Egypt and the Byzantine Empire 337 their private armies, their prisons, their banks and counting- houses, their baths, their hierarchy of secretaries and account- ants, stewards, tax-collectors, guards, and police, they founded monasteries and endowed churches. They possessed, too, the right (known as autopragia) of paying their taxes not through the local officials but direct to the provincial treasurers, some- times even, like the great Apion family of Oxyrhynchus, to the central authorities at Alexandria. To call these estates feudal is a misnomer, for the tenures were not military, the estates were not held in great self-contained fiefs but were scattered among lands of other ownership, and they never quite broke through the framework of the imperial bureaucratic system; but they can at least be termed semi-feudal, and it is not the least part of the debt we owe to the papyri from Egypt that they enable us to follow, in considerable detail, the process by which, under the pressure of similar forces but in very different conditions,, there grew up in the East a state of society in some way resembling Western feudalism, in others diverging from it. In each case the environment determined the phenomenon; and as the feudal fief of the West, with its tenant-in-chief and its sub-tenants, each holding his lands on a military tenure and owing allegiance to his lord, was a replica in little of the feudal State to which it belonged, so the great estate of Byzantine Egypt reproduced in its smaller compass the bureaucratic despotism within which it existed. The estates of churches and monasteries sometimes enjoyed the same right of autopragia-, and it was further granted to certain villages of free landowners, perhaps in the unjustified hope of creating some counterpoise to the dangerous power of the nobility. The emperors and their wives also possessed ex- tensive properties, which, however, played a much smaller part in the rural economy of Byzantine Egypt than had the old domain lands in that of the Roman period. The remaining land was held as private property by smaller landowners subject to.