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Some Debts the Worl owes to the Spanish Jews

Major Martin Hume

<plain_text><page sequence="1">SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. By Major MARTIN HUME, M.A. (Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England, Monday, April 8, 1907.) It would be an impertinence for me in the presence of an audience mainly belonging to the Hebrew community, and including men famous for their profound knowledge of Talmudic lore, to presume to say anything of the precious services rendered by the Jews of Spain to purely Hebrew learning, to describe the exalted examples they offered to their own race, tending to raise its ethical, moral, and religious ideals. That branch of the subject I leave for Hebrews to deal with; but it has occurred to me in my studies in the history and literature of the Iberian Peninsula that the Christian world at large has never yet realised the enormous and beneficent influence wielded by the Spanish Jews in the formation of our present civilisation. I seek to-day, therefore, only to point out quite briefly and in elementary fashion some few of the influences for which I conceive modern Europe is indebted to the Spanish Jews. Since the dispersion of the Chosen People until recent times in England, no country has ever appealed so strongly to their hearts as an abiding place, as a land where they might hold up their heads and find free exercise for the nobler attributes so dear to them, as Southern Spain, no country that came so near to their souls as a fatherland, and no country, let me add, where they were persecuted with greater ferocity and injustice and more inhuman heartlessness. From the very dawn of recorded history the Semitic races found in Spain the land of their brightest dreams. The Jews were amongst the first traders, merchants, and navigators to find their way thither in the wake of their brethren and neighbours 138</page><page sequence="2">SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. 139 the Phoenicians, who obtained in Spain the vast stores of silver with which they brought their boats back laden to Tyre; and Jewish colonies must have existed in the east and south of Spain at least five hundred years before the Roman legions brought Iberia into the circle of the great Republic. We may put aside the mediaeval fables about the coming of King Nebuchadnezzar to Spain, and the Hebrew foundation of Toledo; from which city it is asserted the Rabbis wrote to their brethren in Jeru? salem, enjoining moderation and toleration in their treatment of the founder of Christianity. Certain it is, however, that early in the third century, only some eighty years, or less, after the banishment of the Jews from Jerusalem by Hadrian, a regular settlement of Hebrews existed at Adra in Spain; and thenceforward the best, the most enlightened of the race, flocked to Spain and Provence. Members of the tribes of Judah and Levi, as we are told they mostly were, they brought with them, besides their unique mental endowments, the wide range of acquirements and experience which they had inherited and gathered from centuries of travel and traffic with men of all nations. With them came the know? ledge of many tongues and skill in many crafts and sciences?the secret lore of the Egyptian, the dim traditions of the Persian and the East, the rich inheritance of classic antiquity, the argumentative and dialectic skill learnt in the academies of Alexandria, and in the philosophical schools of Syria and of Athens. The Jews, as they arrived in Spain in great waves in the third and fourth centuries, represented, indeed, the highest manifestation of refined culture then existing in the world, combining, as they did, by sacred injunction, a knowledge of handicraft, a profound worldly wisdom, and a wide acquaintance with written texts of history, philosophy, and science. That they were disliked and distrusted was a natural consequence of their intellectual superiority; and especially was this the case when Christian Churchmen began to kindle against them the fires of bigotry. During the Roman domination of Spain they grew greatly in numbers and wealth, and in the fifth century they already controlled the commerce and the finance of Rome's richest colony. Nor had they neglected the intellectual culture they had inherited from their Oriental forefathers. Mathematics and natural science, especially, became their province; and when the Roman hold upon Spain relaxed and the Visigoth ruled the land, a new era of toleration dawned for the Hebrew people. The Councils of Churchmen</page><page sequence="3">140 SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. in the later Roman period had gradually heaped disabilities and obloquy upon them, patiently borne; but with the coming of the heterodox Arian Goths most of the oppression put upon them by the orthodox Catholic clergy was removed. The Gothic warrior nobles, too, were strangers in the land they came to rule; and the Jews, rich, powerful, and cultured, became necessary to the conquerors as ministers, financiers, and agents. Needless to say they grew still more wealthy. As officials they represented the earlier Gothic Kings of Spain in every province, and ruled the affairs of every palace, whilst as diplomatists and physicians, which professions usually went together, they were indispensable. Inter? marriage with Christian (though not Gothic) wives was permitted and common, and hardly a trace was left of past persecution. But when, under weak Gothic Sovereigns, Spain became Catholic, and a theocracy of bishops ruled despotically over Kings, then the fate of the Spanish Jews grew hard again. It is no part of my subject to tell in detail the horrible series of sufferings patiently borne by the Spanish Jews through