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date: 28 September 2023



  • Brian Campbell


Donativum, in the imperial period an irregular monetary payment to soldiers, perhaps originally associated with distributions of booty. Donatives celebrated important events linked to the emperor—imperial birthdays, dynastic policy, the defeat of conspiracies, military victories, and especially accession to power. Augustus in his will had bequeathed 1,000 sesterces each to the praetorians, 500 each to the urban soldiers, and 300 each to legionaries, sums which *Tiberius doubled in his own name. But in ce 41*Claudius paid 15,000 sesterces per man to ensure the crucial support of the praetorians, confirming the importance of a substantial donative in the emperor's own name at his accession and linking the army more closely to his person. Claudius probably made a proportionate payment to other citizen troops, and thereafter a donative accompanied every accession, though it is unclear if auxiliaries (*auxilia) continued to be excluded from this bounty. Donatives depended on circumstances and were not directly related to regular pay rates; the largest known donative, 25,000 sesterces (more than six times praetorian pay), was paid by *Didius (Severus) Iulianus in 193 at the notorious ‘auction’ of the empire.


  • Ancient Economy

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