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probably conjecture that his severity consisted in restoring wholly or partly the taxes which his predecessor had recently abolished. We may be.disposed to believe that he acquiesced in the disappearance of the tax on receipts, for if he had revived it, his enemies, who complained of all his financial measures, would hardly have failed to include in their indictment the revival of a burden so justly odious. But we may reasonably assume that he restored the custom duties, which were levied at the toll-houses of Abydos and Hieron, to their former figure, and that he imposed anew upon Constantinople the urban tribute, which Irene had inequitably remitted.
But seven years later, in A.D. 809, in view perhaps of the imminent struggle with the Bulgarians, he prepared a formidable array of new measures to replenish the sinking contents of the treasury.1
I. In all cases where taxes had been reduced in amount, they were raised again to the original sum. It is possible that this applied to reductions which had been allowed during the preceding twenty years.
II. The kapnikon or hearth-tax, which had replaced the old capitation-tax, was a fixed annual charge of two miliarisia (2s.). But monastic and religious institutions, orphanages, hospitals, homes for the aged, although legally liable, had been exempted from payment for many years with the connivance of the government. We cannot hesitate to ascribe this inequitable favour to the policy of the pious Empress Irene. It was monstrous that the tenants on the monastic lands should be free. from the burden which was imposed on all other farms and estates. Religious institutions multiplied rapidly; private persons were constantly founding new monasteries; and there was a prospect that every year the proceeds of the hearth-tax would suffer further diminution. Nicephorus was fully justified in insisting that this exemption, unauthorised by law, should cease, and in forcing the institutions which had not contri
1 Theoph. A.M. 6302=A.D. 809-810. See Finlay, 98; Paparrhegopulos, Ἱστορία τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ ἔθνους, ed. 2, iii. 565 sqq.; but especially Monnier, op. cit. xix. 67 sqq.
2 This was the limit in the case of some other measures; see below. Monnier, ib. 69, thinks that the re
missions of A.D. 801 were not reversed till now.
3 See Cont. Th. 54.
4 Both Finlay and Monnier approve the measure. Theophanes specially mentions Imperial monasteries, but it applied a fortiori to others, as Monnier observes.
buted their due share to the maintenance of the State to pay the arrears of the tax since the year of his own accession.
III. The land-tax, which continued to be the most important source of revenue, was the most troublesome to adjust and to control. Nicephorus ordered that a new survey should be made, and that the tax should be raised in amount by the charge of a shilling on the receipt which the tax-collector delivered.1 In the case of large estates there was no difficulty in collecting the duties; the whole property 2 was liable for a fixed sum, and if some tenants were too poor to pay, it did not matter to the fisc. But great estates (which were to increase in number and extent in the course of the ninth and tenth centuries) seem at this time not to have been numerous; small proprietorship prevailed. The system which the government employed to secure the treasury against loss when a farmer failed or could not make his land yield the necessary margin of profit did not work satisfactorily. The farms of a commune were grouped together for this purpose, and if one farmer was insolvent, the amount for which he was liable was distributed as an extra-charge (epibole) among the other members of the group. For poorer members this imposition was a considerable hardship, and the circumstance that Nicephorus deemed it expedient to modify the system seems to show that there were many cases of small proprietors reduced to penury. So far as we can interpret our brief record of his measure, he sought to devolve the responsibility for the taxes of the poor upon their richer neighbours. The fiscal debt of a defaulting farm no longer fell upon a whole group, but upon some neighbouring proprietor, and this liability was termed Allélengyon or Mutual Security.3
1 Theoph. 486 ἐποπτεύεσθαι πάντας (this would be carried out by the ἐποπταί of the General Logothete) καὶ ἀναβιβάζεσθαι τὰ τούτων τέλη (which means, as Monnier rightly says, a raising of the amount), παρέχοντας καὶ χαρτιατικῶν ἕνεκα ἀνὰ κερατίων β'. The last clause explains ἀναβιβάζεσθαι; just as (ib.) παρέχοντας καὶ κτλ. explains ἐξοπλίζεσθαι. The context shows that the tax was only on the fiscal acquittances, not, as Finlay says, "on public documents." Both he and Monnier think that ȧvà кep. B' means two keratia in the nomisma, that is
But what was to happen to the indigent defaulter? Nicephorus enrolled him as a soldier, compelling the same more prosperous neighbour to provide for his military equip- \ ment by paying the sum of eighteen and a half nomismata (£11: 2s.).1 We are not told whether this sum was regarded as a price for the land, which ought to have been transferred to the possession of the neighbour who was held responsible for it, or even whether the proprietor was compelled to sell it.
The growth of monastic property was an economic evil which was justly regarded by Nicephorus with disquietude, and he adopted the heroic measure of incorporating in the Imperial domains the better lands of some rich monasteries. We cannot doubt that the transaction took the form of a compulsory sale, the price being fixed by the treasury; it is impossible to suppose that it was naked confiscation, which would have been alien to the methods of Roman policy.2 But the taxes which had been paid on the entire property continued to be exacted, according to our informant, from the diminished estates of the monks. We know too little of the conditions and provisions to enable us to pronounce whether this measure was unreasonably oppressive; but it is clear that Nicephorus was prepared to brave the odium which always descended upon the medieval statesman who set the economic interests of the State above those of its monastic parasites.
