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Census

The Roman Empire demanded of all its subject peoples both taxes and military service when necessary. The taxes were of two kinds:

  1. An impost, levied upon goods or property, the collection of which was farmed out to publicans, or collectors, whom the taxpayers of the Land looked upon with the utmost contempt. These men collected taxes on many things, not only on land but also on fruit trees, vegetables, grapes in the vineyards, grain, flocks and herds and even fish from the sea. Working for the hated Romans, they were extortioners, hard men who grew rich through manipulation. They were regarded as sinners.

  2. There was also a head or poll tax assessed against each male. This tax, plus the need for draft records, required frequent taking of the census.

This Census or Numbering of the People was ordered by Augustus Caesar in the latter days of the reign of Herod the Great. It meant that many families had to journey to their hometowns to be registered. It was a 3 day journey for Joseph and Mary.