Basili I°

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BASILI I° , Byzantine emperor 867–886. Basil first attempted to achieve the conversion of the Jews by persuasion and invited rabbis to a *disputation to defend their faith, vainly offering them material benefits if they would confess defeat. When this attempt failed he issued in 874 an edict ordering all his Jewish subjects to become converted to Christianity. The decree was also connected with his policy to propagate orthodox Christianity among the Bulgars, Russians, and other peoples, and forcible conversion of nonorthodox sects, notably the Pauli-cians, whom he probably associated with iconoclasm. His attempt to convert by force the Jewish communities in southern Italy then under Byzantine rule is recorded in the 11th-century Hebrew chronicle of *Ahimaaz b. Paltiel, which portrays Basil as a cruel and persistent enemy of the Jews and Judaism. Despite his decree, the legal status of the Jews remained unchanged and there was no curtailment of their existing rights. The decree, whether formally rescinded or not, eventually fell into disuse under Basil's son and successor Leo vi.


J. Starr, Jews in the Byzantine Empire (1939), 4–6, 127ff.; A.A. Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire, 1 (1964), 332–3; Baron, Social 2, 3 (1957), 180ff.; B. Klar (ed.), Megillat Aḥima'aẓ (1944), 20–23; A. Sharf, in: Roth, Dark Ages, 57ff.; A. Vogt, Basile i empereur de Byzance, et la civilisation byzantine à la fin du ix siècle (1908); Neubauer, Chronicles, 2 (1895), 111–24.

[Andrew Sharf]