At the core of republican power Mucia Tertia?

In this post I take a look at Mucia Tertia. Her extraordinary family connections raise some interesting questions about the status of women in republican era Rome.

Mucia Tertia was a daughter of Q. Mucius Scaevola (cos 95) and Licinia. Mucia’s father was himself fourth consecutive consul from his familyline. Q. Mucius Scaevola (cos 220) was the first of the line, his son P. Mucius Scaevola was consul at 175 and married with Licinia Crassa, daughter of C. Licinius Crassus. Two brothers of Licinia Crassa achieved consulships: P. Licinius Crassus at 171 and C. Licinius Crassus at 168. Son of P. Mucius Scaevola (cos 175) and Licinia Crassa was the famous P. Mucius Scaevola pontifex (cos 133). Consul 95 was himself son of Scaevola pontifex. Licinia later married Q. Caecilius Metellus Nepos (cos 98), so Mucia Tertia had very powerful relatives both from father’s and mother’s side with total of 9 consular-level relatives:

  • Q. Mucius Scaevola cos 220
  • P. Mucius Scaevola cos 175 (married to Licinia Crassa, sister of consuls of 171 and 168)
  • Q. Mucius Scaevola cos 174 (brother of Scaevola cos 175, father of Scaevola augur cos 117)
  • P. Mucius Scaevola pontifex cos 133
  • Q. Mucius Scaevola cos 95
Mucia Tertia family

Mucia Tertia and her family connections.

Such hyper-connected person might be expected to marry according to her family status and this is what also happened to Mucia Tertia.

Her first marriage was to C. Marius cos 82, the son of record braking 7 times consular C. Marius. Younger Marius was by the way also married to Licinia Crassa Secunda, a daughter of famous L. Licinius Crassus orator, consul of 95 and Mucia minor, daughter of Scaevola augur (cos 117). Both of younger Marius’ marriages were thus very appropriate choice for marriage between the families of Marius, Mucius Scaevola and Licinius Crassus.

The second marriage of Mucia Tertia was no lesser in prestige. She became the third wife of famous Cn. Pompeius Magnus (thrice consul: 70, 55, 52). Their daughter, Pompeia Magna, had also very interesting marriages with F. Cornelius Sulla (their son Faustus Cornelius Sulla was consul at 7 BCE). Pompeia Magna’s second marriage was to L. Cornelius Cinna (cos 32) and their son Cn. Cornelius Cinna Magnus became consul at 5 BCE).

Finally the third marriage of Mucia Tertia was to M. Aemilius Scaurus, himself only a praetor at 56, but being son of famous all-powerful M. Aemilius Scaurus (cos 115) and Caecilia Metella (daughter of L. Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus cos 119, the fifth consecutive generation consul of his family and brother of cos 109 Q. Caecilius Metellus Numidicus. Scaurus cos 115 had practically ruled the politics of the republic during his days while rich Caecilii Metelli were one of the most important ruling families alongside equally rich and powerful Licinii Crassi.

Marriages were political tools: rich families marrying their daughters to rising stars of Roman republican politics. One can only try to imagine how the individuals themselves felt and thought. What Mucia Tertia thought about her marriages or contacts of her extended family? How much power and influence she had in the otherwise male-dominated Roman society? What sort of tools she had in her disposal for influence? My own impression is that compared to survived ancient texts, the Roman society was much more complex network of influences and influencers and that women were not necessarily passive side-characters in the game – indeed, it would have been counterproductive for families to leave half of the power potential unutilised or underused. Person like Mucia Tertia surely was influental individual through her connections and could influence on many things if she willed so.

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Scipiones et Laelii

One of the most proverbial multi-generation alliances is between Scipiones and Laelii. The elder Scipio and elder Laelius were very close allies both in war and politics. Scipio was naturally the leading party with the history, resources and connections of the Cornelii Scipiones. However, Scipio’s career could hardly have been possible without the support of men like C. Laelius, whom Scipio raised into consulship at 190. This was a standard procedure: more weighty statesman raises his friend into consulship and thus gurantees his own power too.

However, what makes this pair a lot more interesting are their off-spring. Scipio’s son adopted the son of extremely influental Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, and this adopted son we know as Scipio the younger. C. Laelius had a son, C. Laelius the younger, who became as close ally of Scipio the younger as his father had been for elder Scipio. And again, younger Scipio raised the younger Laelius into consulship for 140.

And to add further interest, the alliance between Scipiones and Laelii was not sealed by marriages. This is interesting. Usually such strong ties would also include a marriage or two. There certainly would have been candidates of right age at both side, so we must look for another explanations, of which there actually are a number of:

1) There simply wasn’t need for Scipiones to the Laelii more closely with them – the success of Laelii was hugely dependent on the support of Scipiones. The Laelii would probably welcomed a marriage, but on the other hand the alliance with Scipiones being strong, that left the Laelii free to make arrangements with other families.

2) The arrogance of Scipiones: Scipiones of any generation were not actually known for their modesty and restrain in showing their importance. Marriage with low-born Laelii would have gone against Scipiones pride, they after all married with families like Aemilii Paulli.

