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century visited India to investigate Rabbi Benjamin, that we might the condition of his Buddhist co- even have remained ignorant of religionists. We do not, therefore, his name, but for a preface written doubt his geographical accuracy, by some later hand, whose authenwhenever he turns aside to make ticity has never been doubted. It any statement of this nature. As embodies all known to us of our Gibbon justly remarks,
traveller. errors and fictions of the Jewish
“ This book," so runs the prerabbi are not a sufficient ground face, "contains the report of Rabbi to deny the reality of his travels.” Benjamin, the son of Jonah of Moreover, Rabbi Benjamin is par- blessed memory, of Tudela in the ticularly remarkable for his cau- kingdom of Navarre.
This man tion; and it is here that the con- travelled through many and distant trast between him and Pethachia, countries, as related in this account, between the commercial traveller and wrote down in every place and the tourist, is so amusingly whatever he saw or what was told marked, in parts where they have him by men of integrity, whose traversed the same ground. So names were known in Spain. Rabbi cautious indeed is Rabbi Ben- Benjamin also mentions some of jamin, that he draws a careful dis- the principal men in the places he tinction between “ what he heard" visited, and when he returned he and “what he saw.” Considering brought this report along with him the state of knowledge at the time to the land of Castile in the year when he wrote, the marvel is not 933 (1173). at the fables and fictions that have “ The above-mentioned Rabbi crept into his narrative, but that Benjamin was a man of wisdom and these are so few and that the whole understanding, and of much inforis distinguished by such accuracy mation; and, after strict inquiry, and sobriety.
his words were found to be true It has been computed that the and correct, for he was a true man.' Itinerary refers to a period extend- Then follows the diary : ing over about fourteen years, “ I first set out from the city of falling between the second and Saragossa, and proceeded down the third crusade-probably from 1159 river Ebro to Tortosa,” says Rabbi to 1173. Tibet appears to have Benjamin, thus plunging into been the furthest goal of the medias res, and stating neither date rabbi's journey. He probably thus nor mode of conveyance, though in combined the object of a pil- this instance it can be inferred. grimage with his commercial pur- That he does not mention his means poses. Jerusalem and Bagdad of locomotion is to be regretted, were to Jews what Mecca is to but he is always careful to tell us the Mahommedan. Jerusalem was how many days' journey the places the city of their hopes, while he visits lie apart. Two days' Bagdad was in those days the seat journey, he tells us, brought him of the last princes of the Jewish from Tortosa to Tarragona, that nation; for the eastern Jews at most ancient city of Spain, which is that time enjoyed, to some extent, supposed to have been built by the the right of self-government. Phænicians, and whose Cyclopæan
Now, so mutilated, incomplete, remains evidently impressed the or abridged is the Itinerary of Rabbi, though he only notes down
* We have throughout availed ourselves of A. Asher's translation of the Hebrew text. (London and Berlin, 1840).
the fact of their existence with favour, and the protection of the the unpretentious solemnity that ruler required, in order to shelter characterises his narrative. Two the Israelites from those who were more days brought him to Barce- then, as now, jealous of their supelona. "The city, though small, is rior wealth, They cannot, how. handsome, and is situated on the ever, have laboured under any seashore. Merchants resort thither crushing restrictions, as for goods from all parts of the case in later times. Both at Semel world—from Greece, from Pisa, and Beaucaire the Jews presided Genoa, and Sicily, from Alexandria over a university, where they taught in Egypt, from Palestine and the Scriptural and Talmudic learning ; adjacent countries." Four days and at Bourg de St. Gilles, a place and a half brings him to Narbonne; of pilgrimage to pious Christians, this journey must have been per- who here visited the shrine of St. formed by sea. Narbonne would Ægidius (St. Giles), a Jew was one appear to have been a place of re- of the household officers of Raypute among the Jews of that time, mond, the Prince of Toulouse, who in consequence of the study of the
took so active a part in the Crusades. Law carried on there, which spread We are very fond of vaunting our thence over all countries. Rabbi superior toleration as opposed to Celonymos (honourable name) is that of the dark ages, but when we mentioned as a teacher of great meet with statements like these we distinction, “and a descendant of are forced to pause and consider the house of David,” adds R. whether we have really advanced Benjamin," as proved by his pedi- so much in this, the greatest of all gree.” This latter addendum is social virtues. characteristic of our author's cau- From Marseilles our author took tion. The weakness of boasting of ship for Genoa, a journey then of noble descent would appear to be about four days, where he only as old as the world, and Davidites, found two Jewish residents. Genoa or descendants of the house of was at the time engaged in one of David, were naturally held in espe- its numerous
with Pisa. cial reverence as the tribe whence “Pisa,” he tells us, “is of very the Messiah should issue.
