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Old January 4th, 2014, 04:18 PM   #1
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Jewish Diaspora - migrations & growth or conversions?


I have seen the following claim:

Quote:
By 330 CE there were Jewish communities all around the Roman empire, from Hadrian's wall to Morocco, and as far as Tanais and Babylon. And the expansion of Judaism didn't stop there either: contrary to practice today Judaism practized active conversion - and very succesfully until the spread of Christianity started overtaking. When Muhammad started preaching, there were Jewish communities in Mecca, Yemen and Ethiopia.
Actually, Jewish Diaspora was very widespread already by 70 CE (and further increased until 330 CE). But whether or not Jewish communities in Europe, Africa and Asia was the result of mostly conversion of local populations to Judaism, or the result of mostly Jewish migrations, deportations of Jews, Jewish settlement, etc. - is indeed disputed.

Jewish Diaspora communities existed over vast territories of three continents already before 70 CE - before the destruction of Jerusalem. Moreover, already by that time - 70 CE - Egypt and Babylonia were the most important regions for the Jews, rather than Palestine - which was at that time perhaps not even the most populous of all Jewish regions (in Egypt there lived up to 1 million Jews and in Mesopotamia also a huge number).

I made a map showing the expansion of the Diaspora from ca. 719 BC (beginning of the Assyrian Captivity) to ca. 70 AD (destruction of Jerusalem):

Early Jewish Diaspora 719 BC - 70 AD map

Click the image to open in full size.

And several quotations regarding the extent of the Jewish Diaspora already in the 1st century AD:

Jewish influence in the Mediterranean region in the 1st c.AD

Click the image to open in full size.

There is no doubt, that sources often explicitly mention actual population movements (for example Antiochus III the Great settled 2000 Jewish families in Phrygia and Lydia; in 19 AD Romans expelled 4000 Jews from Italy to Sardinia, etc., etc.).

On the other hand, there is also evidence for conversions, but where those conversions long-lasting and on a large scale?

So what do you think, was the Diaspora more the result of natural growth of the migrating Jews, or more the result of conversions to Judaism?

Last edited by Domen; January 4th, 2014 at 04:24 PM.
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Old January 4th, 2014, 04:48 PM   #2
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The Jews who settled in Ethiopia probably in the 1st century BC (after the defeat of Cleopatra) - they are still there:

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_Israel"]Beta Israel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]


One of them is Shlomo Molla:

Click the image to open in full size.

Recently they are emigrating to Israel:

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Jews_in_Israel"]Ethiopian Jews in Israel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]


The Jews who settled in China in the Early to High Middle Ages:

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_China"]History of the Jews in China - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]


In Kaifeng (China), first synagogue was built in 1163 (by 70 Jewish families who migrated from the Middle East to Kaifeng):

And their descendants are still there:

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaifeng_Jews"]Kaifeng Jews - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]


Click the image to open in full size.

==================
==================

Quote:
Possibly a key event, as it included the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the change of name of the province from Judaea to Palestina and the similar change of name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina, entry of which was forbidden to Jews for several decades until the ban was lifted.
Not just the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

The entire city was erased from the ground (according to Josephus at least), like earlier in case of Carthage.

And there was no "change of name of Jerusalem". Aelia Capitolina was not Jerusalem - it was a new city, built on the very ruins of Jerusalem. The same happened to Carthage before - it was entirely demolished, and a new Roman city was constructed - but nearby, not in the same place. Finally - no, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was not the key event in history of the Jewish Diaspora, as my map posted above shows.

Please note that after the destruction of Jerusalem the Romans captured only 97,000 survivors (Josephus) and sold them as slaves. That number - 97,000 - was nothing compared to the already existing communities in many places (the largest being the one in Egypt). The First Roman-Jewish War and the Bar Kokhba Revolt had significance mainly for Palestine not for Diaspora - because they resulted in wholesale slaughter, greatly reducing the Jewish population of Palestine. Numbers of victims are exaggerated by sources, but still were enormous.

