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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 Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, October 1998