An article by Andrée Brooks in today’s NY Times discussing the excavation of long-forgotten Jewish settlements (the Jews were expelled from southern Italy in the 16th century) contains the following remarkable information:
What is striking is that the inscriptions on the burial slabs found to date are almost totally in Greek. There is little or no Hebrew. When Hebrew is used, the characters mostly spell out Greek or Latin words. Both Greek and Latin were commonly used in that part of Italy at the time. This suggests an assimilated life for the Jews who may have lived here outside Venosa between the third and seventh centuries A.D. “Our Jews were not separated from everyone else in those early centuries,” said Dr. Cesare Colafemmina, visiting professor of Hebrew and Hebraic literature at the University of Calabria.
The Jewish Encyclopedia article on “Greek language and the Jews” assembles information about post-classical knowledge of Greek in a section called “In Later Times,” saying “Shabbethai Donnolo had a Greek education, and so to a certain extent had Nathan of Rome; the author of the Ahimaaz Chronicle often refers to the Greek-speaking Jews of southern Italy.” Let me just add, as a fan of weird dialects, that I wish at least some remnants of the former Magna Graecia of southern Italy had survived to the present.