GAON (plural, Geonim).

—In Babylon:

The title of "gaon," probably an abbreviation of (Ps. xlvii. 5), was given to the heads of the two Babylonian academies of Sura and Pumbedita, though it did not displace the title of "rosh yeshibah"(Aramaic, "resh metibta"), which properly designated the office of head of the academy, and remained to the end the official designation for that position. There are no data whatever to show when the title "gaon" originated (see Jew. Encyc. i. 146). Sherira, who is the source for the exact sequence of the Geonim, apparently considers "gaon" an ancient title of the head of the academy, for he says (ed. Neubauer, i. 34) that the amora Ashi was gaon at Mata Meḥasya (Sura). But Sherira himself begins to use the title consistently only toward the close of the sixth century, "at the end of the Persian rule," when the schools of Sura and Pumbedita resumed their parallel activity after a period of interruption. One is justified, therefore, in assigning to that date the beginning of the period of the Geonim—all the more so as the period of the Saboraim can not be extended down to the year 689, as Abraham ibn Daud assumes in his historical work, "Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah." According to an old, well-authenticated statement, 'Ena and Simuna, who flourished in the first third of the sixth century, were the last saboraim. The interval between this date and that of the reopening of the schools referred to above, may be included in the period of the Saboraim, and the period of the Geonim may be said to begin with the year 589, when Mar Rab Ḥanan of Isḳiya became gaon of Pumbedita. The first gaon of Sura, according to Sherira, was Mar Rab Mar, who assumed office in 609. The last gaon of Sura was Samuel b. Ḥofni, who died in 1034; the last gaon of Pumbedita was Hai, who died in 1038; hence the activity of the Geonim covers a period of nearly 450 years.

Their Functions.

The Geonim officiated, in the first place, as directors of the academies, continuing as such the educational activity of the Amoraim and Saboraim. For while the Amoraim, through their interpretation of the Mishnah, gave rise to the Talmud, and while the Saboraim definitively edited it, the Geonim's task was to interpret it; for them it became the subject of study and instruction, and they gave religio-legal decisions in agreement with its teachings.

The Kallah.

As the academies of Sura and Pumbedita were also invested with judicial authority, the gaon officiated at the same time as supreme judge. The organization of the Babylonian academies recalled the ancient sanhedrin. In many responsa of the Geonim, members of the schools are mentioned who belonged to the "great sanhedrin," and others who belonged to the "small sanhedrin." As may be gathered from the statements of Nathan ha-Babli (tenth century), and from various references in the geonic responsa, the following customs connected with the organization of the academies were observed in the two "kallah" months, Adar and Elul, during which (as in the time of the Amoraim) foreign students assembled in the academy for common study. In front of the presiding gaon and facing him were seated seventy members of the academy in seven rows of ten persons each, each person in the seat assigned to him, and the whole forming, with the gaon, the so-called "great sanhedrin." Gaon Amram calls them in a responsum ("Responsa der Geonim," ed. Lyck, No. 65) the "ordained scholars who take the place of the great sanhedrin." A regular ordination ("semikah") is of course not implied here; that did not exist in Babylonia, only a solemn nomination taking place. Gaon Ẓemaḥ refers in a responsum (see "Jeschurun," v. 137) to "the ancient scholars of the first row, who take the place of the great sanhedrin." The masters, or "allufim" (i.e., the seven heads of the college of teachers ["resh kallah"]), and the "ḥaberim," the three most prominent among the other members of the college, sat in the first of the seven rows. Nine sanhedrists were subordinated to each of the seven allufim, who probably supervised the instruction given during the entire year by their subordinates. Notwithstanding the assumption of Grätz ("Geschichte der Juden," v. 148, 480) and Halevy ("Dorot ha-Rishonim," iv. 217), it appears from the text of Nathan ha-Babli (ed. Neubauer, ii. 87), if read rightly, and from other sources, that only the seven kallah heads were called "allufim," and not all the 70 members of the college. The two geonim Amram and Ẓemaḥ designate in their responsa, mentioned above, the resh kallah and the allufim. as heads of the college. A scholar by the name of Eleazar, who went from Lucena in Spain to Babylon in the ninth century, is designated both as "alluf" and as "resh kallah" (see Harkavy, "Resp. der Geonim," pp. 201, 376). A correspondent of Hai Gaon, Judah b. Joseph of Kairwan, is called on one occasion "alluf," on another "resh kallah," and on a third "resh sidra" (Harkavy, l.c. pp. 359, 383).

