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VECTIGA´LIA a term used either (i.) in a narrow sense, = dues levied on ager publicus; see below: or (ii.) in a wide sense,=all regular and ordinary sources of Roman revenue, as distinct from the extraordinary tributum [TRIBUTUM]. As many of these are treated in separate articles, we need only give a list of [p. 2.933]them here and explain those which are not elsewhere treated.
  • 1. The tithes paid to the state by those who occupied state-domains in Italy or the provinces [DECUMAE; AGRARIAE LEGES]. Rents of houses and buildings on public lands, solarium.
  • 2. The sums paid by those who kept their cattle on the public pastures [SCRIPTURA].
  • 3. Products of the public forests; money raised by sale of timber and of tar (picariae; vectigal picariarum; Cic. Brut. 22, 84).
    4. Income from public buildings and works; markets; bridges [PORTORIUM]; sewers (Ulpian, Dig. 7, 1, 27, 3); water-supply [AQUAEDUCTUS]; baths [BALNEAE]: see Dureau de la Malle, Économie Politique des Romains, Bk. iv. cc. 22, 23; and Hirschfeld (cited below).
  • 5. The revenue derived from the salt-works [SALINAE].
  • 6. The revenue derived from mines (metalla; fodinae aurariae, ferrariae, &c.) and from minerals of every description. This branch of the public income cannot have been very productive until the Romans had become masters of foreign countries. Till that time the mines of Italy were worked, but this was presently forbidden by the senate (Plin. Nat. 3.138; 33.78; 34.2). We do not know the date of this measure, or its motive. It was perhaps passed from distrust of publicani (cf. Livy, 45.18), or to discourage local minting. Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 3.1117, says the working was forbidden “in the agrarian interest.” The mines of conquered countries were, like the salinae, partly left to individuals (Plut. Crassus, 2; Tac. Ann. 6.19), companies (Cic. Phil. 2.1. 9, 48), or towns, on condition of a certain rent being paid, or they were worked for the direct account of the state, or farmed by publicani. In the last case, however, the profits of the publicani were limited by the lex censoria or contract settling how many labourers might be employed (Plin. Nat. 33.78). The emperors by degrees got nearly all mines, and quarries too, into their own hands, as belonging either to the fiscus or to the patrimonium Caesaris, whether they were found in imperial. or in senatorial provinces. These were then either let to contractors (conductores metalli), or worked directly for the emperor by procuratores who had the right to employ soldiers and the forced labour of criminals (ad metalla damnatio), or else the right of working was sold to private persons and the product taxed. Among the richest mines known were the gold mines of Aquileia (Plb. 34.10) and of Vercellae (Plin. Nat. 33.4; Strabo, 5.1, 12), and the Spanish silver and iron mines (Plb. 34.9; Liv. 34.21). The gold and silver mines of Macedonia (Hdt. 5.17; Liv. 39.24) were closed by the senate; iron was still allowed to be worked (Liv. 45.18, 29). There were also various mines in Thrace, Illyricum, Noricum, Africa, Sardinia, and Britain. (See on the last C. I. L. vii. p. 220 sq.; Hübner in Rhein. Mus. N. F. 12). Revenue was also raised in like manner from sandpits (arenariae; Dig. 7, 1, 9), chalk-pits (cretifodinae; Dig. 7, 1, 13; 24, 3, 7), marble-and ordinary stone-quarries (lapicidinae), grindstone-and millstone-quarries (cotoriae; Dig. 39, 4, 15), and the vermilion-works in Spain (Plin. Nat. 33.118). (O. Hirschfeld, Die Bergwerke; Untersuchungen, 1876; J. Binder, Die Bergwerke im römischen Staatshaushalt. 1880.) [METALLUM 2.]
    7. Revenue from letting-out public fisheries (Plb. 6.17; Servius on Verg. G. 2.161).
  • 8. The customs-duties [PORTORIUM].
  • 9. Quirquagcsima (or Quinta et vicesima) mancipiorum venaliurm; a duty on slaves sold [QUINQUAGESIMA].
  • 10. Centesima rerum venalium [CENTESIMA], a duty on other articles sold. The produce of this tax, like that of No. 11, belonged to the aerarium militare [AERARIUM].
  • 11. Vicesima hereditatium see VICESIMA
  • 12. Vicesima manumissionum see VICESIMA
  • 13. The tribute imposed on foreign countries. It has been thought that this was by far the most important branch of the public revenue; but it is difficult to maintain this against the words of Cicero (pro Leg. Manil. 6, 14), “ceterarum provinciarum” (except Asia) “vectigalia tanta sunt ut iis ad ipsas provincias tutandas vix contenti esse possimus.” So Mommsen writes (Hist. Rome, E. T., Bk. 4.100.11) of the republican period: “The only provinces yielding a considerable surplus were perhaps Sicily, and more especially Asia.” The provincial tribute took different forms. It might be (i.) decumae of the produce of land (i. e. land left to the old owners, and regarded more as private than as public property, though it was still technically ager publicus). The decumae of course Varied in amount from year to year (App. BC 5.4). The persons paying this charge were called vectigales. Or the charge was (ii.) stipendium, a tax of fixed amount. The persons who paid this were called stipendiarii [STIPENDIARII]. It was (α) tributum soli, a land-tax. This might be paid in money or in kind (even in hides or skins, Tac. Ann. 4.72). Or it was (β) tributum capitis (Dig. 15, 8, 7; φόρος σωμάτων of App. Syr. 50), which might again be a property-tax on wealthy people, or a tax on trades (cf. No. 14), or a poll-tax (ἐπικεφάλσιον: plur. ἐπικεφάλια in Cic. Fam. 5.1. 6, 2; paid in Britain, D. C. 62.3), so as to reach people who had no land, or no cultivated land. But little is known of these charges. Some of them seem to have varied with a man's census (Cic. Ver. 2.53, 131); and an unproductive estate was perhaps valued and charged according to the number of its columns or of its doors [COLUMNARIUM; OSTIARIUM]. The poll-tax (exactio capitum, Cic. Fam. 3.8, 5) amounted in Syria and Cilicia to 1 per cent. of a man's census (App. Syr. 50), and was specially heavy for the Jews. It was farmed to publicani in Cicero's time. Josephus, Bell. Jud. 2.16, 4 ( καθ᾽ ῥκάστην κεφαλὴν εἰσφορά), may mean poll-tax or may use the term more widely. To the above items of provincial tribute must be added a payment in kind; a supply of corn [ANNONA] or other necessaries (wine, oil, meat, fodder; Vegetius, 3.3). This was probably a later development of the frumentum in cellam of republican times [PROVINCIA]. In most provinces it was annona militaris, i.e. it fed the army of occupation and the officials, and was paid over on the spot. But Africa and Egypt had to meet not only the annona militaris, but also the annona civica; i.e. they had to find food for Rome, and later for Constantinople. [p. 2.934]Africa had to feed Rome for eight months, Egypt for four (Josephus, Bell. Jud. 2.16, 4). For Britain, see Tac. Agr. 19, 31.

