FHW Button

Pronoia: The institution

he pronoia ("care", "forethought") is an institution that goes back to the 11th century and constitutes a subject about which much has been written. It refers to the ceding of income belonging to the state, that is to the granting to an individual of the right to receive directly from a citizen whatever dues he would normally be obliged to pay to the state. The holder of a pronoia was called pronoiarios, while those who farmed his land were the paroikoi. The pronoia was ceded by an imperial document and the rights of the beneficiary (size of land, paroikoi and their obligations) were all recorded, together with their respective monetary value, in special documents, the praktika ("records"). A pronoia might mean both the land granted and the value of the fiscal obligations pertaining to the pronoia and, consequently, the sum total of the pronoiarios' income. The extent of the pronoia varied.

As regards the nature of the pronoia, it usually consisted of the concession of the income from cultivated lands together with the paroikoi established on the land in question, and it included not only the taxes but part of the income of the land as well. However, various fiscal rights of the state, unrelated to land, such as for instance customs dues, water rights and fishing rights, were also given as pronoiai. In most cases, the pronoia was granted to an individual, either for a specific period of time or, more often, for life. It constituted a form of reward or compensation for services rendered, but it was also frequently a sort of wage, or a source of income necessary for the maintenance and the provision of service, as in the case of soldiers. When the land was ceded as pronoia to private individuals, the state retained the ownership of that land, while when a donation was made to the Church, the pronoia was considered full and permanent.

See also: Paroikoi