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Rewriting History: Unveiling Ancient Roman Salaries from the Vast Roman Empire


The expansive Roman Empire, characterized by its sophisticated governance and infrastructure, boasted a society built on the toil and labour of its inhabitants. An integral aspect of any society is the payment of salaries, and ancient Rome was no exception. However, uncovering the intricacies of ancient Roman salaries presents quite a challenge. Yet through available historical evidence, we can gain insight into the financial compensations received by various groups across the empire.

Roman Army:

Strategically important to the Roman Empire, the army held a significant place in society. Roman soldiers were generally paid in a mixture of currency, land grants, and valuable loot acquired during military campaigns. Legionaries, the backbone of the army, received a basic salary (stipendium) that varied with rank. While privates earned 225 denarii annually, centurions commanded salaries of around 3,000 denarii. Interestingly, special bonuses (donativa) were awarded by emperors during military victories, further boosting a soldier's income.

Public Officials:

Just as today, ancient Rome had a vast network of bureaucrats and public officials responsible for governing the empire. From senators to magistrates, they enjoyed a range of salaries and privileges. High-ranking senators had an annual stipend of 200,000 sesterces, whereas governors enjoyed additional perks such as command allowances and provincial revenues.

Skilled Professionals:

Skilled craftsmen and professionals in ancient Rome could earn a handsome living. For instance, physicians enjoyed a prestigious position and commanded fairly high fees. A successful doctor could earn as much as 10,000 sesterces per year, thus placing them within the upper echelons of Roman society.

Slaves and Servants:

The backbone of Roman households, slaves and servants occupied a significant place in society. Slaves typically performed manual labou

r or household chores, while more educated ones worked as tutors, secretaries, or personal assistants. Salaries for slaves were rare, as their position was largely one of servitude.

Urban Working Class:

The urban working class, a diverse group ranging from lower-class citizens to freedmen, often found themselves engaged in a variety of professions. While wages or salaries for unskilled laborers were low, semi-skilled artisans and tradesmen could earn a modest income. However, conditions and earnings varied greatly depending on factors such as geographical location and economic demand.


Although piecing together accurate and comprehensive information about ancient Roman salaries is complex, historical records offer us glimpses into the compensation system of the time. Salaries varied significantly according to roles, positions, and locations within the Roman Empire. From loyal soldiers to influential officials and skilled professionals, income levels were diverse, reflecting Rome's hierarchical social structure. Understanding the intricacies of ancient Roman salaries enables us to gain insight into the society and the economic dynamics of one of the most significant empires in history.

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