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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Early Appearance of the Name Moses in Italy

H Mack
Department of Talmud, Israel

Upon the death of the biblical Moses, his name disappeared from the anthology of Hebrew names until the early medieval period. The name resurfaced in the eleventh century, primarily in Muslim countries, maybe due to Islamic influences. The exception in this case occurred among Italian Jewry, where the name Moses appeared several times since the ninth century, unrelated to Islamic influences.
Examples: Beginning with the ninth century, the name Moses appears five times in the Kalonymus dynasty of southern Italy; Megillat Ahimaaz mentions a teacher named Moses (886); Moses was the name of one of the ten rabbis who were killed in the Muslim invasion of southern Italy (925); one of the four captives who set sail in the tenth century from Bari was R. Moses ben Hanokh; a tenth-century poet was named Moses of Rome; the Arukh (11th century) mentions at least five Italian sages named Moses; a manuscript from 1073 was copied in Italy by a copyist named Moses; and so on.
The use of a rare name can help pinpoint the origin of a Jew during that time period. Thus, the placing of the name Moses can be added to other considerations which allude to the Italian origins of the provencal sage R. Moses the Darshan.

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