Throughout the Byzantine period in Greece, Romaniote Jews sought to balance their Greek identities with Jewish practices.In the struggle for integration and acceptance, Jews often faced discrimination based on their religious beliefs.These factors all contributed to Judaism's endurance through the ages.
Of all the countries in Europe, Greece has the earliest Jewish presence. Despite their long history in the country, however, Greek Jews have struggled for inclusion.
There has been a Jewish population since at least the fourth century B. E; in fact, archaeologists have discovered the ruins of Greek Jewish synagogues from the second century B. While many Jews under Greek rule were integrated into Greek culture, Jewish culture and practices came to be seen as a threat, especially since Greece struggled to maintain its territory.
Professor Cook holds the Cleveland Dodge chair of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, a chair formerly held by his teacher, Bernard Lewis. Just about everything I’m talking about will be events that happened in the seventh century — (laughter) — but don’t get the idea that those events are therefore irrelevant to the present day. For many centuries, it was the religion of the ancient Israelites, a small Near Eastern people, and of their descendants, the Jews.
I suspect that some of them are deeply relevant, though sometimes in ways that I’m not good at articulating. I’m not going to drop you straight into the seventh century. I want to back up a few centuries and give you some background about the rise of monotheism. Even when it started to spread to non-Jews in significant numbers in the form of Christianity, Christianity remained for the best part of three centuries the religion of a persecuted minority.
Though some ancient religions predate Judaism, few of them survived to the modern age, and only Judaism's persistence through the ages can be attributed to several of the distinguishing features of this ancient religion. Judaism is both a religious identity and an ethnic identity.
Jews believe themselves to be God's chosen people and trace their lineage to a common ancestor, Abraham.
But that changed dramatically in the fourth century, and the guy who changed it was the Roman Emperor Constantine.
Constantine adopted Christianity as his religion and, by extension, as the religion of the Roman Empire.
It also presupposes the unity of the divine and raises one theos exclusively to absolute supremacy and power, producing and governing everything according to the divine will.
In this respect monotheism differs from those views that accept a plurality of divine beings.
Not all Jews under Greek rule lived on the outskirts of the empire; by the time the Saul of Tarsus (Christian Saint Paul) visited Greece in the first century, there were thriving Jewish communities in several Greek cities, including Thessaloniki, Veroia, Athens, and Corinth.