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A Fiscally Responsible Emperor?!

Contributed by David Verne

Antoninus extended his conservative administration into fiscal policy. He cut spending on temples and bathhouses, with municipalities relying on private donations to build what they wanted, while he focused on repairing and maintaining aqueducts, bridges, and roads. Antoninus also made an important between the public treasury, funded by taxes, and his private funds. When an emperor ascended the throne, they inherited large tracts of land that generated private revenue for the emperor. Antoninus was incredibly stingy with public funds, but he gave generously from his private fortune, such as funding rebuilding projects in cities hit by earthquakes and paying for food in areas struck by famine. He will be one of the few emperors to leave his successor with a surplus in the public treasury. [1]

My Take by David Verne
Antoninus was embodying the idea of the Princeps, first citizen. Emperors at this time still maintained the illusion of a semi-republic, ruled by a first citizen who acted as a leader on the public side but was just an average citizen on the private side. Antoninus' stinginess with public funds and generosity with his private funds served this idea perfectly. It would still be several decades until this system fell apart, but eventually a series of military dictators would come to power, paving the way for medieval feudalism.

See Also


  1. Antoninus Pius.

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