Friday, 2 November 2012

Suetonius, Caligula c.40 and 41: how to extract money from your citizens.



As the world is now in economic crisis and governments are looking for money everywhere, there are some examples from Caligula how to do this. Caligula (31 August AD 12 – 24 January AD 41) was emperor from 37-41. His full name was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. The name Caligula is a nickname `small soldier’s boot’. He got this name because of as a toddler he was already dressed like a soldier, including the small boots. Initially his reign was moderate, but after two years he turned mad. He indulged in sexual pleasures, which in itself is not so strange - but a bit odd when the wives of senators are compelled to have sex with him - and due to his excessive spending of money he was constantly in need for more. He charged people unjustly of conspiracy so he could confiscate their possessions. His reign turned into a reign of terror and in his madness he can be compared to Idi Amin or Gadaffi if we can believe ancient sources. He was finally assassinated, having the honor of being the first emperor suffering that fate.
Suetonius tells in his biography or rather chronique scandaleuse of Caligula, how he levied taxes and had other devices of making money. Especially the taxes on prostitutes are noteworthy and still applicable: one client a day is for the state. A further trick is also still useful: announce new taxes but don’t publish them, so nobody has a clue what and how to pay. Aha! Got you! I don’t care that you were unaware of this new tax: you did not pay it and now you have to pay more!
And what about state brothels with housewives `volunteering’ as prostitutes?

Suetonius, Vita Caligulae, chapters 40 and 41:

[40] Vectigalia nova atque inaudita primum per publicanos, deinde, quia lucrum exuberabat, per centuriones tribunosque praetorianos exercuit, nullo rerum aut hominum genere omisso, cui non tributi aliquid imponeret. Pro edulibus, quae tota urbe venirent, certum statumque exigebatur; pro litibus ac iudiciis ubicumque conceptis quadragesima summae, de qua litigaretur, nec sine poena, si quis composuisse vel donasse negotium convinceretur; ex gerulorum diurnis quaestibus pars octava; ex capturis prostitutarum quantum quaeque uno concubitu mereret; additumque ad caput legis, ut tenerentur publico et quae meretricium quive lenocinium fecissent, nec non et matrimonia obnoxia essent.
[41] Eius modi vectigalibus indictis neque propositis, cum per ignorantiam scripturae multa commissa fierent, tandem flagitante populo proposuit quidem legem, sed et minutissimis litteris et angustissimo loco, uti ne cui describere liceret. Ac ne quod non manubiarum genus experiretur, lupanar in Palatio constituit, districtisque et instructis pro loci dignitate compluribus cellis, in quibus matronae ingenuique starent, misit circum fora et basilicas nomenculatores ad invitandos ad libidinem iuvenes senesque; praebita advenientibus pecunia faenebris appositique qui nomina palam subnotarent, quasi adiuvantium Caesaris reditus. Ac ne ex lusu quidem aleae compendium spernens plus mendacio atque etiam periurio lucrabatur. Et quondam proximo conlusori demandata vice sua progressus in atrium domus, cum praetereuntis duos equites R. locupletis sine mora corripi confiscarique iussisset, exultans rediit gloriansque numquam se prosperiore alea usum.

vectigalis: of or belonging to imposts or taxes. vectigalia ( suppl: pecunia): taxes
inaudita: unheard of
publicanus: tax-gatherer
lucrum: profit
exubero: to overflow i.e. the publicani kept a large part for themselves.
tribunus praetorianus: member of the imperial guard, the body guard of the emperor
exerceo –cui –itum: to employ
edulia, ium: food. As Rome was fully dependent on external supplies, this was an easy way to collect taxes.
certum statumque suppl: amount of tax
exigo –egi –actum: to demand, exact
lis, litis (f): lawsuit
iudicium: trial
ubicum: everywhere. i.e. in whatever court
conceptus: held
quadragesimus: fortieth
nec sine poena suppl: erat
si quis composuisse vel donasse negotium convinceretur: if someone was proved of having settled or given up a case. i.e. without the interference of a court.
gerulus: bearer, carrier. In the narrow streets of Rome, it was impossible to use horses and wagons, so supplies were at the final stage carried by geruli.
diurnus: daily
quaestus: income
captura: gain, profit (acquired by low or immoral employments)
concubitus -us (m): copulation
mereo, -ui: to earn: i.e. one client a day was handled for the benefit of the tax revenues of the state.
caput legis: article of the law
ut tenerentur publico: that they were held by the public treasury. i.e  that they were also obliged to pay taxes. And then the two extra categories are added, namely: et quae meretricium quive lenocinium fecissent. As far as I can see the expression meretricium facio only occurs here: to make the trade of prostitution, to be a prostitute.  Lenocinium facio occurs a few times more: to make the trade of a pimp (leno), to be a pimp. So every woman who once was a prostitute or a pimp also had to pay this tax!
nec non et matrimonia obnoxia essent: indeed (nec non) marriages were also liable (obnoxia) (to this law). i.e. even when they were married,
indico  -dixi -dictum: to proclaim publicly
propono –posui –positum: here: to publish publicly
commissum: transgression
fieri is the passive form of facio
tandem: finally
flagito (1): to demand urgently
quidem: indeed
uti = ut
describo –scripsi –scriptum: to transcribe, make a copy
liceret = posset
manubiae, -arum: money, booty
quod: in order that
experiorpertus: to try
lupinar, -aris (n): brothel
Palatium: the Palatine hill, on which was the residence of the emperor
districtisque et instructis pro loci dignitate compluribus cellis: setting apart many small rooms and furnishing them according to the dignity of that place.
matrona: married woman
ingenuus: free-born (young man)
nomenculator: one who calls a person or thing by name, So in effect people were called by their name to enter the brothel.
praebeo: to lend
faenabris: of or relating to interest or usury, pecunia faenebris: money with interest
appositique qui: and there were clerks who
palam: openly
reditus –us: income
adiuvo, -iuvi –iutum: to help
Though Suetonius does not explicitly say it, I think the idea is that by borrowing money the people were now indebted to Caligula and it was borrowed faenabris, so Caligula could make the interest as absurdly high as he wanted. I think that no one was thinking of politely refusing this `loan’….
ne….quidem: not even
lusus - us aleae: dicing
compendium: gain, profit
sperno sprevi spretum: despise. Playing dice was something for the lower classes.
mendacium: falsehood
periurium: a false oath, cheat
lucror lucratus sum: win, gain
quondam: once
conlusor, -oris: playmate
demando (1): to give in charge
vicis, is (f): place
atrium: entrance hall
domus gen.!
praetereo: to pass by
R. = Romani
locuples –etis: rich. locupletis = locupletes acc. pl.
mora: delay
corripio: to arrest
iubeo iussi iussum: to order
glorior: to boast
utor usum + abl.: to use

Translation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caligula#Youth_and_early_career

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