Greek Jewish community .Evidence concerning the Jews of the late antique
and Byzantine periods indicates that the Jews in Greece. The famous 12th
century record of the Jews of Greece compiled by Benjamin of Tudela during his
travels through Greece indicates a uniform dispersion of Jewish communities.
The Jewish community of Thebes was so closely identified with the silk
industry that Roger II of Sicily (1095-1154) forcibly moved almost the entire
community to Sicily to introduce the silk industry in his Norman kingdom. In
Crete, under Venetian rule after the fall of Constantinopole to the Fourth
Crusade in 1204, Jews were producers and exporters of agricultural goods.
Kosher wines and cheeses from Crete were sent as faras the Baltic port of
In general terms the Jews of Greece during this period can be described
as “Romaniot” Jews, i.e. , Jews of the empire of the “second
Rome”, Byzantium. Integration into the cultural pattern of Greek life
can be seen in the loss of Hebrew by many communities. Some communities tried
to maintain at least the form of Hebrew by writing out whole sections of the
Tanah in Greek using Hebrew script, as in the illuminated Book of Job from
Crete (Ms. Gr. 135 Bib. Nationale). Other communities must have been
assimilated completely. In the Mani, in southern Greece, the inhabitants claim
to be descendants of “lost” Jews , claims now mixed with legends of the
Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Despite this assimilation, on the eve of World War
II there were still several communities of Romaniot Jews in Greece claiming
unbroken continuity back into antiquity. Kerkyra (Corfu), Zakynthos (Zante),
Ioannina, Arta, Preveza, Patras, Chalkis, and Volos still maintained traces of
the old Romaniot minhag, or liturgy.