Cassiodorus, as the praetorian prefect, remits the collection of tax on wine and corn to the citizens of Concordia, Aquileia and Forum Iulii (Cividale del Friuli) due to a meager harvest. He instructs his tax collector Paul to instead procure the necessary quantity of wine from Istrians who enjoyed a particularly abundant harvest.
Paulo viro strenuo.
Senator praefectus praetorio.
Frequenter utilitas publica compendiosa pietate servatur, quando illud magis adquirit, quod bonorum intercessione remiserit.
Veniens itaque vir venerabilis Augustinus vita clarus et nomine Venetum nobis necessitates flebili allegacione declaravit, non vini, non tritici, non panici species apud ipsos fuisse procreatas, asserens ad tantam penuriam provincialium pervenisse fortunas, ut vite pericula sustinere non possint, nisi eis pietas regalis solita humanitate prospexerit.
Quod nobis crudele visum est aliquid a petentibus postulare et illud sperare, quod provincia cognoscitur indigere.
A talibus enim solas lacrimas exigit qui quod non invenitur imponit.
Et ideo tanti viri allegacione permoti vinum et triticum, quod vos in apparatu exercitus ex Concordiense, Aquiliniense et Foroiuliense civitatibus colligere feceramus, presenti auctoritate remittimus, carnes tantum, sicut brevis vobis datus continet, exinde providentes.
Hinc enim, cum necesse fuerit, sufficientem tritici speciem destinamus.
Et quoniam in Histria vinum habunde natum esse comperimus, exinde, quantum de supra dictis civitatibus speratum est, postulate, sicut in foro rerum venalium reperitur, quatenus nec ipsi possint ledi, cum eis pretia iusta servantur.
Quapropter presentem indulgentiam nulla credatis venalitate taxandam, ut, dum fuerit remedium gratuitum, possit existere nichilominus gloriosum.
Noveritis enim gravi vos subici posse vindicte, si quod interdictum est dari, a vobis videatur acceptum.
Cassiodirus senator, praetorian prefect, to his activity [vir strenuus] Paul.
The good of the state is often maintained by a profitable act of pity, since a remission made at the plea of worthy men is in fact a gain. Now the venerable [bishop] Augustine, a man distinguished by both his name and his way of life, has come, and has made a lamentable report to me of the needs of the Veneti. Neither wine, nor corn, nor millet has been produced among them; and he declares that the fortunes of the provincials have reached such a state of penury that they can hardly endure the risks of life unless the royal pity should take thought for them with its usual humanity. This seems cruelty to me, to make any demands on suppliants, and to request what the province clearly lacks. For he who levies the non-existent extracts only tears from such people.
And therefore, moved by the report of so good a man, by this authority I remit the wine and corn that I had made you collect for the supply of the army from the cities of Concordia, Aquileia, and Forum Iulii [Cividale del Friuli]; only the meat, as detailed in the schedule [brevis] given you, is to be provided thence. For I will send a sufficient quantity of corn from here, when it proves necessary.
And, since I have learnt that much wine has been produced in Istria, you are to demand from there an amount equal to what had been requested from the above mentioned cities – at market rates, so that the Istrians themselves may suffer no injury, when just prices are preserved for their benefit. You must realise that no venality is to put a price on the present indulgence, for this reason: that, as the remedy has been disinterested, so its glory may remain untarnished. Know that you will be subjected to a heavy punishment, should you be seen to have accepted what it is unlawful to give.
[S.J.B. Barnish (trans.), Selected Variae of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, Translated Texts for Historians 12 (Liverpool 1992), pp. 181-82]
The images were downloaded from the official webpage of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
The editor has subsequently inserted two red arrows on the folios to mark the parts of the manuscript that refer to this particular letter that is hereby edited.