by Freda Utley (MA Thesis at the London School of Economics, 1925)

(Retyped from old manuscript–footnotes deleted after first section) 


Chapters 4,5

                            THE NAVICULARII

Of all the collegia attached to the service of the annona, those of the navicularii seem to have been the richest and most important. There even seems reason to believe that people might still become shippers voluntarily even in the 4th century. Codex Theodosianus XIII. 5, 15 of 371 a.d. provides for the enrolment of members of the senatorial order in the corporations of shippers (“that those who wish it and who think themselves rich enough be admitted to the assembly of the shippers.”)
There are 38 laws in the Codex Theodosianus dealing with the navicularii and 10 dealing with their possessions, besides those dealing with shipwrecks – a far larger number than those dealing with the members of any other collegium.
Obviously in this, as in all ages, the owners of sea-going ships were men of some substance, and therefore regarded by the government as worthy of more consideration than others.
An additional reason for many laws concerning them is the fact that they were resident all over the Empire and so subject to the burdens of the provincials, whereas the other collegiati resident at Rome and Constantinople, did not require to be exempted from payments, burdens and vexations to which the residents in municipalities were subject.
Before returning to the recruitment of “navicularii” dealt with in some detail in this and other laws, the previous history of this collegium will be considered.
Ever since Rome ceased to be fed by Italy, and received her food supplies first from Sicily and Sardinia and subsequently from Egypt and Africa, she had to arrange for the transportation of the grain she required. In Republican days the “publicani” who collected the tithes in the provinces also saw to their transport overseas to Rome either in their own ships, or in the ships hired for the purpose. Under the Empire the wasteful and oppressive system of tax collection by publicani was done away with, first in the imperial provinces, and subsequently also in the senatorial. Still the State, whose officials, susceptores, now collected the taxes had to provide for their transport to Rome, and furthermore, had to make sure that a sufficient quantity of food supplies, other than taxes, was brought to Rome to supply the general market. Augustus instituted a praefectus annonae at Rome who, although chosen from members of the equestrian order, became one of the highest dignitaries in the Empire. This official looked after the provisionment of Rome. The State did not, however, itself build a fleet of ships for the transport of the taxes in kind and of purchased supplies. It contracted with shipowners, either individually or in companies, and seems to have paid them for their transport service by indemnities, presumably freedom from custom duties. But it was also necessary to encourage the building of ships in every possible way, in order that the Roman market might be supplied, and we find Claudius allowing privileges, such as exemption from the Lax Pappia Poppaea for citizens, and Roman citizenship to Latins, to all shipowners and further giving bonuses and subsidies to those who transported the State cargoes.
Into the vexed question of exactly what changes were made by Trajan it is not necessary to enter, but he appears to have made contracts with private individuals or companies, whose aid he secured by the grant of special privileges to all who should undertake the transport service, be they citizens or provincials. In these circumstances, regular Collegia of navicularii, or Shipping Companies, as we should say today, soon formed. These negotiated with the State, and information about them is found in the reigns of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. At this time the members of such collegia of navicularii were not always those who did work for which they were awarded privileges. “They sold corn and oil in the Roman market, but did not sail ships, and did not consacrate the greater part of their fortune to navigation and commerce. This is, of course, the golden age of the collegia, the time when the law favoured their formation and granted them privileges without in any way interfering with their freedom of action. By Septimus Severus the first signs of ominous change are apparent, for now, although immunity for taxation is the privilege of each member of a collegium of navicularii, yet the transport of the annona is referred to as a munus publicum. Thus inperceptibly the transport service, once a voluntary undertaking, by the time of Diocletian becomes an obligation incumbent on all the members of the collegia of navicularii. From the time of Constantine we can trace out pretty clearly the exact position of the collegia of navicularii as reflected in the long series of laws in Book XIII of the Theodosian Code.
It will be well to bear in mind that many of the navicularii must even at this stage have been rich men with large properties, and it is probable that many senators invested their money in shipping companies without ever setting foot on a boat, or having anything to do with the actual transport and commerce. As some of the laws obviously refer to people of this type, and others to the actual captains of ships, there is some confusion in view of the fact that both types are called navicularii, and evidently were counted equally as members of the collegia of navicularii. Occasionally a magister navalis is referred to who may be the captain of a ship, or fleet of ships, hired by the owner or owners, and himself ranking as a nauta rather than a navicularius. I will return to this question after the laws relating to navicularii have been examined in detail. In the reign of Constantine we have arrived at the time when the collegia of navicularii have become collectively charged with a munus publicum and when the members have become, together with their property, hereditarily liable to this munus. The navicularii appear, however, to have been the most favoured of all the collegia. Gothfredus has pointed out (Vol. V. P.65) that of the 38 constitutions relating to the navicularii, 13 speak of their privileges. This number is partly explained by their peculiar position see p. 53. Firstly Constantine in 329 a.d. exempted all navicularii from the special taxes in the following words: “We ordain that all shippers in the realm shall for all time be exempt and secure and immune from all burdens and duties (onera et numera) wheresoever they may dwell and to whatever rank they may belong; whether they are decurions or plebeians or people of any higher rank, in order that free from “collectiones” and all “oblationes” they may perform their duties as “navicularii” with undiminished possessions. This law in its wide exemption from all oblationes and collationes meant for senators exemption from the collatio globalis, the aurum oblatitium and the oblatio votorum i.e. from all taxation of any importance except the indicto on their lands. For the decuriones it meant escape from all the heavy duties and burdens, such as responsibility for the taxes of the municipality and the provision of the autum coronarium, duties and burdens which, as is well known, were gradually exterminating the middleclass landowners who composed the municipal curiae. Honorius in 395 a.d. amended Constantine’s Law of 329 by decreeing that decuriones who acquired praedia navicularis were to remain members of the curia and should only be held liable to the functio navicularia as regards that particular part of their estate. The law of Constantine quoted above also secured to all navicularii exemption from the lustralis collatio or chrysargyrum to which they would otherwise have been liable as merchants; this exemption would be the principal privilege acceded by this law to navicularii who were only plebeians i.e. who were neither senators nor members of the local curiae.
In 334 Constantine organised the navicularii of the Kaat when providing for the food supply of Constantinople. He granted to these navicularii some of the same privileges as to their brethren in Africa and Egypt. In C. Th. XIII 5.7. addressed to the navicularii of the East he says: “For the good of the city to which we have given its eternal name by command of God, we have thought to give you these privileges, that all navicularii are to be held immune from civil duties and burdens and services (nuneribus et oneribus et obsequiis) and are not to be compelled to accept civic honours by which they may be incommoded in any way . . . . . .”
The exemption from all munera and onera, collationes and oblationes for all shippers, for all time, wherever resident, is repeated in Valentinian’s law of 386, and would seem to imply that the navicularii of the East were treated in exactly the same way as the other navicularii, although the collationes and oblationes are not mentioned in C. Th. XIII 5.7 quoted above.
