AGORANOMOS


AGORANOMOS
AGORANOMOS, inspector of market transactions in Greek cities. This office was imported into Ereẓ Israel during the Hellenistic period and existed during the whole Roman period. The agoranomos supervised the making of weights and measures, the quality of goods and the transactions between buyers and sellers. The sources give no indication as to whether he regulated matters between employee and employer, as was the case in Hellenistic cities. Several inscribed lead and stone weights (from Maresha, Scythopolis, Ashdod, Tiberias, Gaza, and Jerusalem), as well as a standard of measures for liquids (from Maresha), are the material evidence of the responsibility of this office in regard to weights and measures during the Hellenistic, Herodian, and Roman periods. In Jerusalem, the controversy between Onias, the high priest, and Simeon in regard to the office of the agoranomia was one of the causes of the civil war in the early 70s of the second century B.C.E. (II Macc. 3:4 ff.). This episode may refer to the responsibility of the agoranomos levying the taxes of the Temple. The authority to appoint the agoranomos was apparently vested in the high priest, and later in the king: the known weights of the Herodian period are dated according to the regnal years of Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, Agrippas I, and Agrippas II. According to Josephus the tetrarch Herod Antipas appointed Agrippa I as agoranomos of Tiberias before he was appointed king by Caius Caligula in order to provide him with an income (Ant., 18:149). Josephus also refers to the agora in Jerusalem, where the agoranomos probably sat (Ant., 14:335; Wars, 1:251). There are several rabbinic sources that provide evidence about the office of the agoranomos. However, the word was variously altered: agronimon, agardemis/agardemin, hagronimos, igranamin, and so on. Interestingly, although the Old Testament refers to the obligation of using accurate weights and measures, nothing is known about how this law was enforced, or about the persons responsible for it, before the Hellenistic period. In Jerusalem, before 70 C.E., the holder of this office had authority only over measures, but in Babylon he could also fix the prices of commodities (Tosef., BM 6:14; BB 89a; TJ, ibid. 5:11). In Babylon the appointment of this official in the cities, where commerce was concentrated in Jewish hands, was a function of the exilarch. For some time Rav filled this role. The agoranomos had authority to inspect merchandise such as wine or bread in order to evaluate its quality. When the agoranomos appeared in the marketplace, merchants would sometimes hide and the shopkeepers would lock their doors for fear of punishment. The importance of the agoranomos is attested by a passage (Lev. R. 1:8) which notes that a king, on   visiting a province, would first discuss matters with the agoranomos. The name of the office seems to have been translated from the third century C.E. on as ba'al ha-shuk, and also assimilated with the office of logistes (accountant), itself translated as khashban. Other offices related to the management of the supply on the market of Greek cities are evidenced in rabbinic sources: the astynome, a parallel to the agoranome (TJ, Ma'aser Sheni 5:2, istononsin), and the sitones, supplying the grain (ibid. 4:1, khatonaya/sitonaya). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Krauss, in: Tal Arch, 2 (1911) 372 ff. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Finkielsztejn, "Administration du Levant sous les Séleucides. Remarques préliminaires," in: M. Sartre, La Syrie hellénistique, Topoi Suppl., 4, (2003), 465–84; D. Sperber, in: ZDMG, 127 (1977), 227–43; idem, "On the Office of the Agoranomos in Roman Palestine," in: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, 127 (1977), 227–43. (Menahem Stern / Gérald Finkielsztejn (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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