Last episode ended with the destruction of the Israelite centers of the valleys by the Aramaic king Hazael, in the 9th century BC. The land of Israel is reduced to the region around Samaria, which lies at the heart of the present state of Israel.
Barely a century later, in the 8th century BC, according to legend, the two brothers Romus and Remulus founded Rome. The city will expand its hold onto the world over the centuries to come, first in the form of a monarchy, then a republic, and finally an empire, which will eventually conquer other peoples, until its fall in 476 AD.
During this period, the Romans became rulers of the Mediterranean basin, including Judea, Syria, and Palestine. Crushed by the military force of the occupiers, the inhabitants reluctantly submit to this invasion of a nation which imposes its laws and its many gods. The Jews, monotheists since Abraham, are outraged, shocked and refuse such a great infamy by not converting.
Here is the dawn of anti-Semitism as we know it in Europe today. Already a few centuries earlier, in Egypt, the first traces of the hatred of the Jewish people had appeared, when in 270 BC, an Egyptian priest Manetho propagated fables and false accusations against the Hebrews, among which the one denouncing the Exodus. Filled with imagination, this man subject to multiple gods claims that the Jews were lepers driven out of Egypt. The reality probably lies in the opposition of two religions, one polytheist and the other monotheist. Between a pantheon of divinities and a single god.
Until then, most pagan writers, such as the Greeks Aristotle, Theophrastus, Cléarques de Soles, and others, spoke positively of the Hebrews. There then takes place a surprising reversal, which we do not yet explain: most of the evocations of the Jewish people became slanderous, clearly inciting their ostracization.
“The Jew” suddenly severely discredited is treated as a misanthropist, bad / wicked, he refuses to comply with laws and legislation, vigorously resistant to social norms. “If Jerusalem has been easily conquered by the Greek kings in 320 BC, it is because the Jews observed the Shabbat” claim several Greek historians during the Hellenistic period, thus pointing to the “ridiculous practices of the Jews and the absurdity of their customs ”. Thus spread hatred and mistrust of the Jewish people.
Hecataeus of Abdera, Greek historian, in the 3rd century BC dares to write that “Moses, so as not to forget the exile of his people, instituted for them an asocial and inhospitable way of life”.
A few decades later, in 167 BC, the Greek king Antiochus IV, in his desire to expand his kingdom and resist the threat of the Roman conqueror, first did some “house cleaning” by undermining the influence of the Jews on its own territories.
This scoundrel desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, forbidding Jewish religious practices, such as circumcision, Shabbat observance and the study of the Hebrew books. It was the first official edict of oppression of the Jewish people, which remained ongoing during the period when ancient Greece dominated the eastern Mediterranean: -blatant anti-Semite-. This law sparked in Judea, a revolt of the – Maccabees – first Jewish family to resist the integration policy enforced by the Greeks. This rebellion was violently punished by the Greek king.
Other statements propagating prejudice against the Jews will be found later in the writings of a few pagan Greek and Roman authors. However, the first appearance of anti-Semitism is still subject of debate and a moot point among scholars, largely because writers use different definitions of anti-Semitism: Anti-Zionism… anti-Judaism… religious anti-Semitism… used to denote animosity towards Judaism as a religion rather than clearly displaying racial hatred.
It will be with the advent of the Roman Empire that we will see a formalized anti-Semitism taking hold, then relayed throughout medieval Europe.
I believe the oppression suffered by the Jews was first seen in Egypt 300 years before our era and was confirmed in 167 BC. JC with the first decrees contesting Jewish traditions. The only difference is today Jews and Christians are targeted all alike. Isn’t it high time that – together – we stand our ground, united. OKAY ?