Sonderdruck aus: M. A. Speidel, Heer und Herrschaft im Römischen Reich der Hohen
Kaiserzeit, Stuttgart 2009, 349-380.
ROMAN ARMY PAY SCALES
How much did Rome pay the soldiers serving in the legions and the auxilia, who
expanded and defended her empire? The answer is of some significance not only
to the history of the Roman army but to the political, social, and economic history
of the Roman Empire in general. Many a learned article has therefore been
devoted to this matter and steady progress has been made. Yet problems remain,
the evidence being scanty and often not readily intelligible. Work on the 600 and
more writing-tablets from the legionary fortress of Vindonissa (Switzerland), has
turned up a missing link in the chain of evidence. The new text, a pay receipt of
an auxiliary soldier, reveals a new sum and thus allows the reconstruction of the
Roman army’s pay scales through the first three centuries A.D. The overall pay
model given below reconciles all the hitherto known evidence.
I. The literary and papyrological evidence
Roman soldiers received their annual pay in three instalments (stipendia),1 due on
the first of January, May, and September.2 The pay of the legions for the first two
First published in: JRS 82 (1992) 87–106. — The following abbreviations are used: ChLA:
A. Bruckner and R. Marichal, Chartae Latinae Antiquiores (1954). CPL: R. Cavenaile, Corpus
Papyrorum Latinarum (1958). HABES: Heidelberger althistorische Beiträge und epigraphische
Studien. Jahn 1983: J. Jahn, ‘Der Sold römischer Soldaten im 3. Jh. n.Chr.: Bemerkung zu ChLA
446, 473 und 495’, ZPE 53 (1983) 217–27. Jahn 1984: J. Jahn, ‘Zur Entwicklung römischer
Soldzahlungen von Augustus bis auf Diokletian’, Studien zu den Fundmünzen der Antike 2 (1984)
53–74. Massada II: H.M. Cotton and J. Geiger, Massada II. The Yigael Yadin Excavations 1963–
1965, Final Reports. The Latin and Greek Documents (with a contribution by J.D. Thomas)
(1989). RA: E. Birley, The Roman Army Papers 1926–1986 (1988). RAP: J.F. Gilliam, Roman
Army Papers (1986). RAS I: M.P. Speidel, Roman Army Studies I (1984). RAS II: M.P. Speidel,
Roman Army Studies II (1992). RMR: R.O. Fink, Roman Military Records on Papyrus (1971).
1 RMR, pp. 241f. and 255. Cf. also L. Wierschowski, Heer und Wirtschaft (1984) 13f. and 228
(n. 58). Stipendia continued to be paid in the fourth century: P.Panop. 2 passim (A.D.
299/300). P.Oxy. 1047 (early fourth century). Paneg. Lat. III (XI) 1.4 (mid-fourth century).
Domitian added a quartum stipendium (Suet., Dom. 7,3) after his victory over the German
tribe of the Chatti in A.D. 83. A sestertius of A.D. 84 with the legend STIP AVG DOMITIAN
(cf. C.M. Kraay, ‘Two New Sesterii of Domitian’, American Numismatic Society Museum
Notes 9 (1960) 109–16) reveals the date and confirms Suetonius’ statement of a fourth pay-
day. Later, most probably after Domitian’s death in A.D. 96, the stipendium Domitiani was
abolished. By the late second century at the latest we find the old system of three pay-days
reintroduced (cf. RMR 71 and Fink’s comments ibid. p. 253). In Dio’s time only the pay-rise
was remembered (Dio 67,3,5).
Roman Army Pay Scales
centuries A.D. is well known and has recently been established for the third.3 The
figures are given in Table 1.4
Table 1: The basic pay of a legionary foot soldier (in sestertii).
Domitian (A.D. 84)7
Septimius Severus (A.D. 197)8
Maximinus Thrax (A.D. 235)10
The bold figures are based on literary evidence.
2 1 January: RMR 72,7. 73 h. ChLA 466. 473. 495. P.Panop. 2,37. 58. 201. 292. 1 May: RMR
66 b I 30. 71 a 1. 10 b 5. 1 September: RMR 66 b II 3. ChLA 495. P.Oxy. 1047 P.Oxy. 2561.
3 Jahn 1984, 66 ff.
4 For easy comparison all figures will be given here and below in sestertii. Sestertii, four of
which make a denarius, seem to have been the basis on which the soldiers’ pay was originally
calculated (cf. Jahn 1984, 65) although the stipendia were paid mainly in denarii, as is shown
by the archaeological finds and the documentary evidence.
5 Suet., Iul. 26,3 may imply that Caesar had already fixed this sum by doubling the legions’
previous pay: legionibus stipendium in prepetuum duplicavit. Perhaps in 49 BC: L. Keppie,
CAH X2 (1996) 371f. No legionary pay-rise is recorded for the reign of Augustus.
6 Tac., Ann. 1,17,4: 10 asses per day in A.D. 14. This equals 9121/2 sesertii a year, which
shows that Tacitus (i.e. the rebellious soldier speaking) gives no more than an approximation
(if he was not implying a ‘military year’ of 360 days). The intention was clearly to dramatize
the soldiers’ situation, which is why their pay was broken down to the day. Dio 67,3,5 reports
that the pay per pay-day before A.D. 84 was 300 sestertii.
7 Domitian’s quartum stipendium consisted of three aurei (=300 sestertii): Suet., Dom. 7,3. Cf.
also above n. 1. After abolishing the stipendium Domitiani the old system of three pay-days
was reintroduced, but now every soldier received 400 sestertii (Dio 67,3,5).
8 All we learn from Severus’ Vita (HA Sev. 12,2) and Herodian (3,8,5) is that the increase was
greater than all previous ones. Jahn 1984 has shown this increase to have been 100 per cent.
Jahn’s convincing arguments can now be confirmed (cf. below VI, and n. 88). There seems to
have been no pay-rise during the reign of Commodus. Cf. A. Passerini, Athenaeum 24 (1946)
9 Caracalla increased the soldier’s normal pay by a half to win over the soldiers after he killed
his brother Geta: Herod. 4,4,7. Cf. also Dio 78,36,3 who states that Caracalla’s increase cost
Rome 70 million denarii yearly around A.D. 218. At this time, it seems, Caracalla’s pay-rise
was at least partially taken back by Macrinus: Dio 78,12,7. 28.2. Cf. Th. Pekáry, Historia 8
(1959) 443–89, esp. 484. Cf. also Dio 78,28,3 and 36,1 for Macrinus paying the soldiers
recruited during his reign the rates Septimius Severus had established. As this, according to
Dio, was one of the reasons for Macrinus’ overthrow, Elagabalus almost certainly restored
the previous pay scale (cf. Jahn 1984, 66 n. 49).
10 Maximinus Thrax doubled the soldiers’ pay: Herod. 6,8,8. After Maximinus Thrax there
seems to have been no further increase of the stipendia (cf. Jahn 1984, 66. 68). Only the two
other forms of soldiers’ income, annona and donativa, were increased. Cf. D. van Berchem,
‘L’annone militaire dans l’empire romain au 3e siècle’ (1936) 136f. Jahn 1984, 53ff.
Roman Army Pay Scales
While legionary pay is reliably known, the ancient writers unfortunately give us
no notion of what the pay of the auxilia may have been. We therefore have to turn
to the papyri, our only other source, so far, for auxiliary soldiers’ pay. What can
be learned from them its presented in Table 2.
Table 2: Soldiers’ pay for various types of units mentioned in papyri.
Stipendium as recorded
60 denarii or more
240 or more
RMR 68 / ChLA 7
(= P.Gen. Lat. 1)
RMR 69 / ChLA 9
(=P.Gen. Lat. 4)
RMR 70 / ChLA 410
(= P.Berol. 6866
+ P.Aberd. 133
+ P.Reinach 2222
84 denarii 153/4 obols
II/III cent. A.D.13
(= P.Berol. 14100)
257 denarii 223/4 obols
II/III cent. A.D.13
(= P.Hamb. 310)
257 denarii 221/4 obols14
As for the stipendia around A.D. 300, P.Panop. 2,36ff. informs us that the ala I
Hiberorum received 73,500 denarii (= 294,000 sestertii) to pay its soldiers.
P.Panop. 2,292f. shows that the cohors XI Chamavorum was sent 65,500 denarii
(= 262,000 sestertii) for its soldiers’ pay in the same period. P.Panop. 2,57 reports
that an unspecified number of soldiers of legio III Diocletiana, serving at the
governors’ officium, received a total of 343,000 denarii for their salaries.
Understanding of these data is hindered by several obstacles. P.Panop. leaves
the number of recipients unmentioned, though we may be fairly certain that the
11 The conversions are based on the following rates: 1 sestertius = 1 drachma = 7 obols, or 1
denarius = 28 obols.
12 For this new pay document see below, IV.
13 On the dates, cf. Jahn 1983, 222f., who compares lay-out and script of the papyri to RMR 70.
14 The figure is given here as convincingly restored by Jahn 1983, 221. The difference of 1/2
obol from the sum in ChLA 446 cannot be expressed in asses and may have to do with
fluctuating currency exchange rates (cf. Jahn 1983, 223). The reading of the exact amount of
obols may also be doubted.
Roman Army Pay Scales
commander’s pay was not included.15 The other papyri fail to mention both unit
and rank of the soldiers.16 Only for RMR 70 can we be certain that auxiliaries
were being paid. None of these figures equal the stipendia of legionary soldiers,
nor does there seem to be any simple ratio between them. R.O. Fink improved the
reading of the stipendia in his edition of P.Gen.Lat. 1 (= RMR 68) from formerly
248 drachmae (= sestertii) to 2471/2 drachmae. This led M.P. Speidel (‘the Elder’)
to the conclusion that the figures in both RMR 68 and 69, if understood as 99 per
cent of the full pay, lead to a full stipendium of 250 sestertii and 300 sestertii
respectively.17 RMR 68 would therefore concern the auxilia whereas RMR 69 was
the pay document of a legion and matched the legionary’s pay as known from the
ancient writers. This entailed a ratio of exactly 5:6 between the pay of the auxilia
and the pay of the legions. This pay model18 seems superior to others19 because it
can help explain transfers of soldiers from the legions to the auxilia without
having to assume pay cuts or punishment.20
Yet this approach, it appeared, could not explain the odd figure of 84 denarii
153/4 obols in RMR 70.21 It was therefore rejected by R. Marichal in his
commentary on that document,22 where he quoted two new pay records (ChLA
446 and 495), which also showed seemingly inexplicable figures: 257 denarii
223/4 obols and 257 denarii 221/4 (?) obols. Recently J. Jahn, adopting both the 1
per cent deduction and the 5:6 ratio, has shown that the 84 denarii 153/4 obols,
being equal to 84 denarii 9 asses or 1,353 asses (= 338 sestertii 1 as), and taken as
15 Cf. P.Panop. 2,197f., where the pay of a praepositus equitum promotorum legionis II
Traianae is listed separately.
16 RMR 68 was formerly presumed to mention legionary soldiers because of the tria nomina of
the recipients. M.P. Speidel, ‘The pay of the auxilia’, RAS I 83–9, esp. 86 and nn. 8–10, and
more recently A Mócsy, ‘Die Namen der Diplomempfänger’, in W. Eck and H. Wolff (eds.),
Heer und Integrationspolitik (1986) 437–66, have shown that as early as the first century
A.D. the tria nomina are no proof for either Roman citizenship or type of unit.
