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EI´SPHORA (εἰσφορά), 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 (λειτουργίαι), and Ulpian on Demosthenes (Olynth. 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. p. 470=Sthh.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 (Antiq. 1.457, E. T.); but the language of Antiphon (Tetral. 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; Tittmann, 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 to the 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; 60 talents, Dem. Olynth. iii. p. 29.4; 500 talents, a comic exaggeration in Aristoph. Eccl. 824, gravely pronounced impossible by Dem. de Symmor. 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 and other 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, P. E. p. 472=Sthh.3 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), he 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. c. Androt. 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. 2.14). 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 the ἀπογραφὴ or return (Isocr. Trapez. § 49); corporate property was taxed as well as individual (C. I. G. 93, 103; C. I. A. 2.600).

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. v. συμμορία). 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 Ulpian (l.c.). 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. Philol. 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, as 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 προεισφορὰ 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 évidence (φανερὰ οὐσία) 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 had 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” (τὰ ἄπορα). 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. p. 435=Sthh.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 (Dem. c. Androt. 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 μέτοικοι or ἰσοτελεῖς, 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. p. 462.18; μετοικικῆς συμμορίας ταμίας, Hyperid. ap. Poll. 8.144). For the collection of the Eisphora, besides the ECLOGEIS (q. v.), other officers called διαγραφεῖς and ἐπιγραφεῖς are mentioned, but the duties of each are nowhere clearly defined (Boeckh, P. E. p. 533=Sthh.3 1.619). The list or register of each symmoria, analogous to our rate-books, was called διάγραμμα (Dem. de Symm. 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. Trapez. § 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. p. 505 =Sthh.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 or “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. 1.713]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 Nausinicus (Sthh.3 1.603), differing slightly from his earlier view (P. E. p. 519):--

First Class, from twelve talents upwards.
Property. Taxable. Taxable Capital. Property-tax of 1-20th part.
500 tal.   100 tal. 5 tal.
100 tal. 20 20 tal. 1 tal.
50 tal. per 10 tal. 30 min.
15 tal. cent. 3 tal. 9 min.
12 tal.   2 tal. 24 min. 720 dr.

Second Class, from six talents and upwards, but under twelve.
Property. Taxable. Taxable Capital. Property-tax of 1-20th part.
11 tal.   1 tal. 45 min. 60 dr. 528 dr.
10 tal. 16 1 tal. 36 min.   480 dr.
8 tal. per 1 tal. 16 min. 80 dr. 384 dr.
7 tal. cent 1 tal. 7 min. 20 dr. 336 dr.
6 tal.     57 min. 60 dr. 288 dr.

Third Class, from two talents upwards, but under six.
Property. Taxable. Taxable Capital. Property-tax of 1-20th part.
5 tal.   36 min. 180 dr.
4 tal. 12 28 min. 80 dr. 144 dr.
3 tal. per 21 min. 60 dr. 108 dr.
2 1/2 tal. cent 18 min. 90 dr.
2 tal.   14 min. 40 dr. 72 dr.

Fourth Class, from twenty-five minas upwards, but under two talents.
Property. Taxable. Taxable Capital. Property-tax of l-20th part.
1 1/2 tal.   7 min. 20 dr. 36 dr.
1 tal. 8 4 min. 80 dr. 24 dr.
45 min. per 3 min. 60 dr. 18 dr.
30 min. cent. 2 min. 40 dr. 12 dr.
25 min.   2 min. 10 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 κτήματα, not σώματα, were responsible for the Eisphora, i. e. a man could be sold up but not imprisoned or punished in person (Dem. c. Androt. 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 (c. Androt. 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. 1.172). Another explanation of τὸ ἕκτον μέρος seems possible: the metoeci may have paid the same quotas as the citizens, with a προσκατάβλημα 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 [ANTIDOSIS]. Boeckh's 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 mentions only the case of the 300 (see the Argument, and especially p. 1046.25, τοὺς λειτουργοῦντας καὶ ἐν τοῖς τριακοσίοις ὄντας ἀναπαύειν: again ἄγειν εἰς τοὺς προεισφέροντας).

The Eisphora was not much like a modern income-tax, though Schömann calls it “a tax on property, or more properly on income” (Antiq. 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, P. E. p. 522=Sthh.3 1.607).

The greater part of Boeckh's fourth book (chaps. i.-x., xvi.) is devoted to the Eisphora. Cf. Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 162; Schömann, Antiq. 1.455-457, E. T.; Gilbert, Staatsalterth. 1.345-350. .

[L.S] [W.W]

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  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae, 1007
    • Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae, 824
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 924
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.60
    • Polybius, Histories, 2.62.7
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.141.4
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.19
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