But if Nicephorus increased his domains at the expense of pious institutions, he also alienated portions of the Imperial estates, and the motives of this policy are obscure. It is καίδεκα ἡμίσους νομισμάτων τῷ δημοσίῳ καὶ ἀλληλεγγύως τὰ δημόσια. The passage has been elucidated by Monnier (90 sqq.). Zacharia v. Lingenthal (Gr.-röm. Recht, 235 n. 763) inter
preted ὁμόχωροι as "die Besitzer von
years later was pursued by Basil II. The same writer observes that the new principle tended to break down the distinction between ouóкŋvσa and ouódovla as separate fiscal unities, and condemns it as a triumph over "good sense, tradition, and justice" (p. 97). It was certainly a defeat of tradition.
1 Cp. last note.
2 If no price had been paid, Theophanes would assuredly have used stronger language.
3 It is quite possible that this obligation applied only to the first year after the act; or it may have been taken into account in fixing the purchase money.
recorded as a hardship that he sold Imperial lands on the coasts of Asia Minor, at a fixed price, to unwilling purchasers, who, accustomed to sea-faring and trade, knew little or nothing about agriculture. Here again we must remember that the case is presented by an enemy, and that we are ignorant of all the circumstances of the alleged coercion.
IV. In his diligent quest of ways and means, the sudden acquisition of wealth, which we might now classify under the title of unearned increment, did not escape the notice of Nicephorus as a suitable object of taxation. He imposed heavy charges upon those who could be proved to have suddenly risen from poverty to affluence through no work or merit of their own. He treated them as treasure-finders, and thus brought them under the law of Justinian by which treasure-trove was confiscated.1 The worst of this measure was that it opened a fruitful field to the activity of informers. V. Death duties were another source of revenue which
claimed the Emperor's attention. The tax of 5 per cent on inheritances which had been instituted by the founder of the Empire seems to have been abolished by Justinian; 2 but a duty of the same kind had been reimposed, and was extended to successions in the direct line, which had formerly been exempted. The lax government of Irene had allowed the tax to be evaded, by some at least of those who inherited property from their fathers or grandfathers; and when Nicephorus ordered that it should be exacted from all who had so inherited during the last twenty years, many poor men were in consternation.
VI. It is remarkable that a statesman possessing the financial experience of Nicephorus should have shared the ancient prejudice against usury so far as to forbid the lending of money at interest altogether. The deliverance of society from the evils attendant upon merciless usury was dearly purchased by the injury which was inflicted upon industry and trade. The enterprise of merchants who required capital was paralyzed, and Nicephorus was forced to come to their
1 Theoph. 4879. The measure was retrospective for twenty years.
2 C.I. 6, 23, 33; Monnier, xix. 83.
3 Monnier, ib., has pointed out that the stress lies on the words ἐκ πάππων
ἢ πατέρων in the passage of Theophanes. The words clearly imply that Nicephorus was only enforcing the payment of an old tax, which had been probably first imposed by the Heraclians or Isaurians.
He aided them in a way which was highly advantageous to the treasury. He advanced loans of twelve pounds of gold about (£518), exacting the high interest of 16 per cent.1 The government was not bound by the prohibition of private usury, which it is possible that the successor of Nicephorus prudently abolished.2
VII. The custom duties, which were levied at Abydos and had been remitted by Irene in her unscrupulous desire to conciliate the favour of Constantinople, had been immediately re-enacted by her successor. Household slaves of a superior kind were among the most valuable chattels which reached the capital by the route of the Hellespont, and the treasury profited by the cooks and pages and dancers who were sold to minister to the comfort and elegance of the rich families of Byzantium. But there was also a demand for these articles of luxury among the inhabitants of the Aegean coasts and islands, who could purchase them without paying the heavy charges that were exacted in the custom-houses of Abydos.3 Nicephorus abolished this immunity by imposing a tax of two gold pieces (24 shillings) a head on all such slaves who were sold to the west of the Hellespont.
The chronicler Theophanes, whose hostile pen has recorded these fiscal measures, completes his picture of the Emperor's oppressions by alleging that he used to pry into men's private affairs, employing spies to watch their domestic life and encouraging ill-disposed servants to slander or betray their masters. "His cruelties to the rich, the middle class, and the poor in the Imperial city were beyond description." In the
1 Modern commentators seem to have missed the point of this measure. Monnier implies that all ναύκληροι
were forced to borrow the sum of twelve pounds from the treasury whether they wanted it or not. This is incredible. The coercion consisted in compelling them, if they wanted a loan, to borrow a fixed sum from the State and from no other lender; other lenders were excluded by the law forbidding private usury.
2 So Monnier, xix. 89, conjectures. Usury was again forbidden by Basil, but Leo VI. (Nov. 83) permitted it, with the restriction that interest should not exceed 4 per cent.
3 Some duty must have been paid
to the kommerkiarioi in the ports, but it was a small one. Slaves who were used for rough and rural work were probably, as Monnier observes, chiefly imported from the Euxine regions, by the Bosphorus. The duty on them, which would be paid at Hieron, was doubtless trifling. Justinian established the toll-house at Abydos. παραφύλαξ ἀβυδικός or simply ἀβυδικός (ἀβυδιτικός) came to be a general term for λιμενάρχης. See M. Goudas in Buğavrís i. 468 sqq. (1909), who cites seals of κουμερκιάριοι καὶ ἀβυδικοί of Thessalonica. ἐξαβυδίζω, to pass Abydos, was used for sailing into the Aegean; see Simeon, Cont. Georg. ed. Mur. 638,.