of the… … Ancient Egypt
Jews — The destinies of the Gypsies and the Jews have been intertwined ever since the former arrived in Europe centuries after the latter. For example, in Spain the deportation of the Moors and the Jews and the attempted deportation of the Gypsies… … Historical dictionary of the Gypsies
Jews — England shared the assumption (general until the later 20th century) that Jews lost their homeland as punishment for murdering Jesus, and have ever since been accursed. Symbolically, this was expressed through the medieval legend of the… … A Dictionary of English folklore
Jews — (Kurdish) Kurdish Jewish communities existed from time immemorial until they immigrated to Israel following the creation of that state in 1948. Traditionally these Kurdish Jewish communities and much larger Jewish communities in Iraq dated… … Historical Dictionary of the Kurds