Ancient city of Italy, capital of a province bearing its name, situated on the Adriatic; said to have been founded by Syracusan refugees and to have been one of the first Italian cities to shelter a Jewish community, the records of which, however, begin only in the Middle Ages. From existing chronicles it appears that some were there during the fourteenth century, when the city was under a republican government, and a few more came from Germany in 1348. Here they dwelt in peace, enjoying perfect equality with the Christian inhabitants, and owning several schools, synagogues, and a cemetery. Somewhat later the authorities restricted the Jews to their ghetto and compelled the men to wear a yellow badge on their caps, and the women to wear corresponding tokens when they walked abroad. After Ancona had fallen under papal sway, Martin V., in 1429, with a view to increasing the commerce of the city and of the state, accorded many privileges to the Jews; and in 1494 they received permission to establish banks and to lend money at interest. It was at Ancona in 1529 that the pseudo-Messiah Molcho made his first appearance in Europe. In 1539 many Jews exiled from Naples, where they had three synagogues, settled in Ancona, and when Pope Paul III. (1534-49) offered them the freedom of the port, many others, particularly a number exiled from Spain, and designated as "Portuguese," came to live there. These immigrants, who had their own synagogue, entered into certain agreements with the magistrate of the city, which were approved by Pope Julius III. (1550-55); but, nevertheless, they were subjected to oppressive taxation and all sorts of impositions.Persecution under Pope Paul IV.
Under Paul IV. (1555-59) the Jews were subjected to further oppression. By his direction they were deprived of valuable franchises, enclosed within the ghetto, subjected to further taxation, limited in their commerce to old clothing, prohibited from practising any art other than medicine, and this not among the Christians, and forbidden the use of their calendar. As a means of satisfying his feeling of hatred against the Spaniards, Paul IV. practised cruelty toward the Portuguese Jews; he sent an inhuman commissioner, a certain Cesare Galuaba, to Ancona with orders to incarcerate all who did not accept baptism and to condemn them to the stake. Thus terrorized, sixty-three renounced their faith. Twenty-three men and one woman, whose names have been handed down in chronicles, preferred death to apostasy, and these were all hanged together and afterward burnt on the Piazza della Mostra ("Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah" of Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya, and local records). (Compare D. Kaufmann, "Les Vingt-quatres Martyrs d'Ancona," in "Rev. Ét. Juives," xxxi. 222-230.) Thoroughly alarmed, many of the Jews fled. Prayers for the dead are still said, and the elegy composed by Jacob de Zano is still recited annually in the synagogues for these martyrs.Mercantile Reprisal.
The Jews of the Levant planned a novel mode of vengeance against Ancona for its iniquitous treatment of the Jews, and well-nigh executed it. Many of the Maranos, during the reign of Pope Paul IV., had fled to Pesaro, and from there, probably upon the advice and promises of protection of Guido Ubaldo, duke of Urbino, had sent an envoy, Juda Faragi, with letters addressed to the Jews of the Levant, entreating the latter, in whose hands lay nearly all commerce with the Italian ports, to send all their merchandise to Pesaro, instead of directing it, as they had previously done, to Ancona. The welfare of this city would undoubtedly have been greatly impaired, if the Levantine Jews had kept the promise they at first gave in answer to the messages of the Maranos of Pesaro; but the Jews of Ancona themselves implored that no such action be taken. They shrewdly pointed out that the pope would wreak vengeance on all Jews in his state, as well as on the Maranos, therefore the ban pronounced on Paul IV. by most of the rabbis of Turkey was not stringently enforced. Guido Ubaldo, disappointed in his hopes of seeing Pesaro supersede Ancona in commercial importance, very soon after this expelled the Maranos from Pesaro (March, 1558). It is noteworthy that among those who had fled from Ancona during the activity of the Inquisition was Amato Lusitano, the famous physician. When Paul IV. had caused the arrest of all the Maranos of Ancona, Sultan Sulaiman II., upon the repeated entreaties of Doña Gracia Nasi and Don Joseph Nasi, sent a letter to him, March 9, 1556, requesting him to release such as were Turkish subjects, and intimating that a failure to comply with the request would bring reprisals of all sorts upon the Christians living in Turkey. Pius IV. saw himself accordingly obliged to release the Turkish Jews. Those Maranos of Ancona who could claim no protector other than the pope himself—about 100 in number—languished in dungeons. See "Rev. Ét. Juives," xvi. 66-71, xxxi. 231-239.Varying Fortunes—Emancipation.
Pope Pius IV., who succeeded Paul in 1559, punished the perpetrators of this infamy, abolished the provisions of his predecessor, and in general ameliorated the condition of the Jews. But his successor reinstituted a period of severe oppression. In a bull issued by Pius V., however, and dated Feb. 26, 1659, the Jews of Ancona and of Rome are especially excepted from the general banishment from the Papal States ("Rev. Ét. Juives," x. 199). In order to defray the expense of the public games, he imposed heavy taxes upon the Jews, to be paid both to the city and to the state; and, as a result of his action, about 1,000 families abandoned Ancona. The succeeding popes reduced the taxes, and soon afterward some of the Jews began to return. In order to improve the commercial condition of the Papal States, Clement VIII. showed extreme benevolence toward its Jewish inhabitants, but this attitude was not imitated by Alexander VIII. and Pius VI.
