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Fiscus Judaicus

Fiscus Judaicus

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The Fiscus Iudaicus or Fiscus Judaicus was a tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

 collecting agency instituted to collect the tax imposed on Jews in the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

 in 70 CE in favor of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....



The tax was initially imposed by Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 as one of the measures against Jews
Religious antisemitism is a form of antisemitism, which is the prejudice against, or hostility toward, the Jewish people based on hostility to Judaism and to Jews as a religious group...

 as a result of the First Roman-Jewish War of 66–73 CE. Vespasian imposed the tax in the aftermath of the Jewish revolt (Josephus BJ 7. 218; Dio Cassius 66.7.2). The tax was imposed on all Jews throughout the empire, not just on those who took part in the revolt against Rome. The tax was imposed after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE in place of the levy (or Tithe
A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products...

) payable by Jews towards the upkeep of the Temple. The amount levied was two denarii
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

, equivalent to the one-half of a shekel
Shekel , is any of several ancient units of weight or of currency. The first usage is from Mesopotamia around 3000 BC. Initially, it may have referred to a weight of barley...

 that observant Jews had previously paid for the upkeep of the Temple of Jerusalem . The tax was to go instead to the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter, the major center of ancient Roman religion
Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompassed the religious beliefs and cult practices regarded by the Romans as indigenous and central to their identity as a people, as well as the various and many cults imported from other peoples brought under Roman rule. Romans thus offered cult to innumerable deities...

. The fiscus Iudaicus was a humiliation for the Jews. In Rome, a special procurator
Procurator (Roman)
A procurator was the title of various officials of the Roman Empire, posts mostly filled by equites . A procurator Augusti was the governor of the smaller imperial provinces...

 known as procurator ad capitularia Iudaeorum was responsible for the collection of the tax. Only those who had abandoned Judaism were exempt from paying it.

While the tax paid for the Temple of Jerusalem was payable only by adult men between the ages of 20 and 50 only, the fiscus Iudaicus was imposed on all Jews, including women, children, and elderly - and even Jewish slaves. In Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, the documentary evidence (in the form of receipts) confirms the payment of the tax by women and children. The oldest person known from these receipts to have paid the fiscus Iudaicus was a 61-old woman, which led Sherman LeRoy Wallace to conjecture that the tax was levied only until the age of 62 - just as the regular poll-tax.

The tax was continued even after the completion of the reconstruction of the Capitoline temple for its upkeep.


Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

, who ruled between 81 and 96 CE, expanded the fiscus Iudaicus to include not only born Jews and converts to Judaism
Conversion to Judaism
Conversion to Judaism is a formal act undertaken by a non-Jewish person who wishes to be recognised as a full member of the Jewish community. A Jewish conversion is both a religious act and an expression of association with the Jewish people...

, but also on those who concealed the fact that they were Jews or observed Jewish customs. Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

 relates that when he was young an old man of 90 was examined to see whether he was circumcised
Circumcision in the Bible
Religious male circumcision generally occurs shortly after birth, during childhood or around puberty as part of a rite of passage. Circumcision is most prevalent in Muslim countries and Israel, and is most prevalent in the Jewish and Muslim faiths, although also common in the United States, the...

, which shows that during this period the tax was levied even on those above the age of 62. Louis Feldman
Louis Feldman
Louis Harry Feldman is an American professor of classics and literature. He is Abraham Wouk Family Professor of Classics and Literature at Yeshiva University, the institution at which he has taught since 1956...

 argues that the increased harshness was caused by the success of the Jewish (and possibly Christian
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

) proselytism
Proselytizing is the act of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another religion. The word proselytize is derived ultimately from the Greek language prefix προσ- and the verb ἔρχομαι in the form of προσήλυτος...


Domitian applied the tax even to those who merely "lived like Jews"
Judaizers is predominantly a Christian term, derived from the Greek verb ioudaïzō . This term is most widely known from the single use in the New Testament where Paul publicly challenges Peter for compelling Gentile believers to "judaize", also known as the Incident at Antioch.According to the...

XII: "Besides other taxes, that on the Jews [A tax of two drachmas a head, imposed by Vespasian; see Josephus, Bell. Jud. 7.218] was levied with the utmost rigor, and those were prosecuted who, without publicly acknowledging that faith, yet lived as Jews, as well as those who concealed their origin and did not pay the tribute levied upon their people [These may have been Christians, whom the Romans commonly assumed were Jews]. I recall being present in my youth when the person of a man ninety years old was examined before the procurator and a very crowded court, to see whether he was circumcised.", c 90.

