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§ 1. Finance

THE Imperial revenue in the Middle Ages proceeded from the same principal sources as in the earlier ages of the Empire: taxation and the profits on the Imperial estates. The machinery for collecting the revenue had perhaps been little altered, but the central ministries which controlled the machinery had been considerably changed. The various financial and cognate departments which had been subject to the authority of the two great financial ministers and the Praetorian Prefects, under the system introduced by Constantine, are now distributed among eight mutually independent ministries.1

The Logothete or Accountant of the General Treasury, or, as he was briefly called, the General Logothete, had inherited the most important duties of the Count of the Sacred Largesses. He ordered and controlled the collection of all the taxes. He was the head of the army of surveyors, controllers, and collectors of the land and hearth taxes,2 and of the host of commerciarii or officers of the customs.

The Military Logothete administered the treasury which defrayed the pay of the soldiers and other military expenses, which used to be furnished from the chests of the Praetorian Prefects.3 The Wardrobe and the Special Treasury 5 were

1 See Bury, Imperial Administrative System, 78 sqq.

2 ἐποπταί, διοικηταί, πράκτορες (ib.

87, 89).

3 Ib. 90.


βεστιάριον (to be distinguished from the Private Wardrobe, οἰκειακὸν BEOT., which was under the Protovestiarios, an eunuch). Ib. 95.

5 Tò Eidikov. Its master was called ὁ ἐπὶ τοῦ εἰδικοῦ,

Ib. 98.

stores for all kinds of material used for military and naval purposes; on the occasion of a warlike expedition they supplied sails and ropes, hides, tin and lead, and innumerable things required for the equipment. The President of the Special Treasury controlled the public factories, and the Chartulary of the Wardrobe was also master of the mint.

The estates of the Crown, which were situated chiefly in the Asiatic provinces, were controlled by two central offices. The revenues were managed by the Chartulary of the Sakellion, the estates were administered by the Great Curator.1 The pastures in western Asia Minor, however, where horses and mules were reared for the military service, were under the stewardship of another minister, the Logothete of the Herds, while the military stables of Malagina were directed by an important and independent officer, the Count of the Stable.2 These latter offices had been in earlier times subordinated to the Count of the Private Estate.


The Sakellion was the central treasury of the State. have no particular information concerning the methods of disbursement and allocation, or the relations between the various bureaux. But we may suppose that the General Logothete, who received the income arising from taxation, paid directly to other departments the various standing expenses which were defrayed from this revenue, and handed over the surplus to the Sakellion. This treasury, which received directly the net income furnished by the rents of the Private Estates, would thus have contained the specie available for the expenses of military expeditions, for buildings and public works, for the extravagances of the Court and all the private expenses of the Emperor. The annual savings, if savings were effected, seem to have passed into the personal custody of the sovran, so that Irene was able to conceal the treasure which she had accumulated.3

The Sakellion itself was under the control of the chief financial minister, the Sakellarios, who acted as general comptroller. The special financial ministries were not subordinate to him, but he had the right and duty to inquire

1 Ib. 93, 100.

2 Ib. 111, 113.

3 The inference is borne out by the fact that Theodora personally handed

over the accumulated savings of her husband's reign and her own regency. This would not have been necessary if they had lain in the Sakellion.

into their accounts, and was doubtless responsible for all disbursements from the Sakellion.1

Bullion, furnished by the State mines, came to the General Logothete, who must have sent it to the Wardrobe to be coined, while other bullion might be deposited before mintage in the Special Treasury. From the Wardrobe the coins would pass to the Sakellion.

The two principal direct taxes, on which the Imperial finance rested, were the land-tax and the hearth-tax. These had always been the two pillars of the treasury, for the hearthtax was only a modification of the old capitation, being levied, not on the free man and woman, but on the household.2 The population of cities, including the capital, did not pay the hearth-tax, at least in the eastern provinces. The leaseholders on the Imperial estates were not exempted from the land-tax, which all landed proprietors and tenants paid; and the householders of Constantinople and the other cities were burdened by an analogous charge on sites, which was known as the "urban tribute." The uniform hearth rate was probably combined in the same schedules with the other tax and collected by the same officials.* Other sources of income were the toll on receipts (an income-tax of the most odious form, which Irene was praised for abolishing), death duties, judicial fines, and, above all, the duties levied on imports, which must have amounted to a substantial sum.

The unpopular fiscal measures of the Emperor Nicephorus, which are briefly recapitulated by a hostile monk, afford us a vague glimpse into the obscure financial conditions of the Empire. His official experience as General Logothete had enabled him to acquire an expert knowledge of financial details which few sovrans possessed, and he was convinced that the resources of the State were suffering and its strength endangered by the policy of laxity and indulgence which had been adopted by Irene. In the first year of his reign there was a severe taxation, which may have driven many to embrace the cause of the rebel Bardanes.5 We may

1 Ib. 82.

2 Zacharia v. L. Zur Kenntniss des röm. Steuerwesens, 9-13.

Monnier, Études de droit byz. xviii. 485, and xix. 75, 98, has made

it probable that the πολιτικοὶ φόροι represent the capitatio terrena applied

to towns.

4 Zacharia v. L. ib. 12.

5 See Cont. Th. 8 (TÓTE=July 803).

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.).3 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, Ιστορία 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 αναβιβάζεσθαι; just as (ib.) παρέχοντας καὶ κτλ. explains ἐξοπλίζεσθαι. The context shows that the tax was only on the fiscal acquittances, not, as Finlay says, public documents." Both he and Monnier think that ȧvà кep. B' means two keratia in the nomisma, that is


one-twelfth, but obviously ȧvá means here each taxpayer (cp. ib. ȧvà voμσuáтwv). The charge was simply two keratia (=1 miliarision), whatever the amount of the payment. If we remember that the kapnikon was a uniform charge of only four keratia, we can find no difficulty in the smallness of the new tax.

2 All the holdings of which the possessio consisted were termed for fiscal purposes ὁμόδουλα.

* Theoph. ib. προσέταξε στρατεύεσθαι τοὺς πτωχοὺς καὶ ἐξοπλίζεσθαι παρὰ τῶν ὁμοχώρων, παρέχοντας καὶ ἀνὰ ὀκτω

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