centuries, but I must mention just those elements of the persecution that at a later period enabled them to exercise the influence they did upon the new civilisation that was to grow out of the dust of the Roman Empire, scattered and trampled upon by the ruthless barbarians from the North. For it is undoubted that the successive persecutions to which the Jews were subjected rendered them capable of acting the valuable part they did in the formation of civilisation as we know it. The learning and culture of the Roman Empire, already corrupt, overloaded and effete, had been practically swept away, its temples ruined, its elegance destroyed, its learning, its refinement and its luxury a prey to the savage scorn of races to whom such things were incomprehensible. Only one power had survived the wreck, and that itself was anti-Roman in its traditions and tendencies. 1 mean the close brotherhood of Christian Bishops and Churchmen, who held sway over the superstitious masses by the promise of heaven and threats of hell. Strong enough they were in Spain to bring the Gothic Kings to their knees, and make them become Catholic; and wherever the Catholic clergy was para? mount there was the Jew persecuted. From the time when King Reccared was converted to Trinitarianism in 589, blow after blow was doalt upon the Spanish Jews by successive Councils of Churchmen;</page><page sequence="4">SOME DEBTS) THE WOULD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. 141 but the very severity of the enactments at first, and the absence of bigotry in laymen, made the canons a dead letter. The Jews were forbidden to hold any public offices, but years afterwards, Jews were ministers, treasurers of kings, and even judges; growing rich, and intermarrying with the noblest in the land. At length, in 612, the Churchmen compelled King Sisebut to expel from Spain, under ferocious penalties, every member of the race who resisted Christian baptism. Many, of course, bent the head, and, as Saint Isidore says, feigned acceptance of Christianity; but thousands fled across the Straits to Africa. When Sisebut died in 621, most of the converted relapsed again, and once more the Councils of Bishops fulminated curses and chastisement upon them. And so for years during the seventh century torture and death worked their wicked way unchecked upon the Jews of Spain. Every? thing that could remind them of their ancient law, of their glorious past, of their cherished traditions, was forbidden. Every mark of infamy that ingenuity could devise was branded upon the people whose separate existence was a negation of the religious creed of the ruling power in the land. As an instance of the apparent completeness of their submission, the Jews petitioned the eighth Council of Toledo to the effect that, as the King had forced them to renounce their law, and they were living as Christians in obedience to him, they begged that they might not be forced to eat the flesh of swine. Not so much for conscience' sake, they said, as because their stomachs not being used to it, they suffered physi? cally by eating it. And they swore by the Holy Trinity that they would obey in all else if they were not forced to eat pork. What wonder is it that these down-trodden people looked across the Straits to the con? quering people on the other side, amongst whom their brethren lived in peace, freedom, and equality 1 The Gothic power in Spain was already split from top to bottom and tottering to its fall. The Churchmen had had their way, and anarchy was the consequence. The rising crescent of the Moslem, flushed with the conquering zeal of a new gospel, was seen clearly across the sea; and the sons of Israel, enslaved, despoiled, and despised, yearned for the coming of the Arab to sweep away the warring Christians who were united only in their persecution of the Jews. There were many bonds between the Arabs and the Jews. The Moslems were coming with a gospel as monotheistic as that of Moses ;</page><page sequence="5">142 SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. they were an Oriental Semitic people, speaking a tongue akin to that of the Hebrews, their customs and traditions similar, and, above all, the Moslem looked with scorn upon those who had turned Spain for its Jewish sons from a heaven into a hell. For generations in all countries ruled by the Kaliphs of Mecca and Damascus the Hebrew had opened to the Moslem the gates of knowledge and of science : and the Jewish academies in Moslem lands were centres of erudition for Arab and Jew alike. All this was known to the enslaved Jew of later Gothic Spain. So when Tarik and his mixed horde of Arabs, Syrians, and Berbers flocked across the Straits in 711, and in one great battle vanquished the Gothic Christians in Spain, what wonder that one of the divisions of his army consisted of Jews commanded by a Jewish general ? What wonder that everywhere the down-trodden Jews of Spain acclaimed their con? quering kinsmen ? Toledo, the Gothic capital, had been called a Jewish city, for it was full of Hebrews, and on Palm Sunday, 715, the Toledan Jews delivered the city to the Arab conqueror whilst the Christians were absent on a pilgrimage. Granada, also a Jewish city, and Lucena another, opened their gates to the Moors ; and as the ever-growing Moslem army swept rapidly onward, they left the captured and surrendered cities in their rear held and guarded by Jews. The great emigration of Jews to Africa from Spain had familiarised vast numbers of them with the Arabic tongue as well as with the Latin they had spoken in Spain; and when they came over in the wake of the Arab Conquest, followed by thousands upon thousands of their kinsmen for many years afterwards, from the East, and from France, they were naturally the people to whom the Arabs and Moors turned to be their intermediaries with the vast Christian populations which they had so easily subdued. Enterprising, active, and clever, the Jews made the best of their splendid opportunities. New hopes dawned for them, many, even, to their destruction, thought that the day of their deliverance had come, and flocked to the false Messiah in Syria in 721. But, though in this they were mistaken, they wTaxed richer and more powerful under the Moors than ever they had been since Titus destroyed the sacred city. The Moors, at war and spread over the whole realm, looked to the Jews not only to manage civil and financial administration, but to provide them with the objects of luxury and refinement which their plunder enabled them to buy and their tastes prompted them to possess.