great extent, containing about ten sequence of exterminating wars and thousand houses, from which war the dispersion, the records of the is carried on in times of civil comold families had been often lost, and motion. All the inhabitants are spurious pedigrees grew by no brave, no king nor prince rules over means uncommon. This man's them, the supreme authority being pedigree seems, however, to have vested in senators chosen by the satisfied R. Benjamin as to its people.” Only twenty Jewish resigenuineness, and a remark he goes dents were discovered here; at on to make concerning him gives a Lucca there were forty, but in striking picture of the political Rome, to which a six days' journey state of the French Jews of that brought our author, matters stood time, which was apparently by no well with his Hebrew brethren. means as favourable as that of their He found two hundred Jews living Spanish brethren.
there, much respected and exempt holds landed property from the from tribute. Those were not the sovereigns of the country of which nobody can deprive him by force."
“ Rome made amends for Calvary!” The permission to hold property in land was evidently granted as a the days of the Ghetto, the badge
of shame, or the annual Christian all other buildings on the face of sermon at which the Jews were the earth. The extent of ground driven like cattle to attend, and covered by ruined and inhabited sundry wretched ones suffered Rome amounts to four and twenty themselves to be converted time miles.” He then proceeds to after time in consideration of a mention a few of its wonders, and few pieces of silver; Christian finally winds up as though wearied attentions abolished by Pius IX. out, “ Rome contains many other These were the days of Pope remarkable buildings and works, Alexander III., the wise and firm the whole of which nobody can pontiff who resisted Frederic enumerate.” The list of those Barbarossa, and supported the which he does enumerate shows Lombard League.
a quaint mixture of fact ceedingly well disposed towards and absurdity ; but in those days the Hebrews; many of them were even Romans knew little officers in his service, and a Rabbi regarding the monuments of their was actually steward of his house- city, and even the learned, as hold, and minister of his private shown by Gibbon, gave credence property. In the third General to such fantastic myths, that a Council of the Lateran, Alexander charge of excessive credulity can accorded to them yet further hardly be brought against this privileges, notwithstanding some simple Jewish traveller. Besides, obstinate resistance evinced by ought we to say anything, who various divines attending the know how much even the modern assembly. The only restriction tourist absorbs ? R. Benjamin imposed them
tells us that, “In the outskirts of prohibition against keeping Rome is the palace of Titus who Christian servants. No wonder was rejected by three hundred Rabbi Benjamin was pleased at senators in consequence of his the condition of his Roman having wasted three years in the brethren ; no wonder that Jews conquest of Jerusalem, which task, honour the memory of this Pope, according to their will, he ought to and that on his return from the have accomplished in two years." exile into which he had been Now, the so-named ruins R. forced by the pretension of the Benjamin doubtless saw, and the anti-Pope, they went out in pro- story was told him. He also cession to meet him, bearing flags visited the hall of the palace of and the roll of the law. It would Vespasian ; the “ large place of appear that R. Benjamin's visit worship called St. Peter of Rome, occurred soon after this event. and the large palace of Julius
At Rome our author went to Cæsar.” He was shown a see some of its sights, besides wherein he was told Titus hid the visiting the Hebrew congregations. vessels of the Temple of Jerusalem, It is not said how long he stayed, and another cave that was said to but his visits in most places were hold the bones of the ten Jewish brief, which once more supports martyrs, teachers of the Mishna, the idea that they were prompted who suffered violent death about by business, and not by pleasure. the time of Hadrian. At San After recording that Rome is Giovanni in Porta Latina he was divided into two parts by the shown the two copper pillars that Tiber, he narrates that “the city had been constructed by Solomon, contains numerous buildings and whose name they bore engraved, structures entirely different from and the Jews in Rome told him
that every year, about the 9th of
The city has been Ab, the time of the destruc- inundated in two spots by the sea. tion of both temples at Jerusalem, Even to this day you may see the these pillars sweated so much streets and towers of this submerged that the water ran down from city. A hot spring, which issues them. Outside San Giovanni forth from under ground, producez Laterano he notes a statue of the oil called petroleum, which is Constantine, cast in copper, of collected upon the surface of the which man and horse are gilt. water and used in medicine. There Can this have been the equestrian are also the hot baths, provided statue of Marcus Aurelius, which from hot subterranean springs, occupied this site in the twelfth which here issue from under century, until it was removed by ground. Two of these baths are Michael Angelo to its present posi- situated on the sea-shore, and tion on the Campidoglio?
