Category Archives: Jewish Roman History

Why so many Nobel Prize Winners are Jewish

Yitzhak-Rabin-Shimon-Peres-Nobel-Peace-Prize copy (1)

If I asked you what percentage of the world’s population was Jewish, what would you say?  Surely no more than 10%, right? Probably not even around 5%?  Maybe it would help if you had some kind of statistic to compare it to. Like that Jews account for around 20% of Nobel Prize laureates, for example. […]

The Stumbling Stones of Rome

Rome Stumbling Stones

Spend time exploring Rome’s Jewish Ghetto and you’ll soon stumble upon some inscribed brass inscriptions among the dark Roman cobbles. These are Rome’s Stumbling Stones – pietri d’inciampo in Italian or Stolpersteine in German. And the history they preserve is harrowing.  Who created the Stolpersteine? The Stolpersteine were devised and created by Berlin artist Gunter Demnig […]

The Gold of Rome: an Incredible Story from the Nazi Occupation

Photo of the Ghetto's liquidation during the Nazi occupation

Italians are well-versed in the wartime story of the Gold of Rome. The events that befell Rome’s Jewish community during the Nazi occupation of Rome were immortalised in Carlo Lizzani’s eponymous feature-length film. Few outside Italy are familiar with the story of the Gold of Rome, and the impossible ultimatum the Nazis gave the Rome’s […]

Pope John Paul II and his Protection of the Jews

Rome’s Jewish community still harbours considerable respect for Pope John Paul II. No pontiff before him had done more to bridge the divide between the Catholic Church and the Jews, which had split Rome’s population for centuries. Nor had any Pope before him extended the Church’s olive branch of friendship by stepping into Rome’s Great […]

Rabi Yehudah and the emperor Antoninus: the Great Switcheroo

Rabi Yehudah ha-Nasi (Judah ‘the Prince’) was a fascinating figure. While remembered chiefly for his role in editing and redacting the Mishah, he also helped broker peace between the Jews of occupied Judea and their Roman overlords in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. According to the Talmud, Yehudah was highly respected among the […]

Ancient Rome and Judea: Nero and the Jews

Nero at the height of his power

Like his uncle Caligula, the emperor Nero has earned an unsavoury reputation in the annals of history, yet an interesting and overlooked aspect of his reign is the relationship between Nero and the Jews. Today’s post looks at this relationship in detail, considering where his favourable treatment of the Jews might have come from and […]

Ancient Rome and Judea: Caligula and the Temple of Jerusalem

Painting by Alex Levin. Web: www.artlevin.com

Cover image “The Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem” by Alex Levin. Web: www.artlevin.com In the previous post, we looked at Caligula’s reception of Philo’s Jewish Embassy in Rome. The meeting, documented by a Jewish grammarian, is invaluable as it provides one of the few non-Roman perspectives on the emperor Caligula, elsewhere portrayed as mad, bad, […]

Ancient Rome and Judea: Caligula’s Jewish Embassy

Bust of the emperor Caligula

Of all Rome’s emperors, Caligula stands among the most infamous. His reputation for being mad, bad, and dangerous-to-know has endured for nearly 2,000 since his brutal assassination, orchestrated by his disaffected Praetorian Prefect who had had enough of the emperor’s insults. The charges of cruelty and debauchery laid at Caligula’s feet are many. apparently held […]

The Ghettarello: Rome’s Other Jewish Ghetto

The Ghettarello: Rome's other Jewish Ghetto

Walk along the eastern side of the River Tiber, where Fabricius Bridge connects Tiber Island to the historic centre, and you’ll stumble upon a true treasure of Hidden Rome: the Ghettarello. Nestled between the Church of Saint Nicola in Chains and an eyesore of a modern bus stop on the road running along the Tiber […]

Ancient Rome and Judea: Julius Caesar to Tiberius

Ancient Rome and Judea: Julius Caesar to Tiberius

Last time in our series about ancient Rome and Judea, we looked at when the Jews first made contact with the Roman Republic, forming a close alliance against a common enemy, the Seleucids, in the mid-2nd-century BC. This alliance lasted around 100 years, until 64 BC, when Pompey Magnus invaded Judea, captured Jerusalem, and established […]