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The Customs Law

of Asia
Edited by
M. COTTI ER, M. H. CRAWFORD,
C. V. CROWTHER, J. -L. FERRARY, B. M. LEVI CK,
O. SALOMIES, M. WO
¨
RRLE
and with paper by
M. CORBI ER, S. MITCHELL, O. VAN NI J F,
D. RATHBONE, G. D. ROWE
1
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Contents
Illustrations xii
Abbreviations xiii
Map xxii
Introduction 1
Monumentum Ephesenum 14
TEXT AND TRANSLATION 23
COMMENTARY 87
Geography, Politics and Imperialism in the Asian Customs Law 165
s. mitchell
The Lex Portorii Asiae and Financial Administration 202
m. corbier
The Elaboration and Diffusion of the Text of the
Monumentum Ephesenum 236
g. d. rowe
Nero’s Reforms of Vectigalia and the Inscription of the
Lex Portorii Asiae 251
d. rathbone
The Social World of Tax Farmers and their Personnel 279
o. van nijf
Bibliography 312
Greek Index 329
Index of Persons 000
Index of Places 000
Index of Words 000
Latin Index 000
General Index 000
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The Social World of Tax Farmers
and their Personnel
O. van Nijf
1. I NTRODUCTI ON
One day, the sage and miracle worker Apollonius of Tyana and his
party were about to cross the border of the Roman Empire on their
way to the Far East:1
When they were about to cross to Mesopotamia, the telones stationed
at Zeugma took them to the tariV (pinakion) and asked what he was
taking with him. Apollonius said, I take with me Prudence, Justice, Virtue,
Temperance, Courage and Perseverance, stringing together a lot of nouns all
in the feminine gender. Immediately the oYcial, with an eye to his own
proWt, said: ‘Well then, make me a list of those slave girls of yours’. ‘I cannot’,
retorted Apollonius, ‘I am not taking them as my slave girls, but as my
mistresses.’
I owe a debt to the late Keith Hopkins who discussed this paper with me at an early
stage. I am also grateful to Thomas Corsten for discussion and for making material
available to me ahead of publication, and to Maaike Leemreize for checking the data
at a very late stage.
1 Phil. VA 1. 20 (tr. C. P. Jones): -Ææí·.-Æ. cb ÆP-·f. K. -c. n·uÅ. -H. -·-ÆnH. ›
-·ºo.Å. › K-Ø6·6ºÅn·.·. -fiH ˘·vªnÆ-Ø -æe. -e -Ø.óŒØ·. qª· ŒÆd Mæo-Æ; ‹ -Ø I-óª·Ø·.;
› cb ¹-·ººo.Ø·.· I-óªø; ·çÅ; uøçæ·uv.Å. cØŒÆØ·uv.Å. Iæ·-c. KªŒæó-·ØÆ. I.cæ·íÆ.
õuŒÅuØ.; -·ººa ŒÆd ·o-ø Ł´º·Æ ·YæÆ. O.·nÆ-Æ: › c` XcÅ 6º·-ø. -e ·Æı-·F Œ·æc·.
I-·ªæÆłÆØ ·s., ·çÅ; -ó. c·vºÆ.: › cb ·PŒ ·t·u-Ø.; ·r -·.; ·P ªaæ c·vºÆ. I-óªø -Æv-Æ.;
Iººa c·u-·í.Æ..
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The episode must have struck a chord with many of the readers of
this travel story, particularly with those who had travelled themselves.
The anecdote allowed the reader—from the comfort of his home—to
have a laugh at the expense of an unpopular, but ubiquitous Wgure: the
petty customs oYcial. To many provincials the face of the Roman
Empire must have been that of the tax farmer, but we are surprisingly
ill informed about the social world in which he operated. Modern
studies of Roman tax collection or of the bureaucracy in general often
focus on the legal or institutional aspects of these organizations; the
human element is often neglected. This is not surprising as many
ancient documents are virtually silent on this point as well. Even the
Ephesian Customs Law, which supplements our knowledge of Roman
customs duties at so many points, shows little interest in the lower
ranks of the system.
It is the aim of this chapter to shed some light on the social world
of Roman tax collection. I shall have little to say of the top levels of
the organization, the societates of publicani in Rome, and little of the
higher echelons of imperial administration. I shall try to focus as
much as I can on the lower ranks, the grass-roots, and try to bring to
life the petty oYcials who patrolled the roads and harbours, manned
the customs houses, and toiled over the endless paperwork. They
made a crucial contribution to the establishment and maintenance of
the Roman Empire, but we shall see that literary sources, with their
e´lite bias, would not seem to reXect this. The precise nature of their
duties is usually ignored in these texts, and when tax farmers are
mentioned they are usually treated with the contempt that the upper
classes felt for the working population. Information on the minutiae
of the enormous task that was tax farming must be gleaned from legal
texts, papyri, and inscriptions from various parts of the Empire.
These are discussed in the second part of this paper. However,
inscriptions can fruitfully be approached as a form of self-represen-
tation of their authors. In the last part of the paper we shall see what
image the tax farmers and their personnel chose to present of them-
selves. A list of known individuals with a connection to the portorium
Asiae is given in the Appendix.
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280 O. van Nijf
2. PUBLI CANS AND SI NNERS
Roman literary authors generally maintain a digniWed silence regard-
ing the thousands of men who were responsible for collecting the
revenues of empire. Although people were taught at school that
customs duties were a fundamental instrument of empire,2 this
interest does not seem to have been extended to the individuals
concerned. Customs oYcials rarely make an individual appearance
in literary texts, and when they do, they are not often named, and
they appear as two-dimensional characters. They were seen as irrele-
vances, who occasionally proved an irritant during a journey. Plu-
tarch, setting himself up as the voice of the cultivated gentlemen of
his age, formulates it as follows:3
Busybodies search out these very matters and others still worse, not to cure,
but merely to expose them. For this reason, we are annoyed and displeased
with customs oYcials, not when they pick up those articles that we are
importing openly, but when in the search for concealed goods they pry into
baggage and merchandise which are another’s property. And yet the law
allows them to do this.
The idea that members of the lower classes, even if they were
special oYcials called scrutatores,4 were rummaging through one’s
possessions was clearly too much. The educated traveller may well
have turned to the dictionary of Pollux to Wnd a convenient list of
words to abuse a tax farmer if he went too far:5
2 As is clear from [Quint.] 341. 6, which defends the customs duties by pointing
out that they paid i.a. for the army and for festivals.
3 Plut. De Curios. (Mor. 518E): ·ƒ cb -·ºı-æóªn·.·. ÆP-a -ÆF-Æ ŒÆd -a -·v-ø. ·-Ø
å·íæ·.Æ ÇÅ-·FuØ.; ·P Ł·æÆ-·v·.-·. Iººa n·.·. I.ƌƺv--·.-·.: ‹Ł·. nØu·F.-ÆØ
cØŒÆíø.: ŒÆd ªaæ -·f. -·ºo.Æ. 6Ææı.·n·ŁÆ ŒÆd cıuå·æÆí.·n·.; ·På ‹-Æ. -a KnçÆ.B
-H. ·Nuƪ·n·.ø. KŒº·ªøuØ.; Iºº` ‹-Æ. -a Œ·Œæınn·.Æ ÇÅ-·F.-·. K. Iºº·-æí·Ø. uŒ·v·uØ
ŒÆd ç·æ-í·Ø. I.Æu-æ·çø.-ÆØ: ŒÆí-·Ø -·F-· -·Ø·E. › .·n·. cícøuØ. ÆP-·E..
4 See below, n. 34.
5 Poll. Onom. 9. 30 f.: ŒÆd ŒÆŒíÇø. nb. -·ºo.Å. ·Y-·Ø. õ.· 6Ææv.; ç·æ-ØŒ·.;
õªåø.; ºfiÅu-·vø., ºÅØÇ·n·.·.; -Ææ·Œº·ªø.; ŁÆºó--Å. IªæØo-·æ·.; å·ØnH.·.
6ØÆØ·-·æ·.; ŒÆ-Æcvø. -·f. ŒÆ-ÆåŁ·.-Æ.; I-ó.Łæø-·.; K-ÆåŁ´.; õ-ºÅu-·.;
õn·-æ·.; ÆNuåæ·Œ·æcÅ.; 6íÆØ·.; I-·-.íªø.; -Ø·Çø.; ºø-·cı-H.; I-·cvø.; ±æ-óÇø.;
IçÆØæ·vn·.·.; -Ææ·Øu-æó--ø.; N-Æn·.; I.Æíuåı.-·., I-ÅæıŁæØÆŒo.; cıuå·æ´.;
I.´n·æ·.; õªæØ·.; õt·.·.; ŁÅæØocÅ.; ·ænÆ; -æ·6·º·. -·-æÆ; .ÆıóªØ·.; ŁÅæí·. õnØŒ-·.;
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Social World of Tax Farmers 281
Should you want to abuse a tax farmer, you might try saying: burden, pack-
animal, garotter, sneak-thief, shark, hurricane, oppressor of the down-
trodden, inhuman, nail in my coYn, insatiable, immoderate, Shylock,
violator, strangler, crusher, highwayman, strip-Jack-naked, snatcher, thief,
overcharger, reckless, shameless, unblushing, pain in the neck, savage, wild,
inhospitable, brute, dead weight, obstacle, heart of stone, Xotsam, pariah,
and all the other vile terms you can Wnd to apply to someone’s character . . .
Or praise him, when the man showed proper respect:
Should you want to praise a tax farmer, you might say: law-abiding, hospit-
able, just, not overstepping the law, not over-zealous, better than life,
knowing your place, palliator of the journey’s discomfort, someone you
might want to interrupt your journey for; sweet harbour.
The concern with the right vocabulary, and the choice of words,
convey a distinct upper-class perspective: to the readers of Pollux, a
good tax farmer was someone who knew his place.
