The external manifestations of popular attitudes to the Jewish infidel in Italy, as in the other Christian countries, stimulated by age-long indoctrination from the height of the pulpit, took the form of both spontaneous violence and the usual variety of provisions designed to emphasise the degradation of the Children of Israel and to exclude them from Christian society. Some of the Counter-Reformation popes introduced the same type of legislation against the Jews as against prostitutes.1 But people had been putting this identification into practice for a long time, as is shown by customs such as the famous 'races'—the best known of which took place at the Roman carnival. Equally typical is the prohibition certain communal statutes placed on touching food products on the markets by hand. And the ghettos set up officially in the sixteenth century were foreshadowed from the fourteenth by the prohibition on living in good districts in certain towns. As elsewhere in Europe, it was therefore a question of a permanent interaction between theological doctrine and the aggressive instincts of the masses which were seeking fulfilment under cover of this doctrine. But the fact remains that at least before the Counter-Reformation the social and judicial conditions of the Jews in Italy had not sunk anywhere near the level of degradation they reached elsewhere. Moreover, the Jews' everyday relationships with Christians were often imbued with a cordiality which
past generations of Jewish historians liked to attribute to the good nature of the Italian national character or to their superior culture. Can more precise features be detected behind these verbal formulae?