3) Peculiar Scipionic trait of keeping it together in the family. The daughter of elder Scipio married a Scipio Nasica, a relative of her father rather than left family line and fortune to scatter about. This wasn’t only intra-family marriage within Scipiones. Probably the main idea was to protect and collect the considerable family fortune into one hands.

4) There was more to be gain by keeping potential enemies closer than current friends.

Whatever the reason was, the family-ties of Laelii seem to omit the connection with the Scipiones totally: a healthy reminder of the multitude of tactics the Roman families used to survive.

Scipiones et Laelii

2 x Laelia + 2 x Mucia + 2 x Licinia

This is very interesting 3-generation long pair of daughters. The younger Laelius had two daughters. Laelia minor married consul C. Fannius and elder Laelia married Q. Mucius Scaevola augur, consul of 117. So the daughters of younger Laelius both were married into consular level families, which if of course straight from the Roman nobility playbook. Scaevola was also a close ally of younger Scipio as was Fannius too. Scipionic circle in this case obviously meant wedding ring!

The elder Laelia and Scaevola had again two daughters, elder of which married a son of consular Acilius Glabrio (and their son became consul too at 67). The younger Mucia married L. Licinius Crassus orator, consul of 95, who also allied with Scaevolae and what was left of the Scipionic circle. This younger Mucia finally too had two daughters with Licinius Crassus, the younger of which married the son of Marius, who became consul at 82. The elder Licinia Crassa married with no other than Scipio Nasica Serapio, whose grandmother was the daughter of the elder Scipio. So now finally after 4 generations the Scipio and Laelius -lines were united by matrilinear side!

These generations of Laelia major, Mucia minor and Licinia Crassae were also close to Cicero, as Cicero studied as young boy/man in the Scaevola and Crassus households. Cicero also included C. Laelius Sapiens in numerous of his writings. Cicero also mentions that the Laeliae and Muciae were particularly well known for the purity of their Latin.

All in all these three generations of sister-pairs gives a very interesting glimpse into the life of the Roman nobility and to the tactics and importance of the marriages. One is tempted to see here greater family community and transformation of political ties into network of extended family.

Years 150 – 130 distribution of consulships for families and factions

There are some individuals towering above others in Roman politics from the last Punic War to the time of Ti. Gracchus. The most famous of them is without a doubt P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus Aemilianus (Scipio the Younger), but also Ap. Claudius Pulcher, Q. Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus and Ti. Gracchus are certainly amongst the central political players of the era. But added to those remarkable individuals the Roman politics worked through families and political factions.

While our sources are far from complete when it comes to period between 150 and 130, we can still form a picture of power balance in the leading class of Romans. Simply observing the distribution of consulships we can see which of the families were strong during this period and we also can see at least four factions of politicians.

Distribution of the consulships to families

During the 150 – 130 there were 43 consuls (at 130 a suffectus was needed). 20 of them were from single consul families during the selected years. 8 families held two consulships, one family 3 and one family 4. When we compare these figures to the distribution of consulships over period of 150 – 50 we notice that the number of consulships for single consul families is pretty much the same, about half of the consulships.

During the period of 150 – 130 families with 2-3 consuls held altogether 19 consulships which is a markedly larger portion than during 150 – 50 period, but with natural reason: father-son transition is much less probable during shorter interval. In any case at both shorter and longer period, the Roman system tends to favour family groupings and leave about half of the consulships for lesser families: 10 leading families had as many years in power as 20 lesser families. Divided equally, every second year there was a consul from one the leading families.

Calpurnius Piso 4
Cornelius Scipio 3
Cornelius Lentulus 2
Fulvius Flaccus 2
Claudius Pulcher 2
Caecilius Metellus 2
Servilius Caepio 2
Fabius Maximus 2
Hostilius Mancinus 2
Popillius Laenas 2
Quinctius Flamininus 1
Acilius Balbus 1
Marcius Censorinus 1
Manilius 1
Postumius Albinus 1
Livius Drusus 1
Mummius 1
Sulpicius Galba 1
Aurelius Cotta 1
Pompeius 1
Laelius 1
Junius Brutus 1
Aemilius Lepidus 1
Furius 1
Atilius Serranus 1
Mucius Scaevola 1
Rupilius 1
Licinius Crassus 1
Valerius Flaccus 1
Perperna 1

Political factions

The distribution of consulships to different families is one perspective to power distribution in Roman system, but equally important and interesting is distribution of them to political blocks. The Roman political system was not centered upon political parties, so while tempting, it is really misleading to talk about political parties in Roman context. Roman political blocks were mostly ad hoc -arrangements, coalitions of individuals whose interests happened to coincide or were made to coincide, temporarily. Some were just alliances united for one cause and quickly dissolved, some were more permanent, e.g. generations long alliances between families. Indeed, many belonged to number of alliances at any given moment and had to negotiate between crossing interests constantly. This was especially with older and more established families, while rising families and homini novi usually had allegiance to one patronus. However they too could switch sides when necessary or beneficial.