Tax farming was evidently not a proper occupation for members of
the Roman e´lite—even though they might not despise its proWts, so
long as they could be reaped discreetly. E
´
lite objections to tax collect-
ing seem to have focused on moral issues that were connected with
the ‘banausic status’ of the tax farmers.6 As Cicero put it:7 ‘First
those employments are condemned which arouse people’s dislike,
for example tax farmers and money lenders.’
A variant of this view stresses the morally suspect character of the
tax collector by putting them on a par with pimps and procurers. The
association must have been eVective. Dio Chrysostom raises the issue
in a dialogue about freedom:8
ŒÆd ‹uÆ K. -ÆE. XŁ·ı. º·Øc·-·æíÆØ. ·å·Ø.: ·N c` K-ÆØ.·E. -·ºo.Å.; ·Y -·Ø. õ.
:
·..·n·.;
·ht·.·.; cíŒÆØ·.; K.c·-·æø -·F .·n·ı; -æÆ·-·æ·. -·F ºíÆ. IŒæØ6·F.; Œæ·í--ø. -·F
6í·ı; ·Ncg. ÆNc·EuŁÆØ; -ÆæÆnıŁ·vn·.·. -c. -·F -º·F cıuå·æ·ØÆ.; ·N. n. õ. -Ø.
I.Æ-ÆvuÆØ-·; fiz-Ø. õ. ¬c·ø. -æ·u·æníuÆØ-·.
6 Tax farming was classiWed as a banausic occupation according to the Souda s.v.
‘banausos’ (¼B, entry 93).
7 De OV. I. 62. 150 : ‘Primum improbantur ii quaestus, qui in odia hominum
incurrunt, ut portitorum, ut faeneratorum’.
8 Dio Chrys. 14. 14: Tí c·; ·Y ·Ø u·Ø Kt·E.ÆØ; ‹uÆ nc I-·íæÅ-ÆØ nb. v-e -H. .·nø.
Kªªæóçø.; ÆNuåæa cb õººø. c·Œ·E -·E. I.Łæo-·Ø. ŒÆd õ-·-Æ
:
º·ªø cb ·x ·. -·ºø.·E. j
-·æ.·6·uŒ·E. j õººÆ ‹n·ØÆ -æó--·Ø..
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282 O. van Nijf
Well then, do you think that it is permitted to you to do all things, which,
while they are not forbidden by the laws, yet are regarded as base and
unseemly by mankind? I mean for example collecting taxes, or keeping a
brothel, or doing other such things.
Other sources agree: Artemidorus calls tax collecting an ‘unblush-
ing profession’, which could signify prostitution, when it appears in a
dream.9 The emperor Julian also classes together people of the baser
sort: ‘tax collectors, dancers and adulterers.’10
These texts may reXect mere upper-class prejudices, or result from
the rhetorical device of invective that relied on blackening the mor-
ality of one’s opponents, but the charge may not have been totally
baseless. Tax farmers were famously classed with sinners in the
New Testament, which suggests that in the society of Wrst-century
Palestine the association between tax farmers and prostitution could
be presented as plausible.11 A papyrus from the Zeno archive shows
that the association was not always imaginary. The text mentions a
pair of crooks who dealt in female prostitutes. They had kidnapped
a girl, provided her with an outWt, and handed her over to a customs
oYcial who was to act as her pimp—the rationale apparently being
that there would be frequent traYc, and plenty of customers.12
It is more diYcult to get an idea of the attitude of ‘ordinary’
Romans and Greeks towards tax farmers. Badian suggests that we
can easily empathize with their feelings, when he refers to ‘the natural
dislike that all working and earning men and women rightly feel for
the tax collector’, but it may not be so easy to get a grip on the
perspective of the ancient ‘working man’—(let alone of the ‘working
woman’).13 We shall see below that they may have been particularly
vulnerable to extortion at the hands of tax collectors, but there are
few Wrst-hand accounts to present their views. We hear of the pro-
verbial rapacity of tax gatherers, but we have no way of establishing
9 Art. Oneir. 4. 42: q. ªaæ ¬ KæªÆuíÆ õåæøn·. (but see 3. 58 for dreams where a tax
farmer could signify something positive for people who were in business).
10 Julian, Adv. Gal. 283E. He lists teloˆnai, orche ˆstai, and hetairotrophoi. The charge
had a long history anyway: Theophrastus, Char. 6, puts tax farming on a par with inn-
keeping and brothel keeping.
11 Cf. Youtie 1973.
12 PSI 4, 406, cf. Pomeroy 1984, 163.
13 Badian 1983, 11.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 283
how widespread such proverbs were.14 There are hardly any texts that
aim to give a more measured image. Only one source purports to give
the opinion of a tax collector, and he takes a defensive stance.15
‘Diomedon the tax farmer said: if it is not shameful for you to sell
the taxes, it is not shameful for us to buy them.’ Plutarch, though
hardly a spokesman for the working classes, exposes the hypocrisy of
the upper classes in this respect:16
And they think it is a disgrace to be a tax collector, which the law allows; but
they themselves lend money contrary to law, collecting taxes from their
debtors, or rather, if the truth is to be told, cheating themin the act of lending.
The common man may well have agreed. However, the e´lites had no
monopoly on double standards. Lucian defends the view that poverty
would make it excusable for a man to defraud a fellowcitizen, to ask for
gifts, to beg and steal, and even to be a tax collector.17 But in the end the
negative view prevails also here: in his imagination of Hell, Lucian puts
them all, tax collectors and upper class faeneratores, together:18
As it happened [Minos] himself was sitting on a lofty throne, while beside him
stood the Tormentors, the Furies, and the Avengers. From one side a great
number of men were being led up in line, bound together with a long chain;
they were said to be adulterers, procurers, tax collectors, toadies, informers,
14 e.g. Plut. Aquane an ignis sit utilior (Mor. 958 D 6): ‘Man has been granted but
little time to live and, as Ariston says, Sleep, like a tax farmer, takes away half of that’
(ŒÆd nc. Oºíª·ı åæ·.·ı ŒÆd 6í·ı -·E. I.Łæo-·Ø. c·c·n·.·ı › nb. ¹æíu-ø. çÅud. ‹-Ø ›
o-.·. ·x ·. -·ºo.Å. -e lnØuı IçÆØæ·E -·v-·ı). Another example can be found in
Iamb., Bab. 93: ‘The tax collector gave the necklace to the merchant. Will not wolves
set down lambs from their jaws and lions release fawns from their teeth back to their
mothers when a tax collector acually parts with so great a prize? (·cøŒ· -e. ‹æn·. ›
-·ºo.Å. -fiH Kn-·æfiø: ·PŒ XcÅ ŒÆd ºvŒ·Ø Ł´u·ıuØ. õæ.Æ. KŒ -H. u-·nó-ø. ŒÆd º··.-·.
I-e -H. Oc·.-ø. I-·ºvu·ıuØ .·6æ·f. -ÆE. nÅ-æóuØ.; ›-·-· ŒÆd -·ºo.Å. IçBŒ·. õªæÆ.
-ź،Æv-Å.).
15 Dion. Hal. Ad Amm. 1, 12 f.: › -·ºo.Å. › ˜Ø·n·cø.
:
·N ªaæ nÅc` vnE. ÆNuåæe. -e
-øº·E.; ·Pcb ¬nE. -e T.·EuŁÆØ.
16 Plut. De vitando aere alieno [829 C 9]: ÆP-·d ªaæ -ÆæÆ.·nø. cÆ.·íÇ·ıuØ
-·ºø.·F.-·.; nAºº·. c`; ·N c·E -IºÅŁb. ·N-·E.; K. -fiH cÆ.·íÇ·Ø. åæ·øŒ·-·F.-·..
17 Luc. Pseudolog. 30.
18 Luc. Menippus sive de Nekyiomanteia 11: K-vªåÆ.· cb › nb. K-d Łæ·.·ı -Ø.e.
vłÅº·F ŒÆŁ´n·.·.; -Ææ·Øu-´Œ·uÆ. cb ÆP-fiH —·Ø.Æd ŒÆd `¯æØ.v·. ŒÆd ¹ºóu-·æ·.:
·-·æøŁ·. cb -æ·u´ª·.-· -·ºº·í -Ø.·. Kç·tB.; ±ºvu·Ø nÆŒæfiA c·c·n·.·Ø
:
Kº·ª·.-· cb
·r .ÆØ n·Øå·d ŒÆd -·æ.·6·uŒ·d ŒÆd -·ºH.ÆØ ŒÆd Œ·ºÆŒ·. ŒÆd uıŒ·çó.-ÆØ ŒÆd -·Ø·F-·.
‹nغ·. -H. -ó.-Æ ŒıŒo.-ø. K. -fiH 6ífiø: åøæd. cb ·¥ -· -º·vuØ·Ø ŒÆd -·Œ·ªºvç·Ø
-æ·ufi´·uÆ. Tåæ·d ŒÆd -æ·ªóu-·æ·. ŒÆd -·cƪæ·í; Œº·Øe. ·ŒÆu-·. ÆP-H. ŒÆd Œ·æÆŒÆ
cØ-óºÆ.-·. K-ØŒ·ín·.·..
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284 O. van Nijf
and all that crowd of people who created such confusion in life. In a separate
company then millionaires and the moneylenders, potbellied and gouty, each
of them with a neck iron and a hundred pound ‘crow’ upon him.
It is diYcult, therefore, to get an image of the customs farmer that
is not coloured by ideology or prejudice. The tax farmer, when he
appears in literature, is represented in a negative light as someone
who is marked by excessive greed and lack of morality. However, such
texts are not very helpful on the precise duties of individual tax
collectors, or on their position in the organization. They have even
less to say on the question of how those men saw their own lives and
their own roles as servants of the Roman Empire.
