tithes or tenths.
The Greek writers use the word δεκάτη
somewhat loosely, applying it indiscriminately to a tithe of
agricultural products and to any tax of 10 per cent. on incomes or
commodities. In the heroic age the τεμένη
or domain lands by which royalty was supported must
unquestionably have paid rents in kind, but whether a fixed or a
proportionate quantity of produce is not recorded. The statement that
the kings also exacted a tithe (of their subjects' lands is meant, for
the amount of rent was of course much higher on their own) is accepted
with some qualification by Schömann (Antiq.
1.33, E. T.); but it rests only on a pretended letter of Pisistratus to
Solon (ap. Diog. Laert, 1.53), which, as Grote with his strong common
sense had already remarked, “ought not to be considered as proving
anything” (ch. 30, 3.92 n.). Under the Spartan constitution
the subject classes paid a fixed amount of corn and other produce,
calculated on an average crop, the Helots to their masters, the Perioeci
to the state (Müller, Dor.
so that all the risks of bad seasons fell upon the cultivators. Tithes
were, however, exacted from very early times in the despotically
governed East, by Persian satraps as by Turkish pashas at the present
day; and in the age of the tyrants were doubtless not unusual in Greece.
Cypselus vowed to dedicate the whole property of the Corinthians to Zeus
if he made himself master of the city; in order to fulfil his vow
without ruining them, he compelled them to make a return (ἀπογράψασθαι
and took a tithe annually for
ten years ([Aristot.] Oecon.
2.2). A tithe
of corn at Cranon in Thessaly, of unknown date, is mentioned by
). The particular instance
of a tithe on the produce of the land (τῶν
) imposed by Pisistratus and reduced to an
by his sons is accepted by
Boeckh and his recent editor Fränkel (P. E.
3 1.398), as well as by
historians, Grote only excepted. But, setting aside the spurious letter
of Pisistratus already referred to, this statement appears to be a
strained inference from the language of Thucydides (6.54
). The latter says nothing about a δεκάτη
: but the words he applies to the Pisistratids,
εἰκοστὴν μόνον πρασσόμενοι τῶν
have been almost uniformly explained (as by
Arnold and Classen) of a halving of the tithe levied by Pisistratus
himself. The tradition was, however, that the sons were more luxurious,
and consequently more oppressive to the people, than their father
); and all probability is in favour
of Caillemer's conjecture that Pisistratus had limited his exactions to
the same amount. The word μόνον
then imply, not “as compared with their father,” but
“as compared with tyrants in general.”
Republican feeling was, however, both at Athens and elsewhere, strongly
against this form of taxation as applied to the lands of fully
enfranchised citizens (Boeckh, l.c.,
general remarks at the beginning of Book iii.; Fränkel, n.
558). Thus Demosthenes declared that the Athenians had not won their
glorious renown by “tithing themselves” (c.
p. 617.77); where δεκατεύοντες
may contain an allusion to the doubling of the
by Androtion's exactions,
but, is undoubtedly used for excessive taxation in general (cf.
1.150). Two other descriptions of tithe,
among free Greeks, remain to be considered.
1. Tithes due to temples.
These were sometimes strictly voluntary offerings; thus the ἀπαρχαὶ
might amount to a tithe, like the δεκατηφόροι
of Callimachus (Call. Del. 278
) paid to the Delian Apollo by the
Cyclades, and even by more distant countries. Again, a proprietor
might charge his land in perpetuity with the payment of tithe to a
specified temple, and by so doing he imparted to the whole estate a
quasi sacred character, like that of church lands in modern times.