As the nature of political factions was so fluid and ad hoc, not too much emphasis should be given to their ideological coherence or try to seek too narrowly defined platform or program. Instead the focus should be more in the individuals and their relationships. For us there hasn’t survived a trace that these factions would even have recognised names for themselves, nevertheless the cooperation between individuals was there, so the factions did exist, but not in the same way as political parties do.

There were four distinctive long time factions recognisable for us: faction around Scipio Aemilianus, faction around Ap. Claudius Pulcher, factions of the Postumii Albini and faction of Aemilii Lepidi. We cannot place every consul into one of these groups. Of 8 consul we do not have enough information even to guess where their allegiance would lie and of 4 consul we know that they were either friends of Scipio or enemies, or in two cases both at different periods. This leaves us 31 consuls out of 43 which we can place with certain amount of trust into the four senatorial factions.

Faction of Scipio Aemilianus: 15 consulships
Faction of Ap. Claudius Pulcher: 7 consulships
Faction of Postumii Albini: 7 consulships
Faction of Aemilii Lepidi: 2 consulships
Friends of Scipio, who turned into opponents: 2 (Metellus Macedonicus was in Scipio’s faction during his consulship, Q. Pompeius wasn’t)
Enemies of Scipio, but political grouping unknown: 2

political-factions

Roman political factions and their consulships 150 – 130 BCE.

The faction of Scipio Aemilianus

With 15 + 1 consulships during 20 years time this was most definitely the leading faction. However, Scipio was far from dominating the politics. He was himself consul twice and at both occasions by special exemption being made. He was allied with Metellus Macedonicus during Metellus’ consulship, but their alliance didn’t last long. In fact, Scipio was much more successful in sponsoring rising talents outside the nobilitas than keeping or building traditional alliances into other leading families. The consuls of Scipio’s faction were:

150 M´Acilius Balbus
149 M’ Manilius
147 Scipio Aemilianus himself and C. Livius Drusus
145 Q. Fabius Maximus Aemilianus
143 Q. Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus
142 L. Caecilius Metellus Calvus and Q. Fabius Maximus Servilianus
141 Cn. Servilius Caepio
140 C. Laelius and Q. Servilius Caepio
138 P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio
136 L. Furius Philus and Sex. Atilius Serranus
134 Scipio Aemilianus himself
132 P. Rupilius

The high years of Scipio’s faction were 143 – 140, during which it had 6 out of 8 consulships, which is a remarkable achievement in Roman politics at any republican period. Scipio’s faction also held both consulships on four years: 147, 142, 140 and 136, which also is a noteworthy accomplishment.

The faction of Ap. Claudius Pulcher

Highly ambitious Ap. Claudius Pulcher was the center of another faction and an arch-enemy of Scipio. Pulcher managed to unite a large front against Scipio and he did it with very different methods than Scipio used to built his faction. Pulcher didn’t sponsor rising talents like Scipio, but rather used traditional marriage arrangements and building of common interests. The consuls of Pulcher’s faction were:

144 Ser. Sulpicius Galba
143 Ap. Claudius Pulcher himself
135 Ser. Fulvius Flaccus
134 C. Fulvius Flaccus
133 P. Mucius Scaevola
131 P. Licinius Crassus Dives Mucianus
130 C. Claudius Pulcher (suffectus, unknown relative of cos 143)

Even while the faction of Pulcher didn’t have both consuls at any year, it had a very strong position during 135 – 130, when it held 5 out of 13 available consulships.

The faction of Postumii Albini

The Postumii Albini were an old and influental family with strong ties to Calpurnii Pisones and Hostilii Mancini families. While during the years 150 – 130 there was only one Postumius Albinus as consul, the years were the high point of Calpurnii Pisones, who held 4 consulships and Hostilii Mancini having two consulships. If Pulcher’s coalition can be seen as a typical Roman network of ambitious individuals, then the faction of Postumii Albini can be seen as traditional Roman coalition of few of the leading families supporting each other in politics. The consuls of the Postumii Albini faction were:

148 Sp. Postumius Albinus Magnus and L. Calpurnius Piso Caesonius
145 L. Hostilius Mancinus
139 Cn. Calpurnius Piso
137 C. Hostilius Mancinus
135 Q. Calpurnius Piso
133 L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi

The Postumii Albini faction had both consuls for 148 and otherwise it had consuls with quite even interval of few years between.

The faction of the Aemilii Lepidi

The last of the factions is the faction of the Aemilii Lepidi. It was the smallest and least influental of the factions during the 150 – 130. It’s consuls were 138 D. Junius Brutus Callaicus and 137 M. Aemilius Lepidus Porcina, who both were also opponents of Scipio.