    14. Taxes on professions or trades (Suet. Gal. 40; Hist. Aug., Alex. Sev. 24, 32; Cod. Theod. 13, 1).
    15. A tax on obstinate celibacy [AES UXORIUM]. The Lex Julia et Papia Poppaea of Augustus' time (which see) imposed penalties very like taxation on unmarried persons of a certain age: see Tac. Ann. 3.25; Plin. Paneg. 42.
    16. Temporary taxes. (α) A kind of ship-money, levied on coast-towns for their defence against the pirates (Cic. Ver. 5.17, 19, 24). (β) Octava. In B.C. 31 all liberti living in Italy and: possessing property of at least 200 sestertia had to pay a tax of 12 1/2 per cent. on their property (D. C. 1. 6, 51.3). (γ) Temporary exactions imposed between the death of Caesar and the consolidation of the power of Octavianus (Cic. ad Brut. 1, 18; App. BC 4.5, 32; 5, 67; D. C. 46.31, 47.16, 48.31 and 34, 1. 10; and see TRIBUTUM). (δ) The new taxes of Caligula (Suet. Cal. 40). Among them was the QUADRAGESIMA LITIUM. They were probably all repealed by Claudius. (ε) The new taxes of Vespasianus (Suet. Vesp. 16, 23; D. C. 66.14). On the vectigal urinae, see Dureau de la Malle, Économie politique des Romains, Bk. 4.100.23. [DOLIUM] (ζ) Special charge on senators, imposed by Commodus (D. C. 72.16). Here we may add, as sources of revenue, though they are not strictly vectigalia, Nos. 17-21.

  • 18. Booty taken in war; product of sale of prisoners, &c. [SPOLIA]
  • 19. Profit made out of the coinage.
  • 20. Windfalls of various kinds [BONA CADUCA; BONA VACANTIA]. Fines and confiscated property.
  • 21. Legacies to emperors, sometimes of enormous amount (Suet. Aug. 101, Gal. 38; Tac. Ann. 2.48, 16.11; D. C. 58.16), looked after by special procuratores.

Under the Republic the senate was the highest authority in matters of finance, but the censors carried out or supervised the details. The collection of duties, taxes, and tributes, was let for the most part to publicani for a fixed sum and a fixed number of years [CENSOR; PUBLICANI]. Under the Empire the authority of the senate was curtailed by the division of provinces between senate and emperor, which led to a separation between aerarium and fiscus; the senate controlled the former, the emperor the latter [AERARIUM; FISCUS]. The chief finance-minister of the early Empire was described, as a rationibus; afterwards called procurator a rationibus; then procurator summarum rationum, or rationalis. (See on his successive titles and functions O. Hirschfeld in the Jahrb. f. Philol. 1868.)

The total income of Rome from all sources cannot be even approximately discovered for any period. Plut. Pomp. 45 has the general statement that before Pompey's Eastern conquests the vectigalia (τὰ τέλη) amounted to 200,000,000 sesterces; and beyond this we cannot well go.

(See Naquet, Des Impôts indirects chez les Romains, 1875; O. Hirschfeld, Untersuchungen aus dem Gebiete der römischen Verwultungs-geschichte, 1876; S. Herrlich, De aerario et fisco Romanorum quaestiones, 1872.)


hide References (33 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (33):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 3.5
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 3.8
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 5.1.2
    • Cicero, Letters to Brutus, 1
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.17
    • Appian, Syrian Wars, 8.50
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.2.5
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.5.32
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.9.67
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.1.4
    • Polybius, Histories, 34.10
    • Polybius, Histories, 34.9
    • Polybius, Histories, 6.17
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.2.131
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.5.42
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.5.48
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.5.60
    • Cicero, Philippics, 2.19
    • Cicero, Philippics, 2.48
    • Vergil, Georgics, 2.161
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 101
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 40
    • Tacitus, Annales, 16.11
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.48
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.25
    • Tacitus, Annales, 4.72
    • Tacitus, Annales, 6.19
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 33.4
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 24
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 21
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 18
    • Plutarch, Pompey, 45
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