This, as Caillemer has well pointed out, might be done from
prudential motives, in order to place it under the shelter of
religious sanctions in times of war and insecurity. The best known
instance of this kind is that of Xenophon, who built a temple of
Artemis on his estate at Scillus near Olympia, established a
festival, and endowed it with the tithe of all produce, including
game. He not only kept up the sacrifices during his lifetime
(δεκατεύων . . . θυσίας
), but by an inscription on a stele he bound all
future occupiers of the estate to do the same “on pain of the
displeasure of the goddess;” the whole transaction having
been carried out under the advice of the Delphic oracle. The only
sanction, it is clear, was the religious sentiment (Xen. Anab. 5.3
, § §
9-13). An inscription found in Ithaca is identical with that given
in the Anabasis,
and shows that some
reader of Xenophon in later times had followed his example in
building a temple and endowing it with tithes.
But such tithes were not always voluntary, or binding on the
conscience only; they were sometimes imposed as a badge of conquest.
Thus at the time of the Persian war the confederate Greeks made a
vow, by which all those who had joined the enemy without compulsion
were condemned to pay tithes to the god of [p. 1.604]
Delphi (Hdt. 7.132
); and as the
Thebans were the greatest offenders, the proverb arose ἐλπὶς ἦν δεκατευθῆναι τὰς Θήβας
(Xen. Hell. 6.3
, § 20;
5.35). At Athens, the δεκάται τῆς
(Dem. c. Timocr.
comprised a tithe of the spoils of war (ib. p. 741.129; Lys.
§ 24); of certain fines,
e. g. those imposed for the extirpation of olive-trees (Lex ap. Dem.
p. 1074.71); and either of all or a
large proportion of confiscated property, notably in cases of
treason or κατάλυσις τοῦ δήμου
(Lex ap. Andoc. de Myst.
§ 96; Xen. Hell. 1.7
, § 10, the six
generals after Arginusae; ib. § 20, the famous psephisma of
Cannonus [cf. Grote, ch. 64, 5.524 n.]; Vit. X. Oratt.
834 a, the decree against Antiphon and Archeptolemus).
Boeckh, to whom these details are due, adds that “the state of
Athens owned the tithes of public demesnes, and let them in
farm” (P. E.
3 1.399): this statement, though passed without
remark by his recent learned editor, we must venture to think
erroneous. There is apparently a confusion between
“rent” and “tithe.” In the earlier chapter
on the rents of the state (book iii. ch. 2) he seems to imagine, as
intermediate between private property which admittedly paid no
tithe, and public property which of course paid a rent to the state,
certain properties which paid a tithe by way of quit-rent,
“probably because they had been originally public
property” (P. E.
3 1.373). That the
state should have granted away its rights on such terms seems to us
contrary to the simplicity of Attic land law, which knows no
“emphyteutic” or “copyhold” tenures.
When we come to examine the evidence on which Boeckh relies, we find
that it is limited to a single inscription (C. I. G.
76=C. I. A.
32). This is one of those discussed
in his Appendix: the words on which the question turns, καὶ τὰ ἐκ τῆς δεκάτης, ἐπειδὰν
he explains as “the proceeds of the tithe
is sold (to the
tax-farmers).” The δεκάτη
the navigation of the Hellespont and Bosporus
(Erpressungszoll von Byzanz
) cannot, he justly
argues, be intended: hence he is led to assume the existence of a
tithe of which we have no further account (Sthh.
3 2.44). It appears to us that the correct
rendering of the above words is “the proceeds of the tithe,
are sold,” and that the
reference is to the tithe of confiscated property, sold by the
2. Transit dues.
or tenth of a different
kind was the arbitrary exaction imposed by the Athenians on the
cargoes of all ships sailing into or out of the Pontus. This is
justly called by Boeckh “a mere extortion” (P.
1.396); it was an incident of their maritime supremacy, with which
it rose and fell. History first mentions it in B.C. 410 (Xen. Hell. 1.1
, § 22);
Caillemer infers from two inscriptions (C. I. A.
and 40) that it may have already existed in the early years of the
Peloponnesian War: but these inscriptions most likely refer, as we
have just seen, to another kind of δεκάτη.
