Let us now move on to the circumstances in which, relatively late, people in Italy increasingly began to have recourse to Jewish lenders, who were coming to compete with the 'Tuscans'.

The first agreements concluded by the small towns or castelli in central Italy with the Jews of Rome seem to date from the second half of the thirteenth century (only one or two documents may exist for an earlier period). By the terms of these agreements, called condotte, the Jews could settle in the city, lend at interest and on security there (at a statutory rate which varied according to the place, the amount of the loan, etc.), engage in all types of business and have complete freedom to practise their religion. In addition, they enjoyed extraordinary privileges such as exemption from wearing the rouelle and, sometimes, the right to carry weapons. In return, they were obliged to invest a certain sum of capital in the banco, to pay an annual fee proportional to this capital to the commune, and, when necessary, to advance funds to it at a reduced rate. 'The condotta', wrote Attilio Milano (who studied a 36

large number of them), 'is a stereotyped contract: names vary, as do specific conditions such as some clause which may stamp it with a more or less liberal intent, but the wording follows a standard formula.'1 He places great emphasis on the colonising role of the lenders as pioneers, from the point of view of Jewish history. The banchiere, strong in his licence to settle, became a focus around whom gathered other Jews, his servants or small craftsmen. Then, if the colony prospered, they were joined by scholars and even artists. It must not be forgotten that from the religious point of view, a quorum of ten male Jews (minyan) was theoretically indispensable. Thus, while in southern bureaucratised Italy Judaism was in desperate straits, northern Italy, the Italy of the free towns, was opening up to it as a result of the money trade.