The members of the academy who were not ordained sat behind the seven rows of sanhedrists. During the first three weeks of the kallah month the scholars seated in the first row reported on the Talmud treatise assigned for study during the preceding months; in the fourth week the other scholars and also some of the pupils were called upon. Discussions followed, and difficult passages were laid before the gaon, who also took a prominent part in the debates, and freely reproved any member of the college who was not up to the standard of scholarship. At the end of the kallah month the gaon designated the Talmudic treatise which the members of the assembly were obliged to study in the months intervening till the next kallah should begin. The students who were not given seats were exempt from this task, being free to choose a subject for study according to their needs.

During the kallah which took place in the month of Adar the gaon laid before the assembly every day a certain number of the questions that had been sent in during the year from all parts of the Diaspora. The requisite answers were discussed, and were finally recorded by the secretary of the academy according to the directions of the gaon. At the end of the kallah month the questions, together with the answers, were read to the assembly, and the answers were signed by the gaon. A large number of the geonic responsa originated in this way; but many of them were written by the respective geonim without consulting the kallah assemblies convened in the spring.

Its Members.

Nathan ha-Babli's account, from which the foregoing statements have been taken, refers only to thekallah months. The remaining months of the year passed more quietly at the academies. Many of the members, including those of the college designated as "sanhedrin," lived scattered in the different provinces, and appeared before the gaon only at the time of the kallah. Nathan designates the permanent students of the academy by the Talmudic term "bene be-rab" (sons of the schoolhouse), in contradistinction to the "other students" that gathered at the kallah. These two classes of students numbered together about 400 at the time when Nathan wrote his account (tenth century). When a resh kallah or any other member of the college died and left a son who was worthy to occupy his father's seat, the son inherited it. The students coming to the academy during the kallah months received support from a fund which was maintained by gifts sent to the academy during the year, and which was in charge of a trust-worthy man. The members sitting in the front rows seem to have drawn a salary.

A description of the organization of the geonic academies differing in important details from Nathan's account is found in an interesting genizah fragment edited by Schechter ("J. Q. R." xiii. 365). This fragment, however, most probably refers to the Palestinian academy of the eleventh century (see "J. Q. R." xv. 83, and also Gaon in Palestine).

Two courts were connected with each of the two Babylonian academies. The higher court ("bet din gadol") was presided over by the gaon (see Harkavy, l.c. p. 88). It appointed the judges for the districts within the jurisdiction of the respective academies (comp. the letter of appointment in Aramaic in Harkavy, l.c. p. 80), and was empowered to set aside the verdicts of the several judges and to render new ones. The other court belonging to the academy was under the direction of the ab bet din, and judged minor cases.

Judicial Functions.

The geonim occasionally transcended the Talmudic laws and issued new decrees. At the time of the gaons Mar R. Huna at Sura and Mar R. Rabba at Pumbedita (c. 670), for instance, the measures taken in relation to a refractory wife were different from those prescribed in the Talmud (Ket. 62b). Toward 785 the geonim decreed that debts and the ketubah might be levied on the movable property of orphans. Decrees of this kind were issued jointly by both academies; and they also made common cause in the controversy with Ben Meïr regarding a uniform Jewish calendar (see "R. E. J." xlii. 192, 201).