Domitian's ruling opened the door to possibilities of blackmail
In common usage, blackmail is a crime involving threats to reveal substantially true or false information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates unless a demand is met. It may be defined as coercion involving threats of physical harm, threat of criminal prosecution, or threats...

 in Rome and in all Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. Charges of following Judaism were easily made, but difficult to disprove, not least because the practices of certain philosophical sects resembled some Jewish customs. As a result, many people chose to settle with the accusers out of court rather than risk the uncertainties of judicial hearings, thus effectively encouraging the blackmailers.
Titus Flavius Clemens (consul)
Titus Flavius Clemens (consul)
Titus Flavius Clemens was a great-nephew of the Roman Emperor Vespasian. He was the son of Titus Flavius Sabinus , brother to Titus Flavius Sabinus and a second cousin to Roman Emperors to Titus and Domitian.-In classical sources:...

 was put to death for "living a Jewish life" or "drifting into Jewish ways" in the year 95 CE, which may well have been related to the administration of the fiscus Judaicus under Domitian (Dio Cassius 67.14.1–2, 68.1.2)

Schism between Judaism and Christianity

See also: List of events marking changes in the relations between Christians and Jews in early Christianity

The fiscus Iudaicus was originally imposed on Jews. At the time neither the Romans nor, probably, the Early Christians considered Christianity to be a separate religion to Judaism. If anything they would have considered themselves as a sect within Judaism, which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. However, whether that was the intention or not, it did not take long for Christians to petition the Emperor to distinguish the Christians for the purpose of the payment of the fiscus Iudaicus. As the tax only applied to practising Jews, if they could be recognised as a separate religion, they would escape the impost.

After the murder of Domitian in 96, Nerva
Nerva , was Roman Emperor from 96 to 98. Nerva became Emperor at the age of sixty-five, after a lifetime of imperial service under Nero and the rulers of the Flavian dynasty. Under Nero, he was a member of the imperial entourage and played a vital part in exposing the Pisonian conspiracy of 65...

 relaxed the rules of collection, limiting the tax to those who openly practised Judaism. By this measure, the Christians (and perhaps Jewish Christians
Jewish Christians
Jewish Christians is a term which appears in historical texts contrasting Christians of Jewish origin with Gentile Christians, both in discussion of the New Testament church and the second and following centuries....

) escaped the tax http://www.myjewishlearning.com/history_community/Ancient/IntergroupTO/Schism.htm, but they were not officially recognized as a legal religion till the Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan was a letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius that proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire...

. The coins of Nerva bear the legend fisci Iudaici calumnia
Calumnia (Roman law)
In Roman law during the Republic, calumnia was the willful bringing of a false accusation, that is, malicious prosecution. The English word "calumny" derives from the Latin....

"abolition of malicious prosecution
Malicious prosecution
Malicious prosecution is a common law intentional tort, while like the tort of abuse of process, its elements include intentionally instituting and pursuing a legal action that is brought without probable cause and dismissed in favor of the victim of the malicious prosecution...

 in connection with the Jewish tax
Fiscus Judaicus
The Fiscus Iudaicus or Fiscus Judaicus was a tax collecting agency instituted to collect the tax imposed on Jews in the Roman Empire after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE in favor of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome.-Imposition:The tax was initially imposed by Roman...

," in reference to his reform of the harsh policies of Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...


It remains unclear when exactly the fiscus Iudaicus was abolished. Documentary evidence confirms the collection of the tax in the middle of the second century, and literary sources indicate that the tax was still in existence in the early third century. It is not known when the tax was formally abolished. Some historians credit the emperor Julian the Apostate
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 with its abolition in about 361 or 362.

Medieval revival

The tax was revived in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 in 1342 under the name of Opferpfennig by the Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

s. The Opferfennig (originally Guldenpfennig) tax was introduced in 1342 by Emperor Louis IV the Bavarian, who ordered all Jews above the age of 12 and possessing 20 gulden to pay one gulden annually for protection. The practice was justified on the grounds that the emperor, as the legal successor of the Roman emperors, was the rightful recipient of the Temple tax which Jews paid to the Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

. The Opferpfennig was collected on Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...


Emperor Charles IV
Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles IV , born Wenceslaus , was the second king of Bohemia from the House of Luxembourg, and the first king of Bohemia to also become Holy Roman Emperor....

 later ordered the income of the Opferfennig tax to be delivered to the archbishop of Triers. This tax was at some places replaced by an overall communal tax.

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