17 M.P. Speidel, op. cit. (n. 16) 86. Readers may note that the present author, M.A. Speidel (‘the
Younger’), Basel, is the nephew of M.P. Speidel (‘the Elder’), Honolulu.
18 Earlier suggestions of the 5:6 pay model were lacking an explanation of the figures given in
the papyri. Cf. A.Ch. Johnson, ‘Roman Egypt to the reign of Diocletian’, in T. Frank, An
Economic Survey of Ancient Rome II (1936) 670ff. A. Passerini, Le coorti pretorie (1939)
101 n. 2. G. Forni, Il reculamento delle legioni da Augusto a Diocleziano (1952) 32ff.
19 These can be described as the 1:3, 3:5, and 2:3 theses. For a short summary and the literature
see Jahn 1984, 58ff., esp. nn. 17 and 18.
20 M.P. Speidel, op. cit. (n. 16) 145 quoted the career of the ‘Captor of Decebalus’ (AE
1969/70, 583. Cf. M.P. Speidel, ‘The captor of Decebalus, a new inscription from Philippi’,
JRS 60 (1970) 142–53 = RAS I 173–87, esp. 179f.), who was promoted from the rank of a
vexilliarius equitum of the legio VII Claudia to a duplicarius alae. According to the 1:3
thesis this would have meant a severe pay-cut. For more evidence see ibid., 180 and n. 43.
Cf. also Wierschowski, op. cit. (n. 1) 7ff., esp. for the high-ranking of the alae.
21 M.P. Speidel, op. cit. (n. 16) 87. J. Kaimio, ‘Notes on the pay of Roman soldiers’, Arctos 9
(1975) 39–46, esp. 41: ‘Unfortunately, all my attempts to find a mathematical solution to the
problem of 84 denarii 153/4 obols have failed’.
22 ChLA X 7ff.
Roman Army Pay Scales
99 per cent of the full pay, lead to a stipendium of 1,366 2/3 asses (= 341 sestertii
2/3 as).23 This sum, due three times a year, would therefore amount to a yearly
salary of 4,100 asses or 1,025 sestertii for the auxiliary soldiers in RMR 70 before
Septimius Severus’ pay-rise. Understanding the figures in ChLA 446 and 495 in
the same way reveals an annual pay of 3,125 sestertii. According to the 5:6 pay
model one would expect a miles cohortis to receive 1,000 sesterii a year (opposed
to the 1,200 sestertii a miles legionis was paid) before Septimius Severus’ pay-
rise, and 3,000 sestertii (mil. leg.: 3,600 sestertii) after Caracalla’s. The super-
numerary 25 sestertii and 125 sestertii respectively, Jahn suggested to be bonuses
of some kind.24 Attractive and convincing though these considerations are, they
were lacking, so far, proof beyond cavil.
II. A new pay record on a writing-tablet from Vindonissa
Work on the writing-tablets from Vindonissa25 has revealed, amongst many other
new documents and letters, the last page of a pay receipt.26
23 Jahn 1984, 64f. and idem 1983, 224ff.
24 Jahn 1984, 64f. and idem 1983, 225ff.
25 Tab.Vindonissa 2. For the full publication of this tablet and all other Vindonissa writing-
tablets, see M.A. Speidel, Die römischen Schreibtafeln aus Vindonissa (1996).
26 16 x [7,3] cm. The lower half is missing. The remaining upper half shows on its inside four
lines of cursive script. The blank space after the last line reveals than no further text is
missing, apart from, perhaps, the closing-formula Actum Vindonissae etc. on the now missing
lower half. The outside of the tablet is blank. The tablet was probably found, together with
most other writing-tablets from Vindonissa, in the rubbish dump (‘Schutthügel’) of the
legionary fortress. The reading has been established with the help of enlarged photographs
and a microscope.
Roman Army Pay Scales
1 asınıocıı[.]ıırı[.]non[..]cos xi k
aug ss cluaııqraetor
turalbipudıınısacııpı x L
[.]t stıpıındı proxımı x LXXV
Reconstructed Text: . . . . . . .
Asinio Ce[l]ere, Non[io] co(n)s(ulibus), XI k(alendas)
Aug(ustas). S(upra) s(criptus) Clua, eq(ues) Raetor(um)
tur(ma) Albi Pudentis, ac(c)epi x (denarios) L
[e]t stipendi proximi x (denarios) LXXV.
22 July of the year in which Asinius Celer and Nonius (Quintilianus) were consuls
(= A.D. 38). I, the above mentioned Clua, horseman of the Raeti in the squadron
of Albius Pudens, have received 50 denarii, and as next pay 75 denarii.
The nature of this text seems clear, although no other of its kind has yet been
found. It is a receipt for money paid to the Raetian (?) horseman Clua,27 written, it
27 Cf. CIL V 4698 (Brixia). On this inscription Clua was the name of the father of a certain
Esdrila. Assuming a similar dissemination of both names, Clua may have originated from the
northern Italian Alpine region, the alpes Raeticae, perhaps from one of the valleys north of
Roman Army Pay Scales
appears, in his own rather wobbly hand.28 Preceding and now missing pages may
have contained an official text by the unit’s treasurer (signifer)29 or its book-
keeper (librarius), as well as perhaps the names and seals of witnesses. The
complete document was presumably kept with the treasurer’s records.
Clua was a member of a squadron (turma) – a subdivision known only in the
auxilia30 – led by a certain Albius Pudens.31 Although Clua named his unit simply
by the colloquial expression equites Raetorum,32 we can be certain a cohors
Raetorum equitata was meant, perhaps cohors VII Raetorum equitata, which is
attested at Vindonissa during the mid-first century.33
Brescia: Cf. J. Untermann, ‘Namenlandschaften im alten Oberitalien’, Beiträge zur
Namenforschung 10 (1959) 126ff. Here, Raetian tribes are known to have lived (Strabo
4,6,8) and the indigenous names, according to Untermann (151ff.), seem to be of Raetian
origin. On Clua’s origin and the recruiting area of his unit (a cohors Raetorum):
M. Hartmann and M.A. Speidel, ‘Die Hilfstruppen des Windischer Heeresverbandes’,
Jahresbericht der Gesellschaft Pro Vindonissa 1991 (1992). Cf. also A. Holder, Altceltischer
Sprachschatz (1896–1904) III 1238: Cloa (Scarponne). III 1240: Clu (Langres).
28 Some irregularities may cause surprise. When copying the date, Clua omitted the cognomen
Quintilianus of the second consul. Examples for this practise are collected in Speidel (n. 25)
ad Nr. 2. Dating by suffect consuls outside Italy was very uncommon (W. Eck, ‘Consules
ordinarii and consules suffecti als eponyme Amtsträger’, Actes du Colloque en memoire de
Attilio Degrassi, Rome 27–28 Mai 1988 (1991) 15–44, esp. 30ff.) and may shed some light
on military administration customs of the early empire. The use of both forms of the letter
‘E’: E in Raetor(um) and || (being the normal form on stylus tablets) in the same text or word,
was unusual. Yet examples can be found with ease: cf. e.g. L. Bakker and B. Gallsterer-Kröll,
Graffiti auf römischer Keramik im Rheinischen Landesmuseum Bonn (1975) no. 349. R.S.O.
Tomlin, Tabellae Sulis (1988) no. 53. CIL XIII 10009,6. 119a. 10010, 188d2. 228i. 251e
passim. For the colloquial expression eques Raetorum cf. below n. 32.
29 Vegetius, Ep. rei mil. 2,20 reports, that the signiferi, who had to be litterati homines, were in
charge of the troops’ money and responsible singulis reddere rationem.
30 The legionary horsemen were assigned, instead, to the centuriae: M.P. Speidel, ‘Ein
Silberring aus Baden für die Reiter der 21. Legion’, Helvetia Archeologica 70 (1987) 56–8.
31 Otherwise unknown. He may have been a member of the legion (perhaps an eques legionis)
ad tradendeam disciplinam immixtus (Tac., Agric. 28), as this was apparently often done
during the early Empire: AE 1969/70, 661. CIL III 8438 and esp. M.P. Speidel, ‘A Spanish
cavalry decurion in the time of Caesar and Augustus’, RAS I 111–13.
32 Such colloquial expressions can also be found on the Vindolanda tablets: Tab.Vindol. 181
l. 13: equites Vardulli for equites cohortis I fidae Vardullorum milliariae civium Romanorum
equitatae, and even appear in such official texts as in Hadrian’s speeches to the Roman army
in Africa, where the emperor used both terms equally: Commagenorum campus and in the
next line: eq(uites) coh(ortis) VI Commagenorm: M.P. Speidel, Emperor Hadrian’s speeches
to the African Army – a new Text (2006) 14 (field 30). Cf. also idem, ‘Ala Maurorum?
Colloquial names for Roman army units’, RAS I 109–10.
33 No alae Raetorum are known (the late Roman ala I Flavia Raetorum: Not. Dign. Occ. 35,23
and ala V Raetorum: Not. Dign. Or. 28,30 were upgraded cohortes (equitatae?): E. Birley,
‘Raetien, Britannien und das romische Heer’, RA 259–71, esp. 266 n. 33. M.P. Speidel, ‘The
Roman Army in Arabia’, RAS I 229–72, esp. 248f. Of the many cohortes Raetorum the
following are known to have had cavalry detachments: I Raetorum eq., I Raetorum eq. c.R.,
IV Raetorum eq., V Raetorum (eq.?)., VII Raetorum eq., VIII Raetorum eq. During the first
half of the first century A.D. there is no evidence of where any of these troops may have been
Roman Army Pay Scales
According to this receipt, Clua received 50 denarii on 22 July A.D. 38 and, in
addition, the whole of his next pay (75 denarii) in advance.34 Clua’s next pay-day
was 1. September, his previous one had been on 1. May of the same year. Why,
after only half the period between the pay-days had elapsed, he needed the
equivalent of two-thirds of his normal pay and the whole of his next he fails to
inform us. A possible explanation for his advanced pay may be that Clua suddenly
and unexpectedly needed more money than he had on his account and therefore
decided to overdraw it. He would then have received no pay on 1. September. On
the troop’s pay record an entrance of the kind debet ex priore ratione x . . . (cf.
RMR 70 a i 28. a ii 25. passim) may then have been made. Such practice is
attested for the second and third centuries A.D.,35 some soldiers owing over 176
denarii to the Roman state.36
Under what circumstances was the Roman army willing to grant advance
pay? There may have been several, though we know of only one. It is revealed by
an Egyptian papyrus of A.D. 179 (RMR 76), the main body of which contains
some sixty-two receipts, issued by horsemen of the ala Veterana Gallica for their
yearly hay money of 25 denarii. The great majority of them explicitly mention
that they received the money in advance (§n proxre&), because they were about
to leave their camp in Alexandria for several outposts in Lower Egypt, some more
than 300 km away.37 For the remaining few, which give no such mention, we can
safely assume the same. The money was given to the horsemen between 9 January
and 6 March. Unfortunately we do not known when hay money was officially
paid, but the most likely explanation for an early receipt is that the detachments
would not be back on the day it was due as outpost-duty could last several
stationed (many perhaps on the Rhine and Danube frontiers). Of the cohors VII Raetorum eq.
stamped tiles have been found in Vindonissa dating around the mid-first century A.D.: CIL
XIII 12457. 12458. Cf. Hartmann and Speidel op. cit. (n. 27). For the Vindonissa alae cf.
