Taxation in Fourth Century Egypt:

A Peculiar Case of P.Giss. II 128

Marcin Kotyl

ISAW Visiting Research Scholar

The lecture will focus on the peculiar case of P.Giss. II 128, a text that concerns taxes that are assessed on the basis of the kephale concept. In this context, kephale, the Greek word for "head," was probably used as an abstract unit of land. This method of taxation is poorly attested and raises a number of questions. The lecture will address the following questions: (1) What was kephale in the Egyptian tax system? What was its value? How was it used to calculate the rate of payment? (2) What was the relationship between the kephalai and the rates of payment? Why were some taxes assessed on the basis of kephalai and the others on the basis of arourae, the traditional measure of land in Egypt? (3) How was the commonly used capitatio et iugatio system applied in Egypt? A discussion of these topics will also provide insight into other tax issues, including tax deduction and rebates, surcharges, and accounting.

Marcin Kotyl is a Visiting Research Scholar at ISAW. He received his MA in Classics (2011) and PhD in Papyrology (2017) from the University of Wroclaw, Poland. He is currently a research assistant professor in the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology at the Warsaw University. His research focuses mainly on tax and account documents from Roman and Late Roman period. He is also a philologist working sometimes with literary papyri, mainly Homer. 

During his stay at ISAW Marcin works on his most recent project “Taxation in late Roman Egypt through the prism of an unpublished tax register from the Hermopolite Nome” supported by the National Science Center (Poland). The core of the project is to provide an edition and historical elaboration of 44-pages unpublished codex from the Giessen Collections. Then many aspects of taxation will be investigated, including the method of tax assessment, account of tax deduction and statement of tax arrears. The project as a whole provides an exciting opportunity to advance our knowledge on key fiscal changes that have occurred during the fourth century in Egypt.

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