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Overburdened Gauls: the case of Florus and Sacrovir’s revolt of 21 CE

  • Jared Kreiner EMAIL logo


In 21 CE, a series of localized movements broke out in Gallia Comata due to heavy debts among provincials according to Tacitus. Modern scholars have long argued that the indebtedness occurred because of rising interest rates, resulting from dwindling currency in circulation after decades of free-spending following Augustus’ victory at Actium, and that Gallic communities were subjected to an additional tribute to support the wars of Germanicus (14–16 CE), which continued unabated after the wars and pushed Gauls beyond their means. These claims are misguided, however, in that there is no certain evidence of a special tax to support Germanicus’ wars and that the argument for a dwindling circulation of currency in Gaul falters under closer inspection. Rather, the pressing statal and military needs imposed on communities in Gallia Comata after 9 CE on top of routine exactions could significantly increase burden levels levied on provincial populations, thus contributing to rising debts. Through examining how Roman logistics and conscription operated in this period, it is possible to trace how populations were impacted by such demands and which communities were most heavily affected by them, too. Individually, the impact of each factor is unlikely to have been burdensome enough to have caused large-scale resistance, it is only the cumulative effect that these explanations had on top of routine Roman extraction schemes that could create the conditions for this revolt. This paper argues that in extraordinary circumstances, such as the period after the Varian Disaster for Gallia Comata, the costs of supporting military campaigns places real short-term strains on local economies, which creates the conditions for revolt. The benefit of this approach is that it may explain other episodes of anti-fiscal resistance that broke out during or within a decade of wars in neighboring regions.


Dr. Clifford Ando, Dr. Alain Bresson, Dr. Jonathan Hall, Larry Carrillo, and the Ancient Societies Workshop at the University of Chicago for their comments on various drafts of this paper. I would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. Needless to state, any and all errors are my own.


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