</page><page sequence="6">SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. 143 With the coming of young Abd-er-Rahman, the Ommeyad Prince, flying from Damascus in 755 to found in Cordova the Kaliphate of the West, the glorious time for the Spanish Jews dawned. By a curious coincidence Abd-er-Rahman, who had passed through so many hair? breadth escapes in his flight from Mesopotamia to Maghreb, at last owed his life to a Jew before he arrived in Spain. Abd-er-Rahman, Ebn Habib, Governor of Maghreb, when Prince Abd-er-Rahman arrived there, had a Jewish councillor so wise as to be looked upon by his master with almost superstitious reverence. The Governor had heard of the prophecy of soothsayers that an Abd-er-Rahman was to be Kaliph of the West. He, thinking that it might be himself, gave himself airs. His Jewish councillor said : " Thou art not of the race of kings. It is not thou." And when the Prince appeared with the two curls on his forehead, Ebn Habib said : " This may verily be he, but I will kill him." Then replied the Jew: "If thou killest him he will not be the chosen one, but if thou killest him not, it may verily be he." (MSS. Ajbar Machm?a?R. A. Hist.) And so Abd-er-Rahman founded the western orthodox Kaliphate, which stood in splendour for nearly three centuries, and under the culti? vated and benign Kaliphs of Cordova, the Jews of Spain lived honoured, prosperous, and free. Their great trade in slaves, in silks, perfumes, arms, and jewels from the East, flattered the pride of Arab princes and nobles. The thirst of the Arabs for knowledge and culture compelled them to turn to the Jews, who alone possessed it. One bookish Kaliph after the other sent Jewish bibliophiles throughout the East searching for books for the splendid libraries that grew up in Cordova, Toledo, and elsewhere. Greece, Damascus, and Alexandria were ransacked for manuscripts in all the tongues to be sent to Spain ; and an army of copyists, Jews and Moslems, were busy transcribing in the libraries of the East rare manuscripts for the collection of the Kaliphs, until that of Cordova alone contained 400,000 volumes. All the rest of Europe, recollect, was given over to savagery and ignorance. Classical culture was dead, or nearly so; and in Christian Spain, especially, all that was grim and dark and ugly was adopted for the formula of the Christians, as a protest against the grace, elegance, and refinement of the infidel con? queror. It cannot be too often repeated that the Arab conquerors of Spain brought little or no culture with them. Nor did the fashion for books and learning seize upon them until the Kaliphate was well estab</page><page sequence="7">144 SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. lished at the beginning of the ninth century. To the Jews of Spain it was that the Cordovese Arabs and Moors largely owed their taste and their desire for learning, and to the Jews they were obliged to look for its satisfaction. At first the subjects of study were principally literary, such as rhetoric, history, philosophy, and grammar ; for the Arab Moslem traditions discouraged the study of natural science; but gradually the barriers were broken down, and the Arabs learnt of the Jews what they had to teach in the domain of science. By the end of the tenth century, under Hakam II., the schools of Cordova, Toledo, Seville, and Zaragoza were famous throughout Europe. Medicine and surgery, especially, both of them purely Jewish sciences, were pursued with intense diligence. Veterinary surgery now first became a regular art, botany and pharmacy were taught at first by Jews, whilst astronomy, especially at a later period, was studied systematically, as it had never been studied before. This was at a time when in Christian Europe scientific and even literary study had almost disappeared, and it will be understood that here in Cordova for over 200 years a mountain of material was gathered and stored for the future enlightenment of the world, when it should awaken from its nightmare. The mildness and toleration of the Arab rule in the time of the Kaliphs was in a fair way to destroy the linguistic boundaries, at least, of the various peoples living in Moslem Spain. Arabic became the common speech of Mozarabes and Jews as much as of the Moors; and more than one great Hebrew deplored that the ancient tongue of his race was being lost. The great Gabirol (Avicebron) in the preface of his Hebrew grammar, written early in the eleventh century, says: " I con? sidered that the holy tongue was being lost and forgotten. Half our people speak in Idumean (Latin), and the other half in their false tongue of the sons of Kedar (Arabic), and so our own speech is sinking with the depths." But this never quite happened with the Spanish Jews ; for their constant intercommunication with their race in other countries, and above all the free practice of their religion, kept the Hebrew tongue alive side by side with the vernacular Arabic. The Mozarabes at first spoke Arabic, too ; but the Christian priests in the North-West, intent only upon keeping alive the national feeling upon which they depended for the Christian re conquest, inflamed ceaselessly the bigotry of the Christians in Moslem Spain to abandon the tongue of the infidel. Sacred visions, prophetic promises and appeals to pride, ever latent in Spanish breasts, all the wiles</page><page sequence="8">SOME DEBTS THE WOULD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. 