M.A. Speidel, ‘Römische Reitertruppen in Augst’, ZPE 91 (1992) 165–75.
34 This is how accepi stipendi proximi x LXXV is to be understood. The expression written out
fully is also found in RMR 70 passim: accepit stipendi x . . . and in P.Yadin 722,4 and 11:
accepi stipendi x . . . RMR 68, ChLA 446 and 495 show only accepit stip. RMR 71 and 72:
accep. stip. R. Marichal has shown (ChLA X p. 14), that stipendi was a genitive (‘génetif de
relation’), linked to the verb accipere (‘adverbialer Genetiv’), and specifying the nature of
what was received (‘Genetiv der Rubrik’), rather than the amount (‘il n’est en rien question
de quantité, mais de nature’). Hence his translation ‘reçu comme solde’, which is followed
above: ‘I . . . have received . . . as next pay’.
35 E.g. RMR 70 (A.D. 192). 73 (A.D. 120–50). ChLA 473 (second / third century A.D.).
36 RMR 73 a i 24.
37 S. Daris, ‘Le truppe ausiliarie romane in Egitto’, ANRW II 10,1 (1988) 743–66, esp. 752f.
For advanced payments of grain, cf. RMR 78,2 and 9 (second / third century A.D.).
38 M.P. Speidel, ‘Outpost duty in the desert. Building the fort at Gholaia (Bu Njem, Libya)’,
RAS II 275–278. R. Marichal, ‘L’occupation romaine de la Basse Egypte: le statut des
auxilia’ (1945) 54f., explained the missing stipendia of several soldiers in RMR 70 by their
absence from the camp at the time the money was paid or the record made respectively.
Roman Army Pay Scales
It may be that Clua too was about to go on a mission,39 and therefore received
his third stipendium early. As for the 50 denarii, on which he gives us no further
information, one may quote the similar case of Tinhius Val[—] in the pay record
RMR 70 (= P.Aberd. 133 b col. ii 7ff.). This soldier received a certain sum,
(–) and was sent ad praesi(dium?) Bab(ylonis?). His absence on the
day the document was made is thus attested, and hence there was no entry accepit
stipendi. Admittedly, this happened over 150 years later, and the 50 denarii of the
Vindonissa tablet may just as well have come from Clua’s own account. The
parallel nevertheless seems striking.
III. The first-century pay scales
Whatever questions may remain, the Vindonissa tablet provides us, for the first
time with safe and unambiguous evidence for the pay of an auxiliary soldier
whose rank we know. This information enables us to assess the pay of the Roman
army on safer grounds than were hitherto possible. It is now clear that an eques
cohortis before Domitian’s pay-rise in A.D. 84 received 75 denarii (= 300
sestertii) per stipendium, i.e. 900 sestertii per year.
We may next turn to the literary and papyrological evidence presented earlier.
The pay of the horsemen in the cohorts equals that of the legionary soldiers. RMR
68, we can now be certain, reveals the basic pay of a miles cohortis, earning 250
sestertii per stipendium or 750 per year before A.D. 84. RMR 69 supplies the
basic legionary stipendium of 300 sestertii, paid four times a year after Domitian’s
pay-rise, amounting to a yearly income of 1’200 sestertii. Domitian will have
raised the pay of the auxilia pari passu with the legions’ pay by one third.40 The
ratio between the basic salary of a miles cohortis and that of a miles legionis, it
can now be confirmed, was indeed 5:6.
The difference in pay between a miles cohortis and an eques cohortis before
A.D. 84 was 50 sestertii per stipendium or 150 sestertii per year. As for the equites
legionis we can be certain they received more than the basic pay of a miles
legionis (= eques cohortis), cum naturaliter equites a peditibus soleant discrepare
(Veg., Ep. rei mil. 2,21). Also, before being promoted legionary horseman and
earning equestria stipendia,41 one had to serve several years as a foot soldier.42
The difference in pay before A.D. 84 may well have been the same 150 sestertii
39 For possible outposts cf. Hartmann and Speidel, op. cit. (n. 27).
40 M.P. Speidel, op. cit. (n. 15) 87. Jahn 1983, 66.
41 CIL XII 2602 = ILS 2118. Cf. the contribution ‘Carrière militaire et solde’, in this volume.
42 J. Gilliam, ‘Dura rosters an the Constitutio Antoniniana’, RAP 289–307, esp. 292ff. Idem,
‘An Egyptian cohort in A.D. 117’, RAP 309–15, esp. 309 and n. 3.
Roman Army Pay Scales
per year, amounting to an annual pay of 1,050 sestertii, i.e. 350 sestertii per
The emperor Hadrian tells us that the equites alae too received a higher pay
than the equites cohortis (= miles legionis).44 Yet was there a difference in pay
between an eques alae and an eques legionis? The few surviving careers
mentioning transfers from the legions to the alae do not necessarily suggest this.
Ti. Claudius Maximus, the ‘captor of Decebalus’, was promoted by the emperor
Domitian from vexillarius equitum legionis, drawing presumably pay-and-a-half,
i.e. 1,575 sestertii per year, to duplicarius alae, now receiving the double pay of
an eques alae.45 If we assume that the horsemen in the legions and in the alae
were paid the same basic stipendium, Ti. Claudius Maximus’ promotion would
have entailed a 25 per cent pay-rise. Another, slightly earlier, career reports the
promotion of M. Licinius Fidelis from eques legionis to duplicarius alae.46 This
would have meant a 100 per cent increase. An even greater increase was granted
to M. Annius Martialis during the later first century A.D., when he was promoted
from miles legionis to duplicarius alae.47 It therefore seems possible that equites
legionis and equites alae received the same basic pay of 1,050 sestertii per year
before A.D. 84.48 One may now propose the following pay scales for the first
43 Confirmation of this will be found in the later data (see below). The ratio between the income
of a miles and an eques in the legion, in theory, may also have been calculated on the same
basis as in the cohorts (750 sestertii: 900 sestertii before A.D. 84), i.e. 5:6. This would lead to
1,080 sestertii per year, a sum easily divisible by 3, suggesting a stipendium equestre of 360
sestertii. But this sum does not reconcile with the figures of P.Panop. (cf. below VI).
44 Speidel, Hadrian’s speeches (n.32) 14 field 30: Difficile est cohortales equites etiam per se
placere, difficilius post alarem exercitationem non displicere: . . . equorum forma armorum
cultus pro stipendi modo.
45 AE 1969/70, 583. M.P. Speidel, op. cit. (n. 20), 146f. Cf. also idem, op. cit. (n. 16) 87 and n.
46 AE 1969/70, 661 from A.D. 55/8–71/4.
47 CIL VIII 2354 add. = ILS 305. He was transferred from the same legion (III Augusta) to the
same ala (Pannoniorum) as the above M. Licinius Fidelis several years earlier. One may also
note the late second-century career of M. Aurelius Paetus, who was promoted from eques
alae to sesquiplicarius legionis: AE 1977, 720. Y. LeBohec, La troisième légion Auguste
(1989) 205 and n. 214, which, according to the above pay scales, also entailed a pay-rise.
48 For confirmation see below. The demand of the Batavian Cohorts in A.D. 69 for donativum,
duplex stipendium, augeri equitum numerum (Tacitus, Hist. 4,19) – a passage quoted with
great regularity whenever the pay of the auxilia is being discussed – is of no value in helping
to determine the basic pay of the auxilia. For a detailed discussion of the passage cf.
Wierschowski, op. cit. (n 1) 9ff. See also M.P. Speidel, op. cit. (n. 16) 87 n. 19.
Roman Army Pay Scales
Table 3: First-century pay of the Roman Army (in sestertii per year):
Before A.D. 84
After A.D. 84
The bold figures are based on direct documentary or literary evidence.
All figures before A.D. 84 were easily divisible by three and therefore, in theory,
payable in sestertii as stipendia three times a year. Domitian’s pay-rise brought
the soldiers another stipendium, the yearly sums now being divisible by four.
These figures, though, were but nominal sums from which several
considerable deductions were made.49 As all full pay records show, a deduction of
1 per cent was made from each stipendium, even before it was accredited to the
soldier. The nature of this deduction is obscure.50 Its absence on the Vindonissa
tablet does not necessarily mean that the 1 per cent deduction was not enforced in
Vindonissa. It may instead reflect the nature of the tablet, of which we are not
49 Tacitus, Ann. 1,17 reports deductions for: vestis, arma, tentoria.
50 M.P. Speidel, op. cit. (n. 16) 86, who first recognized the 1 per cent deduction, suggested an
exchange fee for conversion of denarii to drachmae. Yet, as 1 per cent of the stipendia in
RMR 70, ChLA 446 and 495 appears to have been deducted although they were paid in
denarii (and obols), this deduction is perhaps not to be explained as a conversion fee. Hence
Jahn 1984, 63 n. 36, surmised its use for an institution or purpose, benefiting all soldiers of
the unit. G.R. Watson, ‘Documentation in the Roman army’, ANRW II 1 (1974) 493–507,
esp. 499, suspected a service-charge for book-keeping.
51 Cf. above, II, with our suggestion that the horseman Clua received his money in advance
because he was about to leave the camp. If this is correct, none of the above explanations (n.
50) would fully apply, which might explain the absence of the 1 per cent deduction. It is, of
course, equally possible that it was not yet in force at the time the Vindonissa tablet was
Roman Army Pay Scales
The first-century pay records show that of the remaining 99 per cent (ex eis)
80 drachmae (= sestertii) of the stipendium before A.D. 84 (RMR 68) and 100
drachmae (RMR 69) thereafter were kept back for food (in victum).52 Standard
stoppages, it appears, were also made for hay money (faenaria), boots and socks
(caligas, fascias), which, together with the deduction for food, represented about
40 per cent of the basic stipendium of foot soldiers.53 Occasional stoppages were
made for clothing (in vestimentis) and contributions towards the camp Saturnalia
(saturnalicium kastrense) and the standards (ad signa). Altogether these
deductions amounted to roughly three-quarters of the annual pay of the two
auxiliary soldiers in RMR 68.54 The rest of the money was booked to the soldiers’
accounts (depositum), for which there must have been separate book-keeping.55
IV. The Masada pay record (P.Yadin 722)
A pay document from Masada has so far been excluded from the above discussion
of the first-century pay scales and stoppage systems, for it differs in several points
from all other known pay records. This is perhaps because it is not a complete pay
record but rather an extract, copied out at the end of the year and serving as a
receipt (hence ‘accepi’ in ll. 4 and 11). The remaining upper half of the papyrus
contains the accounts for the first stipendium and parts of the second. After a
heading with the date, the title of the document, ratio stipendia(ria?), and the
name of the soldier, it shows two entries accepi stipendi, each followed by several
deductions ex eos solvi. Its purpose was ‘to give a break-down of the expenses he
(i.e. the soldier) incurred throughout the year: a detailed account of his “debit”’.56
It seems it was not meant to give further information. The text runs as follows:57
52 We follow Marichal’s convincing proposition (ChLA I, p. 25), that the 128 drachmae in
RMR 69, l. 5, deducted in victum (?), included 28 drachmae for the saturnalicium, leaving
the standard 100 drachmae in victum as found with the second and third stipendium of this
53 These standard stoppages and 4 drachmae ad signa, were the only deductions made during
the second stipendium of Q. Iulius Proculus and C. Valerius Germanus in A.D. 81 (RMR 68),
equalling c. 42 per cent of the stipendium (cf. also n. 54).
