literally a contribution or tribute, was an extraordinary tax on property
raised at Athens in war-time only, paid both by citizens and metoeci, and
voted by the people on each occasion when it was required. The grammarians
do not always clearly distinguish between the Eisphora and the liturgies
), and Ulpian on
ii. p. 33 ε
) entirely confounds them. The Eisphora was not a liturgy,
though the προεισφορά
(see below) was one.
The property of orphans during minority was exempt from the liturgies, but
not from the Eisphora; and a trierarch, choregus, or any one otherwise
discharging a liturgy had to pay the Eisphora as well. It is not certain
when this property-tax was introduced, but it seems that it was at least
unfrequent in early times when personal service was the rule, whereas with
the increasing employment of mercenaries (ξένοι
) the necessity for it became continually greater. In the
last years of Athenian independence it was the constant complaint of
Demosthenes that the citizens would neither fight their own battles nor pay
others to fight for them.
The first Eisphora of which we have any information was imposed in B.C. 428.
The words of Thucydides (ἐσενεγκόντες τότε πρῶτον
ἐσφορὰν διακόσια τάλαντα,
3.19) have led to the inference
that this was the first of all (Boeckh, P. E.
3 1.556); but two other
explanations have been offered, (1) that this was the first on which so
large a sum as 200 talents was voted (rejected by Boeckh, perhaps too
summarily); (2) that it was simply the first in the Peloponnesian War
(Kirchhoff's view, see Fränkel on Boeckh, n. 780; preferred also by
Gilbert, p. 346). Schömann leaves the point undecided
1.457, E. T.); but the language of Antiphon
i. b, § 12) and Aristophanes (Aristoph. Kn. 924
ff.) seems to indicate
that in the early years of the Peloponnesian War it was no new invention
(compare Thuc. 1.141.4
Darstellung d. Griech. Staatsverfassunsgen,
p. 41, n. 31,
quoted in the English version of Boeckh, p. 471). However this may be, the
Athenians, even under the stress of a desperate war, had an instinctive
aversion to direct taxes; and at this period no Eisphora could be moved
without a preliminary vote of ἄδεια
proposer (C. I. A.
1.32; Gilbert, l.c.
). The psephisma which decreed the tax also named the amount to be
raised: 200 talents, Thuc. 3.19
talents, Dem. Olynth.
29.4; 500 talents, a comic exaggeration in Aristoph. Eccl. 824
, gravely pronounced impossible by Dem.
p. 185.27. Before the institution of the
symmoriae, which acted as intermediaries, the people collected the Eisphora
directly through their own agents, with confiscation as the penalty for
default. At the head of the collection were the generals, who had under
their orders the ἐκλογεῖς
subordinate tax-gatherers; it is evidently as a strategus that Cleon has the
power of punishing his enemies by high rating (Aristoph. Eq.
l.c.); just as later the same officers made out the lists of the symmoriae,
and selected the richer men for the προεισφορά
(Dem. c. Boeot.
i. p. 997.8; Wolf,
Proleg. in Lept.
p. xciv.=49 tr. Beatson; Boeckh,
1.557). For the rate of this taxation in proportion to the taxable capital,
the statement most to be relied on is that of Demosthenes in a passage
already cited (Olynth.
iii. p. 29.4). Taking 6000 talents as
the amount of taxable capital (τίμημα
speaks of a hundredth or, if the people were willing to make sacrifices, a
fiftieth as a possible rate, a twelfth as a preposterous amount which no one
would venture to propose. Figures resting only on comedy, such as the
five-hundredth part (πεντακοσιοστή,
Aristoph. Eccl. 1007
), must be
received with more caution than Boeckh has shown in admitting this species
of evidence. We have, however, proof that quite small sums might be raised
by Eisphora; 10 talents annually from 347 to 323 B.C. for the building of
the arsenal (C. I. A.
