Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Rosetta Stone and Tax Immunity

In ancient Egypt (prior to 200 BCE) Egyptian soldiers returned from war and found they had to pay more in taxes. Greeks ruled the country and were the best at collecting them. The soldiers initiated a civil war that lasted for more than a decade.

To restore peace, the king Ptolemy V issued a “Proclamation of Peace.” It granted amnesty to the rebels, tax debtors were freed from prison, tax debts forgiven, no more conscription for the navy, and confiscated property was returned. Also, tax immunity was granted to the temples and their vineyards and crops, as was the tradition under the Pharaohs. Peace was restored to Egypt.

The priests were great beneficiaries. They had lost their tax immunity beginning in 700 BCE. In order to commemorate this, the priests decided that an honorarium be made in a “stele of hard stone in sacred and Greek letters, and set up in each of the … temples at the image of the everlasting king.”

This stele of hard stone was found by Napoleon’s army and is known as the Rosetta Stone. It is almost four feet high at its tallest point, weighs over 1,500 pounds, and was written in three languages. The reason for its size and multilingual inscription is because it announced immunity from taxes.

(From Charles Adams’ For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization)

No comments: