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TARANTO , city in Apulia, S. Italy. A series of tombstone inscriptions in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek from the third century until the 12th testify to the existence of a Jewish colony in Taranto. The chronicle of *Josippon (tenth century) states that Titus settled Jewish prisoners from Palestine in Taranto. During the Middle Ages Taranto became one of the most important Jewish centers of southern Italy, although the city suffered from Arab raids in 839 and 925, when Shabbetai *Donnolo was ransomed there. *Benjamin of Tudela, who passed through Taranto c. 1159, found approximately 300 Jewish families whose economic condition was good. During the anti-Jewish persecutions of 1290–94, 172 families of Taranto Jews converted to Christianity. In 1411 the people attacked the Jews, sacked their houses, and killed the town captain when he came to their rescue. In 1463 King Ferrante I approved the city's demands, among them a request that the Jews should live separately from the Christians, and that the New Christians be allowed to postpone the payment of their debts and not be persecuted by the Inquisition. In 1464 the king, responding to the city's demand, ordered that the Jews wear a distinctive sign, as they did in Lecce. But in 1465 the king approved the Jews' request to renew their privileges, promised to refrain from inquisitorial procedures, pardoned past transgressions, and forbade the painting of the images of saints in the Jewish quarter; the king also promised not to permit New Christians to exercise authority over Jews. In 1474 in response to the city's requests the king imposed restrictions on the Jews' usury. Several copyists operated in Taranto, among them the physician Samuel ben David Samuel Ibn Shoham il Medico, Burla of Corfu, Menahem ben Joseph Vivante, Isaac Cohen ben Nathan. The latter copied the Be'ur Sitrei Torah of Naḥmanides. Among the privileges granted the city council of Martina in 1495, King Frederick of Aragon forbade New Christians to press charges against those who robbed them (probably during the riots of 1494–1495 during the French invasion of the Kingdom of Naples) and prohibited their coming to live in that city. In 1510–11 Taranto's Jews and New Christians were expelled together with those of the entire kingdom of *Naples. A small number returned in 1520, but in 1540 they were expelled again.


Milano, Italia, index; Vacca, in: Rinascenza Salentina, 4 (1936), 221–9; Antonucci, ibid., 3 (1935), 103–5; N. Ferorelli, Ebrei nell'Italia meridionale … (1915), passim; Adler, in: jqr, 14 (1901/02), 111–5; Frey, Corpus, nos. 620–31. add. bibliography: D. Abulafia, "Il mezzogiorno peninsulare dai bizantini all'espulsione," in: Storia d'Italia. Annali 11, Gli ebrei in Italia. Dall'alto Medioevo all'età dei ghetti, ed. Corrao Vivanti (1996), 5–44; C. Sirat and M. Beit Arié, Manuscrits médiévaux en caractères hébraiques portant des indications de date jusqu'à 1540 (1972–1986), 1; C. Colafemmina, "Copisti ebrei a Taranto in xv," in: Cenacolo, 19 (1995), 53–62; C. Colafemmina, Gli ebrei a Taranto (2005).

[Arial Toaff /

Nadia Zeldes (2nd ed.)]

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Taranto, battle of, 1940. On 11 November 1940, 21 Swordfish aircraft from HMS Illustrious launched a torpedo attack at night on the Italian fleet at anchor off Taranto. Two aircraft were lost but heavy damage was done and the remaining Italian vessels sought more remote harbours. This Fleet Air Arm victory was particularly welcome at a bad time during the Second World War and was followed up in March 1941 by the naval success off Cape Matapan.

J. A. Cannon