The gaon was generally elected by the academy, although he was occasionally appointed by the exilarch; the geonim Mar R. Samuel and R. Yehudai of Sura and R. Naṭroi Kahana of Pumbedita, for instance, were appointed by the exilarch Solomon b. Ḥisdai (eighth century). The exilarch David b. Judah appointed R. Isaac b. Hananiah gaon of Pumbedita in 833. But when the exilarch David b. Zakkai appointed R. Kohen Ẓedeḳ gaon of Pumbedita, the academy itself elected Rab Mebasser. The schism arising thereby was finally adjusted peaceably, the geonim officiating together down to Mebasser's death (926), after which Kohen Ẓedeḳ remained as the sole gaon of Pumbedita. David b. Zakkai also appointed a counter-gaon to Saadia at Sura, whom he himself had called to that office, this being a well-known incident in the history of the controversy between Saadia and David b. Zakkai. Sherira cites still other examples to show that two geonim officiated at the same time at Pumbedita. For instance, during the controversy between Daniel and the exilarch David b. Judah the ab bet din Joseph b. Ḥiyya was appointed gaon of Pumbedita side by side with the gaon Abraham b. Sherira; Joseph, however, recognized the superiority of Abraham. Once when both were present at Bagdad in the synagogue of Bar Nasla on the occasion of the kallah at which homage was paid to the gaon, the leader in prayer called out: "Listen to the opinion of the heads of the Academy of Pumbedita." The congregation thereupon began to weep because of the schism indicated by the plurality of heads, and Mar Joseph, deeply moved, rose and said: "I herewith voluntarily renounce the office of gaon, and resume that of ab bet din." Gaon Abraham then blessed him and said: "May God grant you to partake of His blessedness in the world to come" (Sherira, ed. Neubauer, i. 38). When Abraham died Joseph became his successor (828). Joseph b. Ḥiyya's son Menahem, who became gaon in 859, also had a counter-gaon in the person of R. Mattithiah, who succeeded to the office on Menahem's death a year and a half later.

Relations with Exilarch.

The gaon was entirely independent of the exilarch, although the geonim of both academies, together with their prominent members, went every year to render homage to the exilarch (see Nathan ha-Babli, ed. Neubauer, ii. 78). The assembly at which this homage took place was called the "great kallah." In the controversy between the academies and Ben Meïr the exilarch sided with the two geonim (see "R. E. J." xlii. 211). The signature and seal of the exilarch, together with the signatures of both the geonim, were affixed to certain especially important decrees (see "'Iṭṭur," ed. Lemberg, i. 44a). The Geonim were empowered to examine documents and decisions originating in the court of the exilarch (see Harkavy, l.c. p. 276).

The gaon of Sura ranked above the gaon of Pumbedita, and a sort of court etiquette was developed in which this fact found expression (see the account taken from the first edition of "Yuḥasin," in Neubauer, ii. 77 et seq.). The gaon of Sura sat at the right hand of the exilarch, while the gaon of Pumbedita sat at the left. When both were present at a banquet, the former pronounced the blessing before and after the meal. The gaon of Sura always had precedence, even if he was much younger than his colleague, and, in writing a letter to him, did not refer to him as gaon, but addressed merely "the Scholars of Pumbedita"; the gaon of Pumbedita, on the other hand, addressed his letters to "the Gaon and the Scholars of Sura." During the solemn installation of the exilarch the gaon of Sura read the Targum to the Pentateuch sections which had been read by the exilarch On the death of the exilarch the gaon of Sura had the exclusive claimto his official income until the election of a new exilarch.

Geonim of Sura.

The gaon of Sura evidently owed his superior rank to the ancient reputation of the academy over which he presided; for Sura had been the leading academy of the Babylonian Jews during the period of the Amoraim, first under its founder Rab and his pupil Huna (third century), and then under Ashi (d. 427). In the geonic period also the more prominent scholars taught at Sura; this is indicated by the fact that most of the geonic responsa that have been preserved originated at Sura. The liturgic order of prayers and rules was formulated by geonim of Sura, such as Kohen Ḳedeḳ, Sar Shalom, Naṭronai, and Amram. R. Yehudai Gaon's "Halakot Pesuḳot" and the "Halakot Gedolot" of Simeon Ḳayyara (who was, however, no gaon) were written at Sura (see Epstein, "Ha-Goren," iii. 53, 57). The Midrash Esfa, which was edited by the gaon Ḥaninai (769-777), may also be regarded as an evidence of the early literary work of the academy there (see Yalḳ. i. 736).

