The Jews of France: A History from Antiquity to the Present

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He continues to publish work related to nineteenth-century collecting, connoisseurship, museum institutions and the historiography of art, with a particular interest in the work of Francis Haskell. He also publishes on the tangible traces, cultural memory and historiography of the French Revolution. The second project grows out of past research related to anti-Semitism, the art market and Jewish collectors in the late nineteenth century.

Diasporas were a common feature of the Hellenistic-Roman world. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greeks and Macedonians constituted an immense diaspora throughout the Near East.


Ethnic resettlement and religious diffusion went hand in hand, as settlers brought with them ancestral cults and won for their gods new worshippers among the local population. Although not unique, the Jewish diaspora was outstanding in its ability to preserve and perpetuate its identity at considerable distance from the homeland and over large stretches of time. Several factors guided the spread of the Jewish dispersions in Hellenistic times, of which the political history of the Mediterranean basin was the most important.

During Ptolemaic rule of Judea, large-scale Jewish settlement in Egypt began. Under the first Ptolemies, Jewish captives, when freed, established communities throughout the country. The Ptolemies brought in Jewish soldiers and their families, and other Jews migrated from Judea to Egypt probably for economic reasons. At its height, Egyptian Jewry in Hellenistic time was highly diversified: There were peasants and shepherds, Jewish generals in the Ptolemaic army, and Jewish officials in the civil service and police.

At Leontopolis, an Aronide priest form Jerusalem founded a small temple with a sacrificial cult modeled on that of Jerusalem. The shrine survived for over two centuries until just after 70 CE, but it does not seem to have been an important place of worship for Egyptian Jewry as a whole. Alexandria, the capital of the Ptolemies and the intellectual center of Hellenistic civilization, became one of the most populous Jewish communities in the world between the third century BCE and the end of the first century CE, numbering several hundred thousand at least.

Alexandrian Jewry included wealthy merchants, bankers, and shippers at one end of the social spectrum and masses of Jewish artisans and shopkeepers at the other. The Ptolemies also founded Jewish colonies in the cities of Cyrenaica modern-day Libya.

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