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1. Transit-dues or tolls on goods carried through a country or over a bridge, [p. 2.469]or a toll on travellers (Suet. Vit. 14; Seneca, de Const. Sap. 14; Digest. 19, 2, 60).

2. Duties paid on goods imported, and no doubt on goods exported too. (Our evidence here is very defective; but see Cic. Ver. 2.74, 182, and perhaps pro Leg. Manil. 6, 14.) According to legends the duty was levied under the kings, and removed by T. Valerius Poplicola as a means of attaching the plebs to the new order of things (Liv. 2.9; Dionys. A. R. 5.22; Plut. Popl. 11). It must, however, have been restored before long, and in a more historical age the censors of B.C. 179 instituted portoria et vectigalia multa (Liv. 40.51). G. Gracchus extended the system further (Vell. 2.6). It was, of course, spread over Italy by Roman conquest; see e. g. Liv. 32.7 for dues paid at Capua and Puteoli in B.C. 199. In B.C. 60 all portoria were done away with in Italian harbours by a Lex Caecilia of the praetor Q. Metellus Nepos (D. C. 37.51; Cic. Att. 2.1. 6, 1); but Caesar peregrinarum mercium portoria instituit (Suet. Jul. 43), apparently for foreign goods only, i. e. goods imported from outside the Empire. The triumvirate introduced new τέλη (D. C. 41.34), which may mean portoria (but see under VECTIGALIA), and Augustus introduced further new ones and increased some of the old. The subsequent emperors increased or diminished this branch of the revenue as necessity required.

Like other vectigalia, the portorium was farmed out by the censors to the publicani, who employed portitores to collect it [VECTIGALIA; PUBLICANI]. Later, we hear of imperial procuratores for portoria [see STATIONES FISCI].

As a rule, the Romans took over in the provinces the existing import (and export?) duties; but they tended to group the provinces into more or less natural unions each of which reckoned as one customs-district, on whose frontiers duties were paid. The following districts (among which Sicily and Asia were specially productive, Cic. Ver. 2.75, 185; pro Leg. Man. 6, 14) are known to us--Italy, Sicily, Gaul (including Alpes Cottiae and Alpes Maritimae), Spain, Britain, Illyricum, Asia, Bithynia (with Pontus and Paphlagonia), Africa, and Egypt. In some few cases the Romans allowed a town or island to raise portoria for its own benefit, stipulating that Roman citizens and socii Latini should be exempted from payment; e. g. Ambracia (Liv. 38.44) and Rhodes (Cic. Q. fr. 1.1, 33); cf. C. I. L. 1.204 on Termessus. But this is perhaps rather to be looked on as an octroi than as a customs-duty.

As regards the articles subject to duty, the rule was that all commodities (including slaves) which were imported to be sold again paid the portorium; whereas things which a person brought with him for his own use were exempt. A list of taxable articles is given in the Digest (39, 4, 4, 16; cf. Cic. Ver. 2.72, 176). Many things, however, which were rather luxuries than necessities, such as eunuchs and handsome youths, had to pay import-duty, even though they were imported by persons for their own use (Suet. de clar. Rhet. 1; Cod. 4, 42, 2). Things imported for the use of the state were exempt. But the governors of provinces, when they sent persons to purchase things for the use of the public, had to write a list of the things for the portitores, to enable the latter to see whether more things were imported than were ordered (Dig. 39, 4, 4). Respecting the right of portitores to search travellers and merchants, see PUBLICANI Such goods as were duly stated to the portitores were called scripta, and those which were not, inscripta. The latter were confiscated on discovery (Dig. 39, 4, 16).

As to the amount of the duty we have but few statements in ancient writers. The Sicilian portorium in the time of Cicero was 5 per cent. (vicesima) of the value of the taxable articles (Cic. Ver. 2.75, 185); and, as this was a familiar rate in Greece (see EICOSTE and Boeckh's Staatshausholtung der Athener, ed. 3, bk. 3, 6), it may have been the sum levied in other provinces too. But the amount may have varied with the place and time. We hear of 2 per cent. (quinquagesima) in Spain (C. L. L. 2, 5064), 2 1/2 per cent. (quadragesima) in Gaul (Wilmanns, Exempla Inscriptionum Latinarum, 1295, 1398) and Asia (Suet. Vesp. 1). There are traces also of a fixed tariff for single wares (Wilmanns, 2738, for Africa). At a late period the exorbitant sum of one-eighth (Cod. Just. 4, 42, 2) is mentioned as the ordinary import-duty, but it is uncertain whether this was the duty for all articles of commerce, or merely for some (possibly for articles of luxury or for articles imported from or exported to places beyond the Roman empire).

The nature of the portorium circumvectionis (Cic. Att. 2.1. 6, 4) is not clear.


hide References (13 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (13):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 2.1.1
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 2.1.4
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 2.1.6
    • Cicero, Letters to his brother Quintus, 1.1
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.2.176
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.2.182
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.2.185
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 43
    • Suetonius, Vitellius, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 38, 44
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 51
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 32, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 9
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