It’s Friday, so some of you lucky kids get paid today. I thought you might like to know just where your salary comes from. The word, at least. The source seems to be the Latin ‘salarium’ (‘sal’ being salt) which is a word tied to the payments made to soldiers in the early Roman salt trade. In those days, salt (regular ordinary table salt) was a prized and valuable commodity. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “you are the salt of the earth” or “worth your salt”, both are referring to the high value of salt.
In ancient Rome, the production and transport of salt was serious business. Everybody needed salt, and sometimes the prices would be raised in order to pay for wars. (sounds sadly familiar) Roman soldiers were paid to guard the operations, or to expand and conquer new salt sources. Pliny the Elder wrote in his histories that these soldiers were actually paid directly in salt. While that did briefly make for a much more interesting factoid, it’s generally believed to be false now. (I can’t help but wonder if soldiers would go out on a pay-day and buy some salt to put on the rim of a Caesar cocktail.)
So the exact details remain fuzzy, but the word has stuck. Still, salt was at the core of the economy for a time. It practically became a currency, as trade occured using the relative value in salt. (same idea as the “gold standard”)
So if your boss ever says he’s going to “garnish your wages”, ask for more salt.