145 of the priest, were employed to stir up hatred between the subject Chris? tians and their Moslem masters. A craze for martyrdom seized upon Mozarabes, and the tolerant Moors were even goaded by insults to per? secute. Thousands of Spaniards of Christian descent emigrated to Christian provinces, and most of those that remained made it a point of honour to speak the Latin tongue?or as near to it as they could get. Proselytism was furiously carried on by both sides; and in this occa? sionally, though not very often, the Jews joined?as in the case of Paul Alvaro, a Jewish Rabbi converted to Christianity, who, in his famous Latin epistles to Eleazar, attacked Judaism with skill and bitterness, and eventually followed his dear friend St. Eulogius to self-sought martyrdom for his new faith (861). But, speaking generally, the Jews under the Kaliphs were friendly both with Moors and Christians, speaking the Latin dialect of the latter, and the Arabic of the former, in preference often to their own Hebrew. Here, then, is the position of affairs that gave to the Jews of Spain their unique opportunity for permanently serving the world. It would occupy more than the time at my disposal to give a mere list of the principal of the great Jewish men of science and letters who, during the 250 years of the glorious time of the Spanish Kaliphate, studied, observed, wrote, and copied old texts, in ancient tongues in Cordova and Toledo. I might dwell long on the transfer of the tradi? tions and learning of the famous Hebrew academies of Puinbedita and Sura from the East to Cordova, which made the Spanish city the centre of Talmudic learning by the end of the ninth century under the Rabbi Mosheh and his son the Rabbi Hanoch, whose strange adventures on their way from Syria to Spain read like a romance. I could tell how the immortal Solomon Ibn Gabirol (Avicebron), the Hebrew philosopher and poet, wrote works in Zaragoza in the middle of the eleventh century (1021-1070), which are still read and admired in every tongue; how his " Fountain of Life " inspired the great Dominican priestly philosophers, Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, and Giordiano Bruno, and equally influenced the opponent of their school, Dans Scotus, the Franciscan (1265-1308). I might give a list of some of the numerous works of the loftiest and most inspired poets of the age, Judah ben Samuel Halevi (b. 1086), who wrote a thousand poems for all time. I might tell how Hasdai ben Shaprut wrote of botany as it had never been treated VOL. VI. K</page><page sequence="9">146 SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. before; how Manasseh ben Shaprut patiently laboured for a lifetime upon an encyclopedia that remains still a monument of erudition; how Jewish astronomers watched and recorded the phenomena of the heavens, and handed down, corrected and modernised, the calculations of Ptolemy made 800 years before; how Benjamin of Tudela and other Jewish travellers described and mapped the known world; how Jewish Spanish physicians, deep in the ancient medical secrets of the East, were sought and honoured in every court in Europe. Later, when the Kaliphate fell, and the persecution of the Jews by the Puritan Moors drove them from Cordova, the Jewish scholars flocked to the Courts of the petty Moslem Kings, carrying with them enlightenment and learning. I might tell of the splendour and wisdom of Rabbi Samuel ben Levi, Ibn Nagrela, who became practically ruler of Granada; of the great astronomer, almost a king, Rabbi Isaac, who, in his day, made Seville the centre of the Hebrew world; of Rabbi Joseph, Nagid of the Jews of Granada, princely in his justice and generosity, and profound in his learning; of Abraham ben David, of Toledo, the great astronomer. Above all, I might say much of the greatest of the European Jews, Moses ben Maimun, of Cordova (Maimonides), physician and philosopher, of whom so interesting a life has been issued by your Society ; how he ensured the continuity and permanency of the Aristotelian philosophy, and inspired his con? temporary and succeeding generations with what we now7 recognise as the note of our own age?a desire to emancipate the faiths of the world from the trammels of the rigid word, and inspire them with the spirit of reason. All this I might do, and show how much the Spanish Jews from the eighth to the thirteenth century did for the world, and especi? ally for Judaism individually. But I am desirous of indicating the general directions in w7hich the stream of Spanish-Jewish influence flowed with their burden of traditions into the main flood of European culture, rather than to deal with individuals. I have said, however, enough to show that all this time the Spanish Jews were keeping the light burning, and preserving, with additions and embellishments, the ancient learning which the rest of Europe had allowed to die. I have referred to the dialect of Latin spoken by the Mozarabes who lived in the Moorish provinces. How it had been evolved during the centuries it is now difficult to say, but the guttural Arabic had obviously influenced it to some extent in its pronunciation, had simplified its form,</page><page sequence="10">SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. 