But it was Saadia's activity that lent to this academy unusual luster and an epoch-making importance for Jewish science and its literature. Then, after a long period of decadence, another worthy occupant of the office arose in the person of Samuel b. Ḥofni, the last gaon of Sura. Among the earlier geonim of Pumbedita only Ẓemaḥ (872-890) achieved a literary reputation, as author of a Talmudic dictionary entitled "'Aruk "; but Aḥa (Aḥai) the author of "She'iltot" (middle of the eighth century), also seems to have belonged to the Academy of Pumbedita. This academy, however, as if eager to make up for the delay of ages, furnished in the persons of its last two heads, the gẹonim Sherira and Hai (father and son), scholars of the first rank, who displayed great literary activity and inaugurated a final significant epoch for the gaonate, which came to an end on Hai's death.


The importance of the Geonim in Jewish history is due, in the first place, to the fact that for a number of centuries they occupied a unique position as the heads of their respective schools and as the recognized authorities of Judaism. Their influence probably extended chiefly to the Mohammedan countries, especially northern Africa and Spain; but in the course of time the Jews of Christian. Europe also came under the influence of the Babylonian schools. It was for this reason that the Babylonian Talmud came to be recognized as the basis for religio-legal decisions throughout Jewry and as the principal object of study. Even the facilities offered for such study to the Diaspora were due to the Geonim, since the geonic exposition of the Talmud, with regard to both text and contents, was directly or indirectly the chief aid in comprehending the Talmud. The importance of the period of the Geonim for the history of Judaism is further enhanced by the fact that the new Jewish science, which steadily developed side by side with Talmudic studies, was created by a gaon, and that the same gaon, Saadia, effectively opposed the disintegrating influences of Karaism. The activity of the Geonim may be seen most clearly in their responsa, in which they appear as the teachers of the entire Diaspora, covering in their religio-legal decisions a wide field of instruction.

In the course of the tenth century, however, even before the Babylonian schools ceased with the death of the last gaon, other centers arose in the West from which went forth the teachings and decisions which superseded those of the Geonim. The fixed gifts which the Jews of Spain, the Mograb, North Africa, Egypt, and Palestine had contributed to the support of the Babylonian schools were discontinued long before, as Abraham ibn Daud reports (Neubauer, ii. 67); and the decadence of these schools was hastened thereby as much as by the internal conflicts to which they were subjected. The historic importance of the Geonim and their schools may be said to have ceased even before the institutions themselves were dissolved on the death of Gaon Hai. It is symbolic of the sad end of the gaonate that after Hai's death (1038) the exilarch Hezekiah was the only person found worthy to assume the direction of the sole remaining Academy of Pumbedita; and with his forcible deposition and imprisonment as a result of calumnious charges brought against him two years later the office of exilarch also ceased.


An authentic account of the names, sequence, and terms of office of the geonim of both academies, taken from their records, has been left by Sherira, the last gaon but one of Pumbedita, in a long letter which he addressed to the scholars of Kaitwan, and in which he recites the history of the Babylonian academies. Abraham ibn Daud's "Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah" is in comparison merely of secondary importance. For the period down to about 800 the latter uses another source, probably Samuel ha-Nagid's "Mebo ha-Talmud" (see Rapoport's biography of Nathan, note 24, and biography of Hai, note 2); his list of the Geonim, moreover, is very confused, geonim of Sura being assigned to Pumbedita, and vice versa. Beginning with the geonim and Isaiah ha-Levi, he draws upon Sherira's letter, from which he frequently copies verbatim.