After Aegospotami this tax naturally came to an
end; with the revived naval empire it was re-established by
Thrasybulus about 390 (Xen. op. cit.
§ § 27, 31); probably again lost by the peace of
Antalcidas in 387 ; in the time of Demosthenes we find it again
flourishing whenever Athenian commanders were strong enough to
enforce it (c. Lept.
p. 475.60; c.
p. 679.177; c. Phorm.
p. 917.34). A
long time afterwards, B.C. 224, the Byzantines revived this claim,
and so became involved in war with the Rhodians (Plb. 4.38
ff.). The tax was now called διαγώγιον
) or παραγώγιον
(ib. 47.3); to compel passing ships to pay it is παραγωγιάζειν
(ib. 44.4 [here Polybius
mentions the Athenian practice under Alcibiades], 46.6). It may be
observed that Xenophon speaks only of dues exacted from ships which
came out of the Pontus, Polybius of those going to the Pontus;
Boeckh rightly combines the two accounts, and concludes that the
toll was levied in both directions.
These taxes, like many others, were farmed out by the Athenians: the
contractors were called δεκατῶναι
(Anaxil. ap. Poll. 9.29); the δεκατηλόγοι
were probably collectors under them, as
Demosthenes applies this name to the employés
of Charidemus at Sestos (c.
l.c.); the title δεκατευταὶ
seems to have included both (Harpocrat.,
s. v.). These are to be distinguished
from the πεντηκοστολόγοι
legitimate import duties, though Schömann
1.450, E. T.) classes them together. The
special customhouse for these tithes was δεκατευτήριον
, § 22): Fränkel rightly insists
that there were no such places in Attica, where “tithes are
scarcely mentioned” (n. 558). (Most of the above
materials are in Boeckh; but in critical treatment Caillemer (ap. D.
and S., s. v. Dekaté
) is decidedly
superior. The latter does not notice the titheable lands in Attica,
inferred by Boeckh from the single inscription; and, it may be
presumed, does not believe that they existed.)
. We read of
Pisistratus (Ἀθ. πολ.
ἐπράττετο γὰρ ἀπὸ τῶν γιγνομένων
This is direct evidence for the tithe. which
has hitherto been merely inferred from Thuc.
. The difficulty still remains, that the sons who
levied only an εἰκοστὴ
stated to have been more oppressive than their father. They may have
lightened this particular tax, and levied others more
The nature of the Roman state or domain land (ager
) has been fully explained under AGRARIAE LEGES
50, 51). We may here briefly repeat that these lands were the
confiscated territory of conquered enemies; that they were dealt with in
four different ways, either sold by the quaestor (agri quaestorii
), granted in full (quiritarian) ownership
to Roman citizens (agri dati adsignati
given back to their former proprietors (agri
), or lastly, retained in the ownership of the state as
national property, but let to individuals in occupation (possessio
), i.e. subject to a right of re-entry.
On the three former classes of lad no rent was imposed: the last paid
(or were supposed to pay) a rent called vectigal,
and hence were known as agri
The facts that the ager
passed almost wholly into the hands of the
patricians, and that the possessory owners, in spite of agrarian laws
and Licinian rogations, practically succeeded in ousting the state from
its proprietary rights, belong to the civil history of Rome, and need
not be treated here: the legal aspects of these questions will be found
under LEX LICINIA, SEMPRONIA, and THORIA.
What was the amount of the vectigal? Many modern writers, following
Niebuhr (Hist. Rom.
2.138), say that it was
a tenth, and consequently apply the name decumae to the (often withheld)
rents of the ager publicus
in Italy. But in
fixing this amount Niebuhr seems to [p. 1.605]
guided by the analogy of Eastern countries, especially of the Hebrews.
