- Byzantium (q.v.) was comprised chiefly of landowners. Hence, the bulk of taxation was imposed on rural populations, both on their land (including houses and livestock) and on their persons. Diocletian's capitatio-jugatio (qq.v.) system used such a combination assessment for the annona, a tax paid in kind with provisions or commodities, often grain. After Constantine I's (q.v.) stabilization of the coinage with the nomisma (qq.v.) the land tax (called the kanon after the seventh century) was more likely to be paid in cash. The tax base was considerably eroded in the 10th and 11th centuries by the growth of large estates owned by the wealthy (dynatoi [q.v.]). Because wealthy landowners, including monasteries, often gained tax exemptions (by exkousseia [q.v.]), such burdens fell particularly hard on ordinary peasants. In a series of laws enacted by emperors from Romanos I to Basil II (qq.v.), the state attempted to preserve the tax base of small landowners by requiring the dynatoi to make up the deficient tax payments of their neighbors (the epibole, later the allelengyon [q.v.]). Urban populations paid taxes on their land and buildings, and special taxes like the chrysargyron (q.v.). There were export and import taxes as well. Tax payments flowed to the appropriate genikon (q.v.), and to other treasuries (e.g., the vestiarion and sakellion [qq.v.]). With the growth of the pronoia (q.v.) system in the 12th century, general taxation (called telos), based on tax inventories (praktika), was separated from the taxation on paroikoi (q.v.) granted to the holders of pronoia grants (called pronoiars). The Byzantine tax system, constantly under threat of being eroded by social privilege, was further complicated by variation in tax burdens from region to region, the manner in which taxes were assessed, the variety of taxes, the way they were collected (directly by the state, or by tax farmers), and the extent of Byzantine territory at any given time. Ultimately, this last factor proved to be decisive in the long decline of Byzantium (q.v.), as the empire lost its tax base to the Venetians, Genoese, Seljuks, and Ottomans (qq.v.).
Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . John H. Rosser .