The exemptions granted in C. Th. XIII 5.5 and 17 imply exemption from all munera sordida et extraordinaria, that is, from all and sundry “corvees” special labour imposed arbitrarily by municipality or governors. It seems, however, to have been found necessary to provide specially for the immunity of navicularii from sudden requisitions or forced service. The same law of 329 forbids the ships of navicularii being retained for any duty against their will to whatever coast they may have come. In 324 A.D. Constantine addressed Helpidius prefect of the city of Rome and commands that “from whatever coast of Spain a ship of a navicularius shall enter the harbour of Rome and whatever fiscal cargo it may have transported thither, it is to depart without hindrance and without being constrained to any extraordinary burden”. (extraordinario oneri). The reason given for this care for the convenience of the navicularius is naturally “that it may the more easily fulfil the obligations laid upon it.”
In 336 A.D. Constantine finds it necessary to tell the Comes Hispaniarum that the navicularii of Spain are not to be made to perform any extraordinaria munera or to be delayed or worried en route.
The language of the law of Valentinian of 370 makes it seem that worse things than a little delay or worry might befall the navicularii, for he tells the praefectus urbi at Rome that the navicularii told off to carry the annona ought to sustain no violence, nor suffer extortion or any kind of inconvenience. He further commands that they are to enjoy complete security coming with the annona and returning, and he threatens with a fine of 10 lbs. of gold anyone who attempts to molest them.
It would obviously be the simple plebeian navicularii who sailed in their ships who would benefit most by these provisions, together with such members of decurion rank who captained their own ships.
Taking together all four constitutions forbidding the imposition of munera extraordinaris (C. Th. XIII. 5.4, 5, 8, 9) it would seem that the privilege is awarded irrespective of whether the ships were actually engaged at the time in transporting the annona or not. As practically all ships at this period were liable to the functio navicularis at some time or other, the question hardly arises as to whether ships not so employed were exempted.
The question which necessarily arises now is whether the navicularii were exempt themselves from the indictio or annona i.e. did they who served to transport the taxes in kind, which were the principal source of revenue for the Empire, themselves have to pay such taxes from the produce of their lands? The three main things which had to be supplied by all landowners (possessores) in proportion to the size of their estates and the number of capita on them, were the food supplies for the annona, the equorum collatio and the vestis militaris.
It has already been shown that all the corporati urbis Romae were exempt from the provision of horses and clothes for the army, though Gothofredus shows that these privileges were not always observed. We do not know the position of the navicularii in the provinces generally, but we do know that Valens expressly states that those of the Kast are not to refuse the vestis and horses.
It may be, however, that the navicularii of the East were not so favorably treated as those of Africa, Egypt and Spain, as they had not got so much work to do for the State.
We are slightly better informed on the question of the “prestatio annona”. The possessions of the navicularii were partially exempt in proportion to the share taken by each navicularius in the public transport service. Valens in 371 expressly states that for each 10,000 modii which they handle, the navicularii are to be exempt from the payment of annona on the produce of 500 jugera of land. It is true that this law of Valena refers only to the navicularii of the East, but as he has previously stated that the body of navicularii is to be filled throughout the provinces of the East, so that the numbers “shall be shown as great in the East as in Egypt to fulfil the present indictio”, it would appear legitimate to conclude that he is applying the same conditions to the navicularii of the East as to those of Egypt, and presumably also Africa. Further on he expressly grants the African privileges to these navicularii of the East. It should be remarked that Valens also expects the navicularii to provide for the expenses of repairs on their ships from — the exemption granted them. New ships, however, are to be built from materials supplied by the provincials for the occasion.
The collegia of navicularii were exempted from the payment of custom duties (portoria) when carrying on their own business, but special precautions were taken to ensure that merchants should not put their merchandise on the ships of the navicularii in order to escape the payment of custom duties. Navicularii are only exempt when proved to be carrying on their own business (cum sibi rem gerere probebuntur).
We have already seen that the navicularii were exempt from all the onerous municipal duties and payments, and could not be forced to become members of the local senates. This meant in effect that the navicularii, wherever resident, became servants of the central government, and ceased to perform any duties of local government, or to be of any assistance to their native towns.
This completes the list of their privileges, in so far as purely fiscal burdens are concerned. To summarise they were exempt from the following taxes and services: munera civilia, aurum coronarium, lustralis collatia (chrysargyrum), collatio, glebalis, surum oblatitium, oblatio votorum, vestis militaris and equorum collatio (this latter exemption not given to all navicularii – see above), from part of the anona payments and from all custom dues.
Besides these, there are certain legal privileges guaranteed to the navicularii which were well worth having.
In 334 Constantine provided that the navicularii of the East were not to be summoned to special judgment, even by imperial rescript, in cases of litigation about property or heredity or any other civil suits, but were to be allowed to answer the charges in their own forum. This was a not inconsiderable privilege; it saved them costly journeys and long delays, since not only the Emperor, but governors and other magistrates having jurisdiction could appoint a judge anywhere to try a case. It was in many ways of great advantage to be judged by the tribunal of one’s native town, rather than by a specially appointed judge.
Although Constantine, moved no doubt by his sympathy with the Christians and their ascetic ideals, had in 320 A.D. abolished most of the disabilities imposed by the Lex Julia et Pappia Poppaea on celibates and childless people, it was still forbidden for them to receive by will more than one tenth of the patrimony of a deceased person. In 334 A.D. in the law about the navicularii of the East cited above Constantine abolishes even this restriction in the case of the navicularii. At the same time he exempts them from the tutels, either legitimate (i.e. tutela of a relative) or that imposed arbitrarily by a magistrate, or by the judges (rectores) of the province. However, in 400 A.D. this privilege was restricted by Honorius, who decread that they must undertake the guardianship of the minors of their corpus.
In addition to these fiscal and legal privileges the navicularii were granted the dignity of equestrian rank. Some idea of the advantages to be derived therefrom is given by this law of Gratian which says that this privilege having been given, anyone who dares to do injury to them shall pay for his daring by being put to death, and having his property confiscated. This provision will, it says, by a timely suggestion, hinder from illegality the judges who perchance have been incensed by a false indignation, i.e. being members of the equestrian order, the navicularii cannot be submitted to torture when the judge gets into a passion. This privilege, of course only applies to higher ranks of seafarers, the ordinary sailors were not navicularii, and in cases of shipwreck they were tortured at the subsequent inquiry, although the Captain (magister navis) was exempt from this efficacious means of discovering the true cause of the shipwreck.
It remains to consider exactly what duties had to be performed by the navicularii, under what conditions and threatened by what penalties. Secondly, what payment and protection was allowed to them. Thirdly, how they were recruited, how far they were personally hereditarily bound to their condition and how far their possessions were bound to the functio navicularia. Lastly, what do we know of their status and prosperity.
A.    The duties. It has been stated above that the main function of the navicularii, from the point of view of the Government, was the transportation of the annona to Rome and Constantinople, and of the military supplies to different parts of the Empire. The objects transportable were:-
i) Grain, principally from Egypt and Africa, but also from the Black Sea region.
ii) Oil, especially from Spain.
iii) The supplies of vestes militares levied from the provincials all over the
Empire as part of the indictio or annona.
iv) The wood required for the baths of the capital cities.
