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p1071 Stipendium

Article by Robert Whiston, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
on pp1071‑1072 of

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

STIPE′NDIUM, a pension or pay, from stipem and pendo, because before silver was coined at Rome the copper money in use was paid by weight and not by tale (Varro, L. L. V.182, ed. Müller; Plin. H. N. XXXIII.13º). According to Livy the practice of giving pay to the Roman soldiers (ut stipendium miles de publico acciperet) was not introduced till B.C. 405, on the occasion of the taking of Tarracina or Anxur. He represents the change as the spontaneous and unsolicited act of the senate, but from another passage (IV.36) we learn that in the year 421 B.C. the tribunes had proposed that the occupiers of the public land should pay their vectigal regularly, and that it should be devoted to the payment of the troops. The concession was probably accelerated by the prospect of the last war with Veii, and made with a view of conciliating the plebs, who without some such favour would in their then humour have refused to vote for the war. Livy also represents the funds for the payment to have been raised by a tributum or general tax, but as Arnold observes (Hist. of Rome, vol. I p369; cf. Niebuhr, vol. II p440), "The vectigal, or tithe, due from the occupiers of the public land, was to provide pay for the soldiers; and if this were not sufficient, it was to be made good by a tax or tribute levied upon the whole people. This tithe, however, was probably paid very irregularly, and hence the pay of the soldiers would in point of fact be provided chiefly out of the tributum." A few years after this concession (B.C. 403), and p1072during the hostilities against Veii, a certain amount of pay was assigned (certus numerus aeris est assignatus, Liv. V.7) to the knight also. [Equites, p472A.] Livy, however, seems to be here speaking of the citizens who possessed an equestrian fortune, but had no horse (equus publicus) assigned to them by the state. For it had always been customary for the knights of the 18 centuries to receive pay out of the common treasury, in the shape of an allowance for the purchase of a horse, and a yearly pension of 2000 asses for its keep. [Aes equestre; Hordearium.] Hence Niebuhr (vol. I p474, and vol. II p441) doubts the accuracy of the account which is given by Livy (IV.59), and observes that "the Veientine war cannot have been the occasion on which the practice of giving pay to the troops was first established: the aerarii must undoubtedly have always continued to pay pensions (capita) to the infantry, in the same way as single women and minors did to the knights: and the change consisted in this, that every legionary now became entitled to pay, whereas the number of pensioners had previously been limited by that of the persons liable to be charged with them; and hence the deficiency was supplied out of the aerarium, from the produce of the vectigal, and when this failed, by a tribute levied even from those plebeians who were themselves bound to serve." Consequently the tribunes murmured that the tribute was only imposed for the sake of ruining the plebs (Liv. IV.60). In support of his opinion Niebuhr (l.c.) advances arguments which at least make it very probable that the "paternal legislation" of Servius Tullius provided for the pay of the infantry in the manner mentioned; but even admitting this, the practice might have been discontinued so as to justify the statement made on this subject by Livy. We have not space to repeat or discuss those arguments here, and therefore simply refer to vol. I p374, and vol. II p441, of his History. According to Polybius (VI.39)º the daily pay of a legionary amounted, in his time, to two oboli, which, as he makes a drachma equivalent to a denarius, and a denarius in paying the soldiers was then estimated at ten asses (Plin. l.c.), and not at sixteen, as was usual in other money transactions, gives 3-⅓ asses a day, or 100 a month. Now the yearly pension of the knights (2000º asses), observes Niebuhr, gives, if we take the old year of 10 months, 200 asses a month: just double the pay of the foot soldiers. In later times the knights received triple pay (triplex stipendium merebant). This allowance was first established by the military tribune Cn. Cornelius Cossus (400 B.C.), and according to Niebuhr was then designed as a compensation to those who served with their own horses; it did not become the general custom till some time afterwards. Polybius (VI.39)º thus speaks of the stipendium of his day, which he calls ὀψώνιον, as St. Luke (iii.14) also does. "The foot soldier receives as pay two oboli a day: the centurion twice as much: the horseman a drachma or denarius. The foot soldiers also receive in cornº every month an allowance (demensum) of ⅔ of an Attic medimnus or about 2 bushels of wheat: the horsemen 7 medimni of barley and 2 of wheat. The infantry of the allies receive the same allowance (σιτομετροῦνται) as the Roman: the horsemen 1-⅓ medimni of wheat and 5 of barley. But there is this difference, that the allied forces receive their allowances as a gratuity; the Roman soldiers, on the contrary, have deducted from their pay the money value of whatever they receive, in corn, armour or clothes." There was indeed a law passed by C. Gracchus (Plut. C. Gracch. 5) which provided that besides their pay the soldiers should receive from the treasury an allowance for clothes; but from Tacitus (Ann. I.17) this law seems either to have been repealed or to have fallen into disuse. The two oboli of Polybius, which we make equal to 3-⅓ asses, are reckoned by Plautus in round numbers at 3 asses. Thus he says (Most. II.1.10), "Isti qui trium nummorum causa subeunt sub falas." This amount was doubled for the legionaries by Julius Caesar (Sueton. Jul. Caes. 26) before the civil war. He also gave them corn whenever he had the means, without any restrictions (sine modo mensuraque). Under Augustus (Suet. Aug. 49; Tacit. l.c.) it appears to have been raised to 10 asses a day (three times the original sum), or 300 a month, or 1200 in four months. Now as the original amount of their pay had been tripled, the soldiers could not complain if the denarius were reckoned at 16 asses in payments made to themselves, as well as other persons; and taking this value, the 1200 asses amount to exactly 3 aurei, or 3 × 400 asses. This sum then was considered as an unit, and called stipendium, being paid three times a year. Hence Suetonius says of Domitian (Dom. 7): "Addidit et quartum stipendium, ternos aureos": a fact which Zonaras (Ann. II. p196) otherwise expresses by stating, that instead of 75 drachmae (i.e. denarii) Domitian gave the soldiers 100, i.e. he made an addition of 25 denarii or 1 aureus to their pay. The expression of Suetonius supposes that 3 aurei were paid every quarter instead of every four months, after the addition made by Domitian; that of Zonaras implies, that 4 aurei instead of 3 were paid, as before, every three months, the annual amount being the same either way, and the quarterly or four months' instalment of 3 or 4 aurei being called a stipendium. Niebuhr's (vol. II p443) statement on this subject is only partially correct or else obscure: at any rate, if the soldiers received 10 asses a day they must have received more than 1200 a year.

The Praetorian cohorts received twice as much as the legionaries (Tacit. l.c.). The pay of the tribunes is not known; but it was considered very great (Juven. III.132), and probably was not less than 48 aurei per annum, after the time of Domitian. We must not omit to mention that if his pay were withheld the Roman soldier was allowed by an old unwritten custom to distrain the goods (per pignoris capionem) of the officer whose duty it was to supply it. The eques was allowed the same privilege against the persons who were bound to furnish him with the aes equestre, for the purchase of his horse, and the aes hordearium for its keep (Gaius, lib. IV § 26‑28).

From an expression which Livy (Liv. V.4) puts into the mouth of a patrician orator, it might be supposed that the soldiers always received a full year's pay, independent of the length of their service. This, however, seems so unreasonable, that we cannot but agree with Niebuhr in supposing that the historian was misled by the custom of his own time, when a full year had long been the stipulated term of a soldier's pay as well as of his service.

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