A Greek inscription referring to Jews dated to between 300 and 250 BCE was unveiled at a new exhibit in Athens proving that Jews were an integral part of ancient Greece.
The precious piece was discovered at the sanctuary of Amphiareion near Athens and makes reference to a freed slave from Judea.
The exhibition is a treasure trove of ancient inscriptions unearthed during more than two decades of research by the Jewish Museum of Greece.
It is the first time that the Jewish presence in the country has been confirmed as early as the fourth century BCE — one of the oldest recorded religious and cultural settlements in Europe, according to the exhibitions’ website.
Jews are “an integral part of Greek identity”
Their existence proves the crucial role that Jews played in the social, religious, political and cultural life of ancient Greece, curators say.
“The Jewish community is an integral part of Greek identity, a fact that has been too often denied for centuries,” Greece’s chief rabbi Gabriel Negrin told AFP last week.
“This history should be passed on to future generations in order to combat ignorance and prejudice,” he added.
Curators say the show proves that Greek society was always multicultural, and not exclusively dominated by Greek Orthodox religion.
“Inscriptions do not lie,” archaeologist Eleni Zavou from the Epigraphical Museum told AFP.
The first and main part of the exhibition is held at the Epigraphic Museum, which houses unique Jewish epigraphic items from the collections of museums and services of the culture ministry.
With the help of surveillance and digital material, all aspects of the social, religious, political and cultural life of the Jews and their local communities in Athens, Mystras and throughout Greece from antiquity to Ottoman rule are presented.
The second part is presented at the Jewish Museum entitled “Art of Memory and Remembrance.” It is curated by Victor Cohen and combines the past with the present through the “dialogue” of 10 ancient inscriptions and objects with an equal number of works of contemporary art.
The exhibition’s findings “demonstrate the political, artistic, religious and economic importance of Jewish communities” in ancient Greece, Zavou said.
The show, “Stone Paths — Stories Set in Stone: Jewish Inscriptions in Greece,” runs until February 2023.
There are around 5,000 Jewish people living in Greece today. An estimated 60,000 Greek Jews perished in the Holocaust — around 83 percent of the prewar community.