The grain, oil and other products of the indictio were brought by the possessores (landowners) to the storehouses in the cities: From here they were transported as far as possible along the rivers to the ports of embarkation. Then they were taken aboard the ships of the navicularii and transported by them to Rome and Constantinople and to the “portus expeditionales” i.e. to the harbours whence military expeditions were sent out and where, therefore, the stores for the armies were brought.
Thus the function of the navicularii was twofold. First the transport of the annona to Rome and Constantinople, secondly, the transport of the military supplies to whatever port they were required.
The state cargoes had to be taken direct to Rome and Constantinople, and severe punishments were inflicted on those who lingered on route. In 409 Theodonius II decreed capital punishment on any navicularius who, having collected up the taxes due to the fix in order to transport them, should retail them, turning aside from his course to coast along devious shores. The following year Honorius at Ravonna tells the praetorian prefect that judges who have allowed laden ships to linger in the harbours of their diocese under pretext of winter, when a favourable wind made navigation possible, are to be punished by the loss of their fortunes, and the same penalty is threatened on both the curiales and the corporati of the harbour. The navicularii are threatened with exile, — if they are found to have committed any fraud.
The latter decree was issued in a year of famine after the sack of Rome by Alaric, and both it and that of 409 (which Waltzing takes as issued in 410 also) relate perhaps only to exceptional times. But in more normal times also it seems that the navicularii would sometimes take advantage of a scarcity, either widespread or local, to trade with the cargoes of the State. They would sell the products they were carrying at the high prices current in a particular locality which they passed on their voyage, and wait until the following season to buy food stuffs sufficient to make up the cargo again; as they would count on being able to buy cheaper in the ensuing year in or  in another part of the Empire, they were almost sure of a substantial profit. In such circumstances, the tendency to — cheat the State must have been very strong. In 395 Honorius tried to stop such “conversion of the taxes in kind into the assets of business” by ensuring the delivery of the taxes in the same year as they were collected. The captains of vessels were evidently provided with some sort of voucher for the goods they collected. In 356 Constantine had told the Comes Hispaniarum that the navicularii of Spain were never to be delayed en route, but were to be provided within ten days by the collectors of taxes with “relatoriae” of the goods they had transported and when they arrived at any islands, harbours, shores or stations, were not to be molested once they had shown their relateriae. Gothofredus takes relatoriae to mean quittance sheets, and would therefore relate this law to the voyage home or on private business after the transport of the state cargoes had been affected. Waltzing, however, thinks that relatoriae signify “lettres de voiture,” and would therefore relate to the voyage to Rome on state business. In view of the reference to susceptores in this law as the providers of the relatoriae, and in view of the fact that the government was concerned far more with the delivery of the annona at Rome than with the convenience of the shippers, Waltzing’s interpretation seems by far the most probable. Thus the shipper charged with the transportation of so much grain or oil from one or more Spanish ports to Ostia would be given vouchers of the amount he had collected by the susceptores (collectore of taxes) at those ports. In 392 Theodosius states that every shipper knows that his ” securitas” for the burden he has conveyed must be shown in the course of two years, or the amount will be made good out of his property. This law is addressed to the praetorian prefect of Illyricum and Africa, and Waltzing takes it to mean that the quittances had to be handed to the governor of the province to which the shipper belonged. The law of Honorius of December 395 designed to prevent the private trafficking in the taxes makes the position clearer: the decrees that, although the law of Constantine (unknown) which allows navicularii to report their receipts (securitates) at the end of two years from the date on which they embarked the taxes, is to remain in force, the navicularii are henceforth to deliver the taxes in the same year in which they embark them, and in order to prove that they have done so they are to hand in the quittances (securitates) of the same consular year as the year _____ when they embarked the cargo, thus proving that the delivery was made in the same year. The concluding words of the decree make this abundantly clear. “However we do not forbid 2 years (lapse) in the reporting of the receipts, (a lapse) due to inclement weather or chance misfortune so long as it is proved that they have faithfully performed their duty during the time specified above. This we wish to come to the notice of all, that they may know that the transmission or delivery must be completed in the same year as the collection.
These regulations prove incidentally that the navicularii were not occupied in the service of the state every year. At the most they can only have been employed on the state transport service every other year. The law issued in 334 by Constantine to Felix the praetorian prefect, shows indeed that the navicularii performed their voyages by “duly observed rotation and not promiscuously”. The Emperor piously hopes that thus “by means of alternate light assistance the fortunes of all, poor and rich, shall be preserved, nor shall it be necessary for any, always to be traversing the sea and be liable to many dangers — the work is to be laid equally and justly on all and help is to be given by an equal rule, nor are the poor to be involved in complaints of fruitless appeals.
This law shows incidentally that there was a tendency on the part of the richer navicularii to force their poorer brethen to take an unduly large share in the public transport service and it will be referred to later in the Chapter. Thus the navicularii were left with a fair proportion of the next one, unless exceptionally delayed on state duty by contrary winds. The navigation season was from April 1st to October 16th and 1/5 of the cargo of the city of Rome had to be transported at the beginning of the season. Waltzing states that at Alexandria the cargo had to be loaded by the end of August but he does not state his grounds for believing this. In any case the navicularii of Africa were better off than those of Egypt as the voyage to Rome from Africa was shorter than that from Egypt to Constantinople.
Some of the African shipowners transported wood for the use of the baths at Rome in lieu of food supplies. Their privileges were confirmed in 364 by Valantinian and Valeus. Perhaps it was they who put up an inscription at Ostis in the name of the Navicularii liguarii.
The navicularii were compelled to build new ships whenever necessary and to see to the repairing of the old ones. Occasionally the government helped them with supplies of wood for the building of new ships as for example in the case of the new body of Eastern shipowners. But normally the navicularii had themselves to build the ships necessary and they were strictly supervised to see that they built such as were of the decreed kind and capacity.
Damages and repairs due to age and neglect had to be made good from their private means though evidently here again the officials of the state took care to see that they did their duty.
The money they saved as the result of the immunity from taxation granted to their lands was regarded as the fund from which the expenses of repairs could be made good.
The most severe laws related to cases of shipwreck. From them it would appear that it was a common means of defrauding the government to dispose of the state cargo by illegal sales and then to hide or destroy the ship and report a shipwreck. Drastic measures were therefore necessary to stop such frauds and whilst the wretched navicularii are threatened on the one hand with penalties for delaying in port under the excuse of inclement weather in cases of shipwreck they are subjected to a terrible enquiry and forced to make good the losses —–, unless they are proved innocent.
Six laws of the Codex Theodosianus relate to shipwrecks (naufragiis) i.e. the whole of Section VIII of Book XIII.
The captain of a ship was bound to deliver his state cargo; if for any reason he did not do so an enquiry had to be instituted; if he did not report his shipwreck and get himself proved innocent by an enquiry the loss had to be made good to the Treasury. When a shipwreck occurred the navicularius had to hasten to the judge of the province in which the matter occurred and to prove his statement by means of witnessess. The latter if satisfied of the truth and must send a report to the praetorian prefect who alone had the right to remit a debt due to the fiscus. This law of 372 A.D. states that if the appeal to the prov. governor is not made within a year it will not be heard.

