Taxation and public labour in ancient Sabaʾ: an examination of ḫrṣ using the Leiden and Munich minuscule inscriptions

Authors

  • Jason Weimar Johns Hopkins

Keywords:

Ancient South Arabian, Sabaic, taxation, minuscule inscriptions, epigraphy

Abstract

The Sabaean tax system is presently poorly understood. The fourth- to third-century BC inscription RES 3951 is promising, which exempts Ṣirwāḥ from several taxes. Yet, much of its taxation terminology still remains opaque. Recently published, but untranslated, minuscule inscriptions from Leiden and Munich offer several new instances of one of these terms, ḫrṣ. In this paper, I systematically examine the term ḫrṣ and provide new translations for the relevant minuscule inscriptions, arguing that it refers to an ‘allotment’ of crops, land, and possibly livestock given to tribes (ʾs²ʿb) for services performed. In the stone inscriptions CIH 540 and MA 85, the term seems to refer to sums of barley paid to tribes. The minuscule inscriptions expand this understanding in three ways: in L 232 the term appears to be a landed entity, L 144 and L 181 hint at a stock expression denoting its payment, and X.BSB 99 concerns a temple labour group (s2rk) being forced to cede property it took from a tribal ḫrṣ. To conclude, I argue that a particular phrase in RES 3951/3 (mnṣḥtm w-ḫrṣm w-s²rkm, ‘overseer, allotment, and temple labour group’) refers to three distinct pools of labour that the Sabaean government taxed for and funded separately.

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Published

31/08/2020

How to Cite

Weimar, J. (2020). Taxation and public labour in ancient Sabaʾ: an examination of ḫrṣ using the Leiden and Munich minuscule inscriptions. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 50(1), 333–342. Retrieved from https://archaeopresspublishing.com/ojs/index.php/PSAS/article/view/254