What might the payroll cost have been to staff a Roman Legion?

Previous post outlined the standard staffing of a Roman Legion in about 100 A.D.

The same Wikipedia article described earlier provided the relative pay of different positions. That allows for calculation of the total pay for a legion expressed in units of pay for a common soldier.

If we combine that calculation with the standard pay of 225 sesterces per year for a soldier, as mentioned here, we can calculate payroll for a legion.

Here is the relative pay calculation:

.. | total | pay ratio per position | pay ratio, extended |

infantryman | 5,120 | 1 | 5,120 |

hornblower | 59 | 1.5 | 89 |

officer of the watch | 59 | 1.5 | 89 |

centurion deputy | 59 | 2 | 118 |

standard bearer for century | 59 | 2 | 118 |

standard bearer for emperor | 1 | 2 | 2 |

standard bearer for legion | 1 | 2 | 2 |

centurion | 45 | 16 | 720 |

senior centurion | 13 | 25 | 325 |

chief centurion | 1 | 30 | 30 |

legion staff officer | 5 | 50 | 250 |

legion quartermaster | 1 | 60 | 60 |

legion deputy commander | 1 | 60 | 60 |

legion commander | 1 | 70 | 70 |

—- | —- | ||

total | 5,425 | 7,052 | |

average (for future reference) | 1.30 |

*Above data derived from “Imperial Roman Army” by Wikipedia; therefore others are licensed to use the table under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.*

I will add in 620 mule wranglers and assume since that would be a lower status position, those staff would be paid half of a Legionnaire. That brings total payroll to:

total | 59 centuries | legion staff | pay ratio per position | pay ratio, extended | |

total above for soldiers | 5,425 | 5,415 | 10 | 7,052 | |

mule wranglers | 620 | 590 | 30 | 0.5 | 310 |

total for legion | 6,045 | 6,005 | 40 | 1 | 7,362 |

*Above data derived from “Imperial Roman Army” by Wikipedia; therefore others are licensed to use the table under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.*

I made guesses on the relative pay for senior centurion, chief centurion, legion quartermaster, and legion deputy commander.

For future reference, this implies the total cost for a legion is 1.3 times the pay of a common soldier multiplied by the total number of soldiers in the legion.

**Payroll for a fully staffed legion**

Here is a calculation of the total annual payroll:

total payroll in relation to pay for 1 soldier | 7,362 |

x pay for Legionnaire up until ~81 A.D. | 225 |

= total payroll for legion in sesterces | 1,656,450 |

/ sesterces per denarius | 4 |

= annual payroll of legion in denarii | 414,113 |

= rounded annual payroll of legion | 410,000 |

*Above data derived from **“Imperial Roman Army”** by Wikipedia; therefore others are licensed to use the table under **Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.*

That provides a point estimate of 414,113, which I’ll rounded to 410,000 denarii.

At a staffing of 5,425 soldiers plus 620 mule wranglers in about 100 A.D. at pay rates in effect through 81 A.D., that puts the total payroll at around 410,000 denarii per year. Rounding to one significant digit puts the estimate at 400,000 denarii.

**Timeframe of these estimates**

For a frame of reference, the above estimate is for payroll of a legion with typical staffing of 5,400 soldiers in around 80 A.D.

The following estimate is for payroll of one legion with typical staffing of 6,000 soldiers in the early years of the first century. This corresponds to the time covered in the New Testament.

Both estimates assume the legion is at full strength, which from what I’ve read would have rarely been the case.

**Adjust to 6,000 soldiers**

What about a legion staffed at 6,000 soldiers (plus an assumed 700 non-soldiers to handle the mules)? Here is a revised calculation:

revised estimate of staffing | 6,700 |

x ratio of average pay of legion to 1 solder | 1.3 |

= extended payroll in relation to 1 soldier | 8,710 |

x pay for Legionnaire up until ~81 A.D. | 225 |

= total payroll for legion in sesterces | 1,959,750 |

/ sesterces per denarius | 4 |

= annual payroll of legion in denarii | 489,938 |

= rounded annual payroll of legion | 490,000 |

*Above data derived from **“ Imperial Roman Army”*

*by Wikipedia; therefore others are licensed to use the table under*

*Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.*

Revising the staffing to 6,000, or 60 centuries at an assumed 100 soldiers per century (plus mule wranglers), suggests annual payroll for a legion was around 490,000 denarii. Rounded further, that would be about half a million denarii a year.

**Previous post** provides a copy of the data from Wikipedia that forms the basis for these calculations.

I’ve provided all my calculations so you may revise, correct, or adjust my amounts as you wish.

Did I miss something? Let me know and I’ll run another calculation.