This Roman soldier's 1,900-year-old payslip confirms the green weenie is immortal

Mandatory Fun
The payslip belonging to Gaius Messius, a Roman auxiliary soldier who likely served in Masada, Israel between 72 and 75 CE. (Twitter/@DrJEBall)

A 1,900-year-old scrap of papyrus proves that while warfare may change, the bureaucratic bullshit that comes with military life does not.

A payslip belonging to a Roman auxiliary soldier, posted on Twitter earlier this month by archaeologist Joanne Ball, shows that the imperial grunt was left penniless immediately after getting paid once the military recouped expenses for food, equipment, clothes, and the like.

As it turns out, getting screwed over by the green weenie is a time-honored tradition that dates back centuries.

According to a translation available in the Database of Military Inscriptions and Papyri of Early Roman Palestine, this payslip belonged to Gaius Messius, a Roman auxiliary soldier who likely served in Masada, Israel between 72 and 75 CE.

The document was translated using the excavation reports, Christopher B. Zeichmann, the editor for the database, told Task & Purpose via email.

The receipt itself shows just how much of Gaius' hard-earned denarii, an ancient Roman currency, went back to the military. Here's the rough translation:

The fourth consulate of Imperator Vespasianus Augustus.

Accounts, salary.

Gaius Messius, son of Gaius, of the tribe Fabia, from Beirut.

I received my stipendium of 50 denarii, out of which I have paid barley money 16 denarii. [hand 2] […]rnius: food expenses 20(?) denarii; boots 5 denarii; leather strappings 2 denarii; linen tunic 7 denarii.

Let's do a quick tally of that pay slip:

  • 16 denarii for "barley money."
  • 20 denarii for "food expenses."
  • 5 denarii for "boots."
  • 2 denarii for "leather strappings."
  • 7 denarii for a "linen tunic."

That comes out to 50 denarii — leaving Gaius flat broke immediately after payday.

It'd be one thing if this was a receipt for clay jugs of wine and a new warhorse (at 25% APR, of course) or some sort of punishment for carving a bunch of dongs onto a wall, but having your whole paycheck vanish before you even get to blow it on leave is something else.

"It is interesting to observe how much of his pay went to mandatory expenses: clothing, food, etc," as the database notes. "He seems effectively penniless after payday."

Not much else is really known about Gaius, not his unit, though the original tweet cites it as Legio X Fretensis, or his rank, or what became of him. While there were other military papyri found at Masada from around this same time, Zeichmann told Task & Purpose, many of them were "obscure or highly fragmentary."

We do know one thing for sure, though: The green weenie will outlive us all.

SEE ALSO: Roman soldiers drew penises all over Hadrian's Wall more than 1,800 years ago

WATCH NEXT: This Is How Military Training Videos Ought To End

Col. Nicholas Petren, 90th Security Forces Squadron commander, during the 90th SFS change of command ceremony July 6, 2018 in the Peacekeeper High Bay on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. (U.S. Air Force/Glenn S. Robertson)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Air Force has removed the commander of the 90th Security Forces Squadron at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, over a loss of confidence in his ability to maintain a healthy work environment.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tony Curtis)

Three sailors assigned to the USS George H. W. Bush have died by suicide in the last week, the Navy announced today.

Read More Show Less

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two rockets were fired on Monday at central Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, which houses foreign embassies and government buildings, but there were no casualties or damage caused, security services said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts. One rocket exploded inside the Green Zone and another landed in the Tigris river, a statement from Iraqi security services said.

Read More Show Less

An Alaska-based soldier will most likely have a few bucks taken out of next month's paycheck.

Just after midnight on Sunday, the off-duty soldier drove his truck straight into the welcome sign of Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Fort Wainwright spokeswoman Eve Baker said in a press release.

Read More Show Less

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States will likely move some troops to Poland from elsewhere in Europe, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday as he and Polish President Andrzej Duda met.

Read More Show Less