Under the Romans.

An island in the Mediterranean, about 140 miles from the west coast of Italy, between 8° 4′ and 9° 49′ E. long., and between 38° 55′ and 41° 16′ N. lat. The settlement of Jews in various parts of the island goes as far back as the year 19 of the common era. During the reign of the emperor Tiberius 4,000 Jewish youths were banished from Rome to Sardinia as a penalty for the misdeeds of four Jewish swindlers. Pretending to be collectors for the treasury of the Temple at Jerusalem, the culprits had received enormous sums in money and jewels from Fulvia (wife of the Roman senator Saturninus), who was a sympathizer of Judaism (Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 3, § 5; comp. also Tacitus, "Annales," ii. 85, and Suetonius, "Tiberius," 36). During the early centuries the fate of the Jews in Sardinia resembled that of their brethren in other Roman provinces: so long as pagans ruled the empire the Jews possessed full rights of citizenship, but as Christianity became the dominant power these rights were curtailed.

From the middle of the fifth to the middle of the seventh century Sardinia was governed first by the Vandals and then by the Goths, and the condition of the Jews there was on the whole favorable. There were communities in Oristano, Lula, Gallura, Nora, Sinai (probably founded by Jews), Canahim, Sulcis, Tharros, Alghero, Colmedia, and Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. An incident which greatly disturbed the Jews occurred in the last-named place toward the end of the sixth century. A converted Jew named Peter placed images of saints in the synagogue on Easter Monday. The Jews lodged a complaint with Pope Gregory the Great, who ordered Bishop Januarius of Cagliari to have the images at once removed ("Epistola," v.).

Of the period extending from the time of the establishment of a native government in Sardinia (665) to that of the annexation of the island to Aragon (1325), only a few incidents in the life of the Jewish communities are known. The Sardinian historian of the eighth century, Antonio di Tharros, and Delotone, the compiler of the poems of the Sardinian king Gialeto, mention two Jewish scholars of Cagliari, Abraham and Canaim, who deciphered the Phenician inscriptions collected by Gialeto and the Greek and Phenician inscriptions found in the palace of Masu. The Sardinian chronicler Severino relates that the synagogue of Cagliari, which was situated in the quarter called Aliama, was in 790 destroyed by a fire generally attributed to the malevolence of some fanatical Christians (De Castro, "Bibliotheca," p. 75). During the administration of the province of Arborea by Onroco there often occurred at Oristano bloody conflicts between Jews and Christians, and in order to put an end to these struggles the Jews were ordered to leave the province within two months. On their expulsion from Arborea they settled in the cities of Lugodoro, especially in Lula and Gallura. Traces of their long sojourn in Arborea were still found in the city of Tharros in 1183 by the Mohammedan traveler Mohammed Abu Jabbar.

Under the Spaniards.

During the first century of the Spanish domination the Jews of Sardinia enjoyed prosperity. The Aragonian king granted them many privileges, and their numbers were greatly augmented by the arrival of new settlers from Barcelona, Majorca, and other places. Especially favored were the Jews of Alghero, for whom King Alfonso and his successors showed marked friendliness by exempting them from the payment of customs duties and by urging the governors to protect their business interests. On their part the Jews of Alghero often showed their loyalty to the Aragonian kings. In 1370 they contracted many debts in order to supply King Pedro with money and provisions for his armies, and in token of his gratitude the latter forbade their creditors to claim repayment within two years. In the early years of the fifteenth century the community of Alghero subscribed the sum of 1,600 ducats for the exploitation of the royal mines of Iglesias. A Jew named Vidal de Santa Pau gave 600 Alfonsine livres in 1423 for the restoration of the walls of Alghero; in 1459 Zare di Carcassona presented 622 livres for the same purpose.

Community of Alghero.

The Jews of Alghero were mostly engaged in trade, but there were also many scholars and physicians among them, the best known being: Isaac Eymies, who was pensioned by the governor of Lugodoro and by the city of Alghero, and who was called in 1406 to the post of city physician of Cagliari; Ḥayyim of Hipre, author of a work on the medicinal plants of Sardinia; and Solomon Averonques, renowned for his surgical operations. The Jews of Alghero were not excluded from official positions. Mention is made of a Jew named Moses Sofer who occupied in 1467 the position of tax-collector. Another, named Moses di Carcassona, was appointed by the vice-king Carroz in 1467 as the general sheriff's officer of the court of Alghero. In 1482 the same Moses obtained for the sum of 2,250 livres the farming of the taxes of the departments Gociano, Porte Ocier Reale, Mondrolisai, and Oristano for a period of three years. Together with his brother Nino Carcassona, Moses lent large sums for the equipment of the navy and of the armies which had been led by the vice-king Ximene Perez to the city of Oristano.

It seems that before the Spanish domination Alghero contained but few Jews, who had neither a synagogue nor a separate cemetery. It was only at the end of the fourteenth century that these institutions were founded. In 1381 Vitali Alabi bought from Giacomo Bassach and his wife their house, situated in the street leading to the castle, which he wished to use for a synagogue. Two years later Francisco Giovanni of Santa Colombia, governor of Sassaro and Lugodoro, and later vice-king of Sardinia, permitted the physician Solomon Averonques to buy any place he might choose for a cemetery. In l438 the community of Alghero was permitted by the municipalityto enlarge the synagogue. The enlargement was completed in 1454, and on this occasion the administrators of the community, Samuel Carcassona and Jacob Cohen, petitioned the government to allow them to put the coat of arms of the king on the edifice. In 1455 a petition was addressed to the municipality by the Jewish administrators Terocio, Buria, and Giacoble Nathan to allow them to enlarge the Jewish cemetery. Like all the communities of Sardinia, that of Alghero was administered by elected directors or secretaries, who possessed judicial power in all litigations between Jews, and even between Jews and Christians when sums not exceeding five livres were involved.

Persecution and Expulsion.

However, while the Jews of Alghero were, for unknown reasons, the object of the solicitude of the government and enjoyed a high degree of prosperity until the very year of their banishment, those of Cagliari and other communities were after 1430 treated in the harshest manner. They were compelled to live in special quarters and to wear special kinds of caps, and were not allowed to wear jewels or to put on shoes of any other color than black. Jewish traders were forbidden, under the penalty of losing their goods, to transact business on Christian feast-days. A Jew who employed a Christian was subject to a fine of twenty livres. Foreign Jews were forbidden, under the penalty of death, to settle in Sardinia without the permission of the vice-king or the archbishop. A decree issued in 1481 fixed the penalties for an offense against Christianity and for the employment of Christian servants. For the former crime the Jew was to have his hands cut off; for the latter he was to receive 200 stripes and to pay a fine of 200 ducats, and the servant was to receive an equal number of lashes. In 1485 the Jews were declared royal property and were subjected to the special jurisdiction of the royal attorney. At the same time they were forbidden to export any of their belongings from the island. The decree containing these measures was communicated by the vice-king Ximene Perez to the leaders of the Jewish community of Cagliari, Abraham Mili, Emanuel Mili, Samuel Bondra, Isaac Sallom, Isaac Aleva, Leon Miro, and others. The banishment of the Jews from Spain was closely followed by that of the Jews of Sardinia.

  • Gazana, Storia della Sardegna, ii. 151;
  • R. E. J. viii. 280 et seq.;
  • Spano, in Vessillo Israelitico, xxvii. 115 et seq.;
  • Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section ii., part 27, p. 147;
  • Grätz, Gesch. v. 52.
J. I. Br.
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