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Roman Donatives

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DONATIVUM The name (plural, donativa) given to the gifts of money or largesse distributed to the soldiers of the LEGIONS or to the PRAETORIAN GUARD by the Emperors. The purpose of a donativum varied as some were tokens of gratitude for favors received, and others bribes for favors expected. Donativa were normally rendered at the start of



14 Augustus Last will 250
31 Tiberius Loyalty in Sejanus crisis 1,000
37 Caligula Upon accession 500
41 Claudius Upon accession
Annually Claudius Anniversary of accession to the throne 3,750

54 Nero Accession 3,750
Pay for assassinations 500 or less
Promised by Nymphidius Sabinus, but not paid 7,500

69 Galba Promised 1,250
69 Otho Promised 1,250
69 Vitellius Regular donativum unknown
69 Vespasian Regular donativum unknown
79 Titus Regular donativum unknown
81 Domitian Considered doubling the donativum but opted for regular sum unknown
98 Nerva Regular donativum unknown
117 Trajan Regular donativum unknown
138 Hadrian Double normal sum unknown
161 Antonius Pius Regular donativum and upon daughter’s marriage unknown
180 Marcus Aurelius Joint rule with Verus 5,000
193 Commodus Regular donativum; second promised but unpaid unknown
193 Pertinax Force to pay donativum of Commodus 3,000
193 Didius Julianus Purchased the throne 7,250 but paid less
193 Septimius Severus Promised a donativum 250

A.D., this bribe became crucial to the success of any rule. Such was the case with many of the soldier-emperors from 235 to 248 A.D. The Praetorian Guard, so close to the em peror’s person, was an even greater threat. The cohorts stationed in Rome were difficult to appease and quick to commit assassination. The donativum thus provided a per lect means for buying the Praetorians’ support.

Augustus (ruled 27 B.C-14 A.D.) left the Praetorians a sum in his will, but it was not until Tiberius’ reign (14-37 A.D.) that gifts of money were thought necessary. The Guard, for example, received gifts for standing by when SEJANUS, their prefect, fell from power. Each Praetorian re ceived 10 gold pieces for withholding from Sejanus’ de knse. In 41 A.D., after the assassination of Caligula, the soldiers supported Claudius, and a short time later the Senate learned that the Guard had installed him on the throne. Claudius gave them 150 gold pieces, or some 3,750 denarii, to which 100 sesterces were added annually to Commemorate Claudius’ accession. The inevitable result of the custom of the donativum was the Praetorians’ auction ing of the Empire to DIDIUS JULIANUS in 193 A.D.

Monetary History of the World
© Martin A. Armstrong