The importance of factions in Roman politics

While factions certainly weren’t like idological parties of modern politics, they still were very important in Roman politics because they gave continuity of influence over longer period of time, than what could be accomplished purely within immediate family relations. It also can be argued that factions were the factor protecting the republic from monarchic aspirations of individuals, because they created diversity and ensured power balance against any single influental individual, even as influental as Scipio Aemilianus was. Ap. Claudius Pulcher, while being ambitious, charismatic and unscrupulous still was far behind Scipio in general popularity and influence, but through his faction managed to keep Scipio in bay, as did the other factions. Indeed, uniting behind Scipio as well as uniting against him was one of the major factors in Roman politics of the era. It is noteworthy that those uniting with Scipio were mostly of individuals of low influence whereas the opponents of Scipio were mainly from old aristocratic families and thus the republican machinery kept on going despite the great concentration of influence into hands of Scipio.

Princeps Senatus – it’s lonely at the top?

Princeps senatus is a good example of the inventiveness and evolution of Roman political system. The office was outside cursus honorum, didn’t have any imperium and was only open to patricians. The appointment was for 5 years and so each new pair of censores appointed their choice to be princeps.

The real power of the position and source for its immense prestige was that the princeps senatus held the right to speak first in given subject in the Senate. According to the Roman system and how the Senate session worked, the first speaker managed usually control the ensuing debate by his speech – all the more if he was an accomplished orator. Gradually also other privileges were added for the position e.g. summoning and adjourning the senate meeting. Something of the prestige and meaning of the title for the Romans is that princeps is the title Augustus and his successors choose for themselves.

Here is the list of known principes senatus from 150 – 50, or actually until 89, because after that we do not have reliable records. As it is, even while the office was the peak of career and only accessible for a patrician, we have very incomplete information of the principes.

153/152 – 147 nemo
147 – ? P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum
? – ? ?
136 – 130Ap. Claudius Pulcher
130 – ? L. Cornelius Lentulus Lupus
125? – ?P. Cornelius Lentulus
115 – 89 M. Aemilius Scaurus

After 179 – 153/152 M. Aemilius Lepidus (cos 187) the office was vacant until 147, when Scipio Nasica Corculum, a son of cousin of Scipio Africanus (Scipio the Elder) and also a husband of his daughter, was appointed into it. Scipio Africanus had held the position at 199 – 184/183. Scipio Nasica Corculum began his term at 147, so his term should have ended at 142/141. We know he died 141, so probably there was someone appointed after him and before Ap. Claudius Pulcher (cos 143).

The appointment of Ap. Claudius Pulcher is in many ways a prime example of the position and eligability for it. Pulcher was not the most senior statesman when he was appointed. At first this seems to contradict the very idea of the position. Consul of 156 L. Cornelius Lentulus Lupus was the most senior patrician ex-censor living and as such a natural choice for the position. Also Scipio Africanus Aemilianus (Scipio the Younger) was alive and active, and as the destroyer of Carthage and otherwise highly accomplished citizen, he would have made a very natural choice for the most prestigious position of the republic. Ap. Claudius Pulcher on the other hand was not a military genious (you can read more about his triumph here) and certainly not senior in years compared to Lupus and Scipio. What then he did possess to justify the appointment?

Ap. Claudius Pulcher was a very ambitious politician. He evidently worked hard to form political alliances in old Roman way and to gather support in appearing at the Forum. There is even an anecdote of his verbal jousting during his first campaign for censor against Scipio Aemilianus, no other. Pulcher said to Scipio, that Scipio hardly knew anyone at the Forum (stinging against Scipio’s way of not frequenting at Forum), to which Scipio replied that Pulcher had got it right, because Scipio didn’t live his life to know many people, but to be unknown to no-one (which of course was sting against Pulcher, who could not match anywhere near the military glory and fame of Scipio). Scipio carried the election and was elected as censor in 142 and Pulcher had to wait until next time to be elected at 136.

Pulcher built his support base for a long time in many methods and his appointment as princeps can be seen as a culmination of his efforts. Pulcher’s daughter was married to Ti. Gracchus. C. Grcchus, Tiberius’ brother, was married to daughter of P. Licinius Crassus Mucianus, who with his biological brother P. Mucius Scaevola, supported Gracchus and Claudius at 133. The other daughter of Mucianus was married to the Ser. Sulpicius Galba, the most famous orator of his time. It was Galba who in 149 had defended Q. Fulvius Nobilior, who was the censor to appoint his colleague Pulcher as princeps senatus. All these persons were in opposition to Scipio.

So what Pulcher had, was the traditional extended and many layered network of contacts, friends, allies and services and counter services that made the Roman political life so complicated and dynamic environment. Scipio lacked this broad political support throughout the Senate. In this sense the system worked perfectly: only a candidate with wide support at each corner of the Senate could be appointed as princeps senatus – to reflect the broad consensus of the senate as the first speaker. No outsider or upstart could convince the system otherwise – not even the celebrated second Africanus.

It’s interesting to note that Cornelius Lentulus Lupus got his turn as princeps senatus after Ap. Claudius Pulcher, but Scipio never did. This underlines the fact that no loner could reach the peak position of the republic, there was everything else than lonely at the top: to get into office of princeps senatus and to get to set the tone in each senate discussion, you had to be a master networker. This I think tells the essence of what being princeps senatus was about.

