previous next


(sc. vas; from congius).


A vessel containing a congius (q. v.).


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 thus congiarium, as Quintilian says, became a name for the gift as well as for the measure (congiarium commune liberalitatis atque mensurae, vi. 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 (Ad Att. 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 continuous drain.

Congiarium 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. 27; De Brev. Vit. 8.2.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 2
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: