Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

apparent choice of the purchaser, the policy of Constantine and his successors preferred a simple and direct mode of taxation, more congenial to the spirit of an arbitrary government.”

The name and use of the indictions,179 which serve to ascertain **** the chronology of the middle ages, was derived from the Hoo"

regular practice of the Roman tributes.” The emperor subscribed with his own hand, and in purple ink, the solemn edict, or indiction, which was fixed up in the principal city of each diocese during two months previous to the first day of September. And, by a very easy connexion of ideas, the word indiction was transferred to the measure of tribute which it prescribed, and to the annual term which it allowed for the payment. This general estimate of the supplies was proportioned to the real and imaginary wants of the state; but, as often as the expense exceeded the revenue, or the revenue fell short of the computation, an additional tax, under the name of superindiction, was imposed on the people, and the most valuable attribute of sovereignty was communicated to the Praetorian praefects, who,

178 Mr. Hume (Essays, vol. i. p. 389) has seen this important truth, with some degree of perplexity.

179 The cycle of indictions, which may be traced as high as the reign of Constantius, or perhaps of his father Constantine, is still employed by the papal court: but the commencement of the year has been very reasonably altered to the first of January. See l'Art de vérifier les Dates, p. xi.; and Dictionnaire Raison. de la Diplomatique, tom. ii. p. 25; two accurate treatises, which come from the workshop of the Benedictines. [A fifteen-yearly valuation of property, for purposes of taxation, was as old as Hadrian (Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii. 975). The financial year or “indiction” ran from 1st Sept. to 31st Aug., and thus included unequal parts of two calendar years; as a mode of chronology, it came into general use in the course of the fifth century. On this system 312-13 A.D. was regarded as the first year of the first fifteen-year cycle. Accordingly, if we wish to determine the indiction corresponding to any year, we subtract 312 and divide the difference by 15; the remainder is the indiction to which the first eight months of the given year (and the last four of the preceding year) belong. Take 7oo A.D.: (7oo — 312) +15 = 25 with a remainder of 13; therefore 1st Sept. 699 A.D. to 31st Aug. 7oo A.D. is a 13th indiction. (If there is no remainder, the indiction is 15.) It is clear that the converse process requires a knowledge of the approximate period in terms of Anni Domini. Thus, if we know the date of the reign of Justinian il., we may determine the indiction, say, of the first year in that reign, and so reckon which year corresponds to Ind. 13.−In the twelfth century this usage changed; the period of fifteen years was called the indiction; and the Birth of Christ was adopted as the starting-point. A year was known as the first, second, &c. year of such and such an indiction.—It is also to be observed that in Egypt (under the empire) the indictional year did not begin on 1st Sept. or any fixed date, but varied from year to year. This has been shown by Wilcken (Hermes, 19, 293 sqq.), whereas it had been formerly thought (by Hartel) that the Egyptian ind, began on some day between 11th and o: June.]

180 The first twenty-eight titles of the eleventh book of the Theodosian Code are filled with the circumstantial regulations on the important subject of tributes; but they suppose a clearer knowledge of fundamental principles than it is at present in our power to attain.

