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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: Roman tax rates at varying times? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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cliff_marsland
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« on: November 21, 2009, 11:05:16 pm »

The Shekel thread reminded me of a question I've had.  Is there any evidence for Roman tax rates/ballpark tax percentage per income of various periods?  I suppose it would be hard to guesstimate with all the various excise taxes, etc.

I am going to make a guess that tax rates in Augustan times were less in proportion to income than they were in the 4th-5th century, due to the horror stories of the taxman being lynched, etc. in the late Empire..

Is there any evidence for taxation during the Republican period?
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284ad
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« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2009, 09:28:29 am »

Roman taxation is was a bit more complex than a monetary value.

Remember it wasn't until very late on in the Empire that there was even a monetary economy in rural areas. My main reference has been coin loss patterns in Roman Britain but I would assume a similar situation would be found throughout the Empire, given that it wasn't until the time of Diocletian that every province has a central mint and therefore a local, regular coin supply.

The Republican period is interesting as there was very little taxation, as all public service was unpaid. This included civil and military service. Therefore taxes were only really levied in emergencies in the form of a personal tax called the "tributum". This was calculated as a percentage of ones wealth and was usually employed to pay for wars. It was not technically a tax though more of a loan as should there be spoils from the war the "tributum" would be returned.

With the conquest of Italy cam further sources of revenue and the "tributum" fell out of use by 167BC. Tax then came in from four different avenues...

1) "Ager Publicus" - This was public land, which tenants paid a portion of their income (usually as material products not in coin) as rent.

2) Provincial Tributes - This was a fixed sum expected as tribute from each province. It was usually paid every five years and was collected by the local government in any way they see fit (Verres' rather cruel methods are described in Cicero "Against Verres"), although in some provinces it was generally a tithe (10%) of their produce. The companies in charge of collectin were contractors called "mancipes" and the actual revenue collectors themselves went by the name of "publicani"

3) Individual Taxes - Some regions had specific taxes for certain acts. eg. Port tax (duty on incoming ships), Frontier Tax (duty on frontier imports) and various other tolls (road toll, market tolls etc)

You can find out about these in various legal codexes but one example could be the "Lex Manlia", which was a 5% tax on the value of a manumitted slave levied from 357BC.

4) General state monopolies - While this was not a "tax" as such it still ensured the stae offers were filled. The state ran the fisheries and the mines and therefore ensured all profits from this went directly to them.

I know this hardly answers your question but it's all I know about Roman taxation and state finances. If I get the chance I will dig out some sources for you.




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cliff_marsland
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« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2009, 10:02:58 am »

Cool, I appreciate the answer.  Do you think the overall percentage of tax was greater or lesser than modern U.S./Western European rates, or about the same?
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« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2009, 11:05:55 am »

I don't think it really worked like that unfortunately.

Each province could have huge variations in tax rate, as each tribute was a different value depending on the wealth of the province or how it entered the Empire (i.e how difficult it was to conquer).I will try and dig a few examples out for you if you like.

 I know i have the accounts for an Egyptian Villa kicking around somewhere which could offer some interesting insight.

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cliff_marsland
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« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2009, 11:58:19 am »

Any examples would be greatly appreciated.    I was wondering more about Italy or a province very near Rome, but any info on any province is appreciated.
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Steve Minnoch
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« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2009, 01:22:31 pm »

There are references to the imposition of taxes by the second triumvirate.  I'm not able to give references right now.

One personality I do recall who is relevant is Hortensia, daughter of a great orator, who led the opposition to an attempt by the triumvirs to tax women.

Steve
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284ad
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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2009, 02:35:17 pm »

I am remembering about this.

I just haven't had the chance to hunt out my work from a few years back.

I did however find out  that the tax in the Republic was very low usually ~1% raising to 3% in war but I can't seem to find the final source. Each place I read it lacks a reference so I can't confirm it.
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mauseus
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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2009, 02:50:16 pm »

Hi,

"Money and Government....." by Elmore-Jones, 1994 I think. The best documentary evidence that he uses comes from Egypt. Should be available for about £20/£30 to purchase.

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Mauseus
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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2009, 08:07:23 am »

Hi,

"Money and Government....." by Elmore-Jones, 1994 I think. The best documentary evidence that he uses comes from Egypt. Should be available for about £20/£30 to purchase.


That's it. I think it's actually "Money and Government in the Roman Empire" R.P Duncan-Jones (1994)
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Robert_Brenchley
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« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2009, 10:08:09 am »

It must have varied a lot, and it was often collected in kind, which makes comparison difficult. Tacitus records a case of a German tribe which was required to pay tribute in ox hides, as the army needed leather. They didn't have cows which were big enough to produce skins of the size required, and they were treated so badly over it they rebelled. How would you compare that with Judea, where the Romans probably continued the Hasmonean practice of collecting tribute in grain, or with the Temple tax, which was paid in silver?

Client kings must have collected their own taxes, which would have included whatever they passed on to Rome. Antipas indulged in a grandiose building programme like his father's, without having a large kingdom to pay for it. So how would taxation under him have compared with that in Judea, which was under direct rule for much of his reign? The more you look, ther more questions there are.
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mauseus
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« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2009, 10:29:06 am »

Hi,
That's it. I think it's actually "Money and Government in the Roman Empire" R.P Duncan-Jones (1994)
Yes, Duncan-Jones (Elmore Jones collected hammered silver pennies I think).

Regards,

Mauseus
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