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p628 Immunitas

An article on p628 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

IMMUNITAS (from in and munus), signifies, 1. A freedom from taxes. 2. A freedom from services which other citizens had to discharge. With respect to the first kind of immunitas we find that the emperors frequently granted it to separate persons (Suet. Aug. 40), or to certain classes of persons, or to whole states. When granted to individuals the immunitas ceased with their death, but in the case of states the privilege continued to subsequent generations (Dig. 50 tit. 15 s4 § 3). Thus we find that certain people in Illyria had immunitas from taxes (Liv. XLV.26), and that the emperor Claudius granted freedom from taxation in perpetuum to the inhabitants of Ilium (Suet. Claud. 25). The Roman soldiers from the time of Nero were exempt from all duties on goods which they might carry into the provinces for their own use or might purchase in any place (Tac. Ann. XIII.51; Cod. 4 tit. 61 s3).

The second kind of immunitas was granted to all persons who had a valid excuse (excusatio) to be released from such services, and also to other persons as a special favour. Under the republic, public offices were objects of ambition, and consequently there was no difficulty in obtaining persons to discharge them even when they were attended with expense to the individual who held them. But under the empire the case became different. Many offices which entailed expenses, such, for instance, as that of the decuriones in the municipia, were avoided rather than sought after; and hence various regulations were made at different times to define the classes of persons who were entitled to exemption (Cf. Dig. 50 tit. 6; Cod. 16 tit. 47 and 48). The definition of immunitas in this sense is given by Paulus (Dig. 50 tit. 16 s18):— "Munus — onus, quod cum remittatur, vacationem militiae munerisque praestate, indeed immunitatem appellari." The immunitas might be either general, or special, such as from military service [Exercitus, p499], from taking the office of tutor or guardian [Tutor], and the like.

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Page updated: 25 Jan 09