- Dec 2009
While the others have made some excellent points in response to what tribute really means, there's another word I think we should give some attention to here: annual. A tenth-century Byzantine document says that emperors should not be afraid to pay tribute and exchange hostages. There are some benefits to this. First, you have to pay tribute. Which means going out to their capital and getting a look around and a feel for the place and talking to elites. Constantinople knew that the social structures of most of the peoples around them were heavily centred on individual personalities, so getting a sense of what the elites thought about their king/khan/prince/whatever might be extremely beneficial when the time comes to make war again. Second, this involves a hostage exchange. Every year they got to bring a new crop of elites back to Constantinople where they then spent a year or so in the court building new social relations and being wowed by splendor and ceremony designed to make foreign elites impressed with Constantinople and its court. Then when the tribute is getting paid you get a new group of elites, and maybe a chance to hang out with the friends that you made who had previously been hostages. It's not just tribute, it's an imperial system designed to make outside leaders pro-Roman and keep a steady flow of information going back to the central government, all in exchange for some money which mostly seems to get spent on Roman goods anyway, and is thus injected back into the Roman economy."Domitian agreed to peace terms with Decebalus. He agreed to pay large sums (eight million sesterces) in annual tribute to the Dacians for maintaining peace. Decebalus sent his brother Diegis to Rome to accept a diadem from the Emperor, officially recognising Decebalus's royal status."
And this went on uncontested all throughout Nerva's reign. It was only during Trajan's reign that Rome finally broke the tribute pact and invaded Dacia. Is this a unique occurrence, or at the very least the closest a king ever got to making the Roman Empire its ho till that point in time?