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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Egypt and Rome                          297
The doctrine of compulsory service was also applied by the
Romans to the work of administering the country. The origins
of this change are obscure. The Ptolemies had governed Egypt
through a professional bureaucracy, checked in certain depart-
ments by public contractors. It was the contracting system
which seems to have broken down first under Roman rule. The
Romans refused to accept lower tenders when the revenues
shrank, but instead compulsorily imposed the contract on their
own terms on persons of suitable means, or, abandoning even
the forms of the farming system, instituted direct collection,
again insisting on their own estimate of the revenue. The
bureaucracy ceased for similar reasons to attract voluntary
applicants. Officials had always been liable to make good deficits
arising from their own negligence,- and as the Romans refused
to believe that a decline in the revenues could be due to any-
thing but negligence, the lot of an official became an unhappy
one. From about the end of the first century A.D. the admin-
istration of Egypt came to be conducted by agents compulsorily
appointed for a short term of years, who combined the responsi-
bility of the official to carry out the work and of the farmer to
guarantee the full return.
The word used to describe this compulsory service, liturgy,
is derived from the terminology of the Greek city. Athens and
many other democratic cities had since the fifth century B.C.
devolved on to their richer citizens certain troublesome and
expensive departments of the administration, such as the pro-
duction of choruses for the musical and dramatic festivals or the
fitting of ships of war and the training of their crews. The
system was widely applied in the Hellenistic age, but seems to
have been modified inasmuch as persons were no longer nomin-
ated to liturgies by the magistrates but elected by the people.
Appointments were in fact generally voluntary, for the standard
of civic patriotism was high; but an elected candidate could not
refuse except for a reasonable cause. The liturgy of the Hellenistic