Abstract–Prevention or Cure? Tax Exemptions in a Warfare Context: Miletos and the Low Valley of the Meander (early 2nd C. BCE)

In the early second century BCE, Miletus attempted to increase its territorial control at the expense of its neighbors, Magnesia on the Maeander (Milet I 3.148) and Heraclea by Latmus (Milet I 3.150). It resulted in two wars at least, ended by two peace treaties that we have kept. A third community was also involved, Pidasa, which was integrated in the Milesian territory on the occasion of a sympoliteia treaty (Milet I 3.149).

These three conventions show how a Greek city had to handle the consequences of a war, especially from an economic stance. The main topics I discuss in this paper are the taxation of trade and some aspects of the way the system of taxation functioned in the Greek cities. Indeed, the ancient Greek taxes used to be seen as a simple source of income. However these three agreements show that a city could make use of the tax exemption in a social and economic perspective. Firstly, in a short- and medium-term, it could help to recover after a period of war or to prevent the same issues in case of a new one. Limited to a personal use, these exemptions concerned a social perspective. But in the long-term, some tax exemptions can be viewed as economic choices to the extent that they were intended to be permanent and to enhance a specific economic activity. Consequently, tax exemption appears to be used as an economic tool by some ancient states.