His only direct authority is a passage of Appian (App. BC 1.7
), already quoted at length
under AGRARIAE LEGES
(p. 52 b
); and even this refers, not to the
conquered lands in general, but to those which were uncultivated when
taken over. Speaking of the same period, Plutarch calls the vectigal
᾿αποφορὰν οὐ πολλήη
8). Livy, in his many references to the early
struggles for the enforcement of this rent, never once applies the term
to it: he only uses the word in
the two senses which we shall notice further on. The same may be
confidently asserted of the classical writers in general. There can be
no doubt that the amount is really unknown; and Marquardt, while
treating of the ager publicus
very judiciously passes this
point over in silence (Staatsverw.
questions respecting this source of revenue will be treated under its
proper title, VECTIGAL: see also SCRIPTURA
In the provinces the case was different. The Romans took over the tithes
they found already existing in conquered countries; and we find the
system at once applied to the earliest constituted provinces, Sicily,
Sardinia (including Corsica), and the Hispaniae. In three successive
years (B.C. 191-189), a double tithe (alterae
) was required from Sicily and Sardinia, and ordered to
be sent to the seat of war in the East (Liv.
). The second tenth was however paid for (frumenetum emptum:
see below). On the other hand, Spain as a
less fertile country, after a period of oppression by its Roman
governors, was let off with a vicesima
otherwise eased of its burdens (B.C. 171, Liv.
). Towards the end of the republic the system was so far
modified, that we find the decumae eo
existing only in two provinces, Sicily and proconsular
Asia. In these it took the place of the STIPENDIUM
It was the legal doctrine that the dominium
or ownership of all provincial land was in the Roman people, or, in the
language of imperial times, in the Roman people or the Caesar (Gaius,
2.7; cf. Long's Cicero, vol. i.
p. 273; Marquardt,
2.177). On this was based the system of
taxation concisely described by Cicero in his great speech de Frumento
and elucidated by Savigny (Verm. Schriften,
). “All the provinces except
Sicily,” says Cicero, “pay either a fixed land-tax
(aut impositum est vectigal certum quod
stipendiarium dicitur, ut Hispanis et plerisque Poenorum, quasi
victoriae praemium ac poena belli
) ; or variable
duties, that is tenths or other quotas of produce, which last are
let at Rome by the censors” (aut censoria
locatio est, ut Asiae, lege Sempronia:
in other words, the
decumae of Asia, on which see below). “Sicily, on the other hand,
has the following constitution: two civitates
and five others sine
foedere immunes ac liberae
are tax-free; a few which
have come under the Roman dominion by conquest, lost the ownership
of their land, but received it back on condition of paying certain
dues, which are let (that is, they have the same terms as other
provinces); all the rest of the land is subject to the payment of
decumae, yet so that the law of Hiero is observed.” These
decumae were of wheat and barley, wine, oil, and fruges minutae,
i.e. vegetables, among which beans are
especially mentioned (Marquardt); they were paid in kind, and, like
modern English tithes, were a burden on the land only, not on the person
3.86.199). The law of Hiero (lex Hieronica
) is explained a little further on
(6.14); the tithes of each city were to be let separately, at Syracuse
and nowhere else, and the citizens were to have the option of bidding
for them so as to keep their affairs in their own hands; they were let
according to the estimates (professiones,
49.102) by the people themselves of the cultivated area of each
territory. This law was dear to the Sicilians as inherited from a
popular king ( § 15): it was fair both to the decumani,
as the farmers of the tithe were
called, and to the aratores
who paid it
(8.20). Just before the praetorship of Verres, i. e. in B.C. 74, an
attempt had been made to transfer the lettings to Rome; but it had been
successfully resisted, and no one except Verres had violated the
Whatever corn was wanted
in addition, was paid for by the state: this was, in the first place,
the frumentum in cellam
or frumentum aestimatum,
for the support of the
praetor and his officials (cohors
), and for
which money was granted him by way of “table allowance”
(81.188 ff.); next, a second decuma if required by the senate or Roman
people, of which we have seen examples (frumentum
70.163 ff.); lastly, if still further requisitions
were made by the government, frumentum
for which a higher price was paid than for the
From this last burden no cities
were exempt (ibid.
