He is indeed a familiar personality in classical literature and frequently appears in literary epigraphic and papyrological sources. His duties are fairly well defined and have been competently described on a number of occasions. Likewise, we know him from Rabbinic sources, in which he appears under the guise of different spellings and even different names. Here I shall try to sum up Rabbinic evidence on the subject and thus define the office and duties of the agoranomos in Roman Palestine. The notion of authoritative supervision of the weights and measures in use in a market is ancient and is found in Biblical law. Deuteronomy 25:14-15 prescribes that “Thou shalt not have in thine house diverse measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have a perfect and a just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have. … ” Although this is formulated as a direct injunction upon the individual, clearly the practical implementation of such a commandment posits some kind of controlling authoritative framework. Tannaitic law (i.e., up to ca. 220 C.E.) exegetically expounds this latter verse as follows (Sifrei Deuteronomy, sec. 294): “[But] thou shalt have [a perfect and just weight]. … ”—appoint an agoranomos for this (or according to some readings: for measures). Although this ruling is based upon the Biblical verse, the actual institution of the agoranomos is clearly Hellenistic in origin; the use of a Greek loanword, as apposed to some local (Hebrew or Aramaic) term, is ample testimony. From the Sifrei we learn of the agoranomos’ duty to control the standards of weights and measures in the market. Indeed, T. H. Dyer reminds us in his Pompeii (London, 1871) that in Pompeii “in a recess at the northeast end of the temple under the colonnade of the Forum stood the public measures for wine, oil, and grain. These consisted of nine cylindrical holes cut in an oblong block of tufa: There are five large holes for grain and four smaller ones for wine. The former had a sliding bottom that the grain when measured might easily be removed. The latter are provided with tubes to draw off the liquid. These measures were placed near the horrea or public granaries”.
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