Payroll cost for a Roman Legion – Part 2 of 2

The 5th Legion” by mikecogh is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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.

 

Above three squads in formation while “Marching Down the Hippodrome” by mikecogh is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

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.

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