54 This may also have been true for the legionary account in RMR 69 though we cannot be
certain since the greater part of the last entry for the quartum stipendium with the deductions
is missing. Of the first stipendium c. 75 per cent was kept back, the following two show
deductions of c. 50 per cent. The items for which these deductions were made are lost.
55 Cf. e.g. RMR 73.
56 Masada II 45. Cf. ibid. 41ff. for a detailed discussion of the differences between the Masada
document and the pay records in RMR.
57 The text and the reconstructions given here are the editors’: Masada II 46f. Cf. also their
commentary 47ff. The expansion of the date in l. 1 is uncertain and could also be understood
as IMP VES]PAS [A]V[G VI TIT]O IIII CO[S, i.e. the year 75 (cf. op. cit. 47f.).
Roman Army Pay Scales
1. [IMP(ERATORE) VES]PAS[IA]N[O AV]G(VSTO) IIII CO(N)[S(ULE)
2. [R]ATIO ST[IP]END[I]A(RIA?)
3. C. MESSIVS C.F(ILIVS) FAB(IA) BERV(TENSIS)
4. accepi st]ipendi x L
5. ex eos s[olui
6. hordiaria [x XVI
6a. (2 hand) -]rnius
7. sumtuarium x XX
8. c[a]ligas x V
9. lorum fasciari(um) x II
10. tunica linia x VII
11. accepi stipendi x LX[
12. ex eos solui
13. hordiaria x XV[
14. sumtuarium x [XX
14a. (3 hand) C. Antonius
15. pallium operatoriu(m) [x
15a. (4 hand) Puplius Valerius
16. tun[i]ca alba [x
C. Messius from Beirut, the soldier mentioned in this document, was clearly a
Roman citizen, for his tribe (Fabia) is given (1.3). His unit and his rank, however,
are not mentioned. The sums he received as stipendium are x L (l. 4) and x LX[-
(l. 11) respectively.58 The 50 denarii, the reading of which seems beyond doubt,
does not correspond with the pay scales suggested above (Table 3). Our
understanding is further aggravated by the 60 or more denarii C. Messius received
as his next pay. As the editors stressed, the 50 denarii credited to C. Messius as
his first pay seem to equal the total of the deductions. The editors therefore
concluded, ‘that we have total expenditure rather than the sum of the stipendium’
entered after accepi stipendi.59 This explanation lacks documentary support. In all
other documents known, the formula accepi or accepit stipendi60 is followed by
the sum credited to the soldier. Furthermore the first-century pay records show an
58 The editors of the document understood the expression accepi stipendi by suggesting the
genitive to relate to the sum of 50 denarii, which was obviously not the full stipendium.
Hence their translation ‘I received of/from my pay’ (pp. 44. 47). On the other hand, they
quoted RMR 68, 69, and 70, where they believed the same expression to denote the full sum,
despite the fact that these documents only show the full sum minus 1 per cent. As the new
Vindonissa tablet proves, accepi stipendi could indeed be followed by the full stipendium. It
must, therefore, be translated ‘I have received as pay’, the genitive denoting the quality of the
money rather than the amount (cf. above n. 34).
59 Masada II 51. Cf. also 44f.
60 See also the abbreviations accep. and stip. as in e.g. RMR 68. 71. 72. ChLA 446. 495.
Roman Army Pay Scales
entry expressly reserved for the total of all expenses (expensas: RMR 68. est
s(umma) s(upra) s(criptarum): RMR 69). A summing up of the expenses under
the heading accepi stipendi thus seems unlikely.
The explanation for the absence of the total of expenses in the first section of
the Masada document may be provided by the third pay account of C. Valerius
Germanus in RMR 68 (l. 23ff.). Here too, addition of the expenses listed gives a
total equal to the pay credited. Again the entry with the total of expenses was
omitted, just as in the Masada document. Because of the correspondence of pay
and expenditure the omission of the entry with the total of expenses in both
accounts may have been deliberate.61 Of the second pay account on the Masada
document too little is preserved to draw any safe conclusions on this matter.
If the figures in ll. 4 and 11 were C. Messius’ pay and not the total of his
expenses, how are the unexpected sum of 50 denarii and the different sum of the
second stipendium to be explained? The editors have concluded that the purpose
of this document was solely to give a detailed breakdown of the soldier’s
expenses throughout the year. Hence the absence of statements concerning further
money transactions as we find them in the Geneva documents: the depositing of
the balance (reliquas deposuit), the statement of the previous balance (habuit ex
priore ratione) and the new total (fit summa omnis).62 If correct, this would not
allow for statements on prior deductions of the stipendium, which had no
connection with the expenses. Such deductions, however, may have occurred. The
entry debet ex priore ratione in RMR 70 (passim) shows that debts could be
carried over from the last pay period, and were probably deducted from the next
stipendium.63 Moreover, as we have seen, an unitemized 1 per cent was normally
deducted from the full pay. Considering the purpose of the document and the
possibility of unspecified deductions before crediting, the sum of 50 denarii for
C. Messius’ first stipendium may have been what was left of his pay for stop-
pages. As for his second pay, too little is preserved to draw any safe conclusions.
Nevertheless, we can observe that his pay now amounted to 60 denarii at the least,
opening the possibility that Messius this time received his full stipendium.64
What was the rank and unit of C. Messius? Though the document does not
explicitly mention it, the editors suggested he may have been eques legionis X
fretensis.65 This assumption is based upon Messius’ Roman citizenship and the
surprisingly high amount of money that was deducted from each stipendium for
61 In his comment on RMR 68 (p. 248), R.O. Fink reached the same conclusion.
62 It could also be argued that C. Messius hat no money at all in his deposit, which would also
explain the absence of the entries concerning the depositum.
63 In any case, it seems, the debts were not automatically deducted from the soldiers’ savings:
the amounts in deposito and in viatico remained untouched: e.g. RMR 70 a i 28ff. ii 25ff. b i
9ff. 22ff. The new Vindonissa tablet may show how such debts could originate.
64 Because of the fragmentary state of the papyrus, the possibility that Messius ran up further
debts cannot be totally excluded.
65 Cf. the editors’ comments, Massada II 39 and 51ff.
Roman Army Pay Scales
barley (as fed to cavalry horses), rather than for hay (fed to pack animals) as in
RMR 68. Another argument in favour of Messius’ rank as a horseman may be the
sum he was charged for boots and socks. This deduction, it appears, was made
only once a year. If this is correct, the sum he had to pay, 7 denarii, was over the
whole year, less than the deduction caligas fascias from the stipendia of the
soldiers in RMR 68, who paid 9 denarii (36 drachmae) per year. It seems plausible
that horsemen needed new boots less often than foot soldiers. For all these reasons
it seems justified to suppose that C. Messius was a horseman, perhaps serving in a
The stoppages for horsemen as recorded on the new Masada pay record
together with a Latin loan of A.D. 27 enable us to cross-check the above pay
scales for the alae.66 On 25 August of that year L. Caecilius Secundus,
cavalryman of the ala Paulini, borrowed 600 drachmae (=sestertii) from
C. Pompeius, a miles cohortis. He promised to pay back 200 drachmae with his
next pay (stipendio proxumo), which was due only nine days later (1 September).
According to the figures reached above his full stipendium was 350 sestertii, or,
after the 1 per cent deduction, 3461/2 sesterii. If the standard sums for barley (64
sestertii = 16 denarii)67 and food (80 sestertii = 20 denarii) were deducted,
Secundus was left with 2021/2 sestertii,68 just enough to cover the interest of six
obols on the 200 drachmae.69
At the first glance it may seem hard to believe that Secundus was willing to
dispose of the full sum he would receive on his next pay-day. However, since he
needed another 400 drachmae, this becomes plausible. For these 400 drachmae he
66 P.Vindob. L. 135. Cf. H. Harrauer and R. Seider, ‘Ein neuter lateinischer Schuldschein:
P.Vindob. L. 135’, ZPE 36 (1979) 109–20, Taf. IV. For further comments on this text see J.F.
Gilliam, ‘Notes on a new Latin text’, RAP 429–32. M.P. Speidel, ‘Auxiliary units named
after their commanders: four new cases from Egypt’, RAS I 101–8. J. Shelton, ‘A note on
P.Vindob. L135’, ZPE 38 (1980) 202.
67 By analogy to the equal sums deducted in victum / sumptuarium from both the legionaries’
(P.Yadin 722) and the auxiliaries’ (RMR 68) stipendium, and the equal pay for cavalrymen in
the legions and the alae (for confirmation, cf. also the third-century data below), we assume
that the stoppages for the horsemen’s barley-money were also equal in both types of unit.
Differences in stoppages, it seems, were mainly due to different equipment and clothes,
hence Hadrian’s remark: equorum forma armorum cultus pro stipendi modo: Speidel,
Hadrian’s speeches (n. 44) 14 field 30.
68 If boots and socks were deducted with each stipendium rather than at the beginning of the
year, he would have had 193,2 sestertii left: the deduction then would have been one third of
7 denarii or 28 sestertii, i.e. 2,3 denarii or 9,3 sestertii. There is no apparent reason, however,
why the equites alae should have paid for their boots and socks more often than the equites
legionis. For the equal treating of equites alae and legionis see above n. 20 and the text
69 All other stoppages, mainly for clothes (in vestimentis) did not occur regularly, and Secundus
will have avoided them, if he could. As the pay accounts of the second stipendium of
Q. Iulius Proculus and. C. Valerius Germanus show (RMR 68), it was possible to keep
deductions at a minimum (cf. above n. 49). Cf. also Tacitus, Ann. 13,35: fuisse in eo exercitu
veteranos . . . sine galeis, sine loricis, nitidi et quaestuosi, militia per oppida expleta.
Roman Army Pay Scales
left as pledges a helmet, inlaid with silver, a silver-inlaid badge, and a scabbard
adorned with ivory and silver. Perhaps C. Pompeius would have preferred to lend
more of his money on interest. On the other hand, the pledges must have been
worth more than the money Pompeius was willing to lend for them. Yet in
contrast to the above 200 drachmae, no repayment scheme for the 400 drachmae
was arranged. This may imply that Secundus was not able to redeem the pledges
in the immediate future. In addition to these arguments, Secundus at this time,
shortly before his next pay-day, must have known how high his stoppages would
be. It therefore seems possible that c. 200 drachmae (= sestertii) was the full
amount which would be left of Secundus’ pay next pay after deductions, and
which Pompeius could safely assume to be repaid after Secundus’ next pay-day.70
If our assumptions are correct, they confirm the above conjecture that the pay of
the equites alae may have been 350 sestertii per pay-day before A.D. 84. Further
confirmation will be found with the third- and fourth-century data presented
The Roman soldier of the first century A.D. was well taken care of. All basic
necessities were provided for, the costs being deducted at source. The supply
services were run by the troops’ specialists and their financial administration was
left entirely with the troops’ accountants.71 Apart from the increase of pay and
deductions Domitian seems to have left this system unaltered, as the unchanged
book-keeping system before and after A.D. 84 implies (compare RMR 68 and
RMR 69). Because it left so much money in the hands of the commanding
officers, this pay system was open to fraud, and Pliny found ‘magnam foedamque
avaritiam, neglegentiam parem’ which called for official controls of the ‘rationes
alarum et cohortium’ (Pliny, Ep. 7,31). Perhaps for some of these reasons the
system underwent changes during the second century.72
70 Even if Secundus invested the borrowed money so that he could not dispose of it for a longer
period of time, it could be argued that he probably needed no extra money for daily living
expenses, since these were covered by the deductions from his pay.
