Petachiah of Ratisbon
Petachiah of Ratisbon, also known as Petachiah ben Yakov, Moses Petachiah, and Petachiah of Regensburg, was a Bohemian rabbi of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries CE. He is best known for his extensive travels throughout Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Middle East.
Petachiah was born in Regensburg (also called Ratisbon) in Bavaria, a city whose Jewish community was so renowned for its piety and learning that it was sometimes called the "Jewish Athens". He was the brother of Rabbi Yitzhak ha-Lavan ("the White") ben Yaakov, a renowned Jewish jurist. During his childhood he was probably tutored by such scholars as Judah the Pious (Yehuda ben Shmuel). He was the author of several glosses on the Talmud. As a young man he left Regensburg and settled in Prague.
The date of his travels is uncertain. He probably set out from Prague sometime between 1170 and 1180, and was certainly in Jerusalem prior to 1187, since he describes it as being under the control of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. As Judah the Pious is supposed to have written the surviving edition of Petachiah's travelogue, he must have returned to Regensburg prior to that sage's death in 1217.
Petachiah traveled east from Bohemia, through Poland, Ruthenia, southern Ukraine (which he called Kedar), and the Crimeaan Gazaria (Genoese colonies). He describes the remnants of the Khazars and the early Crimean Karaite community. He then went south through the Kipchak khanates and the Caucasus into Armenia, sojourning for a while in Nisibis. From there he travelled to Mesopotamia, visiting Nineveh, Sura, Pumbedita, and Baghdad before moving on to Persia. Turning westward, he journeyed up the Euphrates and into Syria, visiting Aleppo and Damascus. He travelled on to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, visiting holy sites in the Galilee and Judea, from whence he may have taken to the sea, because the next place he describes is Greece. From there, presumably, he returned home via the Balkans.
The date of Petachiah's death is unknown but may be around 1225.
- . Benisch. Travels of Petachia of Ratisbon (with English translation.) London, 1856.
- Travels of Rabbi Petachia of Ratisbon, online version of a bilingual 1856 edition.