147 and had provided it with many words. When Toledo was captured in the eleventh century, and the religious bigotry drove large numbers of Mozarabes north, the dialect became to some extent familiar to the rest of Spain ; but it always remained a dialect in which, however, a great poem was written in the twelfth century, for the men who spoke it were the most literary Christians in Spain. The official and literary tongue of Castile was similar to that now known as Portuguese, Galician, and in the north-east, it was Provencal, a kindred language. When Cordova was captured by St. Ferdinand in 1241, and Seville in 1248, it was found that the Mozarabic inhabitants only understood their own dialect of Spanish; and the codes and charters granted to them were couched in that language. The poem of the Cid, nearly a hundred years before* had been written in it; and the great Jewish poet, Judah ben Samuel the Levite, had introduced many lines of it in his Hebrew poems, and some other small poems and fugitive pieces had also been written in it. Still the great mass of Spaniards looked upon it as a mere provincial dialect, as indeed it was. With the death of St. Ferdinand came the change that brought to the Spanish Jews a new importance. To the throne of Castile succeeded a King, a born bookman, who yearned to follow the example of the great Kaliphs of Cordova, and make his rough, unlettered people a literary nation. He had heard much of the past glories of Cordova, of the vast libraries of Hakam and Hishem, of the wisdom contained in the books in Oriental tongues still plentiful in the Spanish seats of ancient learning. His own realm had been fighting for centuries; ruled in literary matters by ignorant priests, it was practi? cally without a literature beyond certain poems and one great epic. Alfonso X. (the Learned) therefore deliberately resolved to create one. He himself wrote sweet poems in Galician, and also understood the Mozarabic dialect; but to write or translate a whole literature, the aid of many sages was needed. Where could he look for them? Certainly not amongst his own Churchmen, nor amongst the Galician and Pro? vencal-speaking courtiers and troubadours who surrounded him. Where but to those who in the south and centre of Spain had devoted them? selves so whole-heartedly to learning in the past, to the Jews and their Arab followers, who spoke and wrote the Oriental tongues and the Mozarabic dialect of Latin ? So, to imperial Toledo Alfonso summoned the learned Jews of the south to make a modern literature to order, to</page><page sequence="11">148 SOME DEBTS THE WOULD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. transfer to a European speech, though but a provincial dialect, the literary masterpieces, the learning and the science which the Jews of Moslem Spain had been fostering and hoarding all these years. The first task (1256) was to translate that curious work by the Jew Abolays and the Arab Mahommet ibn Quich, called the Lapidario?a book upon the properties of metals and precious stones, full of quaint lore. It was adapted by the Rabbi Judah Mosheh ha-Katon, one of Alfonso's physicians. Then came a far more profound work, the re-calculation and re-casting the Ptolemaic astronomical tables, which work under the name of the Alfonsine tables was in use for centuries, and practically revolutionised the mediaeval astronomy. This great work was done by Rabbi Judah bar Mosheh ben Mosca and Rabbi Isaac Zakut, of Toledo. Then Rabbi Judah ha-Cohen translated from the Arabic the Eighth Sphere, another astronomical work (1256). The same Rabbi, aided by Alfonso's Mozarabic chaplain, afterwards translated the monumental Libros de Saber de Astronomia, the second and third parts of which, describing the astrolabes, were translated from the original of Rabbi Isaac Zakut, of Toledo, by a Mozarab. Six books followed of the Lamina Universal, by Rabbi Isaac Zakut, of Toledo, translated and augmented by the author himself. And so on. Treatises on the Quadrant, on the water-clock, on the candle-clock, on quicksilver, and on many other things, were turned into the Latin vernacular by Rabbi Isack and Rabbi Samuel ha Levi, both of Toledo. Books of astronomy and of physics,half-a-dozen of them at least, were translated in the next few years by the learned Rabbi Isaac Zakut and Rabbi Judah bar Mosheh ha-Cohen ; and these two indefatigable workers in the great observatory which Alfonso built for them, watched, recorded, and laboured for many years, Europeanising Oriental astronomical and mathematical learning, whilst all the rest of Europe lay in dim twilight. There was no narrowness about Alfonso. Jews, Mozarabes, and Moors were all welcome if they could aid him in his great task; and all of them worked harmoniously, moved by his impulse, side by side, making a new literature. The Talmud and the Kabbala and the Bible were translated by Jews for him; the noblest synagogue in Europe was raised under the shadow of the vast Christian cathedral of Toledo (now the beautiful Santa Maria la Bianca). The great " History of the World," planned by Alfonso, was also mainly written by Jews so far as it was carried; and when Alfonso died, he left behind</page><page sequence="12">SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. 