In the fourteenth century, when the * Ottoman state was in its early formative stages, Jews were already settled in Anatolia and the *Balkans, where they had lived for many centuries.

Most of them were Greek-speaking because their traditions and culture had been formed under *Byzantine rule. They were known as Benei Romania, or *Romaniote Jews, because Byzantium and other Greek-ruled lands were known by the Jews as Romania, the land of the Romans, and they developed customs now known as "minhag Romania" (see GREECE). The first Ottoman Jews were thus the continuation of the sizable Greek-speaking Jewish communities in pre-Ottoman Asia Minor. Archeo-logical evidence (found in Ephesus, Pergamon, Smyrna, and Sardis) shows that the first signs of Jewish life in Asia Minor date to the fourth century BCE, which makes the Jewish community of Turkey one of the oldest in the world.

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