The list of the geonim of Sura and Pumbedita, which is given on the following page, is based entirely on Sherira's account. The dates, which Sherira noted according to the Seleucidan era, have been reduced to their equivalents in the common era. The date given is that of the gaon's entering upon office; some of the dates are missing in the account of Sherira, who says in reference to the geonim of Sura that down to 1000 Seleucidan (689 C.E.) even those that he does give are not indisputable. His dates referring to the terms of office of the geonim of Sura from the end of the eighth century down to the time of Saadia need revision, for, as given by Sherira, the sum of years during which the geonim of Sura officiated, from the time of Mar R. Hilai (792) down to Saadia (928), is 153 years instead of 136. The difference of 17 years has been adjusted in the following list by reducing the terms of office of some of the geonim. The dates of the last geonim, Sherira, Hai, and Samuel b. Ḥofni, are taken from Abraham ibn Daud's historical work "Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah."

Synchronistic List of the Geonim of Sura and Pumbedita.
Mar b. R. Ḥanan of Isḳiya589
Mar R. Mar b. Mar R. Huna609Mar R. Mari b. Mar R. Dimi609
Mar R. Ḥanina (time of Mohammed)...
R. Ḥanina...Mar R. Ḥana...
Mar R. Isaac (Firuz Shabur)660
Mar R. Huna...Mar R. Rabbah...
Mar R. Sheshua (called also Mesharsheya b. Taḥlifa)...Mar R. Bosai...
Mar R. Ḥanina of Nehar Peḳkod689Mar R. Huna Mari b. Mar R. Joseph (1000 Seleucidan)689
Mar R. Nehilai of Naresh.697R. Ḥiyya of Meshan...
R. Jacob of nehar Peḳod.715Mar R. Rabya...
Mar R. Naṭronai b. Mar Nehemiah (called Mar R. Yanḳa)719
Mar R. Samuel (descendant of Amemar)733R. Judah...
Mar R. Joseph (called Mar Kitnai)739
R. Samuel b. Mar R. Mar748
Mar R. Mari ha-Kohen of Nehar Peḳod751
Mar R. Aḥa759R. Naḥroi Kahana b. Mar Aḥnai (of Bagdad: contemporary of Aḥa di Shabḥa)...
Mar R. Abraham Kahana...
R. Yehudai b. Mar R. Naḥman (the celebrated Yehudai Gaon)760
R. Dodai b. Mar R. Naḥman (brother of R. Yehudai)761
R. Aḥhunai Kahana b. Mar Papa (var. Huna)764
R. Ḥananya b. R. Mesharsheya767
Mar R. Ḥaninai Kahana b. Mar R. Huna769
R. Malka b. Mar R. Aḥa.771
Mar Rabba b. R. Dodai (ancestor of Sherira Gaon)773
R. Shinwai...
R. Mari ha-Levi b. R. Mesharsheya777