149 him not only a new literature, re-introducing learning into modern Europe, but he had established the Mozarabic dialect, thenceforward Castilian, one of the grandest tongues ever spoken, as the future language of Spain. This was done?this gigantic work which lasts for ever? mainly through the instrumentality of the Spanish Jews; and from the time the Rabbis wrote Castilian in the thirteenth century until to-day the tongue has hardly changed. The Spanish literature and the Spanish tongue, therefore, owe much, both in substance and in vehicle, to the Jews of Spain. We will now see how the form and fashion of European literature generally are indebted to the same influence. In the new Spanish literature which grew up at the bidding of Alfonso the Learned, there is one characteristic which at once strikes a student of the ancient texts. This is its sententious didacticism. Every one of Alfonso's books, except to some extent the History, had for its object the teaching of something by short, authoritative sentences, sometimes glossed or expounded, sometimes left to carry their own lesson unaided. It was always the sage or elder instructing youth, either by aphorisms, sentences, proverbs, or short apologues, sometimes in prose but oftener in verse. This form, it is true, had been common in classical literature, and the tradition of it had never been entirely lost. It had come to Greece and Rome from the East, and had been used by Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and scores of other Latin writers. But by the time of which I now speak, the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, shortly before the Italian classical renaissance began, the austerity and direct simplicity of the parable or apologue had been lost. It was soon to reappear in Italy in another form, namely, the little episodical story, like those of Boccaccio, Sannazzaro, and others, without any moral teaching at all, and later to develop into the tale of intrigue. It was otherwise in Spain, where the classical traditions had been clean forgotten, and the Jews, as we have seen, had reintroduced, straight from the Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew, the old Oriental tradition of the conveyance of wisdom and experience by means of epigrammatic sen? tences and little parables, each containing or enforcing a separate moral lesson. This fresh introduction of Oriental influence into European literature through Spain profoundly affected the form of literature generally in Europe, almost to our own times. In Spain itself this form became a tradition, which has never disappeared; though Cervantes</page><page sequence="13">150 SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. laughed at poor Sancho's proverbial wisdom so heartily in " Don Quixote." During the reigns of Alfonso's two successors, Sancho and Alfonso XL, princes, courtiers, and fine gentlemen vied with each other in producing collections of apologues and rhymed proverbs, the Oriental origin of which is evident at first sight. The most famous of them is a set of stories written by Don Juan Manuel, Alfonso's nephew, each story intended to convey a lesson enforced in a rhymed tag. It is called 4' The Book of Patronio " (or " Count Lucanor "), and is borrowed freely from several Eastern sources, especially from the famous set of apologues called the " Fables of Pilpay " (or Bidpai), through Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, and Hebrew, which had been a favourite book in Cordova in the times of the Kaliphs, and had been translated into Spanish by the order of Alfonso X. by a Rabbi. The Spanish translation is called " Kalila and Dimna," and it became the root of numberless stories, many of which are familiar to us to-day through Chaucer, Caxton, Lord Rivers, and others. These apologues, Kalila and Dimna, were followed by a similar set from the same source, direct from the Hebrew, called the " Book of Sendabar " (or Sindbad), and the two books formed the foundation of a perfect literature of short moral tales in Spanish. The most interesting and racy after " Count Lucanor " are called " The Tricks and Wiles of Women," translated into English and printed by Caxton; " The Book of Good Proverbs," " Flowers of Philosophy," and '' Golden Mouthfuls"; all of them consisting of short tales enforcing a lesson, which is enshrined in a little rhymed tag either at the beginning or the end. These tales, in more or less original form, found their way throughout Europe : many through the famous " Book of Patronio " (" Count Lucanor "); others direct from other books. One of the books printed by Caxton (1483), " iEsop's Fables," contained a separate section called " The Fables of Alphonse." This Alphonse, or Petrus Alphonsus, was the Spanish Rabbi, Moses Sephardi, whose book, called Disciplina Clericalzs, con? tained many Jewish apologues which were borrowed in substance by Juan Manuel in "Count Lucanor," by the author of the "Book of Examples " (demente Sanchez), and other writers. This craze for the moral didactic short story ran from Spain throughout Europe, even before the Italian episodical tale of intrigue and the French Fabliaux came with the classical renaissance, and it is easy to trace the influence of the two distinct forms to our own times. The purely Hebrew and</page><page sequence="14">SOME DEBTS THE WOULD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. 151 Oriental form, didactic in its essence, comes to us in such books as '' Sandford and Merton," "Moral Tales," "Evenings at Home," and other books so fashionable for the delectation of youth down to the middle of the nineteenth century. Don Juan Manuel and other Spanish writers conveyed them to the rest of Europe, where they fructified exceedingly. Compare Boccaccio's stories, written only some ten years after "Count Lucanor" (1342-50), derived in part from Fables of Pilpay and similar Oriental sources, but reaching Italy indirectly through other channels, and you will see immediately the more purely didactic form and aim of the Spanish tales, reintroduced directly from Oriental sources by the Spanish Jews. The Spanish-Je wish form gave rise to the purely didactic tale for youth; the Italian form gave birth to the episodical short story, with no lesson to enforce, as we see it to-day. Even more conspicuous is the influence of the Spanish Jews upon European literature in the sententious proverb, which remained a fashion? able