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CONGIA´RIUM (sc. vas, from CONGIUS), a vessel containing that liquid measure (Paulus, in Dig. 33, 8, 13).

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, 6.3.52). 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, Scipio 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 (Liv. 25.2, with Madvig's note). Lucullus on his return from his Eastern victories distributed more than 100,000 cadi of wine to te people (Plin. Nat. 14.96). The name congiarium was also applied, less accurately, to presents of corn or other provisions. Thus Pliny speaks of king Ancus Marcius giving 6000 modii of salt as a congiarium to the people (H. N. 31.89). In the later republic such congiaria, like the giving of games and shows, were the regular passport to high office (Liv. 25.2; 37.57).

Under the empire the tranquillity of the capital was ensured by a gigantic system of out-door relief (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 (Suet. Aug. 41, Tib. 20 and 54, Ner. 7; Tac. Ann. 12.41, 13.31; Plin. Paneg. 25; Hist. Aug. Hadr. 7, Comm. 16, Al. Sev. 26, Aurelian. 48); but sometimes the former also are called congiaria (Cic. Att. 16.8; Curt. 6.2). The sums thus spent were enormous. Hadrian's congiarium was three aurei per head on his proclamation as emperor, double that amount on his arrival in Rome; Commodus gave 725 denarii to each citizen (cf. Casaubon's note l.c.). Marquardt has computed the imperial congiaria at an average of £90,000 a year from Julius Caesar to Claudius, £300,000 a year from Nero to Sept. Severus; it must have been, however, a periodical emptying of the treasury rather than a continuous drain.

Congiarium. (Coin of Trajan: British Museum.)

Congiarium was moreover used to designate presents or pensions given by men of rank to their friends, clients, or dependents [p. 1.529](Caelius to Cicero, Cic. Fam. 8.1; Suet. Jul. 27, Vesp. 18; and often in Seneca, e.g. de Brev. Vit. 8.2, “Annua congiaria homines clarissimi accipiunt” ; cf. Cons. ad Marc. 22.4, where the sacrifice of a political victim is Seianus' congiarium to a client). Fabius Maximus called the presents which Augustus made to his friends, on account of their smallness, heminaria instead of congiaria, because a hemina was only the twelfth part of a congius (Quintil. l.c.). (Marquardt, Staatsverw. 2.132-136.)

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hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 8.1
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 16.8
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 27
    • Tacitus, Annales, 12.41
    • Tacitus, Annales, 13.31
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 41
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 37, 57
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 6.2
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