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1. Greek.

The Greek term for a man's property as ascertained by the census, as well as for the act of ascertaining it, is τίμημα. The only Greek state concerning whose arrangement of the census we have any satisfactory information, is Athens; for what we know of the other states is only of a fragmentary nature, and does not enable us to form an accurate notion of their census. Previous to the time of Solon no census had been instituted at Athens, as a citizen's rights were always determined by birth; but, as Solon substituted property for birth, and made a citizen's rights and duties dependent upon his property, it became a matter of necessity to ascertain by a general census the amount of the property of the Athenian citizens. According to his census, all citizens were divided into four classes:
  • 1. πεντακοσιομέδιμνοι, or persons possessing landed property which yielded an annual income of at least 500 medimni of dry or liquid produce.
  • 2. ἱππεῖς, i. e. knights or persons able to keep a war-horse, wore those whose lands yielded an annual produce of at least 300 medimni, whence they are also called τριακοσιομέδιμνοι.
  • 3. ζευγῖται, i. e. persons able to keep a yoke of oxen (ζεῦγος), were those whose annual income consisted of at least 150 medimni.
  • 4. The θῆτες contained all the rest of the free population, whose income was below that of the Zeugitae.
(Plut. Sol. 18, and the Lexicographers, s. vv.) These classes themselves were called τιμήματα: and the constitution of Athens, so long as it was based upon these classes, was a timocracy (τιμοκρατία or ἀπὸ τιμημάτων πολιτεία). The highest magistracy at Athens, or the archonship, was at first accessible only to persons of the first class, until Aristides threw all the state offices open to all classes indiscriminately. (Plut. Arist. 1, 22.) The maintenance of the republic mainly devolved upon the first three classes, the last being exempted from all taxes. Sometimes we indeed find mention of a θητικὸν τέλος, and the expression θητικὸν τελεῖν, to pay the tax of θῆτες (Lex ap. Dem. c. Macart. p. 1067.54; Bekker, Anecd. Graec. p. 261; Etym. M. s. v.); but this cannot be understood of a special tax which the fourth class had to pay, but must be explained in a more general sense, for τέλος τελεῖν means generally, to perform the duties arising out of persons being connected with one or other of the classes, and need not therefore refer to any special tax.

In regard to the duties which the above-mentioned census imposed upon the first three of the classes, we must distinguish certain personal obligations or liturgies (λειτουργίαι) which had to be performed by individuals according to the class to which they belonged [LEITURGIAE], and certain taxes and burdens which were regulated according to the classes; so that all citizens belonging to the same class had the same burdens imposed upon them. As the land in the legislation of Solon was regarded as the capital which yielded an annual income, he regulated his system of taxation by the value of the land which was treated as the taxable capital. There is a passage in Pollux (8.130, 132) in which he says that a pentacosiomedimnus expended one talent on the public account, a ἱππεὺς thirty minae, and a ζευγίτης ten minae. Now this seems to be impossible; for, as Solon (Plut. Sol. 23) reckoned the medimnus of dry produce at one drachma, we must suppose that a member of the first class was reckoned to have an annual income of 500 drachmae, or the twelfth part of a talent. But the difficulty may be solved in this manner. The valuation which Solon put upon the land of an Athenian citizen was in reality neither the real value of the property, nor the amount of the property tax, but only a certain portion of the real property which was treated as the taxable capital. Solon in his census ascertained a person's landed property [p. 1.404]from its net annual produce; and the number of medimni which it was supposed to produce were reckoned as so many drachmae. But the produce was probably not calculated higher than was done when the estate was let out to farm. The rent paid by a farmer was probably not much more than 8 per cent., as it was in the time of Isaeus (Or. 11 [Hagn.], § 42). Now, if we suppose that in the time of Solon it was 8 1/3 per cent., the net produce of an estate was exactly 1/12 of the value of the property, and accordingly the value of the property of a person belonging to the first class was one talent; in the second, 3600 drachmae; and in the third, 1800 drachmae. Solon, in taxing the citizens, was wise enough to see that the same standard could not be applied to all the three classes; for the smaller a person's income is, the smaller ought to be the standard of taxation. Accordingly, a person belonging to the first class, being the wealthiest, had to pay a tax on his entire property, while only a portion of the property of the persons belonging to the two other classes was regarded as taxable capital; viz. persons of the second paid the tax only of 5/6 and persons of the third class only of I of their property. Lists of this taxable property (ἀπογραφαί) were kept at first by the naucrari, who also had to conduct the census (Hesych. sub voce ναύκλαρος), and afterwards by the demarchi (Harpocrat. s. v. δήμαρχοι). As property is a fluctuating thing, the census was repeated from time to time, but the periods differed in the various parts of Greece, for in some a census was held every year, and in others every two or four years. (Aristot. Pol. 5.8.) Every person had conscientiously to state the amount of his property; and if there was any doubt about his honesty, it seems that a counter-valuation (ἀντιτίμησις) might be made. Now, supposing that all the taxable capital of the Athenian citizens was found to be 3000 talents, and that the state wanted 60 talents, or 1/30 part of it, each citizen had to pay away 1/50 part of his taxable property: that is, a person of the first class paid 120 drachmae (the 50th part of 6000); a person of the second, 60 drachmae (the 50th part of 3000); and a person of the third class, 20 drachmae (the 50th part of 1000). It is, however, not improbable that persons belonging to the same class may have had to pay a different amount of taxes according as their property was equal to the minimum or above it; and Böckh, in his Public Economy of Athens, has made out a table, in which each class is subdivided into three sections.

This system of taxation according to classes, and based upon the possession of productive estates, underwent a considerable change in the time of the Peloponnesian war, though the division into classes itself continued to be observed for a considerable time after. As the wants of the republic increased, and as many citizens were possessed of large property without being landed proprietors, the original land-tax was changed into a property-tax. In this manner we must explain the proposal of Euripides, shortly before B.C. 393, to raise 500 talents by imposing a tax of one-fortieth part. (Aristoph. Eccl. 823, &c.) For the taxable capital, viz. 20,000 talents, far exceeds the amount of all the landed property in Attica. This property tax, which was substituted for the land tax, was called εἰσφορά, concerning which see EISPHORA Compare LEITURGIAE; and for the taxes paid by resident aliens, METOECI. (Böckh, Publ. Econ. of Athens, p. 495, &c., 2nd edition; comp. Schömann, Antiq. 1.455, E. T.)

(Appendix). In this article the property qualification of the Zeugitae is given, on the authority of Boeckh and Schömann, at 150 medimni a year. The more usual statement, following Plutarch (Plut. Sol. 18) and several passages of the grammarians, puts the figure at 200: a view strongly maintained by Grote (2.320 n., [p. 1.1065]ed. 1862). Gilbert (Staatsalterth. 1.133) declares that the question cannot be positively decided. To the testimony of later writers in favour of the number 200 is now added the earlier and better authority of Aristotle (Ἀθ. πολ. 100.7), and this must be pronounced by far the most probable opinion.

2. Roman.



hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae, 823
    • Aristotle, Politics, 5.1308a
    • Plutarch, Aristeides, 1
    • Plutarch, Aristeides, 22
    • Plutarch, Solon, 18
    • Plutarch, Solon, 23
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