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When the Gemarra was composed, there were three areas inhabited by significant Jewish populations - Bavel, Eretz Yisrael, and the other Mediterranean countries ruled by the Roman Empire as far as Spain and Morocco.

We know that there were major Torah academies in the former two, and their debates on the Mishna are preserved as the Babylonian and Jeruselem Talmuds. What of the Mediterranean communities, though? Did they not have academies and debates on the Mishna? Why is there no "Mediterranean Talmud"?

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    Could you elaborate on your first assumption? Nov 19 at 7:44
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    There were definitely sages who lived in Rome, such as Todus Ish Romi and Rabbi Matyah ben Charash.
    – Harel13
    Nov 19 at 8:19
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    Why would they need academies to debate the Mishna for publishing a "Mediterrenean Talmud", when they could send any questions they had to the centers of Jewish legislation in Eretz Yisrael, or in Bavel?
    – Tamir Evan
    Nov 19 at 8:30
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    @Tamir that's a good, but on that logic why did Bavel need its own when there were already acadamies in EY?
    – Josh K
    Nov 19 at 10:03
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    While there were probably Batei Midrash at least in some parts of the area at hand, I think the question boils down to: Why did they not record their debates (because that's what the Mishna and Talmud are)?
    – Harel13
    Nov 19 at 10:08
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R Aryeh Leibowitz (in his introduction to The early Rishonim) answers your question and explains that the Mediterranean communities were poor in scholarship during the time the Talmud was open and only gained in scholarship after it closed, which explains why there is no Mediterranean Talmud but many Mediterranean Rishonim.

During the time of the Geonim and earlier, a host of reasons drove small groups of Jews to venture from the Jewish center in Basel and join the Jewish communities in the Mediterranean port cities of Europe and along the coast of North Africa. Responsa of the Geonim record a flow of letters between these outlying communities and the Bavel yeshivos. [...]

While some of these communities may have been major Torah centers (for example, there was apparently a very rich Torah culture in Italy at this time. The Geonim make references to the "Yeshiva of Rome," and the Rishonim speak of the great Torah scholars that had once flourished in the cities of Bari and Otranto), most were seemingly bereft of significant Torah scholars.

In the 10th century, things began to change. The outlying communities of Europe and North Africa began to develop independently from Bavel. Their communities grew in size, and their level of Torah scholarship increased. At the same time the Bavel yeshivas were also beginning to wane in influence and prestige. These new realities ushered in the period of the Rishonim.

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  • This isn't that compelling. His argument just seems to be that since we don't have records, there were no scholars. The other answer clearly refutes that argument.
    – Double AA
    Nov 22 at 13:09
  • Actually both answers point to the fact the only community of significance was Rome - and even then it didn't compare in prominence to either Israel or Bavel. Apparently the bar to put out a Talmud is quite high.
    – mbloch
    Nov 22 at 14:03
  • Not quite. The other answer explains that a lack of records is not a record of lack of scholarship, and does not indicate that Rome didn't compare in prominence to Bavel.
    – Double AA
    Nov 22 at 14:10
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As I wrote in the comments, there were definitely other centers of Torah around the world.

We find that in Rome there were a number of sages:

  1. Todus Ish Romi (Pesachim 53; there's a disagreement about when he lived. Some push him as far back as the time of Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach).

  2. Rabbi Matyah ben Charash who opened a beit midrash there (Sanhedrin 32b) and had discussions with sages who visited Rome (Yoma 86a, Yoma 53b, Meilah 17a).

  3. Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateira (the second or the third) was born there (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 41a).

  4. Paltion Ish Romi (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 8:5).

Also, see on the bottom of this essay a list of inscriptions of archsynagogoi (ראש בית כנסת, head of the synagogue) from places around the Roman Empire.

As a friend of mine put it, unfortunately, the most likely explanation for why we don't have texts from these communities is that they simply didn't see a reason to record their studies, for the exact same reason that not every rabbi has ever written everything he has ever thought up of (of course, it is also entirely possible that they did actually write and what they lost was never mentioned in our sources and was eventually lost, like how there may have been other parts of the Yerushalmi). Note that the creation of the Babylonian Talmud was actually an out of the ordinary event, as most Tannaic/Amoraic texts that we have are from Eretz Yisrael. Ultimately, it seems that all Torah centers in the world looked to the Yisraeli center for guidance.

The first hints at a split between the diaspora and Eretz Yisrael may be seen when we find mentions of halachot of the Babylonians and mishnayot of Babylonians (see my recent answer here). This chasm widened as the Babylonians sages continued to become more independent over the course of the Amoraic period. Finally, we find the harsh disagreements between the Babylonian Geonim and the Yisraeli Geonim - so harsh were some of these disagreements, that at times the Geonim of each group actively undermined and minimized the rulings of the other group (I don't have time right now to gather the sources, but see here for a summary).

I say this to point out that it seems that it was only at the end of the Tannaic period that we see some hints of a split, and even then it was only between Babylon and Eretz Yisrael. As far as we know, the other communities continued to view Eretz Yisrael as the more authoritative center of Torah leadership. In the past I've seen studies that point out that in the early Rishonic period, most European communities were more closely aligned with the halachot of Eretz Yisrael, so we see that in Europe Eretz Yisrael held dominance for many centuries, while the Asian and African communities eventually became aligned with the halachot of Babylon as that center became dominant in the Persian and Muslim empires. I'll bring sources when I'll be able to.

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