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Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe

VI: Social Evolution in Latin Greece,   pp. 175-221 PDF (18.9 MB)

Page 187

The calculation of the thirty-year period extended not only to the subjection
of the dependent person, but also to that of his descendants, at least of
his male offspring. This confirms that the status of the paroikos was permanent
during his lifetime, as well as hereditary. The paroikos remained legally
free, in strict accordance with Byzantine law, as is clearly illustrated
by the fact that he had access to, and testified in, imperial courts. Occasionally
he was transferred from one lord to another, yet he could not escape his
social status, while paradoxically the slave became free when emancipated
by his lord. When the paroikos had severed the link of subjection by migrating
afar and was no longer inscribed on the cadastral registers as belonging
to the estate of his lord, he became "unknown to the fisc" or "free" (eleutheros),
that is, free of any specific fiscal obligations toward the state and of
dependence on a specific lord. It should be emphasized that this "freedom"
was only of a fiscal nature, and was temporary; it did not extend to the
social status of the paroikos, which remained permanent and hereditary. Indeed,
the imperial administration considered the eleutheros as a paroikos of the
state or demosiarios paroikos, and the same rule applied to persons previously
not subjected to any lord, but unable to explain their fiscal status: the
assimilation of the latter group to the paroikoi of the state implies that
the Byzantine peasantry as a whole was of dependent status. The temporary
nature of the "freedom" enjoyed by the eleutheros is illustrated by the procedure
implemented by the imperial administration: once located, he was settled
on imperial or state land, or else granted to an individual or an ecclesiastical
institution, and became again liable to fiscal dues. He was thereby fully
reintegrated into the class of the paroikoi. 18 
 Two documents seem to contradict the assumption that the status of the paroikos
had already become hereditary before 1204. Imperial privileges delivered
respectively to the monastery of Lavra on Mount Athos in 1079 and to that
of Eleousa in Macedonia in 1156 granted them the right to increase the number
of paroikoi exempted from fiscal dues whom they held in their subjection;
the additional peasants were to be selected from among their descendants.'9
The exercise of imperial rights over the descendants would seem to indicate
that they did not belong to these institutions. A closer examination of these
documents reveals, however, that the provisions of the grants aimed only
 18. On the eleutheros see Jacoby, "Une Classe fiscale," pp. 139—152.
 19. Texts in Paul Lemerle, André Guillou, and Nicolas G. Svoronos,
Actes de Lavra, I [Archives de l~4thos, V] (Paris, 1970), PP. 215—219,
no. 38, and Louis Petit, "Le Monastére de Notre Dame de Pitié
en Macédoine," Izvestija russkago arkheologicheskago instituta v Konstantinopole,
VI (1900), 28—29, 32—40; see also Ostrogorskij, op. cit., pp.

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