2.270). The tax of a fortieth, proposed
by one Euripides, who may have been a son or nephew of the great dramatist,
about B.C. 394 (Aristoph. Eccl. 824
may be accepted as historical; but the notion that it was “calculated
to produce” 500 talents, implying a taxable capital of 20,000
talents, is justly styled by Grote “a comic exaggeration of that which
foolish people at first fancied” (ch. 75, 6.525 n.). This
common-sense remark isquoted approvingly against Boeckh by his editor
Fränkel (n. 803). A tax of a twentieth has been inferred from Dem.
p. 617.77, where δεκατεύοντες
is balanced by διπλᾶς
πράττοντες τὰς εἰσφοράς
: but δεκατεύειν,
as already observed under DECUMAE
is a phrase for high
taxation in general, and we should judge from the language of Demosthenes
just quoted that an εἰκοστὴ
was more than
the Athenians would bear.
There can be no doubt that until the archonship of Nausinicus the standard
according to which the Eisphora was levied was based upon the four Solonian
classes, the continued existence of which can be traced by inscriptions to
within a few years of that date (B.C. 387-6, C. I. A.
We must assume that this census, which under the law of Solon had reference
to landed or real property only, had been extended with the growth of
Athenian commerce and empire to include moveable or personal property as
well. The threat of Cleon implies that moveables were taxed (Aristoph. Kn. 924
); slaves were included in
or return (Isocr.
§ 49); corporate property was taxed as
well as individual (C. I. G.
93, 103; C. I. A.
In the archonship of Nausinicus, B.C. 378-7, a new census was instituted, in
which the [p. 1.712]
people, for the purposes of the
property-tax, were divided into a number of symmoriae (συμμορίαι
), or groups similar to those which were some years
afterwards (B.C. 364-3) made for the trierarchy (Philoch. ap. Harpocrat. s.
). The question of these
symmoriae has lately been cleared of some of the difficulties which
surrounded it in consequence of the confused statements of the scholiast
). The property-tax was certainly paid
by all (Dem. Olynth.
i. p. 15.20; ii. extr.
); not even the descendants of Harmodius and Aristogeiton
were exempt (c. Mid.
p. 462.18); and the 1200 whom Ulpian
absurdly supposed to have been the sole payers of it are now proved to have
formed the quite different trierarchic symmoriae, and to have had nothing to
do with the Eisphora at all (Lipsius, Jahrb. für class.
1878, p. 289 ff.; Gilbert, p. 349 n.; Fränkel,
n. 834; SYMMORIAE). The number of the trierarchic
symmoriae was twenty (Dem. de Symm.
p. 182.17); that of the
others uncertain, perhaps even variable; and it is by far the most probable
conclusion that all the citizens were enrolled in them, though Boeckh leaves
the point open (P. E.
p. 527 ff.=Sthh.
3 1.614 ff.). The 300 richest men formed the first class
of contributors; the richest individual in each symmoria was called ἡγεμὼν συμμορίας,
an office which at first
must have been purely honorary, since it could be filled by a minor, and
involved no extra burdens. Demosthenes (aet. 7) probably lost his father in
the year of Nausinicus, and the ten years of his minority during which he
contributed through his guardians a first-class Eisphora and was a ἡγεμὼν συμμορίας
were seemingly the ten first
years of the new system (Dem. c. Aphob.
i. p. 815.7; ii. p.
836.4). Through this period, as has been already mentioned, the state
prosecuted its claims against the individual tax-payer, whether rich or
poor. About the year 362-1 the προεισφορὰ
was introduced: the 300 richest men (or those named as such by the strategi)
were now called upon to advance the money required from their symmoria to
the state, which thus reaped the benefit of dealing only with capitalists,
of prompt payment and no arrears secured in the case of other taxes by the
system of farming. The προεισφέροντες,
they were called, had to recover from the poorer contributors in the courts
of law as best they might: the hardships in which they were now involved are
described in the speech against Polycles
(p. 1209.9). The
counted as a liturgy; and as
no man was compelled to serve two liturgies at the same time, it could not
lawfully be imposed on those who were already trierarchs. The speaker
complains that, having landed property en
) in three demes, he had been put on the list for each; he
did not stand upon his rights as a trierarch, but accepted the burden and
made the required advances; on his return from foreign service he found that
all the solvent properties (τὰ εὔπορα
been pounced upon by others in his absence, and he was left to recover what
he could from those which were “not worth powder and shot”
). The προεισφορὰ
marks a period when an empty exchequer had
increased the tendency of the democracy to prey upon the rich; according to
Boeckh, the revenue suffered the greatest falling off in the 105th and 106th
Olympiads, B.C. 360-353 (P. E.
