Chapter 4, 78 AD to 306 AD – Mode of Government – Continued
Such is a hasty review of the social state of Roman Britain. It is interesting, as being connected with the national childhood. Customs like these, long perpetuated and such manufactures and useful arts, carried on to a great extent, must have made some impress on the native mind and habits. The language, also, received additions, and underwent modifications and began to assume that varied power of expression, that precision, and that richness, which were to be increased and perfected in after years. The form of the Roman government in Britain corresponded to that of other provinces of the empire. The supreme head was the Proprietor, who was directly responsible to the emperor, and was removable at pleasure and who seems during the larger part of the Roman occupancy, to have resided at London. In the time of the emperor Hadrian, a perpetual edict was promulgated, for the guidance of these high officers in the various provinces, in order to prevent complaints of the exercise of arbitrary power.
The next high functionary was the Procurator, also appointed by the emperor. At first, his duty was to manage the revenue, taking care that the tribute should be regularly levied and transmitted to Rome. Gradually, he came to exercise judicial functions, in the absence of the Proprietor, or when other urgent matters required his attention. Afterwards, as the power and wealth, and influence of the latter increased, the Procurator was used as a curb; and often was instructed to act the part of a spy.
To assist in the administration of affairs, there were officers known as ducenarii, or judges; a cornicularius, or chief secretary, numerarios, or accountants, a commentariensis, or master of the prisons, a curum epistolarum, or secretary for dispatches, assistants, clerks, serjeants, and other officials.
The revenue was partly fixed and partly occasional. The former consisted of an annual poll tax, not only on the living, but on all who had died within the year of the decuma, or tenth part of the produce of corn, hay, cattle, mines, etc. of taxes on legacies, the sale of slaves, and purchases at auctions. The procurator could also require another tenth to be sold to themself at prices which he arbitrarily fixed, and he interfered in many vexatious ways, with the markets, manufactures, and pasture grounds. His almost unlimited power gave rise to much injustice and oppression. He farmed out the imperial revenue, taking care to make a good bargain for himself, and as the various farmers made a considerable gain, the actual amount of taxes levied was far in excess of that which found its way to Rome. These taxes with the heavy export and import duties formed the ordinary or fixed revenue.
The occasional revenue was required for shipping, for military stores, for the expenses of the Praetor when making a circuit of the country, and for the execution of great public works. As it was often impossible to raise the required sum, especially within the short time granted for its payment, recourse was sometimes had to loans, at high rates of interest and leading statesmen, generals, philosophers, poets, and merchants at Rome, possessed of money were accustomed to lend it, for a usurious return, to the distant provinces. The Roman rule was far from being mild and easy, and among the causes which led to its final overthrow were the excessive taxation, the rapacity of the official collectors, and the oppression exercised on the provinces by their favoured creditors at Rome.
Chapter 4, Agricola
Chapter 4, Roman Roads and Towns
Chapter 4, Roman Memorial of Death
Mode of Government
Categories: Book 1