Pope Gregory the Great:
Concerning Taxation in Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily, c. 600
Oppressive taxation in Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily was the occasion for the letter
of Pope Gregory to the Eastern Empire. The corruption of officials was characteristic of
the administration of the Empire.
Since we learned that in the island of Sardinia there are many heathens, and that
they still, with pagan depravity, offer sacrifice to idols, and further, that the priests
of that island are loath to preach our Redeemer, I have sent thither one of the bishops of
Italy, who, with the help of the Lord, has led many of the pagans to the faith. But he has
reported to me a sacrilegious affair; for those who sacrifice to idols in that island
offer a gift to the judge in order to be allowed to do so. Even after some of them had
been baptized, and had already ceased sacrificing to idols, still the same gift, even
after baptism, which they had been wont to give for offering sacrifice to idols, was
exacted by this judge of the island. When the aforesaid bishop rebuked him, his reply was
that he had promised so much vote money (i.e., in order to obtain the office) that
it could not be made up except from just such sources.
Moreover the island of Corsica is burdened with such an excess of exactions and burdens
that those who live in it are barely able to pay what is demanded by selling their
children. Hence it happens that, abandoning their own dear country, the inhabitants of
that land are forced to flee to that most cruel nation, the Lombards. For what can they
suffer from the barbarians that is more burdensome and cruel than that they should be so
reduced and straitened as to be compelled to sell their own children?
And in the island of Sicily a certain Stephen, a chartularius for maritime districts,
is said to have inflicted such injuries and damages in invading the lands of everyone,
and, without process of law, imposing titles on their possessions and houses, that if I
should wish to relate all his doings which have been reported to me, I would be unable to
recount them all in a large volume.
J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1849), Vol. LXXVII, p.
768; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval
Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York:
Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 356-357.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall, October 1998