Background of the Jews in Italy

  • Cristina M. Bettin
Part of the Italian and Italian American Studies book series (IIAS)


The history of the Jews in Italy dates to antiquity. Jews have resided in the Italian peninsula since the time of the Roman Empire. Archeological evidence proves that Jews entered southern Italy, including Sicily, during the third century BCE from Palestine. The number of Jews in Italy during the imperial period stood at about 50 thousand. In the aftermath of the various revolts in Palestine, this figure was temporarily swollen by consignments of captives, many of whom were exported or assimilated or else died. For Rome, the largest center, estimates of the Jewish population vary from 12 thousand to as many as 40 thousand out of a total population that probably did not exceed one million.1 Throughout the centuries, the number of Jews living in Italy fluctuated. To better understand this point, one must take into consideration the historical events that took place in Italy during those times, since these affected, directly and indirectly, the Jews’ political status and shaped their sociodemographic characteristics.


Jewish Community Jewish Population Private Tutor French Revolution Jewish Education 
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  1. 34.
    See Nora Galli, “Il giudeo-italiano e i dialetti giudeo-italiani,” in La Cultura Ebraica nell’Editoria Italiana (1955–1990), Ministero per i Beni Culturale e Ambientali, Roma, 1992, 131.Google Scholar

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© Cristina M. Bettin 2010

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  • Cristina M. Bettin

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