ARLES(Latin Arelas or Arelate, Hebrew , , ):

City of France, in the department of Bouches du Rhône; ancient capital of Provence. The date of the settlement of the Jews in Arles is lost in antiquity. According to a legend, the emperor Vespasian placed Jews on three vessels, which were abandoned by their captains in the open sea. One of these came to Arles, another landed at Bordeaux, and the third reached Lyons ("Siddur," Roedelheim, 1868, ed. Baer, p. 112).

Early Settlement.

This legend makes it probable that there were Jews in Arles during the first centuries of the common era. But the first official document concerning them dates from 425. In that year the emperor Valentinian III. addressed to the pretor of Gaul, and to Patroclus, bishop of Arles, a decree, enjoining them to forbid Jews and heathens to take up the career of arms, to enter the magistracy, or to possess Christian slaves (Papon, "Histoire Générale de Provence," i. ii.). These restrictions, however, were not carried out, or, at any rate, did not last long; for some years later the bishopric of Arles was occupied by Saint Hilary (429-449), who cherished the most kindly feelings toward Jews in general, and especially toward those of Arles.

In 476 the Roman dominion in Gaul came to an end, and Provence fell into the hands of the Visigoths. Euric conquered Arles, where he settled for a long time. So long as the Visigoths remained attached to Arianism, the Jews enjoyed all civic rights. In 508, when Arles was besieged by the Franks and Burgundians, the Jewish inhabitants valorously defended the city. Arles fell into the hands of Clovis, and Bishop Cæsarius was openly accused by the Jews of treason. The bishop's adherents, however, accused a Jewish soldier of having thrown a letter to the besiegers, inviting them to climb the wall at a certain place. The soldier was put to death, and the bishop was acquitted. But this relatively happy state of the Jews did not last. Arles, like most towns of southern France, fell under the dominion of the Merovingian kings, whose fanaticism weighed heavily upon the French Jews. The bishops were encouraged by Chilperic himself (561-584) to attempt the conversion of the Jews; and Virgilius, bishop of Arles, displayed such zeal for the salvation of Jewish souls, that even Pope Gregory the Great thought it necessary to moderate it by a stern rebuke (see S. Gregorii Papæ I. Magni Epistolæ," ii. lxv.).

Under the Carlovingians.

With the death of Dagobert I. (638), on which occasion the power passed into the hands of the Carlovingian dynasty, the state of the French Jews in general considerably improved. The Carlovingian princes efficaciously protected them from the attacks of the clergy. Jewish history has nothing to record of this happy period. It takes up the thread again with the death of Louis le Débonnaire (814-840), when Boso, count of Provence, supported by Pope John VIII. and the clergy, founded the kingdom of Burgundy with Arles for capital. In 850, the Jewish communities of Lyons, Châlon, Macon, and Vienne, to save their children from baptism, sent them to Arles, where Bishop Roland showed himself most favorably disposed toward the Jews. The usurper (879-888), as a token of his gratitude toward the clergy, transferred his rights over the Jews of Arles to Rostang, archbishop of this town. Boso's son and successor did the same in 921 to Bishop Manasse. This form of transfer was sanctioned later by the German emperors, who acquired rights of suzerainty over Provence. Thus Conrad III., in 1147, granted to the archbishop of Arles, Raymond of Montredon, among other of his regal prerogatives, the jurisdiction over the Jews of his diocese. Frederick Barbarossa in 1154 confirmed and extended these privileges. The archbishop understood how to make the most of the power bestowed upon him, and laid heavy taxes upon the Jews of Arles. And yet their state was tolerably favorable in comparison with that of the Jews of other towns in France, who suffered much from the Crusaders. The archbishop watched carefully over his property, and permitted none to interfere with his Jews.


According to Benjamin of Tudela, the Jewish community of Arles counted at the second half of the twelfth century about 200 families. At theirhead were six rabbis: Moses, Tobias, Isaiah, Solomon, Abba Mari, and Nathan (see Benjamin of Tudela, "Travels," i. 5). They lived in a separate quarter of the town, and had their synagogue in Rue Neuve (Noble de la Laugière, "Abrégé Chronologique de l'Histoire d'Arles," pp. 301, 312). Their chief trade consisted in selling kermes, which is used in dry-salting. In 1215 Archbishop Michel de Morière regulated the administration of the Jewish community of Arles. On every Feast of Tabernacles the Jews had to elect three members, who were to administer the community. The elected members assumed the title of "rectors," and they were invested by the archbishop with full power. The rectors were responsible for their acts to the archbishop. The first rectors assigned by the archbishop himself were: Durantus (Durant), Salvetus (Salves), and Ferrerius (Ferrier). Trinquetaille, a suburb of Arles, also possessed quite an important community, which disappeared in 1300, when this suburb was united with the town.