3. THE BUREAUCRACY
We are only beginning to appreciate the complexities and detailed
division of labour that went into the collection of the many taxes that
supported the Imperium Romanum.19 The Ephesian Customs Law
provides us with some detailed lists of the places where the customs
duties were to be levied (ll. 7–11, §§1–2), it mentions possible exemp-
tions (ll. 58–67, §§25–7), and it even goes into some detail about the
construction of stations and guard-posts (ll. 35–6, §13), but it does not
give much thought to the individuals concerned. The terminology can
be loose and imprecise. The tax farmer is usually called teloˆne ˆs or
de ˆmosioˆne ˆs, but for the lower ranks a blanket term such as epitropos
is deemed suYcient. From the perspective of the lawgivers in Rome,
the individuals who at a local level were running the organization on
a day-to-day basis were apparently of little interest.
This was of course the result of the way that tax collection had been
arranged. Tax farming was a convenient way of compensating for the
absence of an adequate bureaucratic structure in the Republic. It
provided the state with money upfront, leaving the trouble of actu-
ally collecting the money conveniently to wealthy entrepreneurs. The
e´lite business men themselves relied heavily on authorized agents
19 The standard work is of course still De Laet 1949, but see now Brunt 1990b. The
position of uilici is discussed in Aubert 1994, esp. ch. 5, and Carlsen 1995, esp. 43–55.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 285
(usually slaves or freedmen) to carry out economic and menial
activities, that ‘their life-style, political and economic engagement,
and social prejudices prevented them from carrying out personally’,
while still being able to reap the Wnancial beneWts of their eVorts.20 It
is this double distancing that must account for the relative lack of
interest in the law among the people on the ground.
It is well known that from the onset of the Principate private
enterprise was gradually phased out from tax collecting, even though
we do not know in detail how this process evolved. Direct taxation
was taken out of the hands of the publicani, and left to the town
councils, thus implicating local e´lites in the exploitation of the
provinces. This was not, however, deemed necessary or practical for
the collection of indirect taxes such as customs duties. Publicani
remained active here at least until the end of the second century,
even though there is evidence that local e´lites could sometimes be
involved, as we shall see below. The traditional view (advocated by
De Laet) is that the companies who farmed the customs duties were
replaced sometime under Trajan by individual conductores. In an
important article Brunt has pointed out that there is not enough
evidence for this view, and he insists that companies must have
continued until the Severan age at least. Recently, Aubert has argued
that Brunt may have gone too far in the other direction: ‘there is no
reason why [conductores] should be discarded altogether from the
history of tax collection: both companies and individual tax farmers
could have lived side by side.’21
Important though they were from an institutional point of view,
these changes would have had a limited eVect on the daily operations,
which may well be connected to the existence of slave agents. The
slave personnel of the individual tax farmers or of tax farming
companies could without any diYculty be transferred from one
company to another, or to an individual conductor, if necessary.
The Customs Law does not make an explicit statement about the
transfer of slaves, but as the tax farmers had to use the same buildings
and staging-posts as had been used previously under King Attalos, we
may assume that slaves and other property were also transferred
20 Aubert 1994, 322.
21 Aubert 1994, 330 with references to the earlier debate.
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286 O. van Nijf
(§28, l. 68). The text also states that they had to hand these over to
incoming publicani, and the same must have applied to slave per-
sonnel in districts that had Wrst been taxed by the Romans them-
selves. Where and when imperial agents took over, the tax personnel
would simply be incorporated into the familia Caesaris and do their
jobs as before.22 The data do not allow me to diVerentiate much
between the various categories of tax oYcial, and I amwell aware that
the situation on the ground may have been more varied than would
appear at Wrst sight. The Romans adopted local practices, and will
have made innovations where necessary. However, if we start from
the Customs Law, and use additional information from inscriptions
and other material from Asia and elsewhere, we should still be able to
draw up a reliable and coherent picture of the daily chores of Roman
tax collecting.
4. CUSTOMS HOUSES AND STAFF
The Customs Law shows that the system relied on a dense network of
customs oYcials spread over a relatively wide geographical area.
Customs posts, described simply as epoikia (buildings), or telonia
(customs houses) were set up in the major harbours of the tax
district, and along major land roads into the district (ll. 22–6, §9).
Smaller collection points, paraphylakai (guard-posts), were to be
found along minor roads and around the territories of free cities
(l. 32, §12). In addition to the places mentioned in the text we Wnd
stations in places such as Laodicea and Amorium.23 One inscription
informs us that a customs station was located in Cibyra.24 Perhaps we
should also reckon with temporary posts, which were closed part of
the year, as seems to have happened in Illyria.25
Although the Romans were willing to take over pre-existing cus-
toms houses that had been used by the Attalids, there was a tendency
to impose some order. The names of the tax farmer and of his
representative were to be advertised clearly (ll. 27–8, §10). It would
22 Cf. Weaver 1972, passim. 23 See Appendix nos. 4b and 3.
24 I.Kibyra 107; see Appendix nos. 8a–8b. 25 Carlsen 1995, 51.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 287
have been practical to post a tariV listing the current rates and
exceptions as well. These may have taken the shape of a wooden
pinakion, such as the one mentioned by Philostratus in the Apollonius
episode quoted above, but it would probably have been suYcient
to have a copy on papyrus.26 No parallel for the inscribed tariV of
Palmyra has been found in Asia.27 The Customs Law further gives
some precise directions for when a new customs building or guard-
post had to be constructed:28
If he wishes, he is to have up to one building [in all these cities and places]
for the sake of [declaration (?)] or registration or habitation, provided that
[it is] not in a temple or temenos, or [sacred place; and at (?) - - -] they are to
have [???] guard-posts, and (in any case) one guard-post on the River
Rhyndacus. Whatever place of this province [there is, wherever it is neces-
sary to declare, if in] these [places] a harbour lies by the sea, [they are to
have] by each harbour in these (places) up to one guard-post in sequence, if
[they wish, for the sake of exaction of telos]; and also on the coast by the sea;
and around the boundaries of the province, where it is lawful to go or drive
(animals), if they wish; [provided that] they have (a building) within [???
feet of wherever it is necessary to declare], built or fenced, one in each place,
thirty feet from front to back, <thirty feet from side to side>, and provided
that it is not [built in a temple or temenos] or sacred place or with (another)
building nearer than ninety feet.
It was not only a place where the transactions took place, or where
documents were kept, but it would seem that the customs oYcials
also lived there. The head of a customs house was a uilicus, or in
Greek oikonomos—in some cases we Wnd a praepositus, who was
normally a freedman. He was in charge of a familia of slaves, who
performed a variety of specialist jobs, either collecting the taxes, or
handling the administrative side.29 The staV of a uilicus could be
large. Epigraphical and papyrological sources yield a wide variety of
job-titles, whose precise functions are not always clear. A uilicus
would have one or more assistants, who could act as his representa-
26 See below in the section on procedures.
27 IGR 3, 1056 ¼ OGIS 629. See Matthews 1984 and Teixidor 1984.
28 ll. 30–6, §§12–13. All English translations of the Customs Law are from the
version in this volume by M. H. Crawford.
29 Aubert 1994, 333–42. The Egyptian material is presented in Sijpesteijn 1987.
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288 O. van Nijf
tive. Such men were known as uicarii, if the uilicus was himself a
slave, or as pragmateutai and actores.30 Among the more specialized
occupations we Wnd portitores (collectors), hoi pros teˆi puleˆi (gate-
keepers), scrutatores, and ereuneˆtai (search oYcers). Accounting and
book keeping were handled by Wnancial specialists: tabularii, arkarii,
librarii, commentarienses, dispensatores, or cheiristai (Wnancial clerks)
and grammateis. In some cases there may have been one or more
armed men: at least in Egypt we Wnd arabotoxotai (policemen, who
used a type of bow that was called ‘Arabic’). In addition we would
expect, particularly in the larger houses, personal slaves (serui,
and boeˆthoi) and in some cases wives and children of the members
of staV.31 Such customs houses were real outposts of empire: self-
contained microcosms inhabited by servants of the Roman state.
5. PROCEDURES
It is easy to underestimate the sheer amount of work—and paper-
work—that must have gone into the collection of customs duties.
Inscriptions, literary sources, and legal sources give only a limited
impression. The Customs Law clearly states that the process involved
two stages: an (oral) declaration, and a written registration.32 A tax
law from Egypt gives us some idea of how these procedures may have
worked in practice. A tax farmer could accept the valuation placed by
the merchant on his cargo as a basis for paying duty,33
30 Weaver 1972, 200–6 on uicarii.
31 See Carlsen 1995, 51 for the suggestion that they would work nearby lands to
produce the necessary provisions. For the family relations of uilici and other customs
oYcials, see below in the section on funerary practices. It is perfectly clear that
customs oYcials owned personal slaves; cf. Dig. 39. 4. 1. 5. For a 5-year-old slave
girl who belonged to a group of tax farmers in Apollonia (Cyrenaica), see Robert
1968, 436–9 [¼ OMS 6, 112–16].
32 Cf. l, 4, §13: -æ·uçø.·í-ø ŒÆd I-·ªæÆç·uŁø.
33 P.Oxy. 1. 36, 6 V.: K½a.Š cb j <›> -·ºo.Å. KŒç·æ½-ØuŁŠBj.ÆØ -e -º·E·. K-ØÇÅ-´ufiÅ; j
› ·n-·æ·. KŒç·æ-ØÇ·½-Šø; j ŒÆd Ka. nb. ·væ·ŁfiB -½ØŠ ·-·jæ·. j n I-·ªæółÆ-·; u-·æ´juØn·.
·u-ø; Ka. cb nc ·vjæ·ŁfiB; › -·ºo.Å. -½cŠ. cÆj-ó.Å. -fiH Kn-·½æŠfiø -·F j KŒç·æ-Øun·F
I-·c½·-Šø: j ŒÆd -Ææa -H. K½ªºÆ6·.-ø.Š j -a -·ºÅ, å·Øæ·ªæÆç½íÆ. ºÆn6ŠÆj.·-øuÆ. ¥ .Æ
·N. -e n·ºjº·. IuıŒ·çó.-Å-·Ø j zuØ..
