Liubov Chernin

Visigothic Jewish Converts: A Life in Between (pdf)

(*En Portugués aquí; En Español aquí; En français ici)


Visigoths had very distinctive conceptions of the structure of their society. The Isidorian formula of rex, gens et patria Gothorum created some kind of social ideal, and the striving to its implementation in many respects called forth the anti-Jewish campaign of the seventh century. Visigothic authorities made a whole series of attempts to solve the problem of the social integration of the alien element personified by Jews. As a result, the Jews were replaced by another group, whose social status was even more precarious, that is the converts. This population category was distinct in nature from the Jews, but it was almost as far from common Christians as from them. Converts had to pay a special tax; their rights were infringed by various prohibitions and restrictions. The attempts to integrate the converts somehow, or at least to “normalize” their position, were made during the seventh century more than once. The most striking examples can be found in three declarations which ex-Jews were supposed to make, respectively, in 637, 654 and 681. The idea apparently was to build “client-patron” relations between the converts and the Christian society, represented by the authorities and primarily by the Church. Theologically it was based on the concept of liberation from spiritual slavery typical for the professing Jews according to ecclesiastical doctrine. The following essay will explore how this specific status was elaborated and what influence it could have had on the failures of anti-Jewish campaigns.



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