R. Bebai ha-Levi b. Mar R. Abba of Nehar Peḳod.781
R. Ḥaninai Kahana (son of a Abraham Kahana, the gaon)782
Mar R. Huna b. Mar ha-Levi b. Mar Isaac.785
R. Manasseh b. Mar R. Joseph788
Mar R. Hilai b. Mar R. Mari792
Mar R. Isaiah ha-Levi b. Mar R. Abba796
Mar R. Joseph b. Mar R. Shila798
R. Jacob ha-Kohen b. Mar Mordecai801
Mar R. Kahana, son of Ḥaninai Gaon804
Mar R. Abumai, brother of Ḥaninai Gaon810
Mar R. Joseph b. Mar R. Abba814
R. Abimai, brother of Mar R. Mordecai815
Mar R. Abraham b. Mar R. Sherira816
Mar R. Zadok b. Mar R. Ashi823
Mar R. Hilai b. Mar R. Hananiah825
R. Joseph b. Mar R. Ḥiyya828
R. Ḳimoi b. Mar R. Ashi829
R. Moses (var. Mesharsheya) Kahana b. Mar Jacob832
Mar R. Isaac b. Mar R. Hananiah (var. Ḥiyya)833
R. Joseph b. Mar R. Abba839
R. Palṭoi b. Mar R. Abaye842
[No gaon843-844]
R. Kohen Ẓedeḳ b. Mar Abimai Gaon845
Mar R. (Sar) Shalom b. Mar R. Boaz849
R. Naṭronai b. Mar R. Hilai Gaon b. Mar R. Mari853
Mar R. Amram b. Mar R. Sheshna (author of the Siddur)856
Mar R. Aḥai Kahana b. Mar R. Mar858
R. Menahem b. Mar R. Joseph Gaon b. Ḥiyya.859
R. Mattithiah b. Mar R. Rabbi861
R. Abba b. Mar R. Ammi869
Mar R. Ẓemaḥ b. Mar Palṭoi Gaon (author of the first 'Aruk)872
R. Naḥshon b. Mar R. Zadok874
R. Ẓemaḥ b. Mar R. Ḥayyim882
Mar R. R. Malka887
R. Hai b. Mar R. Naḥshon889R. Hai b. R. Mar David.890
R. Hilai b. Naṭronai Gaon.896
Mar R. Ḳimoi b. R. Aḥhai Gaon898
R. Shalom b. Mar R. Mishael904
Yehudai b. Mar R. Samuel Resh Kallah906
R. Jacob b. Mar R. Naṭronai911
R. Mebasser Kahana b. Mar R. ḳimoi Gaon918
R. Yom-Ṭob Kahana b. Mar R. Jacob924
R. Kohen Ẓedeḥ Kahana b. Mar R. Joseph926
R. Saadia b. Mar Joseph (of Faym)928
R. Ẓemaḥ b. Mar R. Kafnai (var. Pappai).935
Mar R. Hananiah b. Mar R. Yehudai Gaon938
R. Joseph b. R. Jacob942
R. Aharon b. Mar R. Joseph ha-Kohen (Aharon b. Sargado)943
R. Nehemiah b. Mar R. Kohen Ẓedeḳ961
R. Sherira968
R. Samuel ha-kohen b. Ḥofni, died1034R. Hai998
[Hezekiah, descendant of David b. Zakkai, exilarch and gaon up to 1040.]
  • Sherira Gaon, Epistle, d. Neubauer, in Med. Jew. Chron. i. 1-46;
  • Abraham ibn Daud, SeFer na-Ḳaobalah, ib. 47-84;
  • Grätz, Gesch. vol. v.;
  • Harkavy, Responsen der Geonim, Berlin, 1887;
  • Müller, Einleitung in die Responsen der Babylonischen Geonen, Berlin, 1891.
E. C. A. E. W. B.—In Palestine:

