The Tax of the Tenth
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 20/10/2023Back to Blog
Salpix Newspaper, March 10, 1890
As we are informed, petitions have been circulated throughout the district of Lemessos, through which the residents request the Legislative Council and His Excellency the High Commissioner to arrange for the collection of the tax of the tenth in kind in this province. We are confident that His Excellency will not only address this issue in our district but also extend this system across the entire island.
So, what is the tax of the tenth, and why did our ancestors gather signatures and request the Legislative Council and the High Commissioner to collect it ‘in kind’?
The tax of the tenth was a tax that had been established since ancient times (since the 6th century BC in Athens). During the Roman Empire, it was imposed on all territories under Roman rule. It was a simple taxation method that required the payment of one-tenth of the gross agricultural production to the respective authorities.
In Cyprus, this system was adopted during the Frankish rule and began to be imposed by King James A’, in 1365. During the Ottoman rule, the system continued, and it was often enforced in a very oppressive manner by the tax collectors, who aimed to profit from the collections in addition to the required tax. The method of enforcement did not consider the size of the taxpayer’s land, weather conditions, or soil fertility.
As a result, it was a highly oppressive tax for the island’s residents. The Revolt of Re-Alexis during the Frankish rule, as well as other uprisings during the Ottoman period, which were sometimes joint efforts by Christians and Muslims, aimed to abolish this unjust taxation. Unfortunately, all these revolts were suppressed with bloodshed.
A small excerpt from the report by the Greek Consul in Cyprus, G.S. Menadros, in 1869 provides a glimpse of this unfair taxation:
“And often, when the harvest fails, the peasants sell everything they have left after the locusts’ devastation, and still, it is not enough for the payment of the so-called tithe…
The first buyer in Constantinople sells his right (to collect the tax for the Sultan) for 5,000,000 groats of the tithes, the second buyer does the same, the third leases it, and the fourth sub-leases it, and it goes without saying that all of them benefit from it.”
When Cyprus passed from Ottoman to British rule, this system continued and was only abolished in 1926 after persistent demands from members of the Legislative Council. This abolition applied only to the agricultural production tax, and the tax of the tenth continued to be imposed on exported products.
From the above text in the Salpix newspaper from 1890, it appears that the British authorities were demanding that the tax of the tenth to be paid in currency, and the poor farmers were requesting it to be paid at least in kind, as very few of them had money.
All of this is known from history, but a news article from that time allows us to look at the challenging environment that prevailed among the farmers regarding the tax of the tenth.
I wish you all a good day! It’s worth remembering that there have been much worse times in our country. Let’s be grateful for what we have and strive for the better without complaints.