I want my triumph, no matter what the Senate says

Other consul for 143 was Ap. Claudius Pulcher. Other describes it well, because the consul who really mattered was Q. Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus: he got the Hispanic provinces and the chance to finish the war against Viriatus for himself – a pretty sure spectacular victory after Macedonicus’ predecessor in Hispania Q. Fabius Maximus Aemilianus had taken care of changing the tide of war there. Noteworthy is that Fabius Aemilianus was biological brother of P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus Aemilianus (Scipio the Younger) and Metellus Macedonicus was at this moment Scipio’s political ally. So Scipionic clicque had the political scene set very well.

Ap. Claudius Pulcher on the other hand was a very opposite side of politics. He was the main rival of Scipio for the spotlight of Roman politics of the era. He was born into high nobility: his grand-grandfather was consul of 249, grandfather consul of 212, father consul of 177 and his uncles were consuls of 185 and 184. He was also a traditional Roman politician with actively forming ties and making alliances. He was known to be very ambitious and unscrupulous in ways to fulfill his high ambitions. A very different character from Scipio, who built himself an extraordinary career upon virtues of military skills and bravery and chivalrious deference for material things.

For such an ambitious politican with such burden of glorious ancestors, being the other consul did not suit at all. The opportunity came in the form of minor Alpine tribe of Salassi, who had some unsettled dispute with their neighbours. Pulcher went to the Gaul and instead of negotiations attacked against the Salassi. Unfortunately for Pulcher, the first invasion ended in Roman defeat with heavy losses. Pulcher had to device a scheme to change the direction of events.

Pulcher orchestrated a Decemviri investigation of Sibylline books, and from there was found out two things. First was an obscure rule that if Rome declares war against Gauls, the sacrifice for it has to be done in Gallic territory. As this wasn’t done, it was an obvious reason that the God’s did not favour the war. And as no-one knew of such rule, Pulcher obviously had made an innocent error, which would be corrected easily and Rome would ensure the favour of the Gods in Pulcher’s second attempt on Salassi tribe. The other thing found was that on-going big public work in third aquaeduct for the city of Rome should have been done differently and that public debate further steered the interest away from Pulcher’s embarrassing defeat.

So Pulcher got his war and for the second time was victorious. He let his troops plunder the tribal area thoroughly and also gathered a good loot for himself too. In fact his actions were considered even by Roman standard brutal and did not bring too much popularity for him. However, the popularity was not his major goal. Pulcher was after a triumph, which would have placed himself somewhat on par with his illustrious ancestors. His opponents in the Senate paid attention to this and consequently the Senate declined to give funds for arranging a triumph. While there was no formal law that Senate permission was needed, it was customary to follow its rulings on triumphs.

Pulcher was not satisfied with this. He wanted to have his triumph and was not wait for it. So he started preparations. We know one occasion before him that triumph was celebrated without Senate approval, so while not exactly new idea, his was at least highly uncustomary one. Pulcher’s enemies had still one card left: the plebeian tribunes. And it turned out that the tribunes were also against Pulcher.

In triumph, the triumphator (general celebrating it) was to move in chariot in parade procession on the streets of Rome. A tribune could prevent this by dragging the general out from the chariot, and general could not answer this with violence because the tribunes were untouchable by law of Gods. This presented a dilemma for Pulcher. However he found a truly ingenious and original way to handle the situation. One of his daughters was a Vestal virgin. Vestal virgins also enjoyed sacred protection and even a tribune of plebs could not violate a Vestal. Pulcher had his daughter then to accompany him in the triumphal chariot placed in a way to protect Pulcher from the tribunes! This is an unique event in Roman history, no other time a Vestal was needed to secure a triumph.

Perhaps the Pulcher’s triumph was a sign of times to come, where ambition and rivalry of the nobles of Rome would produce horrible civil wars and rule of law lost its meaning. Be it so or not, the Pulcher’s determination to celebrate a triumph was something of unique and exceptional. It also certainly tells a lot about the politics in Rome at the time of third Punic war.

The rise and fall of the Valerii Flacci

The life and careers of two identically named, but about 130 years apart lived Valerii Flacci are very good examples of what the careers and lives could be in the Roman nobility at the late republic. The consul of 195 L. Valerius was great-great grand father of praetor of 63, so they were from the same direct family line.

A coin by a L. Valerius Flaccus from 108.

L. Valerius Flaccus (cos 195)

The consul of 195 already belonged into nobility: his father and grand father had been consuls at 261 and 227. Despite this illustrious lineage he was also an open-minded for plebeian contacts, something of which Valerii in general have always been known. His most famous protege, even friend, was M. Porcius Cato (the elder Cato).