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Social World of Tax Farmers 289
but if the tax farmer desire that the ship should be unloaded, the merchant
shall unload the cargo, and if anything be discovered other than what he had
declared, it shall be liable to conWscation. But if nothing else is discovered,
the tax farmer shall repay to the merchant the cost of unloading. And they
shall receive from those who farm the taxes a written declaration, in order
that they may not be liable to false accusations subsequently.
In some cases specialized search oYcers, scrutatores or ereune ˆtai,
would unload the cargo or handle a metal siromaste ˆs (probe) to
search through loads of grain or other bulk goods.34
The paperwork must have taken up a lot of time as well. We may
form some impression of what must have been contained in the
archives of Asia if we turn to the situation in Egypt.35 Transporters
received upon payment a receipt, the size of a credit card, with a
more or less standardized text stating the place where the customs
was paid, and the name of the duty. Normally they also recorded the
name of the transporters, the products over which taxes were paid,
their quantity, and the means of transportation, and, Wnally, the date.
Most receipts would have clay seals attached to them, stamped with a
portrait of the emperor. Large numbers of customs receipts have
survived in the Egyptian deserts; the following text is a typical
example:36
Ounophris who exports a donkey with two (2) artabae of dates has paid the
customs duty of 1% through the gate of Philadelphia. Year 14 of Imperator
Caesar Trajan Hadrian Our Lord, Phaophi 24.
It was the job of a symbolarius, a specialist oYcial, to dispense such
declarations, for which the trader would have to pay a small sur-
charge (symbolon). This type of oYcial was only attested in Egypt,
but a symbolarius recently turned up in an epitaph from Ephesus.37
34 Scrutatores: AE
´
1899, 180; 1933, 160; 1974, 485. See Aubert 1994, 339. For the
ereune ˆtai, see Sijpesteijn 1987, 96–7. The siromasteˆs is mentioned in the Suda (2 entry
478): 2Øæ·nóu-Å.
:
uŒ·F·. -Ø uØcÅæ·F.; ºÆ6c. tıºí.Å. ·å·. -Ææa -·E. -·ºo.ÆØ. ·N.
·æ·ı.Æ..
35 Sijpesteijn 1987, esp. 85–90. Cf. Hopkins 1991, 133–4.
36 Sijpesteijn 1987, 147, no. 137. Cf. Vindob. G inv. 39850: -·-·ºðo.Å-ÆØÞ cØa -vºÅ.
1غÆc·ºçíÆ. j æ ˇ
Á
P
Á
.oçæØ·. Któ
Á
ªðø.Þ Z.·ð.Þ ç·í
Á
½.ŠØ
Á
Œ
Á
·
Á
. j Iæ-ó6Æ. cv·

6
Á
: ·-·ı. Øc
`
Á
½PŠ-·jŒæó-·æ·. ˚ÆíuÆæ·. TæÆØÆ
Á
.
Á
·
Á
F jj '`
Á
cæØÆ.·F -·F Œıæí·ı 1
Á
Æ
Á
H
Á
çØ j Œ

c.
37 Appendix, no. 5c.
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290 O. van Nijf
At all the customs stations these payments were registered one by
one into large ledgers, recording all imports and exports by tabularii
and other specialists.38 At regular intervals these ledgers were sent to
responsible oYcials in regional centres for checking, creating work in
the province for hundreds (thousands?) of administrators. The set-
up may have diVered in detail from customs house to customs house,
but we may assume that the daily chores of tax collection in the
district of Asia will have been roughly comparable. The loads of
paperwork, and the demands in terms of manpower must have
been similar.
Apart from the major customs houses, a network of guard-posts
(phylakai) and ‘minor guard-posts’ was set up throughout the prov-
ince. The trader was supposed to register with the nearest oYcial (ll.
42–5, §17), but the Law also provided for places where no customs
oYcial was to be found:39
If there is neither a collector nor a procurator there according to this lex, to
whom one may declare [and with whom one may register before importing,
whenever] this is the case, whatever city may be nearest to that place, they
are to register with the person holding the highest oYce in it [as is appro-
priate according to the lex].
Other texts also give the impression that the involvement of local
e´lites in the collection of customs duties was not rare.40
Finally, the staV on a customs post may have included a ‘Xying
squad’ that patrolled the minor roads in the countryside. In western
provinces we Wnd ‘circitores’; in Egypt eremophylakes would patrol
the deserts.41 There is no clear evidence that they were also active in
Asia, but a customs oYcial from Apollonia, who died in Laodicea,
where he was buried by his uicarii, was perhaps on patrol.42
Still, it must have been relatively easy to escape the spying eye of
the customs oYcial. A passage in a novel illustrates what might
happen. Merchants would try to avoid customs as a matter of course,
38 Sijpesteijn 1987, 85–90.
39 ll. 40–2, §16.
40 AE
´
1947–1948, 179 is an honoriWc inscription for a tax farmer (tetartones) of the
customs duties, who was also a councillor in Palmyra (c.ad 160 ) and a councillor
who acted as phorologos is on record in Thrace (SEG 32, 676, ad 3).
41 Circitores: AE
´
1938, 91; 1985, 714; 1989, 334. For Egypt, see Sijpesteijn 1987, 93.
42 See Appendix, nos. 4b and 4c.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 291
and many customers would happily collude.43 ‘A merchant who had
a beautiful woman for sale approached me. Because of the customs
oYcial he had anchored his boat outside the city near your property.’
The Customs Law tried to deal with such scams:44
[Whatever anyone may import by sea,] he is [not] to divert the ship or
indeed to divert whatever he may unload or discharge onto land to other
places for the sake of [evasion of telos; and if] anyone acts [in contravention
of these provisions] the lex is to be valid on the same basis as if he was
carrying something unregistered.
The customs oYcials, however, had to catch the perpetrator Wrst,
and many travellers would simply have taken their chances.
The customs oYcers for their part may well have decided that it
was easier (and more proWtable) to concentrate on the traders who
did register, and see how much they could squeeze out of them
within—or just beyond—the limits set by the law. There were various
points that oVered the tax oYcials some leeway. The trader had to
supply an estimate of the value of his cargo, but it was the tax farmer
who ultimately put a value on all goods (ll. 45–6, §18), and he would
not have been likely to settle on too low a level.
Another strategy might have been to levy a tax on goods for which
customs had already been paid. The Customs Law prohibits this
(ll. 16–20, §6), but the traveller would have had to be able to prove
that he had paid his taxes Wrst. It is easy to imagine what would have
happened if a trader lost his symbolon, or when the customs oYcial
accused him of carrying more goods than he had declared.
Disagreement could, of course, also arise on the interpretation of
exemptions. The very length of the section on exemptions in the
Customs Law suggests that this was a major source of contention
(ll. 58–68, §§25–7). Aschool text provides us with anamusing dilemma
that could arise in such circumstances. What to do with a Roman
matrona, who had a string of pearls hidden on her bosom? Tax farmers
were not allowed to search Roman women, but the temptation to
investigate nonetheless must have been strong.45 Other exemptions
43 Char. Chaer. and Call. 2. 1. 3 (cf. 1. 13): -æ·uBºŁ· n·í -Ø. ·n-·æ·. -Ø-æóuŒø.
ªı.ÆEŒÆ ŒÆººíu-Å.; cØa cb -·f. -·ºo.Æ. ·tø -B. -·º·ø. uænØu· -c. .ÆF. -ºÅuí·. -H.
uH. åøæíø..
44 ll. 15–16, §5. 45 [Quint.] Decl. 359.
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292 O. van Nijf
could also give rise to conXicts. How many of the slaves or other goods
of a traveller were really for private use? Who was to say what was
imported to deal with threats from enemies? How far did the exemp-
tion for goods brought to the Sebasteia at Pergamon extend (ll. 128–33,
§57)? Many uncertainties or ambiguities of this kind had to be con-
frontedon a daily basis. It may be doubted that all cases were solved ina
manner favourable to the traders or travellers.
6. CONTROL AND COLLUSION
The eager tax collector may, of course, have been driven by a sense of
duty, or civic-mindedness, but, as he was working on a percentage
basis, we cannot exclude that he will have kept his own Wnancial
interest Wrmly in mind. Personal corruption may thus easily have
crept in. A text from Egypt shows that traders in a hurry were
occasionally willing to pay baksheesh in order to speed up the
procedures.46
[So-and-so] prefect of Egypt says: I am informed that the tax farmers have
employed exceedingly clever devices against those who are passing though
the country and that they are, in addition, demanding what is not owing to
them and are detaining those who are in urgent haste, in order that some
may buy from them a more speedy departure. I, therefore, command them
to desist from such greediness . . .
The tax system was clearly open to abuse, which to the individuals
involved may well have been one of the attractions of buying the lease
in the Wrst place. The state oVered some protection against the worst
abuses, but limited itself mainly to granting exemption to those
categories of people who really mattered. Others may have expected
to have to fend for themselves. A well-timed backhander may have
done the trick.
46 P.Princ. 2, 20 with Reinmuth 1936: ·-Ææå·.Š j `Nªv--·ı º·ª·Ø
:
j ŒÆ-Åå·FnÆØ -·f.
-·ºo.Æ. j c·Ø.H. u·
Á
çí
Á
u
Á
ÆuŁÆØ -·E. cØ·
Á
æjå·
Á
n
Á
·
Á
.·Ø. ŒÆd I-ÆØ-·E. -
Á
a j n
Á
c
Á
Oç·Øº·n·.Æ ÆP-·E.
K-d -º·Ej½·.Š Œ
Á
Æ
Á
d
Á
ŒæÆ-·E. -·f. K-·Øª·n·.·ı. j ½¥ .Ɗ ŒÆd -e -óåØ·. I-·åøæ·E. -Øj.b.
