Decades of paying taxes

P.Sijp. 39 (P. 7981)


Nobody likes it to pay taxes, but even in antiquity taxes were written down in detail. The document we talk about today is a receipt about garden taxes, which a man named Kastor, son of Dionysus from Kerkeoucha in the Arsinoites, has paid.

The taxes are written down on a papyrus roll, which is about half a meter-long. The roll consists of several smaller papyri, which were glued together, rolled up and laid in to keep them. The original shape of this piece as a roll can also be seen in the prominent holes and their regular appearance. Also the distance between the holes grows from left to the right side but the holes itself are becoming smaller until they disappear completely. From all this one can suspect that this papyrus was rolled up from left to the right. In total, this artefact is well preserved but the left part of column one is missing.

The roll had come to the Berlin Papyrus Collection from the private collection of the Berlin publisher Rudolf Mosse in the year 1894. Originally, the object had been found in the Fayum, an oasis southwest from Cairo. This region, is famous for thousands of other found objects.

In the receipt only taxes with a reference to the garden plot had been written down. There are the taxes for the rent of the garden, the fee for the transport of olives, the dam and canal cleaning charge, the general tax for wine and garden land, change fee, receipt charge and the tax for the land survey. Because the garden tax was always around 470 to 475 drachmas, one can calculate how big the plot of Kastor was roughly. From another texts we know that the prize for one aroura (the ancient unit of measurement of the Greeks), was around 1500 Drachmen. This results in the solution that the garden of Kastor was around 1/3 of an aroura. One aroura is the same like 100 x 100 cubits. In general, we suspect that a Arure was about 2000 sqm which leads to the conclusion that the garden land of Kastor was around 666,6 sqm.

The list about the taxes of Kastor had been kept for over 33 years. The first entry was on the 25th May 183 AD and the last one on the 25th May 216 AD.

In total, four different persons without a name have written on this object. Interesting about this is, that the first three writers worked comprehensively and regularly but the last one, who stands out because of his sketchy writing style, continues the writing but only of the gardening taxes and the tax for the land survey. The collectors, which are getting the money, are also named. They were two persons with the names Eudaimon and Harpiorkration, and maybe their colleagues which are known as tax collector from many other texts from this time.

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