The career of L. Valerius expanded for over 30 years:

-Tribunus militum 212, Second Punic War
-Aedilis curulis 201
-Legatus 200, in Gallia under the command of praetor L. Furius Purpurio
-Praetor 199, commanding Sicily
-Consul 195, command area: Italy against invading Gauls
-Proconsul 194, continued consular year command against Gauls in Italy
-Legatus 191, in Greece against Aetolians under the command of consul M´Acilius Glabrio
-Triumvir coloniae deducendae 190 and 189, founded Bologna and supplied Cremona and Placentia
-Censor 184
-Princeps senatus 184
-Pontifex 196-180

Map of the First Punic War.

Valerius met Cato during the Second Punic War and it was a start for lifetime friendship and political alliance, of which more later. In the war itself Valerius took part into important Roman victory at Beneventum, where Romans captured Carthaginian commander Hanno’s camp thus preventing Hanno aiding other Carthaginian troops. However the war that had last up to this point 6 years already would still continue for another 11 years and end only at 201, the year of Valerius’ curule aedileship.

We don’t have a record of Valerius’ offices during the rest of the war, but considering his office as legate of L. Furius Purpurio in Gallia, we might guess that he was not idle. Purpurio had a mission to defend the Roman Gallia against Gallic tribes, but he had only 5000 troops against 40 000 Gauls, who were lead by Carthaginian Hamilcar against the peace treaty with Rome.

M. Porcius Cato the elder.

Next year, 199, Valerius was praetor in Sicilia and his ally Cato was an aedile. The men shared liking for traditional Roman values against new breed of hellenised Romans like Scipio and Flamininus. Valerius and Cato both supported frugality even to a point of ascetism. Thus 198 Cato as praetor in the province Sardinia followed his ideals and was remarkably frugal in all expenses.

At 195 Valerius and Cato held consulship together and enacted laws against luxury as to be expected. Valerius was sent as commander to protect Italy against invading Gallic tribes and Cato was sent to wage war against Hispanic tribes. Valerius continued war against Gauls also as proconsul after his consular year.

The next command for Valerius was under consul M’ Acilius Glabrio and this time too, Cato was there. Both men were present at the battle of Thermopylae, where Roman forces achieved a devastating victory over Antiochus III of Seleucids and the Roman commander Glabrio gave Cato the credit of the decisive maneuver as of result of which the Greeks decided to flee from the battleground.

Antiochus III of Seleucids.

After these military missions Valerius served as member of three men commissions of first strengthening the Roman colonies of Placentia and Cremona and then to establish Roman colony of Bononia (Bologna).

After couple of years during which we have no record of either Valerius or Cato holding a public office we see them winning the elections for censor for term starting at 184. This most dignified of Roman public offices was a Roman peculiarity. They were in some matters below of even praetores in rank, but still fully independent within their own office and the office was regarded as sacred. Added to census the public moral was their regimen.

One could say that Valerius and Cato were obvious choices from their generation for this special office: both being stern moralists and very conservative in their views. Their censorship indeed is still famous (or notorious, from another perspective) of the severity. It can be said that their censorship was a conservative reaction against the deep changes happening in Roman society after frist Punic Wars. Valerius and Cato expelled many notable men of their time from the Senate and imposed tight restrictions against luxury.

Censorship was the last office Valerius and Cato shared. Cato was younger than Valerius and continued being active in the society without ever having any public office anymore. He continued to have great influence due his remarkable career and personal qualities. Valerius still had one public office to climb. He was appointed as princeps senatus at 184.

Princeps senatus was the first speaker in Senate and while having no imperium (command authority), the post was regarded as ultimate honour that a Roman statesman could achieve. Usually one had to have been both consul and censor, have a long career in politics and to be generally respected amongst senators. The power the office holder had was very political in nature: he was to have first speech in all matters and this way princeps could have great influence in tone and contents over all ensuing discussion of the matter in the Senate.

Valerius was first of his family line to achive this dignified position and indeed there was only one other, L. Valerius Flaccus (cos 100), his great grandson, who achieved this position from their family. Valerius died at 180 as one of the leading statesman of his era.

In the life and career of Valerius we can see many many typical Roman attributes of the era.

His career was like a model of ideal Roman career of military commander statesman, who took succesfully part into the great wars of his times.

Valerius was also an ideal conservative Roman, frugal, stern but just, respected also by his opponents.

We can also see typical Roman way of strong personal alliances in his career. Sharing of several magistracies is far from atypical in Roman system, where one needs strong allies to win elections. Valerius choose Cato as his ally and this obviously was a very successful choice, Cato being able to gather great support from different groups and individuals.

Also e.g. Valerius’ legateship under L. Furius Purpurio in Gallia in year 200 bore fruit five years later as Purpurio was consul in 196 and thus responsible for the elections of consuls of 195, where Valerius and Cato were victorious. This too is typical pattern in Roman politics: the current consuls had great influence in the outcome of the elections for next year and we see many alliances between families working this way.

Valerius was also the leading member of his family and raised it even higher into nobility than his consular ancestors had done. He is third generation consul and there was to be three more generations of Valerian consuls after him, which is a rare achievement for Roman family.