K
Á
tø.´uø.-ÆØ: -Ææƪª·ºjºø ½cbŠ ·s. ÆP-·E. -ÆvuÆuŁÆØ -B. j ½-·ØÆvŠ-Å. -º½·Š·.·tíÆ.
-
Á
Æ
Á
.
Á
-
Á
½ÆåfiBŠ.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 293
It should be recognized, however, that traders and other travellers
were not the only ones to suVer from corruption of tax oYcials. An
inscription from Aphrodisias shows that free cities were sometimes
subject to illegal customs duties, which could only be removed by
appeal to the emperor.47 A second-century text from Egypt shows
that the Roman state could itself fall victim to the malpractices of its
functionaries. The papyrus is a letter by a whistle-blower, who had
worked as a guard in a customs house, and who had discovered that
the tax farmer had falsiWed the oYcial records.48
To his highness the epistrategos Julius Petronianus from Pabous son of
Stotoe¨tis son of Panomieus, a priest of the village of Soknopaiou Nesos in
the division of Herakleides of the Arsinoı ¨te nome, Arab archer at the
customs house of the said Soknopaiou Nesos. While not seeking an occasion
of accusation, but because I saw the treasury being defrauded by Polydeukes,
who contrary to the prohibition has now for four years been in charge of the
aforesaid customs-house, and by Harpagathes, son of Er . . . , I presented to
the overseers of the nomarchy a copy of Harpagathes’ autograph returns in
my possession of the imports and exports passing through the customs-
house, requesting that an examination of them should be held in order to
determine whether the taxes upon these had been added to the treasury
account. Polydeukes having discovered this attacked me with other persons,
whose names I do not know and belaboured me with many blows, and not
satisWed with this set upon me Heraklas, one of the guards of the domains,
and taking me up by force they together carried me to the counting-house of
the superintendent of the domains and caused me to be scourged in order to
make me give up the register of Harpagathes.
47 Reynolds, Aphrodisias no. 15.
48 P.Amh. 2, 77: `I·ıºíøØ —·-æø.ØÆ.fiH -HØ ŒæÆ-½íŠu-fiø K-Øu-æÆ-´ªfiø j -Ææa
—Æ6·F-½·Š. -·F 2-·-·´-·ø. —Æ.·nØ·ø. j ƒ·æ·ø. I-e ŒonÅ. ½2Š·Œ.·-Æí·ı ˝´u·ı
-B. j '˙æÆŒº·íc·ı n·æíc·. ½-·F ¹Šæu½ØŠ.·í-·ı .·n·F ¹æÆ6·j-·t·-·ı -vºÅ½.Š -·. ÆP-B.
2·Œ.·-Æí·ı ˝´u·ı: j [.].[. . . . ].
Á
ŒÆ-Ū·æ:½. . . IŠººa ›æH. -e. çíuŒ·. j -·æتæÆç·n·.·.
v-e —·ºıc·vŒ·ı. -·-æÆ·-·E j XcÅ åæ·.øØ -Ææa -a I-·ØæÅn·.Æ K-Ø-Åæ·F.j-·. -c.
-æ·Œ·Øn·.Å. -vºÅ. ŒÆd v-e j ½'`æ-ƪŠóŁ½·ı -·ŠF
Á
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I.ƪæÆçíø. -H. cØa -B. -vºÅ. ·NuÆåŁ·.-ø. j ½ŒŠÆd KtÆåŁ½·.-ø.; IŠtØ
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½ŁÅŠ j ÆP-H. -ó -·ºÅ -fiH ŒıæØÆŒHØ
º·ªøØ: ŒÆd j K-ت.·f. › —·ºıc·½vŒŠÅ. K-·ºŁo. n·Ø j n·Ł` ·-·æø. z. -a O.·nÆ-Æ Iª.·H
-º·íu
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j -ºÅªÆE. n·fiMŒíuÆ-·; ŒÆd nc I挷uŁ·½dŠ. j K-´½.Š·ªŒ· n·Ø '˙æƽŒºŠA. -Ø.Æ
nÆåÆØæ·jç·æø. ·PuØÆŒH. ŒÆd Inç·-·æ·Ø 6ífiÆ j 6Æu½-ŠótÆ.-·. n· ·Nu´.·ªŒÆ. ·N. -e
º·ª½ØŠu-´æØ·. j -·F K-Ø-æ·-·ı -H. ·PuØH. ŒÆd K-·íÅuó. n· j:½:ŠŒ½:Š:Æ
Á
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nÆu-ت·FuŁÆØ ·N. -e I.ÆcHj½.ÆíŠ n
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294 O. van Nijf
Fortunately for Pabous, the matter came to the attention of his
superiors, and he was allowed to make a formal complaint. It may
be doubted, however, that under similar circumstances many of his
colleagues would have shown the same disinterested courage.
There was clearly some need to supervise the customs oYcials.
Developments in the way that the taxes were leased out will have
made this more urgent. From the reign of Augustus the payment of a
lump sum up-front was apparently replaced by a percentage system,
presumably because the contractors would have found it diYcult to
make secure estimates of the levels of traYc, and of potential income.49
However, as this would increase the number of opportunities to de-
fraud the state, imperial procurators (with their ownuilici and uicarii)
were made responsible for supervising the tax collectors. Gradually an
imperial ‘bureaucracy’ seems to have grown upalongside the tax system
proper, but it is not always easy to distinguish between the two, as the
job titles were the same, and as their responsibilities partly overlapped.
The situation got even more complex in those provinces, where be-
tween the reigns of Commodus and Severus, the same procurators
began to be responsible for collection and for supervision.50 Such close
coexistence would not seem the best recipe for a strict and impartial
supervision of the tax collectors’ practices.
It is interesting to see that tax collectors also seem to have main-
tained excellent relations with those other representatives of Roman
power: the military. In some cases customs oYcials and soldiers
appear to have been close friends, as in Moguntiacum (Mainz),
where a uilicus and a beneWciarius consularis (a member of the
military police) set up a joint dedication.51 The seating inscriptions
from the amphitheatre of Aquincum (Budapest) show a uilicus with a
reserved place between a karcerarius legionis (military prison oYcer)
and a veteran.52 They may have been part of the Roman equivalent of
an ‘expat community’, but to the other spectators they may well have
represented the ugly face of Roman imperial power.
The evidence for soldiers abusing their position is even stronger
than that for tax collectors. Apuleius tells the tale of a centurion who
brutally knocks a market gardener oV his ass.53 A number of recently
49 Aubert 1994, 329–30 and Brunt 1990, 381–3. 50 Brunt 1990, 407–20.
51 CIL 13, 18118. 52 CIL 3, 10493d. 53 Met. 9. 39.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 295
published inscriptions conWrm that the picture was realistic.54 For
us it is sometimes hard to see what is going on, and who exactly
was involved. A fragmentary document from Cibyra, concerned
with illegal and violent exactions from peasants, may have involved
soldiers. A recent interpretation, however, identiWes a number of
tabularii in the text, which may point the Wnger rather in the
direction of customs oYcers.55
The Digest recognizes that the tax systemwas corrupt, but taking the
approach of most large organizations, the Roman state would seem to
have put the blame squarely on relatively low-ranking individual
oYcials.56
Nobody is unaware of the extent of the audacity and insolence of cliques of
tax farmers. This is the reason why the praetor promulgated this edict to
control their audacity. Where a tax farmer’s familia is alleged to have
committed theft or has caused wrongful injury, if the persons whom the
matter in hand will concern are not brought before me, I will grant a
iudicium without possibility of noxal surrender against the owner. It should
be understood that in this context, the title ‘familia’ covers the tax farmer’s
slaves. However, if somebody else’s slave is serving as a slave of a tax farmer
in good faith he is included as well.
The oYcial line, then, was that such practices were to stop, but
they may have been unavoidable. The creativity of the tax farmers
was probably inWnite, and the more audacious among them must
have been able to amass considerable personal fortunes. I suspect that
the corrupt tax collector is rather representative of how the system
worked in practice. Peculation may well have outstripped peculium
54 See for example SEG 38, 1244: a letter of Pertinax concerning molestation of
civilians from Tabala, and 37, 1186, from Takina: a letter by Caracalla concerning the
bad behaviour of soldiers.
55 Milner 1998, no. 112. Recently new readings of the text were suggested by
Professor G. Souris of the University of Thessaloniki at a seminar in Cambridge,
and by Dr T. Corsten (pers. comm.), who identiWed a ‘tabul[arius]’ and his adiutores
in the text. The term ‘tabularius’ makes it possible, but by no means proves that the
exactions were made by customs oYcials.
56 Dig. 39. 4. 12: Quantae audaciae, quantae temeritatis sint publicanorum fac-
tiones, nemo est, qui nesciat. idcirco praetor ad compescendam eorum audaciam hoc
edictum proposuit: ‘Quod familia publicanorum furtum fecisse dicetur, item si damnum
iniuria fecerit et id ad quos ea res pertinet non exhibetur: in dominum sine noxae
deditione iudicium dabo. Familiae autem appellatione hic seruilem familiam contineri
sciendum est. Sed et si bona Wde publicano alienus seruus seruit, aeque continebitur.’
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296 O. van Nijf
as a source of income and power of the uilici and uicarii involved in
tax collection. But even when they were not personally corrupt, the
fact that the tax farmers worked on commission can only have
increased their zeal to tax whatever they could lay their hands on,
thus raising state revenue. This may well have dampened oYcial
willingness to investigate anything but the worst excesses too deeply.
7. THE SELF-PRESENTATI ON OF THE TAX FARMERS
At this point we should perhaps shift our perspective, and investigate
whether we can say anything on the self-perception of the tax farm-
ers, particularly of those in the lower ranks. The epigraphic docu-
ments set up by these men, mainly epitaphs and other inscriptions,
were naturally also driven by ideology. Funerary and honoriWc in-
scriptions are best seen as (joint) projects of self-representation,
involving usually two parties: the deceased or honorands and the
dedicants of the inscription. Messages sent out by mortuary display
were varied, but frequently they referred to social status, wealth, and
identity. An inscribed epitaph was a deliberate and enduring com-
memoration of whatever features were seen as the dead person’s most
signiWcant characteristics, the features that deWned his social identity.