The next law at the end of that year tells the prefect of the African annona that in the cases of misfortunes occurring to a ship which sailed direct to Rome the case must be brought before the judges within the space of a year. But in the case of ships sailing with provisions for the army to harbours at a greater distance, or sailing to Constantinople, two years are allowed in which to make an examination of the prescribed number of sailers and so to ascertain the truth. The same law states that in such cases of shipwreck or damage from the elements, a certain number of the sailors on the ship are to be submitted to the torture, remarking pleasantly “quoeorum torrentis plenior veritas possit inquiri.” The number of sailors who are thus to be persuaded to reveal the truth will depend on the size of the ship.

The next law in 380 lays down further particulars as to the procedure of the enquiry and provides for cases in which the whole crew has been lost in a storm. “In order that truth may not be hidden” enquiry is to be made of the relations of the navicularii. The law also shows that in cases of need the navicularii had to sail during the bad season i.e. after 15th October and before 1st April. They had evidently asked for compensation for damage occurring on these dangerous voyages in the form of a coimetrom of 3% (semis per 200) but this is refused to them.
Theodosius law of 391 shows that sometimes part of the cargo was thrown overboard in rough weather in order to save the ship, and it is recognised that such casting away is well done and avoids greater loss. But the Treasury is not to share the loss with the possessores whether they be senators or private persons. It is not clear whether the law means that the state refuses to bear any of the loss incurred. It goes on to say that when there is no witness of the danger the losses of the storm are to be restored and the expenses paid for by the “prosecutor”. Who this “prosecutor” is, is very obscure. Gebhardt says a prosecutor was charged with the duty of accompanying the cargo and overseeing the delivery to the competent authority. His name does not however occur elsewhere in the laws relating to ships and shipowners. The law ends up as follows “ut ad acrum injurism retorquoantur, qui minus idoneos nominsrunt, non ad eos redeant, quos cenpl constitorit uisse devotos.” It is probable that those who have already paid are the tax paying landowners and these are not to produce the supplies over again. Whoever nominated the prosecutor has evidently got to make good the losses; was he nominated by the collegium of Navicularii?
Another law of 327 says that the prefect of the annona (at Rome) and the vicar of the city are to compel the shippers to prove the good faith of their actions by a legal trial in cases of shipwreck when they have drowned their cargo or lost it or whenever they have incurred losses. Delay and neglect to do so are to be punished. In 412 Honorius in addressing the African navicularii is more explicit.
Cases about sunken ships are to be tried in open court (levato velo). If anyone is found to have accepted a bribe in connection with the proceedings, the judge who tries the case shall, when those who are being robbed complain, have power to fine or remove or prescribe according to the rank of the culprit. If the cognitor (before whom the report of the occurence was first made) of such cases affected by a petition, or by being spoken to before he mounts the Tribunal, shall neglect to hear such cases within the prescribed time limit – that is within 2 years for the cases dealt with in the old law – he shall suffer as follows for his premature judgment: the navicularios being released on account of the venality of the judge, the judge himself shall be compelled to bear half of the cost of the goods about the loss of which recognition was sought within the prescribed time, the judge’s office is to pay the other half.
All this shows that only in cases where the shipwreck is quickly reported and clearly proved with the Treasury bear the loss of the cargo. In all doubtful cases either the naviculari or the magistrates are held responsible and are forced to make good the losses to the Treasury from their own pockets.
The captains of the ships being of equestrian rank were not subjected to torture, but the ordinary sailors who were not navicularii and are referred to simply as nantae, were like all the plebs, liable to be tortured. One cannot help conjuring up a sad picture of these wretched seamen saved from the violence of the elements only to be subjected to the violence of mankind, in order that by being tortured “truth might be revealed”. St Augustine saw the cruelty of the laws in their regard when he refused to accept a legacy of ‘navicularean’ property left to the church.
Payments Compensation and Protection.
We have already seen that the navicularii were exempted from the payment of the annona at the rate of 500 jugera per every 10,000 modii transported. In addition they received gold solidus for each 1000 modii of grain transported. Further those of the East received 4% of the grain and those of Africa 1%, but these latter percentages were really an epimetron i.e. a percentage calculated to cover losses (diametron) normally incurred in the transit of perishable goods. Presumably a similar epimetron was allowed for the transport of oil or other state supplies; we know that 2-1/2% was allowed to the collectors of oil and wine. The fact that the percentage was given to cover losses in transit is proved by a decree of 414 which says that if at anytime a naviculariius incurs loss beyond that covered by his percentage the prefect of the city of Rome is to select three men of “illustrious” rank and is to institute an enquiry within five days of the arrival of the ship at Portus. The prefect of the annona is to be present at the enquiry. The amount of the loss is to be ascertained and whoever is found guilty of the fraud is to be led quickly under a warrant to Africa accompanied by an “executor”. Arrived in Africa he is to be judged by the prefect of the annona there, and the latter is to take care to make him pay up at once what he owes. If the authorities allow the naviculariies to delay beyond the prescribed time they themselves are punished. the prefect of the annona in Africa together with his officium is to pay a fine of 6 lbs. of gold to the Treasury. The apparitic of the urban prefecture of Rome is to pay a fine of 3 lbs. of gold. The prefect of the annona at Rome is to pay 2 lbs. of gold to the stored largesses unless he has expressly immediately hurried on the cognitio within the prescribed time. Enquiry into those affairs is to be made even on holidays and holy days.
It seems that the authorities are often lax in the execution of the decrees relating to the navicularii for this law says at the commencement that it contemplates well considered remedies for the dissimulation and corruption of the offices of the urban prospecture and the prefect of the annona. This slackness was obviously due to bribery as we can gather from the strict regulations against any money transactions between navicularii and officials. C.Th.XIII. threatens with a fine of ten pounds of gold the navicularii and judges, the proconsul and the vicar and the men of ‘spectobile’ rank, — the prefect of the annona and the bureaus of all those officials of the navicularii pay over their percentage to any of these officials or give any of them a tip (sportula) from their own private property either voluntarily breaking the law or being compelled thereto. All these people are to know they are liable to be fined. The next law decrees that any apparitio with the duty of looking after the grain supply is to be punished if he is proved in court to have received anything from a navicularius or from the captain of a ship. Obviously it often paid a shipowner or ships captain to bribe the officials who were supposed to supervise him and his cargo and this is only one example of the prevalent corruption in the civil service at the time. From the reference to bribes being compulsorily paid we can also see that the navicularius who neglected to tip the officials might find himself worried and even prosecuted by those officials, although innocent of any offence. The efforts of the Emperors to stop intimidation and corruption were perpetual attempts to solve the problem of “quis oustodiet custodes ipeos”. We can conjecture from the many decrees, which are aimed at enforcing observance of the provileges conceded to the navicularii that the latter must often have found it necessary to tip the officials merely to obtain their legal rights and hence these regulations can be taken as measure mainly designed to protect the navicularius.
Others beside officials might rob the shippers. Honorius in 400 decreed that where frauds were discovered the “solidi” which the praefectus urbi has been efficient enough to take from those who stole the gains of the shippers, were to be used for the needs of the shipper, i.e. handed over to the navicularii not taken by the fine. A severe (quadruple) punishment is to be inflicted on the thief.


