salarius (Latin) – pertaining to salt – a salary is a regular payment for work, as opposed to an hourly or per-piece wage (piece-work). Salaries, and thus organised work, have been around for some 12,000 long years. The concepts of payment, salt, work and a livlihood have been linked for over 2500 years. Pliny the Elder said that Roman soldiers were paid with salt and the word salary comes directly from this link. But whether the payment was in salt or in gold coins, which the soldier could use to buy salt, is unclear. A salarium may more accurately be described as ‘a soldier’s allowance for the purchase of salt’.
(Image: Gatehouse of the Saline Royale, or Royal Salt Works, at Arc-et-Senans, France, architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux / Chris Reddaway)