Journal of Roman Studies

Research Article

The Imperial Finances under Domitian, Nerva and Trajan

Ronald Syme

The work of the spade and the use of common sense have done much to mitigate the influence of Tacitus and Pliny and redeem the memory of Domitian from infamy or oblivion. But much remains to be done. The policy of this able and intelligent Emperor has been vindicated on the frontiers, but is still, in the matter of finance, condemned as extravagant and ruinous. Not only is this the view of those who, with the warrant of the senatorial tradition, see little in his reign but the dark night of despotism before the dawn of a new era of felicity—even a judicious historian like M. Gsell reproaches Domitian for not having done enough to restore the finances of the Empire, compromised as they had already been by Titus. So the charge is not baseless: and it is more with sorrow than with surprise that we read at the beginning of M. Carcopino's elegant and ingenious paper, Les richesses des Daces et le redressement de l'empire romain, the emphatic statement ‘c' est un fait reconnu de tous que Domitien laissa derrière lui une situation financière obérée.’