Conquered by Rome in 63 BC Judea became part of the Roman empire. After two fierce revolts were crushed (AD 70, and AD 132), the Jews were henceforth prohibited from entering Jerusalem under penalty of death. The Jewish national state thus ended and life in the diaspora (= dispersal ) began.
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Many Jews went to Babylon and some migrated from there to Persia and India. Others settled all over the Roman Empire after they were granted citizenship in 212.

The adoption of Christianity as the official religion in the Roman Empire in the 4th cent. brought a change for the worse in the position of the Jews. Restrictive legislation was enacted in the empire and later in its successor states, especially in Visigothic Spain, where Judaism was finally banned.
But the Moslem conquest of Spain in 711 brought a change, which culminated in the 'golden age' of Spanish Jewry.

At first the economic activities of the Jews were no different from those of other national groups but in the 6th century this changed. The Church's prohibition of usury forced the Jews to deal in money, because at the same time Jews were not permitted anymore to engage in many professions or to bear arms. Frankish rulers, aware of the Jews role in international trade, granted them protection, and in the 10th and 11th centuries Jewish settlements were established in the Rhine valley, and later further east.

But the Church adopted an increasingly hostile attitude and inflammatory sermons of wandering friars stirred the passions of the populace.
The first great persecution of the Jews took place during the age of the Crusades.
Then the Black Death (1347-54) - which affected the Jews as badly as all others - was blamed on the Jews. One by one the rulers of western Europe expelled them totally from their realms : England in 1290, France in 1394, and - under the influence of the Grand Inquistor Torquemada - Spain in 1492 (thereby initiating the Sephardic diaspora).

After 1497 there were hardly any Jews left in western Europe; the centres of Jewish population were located in parts of Italy, a few cities in Germany, and especially in Poland and Lithuania. Not until the 17th century, under the impact of the enlightnment, were the Jews readmitted to England, France and the Netherlands.