Since, perhaps forever, I had always ‘known’ that the English word salary was derived from the Latin salarium, to the time when Roman soldiers were paid in salt for their service. Salt was a highly-prized and sought-after commodity due to its ability to preserve food and was, in part, also responsible for the development of civilization.
However, my world turned upside down when I read the following extract in a blog:
Here’s the simplest form of the myth.
The word ‘salary’ comes from the Latin word for salt because the Roman Legions were sometimes paid in salt.
– Wikipedia, ‘History of salt’
Peter Gainsford, the academician and author of the blog, Kiwi Hellenist, adds
‘Roman soldiers were paid in salt’ may be the simplest form of the myth, but it’s also a secondary form. […] that seems to indicate that people first started writing about the idea around the 1860s (here, for example).
The older, primary form of the myth is that soldiers were given ‘salt money’, that is, a monetary allowance for buying salt. This, too, is a modern invention.
Wikipedia has since corrected that information, the same historical detail which I had always considered ‘common knowledge’.
The word "salary" comes from the Latin word for salt. The reason for this is unknown; a persistent modern claim that the Roman Legions were sometimes paid in salt is baseless
But Etymonline appears to perpetuate this “myth”
late 13c., "compensation, payment," whether periodical, for regular service or for a specific service; from Anglo-French salarie, Old French salaire "wages, pay, reward," from Latin salarium "salary, stipend, pension," originally "salt-money, soldier's allowance for the purchase of salt," noun use of neuter of adjective salarius "pertaining to salt," from sal (genitive salis) "salt" (from PIE root *sal- "salt").
What is the real history and etymology of salary?
Related but obviously not a duplicate of: I don't know the meaning of "salt allowance"