71 For the supply services of the Roman army see the contribution ‘Auf kürzestem Weg und gut
verpflegt an die Front’, in this volume. J. Remesal Rodrigues, La ‘annona militaris’ y la
exportación de aceite Betico a Germania (1986) 91ff., esp. 94, expressed the view that
because of the many deductions form the soldiers’ pay, hardly any money actually changed
hands. This can have been no more than a general tendency during the first century A.D. as is
shown by the accounts of the second stipendium of Q. Iulius Proculus and C. Valerius
Germanus in RMR 68 (A.D. 81). Well over 50 per cent of these stipendia was actually paid
out (cf. above nn. 53 and 54). Cf. also the soldier’s loan on the above P.Vindob. L. 135 (A.D.
27), promising the repayment of 200 drachmae with the next stipendium. For the second-
century developments cf. below and especially the soldiers’ loans CPL 128. 188. 189. 194.
72 Cf. also A.R. Birley’s suggestion that some of the soldiers described by Tacitus, Ann. 13,35
(cf. n. 69) as nitidi et quaestuosi ‘had been making money from selling “duty-free goods”’
from the army’s supplies to civilians (‘The economic effects of Roman frontier policy’, in
A. King and M. Henig (eds.), The Roman West in the Third Century. Contributions from
Archaeology and History, BAR Int. Ser. 109 (1981) 39–53, esp. 46).
Roman Army Pay Scales
V. Second-century changes
The next recorded pay-rise after A.D. 84 is the one granted by Septimius Severus
in A.D. 197, i.e. over a century later. If there was indeed no further pay-rise in the
intervening period, the pay rates presented above were, at least in theory, still
accurate, but a pay record from the time between the pay-rises of Domitian and
Septimius Severus, RMR 70 of A.D. 192, shows that several considerable changes
of the accounting system had been undertaken, changes that can also be observed
on the later pay records (ChLA 446. 473. 495). The rolls no longer contained all
the stipendia of one year under the soldier’s name. Now a new roll was made up
for each stipendium containing a continuous list of all the soldiers’ accounts (cf.
RMR 70). The only standard deductions were itemized collatio (RMR 70),
contulit publico (ChLA 495), or sublatio (ChLA 446. 473), the figures extant
being 8 denarii 4 obols (ChLA 446), 4 denarii 221/2 obols (RMR 70), and 4 denarii
4 obols (ChLA 495). It is clear that these stoppages were of a different nature
from the prior deductions in victum / sumptuarium and faenaria / hordiaria.73 If
they were still connected to the supply system, these small deductions could only
have represented a compulsory contribution towards the financial upkeep of its
logistic organization,74 and no longer served to cover the expenses for hay, barley,
food, boots and socks. Whatever the exact nature of these stoppages, it is certain
that deductions were gradually reduced.75
The reduction of stoppages can already be observed in a loan of 7(?) August
A.D. 140, in which an eques cohortis promises to pay back 79 denarii to a fellow
horseman of the same unit from his next pay (e stipendio proximo).76 His income
per pay-day was 100 denarii (400 sestertii per stipendium or 1,200 sestertii
annually, if this was paid three times per year). After the 1 per cent deduction,
which still seems to have been enforced at this time (cf. below), he had 99 denarii
left. If he kept his promise to pay off his debts on his next pay-day (1 September),
only 20 denarii were available for deductions. These would not even have covered
73 Occasional deductions survive for the repair of armour and helmet (re]
(ectio) loric(ae) et
casid(is) x I s(emis): ChLA 446, cf. Jahn 1983, 220 and n. 13) and for servants’ food (
tess(eras) baronum x LX: ChLA 495, cf. M.P. Speidel, ‘The soldiers’ servants’, RAS II 345
and n. 19).
74 Cf. above n. 71.
75 Another way of decreasing stoppages was to keep the sums deducted at a fixed rate over
periods of great inflation. This can be observed e.g. with the deposits which the equites
cohortis XX Palmyrenorum hat to pay for their horses: 125 denarii in both A.D. 208 and 251
(RMR 99 = ChLA 311 and RMR 83 = ChLA 352. R.W. Davies, ‘The supply of animals to
the Roman army and the remount system’, in: Service in the Roman Army (1989) 153–73).
Already in A.D. 139 equites alae did not pay significantly more, as a receipt for the return of
such a deposit (RMR 75 = ChLA 397) reveals the pretium equi to have been [d]en
m[- (ll. 3 and 5. Cf. esp. Marichal’s comments in ChLA IX, p. 103).
76 P.Mich. VII 438 = CPL 188. Cf. esp. Gilliam’s comments and improved readings in RAP
53–9, esp. 54ff.
Roman Army Pay Scales
the prior stoppages for food (25 denarii = 100 drachmae or sestertii, cf. above, n.
52), let alone money for barley or anything else. If the costs for these were no
longer deducted at source, the soldier could have hoped (or planned) to procure
either more money or perhaps even the items required during the time between
pay-days, and would not have had to rely on the 20 denarii (minus whatever
deductions) left of this stipendium.
Stoppages appear to have been reduced perhaps as early as Hadrian’s reign,
for this emperor is said to have reorganized the administration and the expenses of
the army during his visit to the troops on the Rhine in A.D. 121.77 Perhaps the
Roman soldiers now had to buy their rations (and those for their horses), as well
as other items on their own behalf, either from the army or through other agents.
Some evidence of this can be found on papyri and ostraca.78 This would have
given the soldiers the opportunity to buy at low prices, and the state may have
saved some money by reducing the costs for the army’s supply services.
During the second half of the second century the emperors began the
provision of free annona,79 and in the late seventies we even find that the Roman
state had begun to pay annual contributions towards the cavalrymen’s expenditure
on fodder.80 Although the evidence its admittedly scanty, we see a reduction of
stoppages and the beginning of contributions towards expenses. This entails a
steady increase of the soldiers’ net income.
VI. The later stipendia
Information on the later stipendia can be obtained from RMR 70 (84 denarii 15 3/4
obols), ChLA 446 (257 denarii 223/4 obols), and ChLA 495 (257 denarii 221/4
obols) (cf. above, Table 2). The fact that odd figures were credited as stipendia is
not surprising as the troops’ accountants had to deal with uneven sums since the
stipendium Domitiani was abolished, and the annual salaries, all divisible by four,
77 HA, Hadr. 10,3: labentem disciplinam retinuit ordinatis et officiis et inpendiis.
78 Cf. Jahn 1983, 223 and especially the many examples of soldiers acquiring food, clothes, and
even weapons mainly from or through their relatives, cited in Wierschowski, op. cit. (n.1)
112ff. The earliest and the majority of these examples date to the early second century.
Wierschowski therefore, too, comes to the conclusion, ‘dass sich seit dieser Zeit (the time of
the Geneva papyri) das System der Soldatenversorgung seitens der Armee gewandelt haben
79 Van Berchem, op. cit. (n. 10). Idem, ‘L’annone militaire est-elle un myth?’, in: Armées et
fiscalité (1977) 331–40.
80 P.Hamb. 39 = RMR 76 (A.D. 179): 25 denarii per year for krãstiw (green fodder, esp. for
horses: cf. Liddel, Scott and Jones, Greek-English Lexicon s.v.). As the deduction of 16
denarii for barley from each horseman’s stipendium, made over one hundred years earlier,
implies, this was not the full sum cavalrymen spent on horse fodder. By the fourth century at
the latest, soldiers also received free rations for their servants: M.P. Speidel, op. cit. (n. 73)
242 and n. 20.
Roman Army Pay Scales
suddenly hat to be paid in three instalments again. The figures surviving on papyri
prove that the Roman military accountants’ precision went as far as to ignore the
payability of the stipendia in full drachmae (sestertii) or obols, let alone denarii.81
Jahn’s interpretation of the auxiliary pay record RMR 70 (cf. above, n. 23),
with its stipendia of 84 denarii 15 3/4 obols, yields the yearly pay of 1,025 sestertii
for a miles cohortis in A.D. 192. Yet the sum expected after Domitian’s pay-rise
in A.D. 84 would only be 1,000 sestertii (cf. Table 3), which leaves a difference of
25 sestertii, for which there seems to be no obvious explanation. Jahn suggested
that this may have been a bonus of some kind.82 In any case it appears to reflect a
further state contribution towards the soldiers’ pay, for a mathematical
explanation confined to the stipendia seems unavailable. The legionaries’ basic
stipendium at this time was 1,200 sestertii (cf. above, Table 1). Hence the ratio
remained 5:6, as in the first century A.D.
With ChLA 446 and 495 we are in a similar situation. For both papyri the
stipendia (257 denarii 223/4 (1/4?) obols) can be reconstructed to yearly salaries of
3,125 sestertii (cf. I). Again, these can be best understood as 3,000 sestertii per
year plus 125 sestertii, a contribution of the kind found above in RMR 70. Both
papyri have been dated to the second / third century by R. Marichal, and show a
close resemblance to RMR 70 of A.D. 192. Thence Jahn dates them to the early
third century.83 The sum of 3,000 (+125) sestertii must clearly belong to the period
after Septimius Severus’ pay-rise, who granted militibus tantum stipendiorum
quantum nemo principum dedit (HA Sev. 12,2). His pay-rise, therefore, must have
been substantial. If this emperor used any of the classical factors (33 per cent, 50
per cent, or 100 per cent) to raise the soldiers’ pay, the sum of 3,000 (+125)
sestertii can, in theory, be explained as the annual income of a miles cohortis,
drawing pay-and-a-half (cf. Table 3) after a 100 per cent pay-rise. Although it
cannot be completely excluded that both ChLA 446 and 495 represent pay records
of sesquiplicarii, it seems rather unlikely. It is, therefore, more attractive to date
the papyri after Caracalla’s pay-rise of A.D. 212, which increased the soldiers’
normal pay by a half (cf. above Table 1). The figure of 3,000 sestertii can then,
still assuming a 100 per cent pay-rise by Septimius Severus, be explained as the
basic annual pay of a miles cohortis.84 The ratio between basic pay for the legions
and the auxilia may still have been 5:6.
81 Cf. only the many fractions of obols recorded in RMR 70 and ChLA 446. Jahn’s argument
1983, 223ff., that payability of the stipendia was achieved by enforcing the 1 per cent
deduction, does not seem convincing, for the sums credited (accepit stipendi) and those
actually handed out (reliquos tulit) in RMR 70 show fractions of obols. If the military
accountants had ever tried to achieve payability in round sums, it seems they should have
been able to do better. Certainly the soldiers’ yearly pay was calculated irrespective of its
payability in thirds after a 1 per cent deduction.
