Notes from History - Ancient roots, modern legacy
Part one of a series on the history of Jewish people in Bulgaria
THE best-known episode in the epic of Jewish people in Bulgarian history is the escape from the Nazi genocide machine in World War 2.
As important as this part of the story is within the context of the greater whole, it is that greater whole that must be re-discovered, to illustrate for just how long Jewish people have been part of the fabric that has woven itself into today's Bulgaria.
Evidence suggests that Jewish people had settled within the Balkans at least by the 2nd century CE, and perhaps before.
Among this evidence is an inscription on a tombstone near the town of Nikopol on the Danube. These Jews were, according to most historians, known as Romagnotes, (alternatively spelled Romaniots) perhaps displaced during Roman campaigns in the Middle East.
Other historians have written that there was a Jewish settlement in Macedonia in the time of the Roman emperor Caligula, who is believed to have reigned from 37 to 41 CE.
Persecution followed the communities. A fourth century CE decree by emperor Theodosius refers to such persecution, including the destruction of synagogues.
Persecution by Byzantine emperor Leo III (718 to 741) is believed to have prompted an exodus to the territory that is today's Bulgaria.
They really should have interviewed my former student Alexander Panayotov on this subject.