Were There Jews in Roman Britain?

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"Aquae Son's/' he repeated, "the best baths in Britain . . . You meet fortune-tellers and goldsmiths, and merchants and philosophers, and feather-sellers, and ultra-Roman Britons, and ultra-British Romans, and tame tribesmen pretending to be civilised, and Jew lecturers, and oh, everybody interesting."?Kipling, "Puck of Pook's Hill."

Kipling had several good intuitions about Roman Britain, and those of novelists frequendy arouse respect. The problem is esoteric to a degree; but let it to be said at once, that if the evidence is slight and disputable, the discussion is worth? while, because it has never been reviewed by a student of Roman Britain; and the result may be to shed a faint but additional ray of light on both the life of the province and the history of the Jewish people.

I divide the subject into two sections : probabilities and evidence. I would emphasize that the probabilities are scientifically demonstrable probabilities and not conjectures ; but they are not more than probabilities. The evidence, it is hoped, will be discussed strictly on its merits.2

There are two subjects which may be dismissed for lack of evidence. One is the Jewish tradition in Cornwall, the other the legends of Joseph of Arimathea. There is no archaeological proof for trade-contacts by the Phoenicians with Cornwall, and the evidence even for Mediterranean contacts in the late Bronze and Early Iron Ages is not abundant; what there is, suggests trade rather by Greeks, and a Numidian coin found dates from a period after Carthage had lost control of the straits of Gibraltar.3 It was Camden who first made the suggestion giving rise to the Phoenician belief; the confusion between this and the Jewish tradition appears to be subsequent; and the latter is probably connected with Camden's own opinion4 that the Jews farmed the stannaries under John.

The legend of Joseph of Arimathea is of mediaeval origin, but it has a value in so far as it indicates Glastonbury as an early centre of British Christianity. The Church was old in the 6th century;5 and the Christian finds at Frampton, Dorchester, Fifehead Neville, Rotherley, Tidworth, Chedworth, and Appleshaw (all in Dorset, Hampshire, and Gloucestershire) suggest Christianity penetrated early to south-west Britain; but that it had arrived as early as AD 100, the last date when Jews and Christians were regarded as members of one group, seems unlikely. There is, nevertheless, evidence for early contacts between Dorset, Devon, and the Near East. This is in the form of

1 Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England, on 14th December, 1950.

2 This paper was written at the suggestion of Mr. Cecil Roth whom I have to thank for a number of references and suggestions. I also gratefully acknowledge the assistance and criticisms rendered by Mr. C. E. Stevens, Prof. J. M. C. Toynbee,Mr. E. B. Birley, and Dr. Samuel Stern.

3 O'N. Hencken, "The Archaeology of Cornwall," London (1931), pp. 168 ff.; see there for a general survey of the problem of the Mediterranean contacts; but the Jewish tradition is not

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