whoever is afflicted with any From Rome "Rabbi Benjamin disease generally experiences great proceeded to Caprera, a four days' relief, if not certain cure, from the journey. Here he found three use of these waters. During the hundred Jews, and among them summer season all persons afflicted many very wise men of universal with complaints flock thither from fame whose names he then pro- the whole of Lombardy. From ceeds to give in accordance with this place a man may travel fifteen his custom. “ This large city," he miles by a causeway under the
built by King mountains. This way was Capis; the town is elegant, but the structed by King Romulus, the water is bad and the country un
founder of Rome, who feare 1 healthy." Naples is rapidly dis- David, King of Israel, and Joab his missed, it is evident our author had general, and constructed buildings no eye for scenery. There were both upon and under the moun. five hundred Jews here, and this tains.” appears to have pleased him more Salerno was personally visited, than the bay or the sky. He and hence the account of it is mor records, however, that the city is matter of fact. The traveller duly very strongly fortified.
Here at emphasizes its claim to distinction Naples occurs the first passage that as "the principal medical university shows some confusion, leading one of Christendom.” Amalfi, half a to suppose it was either wrongly day distant, impressed him with its transcribed or that R. Benjamin commercial activity. The city had is here only recording “what he certainly by this time lost some of heard." He speaks of Pozzuoli its splendour, having been pillage and Sorrento as one and the same by the Pisans in 1135, but the place; and, as he does not mention catastrophe so graphically related the name of any Jews resident by Petrarch, which deprived it of there, it seems doubtful whether its harbour and maritime imhe did visit either of the places he portance, had not yet occurred, and or his editors have commingled in- Amalfi was still a place of congeniously. The passage deserves siderable mark, a fact hard to quotation for its amusing mixture realise nowadays, when we visit of fact and fiction.
this tiny town squeezed in its “ From thence to Pozzuoli or rocky fastnesses, with its populaSorrento, a large city built by tion of beggars. Yet up to a certain Tsintsan Hadar'eser, who fled in point R. Benjamin's description fear of King David, of blessed obtains to this day.
“ The Christian population of fession. It is a singular circumthis country is mostly addicted to stance that wherever Rabbi Ben. trade, they do not till the ground, jamin in his travels finds the but buy everything for money, numbers of the Jews small, either because they reside on high moun- ten, sufficient to form a synagogue, tains and upon rocky hills ; fruit and to be allowed to say the great abounds, however, the land being prayers, or less, their occupation is well supplied with orchards, vine- always that of dyers. Can it be yards, olive groves and gardens. argued from this that any stigma Nobody dares
was attached in those days to this them."
trade ? Qur author now made his way Two more days' journey by sea across the peninsula to Trani, a brought him to Arta, which he journey that took him six days, and
confine of the must therefore have been fairly empire of Manuel, King of Greece. rapid, seeing he stopped at various Anatolica, Gatras, Lepanto are places on the way, and visited the then successively visited; and it Jewish congregations who mustered reads comically to hear not the in good numbers, considering the slightest classical allusion, to find size of the various towns. He a traveller in search of nothing speaks of Trani as a large and save the various Jews resident in handsome town, where all the each place.
At Crissa he found pilgrims bound for Jerusalem were two hundred Jews living by them. wont to assemble on account of the selves on Mount Parnassus, carrying convenience of its port. Here he on agriculture upon their own found a goodly congregation of land and property, a most remarkJews. To this day Trani possesses able fact, as the Jews rarely or several synagogues dating back to never affect agriculture, so much so these times, and affords many in- that Porson, in conversation with dications of the former prosperity Rogers, noted the excuse of the and importance of the place. One steward (Luke xvi., 3), “I cannot day's journey brought R. Benjamin dig, to beg I am ashamed,” as a to St. Nicholas di Bari, and it is peculiarly Jewish excuse, adding difficult to identify this, now the · Who, from that day to this, has most important commercial town seen a Jew who was a beggar or an in Apulia, with a large city which agriculturist ? ” There can therewas destroyed by King William of fore have been no oppressive Sicily. The place still lies in ruins, restrictions on the Jews in the and contains neither Jewish nor Greece of those days. Indeed, our Christian inhabitants ; but the author seems to have found their facts tally with history. In a day condition prosperous throughout and a half R. Benjamin struck the dominion. At Thebes he across the land to Taranto. The
speaks of two thousand Jewish Greek element evidently still pre- inhabitants, who were the most vailed in his days, since he speaks eminent manufacturers of silk and of the inhabitants as Greeks. Re- purple cloth in all Greece. turning to Brindisi and proceeding What probably attracted them thence to Otranto, now an insig- in such numbers
was the fact nificant fishing town, but then a recorded by Gibbon, that all favourite point of embarkation, our persons employed on the workman. author crossed in two days to ship of parchment, silk, and Corfu. Here he only discovered purple, as well as the mariners of one Jew, who was a dyer by pro- the Peloponessus, were exempted