Roman finance

Roman finance

For centuries the monetary affairs of the Roman Republic had rested in the hands of the Senate, which was steady and fiscally conservative. The aerarium(state treasury) was supervised by members of the government rising in power and prestige, the Quaestors, Praetors, and eventually the prefects. With the dawn of the Roman Empire, a major change took place, as the emperors assumed the reins of financial control. Augustus initially adopted a system that was, on the surface, fair to the senate. Just as the world was divided in provinces designated as imperial or senatorial, so was the treasury. All tribute brought in from senatorially controlled provinces was given to the "aerarium", while that of the imperial territories went to the treasury of the emperor, the fiscus.

Initially, this process of distribution seemed to work, although the legal technicality did not disguise the supremacy of the emperor or his often used right to transfer funds back and forth regularly from the "aerarium" to the "fiscus". The fiscus actually took shape after the reign of Augustus and Tiberius. It began as a private fund ("fiscus" meaning purse or basket) but grew to include all imperial monies, not only the private estates but also all public lands and finances under the imperial eye.

The property of the rulers grew to such an extent that changes had to be made starting sometime in the 3rd century, most certainly under Septimius Severus. Henceforth the imperial treasury was divided. The "fiscus" was retained to handle actual government revenue, while a "patrimonium" was created to hold the private fortune, the inheritance of the royal house. There is a considerable question as to the exact nature of this evaluation, involving possibly a "res privata" so common in the Late Empire.

Just as the senate had its own finance officers, so did the emperors. The head of the "fiscus" in the first years was the rationalis, originally a freedman due to Augustus' desire to place the office in the hands of a servant free of the class demands of the traditional society. In succeeding years the corruption and reputation of the freedman forced new and more reliable administrators. From the time of Hadrian (117-138), any "rationalis" hailed from the Equestrian Order ("equites") and remained so through the chaos of the 3rd century and into the age of Diocletian.

With Diocletian came a series of massive reforms, and total control over the finances of the Empire fell to the now stronger central government. Under Constantine this aggrandizement continued with the emergence of an appointed minister of finance, the "comes sacrarum largitionum" (count of the sacred largess). He maintained the general treasury and the intake of all revenue. His powers were directed toward control of the new "sacrum aerarium", the result of the combination of the "aerarium" and the "fiscus".

The "comes sacrarum largitionum" was a figure of tremendous influence. He was responsible for all taxes, examined banks, mints and mines everywhere, watched over all forms of industry, and paid out the budgets of the many departments of the state. To accomplish these many tasks, he was aided by a vast bureaucracy. Just below the "comes sacrarum" were the "comes largitionum", positioned in each diocese. They acted as territorial chiefs, sending out agents, the "rationales summarum", to collect all money in tribute, taxes, or fees. They could go virtually anywhere and were the most visible extension of the government in the 4th and 5th centuries.

Only the "magister officiorum" and the "comes rerum privatarum" could counter the political and financial weight of the "comes sacrarum largitionum". The "magister officiorum" (master of offices) made all the major decisions concerning military and intelligence matters, receiving a budget of monumental size, over which the "comes sacrarum largitionum" probably only had partial authority.

Given the increased size of the imperial estates and holdings, the "res privata" not only survived but was also officially divided into two different treasuries, the "res privatae" of actual lands and the "patromonium sacrae", or imperial inheritance. Both were under the jurisdiction of the "comes rerum privatarum". He also took in any rents or dues from imperial lands and territories.

See also

* Agentes in rebus
* Aerarium
* Comes
* Congiarium
* Donativum
* Fiscus
* Rationalis
* Rationibus
* Roman commerce

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Roman commerce — Roman trade was the engine that drove the Roman economy of the late Republic and the early Empire. Fashions and trends in historiography and in popular culture have tended to neglect the economic basis of the empire in favor of the lingua franca… …   Wikipedia

  • finance — {{Roman}}I.{{/Roman}} noun 1 (AmE usually financing) money needed to fund sth ADJECTIVE ▪ cheap (= borrowed at low interest) ▪ necessary ▪ additional, extra (BrE), further (BrE) …   Collocations dictionary

  • Roman Abramovich — Roman Abramovitch Roman Abramovitch Roman Arkadievitch Abramovitch (parfois orthographié Abramovich, en russe : Роман Аркадьевич Абрамович), né le 24 octobre 1966 à Saratov, Russie, est un oligarque russe …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Roman W. Prezioso, Jr. — Roman W. Prezioso, Jr. is a West Virginia state senator representing the 13th senatorial district which comprises parts of Marion and Monongalia counties. He is a Democrat. As chairman of the Senate Health Human Resources Committee, he is one of… …   Wikipedia

  • Roman Polański — Roman Polanski Pour les articles homonymes, voir Polanski. Roman Polański …   Wikipédia en Français

  • ROMAN POLICIER — Contrairement à une opinion admise, il peut y avoir des romans policiers sans cadavre et même sans policier. Toutes les tentatives pour définir et codifier le genre, si l’on peut parler de genre, ont échoué. Poe, le premier, dans Genèse d’un… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Roman Historical Institutes —     Roman Historical Institutes     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Roman Historical Institutes     Collegiate bodies established at Rome by ecclesiastical or civil authority for the purpose of historical research, notably in the Vatican archives.… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Roman Historical Institutes — are collegiate bodies established at Rome, for the purpose of historical research, notably in the Vatican archives. These have been set both by ecclesiastical authority, and by national governments. Opening of the Vatican archivesIn the fifteenth …   Wikipedia

  • Roman Abramovitch — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Abramovitch. Roman Abramovitch Roman Abramovitch en 2008 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Roman governor — Ancient Rome This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Ancient Rome Periods …   Wikipedia

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.