PUBLICANS - In ancient Rome this was the name given to those who rented out the collection of public taxes and all kinds of incomes, either in Rome itself or in other parts of the Empire. They were like the general collectors and auctioneers of taxes in the ancient system in France, which still exists in some regions. The risks they ran made most people close their eyes when it came to their frequently amounted riches which for some, were the fruits of levies and scandalous gains. Later on the name 'Publican' was extended to all those who superintended public monies and their underling agents. Today, the term is employed in a disparaging way, to denote financiers and agents with very few scruples. It is said: "As greedy as a Publican" or "as rich as a Publican", referring to their ill-gotten gains.
During Roman role the question of taxes was what the Jews found most difficult to accept, causing great irritation amongst themselves. Many revolts resulted from this problem, so turning it into a religious question, as it was considered to be against the Law. Indeed, a powerful party was formed at whose front was put a certain citizen named Judah the Gaulite, whose objective was to abolish all taxes. The Jews consequently abominated these taxes and all those entrusted with collecting them. Thence sprang up the aversion shown to Publicans of all categories, amongst whom could be found many people of esteem, but who due to their functions, were despised together with whomsoever kept company with them. Prominent Jews considered it a compromise to have any personal relationship with these people.