Monday, 20 July 2009

Jewish ‘Radanite’ slave-traders of the Arab Empire

Jews in Poland: A Documentary History: The Rise of Jews as a Nation from Congressus Judaicus in Poland to the Knesset in Israel by Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski (Hippocrene Books, New York, 1998)

By A.D. 500 the Babylonian Talmud was written determining the character of Judaism as a national religion. It became a code of religious and civil law observed by the vast majority of Jewish communities in Europe, Africa, and Asia.


The Babylonian Talmud emphasized that Jews were a chosen people and therefore superior to others. It helped to create Jewish charisma and served as the basic text of Judaism.


The Babylonian Talmud was the basis for the ethical and cultural development of the masses of Orthodox Jews in central and eastern Europe until the German genocide of the Jews in World War II. It has formed the mentality and specific way of thinking of Orthodox Jews. It inspired the development of modern Jewish nationalism. The Babylonian Talmud gave to Judaism the character of an exclusive national religion of the Jews in Europe, Asia, and Africa.


After completion of the Babylonian Talmud in Mesopotamia the next most important cultural center of Jewish Diaspora was established within the Arab Empire, in Arab Spain, the most civilized country in Europe in the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries. Arab Spain was the scene of flourishing Jewish culture between the 8th and 15th centuries.


The situation of Jews within the Arab Empire was normalized in A.D. 637 by the decree of Omar I. Jews in Islam were recognized as “tolerated infidels.” Most medieval Jews resided in Spain. Jewish medieval merchants were known as “Radanites.” They included western European Jews from France and Germany, as well as those from Arab Spain.

The term “Radanites” was derived from the name of the Arab-Christian border along the river Rhone (in Latin Rodanus) because of an intense slave trade which was conducted across it. The slaves were castrated in Verdun, Venice, and Lyon and sold by Jewish Radanite slave-traders to the Arabs of Spain. This Jewish slave trade also included girls and small boys who were properly indoctrinated in order to be used later by Arab rulers as bodyguards, slave soldiers and bureaucrats.

An alternate origin of the name “Radanite” was a Persian word for those who “knew the way.” This explanation was related to the leading role of Jewish merchants in trade after the fall of the Roman Empire. From the 7th century to mid-10th century Radanites controlled the trade which encompassed Europe, North Africa, and southern Asia including China. It was a period when Hebrew was the only language of world trade.


Arab Spain was the main market for slaves (eunuchs, girls, and young boys). Some slaves were sold as far away as China, which also bought furs, beaver skins, silk, and weapons. Exports from China to Europe included cinnamon, spices, musk, and camphor. The capital of Khazaria, Itil, was an important Jewish trading center. Jewish merchants played an important role in international trade after the fall of the Roman Empire. For two centuries they made Hebrew the only language of world commerce. Slavery, which was the foundation of the Roman economy, was important in the Arab Empire in which the Jews became the main merchants, trading with the infidels and bringing European slaves to Islam.


Jews in service of Boleslaus the Great minted his coins and inscribed on them the name of the Polish sovereign with Hebrew letters. Besides such highly valued craftsmen there were active in Poland Jewish slave-traders. Ever since the time when the economy of Rome was based on slavery the slave trade has continued. In the 11th century the main slave market was in Arab Spain, then the most civilized country in Europe. The Catholic Church fought against slavery and this fight is documented in the treatise “Infelix Aurum” by the first patron saint of Poland, and since A.D. 997 the first bishop of Gdansk, Adalbert or Wojciech (voy-chekh). In the struggle against the slave trade the family of St. Adalbert lost the Czech throne in Prague to their opponents supported by Jewish slave traders. One of 18 sculptures on the 1170 bronze door made for the cathedral of Gniezno depicted the scene of redeeming manacled Christian slaves by a Polish bishop from Jewish merchants in the presence of the son of King Boleslaus the Great, the second formally crowned King of Poland, Mieszko II (990-1034).

The oldest Jewish community in Poland existed in Przemysl. It was apparently composed of Jews from the Khazar kingdom which was conquered in A.D. 965 by the Kievian Rus. The Turkmen Khazar state was located between the Black and Caspian Seas. The first Jewish colonies in southern Poland were apparently organized to exchange forest products, horses, hides, furs, swords, and slaves of both sexes from the west for luxury goods from the east. The Jews generally used Arab money mostly from Spain and their main operation was in the Czech capital of Prague where Boleslaus the Great ruled in 1003-1004, when Bohemia was a part of his empire.


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