G.E. Rickman Lecture: The Roman Empire and the economy: fiscality and taxation

Wednesday 28 January 2015 18.00–19.30

Alan Bowman (Oxford) presents the G.E. Rickman Lecture

The main fiscal instruments which the Roman government had at its disposal to affect economic behaviour and performance were, broadly speaking, the currency, taxation and regulation of markets and it could achieve the effects either through direct or indirect interventions. This lecture is primarily concerned with taxation and considers the relationship between direct and indirect taxation and trade, taking Hopkins’ taxes-and-trade model as a point of departure. Major questions for the period before AD 300 are whether it really was a low-tax economy and whether taxation stimulated trade and exactly how.

For the period after AD 300 I suggest the possibility that by re-establishing the currency as central to government fiscal operations and by reducing the transaction costs which fell directly upon the central government, rates of taxation could effectively be lowered without significant loss of revenue and that institutionalisation of the relationship between imperial and civic taxation was broadly beneficial from a fiscal point of view.