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8 The Culture of Italian Jewry

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Chapter Summary

The Jews of Italy in Antiquity are often described as Hellenistic. The term is comprehensive and extends over language, literature, ritual in the synagogue and the cemetery, and some instances of its application may have caused Greeks born and bred to turn in their graves. Without additional qualification, the term simply means acculturation, especially of Greek language, culture and civilization as practised by the successor populations in the countries conquered by Alexander the Great. Josephus has been called a Hellenistic Jew, while by his own description he was a Jewish Pharisee, wrote his books in Hebrew/Aramaic, and had to get help to improve his Greek and to shape the texts into acceptable Greek, for he was writing for a Greek speaking readership. Some Jews in Judaea and in the Diaspora continued to adhere for centuries to Hellenism to a smaller or larger degree.

Keywords: culture; Hebrew; Italy; Jews; Judaea



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