Dio Cassius, “Petition to Emperor Philip”

A petition presented about A.D. 245 to Emperor Philip (M. Julius Philippus, 244—249) reveals the desperation of the peasants.


We who flee as suppliants to the refuge of your divinity are the entire population of your most sacred estate. We are suffering extortion and illegal exactions beyond all reason at the hands of those who ought to preserve the public welfare. . . . Military commanders, soldiers, and powerful and influential men in the city and your officials . . . swoop down upon us, take us away from our work, requisition our plow oxen, and illegally exact what is not due them. As a result we are suffering extraordinary injustice by this extortion. We wrote about all this to your majesty, Augustus, when you held the prefecture of the Praetorian Guard ... and how your divinity was moved the rescript [emperor’s official answer] quoted herewith makes clear: “We have transmitted the content of your petition to the governor, who will see to it that there is no further cause for complaint.” But inasmuch as this rescript has brought us no aid, it has resulted that we are still suffering throughout the countryside illegal exactions of what is not owing, as certain parties assault us and trample upon us unjustly, and we are still suffering extraordinary extortion at the hands of the officials, and our resources have been exhausted and the estates deserted.