Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Jews of Rome, 1714

"The Jews at Rome enjoy'd some Measure of Liberty, and liv'd somewhat easily before the Pontificate of Paul IV [He was Pope from 1555-1559]; but that Pope was a terrible Enemy to 'em: For whereas before they were permitted to live in any Part of the City, he confin'd 'em to one Corner of it, whither he order'd 'em to retire at the Close of the Evening. He fore'd 'em to sell their Possessions, and suffer'd 'em only to trade in old Clothes, or old Goods. He commanded 'em, for a Mark of Distinction, to wear yellow Hats, and issu'd out an express Prohibition, That no Christians shou'd either eat or converse with 'em. I am inform'd, that by a Decree of Gregory XIII, they were oblig'd, or at least a certain Number of 'em, to hear a Christian Sermon every Saturday in the Afternoon, but I have not yet had an Opportunity to see that Assembly. The Italian Jews, and particularly those of Rome, as some of them assur'd me, do scrupulously observe the Law that enjoins 'em to marry at Twenty Years of Age at farthest, under the Pain of Ignominy, and being treated as Persons living in Sin. The Number of the Jews at Rome may at present amount to about Seven or Eight Thousand, according to the vulgar Computation.

The Author of la Roma Santa affirms, that the Jews stink, and that their noisome Smell vanishes . after they are baptiz'd. ( Cosa maravigliosa, che ricevuto il Sto Battesimo non puzzano più ) I know not why this shou'd be reckon'd wonderful for those who are to be baptiz'd are so carefully wash d and cleans'd, that they must needs become sweet, tho' they really stunk before. But 'tis ridiculous to imagine that the Jews, as being Jews, have a peculiar Smell. The Jews at Rome are very poor; those who are poor are always nasty, and those who are nasty, usually stink: That is the Mystery. 'Tis also a vulgar Error that the Jews are all black; for this is only true of the Portuguese Jews, who marrying always among one another, beget Children like themselves, and consequently the Swarthiness of their Complexion is entail'd upon their whole Race, even in the Northern Regions. But the Jews who are originally of Germany; those, for Example, I have seen at Prague, are not blacker than the rest of their Countrymen."

Source: Maximilien Misson. A new voyage to Italy. 1714. Pages 138-139

No comments:

Post a Comment