Diocletian's "Edict of Maximum Prices" issued in 301 AD

Edict Diocletian

Wages in 301 AD in theRoman Empire

All data based on Diocletian’s “Edict of Maximum Prices” issued in 301 AD

Prices Expressed in Roman Denarii equivalent

General Laborers

brick maker, for every 4 fired bricks and preparation of the clay……………………… 2
brick maker, for every 8 sun dried bricks, and preparation of the clay……………… 2

clerk (based on specified bath attendant wage)…………………………………………… 25

farm laborer, with maintenance…………………………………………………………………. 25

lime burner, with maintenance………………………………………………………………….. 50

mule driver, camel driver, with maintenance……………………………………………….. 25
sewer cleaner, working a full day, with maintenance…………………………………… 25

shepherd, with maintenance…………………………………………………………………….. 25

water carrier, working a full day, with maintenance…………………………………….. 25

all other general labor……………………………………………………………………………… 25

Skilled Laborers

barber, per customer………………………………………………………………………………… 2

cabinet maker, with maintenance………………………………………………………………. 50

carpenter, with maintenance, daily…………………………………………………………….. 50

stone mason, with maintenance………………………………………………………………… 50

figure painter, with maintenance……………………………………………………………….. 150

fuller (Wool weaver), per cloak………………………………………………………………… 175

marble paving and walls custodian, with maintenance…………………………………. 60
wall mosaics worker, with maintenance…………………………………………………….. 60
model maker, with maintenance……………………………………………………………….. 75

other plaster worker, with maintenance…………………………………………………….. 50

parchment maker, for a quaternion, white or yellow parchment……………………. 40

shipwright of a river vessel, with maintenance……………………………………………. 50

shipwright of a seagoing vessel, with maintenance……………………………………… 60

tessellated floor maker , with maintenance………………………………………………….. 50

wagon blacksmith, with maintenance…………………………………………………………. 50
wagon wright, with maintenance………………………………………………………………… 50

wall painter, with maintenance………………………………………………………………….. 75

Professionals

advocate, for opening a case…………………………………………………………………. 250
for pleading a case………………………………………………………………………………. 1000

scribe, for the best writing 100 lines………………………………………………………… 25

for second quality writing……………………………………………………………………….. 20

secretary……………………………………………………………………………………………… 35
notary, for writing a petition or legal document………………………………………….. 10

Teachers in Ancient Rome

A teacher in ancient Rome would have lived in the home of a wealthy patrician, who would have provided the teacher with food and clothing appropriate to the house.  The teacher would not have had much spending money, but would have lived comfortably just the same.  These are salaries in denarii per month, per student.

elementary teacher………………………………………………………………………. 50

arithmetic teacher………………………………………………………………………… 75

Greek, Latin literature or geometry……………………………………………….. 200

teacher of rhetoric (public speaking)…………………………………………….. 250

Soldiers in Ancient Rome

Soldiering was one of the best ways a Roman male could provide for his family.  The base wage was low, not enough to live on.  Four times a year, a soldier received a “donative” greater than his annual base pay.  Additionally, soldiers received an annual “annona” subsidy for grain purchases.  The best soldiers hoped to be recruited to the Praetorian Guard, the soldiers who guarded the emperor.  These soldiers were paid roughly 3 times the base wage of the average soldier, and likely enjoyed many additional privileges as well.

Soldiers had high expenses in their profession, but they still came out much better than the average citizen even after expenses.  The soldiers were expected to pay for much of their own equipment, rations, and clothing.  They even had to pay part of the cost of burial for their fallen from their unit.

Soldiers’ Pay:     

average Roman soldier,annually……………………………………………………………… 1800

Praetorian Guard, annually……………………………………………………………………… 5500

annual grain annona (1 per year)………………………………………………………………. 600

donative (4 per year)……………………………………………………………………………… 2500

Additionally, every soldier received a grain allotment of

30 modii of wheat per year that would be worth………………………………………… 3000

Total Annual Pay for an average Roman Soldier……………………………………. 15,400

For a Praetorian Guard………………………………………………………………………. 19,100

Compare that to a general laborer working 305 days a year………………… 7625

Soldiers’ Costs:

boots, without hobnails………………………………………………………………………… 100

shoes, soldiers……………………………………………………………………………………. 75

saddle………………………………………………………………………………………………. 500

polisher, for a sword……………………………………………………………………………. 25
for a helmet………………………………………………………………………………………… 25
for an axe…………………………………………………………………………………………… 6
for a double axe………………………………………………………………………………….. 8
for a sword scabbard………………………………………………………………………… 100

Prices in 301 AD in theRoman Empire

All data based on Diocletian’s “Edict of Maximum Prices” issued in 301 AD

The Edict of Maximum Prices was an attempt to control runaway inflation and poverty in the Empire.  The penalty for exceeding the prices of the Edict was severe: death.  Not satisfied to execute just the seller, Diocletian decreed that the buyer was to be executed as well.  As a final measure, if a seller refused to sell his goods at the stated price, the penalty was death.

