sympathy for the tax man?

Thomas Cahill discussing social, economic, and political class conflict in late classical antiquity:

But now I must ask a great concession of my readers: to pity the poor tax man, whose life was far more miserable than the lives of those who suffered his exactions. The tax man, or curialis, was born that way: Can you imagine the dawning of horror on realizing that you were born into a class of worms who were expected to spend their entire adult life spans collecting taxes from their immediate neighbors — and that there was no way out?

But this was only the beginning of the horror. Whatever the curiales were unable to collect they had to make good out of their own resources! Who were these wretches, and how were they assigned their doom? Since tax collection was patently beneath the dignity of the Ausonian class of great landowners, the task of collection fell to the next level down, to the small landowners, the squireens who had amassed enough land to hold their heads up in polite society. Originally viewed as the first rung on the ladder of social betterment, the office of curialis had become by the age of Ausonius a cruel trap from which there was little chance of escape.

(How the Irish Saved Civilization, p. 25)


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