Orientis Graecei Inscriptiones Selectae 669,
(Egypt, the Oasis (Map:) Templeof Ibis, inscription, mid-1st century CE)

I, Iulius Demetrius, administrator [strategos]of the land below for your benefit a copy of the edict sent to me by the governor,
Tiberius Iulius Alexander so you may know his benefactions. In the second year of the emperor Lucius Sulpicius Galba, Phaophi 1, the day of Julius Augustus.
(this clip though it shows Tiberius after the edict, is indicative of the type of leader historians like Josephus report him to be. He was a leader who did not seek out needless bloodshed, as he shows when he first warns the defenders of the city; however, he would resort to force to maintain order and fulfill his duty.)

Tiberius Iulius Alexander says: I am taking every care Alexandria should keep its appropriate status and enjoy the status it has received from the emperors and that Egypt, enjoying prosperity, should gladly provide for abundant food and the prosperity times, unburdened by new and unjust impositions. Practically since I arrived from Rome I have been petitioned by those I meet, alone or in crowds, both the noblest men here and the farmers complaining about the most recent abuses, and I have not done everything I can to remedy the most urgent of these matters. So expect in everything to be done for your salvation and enjoyment by your ruler the emperor Galba Augustus, who shines down for the whole race of mankind, and know that I have considered what is best in assisting you. I have set forth as I must what I could decide and each of your requests and I will report with all truthfulness on
matters needing the power and majesty of the emperor, since the emperor has preserved the security of the world for this most sacred time.

The Edict was issued by the then-current prefect of Egypt, Tiberius Julius Alexander in the second year of Galba’s rule, 69 CE. The Edict and the problems it presents must have applied to a broad group of people (i) geographically, as it concerns the area of Hibis, which is both quite distant from Alexandria and cut off by a desert (Map) and (ii) socially, as the Edict claims to fix the complaints of “both the noblest men here and the farmer.”

I recognise that your request is the most reasonable of all, that you should not be enrolled by force in tax collecting or in any other contracts contrary to the general custom in the provinces and that, when those have no experience in such business but are enrolled by force collection of taxes is imposed on them, this causes no little harm to affairs. Consequently I myself have never forced anyone into taxing or public contracts, nor do I approve of this, knowing that it is of advantage for the imperial accounts that men who are willing and should undertake these duties to the best of their ability. I have ordered that in the future no one should force people against their will into collecting or public contracts, but will arrange contracts with those willing to come forward of their own accord, following the continuous of previous governors rather than repeating anyone's opportunistic of power.
Some, using the excuse of public revenues, have accepted other debts and have transferred some to the debtors' prison and to confinement, which I know have been abolished for this very reason: the execution of the collection of debts should be against possessions not against persons.

The issues seem to be that men were pressed into collecting taxes and that the tax collectors were imprisoning and mistreating men who could not pay their debts. Bell suggests that soldiers were often used to collect taxes and that men who could not pay choose to run from tax collectors, leaving whole villages depopulated. This evasion apparently led to even worse abuses as tax collectors would take, as Philo retells, “whole families by force, beating and insulting them, and heaping every kind of contumely and ill treatment upon them.”(Bruce) Tiberius promises to stop forcing men to unwillingly collect taxes. (For a discussion of why men may have been compelled to collect taxes in the first place, look at the the "problems presented by economic downturns" in the analysis below the document.)

(modern relevance!)

So, following the wishes of the deified Augustus, I command that no one using public revenues as an excuse should accept debts that he has not loaned himself as part of his duties nor in any way confine any free persons in confinement, unless they nor in a debtors' prison, unless they owe money to the public with the grants of the emperors, also native Alexandrians the country for business purposes are not to be made to undertake duties. You have often petitioned for this and I will uphold your petition. No native Alexandrian will be forced to undertake any rural X I am ordering that, whenever a prefect has already decided that the plaintiff brought before him should be acquitted, the plaintiff cannot in future be brought before a court. If in addition two prefects have the same decision, the accountant who brings these same matters into the courts should be punished as he is doing nothing other than giving himself and other officials an excuse to make money. So many have thought it better to hand over their private property as they have spent more than it is worth because the same matters are brought to court at one sitting. There is the same determination as well about matters brought under the Private Account [idios logos]: if something has been X with an acquittal or there would be an acquittal by the assessor for the Private Account, then the accuser will never again be able to charge or bring someone before the court, or else if he does this without special permission he will be fined. There is nothing worse than endless prosecutions, when what has earned an acquittal is brought back into court until someone provides a conviction. Now the city has become uninhabitable because of the horde of malicious accusers and every household has ended up in disorder - so I am forced to order that, if any the accusers for the Private Account acting as a joint prosecutor brings a suit acting on behalf of another, he should have to provide the informer,
he too can run the same risks. If on his own account he brings three suits and fails to prove them, he will no longer be allowed to prosecute and half his estate will be confiscated. For it would be most unjust for someone who endangers the property and reputation of others to be himself totally free from legal scrutiny ....
In this final section, Tiberius seeks to protect men from being accused again and again of the same offenses. There were "horde[s]" of men in the city who would apparently spy upon other men and turn them into the government for not paying what they owed (in taxes, I think) . They would then be tried and have their property taken and their reputations damaged if found guilty. Tiberius seeks to stop men from repeatedly accusing others and abusing this system, by limiting the amount of times such cases can be brought against individuals and by imposing fines on men who break the rules and make unfounded accusations (Bell).

