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Reconstructing Beneficiarii

By Tim Edwards

“For the god Silvanus, Marcus Aurelius Modestus, Beneficiarius Consularis of the province of Britannia Superior and the Second Augustan Legion"

RIB 1696

The above inscription was set up by a beneficiarius of the Legio II Augusta at Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall (Collingwood & Wright, 1965).  The beneficiarius was a distinct rank within the Roman army, with a much more a specific role than that of a normal soldier.  There is no obvious modern equivalent rank within the modern British Army that neatly equates with that of the beneficiarius, but could be seen as roughly equivalent to a senior non-commissioned officer.  The responsibility of such men was chiefly to provide support to provincial administration, and particularly to the governor.  Duties ranged from clerical work, maintaining the integrity of communications and the messenger service, logistics, policing, intelligence and security, and the close protection of senior officers (Dise, 1995).  Beneficiarii with gubernatorial responsibilities, such as the aforementioned Marcus Aurelius Modestus, were known as beneficiarii consularis

A letter to a beneficiarius, found at Oxyrhyncus, Egypt (left)

 

The tools of imperial administration, part of the Leg II Avg static display (right)