on some occasions, were permitted to provide for the unforeseen and extraordinary exigencies of the public service. The execution of these laws (which it would be tedious to pursue in their minute and intricate detail) consisted of two distinct operations; the resolving the general imposition into its constituent parts, which were assessed on the provinces, the cities, and the individuals of the Roman world, and the collecting the separate contributions of the individuals, the cities, and the provinces, till the accumulated sums were poured into the Imperial treasuries. But, as the account between the monarch and the subject was perpetually open, and as the renewal of the demand anticipated the perfect discharge of the preceding obligation, the weighty machine of the finances was moved by the same hands round the circle of its yearly revolution. Whatever was honourable or important in the administration of the revenue was committed to the wisdom of the praefects and their provincial representatives; the lucrative functions were claimed by a crowd of subordinate officers, some of whom depended on the treasurer, others on the governor of the province; and who, in the inevitable conflicts of a perplexed jurisdiction, had frequent opportunities of disputing with each other the spoils of the people. The laborious offices, which could be productive only of envy and reproach, of expense and danger, were imposed on the Decurions, who formed the corporations of the cities, and whom the severity of the Imperial laws had condemned to sustain the burthens of civil society.” The whole landed property of the empire (without excepting the patrimonial estates of the monarch) was the object of ordinary taxation; and every new purchaser contracted the obligations of the former proprietor. An accurate census,” or survey, was the only equitable mode of ascertaining the proportion which every citizen should be obliged to contribute for the public service; and from the wellknown period of the indictions there is reason to believe that this difficult and expensive operation was repeated at the regular distance of fifteen years. The lands were measured by surveyors, who were sent into the provinces; their nature, whether arable or pasture, or vineyards or woods, was distinctly reported; and an estimate was made of their common value from the average produce of five years. The numbers of slaves and of cattle constituted an essential part of the report; an oath was administered to the proprietors, which bound them to disclose the true state of their affairs; and their attempts to prevaricate, or elude the intention of the legislator, were severely watched, and punished as a capital crime which included the double guilt of treason and sacrilege.88 A large portion of the tribute was paid in money; and of the current coin of the empire, gold alone could be legally accepted.* The remainder of the taxes, according to the proportions determined by the annual indiction, was furnished in a manner still more direct, and still more oppressive. According to the different nature of lands, their real produce, in the various articles of wine or oil, corn or barley, wood or iron, was transported by the labour or at the expense of the provincials to the Imperial magazines, from whence they were occasionally distributed, for the use of the court, of the army, and of the two capitals, Rome and Constantinople. The commissioners of the revenue were so frequently obliged to make considerable purchases that they were strictly prohibited from allowing any compensation or from receiving in money the value of those supplies which were exacted in kind. In the primitive simplicity of small communities, this method may be well adapted to collect the almost voluntary offerings of the people; but it is at once susceptible of the utmost latitude and of the utmost strictness, which in a corrupt and absolute monarchy must introduce a perpetual contest between the power of oppression and the arts of fraud.” The agriculture of the Roman provinces was insensibly ruined, and, in the progress of despotism, which tends to disappoint its own purpose, the emperors were

* The title concerning the Decurions (l. xii. tit. i.) is the most ample in the whole Theodosian Code; since it contains not less than one hundred and ninetytwo distinct laws to ascertain the duties and privileges of that useful order of citizens.

* Habemus enim et hominum numerum qui delati sunt, et agrãm modum. Eumenius in Panegyr. Vet. viii. 6. See Cod. Theod. l. xiii. tit. x., xi. with Godefroy's Commentary.

is Siquis sacrilegå vitem falce succiderit, aut feracium ramorum foetus hebetaverit, quo declinet fidem censuum, et mentiatur callide paupertatis ingenium, mox detectus capitale subibit exitium, et bona, ejus in fisci jura migrabunt, Cod. Theod. L. xiii. tit. xi. leg. 1. Although this law is not without its studied obscurity, it is, however, clear enough to prove the minuteness of the inquisition, and the disproportion of the penalty.

184 The astonishment of Pliny would have ceased. Equidem miror P. R. victis gentibus argentum semper imperitasse non aurum. Hist. Natur. xxxiii. 15.

*Some precautions were taken (see Cod. Theod. l. xi. tit. ii., and Cod. Justinian. I. x. tit. xxvii. leg. 1, 2, 3) to restrain the magistrates from the abuse of their authority, either in the exaction or in the purchase of corn: but those who had learning enough to read the orations of Cicero against Verres (iii. de Frumento) might instruct themselves in all the various arts of oppression, with regard to the weight, the price, the quality, and the carriage. The avarice of an unlettered governor would supply the ignorance of precept or precedent.

WOL. II.

Assessed in

the form of

obliged to derive some merit from the forgiveness of debts, or
the remission of tributes, which their subjects were utterly
incapable of paying. According to the new division of Italy,
the fertile and happy province of Campania, the scene of the
early victories and of the delicious retirements of the citizens
of Rome, extended between the sea and the Apennine from
the Tiber to the Silarus. Within sixty years after the death of
Constantine, and on the evidence of an actual survey, an
exemption was granted in favour of three hundred and thirty
thousand English acres of desert and uncultivated land; which
amounted to one-eighth of the whole surface of the province.
As the footsteps of the Barbarians had not yet been seen in
Italy, the cause of this amazing desolation, which is recorded in
the laws, can be ascribed only to the administration of the
Roman emperors.”
Either from design or from accident, the mode of assessment

