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Talmaciu

TALMACIU

TALMACIU (Rom. Taˇlmaciu ; Hung. Bántolmács ), village in central Romania; until the end of World War i within Hungary. Its name is connected with a theory concerning the ancient Jewish settlement in Transylvania, which supposedly existed during the reign of Decebalus, king of Dacia (d. c. 107). Some have attempted to derive the name Talmaciu, without any philological basis whatsoever, from the word "Talmud." This theory originated in an epos entitled De oppido Thalmus, written in Latin by Joannis Lebel, a Christian priest who held office in Talmaciu in the mid-16th century. The work was written in 1542 but was published for the first time in Sibiu in 1779. However, it was known to scholars while still in manuscript and upon the basis of the data it contained, historians and authors began to propagate information on the ancient Jewish settlement. In the epos itself, it is said that a Jew of the tribe of Dan, with several other Jews, came to the assistance of King Decebalus in his struggle against the Romans so as to avenge in this fashion the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. In appreciation for their support, these Jews, of whom Decebalus was very fond, received authorization to settle in the above village. They established a settlement in which there was a thriving Jewish life.

Even though there is so far no substantiation for this theory in any source, or any historical proof, the argument has been repeated since 1557, and particularly after the publication of the work, to the present time. Among historians who seriously discussed this theory were Sulzer in Geschichte des transalpinischen Daciens (vol. 2, p. 148) and S. *Kohn, the leading Jewish historian in Hungary, in A zsidók története Magyaroszágon ((1884), 6–7). An attempt to investigate the theory and refute it was published by the Romanian Jewish historian Carol Blum in Evreii din Thalmus (Sinai Anuar (1928), 73–77). The theory nevertheless lives on and is mentioned in general articles, as well as in publications which deal with the history of the Jews in Transylvania, Romania, and other places.

[Yehouda Marton]

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