Jews were found in practically every city of the Hellenistic period: in the cities of the Dekapolis, in Asia Minor, in the cities of Egypt and in Rome itself. It is usually assumed that the Jews in the cities of the Graeco-Roman Diaspora were organized on the basis of two institutions, the politeuma and the synagogue. The politeuma was a political body which was headed by a gerousia and was relatively independent of the Greek citizen body.1 It held administrative and political powers over the Jews of the city. A similar kind of organization on the basis of a politeuma seems to have characterized the organization of the Idumeans of Memphis who also held assemblies (synagogai) in the temple of their god Qos.2 The Jews of Alexandria, Sardis, Heracleopolis, Berenice and Antioch formed politeumata.3 It cannot be assumed, however, that all Jewish communities in all cities of the Diaspora were organised on the basis of a politeuma. Trebilco notes that organization on the basis of this model seems to have been characteristic of Jewish communities in the longer established and larger centres of Diaspora Judaism.4 Jewish populations elsewhere were probably ordered on the basis of ‘ad hoc local decisions’.5 The notion, however, that the Jewish communities of the cities were organized as politeumata has been questioned and completely dismissed by some.6 There

was no Jewish charter until the time of Claudius, when in 41/42 CE, he issued a decree demanding tolerance for the Jews, most likely in a response to Greek-Jewish tensions in Palestine, Alexandria and perhaps also in Antioch (Jos. Ant. 19.286-91). Thus, the form of Jewish association in the various cities of the Graeco-Roman world must have varied. Indeed, this, as we shall see, is reflected in the second institution of the Jews, that of the the synagogue. It is the place of this institution within the Graeco-Roman city which I shall examine in this chapter.