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Among the Goths.

A heresy of the Christian Church, started by Arius, bishop of Alexandria (d. 336), who taught that the Son is not equivalent to the Father (όμοούστος = consubstantialis), thereby provoking a serious schism in the Christian Church, which in turn affected the fortunes of the Jews in many countries. In view of the fact that most Germanic peoples—such as the eastern and western Goths, as also the Franks, the Lombards, the Suevi, and the Vandals—were baptized into Arian Christianity, and that these tribes settled in widely spread districts of the old Roman empire, a large number of Jews, already resident in those lands, fell under Arian domination. In contrast with the domination of the orthodox church, the Arian was distinguished by a wise tolerance and a mild treatment of the population of other faiths, conduct mainly attributable to the unsophisticated sense of justice characterizing the children of nature, but also traceable in some degree to certain points of agreement between the Arian doctrine and Judaism, points totally absent in the orthodox confession. The very insistence upon the more subordinate relationship of the Son—that is, the Messiah—to the God-father is much nearer to the Jewish doctrine of the Messiah than to the conception of the full divinity of the Son, as enunciated at Nicæa. This, the Germanic form of Arianism, which deviates essentially from the EgyptianSyriac, is hardly more Jewish than it is heathen (Helferich, "Der West-Gothische Arianismus," p. 16, Berlin, 1860; "Monatsschrift," ix. 117, 1860). Still, Borozus of Sardica, about the year 390, was accused of "Judaizing" ("Dionysius," ed. Benedict, ii. 11, 68). To the Catholic Gregory of Tours ("Hist. Franc." v. 43) the Arian bishop Agila replied: "Blaspheme not a doctrine which is not thine. We on our part, although we do not believe what ye believe, nevertheless do not curse it. For we do not consider it a crime to think either thus or so." "To such noble sentiment," remarks Helferich (ib. p. 50), "the Jews owed the humane treatment which they received at the hands of the West-Gothic Arians." But the laws of the Visigoths ("Lex Visigothorum," Madrid, 1815), formulated under Reccared (584) and his successors, when the tribes had become converted to Catholic Christianity, give evidence of a most bitter feeling against the Jews; and the enactments for the persecution of Israel present a striking picture, strongly contrasting with the former happy circumstances of the Jews in the empire of the Visigoths of Spain and France, while these Visigoths were still Arians. The Jews were not then the downtrodden people which the harsh and exceptional laws of the Roman Christian emperor made of them. In Spain they formed a distinct nation beside Goths, Romans, Syrians, and Greeks (enumerated in the "Concilium Narbonense," iv.), and as such were in the main upon exactly the same footing as all others. Indeed, the ruling Visigoths may have preferred the Jews to the Catholics, for the latter were politically Romans, and confessionally adherents of the Nicene Creed (Grätz, "Die West-Gothische Gesetzgebung," p. 6), while from the former they had to fear neither political enmity nor the fanaticism of the conversionist. Marriages between Arian Christians and Jews were not infrequent (compare canon xvi. of the Synod at Elvira, Hefele, "Conciliengesch." i. 162); and it appears that the Jews exercised some sort of jurisdiction over the Catholics (Helferich, ib. p. 6), although Helferich's supposition that the Catholics were openly opposed by the allied Arians and Jews has been amply disproved by Felix Dahn ("Die Könige der Germanen," vi. 413, 2d ed.).


The Ostrogoths were similarly disposed, and, upon heir attainment to power in Italy, they treated the Jews there according to the laws of justice and equity. The golden words of Theodoric the Great are familiar: "We can not command religion, for no man can be compelled to believe anything against his will." As clearly appears from his decrees, the religion of the Jews was certainly no less odious to the Arian king than was the Catholic; but his duty as king demanded that he should treat his Jewish subjects as human beings. Theodoric's decrees in favor of the Jews are, therefore, not the outcome of his Arianism, and appertain to the general history of the Jews rather than to the subject of this article. The persecutions of the Jews by the Catholics in Milan, Genoa, and Ravenna are, however, in so far connected with the religious circumstances of the country, that the Catholics thereby designed to revenge themselves for their own oppression by the Arians. The enmity between both Christian parties was so great that King Theodoric is said to have harbored the design, at the instigation of a Jew, to uproot Catholicism in Italy with the sword. A fanatical source calls Triva, the præpositus cubiculi (captain of the dormitory) of the emperor, "a heretic and a friend of the Jews" (Sartorius, "De Occup. Provinciarum Roman. per Barbaross." p. 108; Dahn, ib. ii. 201). The Arian creed no doubt contributed somewhat to the fact that Theodoric's successor, Theodosius, maintained a Jewish sorcerer (Procopius, "De Bello Adv. Gothos." i. 9). It is no wonder, therefore, that in 537 the Jews sided with their protectors, the Ostrogoths, in their courageous defense of Naples against the besieging armies of the Roman emperor (Jost, "Gesch. der Israeliten," v. 57; Grätz, "Gesch. d. Juden," v. 50). A senseless story has it that the Jews fought against the Arian Christians at the Battle of Pollentia, on Easter, 403, being urged thereto by Stilicho, the opponent of Alaric. This legend owes its origin to the fact that the general of Honorius happened to be named Saul, although he is expressly stated (see "Orosius," vii. 37) to have been a heathen (Jost, "Geschichte der Israeliten," v. 330; J. Bernays, "Gesammelte Abhandlungen," ii. 128, n. 48, Berlin, 1885). On the other hand, the Jews took an active part in the defense of the town of Arles in Gaul, possession of which, in 508, was disputed with the Visigoths by Clovis, king of the Franks, who had become a Catholic (Jost, ib. v. 48). They also successfully defended for the Visigoths the passes of the Pyrenees against the hostile Franks and Burgundians (deduced from "Concilium Toletanum," xvii. 6; Grätz, "Gesch." v. 72).

The legislation of the Arian Lombards made no distinction between Jews and non-Jews. Further than this nothing is known of the history of the Jews among them; nor is there any information concerning the life of the Jews in North Africa under the Vandals, who were likewise Arians, and who treated the Catholics with great severity (Dahn, "Westgothische Könige," i. 251). In the speech of Augustine, Jews, heathens, and Arians were equally abused ("Concio ad Catechumenos Contra Judæos, Paganos, et Arianos"; "Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Academie," 1889, cxix. 63); but this speech, fromwhich some information of earlier times might have been gleaned, is, unfortunately, no longer extant.

  • Helferich, Westgothischer Arianismus und die Spanische Ketzergeschichte, 1860;
  • Grätz, Die Westgothische Gesetzgebung in Betreff der Juden, 1858, in Jahresbericht des Jüd. Theologischen Seminars in Breslau.
K. S. Kr.
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