a capitation seemed to unite the substance of a land-tax with the forms of

a capitation.” The returns which were sent of every province or district expressed the number of tributary subjects and the amount of the public impositions. The latter of these sums was divided by the former; and the estimate, that such a province contained so many capita, or heads of tribute, and that each head was rated at such a price, was universally received, not only in the popular, but even in the legal computation. The value of a tributary head must have varied, according to many accidental, or at least fluctuating, circumstances; but some knowledge has been preserved of a very curious fact, the more important, since it relates to one of the richest provinces of the Roman empire, and which now flourishes as the most splendid of the European kingdoms. The rapacious ministers of Constantius had exhausted the wealth of Gaul, by exacting twenty-five pieces of gold for the annual tribute of every head. The humane policy of his successor reduced the capitation to seven pieces.” A moderate proportion between these opposite extremes of extravagant oppression and of transient indulgence may therefore be fixed at sixteen pieces of gold, or about nine pounds sterling, the common standard perhaps of the impositions of Gaul.” But this calculation, or rather indeed the facts from whence it is deduced, cannot fail of suggesting two difficulties to a thinking mind, who will be at once surprised by the equality and by the enormity of the capitation. An attempt to explain them may perhaps reflect some light on the interesting subject of the finances of the declining empire. I. It is obvious that, as long as the immutable constitution of human nature produces and maintains so unequal a division of property, the most numerous part of the community would be deprived of their subsistence by the equal assessment of a tax from which the sovereign would derive a very trifling revenue. Such indeed might be the theory of the Roman capitation; but in the practice, this unjust equality was no longer felt, as the tribute was collected on the principle of a real, not of a personal,

186 Cod. Theod. 1. xi, tit. xxviii. leg. 2, published the 24th of March, A.D. 395, by the emperor Honorius, only two months after the death of his father Theodosius. He speaks of 528,042 Roman jugera, which I have reduced to the English measure. The jugerum contained 28,800 square Roman feet.

187 Godefroy (Cod. Theod. tom. vi. p. 116) argues with weight and learning on the subject of the capitation; but, while he explains the caput as a share or measure of property, he too absolutely excludes the idea of a personal assessment. [The old land tax or tributum (so called in imperial provinces; stipendium in senatorial) now became the capitatio terrena (or iugatio), and the assessment was made on a valuation, not of the produce, but of the capital. In the Eastern part of the empire, property was divided into a number of unities which paid the same tax, and consequently differed in size according to the value of the land. (Seven classes of land were distinguished : 1, wine-producing; 2, 3, oil-producing; 4, 5, 6, arable; 7, pasture.) The unity or iugum was valued at 1ooo solidi, and might be made up of land of different classes. Under Diocletian this tax was paid in kind, though assessed in money (annonae, measures of corn, and capita, units of hay, &c., being equated with money-values), but after Constantine's monetary reforms the payment could be made in coin. Landed proprietors had, beside this tax, to supply rations for the support of the government officials and the army. The cap. terrena must be distinguished from the cap. humana or poll-tax, which is very obscure, but possibly fell on the coloni, as it certainly did on widows and orphans (so Schiller), Compare Mommsen's article in Hermes, 3, 429 sq.; Schiller, R.G. ii. 68 go.]

is Quid profuerit (Julianus) anhelantibus extremă penuria Gallis, hinc maxime claret, quod primitus partes eas ingressus, pro capitibus singulis tributi nomine vicenos quinos aureos reperit flagitari; discedens vero septenos tantum munera universa complentes. Ammian. 1. xvi. c. 5. The caput is the iustom.

* In the calculation of any sum of money under Constantine and his successors, we need only refer to the excellent discourse of Mr. Greaves on the Denarius for the proof of the following principles: 1. That the ancient and modern Roman pound, containing 5256 grains of Troy weight, is about one-twelfth lighter than the English pound, which is composed of 5760 of the same grains. , 2. That the pound of gold, which had once been divided into forty-eight aurei, was at this time coined into seventy-two smaller pieces of the same denomination. 3. That five of these aurei were the legal tender for a pound of silver, and that o the pound of gold was exchanged for fourteen pounds eight ounces of silver according to the Roman, or about thirteen pounds according to the English, weight. 4. That the English pound of silver is coined into sixty-two shillings. From these elements we may compute the Roman pound of gold, the usual method of reckoning large sums, at forty pounds sterling; and we may fix the currency of the aureus at somewhat more than eleven shillings. [Before Diocletian 70 aurei were struck from a pound of gold. Diocletian raised the value of the aureus from on to on, and Constantine reduced it again, but to "... This new Constantinian aureus was also called Solidus (whence Ital. soldo, French sou). Schiller has shown that from 307 to 323 there was a transitional period in which the on lb. aureus was struck in the west, but not in the east. Rom. Gesch. ii. p. 222.]

« ForrigeFortsett »