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Roman payslip confirms soldier's complaint

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Here's an article from 2019 that I missed. It deals with the probable frustration of a Roman legionary whose entire paycheck was used to buy military essentials (food, clothing and equipment), leaving him no money for his personal use:


Fragment of a payslip belonging to Gaius Messius, a #Roman auxiliary soldier in the Legio X Fretensis, found at Masada, dating to the time of the siege. It shows that most of his pay went straight back to the Army to pay for his food, clothing, & equipment.






Gaius Messius son of Gaius

(0022) Text: [hand 1] [Imp(eratore) Ves]pas[ia]n[o Au]g(usto) IIII co(n)[s(ule)] | [r]atio st[ip]enda | C(aius) Messius C(aii) f(ilius) Fab(ia) Beru(tensis) | [accepi st]ipendi(um) x L | ex eos s[olvi] | hordiaria [x XVI] | [hand 2] […u]rnius | sumtuarium x XX[…] | c[a]ligas x V | lorum fasciari(um) x II | tunica linia x VII || accepi stipendi(um) x LX[II] | ex eos solvi | hordiaria x XV | sumtuarium x [XX] | [hand 3] C(aius) Antonius | pallium opertoriu(m) [x …] | [hand 4] Puplius Valerius | tunca alba [x …]



Provenience: Masada, Judaea 72-75 CE

Commentary: Gaius Messius’ pay receipt, found in the camps outside of Masada. Gaius Messius was an auxiliary soldier, though his unit is unknown.  It is interesting to observe how much of his pay went to mandatory expenses: clothing, food, etc. He seems effectively penniless after payday.





The fourth consulate of Imperator Vespasianus Augustus.

Accounts, salary.

Gaius Messius, son of Gaius, of the tribe Fabia, from Beirut.

I received my stipendium of 50 denarii, out of which I have paid barley money 16 denarii. […]rnius: food expenses 20(?) denarii; boots 5 denarii; leather strappings 2 denarii; linen tunic 7 denarii.



Article's assessment of the situation:


Let’s do a quick tally of that pay slip

  • 16 denarii for “barley money.”

20 denarii for “food expenses.” 5 denarii for “boots.” 2 denarii for “leather strappings.” 7 denarii for a “linen tunic.”

That comes out to 50 denarii — leaving Gaius flat broke immediately after payday.






Summary: Soldiers' frustration and discontent with the military bureaucracy is a universal theme, occurring in all times and places.



guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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Our sample size is limited to very few examples so drawing conclusions might be premature. Why is our auxiliary paying for barley? That's animal food, aside from punishments (which would mean he was paying as well as suffering humiliation for sleeping on duty). Presumably he has access to an animal such as a mule and must pay for the supply to feed it (since many animals were not 'issued' but requisitioned as necessary). One could speculate that the costs were deliberate. Is an officer scamming his men? Or is this a means of stamping out corruption (you cannot bribe if you have no cash). Or is this working on a similar premise to the modern Foreign Legion, where restrictions are applied to prevent breaches of discipline? There's a lot of possibilities but little to go on.

Edited by caldrail

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