What Can we Learn from this Document?

As terrible as these abuses may have been, this document would have little importance to Roman history as a whole if these were solely Alexandrian problems in the year 69; instead, as this document shows, the whole Roman tax system fostered an environment which in times of instability or economic downturn led to illicit actions.


The problems Tiberius addresses were not unique to Egypt. The constant connection of tax collectors and sin in the Bible shows that abusive practices, such as those detailed in the edict, were most likely present in the nearby province of Judea. Expanding even more, (Badian) suggests that the manner of tax collection by the publicani was the scourge of the Republic and led to its fall. So, taxes must have been a problem all over the Roman world for a long time before Tiberius’ Edict. The abuses during the Republic largely stemmed from the fact that tax collection was a for-profit business. This led the publicani, men contracted to collect taxes for Rome, to suck as much as they could out of the provinces.


Unfortunately, even during the Empire, when the power of the publicani slowly began to wane, there were still incentives for corrupt practices. One specific problem was that tax collectors in Egypt were responsible for the collection of taxes in their area under the risk of losing their property. Bell notes that this would logically make it difficult to find tax collectors during economic downturns, when people did not have enough money to fully pay their taxes; men would naturally be reluctant to take the job and risk their own land or wealth if it were not clear that they could collect enough taxes. This might lead the Romans to compel men to collect taxes, an issue the Egyptians apparently faced. The desperate collectors would then likely use extra-legal means to acquire the necessary funds rather than lose their own property. In fact, soldiers were employed in the 30s in Egypt to help extort money and Philo states that debtors were at times tortured and killed (Bruce). The use of force, however was not solely a recent development, but were also a feature of publicani exploitation during the Republic. At least in Egypt, this resulted in men, rather than staying to be abused and beaten, leaving their land and villages. Apparently, conditions in some areas become so odious that entire villages would be depopulated as poor families sought to escape from the tax collectors(Bell) So, the abuses in Egypt were symptomatic of a system which was not designed well enough to operate efficiently or justly in times of economic difficulty.


Moreover, the timing of the Edict and Monson’s article show that not only economic turbulence, but political turmoil could result in misuse of the tax system. Monson argues that in times of uncertainty, a Roman ruler would prioritize the short term gathering of funds over long term development in the provinces. There would be a consequent jump in tax collection, which was often combined with the lack of strong supervision of tax collectors during times of political instability. This would lead officials to be ” tempted to abuse their position to capture more revenue.”(Monson) This Edict was sent out during the year of the four emperors, a time of great political instability; the problems it details may then serve as proof for the theory that corruption and instability were correlated. So, Alexander’s pronouncement encapsulates the weaknesses of a tax system which in times of uncertainty promoted corruption and brutal practices.

1 1.When was this written exactly, and what was the larger context of the Empire and the situation in the East around Egypt at that time?
2. 2.Who is Iulius sending this copy to and why would it interest them? On a related note, was this edict particularly radical or important?
3. 3.What is the governor’s personal and political history? How did he rise to power?
4. 4.In the bottom of the second paragraph, the emperor is described as a God. Was this type of semi-worship normal for Romans? Could it have something to do with trying to incorporate Egyptian beliefs? Or is it an attempt to establish Roman authority in Egypt?
5. 5. On a broad note, what specific practices are being condemned here? More specifically, why were men pushed into collecting taxes? From what we read it seemed that doing so was quite profitable and would have attracted plenty of men willing to fill the job.
6. 6.How is public revenue an excuse for accepting debts from other people? I’m not sure I understand exactly what is happening.
I was was unable to find out exactly what practice this was or what was happening.
7. 7.The text seems to address some corruption and inefficiency in the legal system. How serious were these problems in Egypt and Alexandria? Were similar changes being instituted in other provinces at the time?
8. 8. Were these changes all actual put into place? To what extent were they successful or not?
I am also unsure of how successful these regulations were or how widespread they were. It was hard to find info about the actual
collection of taxes later in the empire, though there was lots of research on currency manipulation and other means
taken by emperors to try to increase revenue.
AKS: All good questions - I'd recommend Bagnall's analysis of Roman Egyptian laws as a good starting point for analysis here, and also general texts on Roman law (and corruption).