82 Cf. above p. 89 with n. 24.
83 Jahn 1983, 222ff.
84 Jahn 1983, 225, it seems, reached the same conslusion. His arguments, based on the assumed
ratio of 5:6 between the legions and the auxilia (cf. Jahn 1984, 66ff.), can now be confirmed.
Roman Army Pay Scales
Confirmation of these results is found in the Panopolis papyri. For the first of
January pay-day in A.D. 300, 65,500 denarii (= 262,000 sestertii) were delivered
to pay for the stipendia of an unspecified number of soldiers of cohors XI
Chamavorum.85 Taking Maximinus Thrax’ pay-rise of 100 per cent into account,
we arrive at an annual pay of 6,000 sestertii for a miles cohortis at that time. This
leads to a stipendium of 2,000 sestertii. The delivered sum devides exactly into
131 such stipendia of 2,000 sestertii.86
Jahn has reached the same result by splitting the sum of 65,500 denarii into
prime numbers: 2 x 2 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 131.87 It seems convincing that the factor 131
could have nothing to do with the calculation of the value of the stipendia, and
therefore must have been due to their number. In theory the number of stipendia
could also be doubled (262), which would lead to a value of 250 denarii. Yet this
theoretical result can almost certainly be excluded, for a stipendium of 250 denarii
(= 1,000 sestertii) for a miles cohortis at this time is not to be reached by the
Jahn’s attempt to establish the pay of the horsemen in ala I Hiberorum by the
same method is somewhat less convincing. 73,500 denarii were transferred to this
unit (the strength of which is again unknown), to be paid as stipendia to its
soldiers.89 Split into prime numbers, the figure is 2 x 2 x 3 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 7 x 7. Jahn
took the factors 3 x 7 x 7 to be responsible for the number of stipendia, the
remaining factors for its value.90 This calculation leads to 147 stipendia of 500
denarii (= 2,000 sestertii),91 which implies the same stipendium for a miles
cohortis and an eques alae at the end of the third century A.D. If the above
calculations of the stipendium of a miles cohortis are correct and his pay indeed
followed all pay-rises, Jahn’s conclusion of equal pay would entail a considerable
pay-cut or a curtailment of some of the pay-rises during the second and third
centuries A.D. for the equites alae. This seems rather unlikely.
The suggested annual pay of the eques alae as presented above (Table 3) was
1,050 sestertii before A.D. 84 and 1,400 sestertii thereafter (a factor 7 was hence
already included). If we lead this sum through the above described pay-rises, we
arrive at an annual pay of 8,400 sestertii (= 2,100 denarii) and a stipendium of
2,800 sestertii (= 700 denarii). The sum of 73,500 denarii, delivered to ala I
Hiberorum, would therefore allow for exactly 105 (3 x 5 x 7) basic stipendia of
85 P.Panop. 2,292f.
86 This sum would allow for any number of duplicarii and any even number of sesquiplicarii.
Some centurions’ pay may also have been included (cf. below). This understanding of the
figures in P.Panop. does, however, not allow for bonuses of the kind found in RMR 70 and
ChLA 446 and 495. Perhaps, they were no longer included in the stipendia at this time.
87 Jahn 1984, 67.
88 Only if one of the pay-rises of Severus or Maximinus is denied, can this sum be reached.
89 P.Panop. 2,36ff.
90 Jahn 1984, 67 n. 55.
91 The unlikely theoretical alternative being 294 stipendia of 250 denarii.
Roman Army Pay Scales
700 denarii (2 x 2 x 5 x 5 x 7).92 This even result appears to confirm the
stipendium of 2,800 sestertii (= 700 denarii) for an eques alae during the reign of
If these results are correct, the stipendia of the miles cohortis and the eques
alae at the turn of the third to the fourth century still show the same ratios to each
other. If we run the remaining figures for the legions (cf. above, Table 3) through
the pay-rises of the second and third centuries A.D. we arrive at a basic legionary
stipendium of 2,400 sestertii (= 600 denarii), the legionary horseman drawing
2,800 sestertii (= 700 denarii) per pay-day. The ratio between the basic pay for the
auxilia and for legionary foot soldiers thence remained 5:6.
The sums in P.Panop. 2,57 give us the opportunity to crosscheck this
conjecture. For their stipendium of 1 January A.D. 300, an unspecified number of
soldiers of legio III Diocletiana, doing duty at the officium of the praeses of the
lower Thebais, were sent 343,300 denarii. This sum cannot be explained as
multiples (1 x, 1,5 x, or 2 x) of the basic legionary stipendium (343,300/600 =
572-16667), which is why Jahn assumed a scribal mistake.94 It may be worthwhile
to recall the composition of the staff (officium) of governors. Several ranks and
functions could be employed here, the most important being the cornicularius.95
The cornicularii, however, drew equestria stipendia.96 The total figure must
therefore allow for (multiples of) legionary horsemen’s pay. If this is taken into
account and the above reached stipendia, 600 denarii for the legionary foot soldier
92 The surprisingly small number of soldiers in both the cohors XI Chamavorum (max. 131) and
the ala I Hiberorum (max. 105) need not be the units’ full strengths (as Jahn 1984, 61 and nn.
28–30 seems to assume). It is perhaps more likely that the units, whose full strengths at this
time are unknown, were split up into several detachments in different camps: cf. e.g. A.K.
Bowman, ‘The military occupation of Upper Egypt in the reign of Diocletian’, BASP 15
(1978) 25–38, esp. 33. If correct, this might explain why the ala I Hiberorum, when the
above pay arrived, was under the command of only a decurio (Besas: P.Panop. 37).
93 In consequence, the figure suggested above of 1,050 sestertii before Domitian’s pay-rise is
also confirmed. The alternative presented above of 1,080 sestertii (cf. n. 43) can now, in all
probalility, be ruled out, for it cannot be run through the second- and third-century pay-rises
to fit the sums of the Panopolis papyri.
94 He explained the figure by assuming the scribe of the papyrus had actually meant to write
343,200 denarii, which is divisible by the basic foot soldiers’ stipendium (343,200/600 =
572). The mistake happened because the scribe, according to Jahn, misheard diakosaw for
triakosaw: Jahn 1984, 68f.
95 For a list, see A.v. Domaszewski and B. Dobson, Die Rangordnung des römischen Heeres
(2nd edn, 1967) XI–XIII and 29–37, esp. 29ff. A.H.M. Johnes, ‘The Roman civil service
(clergical and sub-clergical grades)’, JRS 39 (1949) 38–55, esp. 44. R. Haensch, Capita
Provinciarum (1997) 710ff. Cf. also the contribution ‘Ferox: Legionary commander or
governor?’, in this volume.
96 CIL XII 2602. Cf. Domaszewski and Dobson, op. cit. (n. 95) 31. D. Breeze, ‘Pay grades and
ranks below the centurionate’, in: D. Breeze and B. Dobson, Roman Officers and Frontiers
(1993) 59–64, esp. 62 (add CIL XIII 1810: eques cornicularius). Breeze suggested that the
cornicularii were not actually mounted, but received equestria stipendia ‘simply as a means
of increasing their pay’. Cf. also the contribution ‘Carrière militaire et solde’, in this volume.
Roman Army Pay Scales
and 700 denarii for the horseman, are applied, the figure of 343,300 denarii makes
sense. The problem of how many soldiers in how many different ranks were being
paid still remains, but we can now at least give a few examples of how to divide
the 343,300 denarii: 1 basic horseman’s stipendium and 571 basic foot soldiers’
stipendia or 7 basic horsemen’s stipendia and 564 basic foot soldiers’ stipendia,97
or 13 and 557, etc. Many different divisions are, of course, possible.
The number of basic stipendia thus reached is admittedly rather high, but it
reflects no more than a theoretical maximum of soldiers present on the governor’s
staff. Many of these soldiers will have been paid more than the basic stipendium
(receiving pay-and-a-half or double pay) thus reducing the number of soldiers.
The total of stipendia may also have included the pay of a centurion (cf. below,
VII),98 which would decrease the reconstructed number of soldiers in the officium
of the praeses even further.
The results so far achieved appear to confirm the 5:6 ratio between the
auxiliary and the legionary basic pay up to the beginning of the fourth century
A.D. The reconstructed pay scales can be reconciled with all the available
evidence. What was paid as stipendium in these days, however, was no longer the
soldier’s main source of income. Supplementary payments were made in kind
from the annona militaris since the late second century A.D.,99 and an ever
increasing amount of money was given to the soldiers by the emperors as
donativa.100 These gifts of money would make no distinction between auxiliaries
and legionaries or even between the ranks — only the higher officers received
double101 — and would thus keep the actual difference in pay at an even lower
ratio. As for the deductions at the beginning of the fourth century A.D., the
evidence allows no conclusions. The figures in the Panopolis papyri are sums
which have not yet been credited to the soldiers and hence are free of all
The basic annual pay in sestertii of the soldiers serving from Septimius
Severus to Diocletian can now be set forth (Table 4).
97 Divisible, of course, into e.g. 3 double and 1 basic (= 2 pay-and-a-half and 4 basic (or 2
double)) horsemen’s pays and 282 double foot soldiers’ pays, etc.
98 For centurions attested in the officium of governors, cf. above n. 95.
99 Van Berchem, op. cit. (n. 79). If the supplies in kind did not suffice, the difference was paid
in cash. Perhaps this is in part the explanation for the super-numerary 25 sestertii and 125
sestertii respectively in ChLA 446 and 495 (cf. above). The figures given in the Panopolis
papyri have also been discussed by R. Duncan-Jones, ‘Pay and numbers in Diocletians’s
army’, now in idem, Structure and Scale in the Roman Economy (1990), 105–17.
100 Cf. Jahn 1984, 53ff. for comments and estimations especially on the figures given in the
101 Jahn 1984, 53ff.
Roman Army Pay Scales
Table 4. The third-century pay scales (in sestertii per year)
The bold figures are based on direct documentary or literary evidence.
VII. The higher pay rates
The Roman army had a great many ranks and functions below the centurionate
but only three different pay grades: basic, pay-and-a-half (sesquiplicarius), and
double pay (duplicarius).102 For the early Empire at least, there is also evidence
for treble pay (triplicarius) as instanced by a gravestone found at Mainz.103 The
stone records Antiochus, son of Antiochus, who had served as an eques ala(e)
Parthorum et Araborum and was then asked to stay with the army as an evocatus
triplicarius.104 After the mid-first century A.D., however, there is no evidence for
this pay grade, and it may have been abolished.105
102 Breeze, op. cit. (n. 96). J.F. Gilliam, ‘The Moesian “Pridianum”’, RAP 263–72, esp. 271f.
M.P. Speidel, op. cit. (n. 16) 88 and nn. 23–4. See the contribution ‘Rang und Sold im
römischen Heer’, in this volume.
103 AE 1976, 495 = 58. BerRGK (1977) nr. 99 (Mainz-Weisenau, reign of Tiberius?).
104 P.A. Holder, The Auxilia from Augustus to Trajan (1980) 91, who finds confirmation for
treble pay for the post of evocatus in the career of C. Iulius Macer, duplicarius alae
Atectorigianae, before becoming evocatus in charge of 600 Raeti gesati during the first half
of the first century A.D. (CIL XIII 1041). This promotion entailed, according to Holder, a
105 Cf. idem, 91. The evocati may later have been paid the otherwise highest pay rate below the
centurionate, double hormemen’s pay, i.e. the rate of a cornicularius (cf. n. 96 and n. 117).
