Another indication of average pay for Roman foot soldiers can be found in Wikipedia’s article Imperial Roman Army.
This pay rate applied during the reigns of Emperors Augustus and Vespasian, which means until about 81 A.D. After that point, debasement of the currency led to inflation and rising pay for soldiers. More on that later.
For general framework, this is the pay structure in effect during the time of the New Testament.
Here is a recap:
|Gross pay, annual||225||188|
|Less food deduction||60||60|
|Less tent & misc deductions||50||50|
|Net pay, annual||115||78|
|Average bonus, spread over 3 years||25|
|Average annual net pay during 25 year career||140||78|
|Discharge bonus, spread over 25 years at 50% probability||60|
|Net pay, averaged over 25 years||200||78|
Average pay was 2.5 sesterces per day. There were 4 sesterces to a Denarius. So 2.5 times 365 days divided by 4:1 equals 228.1. So the more precise gross pay is 2.47 sesterces per day.
From that, soldiers were charged for their food and had to buy their own equipment. They were also charged for the hay eaten by the squad’s mule. That would leave disposable income of about 115 denarii a year.
Emperors knew they had to give their troops bonuses every once in a while to make sure they were happy and would remember who was in charge. That was typically around 75 denarii every three years, or an average of about 25 denarii a year.
There was a huge bonus paid out at the end of a 25 year career. The bonus, 3,000 denarii, was around 13 years wages. Of course, the average life expectancy of a soldier was such that only about 50% lived to see retirement. Thus I adjusted that 120 denarii a year average down by 50%.
Wikipedia article says a soldier’s life expectancy was lower than the average for someone in the Roman era.
Troops in the auxiliary forces did not get the bonuses or retirement pay. They averaged 188 denarii a year gross and 78 denarii disposable.
To fully credit the Wikipedia article and so you can double-check my table, here is the data I used, under Creative Commons license:
|REMUNERATION OF ROMAN COMMON FOOT SOLDIERS (about AD 70)|
|Stipendium (gross salary)||225||188|
|Less: Food deduction||60||60|
|Less: Equipment etc. deductions||50||50|
|Net disposable pay||115||78|
|Plus: Donativa (bonuses)
(average: 75 denarii every three years)
|Total disposable income||140||78|
|Praemia (discharge bonus: 3,000 denarii)||120||none proven|