vehicle for the conveyance of wisdom until late in the eighteenth century. The sententious proverb was purely Oriental and mainly Jewish in its form. It had been a favourite pursuit in cultured Cordova to make collections of these gems of wisdom, and most of the apologues of which I have spoken ended in one of these epigrams, either in prose, or more usually rhythm, to enforce its lesson. Such was the case in the Disciplina Clericalis of the Rabbi Moses Sephardi, the " Book of Examples," the "Book of Patronio," " Kalila and Dimna," &amp;c, and the imitations and adaptations of them followed the same fashion. The rhymed or rhythmic epigram of a proverbial or didactic character, though purely Oriental in form, had, of course, been popular in classical times; but by the time of which I speak?the thirteenth and fourteenth centu? ries?it had become almost forgotten in Europe. The Spanish people, who for centuries had lived under Moorish rule in the south in daily contact with Hebrew and Arabic literary influence, had taken with avidity to these sententious bits of crystallised wisdom, and they became, as their descendants are to-day, the most proverb-loving people in Europe, into whose daily familiar speech proverbs are lavishly introduced. John Ruiz (1350), the famous rollicking Archpriest of Hita, in his hundreds of satirical-versed apologues, each ending in a rhymed epigram, borrows his matter from the sources mentioned?Bidpai, Sendabar, Petrus Alfonsus, and other Hebrew sources; but the true proverb in short</page><page sequence="15">152 SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. rhymes is first seen in Spanish in a most interesting and extensive set of 686 seven syllable quatrains offered in the middle of the fourteenth century to Peter the Cruel, that great patron of the Jews (notwithstand? ing his murder of his treasurer, Samuel Levi), by the Rabbi Adon Shem Tob, the Jew of Carrion. Personally, I have been immensely interested in these " Moral Proverbs," of which I have translated many for a collection of Spanish quotations I am editing; and I have been struck by the witty crispness of expression of these proverbs on the one hand, and the faithful reflection given in the philosophy they contain of the traditional Jewish teaching. Many of them are easily traceable to biblical sources, and I doubt not that to Hebrew scholars the origin of others would be equally evident. This set of rhymed proverbs of Shem Tob in fact is a triumph, a triumph of conciseness of language, and a monument of the true Jewish spirit. Humility, reticence, patient hope, canniness, breathe through them all, and the warnings against the besetting sins of his people, greed and ostentation, are enforced simply and directly. I should like to give you some specimens, though it is difficult to know where to choose among so many. The verse of the dedication runs thus :? Senor noble, Rey alto Oyd este Sermon Que vos dice Don Santo Judio de Carrion. Listen, lofty Lord and King, This sermon that to you, From Carrion doth humbly bring Adon Shem Tob the Jew. He apologises for his Judaism, but deprecates any disdain for his verse in consequence of it, in a curious mixture of humility and pride :? De fine- acero sano Sale de rota vayna Y del fino'l gusano Se face seda fina. Por nascer en espino La rosa yo non siento Que pierde, nin el buen vino Por salir del sarmiento. The flashing steel is drawn' Forth from a scabbard mean, And from a worm is torn The silk of splendid sheen. Because it grows on thorny tree The rose is not less fine. And good wine is not worse to me Though pressed from twisted vine. These are, so far as I know, the first rhymed proverbs in Spanish unconnected ivith the apologue, and may, therefore, be claimed as the ancestor of a numerous literature of rhymed proverbs in all European</page><page sequence="16">SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. 153 languages. In Spain the form caught on strongly. Some fifty years afterwards a great noble, Mendoza Marquis of Santillana, wrote for the instruction of a prince another set of rhymed moral proverbs, modelled evidently upon those of Shem Tob, and enforcing similar morals, but more European in sentiment. Here, again, each verse inculcates its lesson, and is followed by a gloss or short discourse upon it, differing in this from Shem Tob. The book became famous and still remains so, and was followed by many others of moral proverbs in rhyme, those of Castilla, of Perez de Herrera, of Alonso de Varros, of Joaquin Setante, and others ; and through them the rhymed didactic or moral proverb spread through the literature of Europe and profoundly influenced literary form. The same influence was spread from Spain in the case of the prose sentence or apothegm, which was purely Oriental and Spanish; and in the seven? teenth and eighteenth centuries became a prevailing fashion throughout Europe. No nobleman or high gentleman considered that he had done his duty unless, following the Spanish fashion, he had compiled a set of sentences or aphorisms for the instruction of his son. Lord Burghley, Sir Walter Raleigh, the Earl of Essex, are some of those who occur to me as having written collections that were printed, and every one of them is full of the Spanish-Jewish spirit of which I have spoken. To show how tenacious is the hold of this form of wisdom upon the Spanish-Hebrews, I may mention that I had before me the other day a great collection of such proverbs, many hundreds of them, freshly gathered from the Turkish Jews, who, as you know, took from Spain with them, when they were expelled four hundred years ago, the Castilian speech which still is theirs. These proverbs current to-day?after four hundred years of isolation?are in numberless cases the same as were transmitted by the forefathers