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CARNIVAL, festive period in the Christian calendar which precedes Lent, becoming more intense during the last three days. In the past, Rome was the most lively center of the carnival, which was regarded by many as a substitute for or continuation of the Roman Saturnalia. It had deplorable consequences for the Jewish population, which from 1466 was forced to make an exhibition of itself before the Roman populace by running foot-races before the jeering crowd and other humiliating performances. The races were abolished in 1668 and replaced by the payment of an offering of 300 scudi.

The rabbi and the leaders of the community henceforth had to appear at the Capitol on the first Saturday of the carnival to render homage and pay the money; a century later they were obliged to kneel during this ceremony. The carnival period was dreaded by the Jews of Rome because of the anti-Jewish manifestations to which it gave rise. The ceremony of homage, revived after the French Revolution, was abolished by Pope Pius IX in 1847.


A. Ademollo, Il carnevale di Roma nei secoli XVII e XVIII… (1883); A. Milano, Il ghetto di Roma (1964), 313–28; Roth, Italy, index.

[Giorgio Romano]

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