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p26 Aes Equestre

Unsigned article on p26 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

AES EQUESTRE, AES HORDEA′RIUM, and AES MILITA′RE, were the ancient terms for the pay of the Roman soldiers, before the regular stipendium was introduced. The aes equestre was the sum of money given for the purchase of the horse of an eques; the aes hordearium, the sum of money paid yearly for the upkeep of the horse of an eques, in other words the pay of an eques; and the aes militare, the pay of a foot soldier (Gaius, IV.27). None of this money seems to have been taken from the public treasury, but to have been paid by certain private persons, to whom this duty was assigned by the state.

The aes hordearium, which amounted to 2000 asses, had to be paid by single women (viduae, i.e. both maidens and widows) and orphans (orbi), provided they possessed a certain amount of property, on the principle, as Niebuhr remarks, that in a military state, the women and children ought to contribute for those who fight in behalf of them and the commonwealth; it being borne in mind, that they were not included in the census (Liv. I.43; Cic. de Rep. II.20). The equites had a right to distrain (pignoris capio) if the aes hordearium was not paid (Gaius, l.c.).

The aes equestre, which amounted to 10,000 asses, was to be given, according to the statement of Livy (l.c.), out of the public treasury (ex publico); but as Gaius says (l.c.), that the equites had a right to distrain for this money likewise, it seems impossible that this account can be correct; for we can hardly conceive that a private person had a right of distress against a magistrate, that is, against the state, or that he could distrain any of the public property of the state. It is more probable that this money was also paid by the single women and orphans, and that it was against these that the equites had the same right to distrain, as they had in the case of the aes hordearium.

The aes militare, the amount of which is not expressly mentioned, had to be paid by the tribuni aerarii, and if not paid, the foot soldiers had a right of distress against them (Cato, ap. Gell. VI.10; Varro, L. L. V.181, ed. Müller; Festus, s.v. aerarii tribuni; Gaius, l.c.). It is generally assumed from a passage of the Pseudo-Asconius (in Verr. p167, ed. Orelli), that these tribuni aerarii were magistrates connected with the treasury, and that they were the assistants of the quaestors; but Madvig (De Tribunis Aerariis Disputatio, in Opuscula, vol. II pp258‑261), has brought forward good reasons for believing that the tribuni aerarii were private persons, who were liable to the payment of the aes militare, and upon whose property a distress might be levied, if the money were not paid. He supposes that they were persons whose property was rated at a certain sum in the census, and that they obtained the name of tribuni aerarii, either because they received money from the treasury for the purpose of paying the soldiers, or because, which is the more probable, they levied the tributum, which was imposed for the purpose of paying the army, and then paid it to the soldiers. The state thus avoided the trouble of collecting the tributum and of keeping minute accounts, for which reason the vectigalia were afterwards farmed, and the foot-soldiers were thus paid in a way similar to the horse-soldiers. These tribuni aerarii were no longer needed when the state took into its own hands the payment of the troops [Exercitus], but they were revived in B.C. 70, as a distinct class in the commonwealth by the Lex Aurelia, which gave the judicia to the senators, equites and tribuni aerarii. [Tribuni Aerarii.] The opinion of Niebuhr (Hist. of Rome, vol. I p474), that the aes militare was paid by the aerarians [Aerarii] is, it must be recollected, merely a conjecture, which, however ingenious, is supported by no ancient authority.

It has been well remarked by Niebuhr (Hist. of Rome, vol. II p442), that the 2000 asses, which was the yearly pay of a horseman, give 200 asses a month, if divided by 10, and that the monthly pay of a foot soldier was 100 asses a month. It must be recollected that a year of ten, and not of twelve months, was used in all calculations of payments at Rome in very remote times.


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