There were Jewish communities throughout the Mediterranean at the time of the Punic Wars? What role if any, did jews play in these wars?

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    Any particular reason to expect such a role? Jan 1 '13 at 16:56
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    I find your first sentence, stated as fact, somewhat unlikely. Do you have a reference for it? However, the Jews and the Phonecians were quite closely related, and Carthage was essentially a Phonecian colony gone independent.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 2 '13 at 19:37
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    I would add to T.E.D.'s statement, that the Phonecians were related (being Semitic): Carthage achieved independence (and the hegemony over the Phonecian colonies in the western Mediterranean) nearly four hundred years before the start of the first Punic war. Jan 2 '13 at 21:34
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    @NathanCooper - Not only were they both semetic, they were both Central Semetic. Not only were they both Central Semetic, but within that group they were both Northwest Semetic (as was Aramaic, which much of the Torah was written in). Not only were they both Northwest Semetic, but within that grouping they were both Cananite ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaanite_languages ). There's a nice tree here: mathildasanthropologyblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/… . It would not be unreasonable to look upon the ancient Jews as the Phonecians' "country cousins".
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 9 '13 at 19:15
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    @eliyah - Do you have a source for all that? AFAIK, that is not the current canonical understanding of the origin of either of those peoples.
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 1 '14 at 16:14

I believe we can spit this up into three parts:

Roman Jewish Community: "Jews have lived in Rome for over 2,000 years [...] They may even have established a community there as early as the second pre-Christian century, for in the year 139 B.C. the pretor Hispanus issued a decree expelling all Jews who were not Italian citizens" Jewish Encyclopaedia So we can pretty much discount there role there.

Jews in the Levant At the time part of the Seleucid Empire. The Battle of Magnesia between them and Rome as well as the Treaty of Apamea are in scope. Jewish nationalism against the Seleucids is also in scope. It seems Jews here were largely antagonistic to the Seleucids who were at war with Rome, who were at war with Carthage. But no direct link to Roman wars in the western Mediterranean here, I think.

Carthaginian Jewish Community Algerian Jews: "There is evidence of a Jewish presence in Algeria since at least the late Roman period". Out of scope, probably. Tunisian Jews : "The ruins of an ancient synagogue dating back to the 3rd-5th century CE was discovered by the French captain Ernest De Prudhomme". Excellent. There were also jews in Carthage according to the Jewish Encyclopaedia, based on evidence from the Talmud. So Jews would have been around in numbers during the Punic Wars.

Did they do much fighting? There is evidence for Jewish mercenaries in Egypt here and in the Seleucid shpere of influence (Crete etc) here, search for jewish. There are stories of a Jew (I think) called Zepho running away to Carthage and becoming a general (in that first "here" link) but I think it's too early in history and I don't stand by it's validity.

I would say there was a community there were involved in so far as they lived, worked, traded there. But I don't think there's much to write as far as "Jewish involvement goes".

  • Same deal with Jews in Spain, who were there at the time, possibly. They probably weren't in Gaul. Jan 7 '13 at 3:33
  • What about the community of Djerba? Jan 7 '13 at 4:33
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    Good answer, but I think that Zepho is a bit mischaracterized. Following Nathan's link I read that "The Hebrew Josephus (Josippon, i. chap. ii.), indeed, reports that Zepho, son of Eliphaz, son of Esau, who was brought to Egypt as a captive by the viceroy Joseph, escaped thence to Carthage, where he was appointed general by King Angias". Two points to note here: (1) A grandson of Esau is not really a Jew. A not-too-distant cousin of Jews, rather. (2) Josippon is not Josephus, it's a medieval compilation of various legends, plus some material from Josephus thrown in. Jan 7 '13 at 11:11
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    So Zepho is probably just a tall medieval tale. A pity. Jan 7 '13 at 11:11
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    @NathanCooper: Esau and his progeny are not canonically considered Jews. He sort of opted out of the tribe. Jan 7 '13 at 18:34

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