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Sephardi family originating in Spain and later widely spread among the communities of Marrano origin, where it was divided among numerous branches such as Da Costa Athias, Athias Pereira, etc. Among the earliest prominent members was yom tov athias, formerly Jeronimo de Vargas, publisher of the Ferrara Bible (in Spanish) of 1553. moses israel (d. 1665) was the first reader and minister appointed by the Sephardi community of London in 1656, and served it until he died in the Great Plague. jacob was rabbi in Bordeaux and preached the sermon (subsequently printed) for the restoration of the health of Louis xv in 1744. david (d. 1806) was among his successors. solomon da costa (1690–1769), a London merchant and broker, in his youth an adherent of the Shabbatean movement, presented to the British Museum in 1759 a collection of Hebrew books formerly owned by Charles ii, which formed the nucleus of its Hebrew library. david israel (d. 1753) was ḥakham of the Sephardi community of Amsterdam for 25 years. moses (1898– ) of Jerusalem made important contributions to Sephardi studies, including an edition of folk-ballads (Romancero Sefaradi, Jerusalem, 1956).

The family was prominent in Leghorn where, in the 17th century, joseph athias was highly regarded in Christian literary circles for his scholarship, and moses composed in 1701 a discourse in celebration of the recent embellishments to the synagogue. He was possibly the father of david ben moses who, in consequence of his travels in the East as a merchant, became a master of many languages (including Turkish, Serbian, and Russian). He turned his knowledge to good account in his book in Ladino, La guerta de oro ("The Golden Garden"; Leghorn, 1778), comprising proverbs, fables, and sympathetic remedies, together with a treatise on physiognomy and a guide to rapid mastery of Greek and Italian, to which was incongruously appended the text of the "Letters Patent of the French Kings in favor of the Portuguese Jews," with a Ladino translation. The Athias mansion, in a central square in Leghorn, was one of the landmarks of the city.

The Athias family was memorable also in rabbinic scholarship, Hebrew printing (see Joseph *Athias), and the annals of Inquisitional martyrdom (Abraham Athias was burned at the stake in Cordova, 1665). It figured in America (Philadelphia, Savannah) from the mid-18th century.


Roth, Marranos, index.

[Cecil Roth]