Biblical Archaeology Review 36:3, May/June 2010

Strata: Adding Insult to Victory

An article in the January/February issue of BAR asked why the Roman emperor Nerva (96–98 C.E.) repealed the fiscus Judaicus, the tax imposed on Jews by the Romans to support the pagan temple of Jupiter, thus redirecting the half-shekel tax previously paid by Jewish males to support the Jerusalem Temple before the Romans destroyed it in 70 C.E.a Nerva’s repeal of the fiscus Judaicus is evidenced by a striking Roman coin (pictured above) bearing a legend that the “insulting” (calumnia) tax is annulled or repealed (sublata). Our author, Shlomo Moussaieff, speculated that Nerva did this under the influence of Berenice, a Jewish princess known as the “Little Cleopatra” who enticed Roman rulers.

Several readers have called our attention to an entirely different explanation of the Nerva coin. They also explained where they learned of this competing explanation—in an issue of BAR published nearly two decades ago!

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