Cassiodorus, as 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; instead, he instructs his tax collector Paul to 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 provinciaa 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.
a) seq. quo add. al. man.
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 source opens a series of letters featured in the 12th book of Cassiodorus' Variae regarding the annona collection and the agricultural situation of early 6th-century Gothic Istria.
The letters that form part of this series are the following:
- XII/22 (see the edition here);
- XII/23 (see the edition here);
- XII/24 (see the edition here);
- XII/26 - the letter hereby edited.
All four letters are originally undated and since Cassiodorus himself did not order the letters in his collection strictly chronologically, it is impossible to precisely date these documents.
The "this, first indiction" (de presenti prima indictione) mentioned in letter XII/22 regarding the collection of annona in Istria for the ensuing (or present) fiscal year refers to the period between the 1st of September 537 and the 31st of August 538. Therefore, letters XII/23 and XII/24 that deal with the same matter must be dated to a period immediately after the issuing of letter 22.
Letter XII/26, however, does not seem to form part of the same episode. Although it does deal with the agricultural situation in Istria, the context is different: the sad state of the agricultural production in the Veneto. Therefore, different historians dated the letter differently:
- Mommsen gave it a broad relative dating of between 533 and 537, thus maintaining that it is possible that the letter forms part of the same 537/38 story arc of annona collection in Istria as read in the letters XII/22-24 (edition referenced above);
- Tanzi interpreted the letter to be contemporaneous to the issuing of letters XII/22-24 and thus referring to the same fiscal year of 537/38 (referenced above, p. 61);
- Ruggini, however, believed it to stand in reference to the invasion of the Suebi in Veneto (referenced in letter XII/7) and thus dated it to the fiscal year 535/36 (referenced above, pp. 335-36, 557).
While the precise dating of these four letters remains impossible, it seems that the contents of the letter XII/26 indeed do not form part of the same episode of annona collection as the three letters preceding it in Cassiodorus' Variae, XII/22-24. Therefore, the letter is chronologically placed before the letters XII/22-24, but the readers should be aware that such chronological ordering stems primarily from the editor's intuition.
In any case, all four letters deal with the situation in Istria during the first half of the 6th-century and as such they remain the only written testimonies of the Peninsula's history during this period of Gothic rule.
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.
The images remain under the copyright of their respective institutions.