We should be careful, though: epitaphs may not provide an unprob-
lematic guide to the actual status of individuals during life, but were
more likely a reXection of how people chose to represent themselves.
What those inscriptions do is not just to identify a particular indi-
vidual, but to place this person in a particular social context. These
monuments, then, oVer a useful perspective on the collective self-
perception and social aspirations of a particular class of men.57
8. THE DEATH OF A TAX FARMER
A few of the inscriptions commemorating the Asian tax farmers are
simple epitaphs. It is worth considering what such monuments have
57 I have discussed these issues in van Nijf 1997, 27 and 34–8.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 297
to tell us beyond the identiWcation of the deceased. In the Wrst place it
should be remembered that setting up a funerary inscription, even a
modest one, was staking out a claim to moderate wealth and respect-
ability. The very poor never received an individually marked grave.
The epitaphs of Roman tax collectors contributed to establishing
them as a relatively prosperous group.58
Moreover, it is clear that most funerary inscriptions identiWed cus-
toms oYcials primarily on the basis of their occupation. In this respect
they resembled other so-called banausic occupations, such as those of
craftsmen and traders. It is important to realize the social implications
of this practice, as identiWcation by job-title represents a break with
earlier Greek practice. I have argued elsewhere that this practice gave
craftsmen and traders a chance to exploit their occupational titles as
emblems of distinction that they could not acquire by political activ-
ities.59 Low-ranking customs oYcials may well have employed similar
social strategies in their epigraphic self-representation. Often slaves or
freedmen, they may have derived a sense of status, or importance, from
their connection with the customs service in a way that seems to go
beyond simple pride in one’s job. It may be suggested that they valued
particularly highly the link it provided with the ultimate source of
prestige, the Roman state. It is striking, for example, that some oYcials
chose to use Latin (or Latin and Greek) for their epitaph, even though
they might have been more familiar with Greek. Among the examples
fromAsia we Wnd: Isochrysus and Bellicus in Amorium,60 Felix and the
anonymous uilicus from Miletus,61 Leo from Apollonia,62 Agathonicus
and Amerimnus from Cibyra,63 and Ias and Quintus in Ephesus (the
latter even coined a new Latin word, ‘teloniarius’, to make his point).64
Even though the use of Latin was not exceptional in Roman Asia, a
Latin epitaph would have stood out suYciently to mark the Roman
identity of the deceased.65
58 Patterson 1992, 17. Cf. Gordon et al. 1993, 155: ‘Every funerary epitaph makes
reference, among other things, to the fact that other men could not aVord one.’
59 Van Nijf 1997, 31–69.
60 Appendix no. 3.
61 Appendix nos. 9a–d.
62 Appendix no. 4b.
63 Appendix nos. 8a and 8b.
64 Appendix nos. 5d and 5f.
65 For a convenient survey of bilingual inscriptions from Asia Minor see now
Kearsley and Evans 2001.
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298 O. van Nijf
A second social context to which funerary inscriptions draw at-
tention is the family proper. There might be a potential conXict, as a
few tax oYcials may have privileged their relations with the familia
over those with their blood relatives, and chose to be buried in a
collective tomb belonging to the familia of a societas or individual
conductor. An example of a locus sepulturae of oYcials has been found
in Italy.66 A number of Asian customs oYcials were likewise buried
by their colleagues.67 We cannot exclude that this was often a con-
scious choice, as it was in the case of professional associations, more
than necessity.
However, more often than not, epitaphs of tax collectors focused
on their family relations. The Ephesian teloniarius Quintus buried his
own wife,68 and a scrutator of the statio Bilachensis and his wife
buried their daughter.69 Another uilicus, Bargathus, was buried by
his wife, Hilara.70 Sentimental reasons may not have been the only
ones to play a part here. As we saw above, many of the uilici and other
employees of the customs service were slaves. In their case the very
idea of maintaining family connections was not unproblematic, as
the family ties of slaves did not enjoy the same legal status as those of
free persons. Contubernium took the place of marriage, and oYcially
slaves could not appoint their children as heirs (or at least not
without the permission of their master). It is not surprising, then,
that the e´lite among the slaves would choose family life as an area
particularly suited for negotiating and demonstrating their superior
status.71 Imperial slaves for example would often be ‘upwardly nu-
bile’. Slaves in the customs’ service were no exception. Quite a few
slave oYcials seem to have had freed or freeborn wives of whom they
were deservedly proud.72
66 ILS 1870 from Verona, which was a locus sepulturae of a familia involved in the
collection of the uicesima libertatis.
67 Appendix nos. 3, 4b, perhaps 9a. The father and son team from Cibyra managed
to have it both ways, nos. 8a and 8b.
68 Appendix no. 5g.
69 AE
´
1974, 485.
70 AE
´
1975, 202.
71 Weaver 1972, 170–95.
72 Cf. ILS 1566, an epitaph set up by Pedia Epictesis for her husband Placidus, an
imperial slave who worked as a customs oYcial in Gaul.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 299
A similar eVect of self-promotion was achieved by usurping an-
other right of free citizens that slaves formally lacked: to make a
legally valid will. This is what seems to have happened with a slave
uilicus in Miletus who mentions ‘heirs’ in his epitaph, if Peter
Herrmann’s reconstruction of the inscription, of which only frag-
ments survive, is correct.73 We are here clearly dealing with a slave
whose (self-)perceived utility in the customs service was a source for
his social ambitions. The families of such slaves also stood to beneWt:
a daughter of a uilicus was proud enough of her father’s connections
with the tax system for her to record his occupation on her own
epitaph. It is indicative of the kind of social world in which she was
moving that she was married to a kapelos, a trader.74
As we saw above, the collection of customs duties gave rise to a
considerable bureaucratic organization, which naturally produced a
need for increasing diVerentiation among the diVerent grades of the
posts.75 We cannot reconstruct a precise career path for the ambitious
tax collector: but we know that several tax-collecting slaves were
proud enough to have their pseudo-cursus recorded on stone.
Eutyches, a uicarius in Noricum, became a contrascriptor at a diVerent
station.76 An imperial slave called Felix was a uilicus in one station,
but he reminded the reader that he had been promoted from the job
of uicarius at another station.77 Such behaviour should be seen as a
clear case of ‘imitatio domini ’, and was typical of a socially mobile and
increasingly self-conWdent class of people, who were fully aware of the
impact of their daily activities on life in the provinces.78
The funerary record of the Roman customs oYcials, then, presents
a somewhat diVerent picture from that arising from the literary
sources: we seem to be confronted with a prosperous and proud
group who were willing to exploit their institutional links (the source
of their success) as well as their rise in the world and their family
connections in their epigraphic self-fashioning.
73 Milet 6. 2, 667. Herrmann suggests that the heredes may have inherited from a
possibly freeborn wife, whom he suspects in l. 4. For my purposes this does not
matter much. See appendix no. 9d.
74 Naour 1976, no. 29.
75 As also happened among the members of the Familia Caesaris, cf. Weaver 1972,
18, which of course partly overlapped with the customs service.
76 ILS 1857. 77 ILS 1860. 78 Pleket 1971, 245.
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300 O. van Nijf
9. AN HONOURABLE J OB
The crux in dealing with the (presumed) ambitions as expressed
through funerary inscriptions is of course to Wnd out how such
aspirations were received by society. Was it possible for the tax
collectors, slaves and freedmen included, to achieve some sort of
social respectability? It has been suggested that tax collectors were not
natural candidates for laudatory decrees and honoriWc statues, but
the situation may not have been so simple.79 Tax collectors must have
had an ambiguous social status. On the one hand their legal status as
slaves or freedmen classiWed them in theory below ordinary Roman
citizens; on the other hand, their function in the tax system gave
them power and this must have aVected their standing in society. The
resulting ‘status dissonance’ has been identiWed as a major force
behind the incessant epigraphic self-representation of other slaves
and freedmen in imperial service.80 Roman senators could well aVord
to look down upon these attempts at achieving social respectability.
From the perspective of the ordinary provincial, however, the situ-
ation may well have seemed diVerent. Tax collection was an import-
ant mediating institution between the provincials and the centre in
Rome. I would rather expect that, just as with other mediators and
power brokers, tax collectors and tax oYcials were natural candidates
for receiving honoriWc inscriptions.
It is a diVerent matter that not all inscriptions discussed explicitly
the exact nature of benefactions granted by the tax collector. The
honoriWc language of inscriptions often served to present certain
relationships in socially acceptable terms. Inscriptions were not al-
ways designed to be speciWc: euphemism and double-speak were part
and parcel of the honoriWc vocabulary.81 This does not make our job
any easier, however: inscriptions that mention tax collectors are not
that uncommon, as we shall see, but they do not always refer to what
exactly the collectors had done. A series of inscriptions from Chios is
79 Brunt 1990, 388: ‘We can well understand that they were not often the subjects
of laudatory decrees. The collection of taxes did not win men’s hearts. Nor was it
anything to boast of.’
80 Weaver 1972.
81 See van Nijf 1997, ch. 2 for a fuller discussion.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 301
illustrative of the style. Here we Wnd honoriWc monuments set up by
groups of ferrymen who operated between Chios and Erythrae for
xenophylakes—customs oYcials—on the island. Most inscriptions
ran something like this:82
The ferrymen to Erythrae award a crown to the customs oYcials who were
in oYce in the year of Decimus: Aphrodisius, son of Serapion, Dionysius,
son of Seleucus, Parasius, son of Heraiscus, for their virtuous attitude (arete)
towards them.
It would seem that each team of oYcials received a fresh inscription.