Like the members of the other collegia the navicularii were compelled to remain navicularii but only so long as they retained their hereditary possessions. But they were somewhat more fortunate than members of the less wealthy ‘corpora’ for it would seem that their possessions, and not, their persona were bound to the functio navicularia. In 375 Valentinian tells the vicar of Africa that when the navicularii sell their property the buyer must perform the duty of a navicularius in proportion to the portion he has bought “for the thing itself is burdoned not the person of the seller”. Further the buyer is not to be made a navicularius himself, but the property which he has bought is to be burdoned in proportion to its size. Furthermore Theodosius in 392 allows navicularii to enter the army and rise to enjoy privileges “so long as there is no danger of the shipowners being disquieted, if they neither remain in the corporation of shipowners nor retain possession of the property which is liable to the functio navicularia.”
On the other hand other laws lay down that all whose descent shows them to be liable to the duties of a navicularius are to perform the duties of one. Such persons and their heirs and lands are to be mindful of their duties so that the corn tribute of the sacred city (Rome) and the needs of the harbours whence military expeditions are sent out, may be met. All who are made shippers ‘pro merita’, i.e. on account of their property qualifications are to be shippers for all time. Any man belonging to the corporation of shippers who has fled from his accustomed duties and come to undeserved honour (officium) is to be returned to the corporation of navicularii to which he belonged i.e. shippers are not to enter the civil service.

It will be seen that there is some confusion in the laws but it seems fairly obvious that the general intention is that no one who holds “navicularian” property is to avoid the duties of a nvaiculariae. The confusion tends to disappear when one remembers that the “functio navicularia” did not necessarily mean going to sea, as already observed many wealthy people invested money in shipping companies in the prosperous days of the Roman Empire without having anything to do with the sailing of the ships. A navicularium therefore might be merely a man whose property, having once been invested in shipping, was now in the 4th century for ever bound to the function navicularia. This latter duty meant (a) being responsible for the transport of a certain quantity of Government supplies, (b) being responsible for the building and upkeep of a ship or ships. Others could be hired to do the work but payment must be made from the produce of the lands held by the navicularii. If they cared to give up their property or could induce someone else to buy it they became free personally. The state did not suffer since the purchaser took over the responsibility and burden from the buyer. The laws referred to below in the section on the “praedia navicularia” make this quite clear. But immunity from the functio navicularii was never to be given if he who desired it retained his hereditary property. Not even the highest officials can escape or be excused no privileges of office are to relieve them from performing their duty of navicularii if they possess a patrimony liable to the functio navicularia. They must be held liable for the whole or for a portion. “For”, states Constantine, “it is not fair that anyone’s patrimony should be excused, all must bear the common burden according to their capability. Naturally anyone excused cast a heavier burden on those still liable. No one is to escape his duties by obtaining an imperial rescript by any means whatsoever.

Pradia Navicularia
A series of ten laws deal especially with the possession of the navicularii.
First Constantine in 326 tells the navicularii that they must not themselves pass judgment in cases of possessions alienated by navicularii who wish to escape their duties. However the purchasers of such possessions are to be compelled by the prefect of the annona to perform the service to which they have thus rendered themselves liable.
The next law seems to make it clear that the hereditary estates of the navicularii are under the control and ownership of this corporation and are to be returned to such control and ownership in whatever way they have passed into the ownership of outsiders.  This cannot refer to the properties of the whole collegium, i.e. lands, etc., which have been left to the collegium in part or have been acquired by the collegium itself in other ways for the words patrimonia used implies that the possessions referred to are those of individual navicularii.  Thus the private property of the individual navicuarii is held to be under the control of the whole collegium and it is inalienably under that control.  Such a property can be sold to others, but the purchaser then becomes burdened with the performances of the functio navicularia and the property thus remains under the control of the whole corporation.  If the purchasers do not wish to performs the duties due by law from the share of the property they have bought, the said property has to be given back to the corporation.  Presumably the latter then found another purchaser or the original navicularlaria who had wished to sell out had to take back his property and go on performing his duties.  But it is quite possible the property was simply taken over by the whole corporation of navicularii

The same rules applied to gifts or transfers to sons, or neighbours or outsiders. It is expressly stated by Valentinian in 372 that unless the receiver is ready to shoulder the burdens originally performed by the seller, the property is to be handed back to the seller i.e. the original owner, by an “actio in rem”. Honorius ‘ law of 399 repeats the same regulations.
It is ——– abundantly clear from the whole series of laws that the buyer or inheritor, or receiver of any sort, of property originally belonging to a navicularius, is only liable to the functio navicularia in proportion to the amount of property received. His whole patrimony is not to be concerned with these burdans, the part which did not originally belong to a navicularius “is free from the chain, idle and free from serving.”
It is also specially arranged that the houses, the care of which rather adds to the beauty of the city than brings in profit, are alienated by navicularii, the recipients are only to be made to pay —- in so far as such houses bring in a profit i.e. when they are let. If not let the price of purchase was taken as the amount involved, improvements since —- are not to be considered.
Even members of the imperial household are not to escape the services due from any possessions they have which are liable to the functio naviculari.
Special arrangements are made to preclude the lapsing owing to time or claims by navicularii to their property. Two laws state briefly, one in 370 and one in 365 that lapse of —— not to preclude law suits in cases of navicularii claiming —- property. Then in 317 Honorius decreed that possessions sold by navicularii and —– from the functio navicularis on account of a public contract were to be held liable to that functio if it were proved within 20 years that they were at —–. It is expressly stated that the object of the law in the preservation of the transport service.
In 403 Honorius extends the limit for reclaiming property belonging to navicularii to 30 years, provided that no lawsuits had been instituted for this purpose in the meantime. This must mean that if such law suits had been —— before the end of the 30 years claims can still be heard after the 50 years.
We have seen that the navicularii were primarily the descendents of those who had voluntarily invested their property in shipping companies in the days of the prosperity of the Empire and those who possessed ships themselves directly either sailing them themselves or hiring others to do so. Both classes were members of the collegia of navicularii. But it was not enough to tie down those whose descent and hereditary property showed to be navicularii; others must from time to time be enrolled in the collegia and ——- we have seen that it was apparently sometimes possible for landowners to voluntarily become members of the shipping corporations.
It would appear that when Constantine founded his new imperial city he had to arrange for additional ships to carry its annona from Egypt; evidently the navicularii who had formerly performed the state transport service from Egypt to Rome were not sufficient in numbers.

There is no law of Constantine’s extant on this subject but Valens addressed a decree to Modestus the praetarian prefect in 371 in which he refers to the intention of the divine Constantine subsequently confirmed by practice, in accordance with which he commands the body of shippers to be fitted throughout the provinces of the East so that the number of naviculari should be shown as great in the East as in Egypt. This “in order that the present indictio might be dealt with”, it seems therefore that a new body of navicularii had been created by Constantine, partly to carry supplies from Egypt in conjunction with the navicularii from Alexandria, and partly to bring supplies from the Black Sea regions. They would presumably also be employed on any necessary transfers of supplies from one province of the Eastern profecture to another.
There were henceforth four groups of navicularii the Spanish, the African, the Egyptian and the Eastern. There were probably collegia of navicularii in many towns but they were told, for service on one of the four routes i.e. Spain to Rome, Africa to Rome, Alexandria to Constantinople, the Black Sea to Constantinople, any of them might be employed instead to transport military supplies to the ports near the armies. There was an old established body of the navicularii at Rome who took part in the transport of supplies from Africa. It is to be noted that the corporation of the Eastern navicularii being a more artificial foundation than the old established ones of Spain, Africa, Egypt, appears to have been difficult to keep going. In 409 Theodosim says that the bodies of navicularii in the Eastern provinces are tottering owing to the dearth of ships and strictly forbids the owners of ships to hide them in the islands until the navigation season passed.
The C. Th. distinguishes the navicularii of Spain, Africa, Egypt an the Orient and likewise those of Rome who evidently helped to transport the supplies from Africa. Separate lists of th emembers of all four bodies seem to have been drdawn up. In the case of those of the East Valens decrees that the homes, place of reisdence and property of these navicularii are to be reported written in a duplicate list. In the list information is to be given as to how many there are of long standing and what sort of persons have been recently associated with them by choice. To these privileges are assigned but they themselves and their property are to be liable to the functio navicularia together with their descentants who inherit after them.
There are corporations of navicularii whose members are to be recruited in the following manner; from ‘Administratores’ and other men in office, except those who are employed in the sacred palace, from the assembly of curiales and from retired shippers, from the order principilares, and from the senatorial rank those who wish it and who think themselves rich enough. The intention of the law is not quite clear but it seems fairly obvious that apart from the senators, members of the classes mentioned are to be compulsorily enrolled.

