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ARNONA (Heb. אַרְנוֹנָא, from Latin Arnona), annual crop tax. As in other Roman provinces the arnona, the duty to supply grain either for the Roman Army or for the city of Rome, was imposed in Judea. At the beginning of Roman rule there Julius Caesar made *Hyrcanus ii responsible for remitting annually over 20,000 modii for the territory of Jaffa alone. The general tax due annually amounted to one quarter of the yield, but the Jews were exempt from the impost during the sabbatical year. The grain was collected in Sidon where the Roman warehouses for the arnona were situated. Information on the arnona in Ereẓ Israel in talmudic literature dates from the period after the destruction of the Second Temple.

During the third century c.e., with Ereẓ Israel constantly on the threshold of the arena of intermittent wars between Rome and Persia, taxes reached an intolerable level. This was especially the case with those used to supply the army, such as the arnona militaris, which toward the end of the third century, was the most important tax levied in the Roman Empire. It is this tax which is most often mentioned in rabbinic literature. The use of the term was extended to cover a tax not only on land, grain, and livestock, paid in kind (Tosef., Dem. 6:3), but also on bread, wine, meat, oil, clothing, etc. (arn1, 22, 71).

Furthermore, as part of this process of tax intensification, the exemption from the arnona, formerly granted for sabbatical years, was canceled in the third century. On one occasion, R. Yannai (c. 220–50) announced: "Go out and sow in the seventh year, because of the arnona," to aid the farmers in paying the heavy tax of the seventh year (Sanh. 26a; but cf. tj, Sanh. 6:6, 21b). Isaac Nappaḥa (c. 250–320), extolling the virtues of one who observed the sabbatical laws, declared (Lev. R. 1:1)… "This man has left his field untilled and vineyard untended; yet he gives his arnona in silence [i.e., without complaint against God]. Is there one mightier than he?" (a reference to Ps. 103:20; but cf. Margulies ed. 4). However, when the burden became virtually unbearable, the patriarch Gamaliel iii saw the need to legislate for a permanent easing of the sabbatical laws (Tosef., Shev. 1:1, 61; et al.; cf. Lieberman, Tosefta ki-Feshutah, 2 (1955) 482–3).

The arnona militaris was irregular and unpredictable, and therefore had halakhic implications. Thus, tj, Ḥallah 3:4, 59a–b, explains why dough (issah) due to the arnona is nonetheless subject to the law of ḥallah (the removal of the priests' share of the dough) as follows: "In such a case [the dough] is still [considered to be] in the Jew's possession, as the Gentile may change his mind and not take it…" (cf. Lieberman, ibid., 794). In the time of Diocletian (284–305) the arnona became a regular tax under a new name of iugatio. However, even afterward, it was sometimes levied unexpectedly on the population. Once, in the mid-fourth century Jonah had to order people to bake on the Sabbath in order to supply an arnona of bread (tj, Shev. 4:2, 35a). In modern Israel arnona (arnonah) denotes municipal rates and property tax.


Heichelheim, in: An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome, ed. by T. Frank, 4 (1938), 234–6, 241–2; Alon, Toledot2, 1 (19583), 41; 2 (19612), 154–5, 185–6.

[Abraham Schalit /

Daniel Sperber]