Valerius was born in the decades after the First Punic War and lived his early adulthood during Second Punic War and this era with its very cruel wars probably had a great influence on how Valerius saw life in general and shaped his conservative views further. He belonged into generation of Roman military commander statesmen and while we know little of his private life, he was probably idolised also inside his family, if for nothing else, then being first princeps senatus of his family.

The life and times of his great-great grandchild L. Valerius Flaccus, praetor of 63, were very different.

Rome and Carthage at the beginning of the Second Punic War.

L. Valerius Flaccus (pr 63)

The father of this younger Flaccus was the consul of 86 and belonged to last golden generation of Valerii Flacci. Valerius Flaccus, consul of 195 above, had one son, consul of 152, who in turn had two sons, consul of 131 and another rather unknown son. Son of consul 131 was to become consul at 100 while his cousins, the two sons of otherwise unknown C. Valerius Flaccus mentioned before, were to become consuls at 93 and 86. Younger, consul of 86, was father of our younger Flaccus. So with 7 generations of consuls, with three consuls in his fathers generation, there must have been an enormous pressure for young Flaccus to match the success of previous generations.

C. Marius.

To understand his life we need to first take a look into his father’s career. His advance in the cursus honorum was typical of Roman of his status. He was a military tribune at year 100, when his uncle was consul with C. Marius (his sixth consulship). He then proceeded to be elected as aedile and praetor. He was designated with one of the most richest provinces, Asia, and this can be taken as a sign that Valerii Flacci were strongly allied with Marius and his followers. He also continued his term as propraetor of Asia after praetorship.

It is possible that father Flaccus was also the commander of a cavalry unit near Rome in Ostia, which switched sides to Marius at 87 during the civil war between Marius and Sulla. In any case father Flaccus was elected as suffect consul next year when Marius died shortly after beginning his seventh consulship. Father Flaccus was faced with debt crises right away, with Rome’s economy in danger to collapse. He ordered immediate 75% write off of the debt (both private and government) and the financial situation eased considerably.

L. Cornelius Sulla Felix.

During his consulship Sulla was gathering strength in the east. Father Flaccus and his consular colleague Cinna decided to respond into Sulla’s diplomatic and military build up and Flaccus was sent to the province of Asia with two legions. His son (our praetor of 63) was with him. The campaign was ill-fated. Not only heavily outnumbered by Sulla, but also suffering from storms, and not nearly all of the troops even reached the area.

Father Flaccus’ elder cousin (consul of 100) was declared as princeps senatus and his policy was to try to find a solution to start negotiations with Sulla, if possible. One of the great mysteries we have about the Valerii Flacci family is that shared father Flaccus his cousins’ point of view in this. It might be, as otherwise it is difficult to find a motivation for events of winter 86-85. Then father Flaccus’ sub commander C. Flavius Fimbria mutinied and killed father Flaccus. Fimbria was a devout Marian, so his motivation could be to prevent Flaccus from negotiating with Sulla. A slight support for this theory also comes from the fact that while Flaccus was in command, Sulla did not commit into decisive battles against his troops.

In any case the death of his father in Asia was one of the defining moments of young Flaccus’ life. He was under 20 years old, on his first military campaign, and when his father was killed in mutiny, he had to flee for his life. Flaccus fled into his uncles (cos 93) camp in Gallia. His uncle was one of the strongest men at this time controlling both Gallic and Hispanic provinces.

The start of the official career of younger Flaccus then was under exceptional circumstances of Sullan-Marian civil war. It was also to be continued in similar vein with both of his powerful relatives, princeps senatus (cos 100) and uncle (cos 93) switching sides to Sulla. The murder of his father may have accelerated the run of events, but there are indications that both elder Flacci were already turning their allegiance into Sulla. Younger Flaccus in any case served in his uncle’s force in Gallia as military tribune still in 82.

With Sullan reforms of the state and Roman society returning into normal state of affairs, also the career of younger Flaccus was steered into more traditional direction. He served as military tribune also in Cilicia under Servilius Isauricus. At 76 he was a member of special commission of three to aquire surviving Sibylline books. He was elected as questor for 70. During his quaestorship he was sent into Hispania to serve with M. Pupius Piso and also got prolonged proquaestorship for 69 there. After this is immediately served as legatus during 68-66 in Crete in the forces of Caecilius Metellus (future Creticus).

As consul for 69 and proconsul 68 Metellus took up command against the Crete. Crete had been supporting king of Pontus Mithridates against Rome and also sponsoring several pirates of the area, which were great nuisance and even a danger for Rome. Metellus started a succesfull offensive and captured several Cretan cities. At the same time Pompeius had been given an extra ordinary mission against the pirates at whole mediterranean and was also making progress. The Cretans saw an opportunity themselves and declared surrender for Pompeius, not Metellus. Probably they believed to achieve more lenient terms of peace from Pompeius, for whom Crete was just one pirate base, whereas for Metellus Crete was the whole of his command. The plot was at first successfull and Pompeius accepted Cretan surrender and even ordered Metellus to leave the island with his troops. Metellus however declined and continued the war and swiftly subdued the whole island and declared it as province of Rome.

