History of The Jews in France - Roman-Gallic Epoch

Roman-Gallic Epoch

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According to the Jewish Encyclopedia (1906), "The first settlements of Jews in Europe are obscure. From 163 B.C.E. there is evidence of Jews in Rome . In the year 6 C.E. there were Jews at Vienne and Gallia Celtica; in the year 39 at Lugdunum (i.e. Lyon)." Further documents indicating the presence of Jews in France before the fourth century are as yet unknown. Hilary of Poitiers (died 366) is praised for having fled from the Jewish society. A decree of the emperors Theodosius II and Valentinian III, addressed to Amatius, prefect of Gaul (9 July 425), prohibited Jews and pagans from practising law and from holding public offices ("militandi"), in order that Christians should not be in subjection to them, and thus be incited to change their faith. At the funeral of Hilary, Bishop of Arles, in 449, Jews and Christians mingled in crowds and wept, while the former sang psalms in Hebrew. From the year 465 the Church took official cognizance of the Jews. Jews were found in Marseille in the sixth century, at Arles, at Uzès, at Narbonne, at Clermont-Ferrand, at Orléans, at Paris, and at Bordeaux. These places were generally centers of Roman administration, located on the great commercial routes, and there the Jews possessed synagogues. In harmony with the Theodosian code, and according to an edict addressed in 331 to the decurions of Cologne by the emperor Constantine, the internal organization of the Jews seems to have been the same as in the Roman empire. They appear to have had priests (rabbis or ḥazzanim), archisynagogues, patersynagogues, and other synagogue officials. The Jews were principally merchants and slave-dealers ; they were also tax-collectors, sailors, and physicians.

They probably remained under the Roman law until the triumph of Christianity, with the status established by Caracalla, on a footing of equality with their fellow citizens. The emperor Constantius (321) compelled them to share in the curia, a heavy burden imposed on citizens of townships. There is nothing to show that their association with their fellow citizens was not of an amicable nature, even after the establishment of Christianity in Gaul. It is known that the Christian clergy participated in their feasts; intermarriage between Jews and Christians sometimes occurred; the Jews made proselytes, and their religious customs were so freely adopted that at the third Council of Orléans (539) it was found necessary to warn the faithful against Jewish "superstitions", and to order them to abstain from traveling on Sunday and from adorning their persons or dwellings on that day. In the 6th century, a Jewish community thrived in Paris. A synagogue was built on the Ile de la Cite, but was later torn down and a church was erected instead.

In 629 King Dagobert proposed to drive from his domains all Jews who would not accept Christianity, from his reign to that of Pepin the Short no further mention of the Jews is found. But in the south of France, which was then known as "Septimania" and was a dependency of the Visigothic kings of Spain, the Jews continued to dwell and to prosper. From this epoch (689) dates the earliest known Jewish inscription relating to France, that of Narbonne. The Jews of Narbonne, chiefly merchants, were popular among the people, who often rebelled against the Visigothic kings.

Read more about this topic:  History Of The Jews In France

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