). All these had been
perverted by Verres into engines of extortion. A single example will
suffice; he began with an edict quantum decumanus
edidisset aratorem sibi dare oportere, ut tantum orator decumano
(10.25). These decumani
were the most important, in this province at least,
of the publicani
or farmers of the revenue;
they had been in league with Verres in his acts of oppression, and had
secretly agreed to destroy all compromising records (in
2.71.173). The temptation on both sides must be admitted
to have been great, in the case of rulers less profligate than Verres.
It was easier for the governor to share the illicit gains of the
than to resist them
effectually at the risk of incurring their vengeance on laying down his
office; and the state, under the senatorial régime,
was powerless against the two combined. The
imperial system was the only possible way to avert the ruin of the
The agrarian law of C. Gracchus, B.C. 123, the first legal provision for
selling corn to the poor of Rome under cost price, had looked to the
province of Asia as a main source of supply; and from that time till the
year of Pharsalia (B.C. 48) that province paid decumae, with the
difference however that the lettings were by the censors at Rome, not,
as in Sicily, on the spot. Hence the phrase in Cicero already quoted,
“censoria locatio est, ut Asiae, lege Sempronia”
3.6.12). The tithes of each city were let
separately, and natives ( “Asiani,”
1.17.9) might be bidders as well as Romans: Greek
met Cicero at Ephesus
5.13.1): Falcidius, perhaps a former [p. 1.606]
tribunus militum and legatus (pro Lege
19.58), bought the fructus
of Tralles for 900,000 sesterces, and was thought to
have corruptly obtained a cheap bargain (pro Flacc.
37.91). It is an argument with Cicero for the “imperium
Pompeii” against the pirates, B.C. 66, that Asia, naturally the
richest of the provinces, had become unable to pay its decumae and other
dues (pro Leg. Manil.
6, § § 14, 15).
The exactions, after peace was restored, continued intolerable, and
Cicero admits that the Roman taxation (scriptura,
) was hated like death (pro
8.19; B.C. 59). At last Caesar, after his victory,
“got rid of the publicani
changed the decumae into a stipendium
” (τοὺς γοῦν
τελώνας πικρότατά σφισι χρωμένους ἀπαλλάξας, ἐς φόρου
συντέλειαν τὸ συμβαῖνον ἐκ τῶν τελῶν κατεστήσατο,
D. C. 42.6
). A little later, probably when
the conquest of Egypt had opened up another great corn country, the
decumae in Sicily were likewise abolished: Pliny (Plin. Nat. 3.91
) calls most of the
2.185; Humbert, ap. D. and S., s. v.
At Rome, as in Greece, we find from a very early period tithes of the
spoil dedicated to the gods after important victories. Camillus vowed a
tenth of the spoil of Veii to the Pythian Apollo (Liv. 5.21
). In later times ambitious men dedicated a
tenth to Hercules, and spent the money in feasting the people as a means
of acquiring popularity: Sulla did this after his triumph, Crassus after
his consulship (Plut. Sull. 35
2). Hence Herculanea
Hercules' share, is used as equivalent to a tenth part
by Plautus (Truc.
2.7, 11; cf. Bacch.
1.3, 80). Cn. Aufidius Orestes carried his
consulship in B.C. 71 by treating the people to luncheons (prandia
) in the streets decumae nomine,
on pretence of its being a tithe-offering
(Cic. de Off. 2.1.
, § 58, with Holden's note). The decuma of Hercules is
often mentioned in inscriptions of the republican period, but in none
later than Augustus (C. I. L.
1113, 1175, 1290, with
Mommsen's remarks 1.149 ff.; Inscr. Regn. Neap.
5756 ; Varro, L. L.
; Marquardt, Staatsverw.