Clearly there was difficulty in getting new members seeing that time expired navicularii who had held every office in the collegium and had retired duly discharged are to be called up again. It is remarkable that voluntary enrollment should be provided for in the case of senators but this only seems to prove that the latter class was so much richer then any other that it would not feel the burdens of the function navicularii to be too heavy and would consider the compensations worthwhile. All the same those enrolled by force in the corporation of navicularii were always men of substance. For example Theodosius in 390 expressly states that the corporation of Jews and Samaritans is not called by law to the functio navicularia; for whatever seems to be decreed for a whole corporation can compel no one person specially.

On the one hand those who are needy and those who are engaged in petty commerce, are not compelled to undertake the duty of coasting transport but those who have sufficient means are to be chosen from that body to perform the said duty. The words “Naviculariae translation is ——” used in this decree may mean the duty of conveying passengers for the government and cargoes whort distances along the coast —-. The term is not found in the other decrees where the general transport service is usually referred to as the functio naviculaira.

However as it is not known where this corporation of Jews and Samaritans was resident, it is impossible to say whether the general transport service is referred to or not. The main point is that this decree shows us that the navicularii were not to be chosen among poor men who might own little boats which they used in petty commerce at no great distance along the coast. Obviously there must have been plenty of little boatmen and owners of very small craft who were of no use to the annona but would, like all other persons of lower rank be liable to be called out on various “corvees” for the government.

Nevertheless some of these boatmen were members of the collegium of navicularii. Such were the levementarii referred to in the first of the decree about the navicularii. A levementarius was the owner of a small boat attached to a large one for the object of discharging goods from the latter. The decree of Constantine referred to says that a navicularius who is by origin a levementarius is to remain attached to those to whom his parents were attached.
It is probable that the owners of other small craft such as the lenuncularii and scapharii were included under the title of levementarii.
It seems surprising that the curiales were allowed to become navicularii thus ceasing to be —- responsible for the duties and payments incumbent on the members of the municipal senates. It was indeed the only collegium into which the curiales could enter and even this right was finally taken away from them. In 371 in the decree of Valene already dealt with this Emperor gives the curiales as one of the classes from which he suggests the new navicularii of the East are to be chosen. Cratien in 380 goes still further when he tells the navicularii that in accordance with ancient constitutions there is the custom which allows the navicularii to co-opt decurions into their corportion (et plerumque et ordinarios curiales naviculariorim sibi secessitas bindioaret).

Theodosius modified the former decrees in 390 when he decided that one of the sons of a navicularius must remain in the curia when the praetorian prefect enrolled curiales amongst the navicularia. This is the sense in which Waltzing takes the decree but it does not seem clear that this is necessarily the meaning. The wording is as follows “Quae de naviculariis et curialibus ordinasti, maneant inlibite adque perpetua sint perpetua navicularii, quia, qui merito esse debeant, providisti”. Could not this mean equally well that the praetorian prefect had been enrolling men in the corpus of navicularii and laying down regulations for the curiales at the same time.
It seems extraordinary that curiales should not only have been allowed but sometimes compelled, to become navicularii and cease to be curiales. It would prove that the position of the navicularii was not so favourable as one might have imagined otherwise, this question is however discussed in the section on the economic and social position of the navicularii.
Towards the end of the 4th century at any rate Honorius saw what evil the previous regulations might do to the municipal senates for it forbade curiales to become navicularii even if they had become owners of res naviculariae. In such cases they were to remain curiales but were also to perform the duties of a navicularius “ut et ordines curiam nostrarum reddantur indemnaes et patrimonia naviculariorum non pereant sed functionis uteanue et atus habeatur incolumis”. They became in fact, like the other possessors of res naviculari dealt with in the section on “de praedie navicularis,” sleeping partners in shipping companies, or rather shareholders who had no say in the business of the navicularii but who provided most of their funds. For generally speaking a man could not follow two callings at the same time though he could hold properties which paid towards the expenses of various collegia at the same time.

There is one exception in the case of the navicularii but this may be due to the fact that it occurs in an early law of Constantine. Navicularii who are held by the law of heredity to belong to the body of millers, are to give up the property by which they are so bound, to relatives of the deceased on to the corporation of bakers, or, if they keep their inheritance, they must take upon themselves the munera of the pistores and at the same time defray the onera of shippers from their own resources; i.e. they are to be liable to the duties both of navicularii and pistores.
An interesting sidelight on methods of recruitment is provided by the case of the navicularii who supplied wood for the heating of the baths. Apparently the navicularii of Africa conveyed wood for this and other purposes but in 369 Valentinian told the prefect of the City of Rome that sixty of the navicularii and of the linen weavers were to be held for the service of the baths. It is laid down that these sixty individuals are to be suitable and to have sufficient means. If a fatal accident or sudden poverty, or any misfortune, shall effect one of them, a suitable man is to be chosen to take his place from among the trades liable. Not more is to be demanded from these individuals than the needs of the baths warrant or than is customary.
Symmachus shows clearly that these 60 navicularii become mancipes thermarum and were not merely shipowners who transported wood.
The actual enrollment of new members and the apportioning of the burdens was in the hands of the corporation, but under government supervision. We have already seen this in the case of the curiales compelled to become navicularii by Gratian, that the navicularii themselves could do the choosing.

The choice is however always subject to the approval of the prefect as — people with sufficient property must be chosen, the navicularii can choose anyone who is free of all state charges, such individuals are vacui and can be compelled to join a collegium only the navicularii are to take care not to choose an individual who is serving the municipality. “et quia ordinum vestrum supliari et iamnominum adjectione audemus quoscumoue vacuos publica invenerit officio, in complexum vestri ordinis adplicate, dummode is, qui in municipalibus manet causis, nominatiuone ordinis son teneatur”. This nomination of the ordo was sufficient so long as it did not try to enroll members of collegia of importance in the local government (see Part III).
The position at the end of the 4th century seems to have been that if anyone possessed a boat or a large ship he could be roped into the corporation of navicularii and either employed on the transport service or have to pay a stated sum toward the expenses of that service. There is one decree of 364 which states the case quite plainly for the boats on the Tiber. “Whosoever shall be found to possess a Tiber boat shall know the necessary burdens, in such a manner that no one’s privilege or dignity shall exempt him from this duty”.
By this time there were probably no owners of ships who if they did not already defray the expenses of, or take part in, the imperial transport service were not liable at any moment to be called upon to do so. Their ships once forced to take part in the transport service their owners probably became navicularii and so liable with all their property to the functio navicularii. This is in effect what Valden supposes when he says “on ne devrait pas etre surpris qu’en plus d’un cas, non pas seulement un barque ou le navire, mais tous les biens des proprietaires se fusent trouves graves des charges de cette corporation.”
As amongst other classes of the population the navicularii sometimes tried to avoid their duties by placing themselves under the patronage of powerful men. The extent to which patronage was prevalent in the case of farmers and peasants has been exhaustively studied by Zuleuta and it is interesting to find even such relatively well to do citizens as the navicularii also putting themselves under the protection of patrons to avoid taxation, exactions and duties. The two laws relating to such patronage are however very late 399 and 406 A.D. It was probably a late abuse which did not occur extensively during most of the period dealt with in this study.

