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SIKARIKON , a term in tannaitic literature, referring to property, particularly land and slaves, expropriated from Jews by the Roman authorities. Most of the relevant laws deal with the legal status of such land which has been acquired or which one wishes to acquire from the government. The origin of the word itself is obscure. Graetz suggests that it is connected with the *Sicarii and that the origin of the term is the ius sikarikon, so called because the Sicarii not only robbed their opponents but expropriated their lands, the name being later transferred to the Romans who confiscated the lands of the Jews after the destruction of the Temple. There is, however, no evidence at all to connect the Sicarii with the expropriation of land, and furthermore, in the course of time, the rabbis gradually came to recognize the right of the governments to expropriate, which was not the case with the Sicarii. Safrai also connects it with the ius sikarikon, but he takes the Sicarii to be those who defied Hadrian's decree against circumcision and were punished by having their property confiscated. In fact, Hadrian's prohibition of circumcision was based upon the statute lex Cornelia de sicarius et veneficis. The term sikarikon is used both for the law which annuls the ownership by the acquirer and for the concept itself, i.e., the expropriation of land by the authorities. According to this view the term sikarikon was coined during the years preceding the Bar Kokhba War, when the edict was decreed. It is possible that the word was extended during the early days to cover all political crimes against the government.

The development of the halakhah in the law of sikarikon may be noted particularly from the Mishnah. "There was no sikarikon in Judea for those killed in the war. From the period of those killed in the war there has been sikarikon there. How does this law apply? If a man buys a field from the sikarikon, and then buys it again from the original owner, his purchase is void, but if he buys it first from the original owner and then from the sikarikon it is valid…. This was the ruling of the early Mishnah. A later bet din laid down, however, that if a man buys property from the sikarikon he must pay a quarter to the original owner. This, however, is only the case when the original owner is not in a position to buy it himself, but if he is, he has the right of preemption. Rabbi *Judah ha-Nasi set up a bet din, and they decided by vote that, if the property had been in the hands of the sikarikon 12 months, whoever purchased it acquired the title, but he had to give a quarter of the price to the original owner" (Git. 5:6). Upon the identification of "the war" referred to in the first part of this Mishnah depends the difference of opinion referred to above as to the meaning of the term, sikarikon. Graetz (and Gulak) refer it to the Roman War, and Safrai to the Bar Kokhba War. The Mishnah notes that the law of sikarikon was cancelled in Judea in the time of the war, purchase from the gentile of the confiscated land being permitted. The reason for this law is explained in the parallel passage in the Tosefta: "The rule of sikarikon does not apply to Judea, that the country may be populated" (Tosef., Git. 5:1), i.e., the motive was to prevent the alienation of land in Judea from Jewish ownership. One should note that the distinction between Judea and Galilee (which is particularly stressed in the Jerusalem Talmud: "The rule of sikarikon always applies in Galilee" (tj, Git. 5:6, 47b)) accords more with the period of the Bar Kokhba War than with the Roman War.

Three successive stages are noted in the development of the laws of sikarikon, making it progressively more lenient. The last stage in the days of Judah ha-Nasi provides that after 12 months the owner's right to his confiscated property lapses, the only obligation of the purchaser being to pay a quarter of the purchase price to him. One may perceive in these stages the results of two processes which had their effect either independently or together: first, the desire to normalize the economic conditions, and second, the gradual but progressive acknowledgment of Roman authority and its laws, as well as the good relations subsisting between the Roman government and the Jewish population at the end of the second century.


H. Graetz, Das Sikarikon-Gesetz (1892); Rosenthal, in: mgwj, 37 (1893), 1–6, 57–63, 105–10; Halevy, Dorot, 5 pt 1; Elbogen, in: mgwj, 69 (1925), 249–57; Feist, ibid., 71 (1927), 138–41; Gulak, in: Tarbiz, 5 (1933/34), 23–27; Safrai, in: Zion, 17 (1952), 56–64; Alon, Toledot, 2 (19612), 56, 122f., 155f; Rokeaḥ, in: Tarbiz, 35 (1965/66), 122–31.

[A'hron Oppenheimer]