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Ancient Taxation

Discussion in 'Research' started by trentonian7, Mar 28, 2016.

  1. trentonian7

    trentonian7 Troubadour

    As the title suggests, this post regards ancient taxation, but also state owned resources.

    My curiosity arose with board games of all places, where repeatedly, while playing as a civilization, I collected resources and commodities from territories and then used these to build and expand my power.

    What I'm wondering is, where did ancient governments acquire materials for building projects? Did they control access to certain resources? How frequent were non- monetary resources accepted as tax?

    If I, as ruler of Rome or Carthage or Ptolemaic Egypt or Macedon, were to begin construction of a palace or city walls, etc- would I use collected tax to purchase material, would I use stone from state-owned quarries, or might I accept tax in the form of stone?

    Also, when rulers accepted non- monetary taxation, what were collected resources used for?
  2. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    Well I know for ancient rome taxes were hired out to the highest bidder. Basically the highest bidding tax collector would be hired to go and tax a region, if he collected more than the bidding amount he could keep the rest. These taxes were used for various salaries and building projects, however people of influence tended to build public works such as theaters, forums, arenas, and other buildings for the glory of Rome and to strengthen their own influence. Most often said materials were owned by prominent wealthy citizens, most often senators.

    Non monetary taxes, I would assume they were accepted but I don't know. I do know that levies were taken from the allies as a form or in addition to taxes but I don't remember exactly.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    As a general rule-of-thumb, the king or state owns everything in the ground. Lakes, rivers, mines, quarries, even forests. Athens had silver mines worked by state-owned slaves. Macedonia had a gold mine. The Romans had the infamous mines in Sicily but others elsewhere as well. The philosophy extended into the Middle Ages with various dukes or counts, in addition to kings, holding a wide variety of natural resources.

    All that said, I'm sure at least some purchasing had to happen. The closest I can come to a specific example would be the stones used by Brunelleschi in building the dome over the cathedral of Florence (15th century). Those were city purchases.
  4. Russ

    Russ Istar

    While Rome had a very sophisticated forms of taxation, in many cases temples and other public works were built out of the private funds of individuals who were trying to impress the public, often including emperors.

    Taxation in history is actually a huge and varied subject, and a good one to be raised.

    In a larger polis the development of taxes actually went along with the development of coinage and bills of exchange etc as a practical matter.

    Think of it this way. Say you are the Roman emperor and you want to tax your subjects in say Spain. Taxing them in kind becomes impractical because of the cost of moving all those chickens (or whatever) all the way to Rome were you want them. Thus you need coin, mints, middle men, exchange rates etc.

    Questions of taxation and inflation would often have a big role to play in Roman policy. Some scholars argue that the reason that the Romans never conquered all of Germany was not the fierceness of the tribes there but rather the fact that they believed that the Germans did not have a sophisticated enough economy to allow them to be taxed properly thus not making it worthwhile to conquer them.
    TheKillerBs likes this.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    That's what Varus tried to pitch! :)

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