In what times and places was it common to give land to soldiers, as a form of payment for their army service?

I have learned in school that this was common in Rome. However, in the wikipedia article about Tiberius Gracchus, around 140 BC, they say that

Since legionaries were required to serve in a complete campaign, no matter how long it was, soldiers often left their farms in the hands of wives and children. Small farms in this situation often went bankrupt and were bought up by the wealthy upper class, forming huge private estates

It seems that these legionaries didn't get land as compensation for their service. Did this practice begin later on? 

  • I don't see a contradiction the way you do. Even if veterans were granted land at the end of their tour, they'd have to leave their existing farms in the hands of relatives. So both could be true. That said, ACOUP doubts that Marius granted land reforms.
    – MCW
    Oct 23, 2023 at 11:04
  • Needs focus... The headline and first few sentences seems to be asking for an endless list of examples throughout history, but then the rest of the body suddenly gets super detailed about Rome.
    – Brian Z
    Nov 2, 2023 at 21:56
  • The tag implies Rome is the intended focus, but for the broader question see jstor.org/stable/1291670 and jstor.org/stable/24657511
    – Brian Z
    Nov 2, 2023 at 22:03

4 Answers 4


The Roman armies of the early to mid-Republic were largely conscript based with the conscripts serving for a relatively short period. Only land owners were eligible for conscription. Conscripts were unpaid and expected to provide their own equipment. This worked well enough for a while but as the extent of Roman territory grew it proved increasingly problematic.

This lead to the Marian reforms of 107 BC. These reforms turned the Roman Army into a professional volunteer service. The land ownership requirement was abolished, soldiers were paid and their equipment was provided by the state. Also retirement benefits were introduced for soldiers who completed the term of their enlistment, including land grants.

  • Thank you! Can you also provide information on other times and places where it was common to give land to soldiers, as a form of payment for their army service? May 19, 2013 at 4:07
  • They weren't conscripts. The early-mid Republican armies were the men of the community in arms in many respects similar to the later Celts. It was a combination of sport, looting and defense. (Think of it as one of the rowdier volunteer fire departments with weapons...)
    – Mark Olson
    Oct 23, 2023 at 0:29

One example of land grant's as a reward for military service can be seen in the history of the United States.

The Military Tract of 1812 was an Act of Congress passed to reward, partially compensate or encourage soldiers who fought in the War of 1812. In fact, the policy continued until 1858 when they stopped issuing the Bounty Land Warrants and the rights to locate and take possession of the land ceased 5 years later.

Each soldier was rewarded with the rights to 160 Acres of land in tracts that now form part of modern day Arkansas, Michigan and Illinois.

An act of the 14th Congress, April 19 1816

An act of the 12th Congress, May 6 1812


Nigel Harper has given the correct chronology for Roman land grants to soldiers. There is an important point to be added, however: these land grants were always associated to the founding of a colony. That is, each such grant involved the founding of a separate settlement of veterans. I do not recall any insance where a soldier was simply given a farm or a plot of land in an existing settlement.


The Hetairoi (companions: regiments of noble heavy shock cavalry) of Alexander where often rewarded with land after victories. After the Galatians arrived in Anatolia they took land for themselves. The Ptolemaic Pharaoh's later gave many of them land in the fayuum delta in reward for military service. Giving land in reward for military service was common among the successor states. Many of ALexanders city's started by settling veterans in them.

William the conqueror did the same for his nobles thing after his conquest of England. Before that the Saxons had taken land for themselves after their conquest of England. It seems settling conquered lands with their own soldiers and families was common among the German tribes, since Caesar already records this practice by Ariovistus. Similarly after the crusades many nobles would receive (or take) land after a victory. Land grants in the roman military where already mentioned.

Giving land to core soldiers seems a common reward, in ancient and medieval times. This has a double purpose: Motivating those soldiers with a future reward (many of them where not actually paid) and controlling the newly conquered land.


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