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BARBARIANS, people of the Germanic linguistic group (Vandals, Franks, Goths, Burgundians, Lombards, Angles, and Saxons), of the Indo-Iranian group (Alans and Sarmatians), and the Hunnic peoples who were recruited by, allied to, or invaded the Roman Empire during the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries C.E. Most of the barbarians were pagans when they entered the empire but were eventually converted to orthodox Christianity. One important exception were the Goths who, when they settled in Italy, Gaul, and Spain were Arian Christians. Even these were eventually converted to orthodox Christianity. During the barbarian invasions the Jews, mostly city dwellers who were outwardly assimilated to their neighbors, no doubt suffered together with the rest of the population. Although no factual record survives, it may be assumed that this contributed to the numerical decline of the once prosperous Jewish communities of the Roman Empire. On the sack of Rome in 455, the Vandals carried off to Africa the spoils of the Temple brought back from Jerusalem by Titus.

When the barbarians entered the Roman Empire, they were profoundly influenced by the Christian-Roman population. In general it can be said that, while the barbarians were pagans, they treated the Jews well, probably better than the vanquished Christians who posed a threat to their power, since a community of interest existed between Jews and barbarians as a result of the opprobrium with which they both were regarded by the orthodox population. The same favorable attitude existed when they adopted Arian Christianity. Once, however, the barbarians became members of the Orthodox church, the position of the Jews rapidly deteriorated. Restrictions were placed upon them, they were persecuted, and they were ultimately faced, especially in Spain, with the choice of conversion, exile, or death. General expulsions were decreed in Gaul in 626, in Burgundy about the same time, and in Lombardy in 661. More is known of the long attempt of the Visigothic kings of Spain to suppress Judaism from 613 onward. In this the Jews suffered equally with all those minorities who were not Orthodox Christians.


J.B. Bury, The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians (1928); S. Katz, The Jews in the Visigothic and Frankish Kingdoms of Spain and Gaul (1937); B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens dans le monde occidental, 4301096 (1960); J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Barbarian West (1962); J. Parkes, Conflict of Church and Synagogue (1934).

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