3 1.511). It seems to have succeeded in its object of
avoiding arrears; in B.C. 355 Demosthenes reckons the outstanding claims of
the whole period since Nausinicus at only 14 talents out of 300, a small
amount when the extreme slipperiness of the Athenian tax-payer is
considered. The explanation of the phrase τὰς
εἰσφορὰς τὰς ἀπὸ Ναυσινίκου
p. 606.44) adopted by the present writer is now confirmed by
Fränkel in an elaborate note as the only admissible rendering: but
the sum of 300 talents for all the Eisphorae of 23 years is too small, and
the word τριακόσια
is justly suspected (n.
821; cf. Class. Rev.
1.78, 150). The resident aliens, whether
as they were liable to other liturgies, were
doubtless also included in the προεισφορά
(Boeckh, P. E.
p. 538 f.=Sthh.
3 1.624 f.); and they were grouped in symmoriae of their own apart
from the citizens (αἵ τε τῶν μετοίκων λειτουργίαι
καὶ αἱ πολιτικαί,
Dem. c. Lept.
μετοικικῆς συμμορίας ταμίας,
ap. Poll. 8.144). For the collection of the Eisphora, besides the ECLOGEIS
), other officers called διαγραφεῖς
mentioned, but the duties of each are nowhere clearly defined (Boeckh,
1.619). The list or register of each symmoria, analogous to our rate-books,
was called διάγραμμα
p. 183.21), and the διαγραφεῖς
were probably the keepers of it; the ἐπιγραφεῖς
seem to have had similar duties
among the resident aliens, by whom they were chosen (Isocr.
§ 41; Harpocrat. s. v.).
The relation of the τίμημα
to the total
wealth of the Athenian people, and the incidence of the Eisphora regarded as
an income-tax, have been made out by Boeckh with great probability. In the
Solonian classes the principle of graduation was already recognised, though
only to a slight extent; thus the first class, the Pentacosiomedimni, were
entered on the register with their whole productive landed property, the
Knights with five-sixths, the Zeugitae with five-ninths, while the Thetes
were altogether exempt (Boeckh, P. E.
3 1.588). In the succeeding
period, while personal property was brought into the schedule for taxation,
the custom must have arisen of allowing a comparatively small proportion of
the whole to rank as τίμημα
“taxable capital” ; it cannot be thought that the state of
things which we find under the law of B.C. 378, when the τίμημα
of the largest properties was only
one-fifth (Dem. c. Aphob.
i. p. 815.7), was the result of a
sudden change; or that the taxable capital can have stood in 393 B.C. at
20,000 talents, and fifteen years later have been reduced to 5750 talents.
The latter figure rests upon the precise testimony of Polybius (2.62.7
), Demosthenes giving in round numbers 6000
at the same date (de Symm.
p. 183.19); the former is based,
as has been seen, upon the facile arithmetic of comedy. To Boeckh, however,
is due the discovery of the true sense of τίμημα
the “taxable capital,” as distinguished
either from the yearly revenue or the whole property: for recent criticism
see Thumser, de Civ. Athen. Muneribus,
p. 32 ff.; Gilbert, pp. 347-8; Fränkel,
n. 823. The details, it is admitted, rest partly upon conjecture; that the
highest class were rated upon a fifth of their property is the only fact
definitely stated (Dem. c. Aphob.
