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p1196 Vicesima

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p1196 of

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

VICE′SIMA, a tax of five per cent. Every Roman, when he manumitted a slave, had to pay to the state a tax of one-twentieth of this value, whence the tax was called vicesima manumissionis. This tax appears to have been levied from the earliest times, and was not abolished when all other imposts were done away with in Rome and Italy (Liv. VII.16, XXVII.10; Cic. ad Att. II.16). Caracalla raised this tax to a decima, that is, ten per cent., but Macrinus again reduced it to the old standard (Dion Cass. LXXVII.9, LXXVIII.12). The persons employed in collecting it were called Vicesimarii (Petron. Fragm. Tragur. 65; Orelli, Inscript. n3333, &c.).

A tax called vicesima hereditatium et legatorum was introduced by Augustus (Lex Julia Vicesimaria): it consisted of five per cent. which every Roman citizen had to pay to the aerarium militare, upon any inheritance or legacy left to him, with the exception of such as were left to a citizen by his nearest relatives, and such as did not amount to above a certain sum (Dion Cass. LV.25, LVI.28; Plin. Paneg. 37, &c.; Capitol. M. Antonin. 11). Peregrini and Latini who had become Roman citizens had, in a legal sense, no relative, and were therefore obliged in all cases to pay the vicesima hereditatium (Plin. Paneg. l.c.). As only citizens had to pay this tax, Caracalla, in order to make it more productive, granted the franchise to all the subjects of the empire, and at the same time raised it to ten per cent. (decima), but Macrinus again reduced it to five (Dion Cass. LXXVII.9, LXXVIII.12), and at last it was abolished entirely. It was levied in Italy and the provinces by procuratores appointed for the purpose, and who are mentioned in many inscriptions as procuratores XX hereditatium, or ad vectigal XX heredit. But these officers generally sold it for a round sum to the publicani, which the latter had to pay in to the praefects of the aerarium militare (Plin. Epist. VII.14, Paneg. 37).


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