Jewish people always On the Move: Jewish Travelers in the Middle Ages
By Eunate Mirones Lozano
TRAMES, Vol.22 (2018)
Abstract: The essential starting point of this study has to do mostly with movements of people in Medieval times throughout the world, but paying special attention to the particular way Jews moved from one place to another in those times. Its main purpose is to understand why they dared such dangerous travels, even risking their lives, suffering most of the times really painful conditions; or, to put it in another way, which were the motivations that impelled them to set out on a travel of that kind. My tentative contention is that, reflecting on how they moved about in medieval times, and for which specific reasons they did so; we may understand better some of the features that made Jews identifiable throughout history.
Introduction: When we try to imagine for what purpose people travelled in the Middle Ages, several reasons come to mind. On occasion, we find out that what induced medieval people was not so different from what induces us today. Same as nowadays, in medieval times the first reason to travel has to do with trade, in the broadest sense of the term. There were, as there are today, less tangible motives affecting the soul directly that could matter more than pragmatic and mundane reasons.
Nevertheless, trade was, and it is still today, one of the most powerful reasons to leave one’s hometown. In fact, potential trade with new merchandise may have been an enormous temptation at the time, and a reason strong enough to risk one’s life. Travelling was hazardous indeed, uncomfortable and troublesome.
Top Images: Greek Ptolemy map of Europe c. 1300, from the Vatican Library.