Salary - History - Payment in The Roman Empire and Medieval and Pre-industrial Europe

Payment in The Roman Empire and Medieval and Pre-industrial Europe

Regardless of the exact connection, the salarium paid to Roman soldiers has defined a form of work-for-hire ever since in the Western world, and gave rise to such expressions as "being worth one's salt".

Within the Roman Empire or (later) medieval and pre-industrial Europe and its mercantile colonies, salaried employment appears to have been relatively rare and mostly limited to servants and higher status roles, especially in government service. Such roles were largely remunerated by the provision of lodging, food, and livery clothes (i.e., "food, clothing, and shelter" in modern idiom), but cash was also paid. Many courtiers, such as valets de chambre, in late medieval courts were paid annual amounts, sometimes supplemented by large if unpredictable extra payments. At the other end of the social scale, those in many forms of employment either received no pay, as with slavery (although many slaves were paid some money at least), serfdom, and indentured servitude, or received only a fraction of what was produced, as with sharecropping. Other common alternative models of work included self- or co-operative employment, as with masters in artisan guilds, who often had salaried assistants, or corporate work and ownership, as with medieval universities and monasteries.

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