The counts of Provence gradually established their power in Arles, owing to the incessant conflicts between the archbishop and the Christian inhabitants of the city; and the state of the Arlesian Jews accordingly changed. Thus Charles I. of Anjou officially deprived the archbishop Bertrand of Malferrat of his rights over the Jews (1276). This circumstance occasioned much suffering among the Jews of Arles; for the clergy could now undisturbedly excite the fanaticism of the Christian inhabitants against them. Charles I. of Anjou, it is true, accorded to all his Jewish subjects every kind of protection; and on one occasion energetically took their part against the Dominican friars, who tried to introduce the Inquisition into Provence. But Charles' successor had not his energy, and the state of the Jews of Arles gradually grew worse. Thus Charles II. (1285-1309), incited by the clergy, issued ordinances, according to which the Jews were forbidden, on pain of a fine of two silver marks, to employ a Christian servant, to hold a public office, or to lay aside the distinguishing yellow badge.

The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries.

The first half of the fourteenth century was a relatively happy epoch for the Jews of Arles under the reign of Robert of Anjou, who cherished kindly feeling toward them; but the second half was just the reverse. The presence of Joanna on the throne of Provence gave scope to the enemies of the Jews, and the most odious restrictions were placed upon them. Jews could not, for instance, testify against a Christian; nor were they allowed to visit the public baths on any day during the week but Friday, which was set aside for their exclusive use; they were forbidden to do work on Sundays; no Jew could embark for Alexandria, and only four could take passage by the same boat for any of the other parts of the Levant.

In 1344 the Jews of Arles had much to suffer from the riots following the blood accusation against Samson of Reylhane. Such riots were repeated every few years, and Louis III. (1417-1434) saw the necessity of appointing special officials for the protection of the Jews. These functionaries, called "conservators," exercised jurisdiction over the Jews and maintained order in the communities. In 1436 the mob attacked the Jews of Arles, and maltreated even the conservators. King Réné (1434-1480) suppressed the functions of these guardians; and by the ordinance of May 18, 1454, granted to the Jews the right to retain their ancient customs. He, likewise, authorized them to build a fortress in their quarter, in order to protect themselves from the attacks of the populace during Holy Week (Noble de la Laugière, ib. p. 301).

With the death of King Réné (1434-1480) the Jews lost their last protector. On the 13th of Nisan, 5244 (April 8, 1484), when Provence was annexed to France, a band of laborers from Dauphin, Auvergnois, and the mountain districts of Provence, driven by misery, attacked the Jews of Arles, ransacked their houses, killed several women, and compelled about fifty persons to embrace Christianity. These violent outbursts were repeated in the summer of 1485 (S. Kahn, in "Rev. Et. Juives," xxxix. 110). In 1488 the Jews were definitively expelled from Arles, to which place they never returned.

Prominent Jews in Arles.

Among the eminent persons associated with the town of Arles may be mentioned: R. Moses (tenth century); Judah ben Moses of Arles (eleventh century); Judah ben Tobias (twelfth century); Abraham ben David of Posquières, called also Abraham ibn Daud (twelfth century); Samuel ben Judah ibn Tibbon, Meïr and his son Kalonymus, Isaac ben Jacob Cohen, Gerson ben Solomon (thirteenth century); Levi ben Abraham, who took part in the religious controversy of 1303-1306; Joseph Kaspi, Kalonymus ben Kalonymus, Don Comprad of Arles, Kalonymus ben David ben Todros, Isaac ben Joseph ḲimḦi, TanḦum ben Moses (fourteenth century); Nathan ben Nehemia Kaspi, Isaac Nathan ben Kalonymus ben Judah ben Solomon (fifteenth century).

The following physicians of Arles may also be mentioned as having acquired distinction, the first two being engaged at court: Maëstro Bendit, probably identical with Bendich Ahin, physician to Queen Joanna in 1369; Benedit du Canet, one of the physicians of Louis XI.; Maëstro Salves Vidal of Bourrin, and Asher ben Moses of the family Valabrègue (1468).

  • Papon, Histoire Générale de Provence, I. ii. et seq.;
  • Depping, Les Juifs dans le Moyen Age, p. 108;
  • Nostradamus, Histoire et Chronique de Province, passim;
  • Gross, in Monatsschrift, 1878, 1880, 1882;
  • idem, Gallia Judaica, pp. 73 et seq.;
  • Rev. Et. Juives, xl. 74; xli. 62, 154.
G. S. K. I. Br.
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