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4 The Socio-Economic Setting

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Chapter Summary

The social and economic scene of Italy underwent many upheavals during the centuries of the Jewish presence there. The political regime changed from a republic to a dictatorship. Jews rarely participated in these political and military events, though the participation of the local Jews in the defense of Naples against the Byzantine general Belisar belies this generalization with regard to the alleged total pacific attitude of the Jewish population. Diocletian inaugurated a comprehensive socio-economic reform of the Roman Empire, which went a long way toward chaining the population to their occupation. It has been suggested that these taxes were instrumental in creating a state monopoly in most areas of production and trade and to have caused them to be transferred to the provinces, so that some have concluded that this left the trade in luxury articles the only free one, and furthermore, that this trade was predominantly Jewish.

Keywords: Byzantine; Italy; Jewish presence; military event; Roman Empire; socio-economic reform; taxation



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