The first warns all in Egypt that a fine of 20 lbs. of gold will be imposed on those who try to excuse their ships from the public transport duties in their own name or in the name of a defensio, further the public losses are to be borne by the masters who shall have tried to be excused by the patronage of powerful men. “Qui. . . potiorum voluerant patroiniis excusari.” Thus the “powerful” tried to excuse their own ships, and th ose of their dependants, from their duties and responsibilities.
the next law is more drastic. If anyone tries to avoid performing his public duty by putting forward the title of a powerful person the Treasury will confiscate his ship. Honorius here goes on to say that as he does not forbid private individuals to have ships, there is to be no fraud, since it behoves all in common, if necessary to attend to the public weal and attend to the transport without privilege of rank. This decree confirms the supposition that anyone could be forced to join the navicularii if he had a boat. It ends with a threat of confiscation within 30 days of all ships which have absconded as exceptions.

However, in spite of all decrees it must have been extremely difficult for local officials to force great landowners or important dignitaries to perform their duties and even harder for the corporations of navicularii to force such great men to perform their share of the duties. There must have been a good deal of unfairness between the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor.
The Corporations themselves assigned the cargoes and routes and the Government tried to assure that the richer members should not oppress the poorer and that they should perform the voyages in rotation,
All the laws on the subject which have just been dealt with show that rich men were required for the transport service. How otherwise could losses from shipwreck fraud and negligence be made up to the Government. Relatively speaking the navicularii were personally free, being often fairly rich they could hire others to do their work for them. We have already distinguished the navicularii who owned their own ships from those who had so to speak, shares in shipping companies.

The latter were navicularii; they not only paid for the expenses of the government transport and for building and repairs, out of the produce on their lands but they also shared in the profits of the navicularii gained in commerce. Thus although they might not actually own a whole ship or ships they had a share in the profits made in commerce by those ships. They are to be distinguished from the individuals who owned lands subject to the munera of navicularii but who were not navicularii; these latter had no share in the profits of the navicularii.
Many navicularii owned a ship or ships of their own; perhaps companies who shared profit and loss were rare, although it would appear that they must have been fairly frequent in view of the type of men enrolled as navicularii; senators and retired officials who probably knew nothing of seafaring could not easily have carried on the business of a shipper unaided; obviously they must have preferred to leave all the management, the building of ships and the business to skilled shippers with experience.

The actual business of sailing the boats was performed by the magister navalis who might himself be a navicularius who owned his own boat, or a navicularius with shares in a shipping company, or merely an employee of a shipping company. On the whole however it would appear from the laws that most of the Captains of ships were themselves navicularii seeing that these laws are constantly forbidding molestation of the navicularii en route and decreeing that they are not to be hindered or inconvenienced by the officials in their ports of call and at their journeys end.
As regards the commercial side probably here again some concerns were purely individual the owner of the ship himself doing his buying and selling en route. Often however, at any rate in the larger cities, they must have received orders for a definite quantity of goods to be sent and companies of shippers would undertake to convey them, sharing the expenses and the profits. One must bear in mind the fact that in the ancient world shipowners were always merchants and the business of buying and selling was carried on by the same people who transported the merchandise overseas.
Naturally much of all the above is mere conjecture, but it appears to be borne out by the evidence at our disposal.
Comparatively few inscriptions relating to the navicularii have been found. This is possibly due to the fact that they rarely formed collegia of the old intimate kind which had grown up among artisans, before the law favoured their formation. The corporation of navicularii were business concerns, companies rather than collegia and since their active members spent most of their time on the sea or in foreign parts there was little opportunity for social life and little regard was paid to the death of members.
The senators and officials and wealthy people generally who provided much of the capital for these corporations of merchant shipowners, found their social amenities elsewhere then amongst the mixed crowd of their associated shipowners and sea captains.
That there were great inequalities of wealth among the navicularii is shown in the laws. There must also have been a wide social gulf between the wealthy senator or knight, owner of many ships or with many shares in shipping companies, and the humble owner of one ship who sailed it himself and spent his life trafficking on the high seas.

As regards the ordinary sailors, (nautae) who sailed the boats captained by the Magistrie navales or the shipowners himself, we know practically nothing. It has been seen that they were subjected to torture in cases of shipwreck but we hear nothing of their hereditary liability. Some no doubt were slaves; possibly they could rise to be part owners or owners of ships, and become navicularii, witness certain inscriptions of navicularii who were freedmen.
The nautee of the great rivers who took such an important part in the commerce of the empire formed numerous associations and have left many inscriptions (Their case is more fitly a subject for Part III although they transported the annona to the ports of embarkation their service was only part of the ordinary duty of a provincial and carried no special privileges). Possibly some of the collegia of Nautae which do not expressly call themselves Nautae Marina were collegia of sea going Nautae.
It seems also possible that several men together may have owned a ship and have sailed it together with little or no hired or slave help. Such owners would all be classed as navicularii and would account for the large numbers of shipowners at places like Arles “Communal” ownership of this sort can be found today among the fishermen of Devonshire and Cornwall.
It should be noted that women were also members of the corporations of navicularii. There is actual mention of the wives of navicularii who are to meet their obligations as navicularii in the district where they are “adscripti” but when involved in private lawsuits they are to appear in the Count district of their husbands. Thus women become members of the municipality where their husbands reside for litigation and private suits, but they remain members of their birth place in so far as their duties as navicularii are concerned. However this law must refer to women who are daughters of navicularii and have inherited property from them. It is unlikely that they often, if ever, took part in commerce overseas on their own.
The seeming inconsistency of the laws relating to curiales not being allowed to become navicularii and being forced to become navicularii is perhaps explained by differences in the relative prosperity of the two classes in different cities and in different times under successive Emperors. Generally speaking the navicularii were personally freer and economically better off than the members of any other collegium dealt with in this study.