In the century following the death of Hai, the last Babylonian gaon, there was an academy in Palestine, the head of which assumed the same titles as had the Babylonian geonim: "gaon" and "rosh yeshibat geon Ya'aḳob." The yesbibah inPalestine existed already during Hai's life, for in 1031 Josiah the "ḥaber" was ordained at the "holy yeshibah of Palestine" (see "J. Q. R." xiv. 223). A postscript to a small chronicle dating from the year 1046 says that Solomon b. Judah was then the "head of the Academy of Jerusalem" (Neubauer, i. 178). Three generations of the descendants of this Solomon b. Judah were heads of the Palestinian academy, and bore the title of "gaon." A work of one of these geonim of Palestine, the "Megillat Abiathar" ("J. Q. R." xiv. 449 et seq.), has been recently discovered by Schechter in the genizah of Cairo, and gives a very clear account of this interesting episode in the history of the Jews of Palestine. It is learned with regard to the organization of the Academy of Palestine that, as in Babylonia, the ab bet din, the president of the court, ranked next to the gaon, and that another member of the college, called "the third" ("ha-shelishi"), held the third highest office. In another document from the genizah, which Schechter has published under the title "The Oldest Collection of Bible Difficulties" ("J. Q. R." xiii. 345 et seq.), the ab bet din is described as seated at the right hand of the gaon, and "the third" at the left (see "J. Q. R." xv. 83). A letter in the "Mittheilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer" is addressed to Solomon b. Judah, "the first gaon of Palestine" ("R. E. J." xxv. 272). This letter clearly shows the same close connection between the Jews of Egypt and those of Palestine as is indicated in the "Megillat Abiathar." Solomon b. Judah was succeeded at his death by his son Joseph Gaon, his other son, Elijah, becoming ab bet din. When Joseph died in 1054, David b. Azariah, a scion of the house of exilarchs who had gone from Babylon to Palestine, and had formerly done much injury to the brothers, was elected gaon, to the exclusion of Elijah, who remained ab bet din. David b. Azariah died in 1062 after a long and serious illness, which he himself is said to have acknowledged to be a punishment for his ill treatment of his predecessors. Elijah now became gaon, filling the office down to 1084. In 1071, when Jerusalem was taken by the army of the Seljuk prince Malik Shah, the gaonate was removed from Jerusalem, apparently to Tyre. In 1082 Gaon Elijah called a large convocation at Tyre, and on this occasion he designated his son Abiathar as his successor in the gaonate, and his other son, Solomon, as ab bet din. Elijah died two years later, and was buried in Galilee, near the old tannaite tombs, a large concourse of people attending the burial. Shortly after Abiathar entered upon his office David b. Daniel, a descendant of the Babylonian exilarchs, was proclaimed exilarch in Egypt; and he succeeded in having his authority recognized also by the communities along the Palestinian and Phenician coasts, Tyre alone retaining its independence for a time. But when this city again came under Egyptian rule in 1089, the Egyptian exilarch subjected its community also, forcing Abiathar to leave the academy. The academy itself, however, resisted the exilarch, declaring his claims to be invalid, and pointing out his godlessness and tyranny while in office. Fast-day services were held (1093), and the sway of the Egyptian exilarch was soon ended. The nagid Meborak, to whom David b. Daniel owed his elevation, called a large assembly, which deposed David b. Daniel and reinstated Abiathar as gaon (Iyyar, 1094). Abiathar wrote his "Megillah" in commemoration of this event. A few years later, at the time of the First Crusade, he sent a letter to the community of Constantinople, which communication has recently been discovered ("J. Q. R." ix. 28). It is dated from Tripolis in Phenicia, to which the academy may have been removed. Abiathar was succeeded by his brother Solomon. An anonymous letter, unfortunately without date, dwells on the controversies and difficulties with which the academy had to contend ("J. Q. R." xiv. 481 et seq.). The next generation of Solomon b. Judah's descendants dwelt in Egypt. In 1031 Maẓliaḥ, a son of Solomon b. Elijah, addressed from the "gate of the Academy of Fostat" a letter to a certain Abraham, in which he gives his whole genealogy, adding the full title of "gaon, rosh yeshibat geon Ya'aḳob," to the names of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. The Academy of Palestine had probably ceased to exist before Palestine was conquered by the Christians, and its head, the gaon Maẓliaḥ, went to Fostat, where there was an academy that had seceded from the authority of the Palestinian academy at the time of the Egyptian exilarch David b. Daniel ("J. Q. R." xv. 92 et seq.). It is not known what office Maẓliaḥ occupied at Fostat, although he retained his title of gaon. A daughter of Maẓliaḥ presented to the academy a book by Samuel ben Ḥofni which she had inherited from her grandfather, the gaon Solomon b. Elijah. In 1112 the "Mushtamil," the philological work of the Karaite scholar Abu al-Faraj Harun, was copied for Elijah, a son of the gaon Abiathar, "grandson of a gaon and great-grandson of a gaon" ("R. E. J." xxx. 235). In 1111 the same Elijah purchased at Fostat R. Hananel's commentary to Joshua, which subsequently fell into the hands of his cousin, the gaon Maẓliaḥ ("J. Q. R." xiv. 486). It may be noted here that the geonic family of Palestine was of Aaronite origin and that Abiathar claimed Ezra as his ancestor. The tradition of the Palestinian gaonate seems to have survived at Damascus, for Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1170) says that the teachers of Damascus were considered as the scholastic heads of Israel ("rashe yeshibot shel ereẓ Yisrael").

  • W. Bacher, Ein Neuerschlossenes Capitel der Jüdischen Gesch.:
  • Das Gaonat in Palästina und das Exilarchat in Aegypten, in Jew. Quart. Rev. xv. 79-96;
  • Schechter, Saadyana, Cambridge, 1903.
E. C. W. B.