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Although most of the Jewish people during this period, especially the wealthy families, were to be found in Babylonia, the existence they led there, under the successive rulers of the Achaemenids, the Seleucids, the Parthians, and the Sassanians, was obscure and devoid of political influence.

The poorest but most fervent of the exiles returned to Judah / the Land of Israel during the reign of the Achaemenids (c. There, with the reconstructed Temple in Jerusalem as their center, they organized themselves into a community, animated by a remarkable religious ardor and a tenacious attachment to the Torah as the focus of its identity.

As punishment, Hadrian exiled more Jews, and forbade the Jews from living in their capital.

During the Middle Ages, due to increasing geographical dispersion and re-settlement, Jews divided into distinct regional groups which today are generally addressed according to two primary geographical groupings: the Ashkenazi of Northern and Eastern Europe, and the Sephardic Jews of Iberia (Spain and Portugal), North Africa and the Middle East.

As this little nucleus increased in numbers with the accession of recruits from various quarters, it awoke to a consciousness of itself, and strove once again for national independence and political enfranchisement and sovereignty.

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The Greek term for diaspora (διασπορά) also appears three times in the New Testament, where it refers to the scattering of Israel, i.e., the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel as opposed to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, although James (1:1) refers to the scattering of all twelve tribes.

These groups have parallel histories sharing many cultural similarities as well as a series of massacres, persecutions and expulsions, such as the expulsion from Spain in 1492, the expulsion from England in 1290, and the expulsion from Arab countries in 1948–1973.

Although the two branches comprise many unique ethno-cultural practices and have links to their local host populations (such as Central Europeans for the Ashkenazim and Hispanics and Arabs for the Sephardim), their shared religion and ancestry, as well as their continuous communication and population transfers, has been responsible for a unified sense of cultural and religious Jewish identity between Sephardim and Ashkenazim from the late Roman period to the present.

Under the Hasmonean princes, who were at first high priests and then kings, the Jewish state displayed even a certain luster and annexed several territories.

Soon, however, discord within the royal family and the growing disaffection of the pious, the soul of the nation, towards rulers who no longer evinced any appreciation of the real aspirations of their subjects made the Jewish nation easy prey for the ambitions of the now increasingly autocratic and imperial Romans, the successors of the Seleucids.

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