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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

334            Egypt and the Byzantine Empire
governors in face of the Arabs paralysed the defence and con-
duced to the success of the invaders.
Another administrative change was made not by Diocletian
but by his successors. At some time shortly before A.D. 310 the
immemorial division of Egypt into nomes, governed, during the
Graeco-Roman period, by civil strategi, ceased, administratively,
to exist, though they continued to figure in the general con-
sciousness as geographical units. The nome, divided into num-
bered pagi, each under a praepositus, became simply the territory
of the metropolis, which in this way at last received full muni-
cipal status and was financially responsible for the whole area.
In the period of the Antonines this change of status might
have been received with enthusiasm, but the economic decline
of Egypt had by this time proceeded so far that little gratifica-
tion can have been given even to the municipal pride of the
citizens by a measure which, in so far as it was more than formal,
can only have increased their burdens. All through the third
century it had grown steadily more difficult either to secure
candidates for the municipal magistracies and liturgical posts or
to cover the routine expenses of administration. A raising of
rates which the papyri reveal for not a few taxes is perhaps more
apparent than real, being designed to bring the payments into
juster relation to the diminished value of money, and some taxes
seem to have been discontinued. Thus the poll-tax, so impor-
tant in the first and second centuries, though, strangely enough,
it survived the Constitutio Antoniniana, played little part in this
period, and there is no direct evidence for its collection after
the middle of the century. It was, however, to an impost of a
different kind, the annona militaris, that the government had
recourse in its difficulties. Originally an exceptional charge, it
now became a regular feature of the financial system, and its
irregular incidence and varying amount made it so burdensome
that it was probably among the chief cau.es of the peasant
revolts which characterized this century.