Another thing is that simultaneously with the slaughter in Palestine during the First Roman-Jewish War (66 - 73 AD), also massacres took place in other places - but not that terrible ones. For example in Alexandria 50,000 Jews were slaughtered (out of 200,000 - so just 1/4, while in Palestine the casualty rate was much, much higher). Damascus claimed 10,000 dead Jews, Cesarea 20,000, Scithopolis 13,000, etc., etc.

Also Diaspora in Cyrenaica suffered extremely heavy losses. On the other hand, in Cyprus local Jews slaughtered local Greeks.

Jewish community in Antioch remained unharmed.

Last edited by Domen; January 4th, 2014 at 05:40 PM.
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Old January 4th, 2014, 06:07 PM   #3
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Well, who wouldn't want a day off once a week rather than having to work every day? An idea with such obvious appeal is likely to spread like wildfire.
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Old January 4th, 2014, 06:36 PM   #4
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Good point. So it seems that Judaism had an advantage over old religions, until Christianity came at least?
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Old January 4th, 2014, 08:33 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Domen View Post
Jewish Diaspora was very widespread already by 70 CE (and further increased until 330 CE).

But whether or not Jewish communities in Europe, Africa and Asia was the result of mostly conversion of local populations to Judaism, or the result of mostly Jewish migrations, deportations of Jews, Jewish settlement, etc. - is indeed disputed.

Jewish Diaspora communities existed over vast territories of three continents already before 70 CE - before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Moreover, already by that time - 70 CE - Egypt and Babylonia were the most important regions for the Jews, rather than Palestine - which was at that time perhaps not even the most populous of all Jewish regions (in Egypt there lived up to 1 million Jews and in Mesopotamia also a huge number).

I made a map.................
Your map can be expanded eastward to the Tarim Basin. Jews were also represented along the silk road, very early on.

From the beginnings of Judaism, a faction of Jews can be identified as traders. They occupied the trade routes: Alexandria, Sidon (too many to list here) very early on, Babylon was the trade capital of the world in its time and Jews had an advantage there. They were literate and multilingual. They were literate because their religion required them to be. The Jews had a better numbering system than the Roman system - they had a zero. Thus they were natural bookkeepers and the fact that their bookkeeping system was kept in a strange and secret system appealed to the feudal kings and lords; they liked the idea of keeping that information inaccessible to the realm. The Jewish "diaspora" won a lot of bookkeeping jobs in the ports around the Med, they also were active in Soghdonia and all through Central Asia. They must have turned up in India.

The A crowd were multilingual as well as being the direct descendants of the people who invented written communication. This all gave them many advantages.

There were Jewish merchants and traders in all the Greek and Phoenician ports all around the Mediterranean who communicated with each other; they must have created the world's first mail delivery system. There were Jews in the Levant which was also a trade crossroads, Jews in Alexandria, a major port in the Med.

Even later, there was little or no "Diaspora" created by Roman heavy handedness. The Roman battle was with the Hasmoneans: not all Jews.

The faction of Jews who had become traders were not and could not have been Hasmoneans. They were polar opposites, or at least it would seem that they are polar opposites. Non-Hasmonean Jews lived in Rome unmolested at the time of the revolts.

The Hasmoneans believed that there was only one sacred place, and that was the Temple; to move away from the temple would be unthinkable, they were the non-diaspora Jews.

In about 128 BCE the Hasmonean leader John Hyrcanus went on a holy war wreaking mayhem on all Jews not following the will of god as "He" saw it: They destroyed the Samaritan's temple on Mt. Gerizim and the sacked Shechem. They drove the Edomites pretty much out into the southern desert. Wherever he could, "John Hyrcanus completely subdued other Jewish tribes, imposed the rite of circumcision among other things. We can assume that the towns and ports on the "Diaspora trail" received a lot of new immigrants around this time.


As well as the Jews in Saphoris, the Romans also left the Christians alone; at the time "Christians" were just another Jewish sect.

Their war was with the Temple cult.

Last edited by Dzung; January 4th, 2014 at 10:15 PM.
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Old January 5th, 2014, 09:41 AM   #6
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Interesting post, Dzung. Apropos merchants.

Do you know any ethnic Roman merchants?

