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and protection were afforded them, we may infer the general expansion and prosperity of their communities. Their skill in agriculture, their enterprise in commerce, found ample scope and favourable circumstances in the plains of Andalucia and “the fairy fields of the Minho," and in the numerous ports from Barcelona to the Tagus. And if the Spanish Hebrews of the second and third centuries attained less splendour under the proconsuls than under the caliphs, they were at least permitted to accumulate and enjoy their wealth, and follow and promulgate the precepts of their law and the doctrines of their Rabbis.
In the same year, A.D. 324, in which Constantine the Great summoned the Council of Nice to determine the belief of Christendom, a council was held at Illiberis-Elvira—in Spain, to discuss the religious affairs of the Iberian provinces. The canons of the occidental bishops are interesting in many historical points of view, but for our present purpose merely from such of their regulations as affected the Jews. They show the community against which they were directed to have been populous and flourishing, and in habits of social intercourse with both their Christian and Pagan neighbours. They forbid intermarriage of Catholics with schismatics and Jews; and, in defiance of the more liberal precept of St. Paul, interdict the faithful, whether lay or clerical, from taking food with “the circumcised.” The 49th canon, however, is the most curious; by it “landholders are admonished not to suffer the fruits which they receive from God to be blessed by the Jews ;” and it adds this singular reason, “ lest our benediction be rendered invalid and unprofitable.” The Jews seem to have been the principal cultivators of the soil; and wherever they have been allowed to follow their native bent, agriculture, as in Palestine, rather than commerce or brokerage, has been their favourite occupation. The people probably cherished a superstitious veneration for the rabbinical benediction, even as down to a late period of the empire the Italian cultivators employed the old Oscan forms of blessing and deprecation to secure from blight and evil influences the springing ear and the standing crop. Mr. Finn has copied one of these rabbinical litanies, in which a great variety of grain and fruits is commended to the divine protection, and
which shows an elaborate system of farming and horticulture. It is uncertain how far these unsocial decrees of the Council of Illiberis were acted upon, or whether they originated in general prejudice or individual bigotry ; but they may be regarded as the first steps in the career of persecution, in which Spain eventually outstripped the rest of Europe.
In the middle of the fourth century the long repose of the Spanish provinces was broken by the northern invaders, who under various denominations of Suevi, Alani, Vandals and Wisi-Goths, desolated the Peninsula from the Pyrenees to the Straits. The particular sufferings of the Hebrew population are unknown. Yet since no change could take place without materially affecting them both as traders and agriculturists, they had doubtless their full share of a visitation second only to Judæa's ruin, and whose events Procopius declines to record, “ that he may not furnish examples of inhumanity to future ages."
The Wisi-Goths remained lords of the Peninsula, and soon after the establishment of their kingdom we find the Jews again numerous and flourishing. Their superior civilization may have won the respect, their pliancy under oppression have softened the rigour, of their new masters, while the necessity of repairing their own ravages probably recommended to the barbarians a people who could most readily restore the fertility of the soil, and the trade of the coasts and rivers. And so long as the court of Toledo and the mass of the Spanish Goths adhered to the Arian form of Christianity, the Jews, whose national prejudices were less offensive to the heretics than to the orthodox, found apparently both protection and favour; but when the virulent struggle of the Catholics and Arians ended in the triumph of Catholicism and the elevation of Recared to the throne, the disciples of Moses became the object of bitter hostility to the now orthodox court and people. From the third to the sixteenth Council of Toledo, a series of searching, accumulative, and remorseless edicts completed the degradation of the Hebrew exiles, and were requited by the aid which, in the eighth century, the oppressed afforded the Saracen invaders in their rapid overthrow of the Gothic empire and church.
The 14th and 22nd canons of the third Council of Toledo more especially relate to the Jews. By the latter-with which the 9th canon of the nearly contemporary Council of Narbonne agreed—they were forbidden “ to bear their dead to the grave with psalms or funeral cries, or beatings of the breast;" and by the former, “to have Christian wives or concubines," that is, “ wives of a secondary grade," or to purchase Christian slaves for their own use. And it is further memorable for its invasion of the rights, as the law then was, of property. For whereas by his own law, which had not been repealed by the law of the land, the Jew was bound to circumcise his slave as well as his own son, the canon enacted that the act of circumcision should at once restore the slave to his freedom and the church. Yet these, the earliest aggressions in Spain upon the emoluments, property and family ties of the Jews, were less momentous in their results than the following declarations of the same Council :
“Whosoever despises the creed of the Nicene Council, let him be anathema.” And “Whosoever is not, and shall not be content with this faith, let him be anathema maranatha unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
Here was a corner-stone laid for the Inquisition ! “Could the Hebrew Spaniards," Mr. Finn remarks, “have foreseen, even in a comparatively small degree, to what extent their fellow-men would thereafter work out these anathemas with their own hands upon all their victims, every Jew between the Pyrenees and the Western Ocean would that day have bowed his head with the utterance of one long and mournful groan."
