Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Soldier's payslip from the siege of Masada

LATIN EPIGRAPHY: Ancient soldier's payslip, found during excavation of 1,900-year-old Roman Empire camp in Israel, reveals the infantryman was left BROKE after military deducted his uniform and food (Stacy Liberatore, Daily Mail).
It reads: ‘The fourth consulate of Imperator Vespasianus Augustus.’ ‘Accounts, salary. Gaius Messius, son of Gaius, of the tribe Fabia, from Beirut.’ ‘I received my stipendium of 50 denarii, out of which I have paid barley money 16 denarii. […]rnius: food expenses 20(?) denarii; boots 5 denarii; leather strappings 2 denarii; linen tunic 7 denarii.’ And the total of deductions is 50 denarri – Messius’ entire pay check.
Fun extra fact. Gaius Messius was from Beirut. He was a Phoenician in the Roman army. You can read the Latin text of the payslip here.

James Clark wrote an ironically appreciative article on this papyrus in the military magazine Task & Purpose in March of 2019, based on a tweet by Dr. Jo Ball. No one, including me, noticed it at the time. But it was republished yesterday and now the Mail has taken it up.

UPDATE (10 Feb): Richard Bauckham e-mails: "If he belonged to the gens Fabia, surely he must be Roman, not Phoenician."

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