Other similar inscriptions for other oYcials: archontes, agoranomoi,
and so on, suggest that it was impossible to do business on Chios
without the erection of an honoriWc monument. Some tax oYcials
of the Roman Empire seem to have followed the same route. An
inscription for Iulius Capito, conductor publici portorii Illyrici et ripae
Thraciae, records an impressive range of honours from many of the
cities in his tax district. These included honoriWc decrees, ornamenta
decurionalia, honorary councillorships, appointments of patronage,
and honoriWc statues. The honours were a reward for unspeciWed
merita, the nature of which may only be surmised. Had he taxed only
what was legal? Had he bent the rules a bit, and turned a blind eye?
Or perhaps he had behaved very badly indeed, and were the honours
designed to prevent worse?83 Public honoriWc inscriptions may well
have presented the respectable face of private corruption.
If we turn our attention to the district of Asia, we Wnd a number of
tax collectors who may Wt this mould. The most famous one is
perhaps T. Flavius Sabinus, the father of Vespasian, who was a tax
farmer in the province of Asia. Suetonius records that he had received
a dedication ŒÆºH. -·ºø.´uÆ.-Ø: for having been a good tax
farmer.84 Another example from Asia is the Ephesian M. Aurelius
Mindius Mattidianus Pollio, who was the recipient of two honoriWc
inscriptions (by the look of it two versions of the same honours) in
82 IK 1, 74. ·ƒ -·æŁn·v·.-·. j ·N. `¯ævŁæÆ. u-·çÆj.·FuØ -·f. t·.·çvjºÆŒÆ. -·f.
õætÆ.-Æ. j K. -HØ K-d ˜·Œn·ı K.ØjÆı-HØ ¹çæ·cíuØ·. 2ÆæÆj-íø.·.; ˜Ø·.vuØ·.
2·jº·vŒ·ı; —ÆæóuØ·. '˙æÆjíuŒ·ı; Iæ·-B. ·.·Œ·. j -
Á
B. ·N. ·Æ-·v.. The title is unique.
These oYcials were ‘in charge of foreigners’. I suppose that this means that they were
some sort of customs oYcials. See also van Nijf 1997, 92–3 for discussion and further
references.
83 ILS 1465. 84 On this man, see Levick 1999, 4–7.
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302 O. van Nijf
his home town. The honours were apparently in recognition of a
splendid career; his tax farming is mentioned only in passing.85
L. Boionius Pansa is another case: his is not formally an honoriWc
inscription, but a so-called agoranomos inscription which referred to
other activities.86 As the agoranomia was not a particularly high-
ranking function, he may well have chosen to be commemorated for
his higher status as tax oYcial. With the case of Crispinus we reach
another aspect: the tax collector as civic benefactor. In his case we
have two (incomplete) honoriWc inscriptions.87 One other text shows
that he had presented himself as a (moderate) benefactor of Ephesus,
by the dedication of a statue of Daidalos and Ikaros to Artemis and
Trajan in the gymnasium near the harbour (an obvious location for a
customs oYcial to work out).
It is perhaps not so surprising that relatively high-ranking oYcials
would seek and get this type of social recognition, but it is an
indication of the importance of their function, and of the proWts of
tax collecting, that individuals lower down in the bureaucracy were
able to do the same. I have suggested above that the idea of being a
small cog in a large institution may have fostered a sense of self-
importance and pride in belonging to the tax-gathering machine. It
also seems to have provided some with the ambition and the funds to
do more. A striking illustration of the scale of the ambitions of a
lower-ranking tax farmer is perhaps the case of Potens, who was
active in Iasos during the reign of Claudius. I write ‘perhaps’, because
his association with the tax farming business is not certain.88 Most
scholars seem to accept that he was a well-to-do slave involved in tax
collection in the city. He must have done very well, however, as he
received public praise for his role as a euergeteˆs teˆs poleoˆs (benefactor
of the city). Various inscriptions record his acts of generosity: in-
cluding building activities, a gift of 100,000 denarii, an expensive
silver phiale oVered to Isis and Sarapis, and the remittance of interest
on a loan. Moreover, he seems to have been the founder of a local
‘dynasty’, as honoriWc and funerary texts refer to several members of
85 Appendix no. 5b.
86 Appendix no. 5c. See Garnsey and van Nijf 1998, for a discussion of the
agoranomos inscriptions.
87 Appendix no. 5a. 88 Appendix no. 7d.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 303
his family, who seem to have been absorbed into the local e´lite. Such
social mobility is rare, however. Most uilici and other tax oYcials
were less ambitious: the euergetism of the customs oYcial was
usually directed towards more limited contexts such as cult associ-
ations, or their own organization.
Kalokairos and Eutyches, slave agents of Mindius Pollio, were
probably more representative of their kind.89 They were responsible
for restoration works to the customs house, the telonion, and for the
gilding of an Aphrodite statue. This act of allegiance to their organ-
ization is not unparalleled in the world of the tax farmers, and several
low-ranking oYcials are on record who chose the customs house as
the focus of small-scale euergetism. An imperial slave, who was a
uilicus in Aquileia, had restored and embellished the stationes
(oYces) on either side of the emporium.90 And an African inscrip-
tion records that a slave uicarius involved in tax collection restored
and enlarged the telonion, thus displaying his loyalty to the system.91
It should be noted that the pragmateutai of Mindius, who were the
benefactors of the telonion, felt it necessary to state their allegiance to
their principal, whose career was recorded in some detail, focusing
on functions that were relevant to his tax connections. Their own
status was apparently enhanced by reference to their boss, and their
own self-representation was bound up with the representation of his
status. This logic also lies behind honoriWc inscriptions or dedica-
tions that were set up by low-ranking tax oYcials to their superiors.92
The eVect would be even more pronounced when the dedicant was
able to appeal to a higher authority still. Several inscriptions set up by
tax farmers were directly or obliquely dedicated to the emperor. An
inscription from Africa manages to maximize the number of claims
to be loyal to the system. A uilicus records that he had restored a
dedication to Venus Augusta that had originally been set up by the
promagistri of his portorium.93 It is clear that monuments such as
these could be read from two perspectives. On the one hand they are
a declaration of individual loyalty to the system. This might have
been a useful move to obtain promotion, but it also brought status to
the individuals concerned.
89 Appendix nos. 6a and 6b. 90 AE
´
1934, 234.
91 ILS 1654. 92 AE
´
1981, 24. 93 AE
´
1923, 22.
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304 O. van Nijf
However, there was another eVect: these monuments and their
inscriptions were also a reminder—to the provincials—that the
presence of tax men (like that of soldiers) was somehow sanctioned
by the emperor. Customs oYcials, who were on a daily basis handling
documents in the emperor’s name, and who were wielding stamps
with the imperial image as a symbol of their petty power, may have
used the monuments as a more ostentatious symbolic reference to
the larger structures of power of which they were part. These inscrip-
tions, then, have the same eVect as the funerary texts mentioned
earlier, as they located the honorand clearly in the context of the
ultimate source of status: the Roman state.
10. CONCLUSI ON
I began this paper with the negative image of tax farmers and their
personnel that arises from the literary sources. It is clear that mem-
bers of the e´lite were at pains to dissociate themselves as much as
possible from such embarrassing activities. From their perspective
the men who stopped the carts, searched the ships, and collected the
money were of little or no account. Yet the Roman state clearly
depended on the revenues that these men generated, and they are
well worth our attention. I have tried to make their activities a bit
more visible, using a selection of epigraphical and papyrological
sources, which represent, however, only a tip of the iceberg. We
have gained, I hope, a small taste of the complexities of the organ-
ization, and of the daily activities, of the collectors and adminis-
trators. We have also seen that tax farmers may have made their
presence felt locally: traders and travellers without suYcient protec-
tion were squeezed hard, which would have raised the prices of
consumer goods, and made travelling a nuisance. The state may
have tried to stop sharp practices, but the Wnancial rewards for the
tax farmers may have simply been too great.
The evidence suggests that exercise of petty power, and the proWts
resulting from it, were major factors in their self-esteem. In their
funerary epigraphy tax farmers represented themselves as worthy
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Social World of Tax Farmers 305
members of society, as family men and reliable oYcials. The image
arising from their honoriWc inscriptions works over very similar
themes, and manages to make even more of their loyalty to the
system. Despite the prejudices of their e´lite bosses, and the grudges
of their ‘customers’ in the provinces, tax farmers seem to have been
a clearly identiWable, articulate, and self-conWdent group: not
afraid to use their position as a source of status and social
mobility. The collection of taxes and customs dues was part of the
day-to-day reality of life in the Roman provinces. The individuals
who carried out these tasks clearly stood out in their own eyes and,
judging by the honoriWc monuments they received, in the eyes of
their contemporaries. In this light they were not only instrumental
to the success of the Roman empire, but they were also among its
main beneWciaries.
Appendix
List of the known individuals connected with
tax farming in the Province of Asia
General
1. P. Terentius (1 bc)
Job title: promagister of the portoria in Asia.
Source: Cic. ad Att. 11. 10. 1.
2. T. Flavius Sabinus (father of Vespasian)
Job title: publicanus / -·ºo.Å.
Source: Suet. Vesp. 1. 2. publicum quadragesimae in Asia egit manebantque
imagines a ciuitatibus ei positae sub hoc titulo ŒÆºH. -·ºø.´uÆ.-Ø.
Amorium
3. Isochrysus
Job title: (seruus) uilicus.
Source: AE
´
1988, 1031.
His name seems to suggest that he was a slave; the job title ‘seruus uilicus’ is
very common.
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306 O. van Nijf
Apollonia (Pisidia)
4a. T. Flavius Asclepas (1/2 ad)
Job title: (procurator) / K-í-æ·-·..
Source: MAMA 4, 113.
He was based in Apollonia. He is apparently a freedman, as he does not list a
career, but Brunt 1990, 408 suggests that he may have been a knight of
Flavian or any later date.
4b. Leo (imp.)
Job title: (seruus) uilicus.
Source: IK 49, 102.