Under the French domination, in 1797, Napoleon substituted for the papal governor of Ancona a municipal council, which included among its members three Jews, Samson Costantini, David Morpurgo, and Ezechia Morpurgo. Then the gates of the ghetto were destroyed, and the children of the Jews were taught side by side with those of Christians. The clergy, however, excited the Christian populace to such a degree that on Jan. 10, 1798, they endeavored to set fire to the ghetto and sack it; the rioters were dispersed by the troops. But on their side two of the Jewish aldermen prevented the casting of thecathedral bells into cannon. The papal government was no sooner reestablished than the Jews were again fiercely assailed; even the wounded who had fought for their country were driven from the hospitals. In 1826 Pope Leo XII. caused the gate of the ghetto to be replaced, and the old-time persecutions were resumed, so that many of the Jews emigrated. On the night of April 2d of that year, Anna Costantini, a young girl, was torn from her family and forced into baptism. During the revolution of 1831 the gates of the ghetto were torn down, but in 1843 (June 24), in spite of the fact that the Jews of the city had contributed 12,900 scudi to do honor to the pope during his visit in 1841, an old decree was revived by Fra Vincenzo Soliva, Inquisitor of Ancona and other districts, forbidding Jews to reside or do business in any place where there was no ghetto, to employ Christian journeymen, to hire Christian servants, wet-nurses, or apprentices, to deal in books of any sort or in ecclesiastical robes, etc. But the public sentiment, in Italy, as well as in Europe generally, was so strongly against any rehabilitation of inquisitional restrictions against the Jews, that very soon after its promulgation the decree was suspended. It is believed that the immediate cause of the revival of these old restrictive measures was an entirely accidental occurrence: the Inquisitor, while passing through the streets of Ancona in a cariole driven by a Jew, was nearly hurled to the ground by the horse, which suddenly took fright. The Jew was accused of having intended to overturn the prelate, and imprisoned, and the agitation against the Jews soon became serious. Baron Charles Rothschild, of Naples, was among those who exerted their influence for the revocation of the decree.
The revolution of 1848 brought freedom to the Jews. Among the martyrs of Ancona in 1849, Giuseppe Camilla, a Jew, is mentioned. The oppressions under the clerical government that followed were less rigorous, and in 1860, in the name of Victor Emanuel, the Jews again obtained complete religious freedom, and the Jewish community of Ancona was constituted after the same manner as those of Piedmont. Since that date the history of the community has been uneventful.Present Statistics.
Ancona contains, to-day, about 1,700 Jews in a population of about 30,000. They possess two places of worship for the Italian liturgy and one for the Levantine; an asylum for Jewish children, and a Talmud Torah, with an annex for girls, where instruction is given in the Jewish religion and in the Hebrew language. During 1890-99, 492 births and 369 deaths have taken place in the community. The greater number of the Jews in the city follow commercial pursuits, but many also have devoted themselves to the study of medicine, law, literature, and the arts and sciences. The following eleemosynary institutions flourish in Ancona: Ma'aseh ha-Ẓedeḳah, Gemilut Ḥasadim, and Biḳḳur Ḥolim u-Malbish 'Arumim.Rabbis of Ancona.
The rabbinical chair of Ancona was always important in Italy, and several distinguished rabbis have occupied it. The first of these, whose name is recorded, was Ezekiel Provenzali, who officiated in the year 1670. Some of his decisions are found in "Paḥad Yizḥaḳ," others in the unpublished work of Rabbi Nathaniel ben Aaron Segre, "'Afar Ya'aḳob." His successor was Menahem Shulḥani, who exercised his functions in 1675. He was followed by Giosuè Raffaele Fermi, who flourished toward the end of the seventeenth century and in the beginning of the eighteenth, and compiled a collection of 318 rabbinical responses, now in the possession of Zadok Kahn, chief rabbi of France (described by M. G. Montefiore, "Rev. Ét. Juives," x. 183 et seq.). Giuseppe Fiammetta, a distinguished exegete, poet, and theologian, published a volume of prayers and hymns, entitled "Or Boḳer," and wrote two volumes of responsa, which are still unpublished; he died in 1730. His son-in-law, Samson Morpurgo, officiated for a time with Fiammetta, and afterward alone. Morpurgo was a celebrated physician, philosopher, and casuist, and published a work of theological responses; he died in 1740. Isaac Fiano of Rome (1752-1770); Ḥayyim Abraham Israel of Rhodes (1774-1785), author of "Bet Abraham" and "Amarot Ṭehorot"; Raphael Isaiah Azulai (1787-1826), who wrote many of the rabbinical responsa found in a work by his father, the well-known Ḥayyim Joseph Azulai—followed in succession. A contemporary of the last was the titulary rabbi, Jacob Samson Senigaglia, author of "Abir Ya'aḳob," "Maṭṭat Elohim," and "Nezir Shimshon" (unpublished). After Azulai came David Vivanti (1829-1876), who left several manuscripts pertaining to literature and theology. His successor is Isaac Raffaello Tedeschi. The notables of modern Ancona are Leone Levi—a well-known lawyer, economist, and statistician, who wrote works which have been awarded prizes in Berlin and London—and Eugenio Camerini, a commentator on Dante.
- Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, ix. passim;
- Kaufmann, Les Martyrs d'Ancona, in Rev. Ét. Juives, xi. 149 et seq.;
- idem, Les Vingt-quatres Martyrs d'Ancona, ibid. xxxi. 222 et seq.;
- Voice of Jacob, i. 38, ii. 223.