1. Transit-dues or tolls on goods carried through a country or over a bridge,
or a toll on travellers (Suet. Vit. 14
; Seneca, de Const.
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.
, 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.
; Dionys. A. R. 5.22
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
). 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
); but Caesar peregrinarum mercium portoria
(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
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.
; pro Leg.
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
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
; cf. Cic. Ver.
). 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
). Respecting the right of portitores to search travellers and
merchants, see PUBLICANI
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
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
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,
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
) 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
The nature of the portorium circumvectionis
(Cic. Att. 2.1. 6
) is not clear.