According to this guy

The Jewish rebellion in A.D. 66 that ignited the war with Rome was by no means inevitable. Judaism was a legal religion in the Roman Empire, and Nero's own empress, Poppaea, was very interested in it. Contrary to biblical novels and movies, far worse things could happen to you in the ancient world than to be conquered by Rome. The Romans hung out the traffic lights in their sprawling empire, curbing piracy at sea and brigandage by land, thus providing security in the Mediterranean world. The apostle Paul's missionary journeys would have been impossible without the Pax Romana, the "Roman peace" that ordered society. As for the "horrors" of Roman taxation, I would much rather have paid the tribute to Rome as a citizen of Jerusalem than American income tax!

He'd rather pay Roman tax than pay American income tax. I wonder how much Romans actually had to pay.

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    And who need public spending if the market can perform the same spending far more efficiently anyway.
    – user4951
    Nov 25, 2011 at 11:10
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    Feel free to read the articles that Google gives you - they have tons of details. Oh, and not everybody agrees with the bogus economy theory that is so popular in the US (and caused a world-wide economical crisis that is still ongoing). Feel free to ask on economics.stackexchange.com. Nov 25, 2011 at 11:13
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    -1 for not really noting the text in question, sorry but I am not going to read 4 pages of text to find the sentence or two you are asking about here. I also don't think you really need to link in American Tax if you really are asking about Roman taxation, that is argumentative and an apples and oranges comparison. Just asking about how much taxes Romans paid should be fine.
    – MichaelF
    Nov 25, 2011 at 12:46
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    Please remain civil and polite in answering questions and in comments Nov 25, 2011 at 13:24
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    +1 There is no single authoritative an exhaustive answer easily available, you have to read a bit to get the gist, so I think this answer does not fall under the "Let me Wikipedia that for you" category. Nov 25, 2011 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


Roman taxes varied over time, but was generally a couple of percent on wealth, and sometimes also on sales. However, in the provinces they could not reliably tax in this way, and instead they put a levy on the whole province payable by the governor of the province, who in return got pretty much free reign in the province. So what he taxed and how much, was up to him.

In general Roman government was run as personal fiefs. Even armies were funded and run by the generals with their own personal money, and as a result the Roman gains were really their personal gains as well, it didn't end up in the state coffers, because there were no state coffers as such.



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    2% of wealth is not low. Interest rate alone is 4% in US. But it's interesting that they tax capital owners rather than working class.
    – user4951
    Dec 12, 2011 at 6:00
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    I didn't say it was low or high. They taxed wealth, because taxing income requires much more extensive state control than what they had. Dec 12, 2011 at 8:17
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    I see. How do they measure wealth? Ah that's easy. Land. Crops. All can't be hidden.
    – user4951
    Dec 14, 2011 at 11:12
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    Additionally, I understand that tax collectors were essentially given commissions (and most were probably not entirely honest) which meant that a lot of that money never even made it to the provincial governor. This is why in the Gospels it was so shocking Jesus would hang out with one. Clearly the guy's a serious sinner...
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 28, 2012 at 23:00
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    The difference is who gets the money. Mar 31, 2013 at 14:05

Like most questions about Roman history, the answer depends on the era you're considering.

In the early days of the Roman Republic, public taxes consisted of modest assessments on owned wealth and property. The tax rate under normal circumstances was 1% and sometimes would climb as high as 3% in situations such as war. These modest taxes were levied against land, homes and other real estate, slaves, animals, personal items and monetary wealth. Taxes were collected from individuals and, at times, payments could be refunded by the treasury for excess collections. With limited census accuracy, tax collection on individuals was a difficult task at best. UNRV

The same source points out that tax farming supplanted tax collection by 167 BCE The government privatized the collection of taxes, and sold the privilege to the high bidder.

Absent a solid census, the first system was prone to missing taxes and the second system was prone to mind numbing corruption and oppression.

In the early Empire, Augustus returned to direct taxation

Tax farming was replaced by direct taxation early in the Empire and each province was required to pay a wealth tax of about 1% and a flat poll tax on each adult.

Diocletion centralized taxation (moving the responsibility from provinical governors to a central bureaucracy) and resorted to manipulations of the money supply. His efforts are still used in econ courses as an example of really stupid behavior by the government

n the early Empire (30 BC- AD 235) the Roman government paid for what it needed in gold and silver. The coinage was stable. Requisition, forced purchase, was used to supply armies on the march. During the third century crisis (235–285), the government resorted to requisition rather than payment in debased coinage, since it could never be sure of the value of money. Requisition was nothing more or less than seizure. Diocletian made requisition into tax. He introduced an extensive new tax system based on heads (capita) and land (iuga) and tied to a new, regular census of the Empire's population and wealth. Census officials traveled throughout the Empire, assessed the value of labor and land for each landowner, and joined the landowners' totals together to make city-wide totals of capita and iuga.[242] The iugum was not a consistent measure of land, but varied according to the type of land and crop, and the amount of labor necessary for sustenance. The caput was not consistent either: women, for instance, were often valued at half a caput, and sometimes at other values.[241] Cities provided animals, money, and manpower in proportion to its capita, and grain in proportion to its iuga.[242][notes 13] Wikipedia.

Returning to the question - the tax rate you paid depended on when you lived, your social relationship with the tax collector, and a host of other factors. In the period cited in the article (circa 66 AD), taxation was by tax farming. I suspect that anyone who would rather be subjected to tax farming than US Taxation is relying on their skill in evading taxes. No matter what accusations are levied against the IRS, they are less abusive than tax farmers. It would be interesting to ask a Marxist historian to analyze tax farming and exchange entitlements; might be one place where the Marxists and the Libertarians would align (They would also argue ferociously against the notion that they align).

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    IRS tax income. Roman tax wealth. Which one is pro workers?
    – user4951
    Apr 2, 2013 at 3:13
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    Impossible to answer without breaking the rule about discussion in comments.
    – MCW
    Apr 2, 2013 at 10:45
  • @user4951 the Romans had lots of slaves, and an underclass that survived only on bread and circuses. That's certainly not pro-worker.
    – RonJohn
    Sep 27, 2019 at 1:08
  • @user4951 : the tax might be pro-worker, but it's useless if the economic system isn't. If a worker in one system can earn $100 and you take away $30 as tax, and a worker in another system can only earn $10 but isn't taxed, which one is better off?
    – vsz
    May 22, 2020 at 6:58

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