It seems like Romans - not citizens of the Empire (including Greeks, Jews, etc.), but the original Romans - were not interested in trade at all.

It doesn't mean that Jews had no competition as merchants within the Empire. Greeks was a major rival. And some other groups as well.

Quote:
Babylon was the trade capital of the world in its time and Jews had an advantage there.
The Jews learned how to trade during their captivity in Babylonia.

When the Babylonian Captivity beginned, the Jews were not good merchants at all.

The Jewish interest in trade came precisely with the Babylonian Captivity.

And a zero was adopted by Jews from Babylonians as well (while Babylonians knew it from Sumerians and Elam).

Last edited by Domen; January 5th, 2014 at 09:50 AM.
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Old January 5th, 2014, 11:37 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Domen View Post
It doesn't mean that Jews had no competition as merchants within the Empire. Greeks was a major rival. And some other groups as well.
In the trade business competitors usually mean opportunity, they found competition and opportunity among the Persians, Soghdonians and probably the Tocharians in Tarim. But with the Greeks I think the rivalry turned bitter. I suspect that the Greeks tried to have a monopoly on trade.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Domen View Post
The Jews learned how to trade during their captivity in Babylonia.

When the Babylonian Captivity began, the Jews were not good merchants at all.
How do you know this? There seems to be a dearth of information from that era, especially pre-Babalyon.

Last edited by Dzung; January 5th, 2014 at 11:52 AM.
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Old January 5th, 2014, 04:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Domen View Post
The Jews who settled in Ethiopia probably in the 1st century BC (after the defeat of Cleopatra) - they are still there:

Beta Israel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


One of them is Shlomo Molla:

Click the image to open in full size.

Recently they are emigrating to Israel:

Ethiopian Jews in Israel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Jews who settled in China in the Early to High Middle Ages:

History of the Jews in China - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


In Kaifeng (China), first synagogue was built in 1163 (by 70 Jewish families who migrated from the Middle East to Kaifeng):

And their descendants are still there:

Kaifeng Jews - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Click the image to open in full size.

==================
==================

Not just the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

The entire city was erased from the ground (according to Josephus at least), like earlier in case of Carthage.

And there was no "change of name of Jerusalem". Aelia Capitolina was not Jerusalem - it was a new city, built on the very ruins of Jerusalem. The same happened to Carthage before - it was entirely demolished, and a new Roman city was constructed - but nearby, not in the same place. Finally - no, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was not the key event in history of the Jewish Diaspora, as my map posted above shows.

Please note that after the destruction of Jerusalem the Romans captured only 97,000 survivors (Josephus) and sold them as slaves. That number - 97,000 - was nothing compared to the already existing communities in many places (the largest being the one in Egypt). The First Roman-Jewish War and the Bar Kokhba Revolt had significance mainly for Palestine not for Diaspora - because they resulted in wholesale slaughter, greatly reducing the Jewish population of Palestine. Numbers of victims are exaggerated by sources, but still were enormous.

Another thing is that simultaneously with the slaughter in Palestine during the First Roman-Jewish War (66 - 73 AD), also massacres took place in other places - but not that terrible ones. For example in Alexandria 50,000 Jews were slaughtered (out of 200,000 - so just 1/4, while in Palestine the casualty rate was much, much higher). Damascus claimed 10,000 dead Jews, Cesarea 20,000, Scithopolis 13,000, etc., etc.

Also Diaspora in Cyrenaica suffered extremely heavy losses. On the other hand, in Cyprus local Jews slaughtered local Greeks.

Jewish community in Antioch remained unharmed.
Jews made it to india. A really cool synaguage, from Cochina, emigrated brick by brick to Jerusalem a true beauty.
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Old January 5th, 2014, 09:42 PM   #9

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nice map -- but you might want to expand it a little

An old British-Israel Map showing the Migrations of the Lost Ten Tribes.

Brit-Am History


Click the image to open in full size.
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Old January 5th, 2014, 10:42 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davu View Post
nice map -- but you might want to expand it a little

An old British-Israel Map showing the Migrations of the Lost Ten Tribes.

Brit-Am History
That site and that map are pure fantasy.
Celts were not Hebrews.
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