1. c.); that there were
three other classes taxed in a diminishing ratio is the natural conclusion
from what we know of the earlier arrangement under Solon. The following
table gives Boeckh's latest scheme of the valuation in the archonship of
3 1.603), differing
slightly from his earlier view (P. E.
First Class, from twelve talents upwards.
of 1-20th part.
||tal. 24 min.
Second Class, from six talents and upwards, but under
||Property-tax of 1-20th
Third Class, from two talents upwards, but under
||Property-tax of 1-20th
||28 min. 80 dr.
||21 min. 60 dr.
|2 1/2 tal.
||14 min. 40 dr.
Fourth Class, from twenty-five minas upwards, but under
||Property-tax of l-20th
|1 1/2 tal.
||7 min. 20 dr.
||4 min. 80 dr.
||3 min. 60 dr.
||2 min. 40 dr.
Every one had to pay his tax in the deme or demes where his landed property
lay (Dem. c. Polycl.
p. 1209.9). It is expressly stated that
were responsible for the Eisphora, i. e. a man could
be sold up but not imprisoned or punished in person (Dem. c.
p. 609.54; c. Timocr.
p. 752.166). The
practice, however, was not quite on a level with the theory: even citizens
were sometimes dragged to prison who had not the means of paying unjust
demands; and the metoeci might be oppressed with still greater impunity
pp. 609, 610, § § 54, 56).
This, however, was not under the ordinary law, but under an extraordinary
commission to inquire into arrears to which Androtion had got himself
appointed. Among his acts of oppression is mentioned his disputing the
status of citizens in order to make them τὸ ἕκτον
μέρος εἰσφέρειν μετὰ τῶν μετοίκων
(p. 612.61); and this
is the only passage bearing on the amount of Eisphora paid by the metoeci.
Boeckh thinks that they paid uniformly, whatever their means, on a
second-class rating of 16 or 16 2/3 per cent.: this may have been the
minimum rate for the poorer aliens, but it is not likely that any who
possessed a first-class property were let off more cheaply than citizens of
equal fortune (cf. Gilbert, Staatsalterth.
explanation of τὸ ἕκτον μέρος
possible: the metoeci may have paid the same quotas as the citizens, with a
or additional charge of
one-sixth. As they could not hold landed property, the facilities for
concealment must have been much greater in their case. After the institution
of the προεισφορὰ
the friction in
collecting this particular tax was no doubt greatly diminished. The state
had direct dealings only with the 300 selected rich men; and, as we have
seen, did not trouble itself with the question how they were to recover from
the poorer contributors; but any one who thought himself unjustly included
in this class might claim an antidosis with any one who was left out of it
language on this subject (bk. iv. ch. 16 init.
seems to us rather unguarded, as though any tax-payer might dispute his
rating in this way; the speech against Phaenippus
only the case of the 300 (see the Argument, and especially p. 1046.25,
τοὺς λειτουργοῦντας καὶ ἐν τοῖς τριακοσίοις
: again ἄγειν εἰς
The Eisphora was not much like a modern income-tax, though Schömann
calls it “a tax on property, or more properly on income”
1.455, E.T.). It was much more like the
“benevolences” and “fifteenths” levied by
English kings in former times, an extraordinary contribution demanded at
irregular intervals; and moreover it was based on the capital itself, not on
the varying produce of capital. It was not at all oppressive in amount,
though the Athenian people required so much persuasion to induce them to
vote it. Demosthenes during his minority, out of a first-class fortune of
fifteen talents and a τίμημα
of three, in
ten years only paid eighteen minas (c. Aphob.
i. p. 825.37),
the tenth part of his taxable capital, or the fiftieth part of his property
(about £72 out of £3600). The income must have been at
least 10 per cent. of the full capital, or £360 a year (Boeckh,
The greater part of Boeckh's fourth book (chaps. i.-x., xvi.) is devoted to
the Eisphora. Cf. Hermann, Staatsalterth.
1.455-457, E. T.; Gilbert,