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THEBES:

Ancient and famous city of Greece; capital of Bœotia. Although there is no documentary evidence of the presence of Jews at Thebes in antiquity, it may be assumed that they resided there, since their coreligionists had lived from a very early period throughout Greece, including the neighboring cities of Athens and Corinth, while in the letter of Agrippa to the emperor Caius, Bœotiais described as inhabited by Jews (Philo, "Legatio ad Caium," § 36). At the time of the First Crusade a certain Tobias of Thebes is described as bringing Messianic prophecies from Salonica to Cairo ("J. Q. R." x. 148), and in Al-Ḥarizi's "Taḥkemoni" (ed. Lagarde, p. 92) mention is made of one Michael ben Caleb of Thebes. Abraham Zuṭra (or Zuṭa) of Thebes, moreover, was the author of a commentary on the Sifra (Zunz, in Asher's ed. of Benjamin of Tudela's "Itinerary," ii. 36; Michael, "Or ha-Ḥayyim," No. 86); for the study of the Midrashim was cultivated in Thebes as well as elsewhere in the Byzantine empire.

These scanty data are insufficient to determine the size of the Jewish community in Thebes, the earliest specific information in relation to which is derived from Benjamin of Tudela (ed. Grünhut, i. 15), who describes the city as a large one with more than 2,000 Jewish families, including the most skilful manufacturers of silk and purple in all Greece. Among them were many students of the Mishnah and of the Talmud; and they belonged to the foremost scholars of their age. At the head of the community stood R. Aaron Kuti, his brother R. Moses, R. Elijah Tortono, and R. Joktan; and their equals were not to be found in any of the Greek dominions except Constantinople. Of the large and prominent community of Thebes no further data exist.

E. C. S. Kr.
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