Bosphorus, Kingdom of

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BOSPHORUS, KINGDOM OF , ancient state, independent until 110 b.c.e. when it became part of the Roman Empire. It is not certain when Jews reached the northern littoral of the Black Sea (the Crimea and the shores of the Sea of Azov within the boundaries of the Cimmerian Bosphorus), but Jews were already living there in the first century, in, among other places, the towns of Panticapaecum (now Kerch), Phanagoria, and Tanais. It appears that they lived under congenial conditions. They developed well-organized communities, erected synagogues, which served as communal centers, and were even organized in the "Thiasoi," characteristic of Hellenistic society, by which they were greatly influenced. They, in turn, according to all indications, exercised appreciable influence on non-Jewish circles, and there is reason to believe that they engaged in proselytizing activity. The main source of knowledge of the Jews of the Bosphorus kingdom is from inscriptions. One of the most important, dated 81 c.e., from Panticapaeum, reads, "… I, Chreste… have manumitted my home-born slave, Herakles… who may turn whithersoever he desires… he is not however [to forsake] the fear of heaven and attachment to the synagogue [προσευχή] under the supervision of the community [συναγωγή] of the Jews." In many of the inscriptions there appears a formula of oaths beginning, "I swear by Zeus, Ge, and Helios." There is a difference of opinion as to whether these inscriptions are Jewish.


Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19094), 23–24; Goodenough, in: jqr, 47 (1956/57), 221–44; Lifshitz, in: Rivista di filologia, 92 (1964), 157–62; Bellen, in: Jahrbuch fuer Antike und Christentum, 8–9 (1965–66), 171–5.

[Uriel Rappaport]