of the Spanish Jews to the rest of Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; and now, in European form, have become part and parcel of our daily speech, familiar in our mouths as household words. I have dwelt hitherto mainly upon the literary debt of Europe to the Jews of Spain, but in handicrafts and the arts the indebtedness to them was no less great. The silks and rich gold embroideries, even for the use of Christian churches, were mainly produced by them in their walled Aljamas, and their silversmiths' work, especially, was esteemed throughout Europe until the Italian and French renaissance changed the</page><page sequence="17">154 SOME DEBTS THE WOULD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. fashion, and oppression strangled the Jewish industries in Spain. When the hellish mandate went forth, dictated by greed and bigotry, that the children of Israel were to be expelled the land which for centuries they had enlightened, when the hideous persecutions of the Inquisition tried to root out from Spain the very seed of Judaism, the blood was too far spread, too intimately mixed with that of the noblest families of Spain, to be eliminated. The faith of their fathers might be lost, but the nobles who served as the treasurers and financiers of kings were those in whose veins the blood of Israel flowed. The saintly Talavera, first Archbishop of Granada, was of Jewish blood. So were the sages who produced for the great Jimenez the Complutensian polyglot Bible; so was Perez de Pul gar, the illustrious chronicler of the Catholic kings; so was Cobos, the intimate friend and financial adviser of Charles Y.; and so was another royal treasurer, Luis de Saint Angel, the Secretary of Supply of Ferdinand the Catholic, to whom the world, and Spain especi? ally, indeed, owes a debt. For years the besotted priests and shallow courtiers had haggled, derided, and scoffed at the elderly Genoese sailor who had haunted the Court of the Catholic Kings with his great project of finding a way to the East by sailing West. Again and again the mighty dreamer had been dismissed, disappointed, for his terms were high, and King Ferdinand was busy and penurious. At last, after all those seven years, Columbus received a final repulse, and, broken-hearted, turned away from conquered Granada to carry his pregnant dreams to other lands. Then it was that his greatest friend, the Jewish-born Saint Angel, saw with his keen business instinct what Spain would lose by letting Columbus go. He was a fellow-countryman and confidential servant of Ferdinand; but it was to the Queen Isabella he went. It was a bold step for a man in his position to take, but he took it, and in eloquent words besought the Queen not to miss the chance of making Spain the mistress of the East. If money was the obstacle, he said, he would lend it to the Sovereigns for such a purpose) and though the Queen could not act without her husband, she let Saint Angel know that no resistance to the recall of Columbus would be offered by her. This was something gained, and at last Ferdinand was won over, too. Columbus was pursued and brought back to Granada, and the money was found. It is not true that Isabel pawned her jewels to pay for Columbus's voyage. The</page><page sequence="18">SOME DEBTS THE WORLD OWES TO THE SPANISH JEWS. 155 funds necessary were found by Saint Angel (although it is possible that it was not, as is usually believed, and even then asserted, paid out of his own pocket, but money secretly advanced to him for the purpose out of the Treasury of Aragon by another man of Jewish blood, the King's Aragonese treasurer, Gabriel Sanchez), and the money was transmitted to Columbus by a third man of Jewish descent, Talavera, Archbishop of Granada. I have had an opportunity of copying, at Simancas, the original accounts of Saint Angel, in which it is set forth that: " St. Angel had received from the treasury 2,640,000 maraverdis, of which 1J million was to be paid to Isaac Abraham for the amount he had advanced to the King for the conquest of Granada, and the rest (1,140,000) to be applied to the repayment of the sum advanced by St. Angel for Colum bus's voyage." Whether the money was his own, or whether he got it from the King's Treasury and took the responsibility of it, is not certain ; but, in any case, it is clear that Columbus looked upon Saint Angel as the principal person who had made his voyage possible when all else had failed. To him he wrote his famous letter, so often printed, giving the first news of his epoch-making discovery; and he repeats again and again, as did his son afterwards, that it was the enlightened advocacy and aid given by this man of Jewish blood that enabled him to endow Spain with the new world. Nor were Jews lacking in the actual crew that sailed with Columbus. Thus the services of the Spanish Jews to civilisation are traceable in two main directions; amongst many others of a secondary character, such as the organisation of finance. First they cultivated, augmented, fostered, and kept alive the ancient learning when the rest of Europe lay in darkness; they transferred this knowledge to the wrorld through the Castilian tongue at the bidding of Alfonso ; they carried as chemists and physicians, to every Court in Europe, the science they alone had garnered; and they profoundly influenced the literary taste and form of the coming literary renaissance by the infusion into the Spanish texts of their racial traditions. These are some of their intellectual services. Materially, they aided Columbus in the discovery of America, and they found the money for the conquest of Granada. These are some of the tilings that the Jews of Spain did for Europe. What has Europe done for them 1</page></plain_text>

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