Lesser collegia connected with the annona


Caudicarii, Lemuncularii and Mensores


Saccaria and Bajuli – Portera



The large ships of the navicularii which brought the annona to the mouth of the Tiber not being able to mount that river had to disembark their cargo at Ostis.
The provisions were taken up the Tiber from there to Rome on rafts made of planks of roughly hewn wood. (naves caudicarii) drawn by oxen following the via Ostiensis. Such rafts could easily mount the river in spite of the tide and the men who owned them were naturally called caudicarii (sometimes written codicarii) with or without the word navicularii adjoined. An inscription from Tibur shows that some at any rate, were merchants as well as boatmen as might be expected on the analogy of other ancient shipowners.
The capacity of their boats was prescribed by law in 439 i.e. 2000 modii.
The corn was measured at Ostis when it was delivered by the navicularii and either sent up to Rome at once or deposited in the store houses at that port. In the latter case it was again weighed when it was taken out of the store houses and sent up the Tiber to Rome. It was also measured on its arrival at Rome, and lastly when taken out of the barns at Rome and delivered to the bakers.

The measuring was done at Ostis by the mensores frumentarii under the eyes of the tabularii of the prefect of the unions who gave out quittances and discharges. Inscriptions mention a corpus mensorum frumentariorum ostansium but they all date from the 2nd Century A.D. Later in the period dealt with in this study, i.e. in 389, the measurers of the harbour are called mensores portuenses. This inscription is very interesting for it deals with a dispute between the mensores and the caudicarii. This dispute, whatever it was about, was finally settled in that year by Hagonius Vincentius Cela, who, “whilst holding the appointment of prefect of the annona of the Eternal city behaved so well that all those who went to him to have their cases judged found him to be more like a parent than a judge”. He seems to have settled the dispute so fairly that both sides felt themselves to be victorious and went away perfectly satisfied.
The close connection between the service performed by the mensores at Ostis and the caudicarii is not only shown by their disputes but by the law which deals with their mutual defrauding of the Government. This law was issued by Honorius in 417 A.D. and addressed to the praetorian prefect. It is decreed that “in order to stop the frauds of the patrons of the caudicarii and the thefts of the mensores at the port” one out of all the patrons is to be chosen by agreement of all the corpus to be in charge of the stores at Ostia. He is to be in charge for five years and is to send a specimen (of the grain stored) secretly to his colleagues in order that bad quality grain cannot be put into the store houses in place of the good quality originally put in.

Thus evidently the mensores and candicarii had sometimes schemed together and replaced good grain by bad in the store houses at Ostia. The law goes on to say that if the man put in charge fulfils his trust he shall have the title of Gomes of the 3rd order bestowed upon him automatically after his release, i.e. after five years in this position of responsibility. If on the other hand he is found defrauding the government he is to lose his patrimony and be put to the lowest kind of work in a bakehouse.
The prefect of the annona is not to have the right of inflicting corporal punishment on the three senior patrons of each corpus.
This law might give one to understand that the caudicarii and mensores belonged to one and the same collegium but the inscriptions show this was not so. The mensores indeed formed more than one corpora themselves. The mensores at Rome itself formed a distinct collegium of their own. They are sometimes called mensores machinarii. This name seems to be explained by a figure on a IV or Vth century cup. This shows an official of the annona presiding at the weighing of the grain; in front of him is a large scale mounted on a prop (machine). It is the same cup on which some caudicarii are shown bringing the grain in wagons.
Waltzing quotes the Digest to show that the immunities given to the mensores of Ostis and of Rome by M. Aurelius and Commodus were not given to those of the provinces.
Although the candicarii are the only boatmen who are mentioned in the C.Th as forming a collegium definitely organised for state service the inscriptions show that there were other collegia of Tiber boatmen such as the Lenuncularii, scapharii, lintrarii.
Lenunculi were little boats propelled by a large number of oars and very pointed at the stern.
The scaphae were another type of small boat and the lintrae some sort of canoe. Probably all these little boats did duty in discouraging the oarsmen of seagoing ships to enable them to enter the harbour or mount the Tiber to Rome. Their owners were therefore in all probability included under the title of levamentarii. They may also have helped to transport the “annona’ from Ostia to Rome.
It will be more convenient to deal with these river boatmen together with the fishermen and divers (pisoatores minatores) under the section in Part III dealing with the “Nautae”.


S E C T I O N 2


Obviously large numbers of porters were needed to convey the government provisions from the ships of the navicularii to the storehouses at Ostia, and from these on to the rafts of the caudicarii. This work was performed by the saccarii (carriers of sacks) and there is actually a painting extant which shows them at their work at Ostis. The following description is translated from G. Roissier’s Promenades archeologiques. This painting shows one of those boats which were used to navigate the Tiber and which were called naves caudicarii. Each of them had its name, like boats in our own day, to call it by; this name was written in black or red on some prominent part of the boat. This particular boat had been named after a divinity but the name of the owner was also written to avoid confusion.       It was called the Isis Geminiane. On the roof above a little cabin the pilot Pharnaces stands with his hand on the rudder. Towards the middle the Captain Abascantus oversees the workmen. Porters bent under the weight of a sack of corn are coming from the river bank towards a small plank connecting the boat and the land. One has already boarded the boat and is pouring out the contents of his sack into a big measuring apparatus (modius) whilst a mensor frumentarius charged with the duty of safeguarding the interests of the administration, is watching to make sure that the measure is quite full; he holds the edges of the sack so that none of its contents shall be wasted. A little further off another porter, whose sack is empty, is sitting down resting and his whole expression shows the satisfaction explained by the words written below by the painter: “I have finished, feci”.
In 364 A.D. these saccarii of the “Port of Rome” were given a monopoly of the work of disembarking the cargoes of all boats arriving at Ostis. All goods of any description which have been brought to Ostis by private persons are to be carried by the saccarii themselves or by those who join their collegium. Fixed payments proportionate to the amount of time needed for the work are to be paid to them. If any private individual has the goods which have arrived for him carried by means of his slaves 1/5th of such goods is to be claimed for the benefit of the Treasury.
Gothofredus shows that this monopoly was given to the saccarii in order to afford them subsistence and enable to be available for their duties in connection with the annona.
It is a particularly interesting decree as it deals with the only case extant of a monopoly held by a trade guild. It is probably quite exceptional and was necessary for the sake of the annona.
It is also interesting to find a scale of payment fixed.
The saccarii must, however, naturally have been very poor people, who had to work extremely hard for the state, and whose only reward seems to have been this kind privilege of being allowed to do all the rest of the heavy dockers’ work at Ostis in order to earn enough to keep themselves fit for their government service. We hear nothing about their receiving any actual payment from the government. Desseu thinks the “susceptores of Ostis or Portus recreated for the use of the city of Rome in the 4th are the same as the saccarii.
Another collegium which it will be convenient to mention here is that of the Subarrerii. These were stevedores who carried balast into the ships; an illuminating illustration of the state of industry in Italy when products could not be bought at Rome or Ostis to fill the ships on the return voyage to Africa or Spain.
There suburrerii are only found on two inscriptions.
The cataboleuses – wagoners and muleteers who transported the corn at Rome itself, are dealt with in the section under pistores.
There are also porters at Rome called frugis et olei bajuli mentioned by Symmachus and these must have carried the corn as well as the oil discharged at the quays at Rome.
Perhaps they carried them from the naves caudicarii to the wagons of the cataboleuses.
The division of labour in the ancient world had gone far enough for us to believe this, and would also suggest that it may well be that one cataboleunses looked after several wagons drawn by horses or mules and could not himself load these all up unaided.
The bajuli are shown by Symmachus to have transported the oil from the store houses to the place of distribution.

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Chapters 6-8
Part 2  chapters 1-5