Farming in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt – What Happened to the Producers?

This entry is part of a dialogue with  Rachel Laudan, regarding the taxation of producers/farmers in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, based on sources found in the Fayum. Below, a little background information and more to follow on this much-delayed topic.

Egypt- the Fayum www-lib-umich-edu.jpg

Egypt- the Fayum www-lib-umich-edu.jpg

Several of the most interesting manuscripts retrieved through archaeology in the Fayum are called The Karanis tax rolls, which document taxes retrieved from producers:

This official archive is composed of four long tax-rolls (and some fragments) recording taxes for the years AD 171/172, 172/173, 173/174 and 174/175 … The rolls record different types of money taxes cashed in Karanis day-by-day, e.g. the poll tax, professional taxes and taxes connected with animals or land.

The arrangement is topographical and not alphabetical: the tax collectors visited house by house, family by family, where they received the taxes, usually in cash, though bank payments were also possible (SHELTON 1977).

Several entries show an ‘official’ left side (mentioning the landowner who was officially responsible for the payment of land taxes) and an ‘informal’ right side (mentioning, often between brackets, for instance the lessee who actually paid the taxes).

The ‘official’ left side is uniform, contrary to the ‘informal’ right side, which was of no interest to the fisc.

Source – Youtie (H. C.) et Pearl (Ο. M.). Tax rolls from Karanis. Part, II. Text and Indexes. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1939. (Michigan Papyri. Vol. IV) 1970).

Each entry  of the Karanis Tax-role contains the taxpayer’s name, his father’s name, and his hometown, matched in the right column by the amount of money paid.

This is one column from a tax roll found in Karanis which measured over one hundred feet long. Each entry contains the taxpayer's name, his father's name, and his hometown, matched in the right column by the amount of money paid. source - www.lib.umich.edu

This is one column from a tax roll found in Karanis which measured over one hundred feet long. Source – http://www.lib.umich.edu

Detailing the various taxes that are recorded in The Karanis tax-rolls, the following list records subsidiary charges (Youtie and Pearl, 1944, 24):

  • dichoinikia: a crown tax of 1/20th of an artaba per aroura of land, retained from the Ptolemaic period (Johnson, 1936, 508);

  • prosmetroumena: a supplementary charge, originally imposed by Augustus as compensation for differences in the content of local measures used in collecting grain dues and those specified bv the state for accepting tax payments (Boak, 194i, 27; Wallace, 38);

  • pentarabia: a 5% tax when payment was made in barley rather than wheat (Johnson, 1936, 511);

  • dragmategia: a charge for transporting sheaves from the field to the threshing floor (Johnson, 1936, 508).

Source: Gadza, Discoveries of the University of Michigan Expedition to Egypt (1924-1935). Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, 1997

An example of the entries, from Column 82 of the tax-rolls – 

“Maron, son of Limnaios, grandson of Maron, mother Thaisas, drachmas 16 obols 28;Horos, son of Horos, grandson of Horos, mother Taharmouthes, drachmas 4;in total for the day drachmas 216 obols 25.Epeiph 21 likewise:Petheus, son of Pasoxis, grandson of Petheus, mother Segathis, drachmas 4 copper drachmas 4;Kephalon, son of Isidoros, grandson of Petesouchos, mother Tasoucharion, drachmas 8;Charidemos, son of Leonides, grandson of Papeis, mother Tapetheus, drachmas 24;Achillas, son of Ptollis, grandson of Hieranouphis, mother Thermouthis, drachmas 8;Maron, son of Satabous, grandson of Maron, mother Tkonnos, copper drachmas 4;Mysthes, son of Patkonnis, grandson of Harobrotos, mother Ptolema, drachmas 4;Satabous, son of Dioskoros, grandson of Satabous, mother Tahorion, copper drachmas 4;Petaus, son of Pnepheros, grandson of Phanomgeus, mother Thaesis, drachmas 8;Pnepheros, his son, mother Thaesis, drachmas 4;Ptolemaios, son of Naaraus, grandson of Horion, mother Taorsenouphis, copper drachmas 8;Ptolemaios, son of Petheus, grandson of Sokmenis, mother Tauris, copper drachmas 4;Petheus, son of Petheus, grandson of Onnophris, mother Taphaseis, drachmas 8;Harsiesis, son of Petheus, grandson of Harsiesis, mother Thatres copper drachmas (of priests) 4;Petsiris, son of Petesouchos, grandson of Petheus, mother Apia, drachmas 32;Thaesis, daughter of Maron, mother of Longinius, physician, through the agency of Longinia Kyrilla;(in left margin: drachmas 8 obols 16) orchard taxes of year 12 apomoira drachma 1 obols 5 chalki 2, tax on the produce of olives obols 2, naubion obol 1 chalki 2, surcharges obols 3;eparourion drachma 1 obol 1.5, surcharges obol 0.5, kollybos obol 0.5, in total drachmas 4 obols 2;geometria of year 12 drachmas 4 obols 4 chalki 2, surcharges obol 1.5 chalki 2, in total drachmas 5;Leonides, son of Ptolemaios, grandson of Pnepheros, mother of Heras, drachmas 4;Horos alias Karanos, son of Petheus, grandson of Herakles, mother Tauris, drachmas 4 copper drachmas 4;Heras, his son, mother Tamystha, drachmas 4 copper drachmas 4;Petheus, son of Horos, grandson of Petheus, mother Sambathion, drachmas 8;Ammonios, son of Ammonios, grandson of Ammonios, mother Tninis, drachmas 4 copper drachmas 4;Anoubas, son of Horos, grandson of Anoubas, mother Tepheros, drachmas 4;Valerius, fatherless, mother Valeria, copper drachmas 4;Onnophris, fatherless, mother Taeuhemeros, drachmas 8;Chairemon, son of Pasoxis, grandson of Pasoxis, mother Tanephremis, drachmas 4;Pakysis, son of Phanomgeus, grandson of Pakysis, mother Tepheros, drachmas 4 obols 20;Paoueites, son of Petheus, grandson of Phasis, mother Tapetheus, drachmas 4;Ptolemaios, son of Leonides, grandson of Papeis, mother Tapetheus, drachmas 8;in total for the day drachmas 212 obols 7;(Epeiph) 22 likewise:Imouthes, son of Keras, grandson of Menandros, mother Tepheros, copper drachmas 8.”

Traveling in the Fayum from Karanis to Tebtunis

A series of short videos giving a brief view of two of the most important sites in the Fayum Karanis and Tebtunis – there are several short videos, which will automatically open for you – well worth a look

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About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Egypt-Ancient, Fayyum, Graeco-Roman era and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Farming in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt – What Happened to the Producers?

  1. ritaroberts says:

    There is nothing new is there Diana. Taxes, Taxes, and more Taxes. Great Post !!

    Like

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