Roman Empire

Pay stub for one particular Roman soldier

“My 2 ‘new’ Roman silver denarii from the rule of Marcus Aurelius, 1850 years ago” by J Wynia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Complete Roman Army, by Adrian Goldsworthy, provides a pay sheet for one soldier as an illustration of the pay structure for the Roman army.

Pay sheet for one individual soldier

To illustrate the limited documents that survive, Adrian Goldsworthy quotes one document for a soldier in Egypt during 81 A.D. Comment in the book indicates this is one of the best examples of the few documents which are actually known.

Consider what little amount of documentation survives when there would have been three pay sheets for each of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers every year for hundreds of years. Of that massive amount of paperwork relatively few documents remain.

This particular soldiers is assumed to be an auxiliary since his gross pay is equal to 187.5 denarii instead of the 250 denarii for a Legionnaire.

Since this is a quotation of an ancient document I feel free to quote it either because the original document itself in public domain, or in the alternative under fair use.

Information from pay sheet on page 95:


.  drachmas
First pay period
Pay         247.5
hay           10.0
for food           80.0
boots & straps           12.0
Saturnalia of the camp           20.0
?           60.0
expenditure =         182.0
balance deposited to account           65.5
and had from before         136.0
making a total of         201.5
Second pay period
Pay         247.5
hay           10.0
for food           80.0
boots & straps           12.0
to the standards            4.0
expenditure =         106.0
balance deposited to account         141.5
and had from before         201.5
making a total of         343.0
Third  pay period
Pay         247.5
hay           10.0
for food           80.0
boots & straps           12.0
for clothes         145.5
expenditure =         247.5
balance deposited to account              –
balance added to his account         343.0


Notice the soldier paid for his food and clothes.

Each squad of soldiers (contubernium) was assigned one mule for transport of their tent and equipment. Apparently, the soldiers were charged for the feed eaten by their animal.

Mr. Goldsworthy thinks the difference between 250 drachma pay rate and 247.5 actually paid is due to a 2.5 drachma fee for converting from denarii into drachma. He also points out that drachma is “probably equivalent” to one sestertius, which is one-fourth of a denarii. That would create a conversion rate of four drachma into one denarii.

Of course being an accountant, I have to combine those three pay stubs into an annual statement. I also have to, just have to, convert into denarii.

So here is this particular auxiliary soldier’s pay for the year 81 A.D., expressed in drachmas, denarii, and the disposition of pay as a percent of gross.


summary  drachmas denarii % of pay
gross pay         750.0      187.5
fee for conversion to drachmas            7.5          1.9 1%
pay, net of conversion fee         742.5      185.6
hay           30.0          7.5 4%
food         240.0        60.0 32%
boots & straps           36.0          9.0 5%
clothing         145.5        36.4 19%
??           60.0        15.0 8%
Saturnalia of the camp           20.0          5.0 3%
to the standards            4.0          1.0 1%
total deductions         535.5      133.9 72%
after deductions         207.0        51.7 28%
previous year balance         136.0        34.0
ending balance         343.0        85.7


Several things jump out from that information.

First, food consumed about 1/3rd  of his pay.

Second, clothes were about 1/5th of his pay.

Third, the soldier was reasonably frugal and did not pay many bribes to his centurion to get out of dirty tasks. As a result, he ended the year with about 1/3 of his pay left over. He has a rather healthy balance saved up at the end of the year, with just under one half of a year’s pay in his account.

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