The effect of these canons was apparent about twenty years later; for, at first, they do not seem to have come into operation, and from a letter of Pope Gregory the great, the Jews appear to have purchased a suspension of them. But, on the accession of Sisebut, various circumstances combined to enforce their strict observance. Sisebut, a vigorous and ambitious usurper, was in some measure indebted to the clergy for his crown, and he repaid his obligation by reviving the edicts of Recared. In the “ Fuero Iuzgo” is preserved a proclamation of this monarch, making it imperative on all Jews to receive baptism themselves, and to send their children and slaves to be baptized within the space of one year from the issue of the decree. Baptism by a Christian priest
of course involved the renunciation of the whole Judaic system and its peculiar symbols and ceremonies, and thus violently subverted the entire social life of a people whose most indifferent actions bore the impress of its law or its traditions. The penalties of non-compliance were scourging, exile and confiscation; and so rigorously were they exacted, that 90,000 Jews are said to have been converted, and Sisebut acquired the title of “the most religious prince.” Yet, as Mr. Finn justly remarks, historians are “insincere in throwing the “ odium upon the king: the transaction was that of the “ church. For, with all Sisebut's peremptory violence, neither “ the monarch nor his soldiers could administer the rite of “ baptism, and no Gothic king was ever so much of a despot “ as to entrench upon the offices of the church.”
No contemporary account exists of this compulsory conversion. The number of the converts and the terms of the edict may therefore justify some suspicions. Yet the following passage from the Jewish chronicle, “the sceptre of Judah," although written many centuries afterwards, is so curious in itself, and so illustrative of the style of Hebrew annals, that we lay it without apology before our readers.
On the publication of the edict"the Jews assembled from every city within the capital, where, fasting and afflicting themselves, they uttered loud wailings and cries. The Christians inquired the meaning of this; and when informed, they bade them submit to the king's command..... They answered : The precept of circumcision is the hinge of all our law: he asks but one compliance, but we know that he requires the whole; and it is better for us all to die than to omit the slightest of our precepts, lest we pluck up the hinge of all our religion.'
“They then approached the king, and showed how he had decreed the death of them all; for they would not transgress any precept of the law, much less that which is the hinge of all. The king replied : ‘Ye wretched and foolish people! it is by God's ordinance that ye are groaning in affliction; the realm shall speedily be freed from that obstinacy by which ye are hastening your own ruin, aiming to usurp and retain by force the dominion of this land. I swear, that unless ye accept Christ's baptism, ye will drive me to enforce your abandonment of all the law of Moses.' The Jews supplicated the nobles, presenting gold and silver, that they would induce the king to leave them their religion, though he should deprive them of all their wealth, which he might employ in war. The king added : ‘In that case I could not uphold my character for piety among my fellow-kings. They would suppose that I only made this decree as a means of extortion from my Jews, and not from the urgent necessity of baptism : besides, I do not constrain these wretches of the law to embrace our faith for the sake of their riches, so much as from the consideration that they would do the same to us, were they to become our masters.'
" Then answered Robert the Wise: 'O King, our master Moses and his minister Joshua urged no people to receive the Hebrew law, but only the seven precepts of Noah, which precepts had been delivered by Adam the first man. And whenever Joshua besieged a city, he first proclaimed thus : Whosoever will make peace, let him do so; but let him observe the seven precepts of Noah: if not, let him quit the city ; or if he will fight, let him come down and try the contest.'
“The king rejoined: ‘Joshua acted as he pleased, and so will I. I will select from his three conditions that which best suits my design ; viz. that instead of the seven precepts of Noah which Joshua obtruded on the profane heathen, ye shall receive the Christian baptism.' One of the learned Jews then said: 'It is written in our law, that Israel formerly despised the great gift of God,“ the land flowing with milk and honey,'-I ask, O King, what should be the penalty of those who despise the gift of God?' The king replied, “That too is wisely stated in your law; the loss of what they despise.' The speaker continued : “See then, O King, to what thou hast said. Thou hast offered us in baptism a life everlasting : be then the penalty for its neglect the loss of that blessing.' But the king answered, Compulsion is unjust in matters concerning the body, and that goodly land related to the body; but in things spiritual it is proper, just as a child is coerced in its learning.'”
Sisebut however seems to have been dissatisfied with a merely verbal reply to this fair alternative of the learned Hebrew's, for he “instantly commanded all the principal Jews to be put in chains, and they passed in darkness a life more wretched than death. Many synagogues in Spain, overborne by cruel persecution, renounced the law of Moses. When the king died, and there was freedom to leave the country, many sought and found securer settlements for their religion, but many sought and found not.”
The Catholic historians are, in general, transported with delight at the great piety of Sisebut. Mariana, however, questions the competency of the king to intermeddle in matters of religion and spiritual government, and adds pathetically, “ Yet, alas! the self-will and obstinacy of princes are “ very great, and frequently are bishops obliged to dissemble “ in what they cannot remedy."
It is gratifying to find, even in that age of fanatical casuistry, one voice raised in behalf of common sense, if not of toleration. Isidore of Seville—a name justly endeared to