This assumption may find some support in the fact that legionary centurions were often
appointed from those two ranks of the praetorian guard: D. Breeze, ‘The organisation of the
Roman Army Pay Scales
For the pay of legionary centurions some evidence can be found in two papyri
of the early fourth century.106 In P.Panop. 2,197ff. a praepositus equitum
promotorum legionis II Traianae is paid 18,000 denarii for the stipendium of
1 January A.D. 300. This equals an annual pay of 54,000 denarii or 216,000
sestertii. P.Oxy. 1047 reveals the September stipendium of a praepositus of an
unknown unit of 36,000 denarii, i.e. 108,000 denarii or 432,000 sestertii per year.
Although the title praepositus is of no help in determining exact rank, Jahn has
concluded that both men were centurions, for they received donativa of twice the
amount of normal soldiers.107 Compared to the basic legionary stipendium paid at
the time (cf. Table 4) these figures give a simple ratio of 30:1 in the former case
and 60:1 in the latter.108 The ranks of the two centurions may hence be restored as
centurio primi ordinis and primuspilus respectively.109 The pay grades can then be
assumed to have been fifteen times basic legionary pay for the centurions in
cohorts II–X, thirty times for the centurions primi ordinis (i.e. the centurions in
cohort I) and sixty times for the primuspilus.
Because the exact ranks of the above two praeposti are not mentioned, these
conjectures require further confirmation. Whatever the legionary centurion’s pay
may have been, it seems logical that it shared in all the pay-rises of the first three
centuries A.D., and that the ratios were kept constant. This not only follows from
the Roman army’s strong tendency to follow tradition, as observed above with the
ratios of the basic stipendia of the auxilia and the legions, but also from the
patterns of promotion to the centurionate during the period under discussion. This
last point is best observed with the highest-paid rank known promoted to the
centurionate, the evocatus Augusti of the praetorian guard, drawing treble pay, at
least during the first half of the first century A.D.110 The basic pay of a praetorian
career structure of the immunes and principales of the Roman army’, in: Breeze and Dobson
(n. 96) 11–58, esp. 13ff.
106 For the following see Jahn 1984, 69f.
107 Jahn 1984, 69 (cf. also ibid., 54). Hence, he concludes, they were not of equestrian, let alone
108 Since we can now be more certain of the basic annual rate of 1,800 denarii for legionaries,
the above ratios reached by Jahn 1984, gain further credibility. Their simplicity further
suggests that the two sums of P.Panop. 2,197 and P.Oxy. 1047 were calculated on the basic
pay of a legionary, which may be taken as an additional argument in favour of the two
praepositi having been legionary centurions.
109 For the ranking of centurions, see T. Wegeleben, Die Rangordnung der römischen Centurio-
nen (1913). He surmised that all centurions in Cohorts II–X were equal in rank, differing
only in seniority. Hence promotion was only involved upon transfer to the first Cohort, then
joining the senior grade of the primi ordines, of whom the primuspilus and the praefectus
castrorum were the top ranks. This was accepted by E. Birley, ‘Promotions and transfers in
the Roman army II: the centurionate’, RA 206–20 esp. 206, and B. Dobson, ‘Legionary
centurion or equestrian officer? A comparison of pay and prospects’, in: Breeze and Dobson
(n. 96) 186–200, esp. 190 with n. 25 and 194ff.
110 Later it may have been the cornicularius praefecti praetorio, receiving double horseman’s
pay: cf. above n. 105.
Roman Army Pay Scales
during the early Empire seems to have been 1,000 sestertii per stipendium or
3,000 sestertii annually.111 The evocatus would therefore presumably earn 9,000
sestertii.112 Promotions from this rank to the legionary centurionate were frequent
throughout the first three centuries A.D.113 The minimum salary of a legionary
centurion during the early Empire should thus be something more than 9,000
sestertii, for this sum was almost certainly increased on promotion to the
The reconstructed salary of a centurion on the basis of a 15:1 ratio to the
legionary’s basic pay would amount to 13,500 sestertii per year, that is one-and-a-
half times the pay of the evocatus during this period, or four-and-a-half times the
basic pay of a praetorian. It seems clear that the centurion’s pay must have been
increased with the pay of the praetorian cohorts since we still find evocati
promoted to the centurionate in the late third century,114 even if at this point the
difference in pay between the evocatus and the legionary centurion may have
There is another clue to help establish the legionary centurion’s pay.
Suetonius (Caligula 44) reports that as the emperor Caligula was inspecting his
assembled troops on the Rhine in early A.D. 40, he took several altogether
arbitrary measures against leading officers. One of these was to decrease the
discharge money (commoda emeritae militiae) of the primipili down to 600,000
sestertii.116 Suetonius tells us that these monies were given by the emperors pro
gradu cuiusque (Div. Aug. 49.2), and the documentary evidence, though scanty,
suggests this was observed.117 The basic sum paid to the legionary soldier was
111 E.g. M. Durry, Les cohortes prétoriennes (1938) 264ff. G.R. Watson, The Roman Soldier
112 We are not informed how much a horseman in the praetorian guard received. If the difference
in pay was the same as in the auxilia and in the legions, i.e. 150 sestertii per year before A.D.
84, we arrive at a yearly income of 6,300 sestertii for the cornicularius praefecti praetorio.
113 Breeze, op. cit. (n. 105) 13ff. Note also the many promotions from the rank of cornicularius.
For the career prospects of the evocati Augusti, cf. also E. Birley, ‘Evocati Aug.: a review’,
114 Breeze, op. cit. (n. 105) 252.
115 Cf. above n. 105
116 On the commoda in general, M.P. Speidel, ‘Cash from the emperor. A veteran’s gravestone at
Elecik in Galatia’, RAS II 363–368. H. Wolff, ‘Die Entwicklung der Veteranenprivilegien
vom Beginn des 1. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. bis auf Konstantin d. Gr.’, in W. Eck and H. Wolff
(eds.), Heer und Integrationspolitik. Die römischen Militärdiplome als historische Quelle
(1986) 44–115, esp. 50ff. The figure of 600,000 sestertii, although an emendation of a
corrupt text, is generally accepted, cf. e.g. Dobson, op. cit. (n. 109) 191.
117 Cf. CIL V 5832: P. Tutilius P.f. Ouf. veteranus, who died A.D. 29, formerly a signifer,
aquilifer leg. and curator veteranorum, received praemia duplicia ab Imperatore, and his pay
grade must have been that of a duplicarius. L. Pellartius Celer Iulius Montanus, missus ex
evocato et armidoctor. leg. XV Apol., boasted to have received 30,000 sestertii from
Domitian, quod ante illum nemo alius accebit (!) ex hac militie (!), for he would normally
only expect 24,000 sestertii (twice the amount of a normal soldier, i.e. 12,000 sestertii, cf.
Roman Army Pay Scales
12,000 sestertii.118 The ratio between this figure and the sum reduced by Caligula
was therefore 1:50. The commoda of the primipili were obviously greater before
Caligula’s cut and presumably also thereafter, for these measures were no doubt
hated by the army and therefore will have been rescinded by Claudius.119 The
minimum pay of the primuspilus therefore was over fifty times the basic pay of a
legionary soldier. This goes well with the above assumed ratio of 1:60. These
observations, then, support Jahn’s conjectural pay scale with the legionary centu-
rions getting fifteen, thirty, and sixty times the basic pay of the miles legionis. The
following figures for the centurions’ annual salaries in sesterii are thus likely.
Table 5. The legionary centurions’ annual pay in sestertii.
The bold figures are based on direct documentary or literary evidence.
These results find further support in the second-century career patterns and pay
scales of the equestrian officers as commanders of auxiliary units or as junior
officers in the legions. Their ranking, as developed during the first century, was:120
praefectus cohortis quingenariae / tibunus cohortis voluntariorum civium
Romanorum (= ‘militia prima’)
tribunus cohortis milliariae / tribunus militum legionis (= ‘militia secunda’)
praefectus alae quingenariae (= ‘militia tertia’)
praefectus alae milliariae (= ‘militia quarta’)
Brian Dobson has devoted a study to the relation of the equestrian officers’ and
the centurions’ careers.121 He has shown that the praefectus cohortis (‘militia
prima’) could transfer to the legionary centurionate, and that equestrians could
choose between seeking a post as praefectus cohortis or as centurio legionis. In
also n. 118) according to his pay grade as a duplicarius (AE 1952, 153: Aquileia). Cf. above
n. 105 for the possible reduction of pay grades from triplicarius to duplicarius of the evocati.
118 Dio 55,23,1. Augustus had fixed this sum. It seems to have remained unaltered until
Caracalla raised it to 20,000 sestertii (Dio 77,24,1). Cf. Wolff, op. cit. (n. 116) 52. It may be
noted that all attempts to understand these sums als multiples of the stipendia have failed, cf.
119 Suet., Claud. 11,3: Gai . . . acta omnia rescidit.
120 For a description of this development, cf. e.g. Holder, op. cit. (n. 104) 72ff.
121 Dobson, op. cit. (n. 109). For the following see esp. ibid. pp. 189ff. and 192ff.
Roman Army Pay Scales
the case of the future emperor Pertinax, who hat chosen to become centurio
legionis, and even had the support of an ex-consul, this wish was not granted, and
he was made praefectus cohortis.122 The ‘militia prima’ may, therefore, have paid
the same or perhaps a little less than a legionary centurionate.
In c. A.D. 220 the yearly salary of the ‘militia prima’ seems to have been
50,000 sestertii,123 as a tribunus semestris in that time earned 25,000 sestertii.124
This explains why the praefecti cohortis could be promoted to the legionary
centurionate, where they would earn 54,000 sestertii at that time.125
The equestrian legionary tribunate (‘militia secunda’) seems to have been
paid less or the same as the centurionate of the primus ordo (36,000 sestertii
between Domitian and Septimius Severus).126 The praefecti alae quingenariae
(‘militia tertia’) earned less than 60,000 sestertii between the reigns of Domitian
and Septimius Severus, as their next promotion would normally lead them to a
The primuspilus, if promoted, would normally advance to a centenarian
procuratorship, which earned 100,000 sestertii per year before Septimius
Severus.127 In the light of the proposed pay rates of the primipili (72,000 sesterii
122 HA Pertinax 1,5–6. The increasing number of cornicularii praefecti praetorio and evocati
Augusti of the praetorian guard promoted to praefecti cohortis and tribuni cohortis in the
third century also shows that the pay of the legionary centurionate, to which they were
normally promoted, and of the ‘prima’ and ‘secunda militia’ must have been similar at that
time. Cf. Breeze, op. cit. (n. 105) 18.
123 Dobson, op. cit. (n. 109) 194. This has been accepted by H. Devijver, ‘La Prosopographia
Militarium Equestrium. Contribution à l’histoire sociale et économique du principat’, in: The
Equestrian Officers (1989) 396–411, esp. 409.
124 CIL XIII 3162. Cf. the commentary on this text by H.-G. Pflaum, Le Marbre de Thoringy
(1948). This is the only known sum to have been paid to an equestrian officer as a salary.
