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Joseph, Barnett (1942) The Responsa of R. Benjamin b. Matathias, as Illustrating the Development of the Halaha Between the Age of R. Asher b. Jehiel, Author of the Turim (1250-1328) and R. Joseph Karo, Author of the Shulhan Aruch (1488-1575); and as a Source for the Political, Religious, Communal, Economic, Social, and Cultural Conditions in the Last Quarter of the 15th Century and the First Half of the 16th Century, in the South East of Europe. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This work essays to depict the political, religious, economic, and social, including the cultural conditions, of the latter half of the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth century in S.E. of Europe. This description is based on the Responsa written and collected by P. Benjamin b. Matisyahu of Arta. The material contained in these Responsa were not yet utilised, neither by general historias nor by monographic writers who described the "history of the Jews in this period and in this part of Europe. The age of our author as well as the geographical position of the Communities in which the Communal and individual events depicted in the Responsa took place, are from many aspects, of special interest and importance. In the first place, the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries saw changes in the History of Europe generally and in that of the Jews particularly, e.g., the final fall of the Byzantine Empire with all its consequences (1453), the rise of the Ottoman Empire introducing A new epoch in the History of Europe with the beginning of the Turkish Conquest on this Continent, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal, and finally the war between Turkey and Venice. Each of these historic events could not fail to make a lasting impression on the destiny of the Jews in the provinces, once under the rule of Byzance and now under Turkish sway. Such changes of world historic importance left their impress on the political conditions under which the Jews lived. The disappearance of the Greek Empire did not mean the end of Greek environment and yet the Turkish rulers brought gradually new and hitherto unknown methods into the life of all the inhabitants and among them the Jewish Communities. The drawback of the political status was that with such a short period of transition no new organization of Communal life could grow up in such a short space of time. The old organization under which the Jews lived for centuries under the Byzantine Emperors collided with the new order of things and it took almost a century till organised life could again be consolidated. Another harmful influence arising out of these new circumstances was the deterioration in the relationship between the Greeks and the the Jews. The subjugated Greeks, never too friendly towards the Jews in their midst became even more hostile when they were forced to live under Turkish sway. This will account for some darker events in the political life of the Jews to be depicted in this work. Another serious trouble in the inner life of the Communities arose from the mixed composition of the individual settlements. The fall of Byzance paved the way for a more tolerant rule of the newly established Ottoman Empire in Constantinople. This new rule opened the gates to the immigration of persecuted and tortured survivors of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. The newcomers raised the economic and cultural standard of the now greatly enlarged Communities. However beneficial such an influx may have been, it was found to clash with the religious life and customs of the older Jewish settlers whose ancestors founded these Romanian Jews were bound, owing to their different origin and habits, ways of living and religious practices, to seek supremacy one over the other. Finally we notice that the Sefardi element triumphed over the original inhabitants who, in the course of centuries, entirely disappeared or left only slight traces of their early glory. Yet in turn the newly established Communities in which the Sefardi spirit predominated also declined so that every Jew of the once flourishing communities like Arta, Corfu, Janina, Lepanto, Tricola, Larissa, died out or gradually deteriorated. It will be one of the main tasks of this work to search for the reason for this decline. In order to find an answer to this query, special attention has to be paid to the economic and social conditions prevailing in this period and in these provinces which open the way to the better understanding of the history of the Jews in this south-eastern corner of Europe. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:24

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