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p1184 Vectigalia

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D, F.R.S.E, Rector of the High School of Edinburgh,
on pp1184‑1185 of

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

VECTIGALIA, the general term for all the regular revenues of the Roman state (Cic. pro Leg. Manil. 6). The word is derived from veho, and is generally believed to have originally signified the duties paid upon things imported and exported (quae vehebantur). If this were true, it would necessarily imply that these duties were either the most ancient or the most important branch of the Roman revenues, and that for either of these reasons the name was subsequently used to designate all the regular revenues in general. But neither point is borne out by the history of Rome, and it seems more probable that vectigal means anything which is brought (vehitur) into the public treasury, like the Greek φόρος. The earliest regular income of the state was in all probability the rent paid for the use of the public land and pastures. This revenue was called pascua, a name which was used as late as the time of Pliny (H.N. XVIII.3), in the tables or registers of the censors for all the revenues of the state in general.

The senate was the supreme authority in all matters of finance, but as the state itself did not occupy itself with collecting the taxes, duties, and tributes, the censors were entrusted with the actual business. These officers, who in this respect may not unjustly be compared to modern ministers of finance, used to let the various branches of the revenue to the publicani for a fixed sum, and for a certain number of years. [Censor, Publicani.]

As most of the branches of the public revenues of Rome are treated of in separate articles, it is only necessary to give a list of them here, and to explain those which have not been treated of separately.

1. The tithes paid to the state by those who occupied the ager publicus. [Decumae; Agrariae Leges.]

2. The sums paid by those who kept their cattle on the public pastures. [Scriptura.]

3. The harbour duties raised upon imported and exported commodities. [Portorium.]

4. The revenue derived from the salt-works. [Salinae.]

5. The revenues derived from the mines (metalla). This branch of the public revenue cannot have been very productive until the Romans had become the masters of foreign countries. Until that time the mines of Italy appear to have been worked, but this was forbidden by the senate after the conquest of foreign lands (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.4,º XXXVII.13). The mines of conquered countries were treated like the salinae, that is, they were partly left to individuals, companies, or towns on condition of a certain rent being paid (Plin. H. N. XXXIV.1; Cic. Philip. II.19), or they were worked for the direct account of the state, or were farmed by the publicani. In the last case, however, it appears always to have been fixed by the lex censoria how many labourers or slaves the publicani should be allowed to employ in a particular mine, as otherwise they would have been able to derive the most enormous profits (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.4). Among the most productive mines belonging to the republic we may mention the rich gold-mines near Aquileia (Polyb. XXXIV.10), the gold-mines of Ictimuli near Vercelli, in which 25,000 men were constantly employed (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.4;º Strab. V. p151), and lastly the silver-mines in Spain in the neighbourhood of Carthago Nova, which yielded every day 25,000 drachmas to the Roman aerarium (Polyb. XXXIV.9; cf. Liv. XXXIV.21). Macedonia, Thrace, Illyricum, Africa, Sardinia, and other places also contained very productive mines, from which Rome derived considerable income.

6. The hundredth part of the value of all things which were sold (centesima rerum venalium). This tax was not instituted at Rome until the time of the civil wars; the persons who collected it were called coactores (Cic. Ep. ad Brut. I.18, pro Rab. Post. 11). Tiberius reduced this tax to a two-hundredth (ducentesima), and Caligula abolished it for Italy altogether, whence upon several coins of the emperor we read R.C.C., that is, Remissa Ducentesima (Tac. Ann. I.78, II.42; Suet. Calig. 16). According to Dion Cassius (LVIII.16, LIX.9) Tiberius restored the centesima, which was afterwards abolished by Caligula (cf.  Dig. 50 tit. 16 s17 § 1). Respecting the tax raised upon the sale of slaves see Quinquagesima.

7. The vicesima hereditatium et manumissionum. [Vicesima.]

8. The tribute imposed upon foreign countries was by far the most important branch of the public revenue during the time of Rome's greatness. It was sometimes raised at once, sometimes paid by instalments, and sometimes changed into a poll-tax, which was in many cases regulated according to the census (Cic. c. Verr. II.53, 55, &c.; Paus. VII.16). In regard to Cilicia and Syria we know that this tax amounted to one per cent. of a person's census, to which a tax upon houses and slaves was added (Cic. ad Fam. III.8, ad Att. V.16; Appian, de Reb. Syr. 50). In some cases the tribute was not paid according to the census, but consisted in a land-tax (Appian, de Bell. Civil. V.4; cf. Walter, Gesch. des Röm. Rechts, p224 &c.).

9. A tax upon bachelors. [Aes Uxorium.]

10. A door-tax. [Ostiarium.]

11. The octavae. In the time of Caesar all liberti living in Italy and possessing property of 200 sestertia, and above it, had to pay a tax consisting of the eighth part of their property (Dion Cass. L.10).

It would be interesting to ascertain the amount of income which Rome at various periods derived p1185from these and other sources; but our want of information renders it impossible. We have only the general statement that previously to the time of Pompey the annual revenue amounted to fifty millions of drachmas, and that it was increased by him to eighty-five millions (Plut. Pomp. 45). Respecting the sums contained at different times in the aerarium at Rome, see Pliny, H. N. XXXIII.17.

(Burmann, de Vectig. Pop. Romani; Hegewisch, Versuch über die Röm. Finanzen; Bosse, Grundzüge des Finanzwesens im Röm. Staat; Dureau de la Malle, Economie Politique des Romains, Paris, 2 vols. 8vo.).


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