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AERA´RIUM (τὸ δημοσιον), the public treasury at Rome. After the banishment of the kings the temple of Saturn and Ops was employed, upon the proposition of Valerius Poplicola, as the place for keeping the public money, and it continued to be so used till the later times of the empire. (Plut. Popl. 12, Quaest. Rom. 42; Festus, s. v. Aerarium ; Serv. on Aen. 8.322.1) Besides the public money and the accounts connected with its receipts, expenditure, and debtors, various other things were preserved in the treasury. Of these the most important were:--1. The standards of the legions (Liv. 3.69, 4.22, 7.23). 2. The various laws passed from time to time, engraven on brazen tables (Suet. Jul. 28). 3. The decrees of the senate, which were entered there in books kept for the purpose, though the original documents were preserved in the temple of Ceres under the custody of the aediles. (J. AJ 14.10.10; Plut. Cat. Mi. 17; Tac. Ann. 3.51.) [AEDILES] 4. Various other public documents, the reports and despatches of all generals and governors of provinces, the names of all foreign ambassadors that came to Rome [LEGATUS], &c.

The aerarium was the common treasury of the state, and is sometimes spoken of as the publicum (e. g. Liv. 2.5, 1; 16, 7; 42, 2). Niebuhr's view that the publicum was the treasury of the populus or patricians (Hist. ii. notes 386, 954) is erroneous, and has been disproved, among others, by Schwegler, Gesch. 2.286. Under the republic the aerarium was divided into two parts: the common treasury, in which were deposited the regular taxes [TRIBUTUM; VECTIGALIA], and from which were taken the sums of money needed for the ordinary expenditure of the state; and the sacred treasury (aerarium sanctum or sanctius, Liv. 27.10; Flor. 4.2; Caes. B.C. 1.14; Cic. Att. 7.2. 1), which was never touched except in cases of extreme peril. Both of these treasuries were in the temple of Saturn, but in distinct parts of the temple. The sacred treasury seems to have been first established soon after the capture of Rome by the Gauls, in order that the state might always have money in the treasury to meet the danger which was ever most dreaded by the Romans--a war with the Gauls. (Appian, App. BC 2.41.) At first, probably part of the plunder which the Romans gained in their wars with their neighbours was paid into this sacred treasury; but a regular means for augmenting it was established in B.C. 357 by the Lex Manlia, which enacted that a tax of five per cent. (vicesima) upon the value of every manumitted slave should be paid into this treasury. This money was kept in the treasury in bars of gold: hence Livy speaks of aurum vicesimarium (Liv. 7.16, 27.10, 11; comp. Cic. Att. 2.1. 6). A portion of the immense wealth obtained by the Romans in their conquests in the East was likewise deposited in the sacred treasury; and though we cannot suppose that it was spared in the civil wars between!Marius and Sulla, yet Julius Caesar, when he appropriated it to his own use on the breaking out of the second civil war, B.C. 49, still found in it enormous sums of money. (Plin. Nat. 33. § § 55, 56; D. C. 41.17 ; Oros. 6.15; Lucan 3.155.) Quintilian (10.3.3) speaks of it, in a metaphor, as still remembered, if not actually existing.

Upon the establishment of the imperial power under Augustus there was an important change made in the public income and expenditure. He divided the provinces and the administration of the government between the senate, as the representative of the old Roman people, and the Caesar: all the property of the former continued to be called aerarium, and that of the latter received the name of fiscus [FISCUS]. The aerarium consequently received all the taxes from the provinces belonging to the senate, and likewise most of the taxes which had formerly been levied in Italy itself, such as the revenues of all public lands still remaining in Italy, the tax on manumissions, the custom-duties, the water-rates for the use of the water brought into the city by the aqueducts, the sewer-rates, &c.

Besides the aerarium and the fiscus, Augustus established a third treasury, to provide for the pensions due to veterans on their discharge, and this received the name of aerarium militare. It was founded in the consulship of M. Aemilius Lepidus and L. Arruntius, A.D. 6. Augustus paid a very large sum into the treasury upon its foundation, and promised to do so every year. In the Monumentum Ancyranum (3.35-39), Augustus says that he paid into the treasury in the consulship of Aemilius and Arruntius 170 millions of sesterces; it has been suggested that this sum is probably the entire amount which he [p. 1.38]contributed to it during his whole reign. As he reigned eight years and a half after the establishment of the treasury, he would in that case have contributed ten millions of sesterces every half year; but there is no authority for this view. He also imposed several new taxes to be paid into this aerarium. (Suet. Aug. 49; D. C. 55.23-25, 32; Res Gestae D. Aug. ed. Mommsen.) Of these the most important was the vicesima hereditatum et legatorum, a tax of five per cent., which had to be paid by every Roman citizen upon any inheritance or legacy being left to him, with the exception of such as were left to a citizen by his nearest relatives, or such as were below a certain amount. (D. C. 55.25, 56.28; Plin. Paneg. 37-40; Capitol. M. Anton. 11.) This tax was raised by Caracalla to ten per cent., but subsequently reduced by Macrinus to five (D. C. 77.9, 78.12), and eventually abolished altogether. (God. vi. tit. 33, s. 3.) There was also paid into the aerarium militare a tax of one per cent. upon everything sold at auctions (centesima rerum venalium), reduced by Tiberius to half per cent. (ducentesima), and afterwards abolished by Caligula altogether for Italy (Tac. Ann. 1.78, 2.42; Suet. Cal. 16); and likewise a tax upon every slave that was purchased, at first of two per cent. (quinquagesima), and afterwards of four per cent. (quinta et vicesima) of its value. (D. C. 4.31 ; Tac. Ann. 13.31; Orelli, Inscr. No. 3336.) Besides these taxes, no doubt the booty obtained in war and not distributed among the soldiers was also deposited in the military treasury.

