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Asia Minor

ASIA MINOR. The westernmost peninsula of Asia, also known as Anatolia. There is no specific information as to when Jews first reached Asia Minor, but it was probably not later than the sixth century B.C.E. Evidence is found in Joel (4:4–6) which apparently refers to slave traders of the Phoenician coastal cities. In Isaiah (66:19) too, there is some evidence that Jews were living in certain regions of Asia Minor at that time. The Sepharad of Obadiah (1:20) is apparently *Sardis in Asia Minor. According to a report by Clearchus of Soli (mid-fourth century B.C.E.), a disciple of Aristotle, Aristotle met a Jew in Asia Minor who was "a Greek not only by speech but also in spirit." At the end of the third century B.C.E. *Antiochus III issued a command to transfer 2,000 Jewish families from Babylonia to *Phrygia and *Lydia in order to settle them in the fortified cities as garrisons. The first synagogues in Asia Minor were apparently built at that time. Important evidence of the distribution of Jews in Asia Minor has been preserved in the Roman circular of 139 B.C.E. to the Hellenistic cities and states. It mentions Caria, Pamphylia, and Lycia as places of Jewish settlement (I Macc. 15:23). Cicero's account of the confiscation of the money which the Jews of Pergamum, Adramythion, Laodicea, and Apamea had designated for the Temple in Jerusalem, during the governorship of L. Valerius Flaccus, provides additional evidence of the spread of Jews in Asia Minor. *Philo of Alexandria testifies that in his day in Asia Minor, as in Syria, there were many Jews. But the most extensive and detailed information on Jewish settlements throughout Asia Minor is furnished by numerous inscriptions and documents preserved by Josephus in Antiquities (book 14), and by accounts of the Jewish communities in the New Testament – in Acts and in Paul's Epistles. According to these inscriptions, Jews were settled in the following regions of Asia Minor: Ionia, Mysia, Lydia, Caria, Lycia, Phrygia, Lycaonia, Cappadocia, Galatia, Bithynia, Paphlagonia, Pisidia, Cilicia, and other localities. It may be assumed that the Jews in the cities of Asia Minor did not possess full citizenship, although probably many individuals enjoyed an exceptional status. Josephus states that Seleucus I Nicator (305–280 B.C.E.) had already given the Jews equal rights. But as the Jewish population grew in the cities of Ionia and in other regions, the hostility of the Greeks increased. In 14 B.C.E., the Jews of Ionia complained to Marcus Vipsanius *Agrippa , requesting that he confirm their special privileges. As a result of the intercession of Herod, who was staying with Agrippa at that time, these rights were confirmed. In this respect the numerous documents assembled in Josephus' Antiquities are of considerable importance. They include a defense of the Jewish religion from attacks by non-Jews in the Diaspora as well as resolutions of Greek cities (Sardis, Halicarnassus) on the need to guarantee the Jews their religious rights. There is reason to suppose that Jewish influence in Asia Minor was then considerable. Judaism attracted both the enlightened Gentiles and the masses. There is cogent proof of this at Apamea whose inhabitants associated the biblical story of the Deluge with legends connected with their city and inscribed Noah's ark on their coins. Jewish customs became popular throughout the towns of Asia Minor. Josephus reports that the kindling of Sabbath lights was customary among Gentiles. Many attended synagogues on Sabbaths and festivals. A movement of worshipers of the Supreme God, "God fearers" (σεβόμενοι, φοβούμενοι τὸν θεόν) was very popular throughout Asia Minor, and many groups of pagans practiced the cult of the "Supreme God" without renouncing their own religions. The fact that Jews were also conspicuously active in municipal government attests to their firm economic and social standing in Asia Minor.


Jos., Ant., 12:119, 147 ff.; 14:223 ff., 234 ff., 241 ff.; 16:27; Jos., Apion, 1:176 ff.; 2:39, 282; Cicero, Pro Flacco, 28:69; Philo, De Legatione ad Gaium, 33:245; 36:281; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 3 (19502), 243–50; J. Klausner, Mi-Yeshu ad Paulus, 1 (19543), 18–59; Juster, Juifs, 1 (1914), 188–94; Frey, Corpus, 2 (1952), 8–54; A. Galanté, Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie, 2 vols. (1937–39). On Jewish military colonies in Phrygia and Syria, see Schalit , in: JQR, 50 (1960/61), 289 ff.

[Abraham Schalit]

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.