Surviving the Ghetto

Toward a Social History of the Jewish Community in 16th-Century Rome


With this English edition of Surviving the Ghetto, Serena Di Nepi traces the troubled and compelling history of the birth of the ghetto in sixteenth-century Rome. From the arrival of the Sephardim to the Italian wars, and the incredible story of an accusation of ritual homicide that was never made, the research sketches a picture of Jewish society, its institutions and its ruling class during the first fifty years of segregation. How did Jews react to the ghetto? Did their institutional organization change, and how? What was the impact of the restrictive laws regarding their professions and their working environment? What was the role of the rabbis in such a problematic moment? What became of Rome’s Jewish bankers? This book addresses these questions.

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Serena Di Nepi, Ph.D (2007), Sapienza University Rome, is Associate Professor of Early Modern History at that university. She has published extensively on Jews and other religious minorities in early modern Italy, including Storie intrecciate (Rome: 2015).
"Serena Di Nepi's Surviving the Ghetto is the highly anticipated English translation of her book Sopravvivere al ghetto, originally published in 2013. It is a study of the birth of the Roman ghetto in 1555 and its first fifty years of existence. (…) Having laid out the preconditions for the establishment of the ghetto, Di Nepi turns to the main part of her book, an illustrious and intelligent examination of the effect of the ghetto on Jewish society. (…) This ultimately results in a story that goes far beyond the Jewish survival of the Roman ghetto. It offers a nuanced sketch of Roman Jewish society in the sixteenth century in particular, and early modern Jewish life in Italy in general."
- Andreas Berger, in Renaissance Quarterly Volume 75, Issue 4 (2022).
List of Abbreviations

Reframing the Roman Ghetto: Introduction the English Edition

1 Before the Ghetto
1 Rome and the Spanish Refugees
2 A Statute for the Jews of Rome (1524)
3 The Burning of the Talmud and the Anti-Jewish Turn in the First Half of the 16th Century
4 The Avoided Expulsion from the Papal States
5 What if the Emperor Had Won?

2 The Birth of the Ghetto and the Dangers Narrowly Escaped in 1555
1 The Sforno Case (1527–1555)
2 Blood Libel in Rome?
3 Imaginary Violence

3 A Ruling Class for the Jews of the Ghetto
1 Avoided Reforms
2 Have Faith in the Notary: Pompeo del Borgo
3 Arbitrators and Arbitration in the Selection of the Ruling Class
4 Housing Problems and Issues with Taxes
5 The Discipline of the Rabbis
6 Jewish Identity: a Trial for Crimes and Other Excesses in 1572
7 Religious Belongings in Court?

4 Career Bankers
1 A Trial and a Case Study: Salomone Ram (1594)
2 The Ram Family, Moneylenders in the Ghetto Years
3 The Regulation of the Jewish Banks (1590)
4 The Jewish Banks
5 Still Bankers?

5 Unexpected Opportunities
1 Valuable stracci from the Hospitals
2 Market Spaces: the Jews, Public Space and Real Estate Ownership
3 Business Travel

6 The Camerlengo, a Protector in the Curia
1 The inhibitiones ratione foenoris
2 In the Name and on Behalf of the Camerlengo
3 The Story of a Special Relationship

7 Separate at Home
1 Christians at the Jewish Notary
2 The Business of Converts


Bibliography and Reference Works
Index of Places
General Index

All interested in the history of Jews in Early Modern Europe, particularly Italy, and anyone interested in the history of Jewish societies’ cultural and political relations with the Christian world.
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