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Aurum Coronarium


AURUM CORONARIUM (Latin "gold for the crown"), term for two separate taxes paid in ancient times.

(1) It was originally a voluntary gift donated by the provinces to victorious Roman generals and later to emperors upon accession. The gift had the form of a golden crown. In time it became a mandatory tax, collected by every new emperor. When, from the third century c.e., Roman rule changed hands every two or three years, it became a heavy burden. It is not surprising, therefore, that Romans and Jews alike tried to evade payment of the tax. The Talmud tells of "the crown for which the inhabitants of Tiberias were called upon to find money." After demanding that R. Judah ha-Nasi, who was apparently responsible for transfer of the money, distribute the heavy burden equally among all residents, half the citizens of Tiberias finally fled to avoid payment (bb 8a).

(2) For the Jews, however, aurum coronarium took on another meaning, namely the voluntary contributions of world Jewry to support the Patriarchate in Palestine. These funds, called Demei Kelila (דְמֵי כְּלִילָא) in rabbinic sources (bb 143a), were collected by official messengers (ἁπόστολοι) of the patriarch, and as a result were also known as apostolé. According to Epiphanius (Adv. haereses 1:30, 3–12) these emissaries were of the highest rank and participated in the patriarch's councils. A similar description appears in the letter of authorization given to R. Ḥiyya b. Abba: "We are sending you a great man, our messenger, who shall be treated on a par with ourselves until he returns to us" (tj, Ḥag. 1:8, 76d; tj, Ned. 10:10, 42b). The emperor Julian, probably in an attempt to secure the good will of those Jewish communities who were forced to carry the burden, ordered the discontinuation of the Jewish tax (362–3 c.e.). This pause however, was only temporary (as was a similar one in 399–404 c.e.) and collection of the aurum coronarium continued until 429 c.e. After the suppression of the Patriarchate in 425 c.e., the funds were delivered to the Palestinian academies. In an edict dated May 30, 429 c.e., the aurum coronarium was officially converted by the emperors Theodosius ii and Valentinian iii into a special Jewish tax to the state treasury (Codex Theod. 16, 8:29).


Lacombrade, in: Revue des études anciennes, 51 (1949), 54–59; Alon, Toledot, 1 (1953), 147, 156 ff.; Baron, Social, 2 (19522), 194–5; Juster, Juifs, 1 (1914), 385.

[Isaiah Gafni]

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