Abravanel, Isaac

Portrait
Born: 1437 AD
Died: 1508 AD, at 71 years of age.

Nationality: Portuguese
Categories: Philosophers, Politicial Adviser


1437 - Isaac Abravanel was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1437. Isaac was born into a wealthy and learned family in Portugal. His father Judah was state treasurer of Portugal, and a great favorite of Alfonso V, king of Portugal.

 

1457 -  Well versed in rabbinic literature and in the learning of his time, he devoted his early years to the study of Jewish philosophy. When only twenty years old he wrote on the original form of the natural elements, on religious questions, on prophecy, etc. His political abilities also attracted attention while he was still young. He entered the service of King Afonso V of Portugal as treasurer, and soon won the confidence of his master. Notwithstanding his high position and the great wealth he had inherited from his father, his love for his afflicted brethren was unabated. When Arzila, in Morocco, was taken by the Moors, and the Jewish captives were sold as slaves, he contributed largely to the funds needed to manumit them, and personally arranged for collections throughout Portugal. He also wrote to his learned and wealthy friend Jehiel, of Pisa, in behalf of the captives. After the death of Afonso he was obliged to relinquish his office, having been accused by King John II of connivance with the Duke of Braganza, who had been executed on the charge of conspiracy. Abravanel, warned in time, saved himself by a hasty flight to Castile (1483). His large fortune was confiscated by royal decree. At Toledo, his new home, he occupied himself at first with Biblical studies, and in the course of six months produced an extensive commentary on the books of Joshua, Judges, and Samuel. But shortly afterward he entered the service of the house of Castile. Together with his friend, the influential Don Abraham Senior, of Segovia, he undertook to farm the revenues and to supply provisions for the royal army, contracts that he carried out to the entire satisfaction of Queen Isabella.

 

1495-1503 - During the Moorish war Abravanel advanced considerable sums of money to the government. When the banishment of the Jews from Spain was ordered with the Alhambra decree, he left nothing undone to induce the king to revoke the edict. In vain did he offer him 30,000 ducats ($68,400, nominal value). With his brethren in faith he left Spain and went to Naples, where, soon after, he entered the service of the king. For a short time he lived in peace undisturbed; but when the city was taken by the French, bereft of all his possessions, he followed the young king, Ferdinand, in 1495, to Messina; then went to Corfu; and in 1496 settled in Monopoli, and lastly (1503) in Venice, where his services were employed in negotiating a commercial treaty between Portugal and the Venetian republic. Several times during the mid to late 1400's, he personally spent large amounts of his personal fortunes to bribe the Spanish Monarchy to permit the Jews to remain in Spain. It is claimed that Abrabanel payment offered them 600,000 crowns for the revocation of the edict. It is said also that Ferdinand hesitated, but was prevented from accepting the offer by Torquemada, the grand inquisitor, who dashed into the royal presence and, throwing a crucifix down before the king and queen, asked whether, like Judas, they would betray their Lord for money. In the end, he managed only to get the date for the expulsion to be extended by two days.

 

1508 - His riches exhausted, he died, in what he himself described as "exile", in 1508, in Venice, Italy.

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