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Aquileia, Italy

AQUILEIA, town in Friuli, northern Italy. The earliest evidence of a Jewish presence in Aquileia is an epitaph in Latin, of a certain "Lucius Aiacius Dama, freedman of Publius, a Jew," dated to the late first century B.C.E. There is no other evidence of Jewish settlement in Aquileia until Late Antiquity, with the exception of an epitaph of a Jew, born in Aquileia but living in Rome, dated to the third century C.E. An ancient tradition relates that the Christians set fire to the synagogue in Aquileia in the presence of Ambrose, bishop of Milan in 388. Three African-type lamps decorated with the menorah indeed attest the presence of Jews in Late Antiquity.

Excavations conducted in 1948–50 brought to light a place of worship, later transformed into a three-aisled church, with polychrome mosaic flooring, as well as 36 inscriptions. The excavators identified the building as a synagogue, because some inscriptions could be identified as Jewish. However, most scholars today identify the building as a church owned by Syrian Christians.

Jews continued to live in Aquileia in the Middle Ages. A tombstone with a Hebrew epitaph is dated 1140 and another one is undated. R. Menahem, a pupil of *Eleazar b. Judah of Worms (13th century), originated from Aquileia, as did the family of the 18th-century Italian scholar and poet David b. Mordecai *Abulafia .


F. Luzzatto, in: Scritti…Riccardo Bachi (= RMI, 16 (1950), 140–146, second pagination); Milano, Italia, index; L. Ruggini, Ebrei e orientali nell'Italia settentrionale… (= Studia et Documenta Historiae et Juris, 25 (1959), 186–308), index; Zovatto, in: Memorie storiche forogiuliensi, 49 (1960–61), 53–63. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D. Noy, Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe, 1, (1993), xiii–xiv, 11–12.

[Attilio Milano / Samuel Rocca (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.