Romanus I Lecapenus°

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ROMANUS I LECAPENUS °, Byzantine emperor, 920–944, and co-ruler with *Constantine vii Porphyrogenitus. Romanus decreed that the Jews in the realm should be forcibly baptized, partly to demonstrate that, although he had come to the throne by usurpation, he was following the traditions set by the emperors *Basil i and *Leo vi. Romanus was also exhorted to take this step by the patriarch of Jerusalem in 932. The communities of Otranto and Oria in southern Italy were severely affected by the decree, although it is not mentioned in the Hebrew chronicle Megillat *Aḥima'aẓ. This may be because further consequences of Romanus' decree were prevented by the intervention of *Ḥisdai ibn Shaprut, to whom a letter addressed to Helena, wife of the co-emperor Constantine vii, has been attributed. The Arab chronicler al-Masudi states that in 943–944 Jews from all parts of the empire fled to Khazaria whose Jewish king "slew many of the uncircumcised" in a vain attempt to force Romanus to stop the persecution. The statement in the Vision of Daniel (see *Daniel, Vision of) relating that Romanus troubled the Jews by expulsion "not by destruction but mercifully" remains a problem for clarification.


J. Starr, Jews in the Byzantine Empire (1939), 7–8, 151–3; S. Runciman, Emperor Romanus Lecapenus and His Reign (1963), 77, 231; Dunlop, Khazars, 89; S. Schechter, in: jqr, 3 (1912/13), 208, 217; A. Sharf, Byzantine Jewry (1971), index; idem, in: Bar-Ilan Sefer ha-Shanah, 4–5 (1967), 203–7 (and Eng. summary); Baron, Social2, 3 (1957), 182–3; A.A. Vasiliev, Byzance et les Arabes, 2 (1950), 31–32; Mann, Texts, 1 (1931), 10–16; 23–25; A.N. Poliak, Kazariyyah (Heb., 1951), index.

[Andrew Sharf]