The distinction between the aerarium and the fiscus continued to exist at least as late as the reign of M. Aurelius (τὸ βασιλικὸν καὶ τὸ δημόσιον, D. C. 71.33; Vulcat. Gallic. Avid. Cass. 7); but, as the emperor gradually concentrated the administration of the whole empire into his hands, the aerarium likewise became exclusively under his control, and this we find to have been the case even in the reign of M. Aurelius, when the distinction between the aerarium and the fiscus was still retained. (D. C. 71.33.) When the aerarium ceased to belong to the senate, this distinction between the aerarium and the fiscus naturally ceased also, as both of them were now the treasury of the Caesar; and accordingly later jurists used the words aerarium and fiscus indiscriminately, though properly speaking there was no treasury but that of the Caesar. The senate, however, still continued to possess the management of the municipal chest (area publica) of the city. (Vopisc. Aurelian. 20.) The officers in charge are called in inscriptions praefecti aerarii Saturni; but the inscriptions which make mention of quaestores aerarii Saturni, who have been supposed to be their assistants under Hadrian and Severus (Gudius, Ant. Inscr. p. 125, n. 6, p. 131, n. 3; Gruter, p. 1027, n. 4), are of doubtful genuineness: the genuine inscriptions refer to the time of Claudius (Mommsen, Staatsr. 2.525). These prefects had jurisdiction; and before their court in the temple of Saturn all informations were laid respecting property due to the aerarium and fiscus. (Plin. Paneg. 36; Dig. 49, tit. 14, ss. 13, 15.)

In the time of the republic, the entire management of the revenues of the state belonged to the senate; and under the superintendence and control of the senate the quaestors had the charge of the aerarium. [SENATUS; QUAESTOR.] With the exception of the consuls, who had the right of drawing from the treasury whatever sums they pleased, the quaestors had not the power to make payments to any one, even to a dictator, without a special order from the senate. (Plb. 6.12, 13; Liv. 38.55; Zonar. 7.13.) In B.C. 45, when no quaestors were chosen, two prefects of the city had the custody of the aerarium (D. C. 43.48); but it doubtless passed again into the hands of the quaestors, when they were elected again in the following year. In their hands it seems to have remained till B.C. 28, when Augustus deprived them of it and gave it to two prefects, whom he allowed the senate to choose from among the praetors at the end of their year of office ; but as he suspected that this gave rise to canvassing, he enacted, in B.C. 23, that two of the praetors in office should have the charge of the aerarium by lot. (Suet. Octav. 36; D. C. 53.2, 32; Tac. Ann. 13.29.) They were called praetores aerarii (Tac. Ann. 1.75; Frontin. de Aquaeduct. 100), or ad aerarium (Orelli, Inscr. No. 723). This arrangement continued till the reign of Claudius, who restored to the quaestors the care of the aerarium, depriving them of certain other offices which they had received from Augustus (Tac. Ann. 13.29; Suet. Cl. 24; D. C. 60.24); but as their age seemed too young for so grave a trust, Nero took it from them and gave it to those who had been praetors or consuls, and who received the title of praefecti aerarii. (Tac. Ann. 13.28, 29.) In the time of Vespasian we read of praetores aerarii (Tac. Hist. 4.9) ; but in the reign of Trajan, if not before, it was again entrusted to praefects, who appear to have held their office for two years; and henceforth no further change seems to have been made. (Plin. Paneg. 91, 92, Ep. 10.20; Suet. Cl. 24.)

The aerarium militare was under the care of distinct praefects, who were first appointed by lot from among those who had filled the office of praetor, but were afterwards nominated by the emperor. (D. C. 55.25; comp. Tac. Ann. 5.8.) They frequently occur in inscriptions under the title of praefecti aerarii militaris, e.g. Wilmanns, 1144, 1202, 1214, 1720, &c. ; Walter, Geschichte des Römischen Rechts, § § 58, 179, 329, 405, 3rd edition, Bonn, 1860; Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, 2.293-305; Lipsius, ad Tac. Ann. 13.29.

[W.S] [A.S.W]

1 The remains of this temple are now recognised beyond doubt in the portico of eight Ionic columns on the Clivus Capitolinus, not (as by Becker, Röm. Alterth. 1.315) in the three adjoining Corinthian columns (Dyer, in Dict. Geogr. 2.781; Burn, Rome and the Campagna, p. 93, where the two ruins are figured together).

hide References (35 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (35):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 2.1.6
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 7.2.1
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.10.10
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.6.41
    • Polybius, Histories, 6.13
    • Polybius, Histories, 6.12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 22
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 16
    • Suetonius, Divus Claudius, 24
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 28
    • Tacitus, Annales, 13.29
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.75
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.42
    • Tacitus, Annales, 13.28
    • Tacitus, Annales, 13.31
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.78
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.51
    • Tacitus, Annales, 5.8
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.9
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 49
    • Lucan, Civil War, 3.155
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 33
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 23
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 38, 55
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 42
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 3, 69
    • Plutarch, Cato Minor, 17
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