Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

Apparently Gordon is planning another tax raid on savings, this time lifeinsurance companies which have 'too much' money in reserve against rainy days. After his last pension raid, this will not be a popular move. The Romans can help him solve the problem.

Roman finances under the emperors had two destinations: the Aerarium and the Fiscus. Into the Aerarium went the revenues from empire and from established indirect taxes (harbour dues and so on); into the Fiscus went monies from a variety of other sources, all to provide the emperor with the resources for expansive, personal 'charitable' giving.

Unclaimed property, from those who died intestate, was one source of Fiscal income, as was treasure trove. An even better one was the property of those condemned on a criminal charge. For example, Sextus Marius, the richest man in Spain, was thrown off the Tarpeian rock in Rome for having committed incest with his daughter. The real reason, says the historian Tacitus, was so that the emperor Tiberius could grab his extensive gold and copper mines (Brown would already be seizing Conrad Black's millions and feeling Abramovich's collar). Another historian says that Sextus was a friend of Tiberius and had therefore became wealthy. …

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