Anti-Semitism in Antiquity: A study of the root causes and manifestations of antisemitism in the ancient world.
Students of modern history are well aware of the various forms of anti-Semitism, i.e. discrimination, pogroms, blood libels, extermination of whole communities, widespread anti-Semitic literature. The following account, which sounds quite modern, could well have occurred in nineteenth century Russia or twentieth century Germany or Poland: “From the four letters (sections of the city) they ejected the Jews and drove them to herd in a very small part of one. The Jews were so numerous that they poured out over the beaches, dunghills and tombs, robbed of all of their belongings... A still more grievous evil than the pillaging was the unemployment produced. The tradespeople had lost their stocks, and no one, husbandman, shipman, merchant, artisan, was allowed to practice his usual business. Thus poverty was established in two ways: first, the pillaging, by which in the course of a single day they had become penniless, completely stripped of what they had, and secondly, their inability to make a living from their regular employments. After the pillaging and eviction and violent expulsion from most parts of the city, the Jews were like beleaguered men with their enemies all round them.. Poor wretches, they were at once seized by those who wielded the weapon of mob rule, treacherously stabbed, dragged through the whole city, and trampled on, and thus completely made away with until not a part of them was left which would receive the burial which is the right of all. Indeed, whole families, husbands with their wives, infant children with their parents, were burnt in the heart of the city by these supremely ruthless men who showed no pity for old age nor youth, nor the innocent years of childhood.” These events occurred, however, not in the nineteenth or twentieth century but in the first century of the Common Era in Egypt as recorded by the famous writer and philosoper, Philo, in his Flaccus Chapter VIII, Paragraph IX. This lecture traces the antiquity of anti-Semitism in all of its myriad forms, including the wholesale extermination of Jews in communities throughout the Middle East, the original anti-Semitic literature and accusations against the Jews, which, in many cases, have modern parallels, as well as its causes.
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