A vessel containing a congius
In the early times of the Roman Republic, the congius
was the usual
measure of oil or wine which was, on certain occasions, distributed among the people; and
, as Quintilian says, became a name for the gift as well
as for the measure (congiarium commune liberalitatis atque mensurae
3.52). It does not follow that all the citizens or even heads of families received a congius
apiece. The earliest mention of a distribution of oil is in B.C.
213, when two Cornelii Scipiones, afterwards called Africanus and Cethegus, in their
aedileship gave a certain number of congii
(the numeral has dropped out)
to the inhabitants of each street (Livy, xxv. 2
, with Madvig's
note). Lucullus on returning from his Eastern victories distributed more than 100,000 casks
of wine to the people (Plin. H. N. xiv. 96
The name congiarium
was also applied, less accurately, to presents of
corn or other provisions.
Under the Empire the tranquillity of the capital was insured by a gigantic system of
outdoor relief (see Frumentariae Leges
supplemented by frequent doles. The general term for these imperial presents is largitio
, sometimes (especially on coins) liberalitas.
Distributions to the soldiers were called donativa
, to the people congiaria;
but sometimes the former also are called congiaria
xvi. 8). The sums thus spent were enormous.
Hadrian's congiarium was three aurei
per head on his proclamation as
emperor, and double that amount on his arrival in Rome; Commodus gave 725 denarii
to each citizen. Marquardt has computed the imperial congiaria at an average
of $450,000 a year from Iulius Caesar to Claudius, $1,500,000 a year from Nero to Septimius
Severus; it must have been, however, a periodical emptying of the treasury rather than a
was, moreover, used to designate presents or pensions given by
men of rank to
Congius. (Dresden Collection.)
their friends, clients, or dependants. See Suet. Iul.