MATTATHIAS (or Mattityah ben Moshe?; 15th century), Spanish or Provençal Hebrew poet. Mattathias has sometimes been identified with Mattathias ha-Yiẓhari , one of the masters who represented the Jewish communities of Aragon at the Tortosa disputation (1413–14) and the author of a commentary on Psalm 119 with references to the disputation, a commentary to Pirkei Avot (preserved only in part), and a lost homiletical commentary to the Pentateuch. This identification is not accepted by all scholars. Z. Malachi has even shown that it is very unlikely. The maqāma Aḥituv ve-Ẓalmon, attributed to Mattathias and written before 1453, was inspired by the religious disputations held in Spain. Its action is simple. The pagan queen of a legendary island sends three messengers, Zalmon, Eker, and Ahitub, to inquire into the religions of the world. Seven years later, the messengers return and engage in a stormy discussion. Zalmon, who was in Hebron and became converted to Islam, accepts the arguments of Ahitub, himself converted to Judaism in Spain, and becomes a Jew. Eker, converted to Christianity in Constantinople, argues in favor of that religion;   however, since the queen and her court, persuaded by Ahitub, have also adopted Judaism, Eker hangs himself in anger, bringing the story to an end. Most of this narrative is still in manuscript. Another allegoric maqāma, Begidat ha-Zeman, in which the characters receive symbolic names, that was likewise written around 1450, also bears the name of a poet known as Mattathias; it is almost certain that both maqāmāt were written by the same author. Both narratives, with clear pedagogic, apologetic, and moral purpose, resemble each other in style and vocabulary. The second is written in the first person and the personal element is important. The author repents the sins of his youth, describing his experiences so that his tale might serve as a warning. It was printed in 1560 (Tihingen) and three more times before the end of the 17th century. Z. Malachi has found in this composition some autobiographical clues: according to him, the book was written in 1450 in Aix-en-Provence, when the author was 50 years old; he was probably born in Spain and left for France at the age of 19, becoming familiar with Ashkenazi culture. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Schirmann, Sefarad, 2 (1956), 648–62; Assaf, in: Ba-Mishor, 7 no. 286 (1946), 8; Zunz, Gesch, 129; Renan, Ecrivains, 432–3; Gross, Gal Jud, 256–7; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 451. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Y. Baer, A History of the Jews in Christian Spain (1966), 173ff.; M.A. Shmidman, in: I. Twersky (ed.), Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature (1979), 315ff.; Schirmann-Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France (Hebrew, 1997), 657–68; Z. Malachi, in: R. Nettler (ed.), Medieval and Modern Perspectives on Muslim-Jewish Relations (1995), 129; idem, in: Jewish Studies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, I (1999), 454–58. (Yonah David / Angel Sáenz-Badillos (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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