A tribute (/ˈtrɪbjuːt/; from Latin tributum, "contribution") is wealth, often in kind, that a party gives to another as a sign of submission, allegiance or respect. Various ancient states exacted tribute from the rulers of land which the state conquered or otherwise threatened to conquer. In case of alliances, lesser parties may pay tribute to more powerful parties as a sign of allegiance and often in order to finance projects that would benefit both parties. To be called "tribute" a recognition by the payer of political submission to the payee is normally required; the large sums, essentially protection money, paid by the later Roman and Byzantine Empires to barbarian peoples to prevent them attacking imperial territory, would not usually be termed "tribute" as the Empire accepted no inferior political position. Payments by a superior political entity to an inferior one, made for various purposes, are described by terms including "subsidy".
The ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire is an example of an ancient tribute empire; one that made relatively few demands on its non-Persian subjects other than the regular payment of tribute, which might be gold, luxury goods, animals, soldiers or slaves. However, failure to keep up the payments had dire consequences. The reliefs at Persepolis show processions of figures bearing varied types of tribute.
The medieval Mongol rulers of Russia also expected only tribute from the Russian states, which continued to govern themselves. Athens received tribute from the other cities of the Delian League. The empires of Assyria, Babylon, Carthage and Rome exacted tribute from their provinces and subject kingdoms. Ancient China received tribute from various states such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Borneo, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar and Central Asia (listed here). The Roman republic exacted tribute in the form of payments equivalent to proportional property taxes, for the purpose of waging war.
Tribute empires contrast with those like the Roman Empire, which more closely controlled and garrisoned subject territories. A tributary state is one that preserves its political position and such independence as it has only by paying tribute. Although, Roman Republic and Roman Empire sometimes controlled client kingdoms providing it with tribute.
Raiders, like Vikings and Celtic tribes, could also exact tribute instead of raiding the place if the potential targets agreed to pay an agreed amount of valuables; the Danegeld is a famous and large-scale example.
Tribute was not always money, but also valuables, effectively making the payers hostages kept unpillaged in exchange for good behaviour. Various medieval lords required tribute from their vassals or peasants, nominally in exchange for protection to incur the costs of raising armies, or paying for free-lance mercenaries against a hostile neighbouring state. That system evolved into medieval taxation and co-existed as a secular approximation of the churchly tithe levied on production.
Main article: Jizya
The Islamic Caliphate introduced a new form of tribute, known as the 'jizya', that differed significantly from earlier Roman forms of tribute. According to Patricia Seed:
What distinguished jizya historically from the Roman form of tribute is that it was exclusively a tax on persons, and on adult men. Roman "tribute" was sometimes a form of borrowing as well as a tax. It could be levied on land, landowners, and slaveholders, as well as on people. Even when assessed on individuals, the amount was often determined by the value of the group's assets and did not depend—as did Islamic jizya—upon actual head counts of men of fighting age. Christian Iberian rulers would later adopt similar taxes during their reconquest of the peninsula.
Christians of the Iberian Peninsula translated the term 'jizya' as tributo. This form of tribute was later also applied by the Spanish empire to their territories in the New World.
Modern elements of tribute are restricted to highly formal and ceremonial rituals, such as formal gifts being given to prove either fealty or loyalty upon the inauguration of a president, a wedding of a president's child while the president is in office, or the accession or the marriage of a member of a royal family.
King Na was awarded the seal of the Monarch of the Kingdom of Wa during the Chinese Han Dynasty, and Queen Himiko, who had sent a tribute mission to the Wei Dynasty (third century), was followed by the five kings of Wa who also offered to the Wei. This evidence points to the fact that at this period Japan was inside the Chinese tribute system. Japanese missions to the Sui (581-604) and Tang Dynasties were recognized by the Chinese as bearers of imperial tribute; however in the middle of ninth century - the early Heian period - Japan rescinded the sending missions to the Tang Empire.
It was not that Japan, as China's neighbor, had had nothing to do with or been indifferent to hierarchical international relations when seeking relationships with China or the constituents of the Chinese world order. It had sporadically paid tribute to Chinese dynasties in ancient and medieval times but had usually not been a regular vassal state of China. It had obviously been one of the countries most reluctant to participate in the Sinocentric world order. Japan did not identify itself as a vassal state of China during most of its history, no matter how China saw it.
During the fourth through sixth centuries the Korean states regularly sent tribute missions to states in China. While this in theory implied a submission to Chinese rulers, in practice it was little more than a diplomatic formality. In exchange, Korean rulers received symbols that strengthened their own legitimacy and a variety of cultural commodities: ritual goods, books, Buddhist scriptures, and rare luxury products.