• Tastes Of History

Pay in the Legions

Updated: Aug 18

From the time of the Consul Gaius Marius onwards, legionaries received 10 assēs a day or 225 denarii a year (equal to 900 sestertii). This basic rate remained unchanged until the reign of the Emperor Domitian (AD 81 - AD 96) who increased it to 300 denarii. Despite steady inflation during the 2nd-century AD, there was no further rise until the time of Emperor Septimius Severus (AD193 - AD 211), who increased it to 500 denarii a year. The soldiers did not receive all the money in cash, however, as the state deducted a clothing and food tax from their pay. At no time were Roman soldiers paid in actual salt.

All legionary soldiers would also receive a praemia (veterans' benefits) on completion of their term of service of 25 years or more: a sizeable sum of money (3,000 denarii from the time of Emperor Augustus) and/or a plot of good farmland, which was in much demand. Significantly, farmland given to veterans often helped in establishing control of the frontier regions and over rebellious provinces. Much later, under Emperor Caracalla (AD 211 - AD 217), the praemia increased to 5,000 denarii.

Endnotes:

1. 'Salt and salary: were Roman soldiers paid in salt?', in Kiwi Hellenist: Modern Myths about the Ancient World, (accessed February 2021).

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