The inscription does not state that he was a slave, but this is implied in the
fact that the inscription was set up by his uicarii. The inscription was found
in Laodicea on the Lycus.
4c. Anonymi (imp.)
Job title: uicarii.
Source: IK 49, 102.
See previous item.
Ephesus
5a. Aulus .[..]cius Auli f. Palatina Crispinus (1/2 ad, Trajanic)
Job title: promagister duum publicorum XXXX portuum Asiae IIII / Iæåo.Å.
-·uuÆæÆŒ·u-B. ºØn·.ø. ¹uíÆ. c.
Source: IK 17.1, 3045; IK 12, 517 þ 517a (cf. IK 59, 158).
This individual cannot be named with certainty. The editors of IK
propose A. A[ni]cius Crispinus, whereas W. Eck (Eck 1997, 113–14) suggests
A. L[ar]cius A. f. Pal. Crispinus. He was archoˆnes/promagister, which
implies that he was the acting representative of a consortium that had
contracted the portorium in Asia, and the uicesima libertatis in a range
of provinces.
5b. M. Aurelius Mindius Mattidianos Pollio
Job title: (promagister) / Iæåo.Å. n
0
ºØn·.ø. ¹uíÆ.
Source: IK 13, 627; IK 17.1, 3056; OGIS 525.
He is usually seen as a promagister, but Brunt 1990, 407, suggests that
Mindius Pollio could not have been a promagister of a societas, because he
was too busy with his other—oYcial—jobs. Brunt may underestimate,
however, the potential of the dependent labour force. Mindius will have
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Social World of Tax Farmers 307
handled his business interests through his trusted business agents, such as
Kalokairos and Eutyches (see below 6a, b).
5c. Lucius Boionius Pansa Flavianus
Job title: (procurator) / K-í-æ·-·. ºØn·.ø. ¹uíÆ..
Source: IK 13, 924.
This man appears with this title in a so-called ‘agoranomos inscription’
attached to the South Gate of the agora. This suggests that he was a local
man, or at least that he undertook a local career. Agoranomos was not a very
high-ranking local function; he may have preferred to be commemorated for
his ‘imperial’ function. (See Garnsey and van Nijf 1998, 1 on the agoranomos
inscriptions.)
5d. Ias (3 ad?)
Job title: Seruus symbolarius.
Source: AE
´
1988, 1019.
The edd. pr., Knibbe and Iplikc¸ioglu, give the name as ‘Hadis’, and
suggested that it was a suitable name for a slave tax farmer ‘in the same
way that we might name a nasty dog Satan’. Unfortunately, this
colourful name has to be struck oV: Engelmann 1999, 167 has argued that
we should read ‘Iadis’ as a genitive of the name Ias. The name refers to the
the fact that the slave had been bought on one of Ionia’s many slave
markets. It was apparently fairly common to derive a slave’s name from
his previous owner, or from the place where he was bought. Varro De Ling.
Lat. 8. 21 mentions the names Ion and Ephesius as examples. The title
symbolarius is new: a uvn6·º·. is a small sum (surcharge) to be paid for
a receipt (De Laet 1949, 317); a symbolarius was responsible for issuing these
receipts.
5e. Ianuarius (3 ad?)
Job title: procurator publici XXXX p. Asiae.
Source: AE
´
1988, 1019.
The procurator of the symbolarius in the previous item. If the identiWcation
with PIR
2
I 8 is right, he should be dated to the third century.
5f. Quintus?
Job title: teloniarius.
Source: IK 16, 2296.
The connection with the portorium Asiae is uncertain. Note the use of the
calque ‘teloniarius’.
5g. C. Furius Sabinius Aquila Timesitheus (3 ad)
Job title: uice-procurator of the portorium in Asia.
Source: ILS 1330.
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308 O. van Nijf
An inscription from Lyon (ad 235) honours him as procurator prouinciarum
Lugdunensis and Aquitaniae; it also shows that he had served as procurator
of Asia and also as the uice-procurator of the uicesima (hereditatium),
and of the portorium in Asia. He would later become praetorian prefect
(and father-in-law) of Gordian III.
Halicarnassus
6a. Kalokairos (2 ad)
Job title: actor (-æƪnÆ-·ı-´.).
Source: OGIS 525.
Actor of M. Aurelius Mindius Mattidianos Pollio (see above). He restored
the teloˆnion with his colleague Eutyches (cf. next item). Their names suggest
that they were Pollio’s slaves.
6b. Eutyches (2 ad)
Job title: actor (-æƪnÆ-·ı-´.).
Source: OGIS 525.
See previous item.
Iasus
7a. Anonymus (1 ad, 26)
Job title: seruus uilicus.
Source: IK 28, 415.
A fragmented inscription, but the title is clear.
7b. Anonymus
Job title: (seruus) uilicus / ·NŒ·.·n·..
Source: IK 28.2, 417.
The text does not state that he was a slave, but the inscription is damaged,
and it is very likely that we have to supply this title here also.
7c. Pulcher (1/2 ad)
Job title: (uilicus) ·NŒ·.·n·..
Source: IK 28.2, 416.
Pulcher was the ·NŒ·.·n·. (uilicus) of the koinonoi in Asia. Note his Latin
transliterated name. The text does not state that he was a slave.
7d. Potens (1 ad Claudius)
Job title: unknown, probably slave oYcial (uilicus ?) (perhaps a publicanus).
Source: SEG 43, 717; IK 28.2, 253; cf. IK 28.2, 407.
There is some discussion concerning the connection of Potens with
the portorium Asiae. The ed. pr. suggests that he was a publicanus of
Italian descent, but most scholars think that he was a slave-uilicus
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Social World of Tax Farmers 309
(cf. SEG ad loc. and AE
´
1993, 1531). The inscriptions from Iasos show that
he acted as a benefactor to the city, and that he seems to have been the
founder of a kind of ‘dynasty.’ His position in tax farming (and the wealth
thus acquired) may have been instrumental in his social mobility and that
of his children.
Cibyra
8a. Amerimnus
Job title: seruus uilicus.
Source: IK 60.1, 107.
Amerimnus soc(iorum) p(ublici) / (quadragesimae) p(ortuum) A(siae) ser-
(uus) uil(icus) / Cibyrae / Agathonico soc(iorum) / p(ublici?) (quadragesimae)
/ port(uum) Asiae uilico Ciby/rae [vac] Wlio suo / memoriae causa
The inscription mentions a father and son, who were both seruus uilicus at
the statio at Cibyra. This is the father. It is unclear whether they were active
simultaneously, or whether the son ‘inherited’ the job.
This text is the Wrst to attest a statio at Cibyra, which was between
40 bc and ad 250 part of Asia. As it was located just on the border
with Lycia, a station there made perfect sense (cf. Nicolet 1993), even though
the place is not mentioned in the Customs Law. The date of this inscription
is uncertain: Corsten suggests late Republican–Trajanic on the basis of
the double hypothesis that by then Asia and Bithynia were joined in one
district (not the case: see Nicolet 1993) and that by then individual con-
ductores had taken over from societates (which is not certain if we believe
Brunt).
8b. Agathonicus
Job title: (seruus?) uilicus.
Source: IK 60.1, 107.
See the previous entry; this is the son. It would seem very likely that the son
was a slave like his father, but the text does not mention this; I wonder
whether the word seruus may have stood in the gap. If so, we should have a
parallel for the awkward formulation in Milet 6.2, 563; see below.
Miletus
9a. Felix
Job title: uicarius uilici (or perhaps seruus uilicus).
Source: Milet 6.2, 563 (cf. IK 59, 40).
Felici Primioni<s> XXXX j port. Asiae uilic. Mil. se<r> j 1´ºØŒØ —æ·Øníø.·.
Œ·Ø.: j n ºØn·.: ¹uíÆ. ·NŒ·.: M·ØjºÅ-: c·vºfiø. There is some debate as to the
exact nature of his position. The text as presented by Herrmann leaves open
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310 O. van Nijf
two possibilities. Herrmann suggests that Felix was a seruus uilicus, whose
(former) owner, Primio, was one of the partners in the societas: Felici
Primioni(s), XXXX j port(uum) Asiae uilic(o) Milet(i) ser(uo) j 1´ºØŒØ,
—æ·Øníø.·.; Œ·Ø.ðø.H.Þ j n
0
ºØn·.ðø.Þ; j ¹uíÆ. ·NŒ·.ð·nfiøÞ M·Øjº´-ðfiøÞ,
c·vºfiø). This is, however, epigraphically awkward. Most scholars prefer to
follow the older reading: uilic(i) Milet(i) ser(uo) and ·NŒ·.ð·n·ıÞ M·Øº´-ðfiøÞ
c·vºfiø (cf. CIL 3, 447 and ILS 1862). This would make Felix the uicarius of
the slave uilicus Primio.
9b. Primio?
Job title: (seruus) uilicus (or perhaps socius).
Source: Milet 6.2, 563.
On the accepted reading of the inscription, Primio was the (slave) uilicus at
Miletus. If we were to follow Herrmann, Primio, as the owner of Felix, may
have been a socius.
9c. Tyranius?
Job title: unknown connection (or perhaps a uicarius).
Source: Milet 6.2, 563.
Very dubious case: If Felix was a seruus uicarius, Tyranius may have been his
own slave-uicarius. However, as it is more likely that Felix was a uicarius
himself, Tyranius’s connection with the portorium remains uncertain. Herr-
mann restores Turanios, which was the reading by Fredrich on which CIL 3,
447 was based. Other editions prefer the female name Tyrannis (cf. CIL 3,
Suppl. 7149 and ILS 1862).
9d. Anonymus?
Job title: seruus uilicus ?
Source: Milet 6.2, 667.
A fragment of a funerary inscription that was, in the interpretation of
Herrmann, set up by an unknown [ser(uus) uil(icus) ? Milet]i. The reading
is not certain, however. Herrmann suggests a dating from Hadrian onwards.
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Social World of Tax Farmers 311