Fiscus Judaicus

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FISCUS JUDAICUS , a fund of the Roman Empire into which was paid the money from the special tax levied on the Jews by *Vespasian after the destruction of the Temple (Jos., Wars 7:218; Dio Cassius 66:7,2). This imposition, a poll tax of two drachmae, was officially paid to Jupiter Capitolinus and took the place of the half-*shekel which the Jews throughout the world had contributed to the Temple while it stood. There is evidence to show that this tax was levied in Egypt from 71–72 c.e. onward. In these documents it is called "the Jewish tax" and a great deal is known about it, particularly from ostraca from Edfu. It is clear that in Egypt even women and children as young as three were liable, although they had been exempt from the half-shekel. The tax was probably paid in Egypt only until the age of 62. In Rome itself a special procurator called procurator ad capitularia Judaeorum was in charge of the fiscus (H. Dessau (ed.), Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, 1 (1892), 330, no. 1519). In addition to the financial burden it imposed, the tax was humiliating for the Jews. During the reign of Domitian (81–96) the methods of collecting the tax were strengthened and apparently the Roman authorities became much more vigorous in determining who was liable for taxation. It was imposed on those who had been born Jews as well as those who concealed the fact that they were Jews, and on proselytes to Judaism. In various ways this opened the door to possibilities of calumny, causing suffering to many residents in Rome, and possibly beyond. Suetonius (Vita Domitiani, 12) relates that when he was young an old man of 90 was examined to see whether he was circumcised, which shows that during this period the tax was levied even on those above the age of 62. After the murder of Domitian in 96, the atmosphere changed for the better as is seen from the coins of Nerva which bear the inscription fisci Judaici calumnia sublata. However, the levy of the tax continued. The latest documentary evidence is a papyrus from the village of Karanis in Faiyum, upper Egypt (Tcherikover, Corpus, 3 (1964), 17–18, no. 460, line 7, dated 146 c.e. or 168 c.e.). Literary sources indicate that the tax was still in existence in the first half of the third century (Origen, Ad Africanum, 14). It is not known when the tax came to an end, but some attribute a decisive role in its abolition to *Julian the Apostate.


Schuerer, Gesch, 2 (19074), 315; 3 (19094), 117f.; Juster, Juifs, 2 (1914), 282–6; M. Radin, The Jews among the Greeks and Romans (1915), 332–4, 362f.; J. Janssen, C. Suetoni Tranquilli Vita Domitiani (1919), 59; M.S. Ginsburg, in: jqr, 21 (1930/31), 281–91; Baron, Social2, 2 (1952), 373–4n; Smallwood, in: Classical Philology, 51 (1956), 1–13; Tcherikover, Corpus, 2 (1960), 110–36; O. Hirschfeld, Die kaiserlichen Verwaltungsbeamten (19633), 73; H.J. Leon, Jews of Ancient Rome (1960), 31, 33, 36, 252.

[Menahem Stern]