Food

Dry Foods

Prices refer to one modius unless otherwise indicated. 1 modius=8 liters dry measure.

alfalfa seed………………………………………………………………………………………… 150

barley……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 60

barley, cleaned…………………………………………………………………………………… 100

beans……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 60

beans, crushed……………………………………………………………………………………. 100

chickpeas………………………………………………………………………………………….. 100

flaxseed…………………………………………………………………………………………….. 150

hayseed…………………………………………………………………………………………….. 30
lentils………………………………………………………………………………………………… 100

millet, crushed…………………………………………………………………………………….. 100
millet, whole………………………………………………………………………………………. 50

oats………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 30

peas, crushed…………………………………………………………………………………….. 100
peas…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 60

rice, cleaned………………………………………………………………………………………. 200
rye…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 60

salt…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 100
sesame……………………………………………………………………………………………… 200

wheat……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 100
Fruits & Vegetables

cabbage or lettuce, head………………………………………………………………………. 1-2 ½

dessert grapes, libra…………………………………………………………………………….. 1

fenugreek, modius……………………………………………………………………………….. 100

peaches, one, up to……………………………………………………………………………… 1-2 ½

Prices in 301 AD in theRoman Empire

Food (continued)

Meats and Fish

Prices refer to one libra unless otherwise noted. 1 libra=326 grams or just under pound.

beef……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 8

chicken……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 60

fish, freshwater…………………………………………………………………………………… ..12

second quality……………………………………………………………………………………….. 8

fish, saltwater……………………………………………………………………………………….. 25

second quality………………………………………………………………………………………. 16

goose, fattened…………………………………………………………………………………….. 200

not fattened………………………………………………………………………………………….. 100

goat……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 12

lamb……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 12

pheasant, depending on variety………………………………………………………………125-250

pork………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 12

sausage, depending on variety……………………………………………………………….. 10-16

Wine, Beer & Oil

Prices refer to one sextarius.  1 sextarius=1.14 Pints or .546 liters

beer, Celtic or Pannonian…………………………………………………………………………. 4

Egyptian…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2

Aminean, Falernian, Picene, Sabine, Tiburtine regional wines……………………… 30

aged wine……………………………………………………………………………………………… 24

second quality……………………………………………………………………………………….. 16

chrysattic wine………………………………………………………………………………………. 24
Maeonian wine, boiled down one-third………………………………………………………. 30
must, boiled down………………………………………………………………………………….. 16
must, boiled down one-half……………………………………………………………………… 20
rose wine……………………………………………………………………………………………… 20

spiced wine………………………………………………………………………………………….. 24
wine with wormwood……………………………………………………………………………… 20
vin ordinaire (ordinary wine)……………………………………………………………………… 8

olive oil, fresh………………………………………………………………………………………… 40

second quality……………………………………………………………………………………….. 24

liquamen (fish sauce seasoning)……………………………………………………………… 16

second quality……………………………………………………………………………………….. 12

vinegar and wine vinegar…………………………………………………………………………. 6

Prices in 301 AD in the Roman Empire

Clothing Fabric

Prices are per item or libra for raw materials.

African cloak………………………………………………………………………………………….. 500

Dalmatian tunic……………………………………………………………………………………… 2000

hooded cloak, Laodicean……………………………………………………………………….. 4500

soldier’s winter tunic………………………………………………………………………………… 75

wool from Tarentum…………………………………………………………………………………. 75

white silk…………………………………………………………………………………………… 12,000

purple silk……………………………………………………………………………………….. 150,000

Purple silk was to be used only at the direction of the Emperor under penalty of death.

Boots and Shoes

boots for mule drivers or farm workers, without hobnails……………………………. 120
boots for soldiers, without hobnails………………………………………………………….. 100

women’s boots……………………………………………………………………………………….. 60
patrician’s shoes…………………………………………………………………………………… 150
senatorial shoes……………………………………………………………………………………. 100
equestrian’s shoes………………………………………………………………………………….. 70
soldier’s shoes……………………………………………………………………………………….. 75

Sandals and Gallic Sandals

double-soled Gallic sandals for farm workers…………………………………………… 80
single soled Gallic sandals…………………………………………………………………….. 50
Gallic sandals for runners……………………………………………………………………… 60
women’s oxhide sandals double-soled…………………………………………………….. 50

 Image

Sketch by  Marvin Tameanko of actual Roman Jug  found during

 an excavation inLondon.   It is inscribed / addressed to

“TheTemple of Isis in London
Exchange Rates of Currency to Denarii Communes
From 297 to 308 A.D.

                                   Number of Denarii Communes exchanged for:

               Period

Coin (mat’l.)

293-300

300-301

301-307

       Aureus(gold)

600

1200

2400

Argenteus (silver)

25

50

100

Nummus (billon)

5

12.5

25

Radiate (billon)

2

2.5

5

Laureate (bronze)

1

1

1

Base Currency Unit

To determine the buying power of the currencies above for a given time period, compare the exchange rate of the actual currency to the prices or wages listed on the preceding pages indenarii communesusing the formula below:

(Price from list in d.c.) X (Number of coins exchanged perd.c.from chart above) = Cost or Wage in actual currency

Suggestions for further reading

Tenney Frank,Economic Survey of AncientRome  (Baltimore, 1940)

Jo-Ann Shelton,As The Romans Did   (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998)

©2002 Mike Dalka.  Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute this document for any noncommercial educational purpose.  Distributed by Ancient Coins for Education, Inc., a nonprofit corporation. PO Box 3115, Burbank, CA 91508