The settlement of veterans in the Roman Empire
During the late republic, it was not recognized that the legionary, however long his service, had any right to a gratuity. But discharged legionaries, many of whom must have been of rural origin and hence desired to settle on the land, began to seek land-grants from the time of Marius. These continued intermittently during the late republic, and under Caesar and Augustus a large number of veteran colonies were established. During the principate most veterans probably received gratuities in cash. Some were settled by the government in colonies, both in Italy and the provinces, but when left to themselves most veterans preferred to end their days in the vicinity of the fortresses in which they had served. Indeed men who had been officially settled away from the military areas even returned there with this object. Partly for this reason veteran colonies ceased to be founded in Hadrian's reign. The poor conditions of service resulted in a decline in the number of Italians in the legions. They were replaced, in the western provinces, largely by men from the veteran colonies, communities which seem to have long retained the tradition of military service. In the east men were drawn from the non-Roman communities. But in both east and west these sources were insufficient, and the legions came to rely to a great extent on the recruitment of the sons of their own serving and veteran members. An increasing proportion of such men were now born and raised in the frontier zones, and probably few had the desire or the opportunity to adopt any other livelihood. Thus was established that voluntary hereditary service which in the difficult days of the third century was made compulsory. From early in that century, veteran gratuities took the form of a land-grant, made conditionally on their sons serving in the army after them, but by the fourth century the sons' service was being demanded automatically without any reference to a grant of land.