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Egypt and Rome                           287
Dapyrological evidence, are only too willing to brush it aside as
Ľnerely of local import. Yet it is certain that much is lost by
the failure of the two to co-operate. The fiscal system of Egypt
was admittedly highly peculiar: yet even here the papyri prob-
ably would, if full use were made of them, contribute much to
the solution of a problem of general bearing and of great intrinsic
interest, the reason for the breakdown during the third century
of the regular taxation instituted by Augustus, and its super-
session throughout the empire by the arbitrary 'benevolences'
and requisitions in kind, which were ultimately crystallized by
Diocletian into the Byzantine fiscal system. >
The Egyptian evidence has made a great contribution to our
knowledge of the Roman Empire at large, and might make a yet
greater if it were studied with an eye to its analogies with the
rest of the Roman world rather than to its peculiarities. Yet
the fact remains that Egypt was a peculiar province. Its anoma-
lous status is brilliantly summarized by Tacitus in one of those
epigrammatic sentences which it is unfortunately impossible to
do more than paraphrase in English. 'Egypt and the forces with
which it has to be kept in subjection have been, ever since the
days of the deified Augustus, ruled by Roman knights as vice-
roys; it has been thought expedient thus to keep under home
control a province difficult of access and productive of corn,
distracted and excitable owing to its superstition and licence,
ignorant of laws and unacquainted with magistrates.'
The first sentence gives in brief the unique status of Egypt
in the Roman Empire, that alone of the major provinces it was
governed not by a senator, but by a member of the second order
of the Roman people, who furthermore had, alone of his class,
the prerogative of commanding legionary troops. The sting in
the tail of the sentence, the allusion to the vice-regal position
of the prefect, is a typical piece of Tacitean innuendo, and, of
less real importance. The princeps, the elected first magistrate
of the Roman people, was, it is true, a king in Egypt; one may