Dobson, op. cit. (n. 109) 194 and Devijver, op. cit. (n. 123) 409 have taken the 25,000
sestertii to be half the annual pay of the ‘militia prima’.
125 It may be noted that the sum of 50,000 sestertii cannot be explained as a multiple of any of
the above basic pay grades, which shows that the pay grades of the equestrian ‘militiae’, as a
career of their own, were calculated on completely different grounds. An attempt to re-
establish the remaining equestrian salaries without further evidence must therefore produce
wholly conjectural figures. During the first century, it appears, all the equestrian officers
were paid better than the legionary centurions (cf. e.g. ILS 9090. CIL IX 2564. XII 3177.
3178). This might suggest that the pay rates of the ‘militia equestris’ and of the lower
procurators were kept level until Septimius Severus when they seem to have been raised (cf.
also n. 127). At the beginning of the third century A.D. the salary of the ‘militia secunda’
was, according to the career of Rufinus (RIB 1288 = ILS 1425), higher than the income of a
sexagenarian procurator, who still earned 60,000 sesterii at the time (Dio 53,15,5).
126 This conclusion of Dobson’s is based on the Trajanic career of T. Pontius Sabinus (ILS
2726). Cf. Dobson, op. cit. (n. 109) 189.
127 H.-G. Pflaum, RE XXIII 1272f. Cf. also idem, Abrégé des procurateurs équestres (1974)
56ff. Commanding a milliary cavalry unit as the ‘militia quarta’ would also lead to a
centenarian procuratorship. Under Septimius Severus and Caracalla some of the salaries of
both equestrian officials and senators seem to have been raised: G. Alföldy, ‘Die Stellung der
Ritter in der Führungsschicht des Imperium Romanum’, Die römische Gesellschaft, HABES
Roman Army Pay Scales
between Domitian and Septimius Severus) this promotion can now be better
understood. At the same time this promotion confirms the above reconstruction of
the pay of the primuspilus.
There is no documentary evidence of the pay of the remaining important
ranks: centurio cohortis, decurio cohortis, and decurio alae. The following
attempt to reconstruct their pay rates must, therefore, remain hypothetical. Of
these posts the decurio alae was highest in rank.128 It therefore seems likely that
the decurio cohortis, as the leader of a squadron of horsemen, ranked above the
centurio cohortis.129 If the above observations are correct, both the centurio and
the decurio cohortis received considerably less money than a centurio legionis,
for even their commander, the praefectus cohortis, may have been paid below that
level, at least during the second and third centuries. This assumption finds support
in the fact that from all three posts, decurio alae, centurio and decurio cohortis,
one could be appointed to the legionary centurionate.130
The total of salaries delivered to the ala I Hiberorum (P.Panop. 2,36f.) and
the cohors XI Chamavorum (P.Panop. 2,292f.) seems to have excluded the pay of
the officers in command (c.f. P.Panop. 2,197). However, the decurions’ and the
centurions’ stipendia may have been included. Therefore, and on analogy to the
calculation of the legionary centurions’ pay, we may assume that their salary was
a multiple of respective basic stipendium. As for the exact factor with which the
basic pay was multiplied we have no evidence, but the promotions to the auxiliary
decurionate and centurionate recorded on inscriptions may help to determine the
Whilst the auxiliary centurions and decurions were normally appointed from
the ranks of sesquiplicarii or duplicarii, and sometimes from the equites
legionis,131 the best paid soldier known to have been promoted to one of these
ranks was a soldier of the praetorian guard, L. Arnius Bassus.132 As a miles
cohortis praetoriae serving before A.D. 84 he drew 3,000 sestertii annually.133 His
promotion to the rank of a centurio cohortis will have entailed a pay-rise. The
3,000 sestertii he was paid before his promotion equalled four times the basic pay
1 (1986) 162–209, esp. 178. 180. Cf. also P.A. Brunt, ‘Pay and superannuation in the Roman
army’, PBSR 18 (1950) 50–71, esp. 69.
128 J.F. Gilliam, ‘The appointment of auxiliary centurions’, RAP 191–205, esp. 202 and n. 25.
See also Domaszewski and Dobson, op. cit. (n. 95) 53 and 57.
129 Contra Domaszewski and Dobson, op. cit. (n. 95) 56.
130 Cf. e.g. ILS 305 (dec. alae - cent. leg., Flavian-Trajan). ILS 2596 (dec. coh. - cent. leg.,
mid/late first century). CIL V 522 (cent. coh. - cent. leg., mid first century). Cf. also
Domaszewski and Dobson, op. cit. (n. 95) 53f. and 56f. for further examples. During the first
century A.D. (until Domitian’s pay-rise?) it seems that the equestrian officers were paid
better than the legionary centurions: cf. above n. 127.
131 Cf. e.g. Gilliam, op. cit. (n. 128). M.P. Speidel, op. cit. (n. 20) 183. Holder, op. cit. (n. 104)
132 CIL V 522, mid-first century.
133 For the pay of the praetorian guard, see above VII and n. 111.
Roman Army Pay Scales
of a miles cohortis (4 x 750 sestertii, cf. Table 3). We can, therefore, safely
assume that he was paid at least five times the basic pay of an auxiliary foot
soldier after his promotion to the centurionate.
The duplicarii and the sesquiplicarii of the emperor’s horseguard, the equites
singulares Augusti, could also be promoted to the decurionate in the auxilia, their
decurions to the legionary centurionate.134 Although the horseguards’ pay is
unknown, we can assume that, as with other military units in the city of Rome,
their basic pay was higher than the basic pay in the provinces.135 As the emperor’s
horseguards were mainly picked from the alae, their pay may have been a
multiple of the basic pay of eques alae, perhaps double.136 A duplicarius of the
equites singulares Augusti may then have drawn four times the basic pay of an
eques alae. His promotion to the decurionate of an ala would thus have entailed a
further pay-rise if we assume it paid five times the basic stipendium. This
assumption also allows for a pay-rise of c. 30 per cent for the decurion of the
emperor’s horseguards upon his promotion to the legionary centurionate.
Five times the respective basic pay of the miles cohortis, eques cohortis, and
eques alae therefore seems a likely conjecture for the pay of the centurio cohortis,
decurio cohortis, and decurio alae. In any case it cannot have been much more.137
The following hypothetical table of pay scales may now be put forward.
134 M.P. Speidel, Die equites singulares Augusti (1965), 49.
135 Cf. ibid., 50. M.P. Speidel, Guards of the Roman armies (1978) 36 and n. 196.
136 2.5 is the maximum factor, if the praetorian guard is to remain the best paid Roman troop. (In
this case an eq. sing. Aug. would have drawn 7,000 sestertii after Severus’ pay-rise, a
praetoran 8,000). Yet this is but a theoretical possibility, for if that factor is applied and if
five times basic pay is accepted as the minimum salary of a decurion, there would have been
too insignificant a difference between the legionary centurions’ pay and that of the decurio
equitum singularium Augusti (e.g. 36,000 cent. leg. - 35,000 dec. eq. sing. Aug. after
Severus’ pay-rise). The same basic pay as the alares or their pay-and-a-half may, in theory,
have been the basic pay of the emperor’s horseguards. It may also be that their pay was not a
multiple of the basic salary of the alares, but some independet (higher) amount below the pay
of a duplicarius alae.
137 If the emperor’s horseguards received 1.5 times the basic pay of the equites alae, the factor of
6, or 7 at the very most, could also be envisaged. Domaszewski, op. cit. (n. 95) 70ff.,
assumed that these ranks were paid three times basic legionary pay, which the believed to be
500 denarii per year during the reign of Septimius Severus. His assumption was based on the
money presents given to members of military collegiae according to their rank. Yet these
sums show no correspondence with the soldiers’ income. Moreover, treble basic legionary
pay as the income of auxiliary centurions and decurions would have brought a considerable
pay-cut for the above mentioned praetorian L. Arnius Bassus upon his promotion to the
Roman Army Pay Scales
Table 6. Pay rates of auxiliary centurions and decurions in sestertii per year.
The new Vindonissa pay receipt turns out to be the missing link in our evidence
for Roman soldiers’ pay. It provides us, for the first time, with a safe and
unambiguous figure for the pay of an auxiliary soldier of known rank. By
revealing the stipendium of a horseman serving in an auxiliary cohort in A.D. 38
to be 300 sestertii, it enables us to understand otherwise uncertain documents and
figures, and thus to reconstruct the pay scale of the Roman army down to the
fourth century A.D. Yet the suggested model still requires further substantiation in
detail, as several pay rates have been reached solely on theoretical grounds, and
are in want of documentary confirmation.
The pay scales now appear much simpler than hitherto assumed, with the
Roman army in the provinces (the fleets excluded) knowing only three different
basic pay rates, applied throughout the first three centuries A.D. Before A.D. 84,
the year of Domitian’s pay-rise, a foot soldier in a cohort was paid 250 sestertii
each pay-day. 300 sestertii was the pay of the legionary foot soldiers and the
horsemen in the cohorts, whilst the horsemen in both the legions and in the alae,
received 350 sestertii. Higher ranks might have received pay-and-a-half or double
pay, and during the first half of the first century even treble pay.
The auxiliary decurions and centurions may have drawn five times the pay of
the soldiers they commanded, whilst the legionary centurions were paid fifteen
times the basic stipendium of a legionary foot soldier. The top ranking centurions
received thirty times basic rate, and the primuspilus twice that amount. During the
second century A.D. this would have been a sum of 72,000 sestertii annually,
which accords with the normal promotion of primuspilus to a centenarian
procuratorship, where he would earn 100,000 sestertii. Although to a simple
legionary soldier the salary of the primuspilus must have been a staggering sum, it
Roman Army Pay Scales
was still far below the income of the senatorial commander of a legion, who
earned more than 200,000 sestertii during the same period.138
Our data also bear out the soldiers’ pay-rises as seen by Jahn, in particular
Septimius Severus’ pay-rise of 100 per cent. During the long period between A.D.
84 and 197, which seems to have seen no such pay-rises, it can be shown that the
deductions from the soldiers’ pay were gradually reduced, and a system of ever-
increasing government contributions developed. These changes were such that by
the end of the third century A.D. they overshadowed the actual pay. Although the
ratio between the stipendia of the different units was kept constant down to the
fourth century, the differences in overall income almost disappeared (see Table 7).
The overall pay scale suggested here may help in understanding promotions and
transfers in the Roman army, and in appreciating the social standing of generals,
officers, soldiers, and veterans. It may also shed light on the Empire’s budget and
thereby on the political and economic history of the Roman Empire.139
138 Alföldy, op. cit. (n. 127) 180.
139 For calculations of the costs of legions and auxiliary troops: M.A. Speidel, Die römischen
Schreibtafeln von Vindonissa (1996) 73ff. Despite R. Alston’s (JRS 84 (1994) 113–123)
attempt to reject the pay scales presented in this contribution they have been widely accepted
by the scholarly community. For an answer to Alston’s own theories, his arbitrary use of the
sources and his contradictory arguments see the contribution ‘Sold und Wirtschaftslage der
römischen Soldaten’ with n. 93 and 100, in this volume.
Roman Army Pay Scales
Table 7. The pay of the Roman army (sestertii per year)
decurio eq. sing.
The bold figures are based on direct documentary or literary evidence.