Upside to taxes:
Public Works
Of course, tax collecting could also have some upside for the provincials, as this document shows. I assume the Roman Empire, and thus indirectly the taxes of the provinces, funded projects such as this one, which as the analysis mentions brought water to urban areas. The project here sounds quite complex and costly. Therefore it probably could not have been finished if the Romans did not have vast financial resources, which it gathered in part through taxes.

Prevalence of Corruption:
Oppressed Workers
This document points out that corruption in the Roman Empire was not limited just to the field of tax collecting, but was a much broader problem. Even Roman citizens could fall victim to corrupt officials, who rather than protect Roman rights, allowed them to be beaten and forced into labor. Just like my document, this raises the question of how prone the Roman administrative system was to abuse its power. Both documents also reflect attempts to redress this corruption, which shows there must also have been some honesty in the government; however, it is unclear how successful these attempts ultimately were.

What does this mean about other official Roman edicts or promises? :
Veteran's Rights
I found this document especially interesting because I remember looking at it before the project and seeing it in a totally different way than I do now.
This document, among other things, exempts soldiers from paying taxes. The analysis points out how the government could do this because it was a time of general prosperity. When I first read this, I didn’t think much of this promise, since it seemed like a relatively small part of the whole document; however, in light of my document and the oppressed workers document it becomes unclear how long this guarantee was kept. Did these soldiers truly never pay taxes? Or did it just take one economic downturn or a corrupt official to break this promise and seek to take money from the veterans? Once the efficiency and honesty of the Roman administration is no longer taken for granted, it becomes harder to tell how much of an impact such proclamations had.

Alden, William . "The New Tax Man From Ancient Rome." Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. 22 Oct. 2010. Web. 16 May 2011. .

Badian, E. Publicans and Sinners: Private Enterprise In the Service of the Roman Republic. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1972.

Bartlett , Bruce. "HOW EXCESSIVE GOVERNMENT KILLED ANCIENT ROME ." The Cato Journal 14 (1994): The Cato Journal . Web. 30 Apr. 2011.

Bell, H.I. "THE ECONOMIC CRISIS IN EGYPT UNDER NERO." Coins of Roman Egypt. Web. 1 May 2011. <www.coinsofromanegypt.org/htm>
Coogan, Michael David, Marc Zvi Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, and Pheme Perkins. The new Oxford annotated bible: with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical
Books.. 3. ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.

Kraft, Robert. "Tiberius Julius Alexander and The Crisis in Alexandria." John Strugnell Festschrift. (1990): Print. ftp://ftp.lehigh.edu/pub/listserv/ioudaios-l/Articles/tja-alex

Map of Egypt: http://www.unc.edu/awmc/awmcmap6.html

Monson, Andrew . "Rule and Revenue in Egypt and Rome: Political Stability and Fiscal Institutions." Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics 1 (2007): Princeton.edu. Web. 2 May 2011.

Oxford University Press. "Oxford Classical Dictionary, Third Edition." Past Masters. InteLex Corporation. Web. 25 May 2011. <http://pm.nlx.com/xtf/search?browse-collections=true>.

Ranke, H. . "Book Review." American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 46 (1942): JStor. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.

Temple of Hibis: http://historyhuntersinternational.org/2010/05/23/persian-greek-and-roman-syncretism-in-the-kharga-oasis/

Tribute Money: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Masaccio7.jpg

YouTube - The Siege of Jerusalem. YouTube. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0XzPACf67w.

You cover a lot of information in two paragraphs, which is pretty impressive. It's a little hard to follow without reading twice since there is so much information presented. I recommend seperating the details in your anaylsis under headings for quick reference and further clarification. Also, you talk a lot about tax collection from the wealthy/tax collector/money receiving end. Can you talk more about the people being taxed and why they would go to such great lengths to evade taxes? Can you name specific changes that the Edict made in which it "fixes" things for further clarification? Possibly some history about the publicani? Really interesting overall! -Lillian McBee

I'd have to agree with Lillian as regards both the depth of your analysis (which is great) and the difficulty of reading and understanding the document (not quite as great). I think integrating your analysis into the body of the document instead of having it bunched at the end would help craft a smoother and more seamless presentation of the document as a whole. I might also suggest linking quite a few more of the terms and proper nouns in your document to subsidiary pages - they don't have to be ones you wrote; Wikipedia would be fine - explaining basic terms like "the deified Augustus" or "the Private Account" to your readers. I was a bit lost by the time I got to the end of the document, although your subsequent analysis cleared things up a bit. Overall, though, it looks like your research is definitely solid - I'd just refine the presentation a bit.

Miles Unterreiner

I would have to agree with everything that has been said so far. I really like the variety in the links to subsidiary pages. Some where pictures, others had information, and some were videos. This was great. The one thing I would suggest would be to like Miles mentioned make links to terms and names that might make understanding the document a littler easier for readers. I also think looking into the actual people being taxed would make this a very interesting page but overall great work! - Brian Guymon