Cn. Pompeius Magnus.

Traditionally Metellus should have recieved a triumph for his victory, but Pompeius managed to prevent it until 62, when Metellus was finally a triumphator and recieved also cognomen Creticus. Metellus got his revenge by delaying the Senate approval for Pompeius’ reorganisation of Asia after pirate war until year 60.

We can only guess what Flaccus thought about these internal strifes between Metellus and Pompeius, but perhaps a hint can be taken from the fact that after two years with Metellus in Crete at 68-67, he took a post as legatus in Pompeius’ troops in Asia for 66-65 in war against Mithridates. His colleague there was Caecilius Metellus Celer who was distant relative (Creticus’ grandfather was great-grandfather of Celer). This Celer, btw, is famous of being Clodia’s husband and was probably eventually poisoned by Clodia at 59).

In any case after his legateship in the Pompeius’ troops Flaccus campaigned succesfully for praetor and was elected as such for the year of 63. We can safely assume that this was because of the support from Pompeius. It was Pompeius’ method to raise his supporters into power and advance his own career in this indirect way. At 63 we also see Cicero as consul, and he was also sponsored by Pompeius. During his praetorship Flaccus naturally was involved as chairman of the court in the Catilinian conspiracy and probably as payment for his services recieved rich province of Asia as his propraetorian appointment after consulship.

Flaccus was accused of embezzlement of funds after his term of propraetor and was defended in the court by Cicero and Q. Hortensius, the two most prominent public speakers of their era (Ciceros’ speech is known as pro Flacco). The charges were dropped, but there is no doubt of Flaccus’ guilt. In fact, Flaccus is usually held as most obviously guilty of all Cicero’s defence cases, Asia was in poor shape after Flaccus. Cicero knew this fully well, as his own brother followed Flaccus as propraetor of Asia. For Cicero a complication in the trial was that his brother would be facing same sort of trial (for good reasons too) when he would return from the province into Rome. Perhaps one should however give credit to Cicero in geniousness in the way he managed to successfully to defend Flaccus but also leave some ammunition of eloquence for the coming defence of his borther!

M. Tullius Cicero

For some reason Flaccus did not manage to gather enough support to be elected as consul in the coming years. Certainly he didn’t lack illustrious name nor probably money to run a successfull campaign, so probably the reason was that he didn’t have the final support from Pompeius, whose attention was directed into forming of the first triumvirate. Pompeius married Caesar’s daughter Julia in 59. Julia died in childbirth at 54 and the two men were drifted into civil war at 51.

Flaccus was sidetracked from the top political posts during this time and served as legatus of L. Piso in Macedonia in 57-56. Piso was consul of 58 and Cicero’s enemy: he allied with Clodius to have Cicero exiled, which was successul. Piso was rewarded with province of Macedonia for 57-55. Piso was also the father of Calpurnia, wife of Caesar. We know him also as probable owner of Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum. In any case Flaccus served with him in Macedonia until the recall of Piso because of the influence of then returned Cicero. Perhaps we can see Flaccus selecting Piso as a sign of leaving the Pompeian camp.

Flaccus accepted a command in Crete for 54, but died shortly after. His son was about 25 years old at this time and served as legate in the troops of Ap. Claudius Pulcher in Cilicia at 53-51, but died at the battle of Dyrracheum in 48 at the side of Pompeius. This son of Flaccus was the last Valerius Flaccus.

Republican era provinces of Rome at 78.

The life and career of L. Valerius Flaccus (pr 63) was then much different than his great-great grand father, consul of 195. Even though there was only 130 years between them, the Rome could hardly have been more different. The Rome of elder Valerius was Rome that was struggling with Carthage for the mastery of middle Mediterranean area, relatively small and poor power. Rome of younger Flaccus was rich beyond imagination and having more dangerous internal enemies than any real external enemies.

Elder Valerius knew all his life who the enemy is, and sought to restore traditional values. Younger Flaccus switched sides, witnessed the struggle between Marius and Sulla as well as the rise of Pompeius. Elder Valerius was known for his frugality and stern justice, the younger Flaccus for his embezzlement of provincial funds.

Both elder Valerius and younger Flaccus still belonged into highest circles of Rome. Both knew personally the great men of their time and were friends and enemies with them. Both also had their not small role in shaping the history of Rome, even history of world. Elder Valerius saw his house to rise into highest prominence in Roman politics, whereas younger Flaccus never reached consulship and all but saw the end of his line and house of Valerii Flacci.

Licinia who was banned to mourn for her husband

When a certain Quintus Antyllius was beaten to death by angry crowd in 121, a chain of events, that left its mark to the Roman history forever, was set loose. This Antyllius was an attendant of L. Opimius, consul of the year, and his killers were supporters of C. Gracchus and M. Fulvius Flaccus. This murder, that Gracchus actually did not approve, was a needed pretext for Opimius to get a senatus consultum ultimum, an emergency degree of the Senate to defend the republic – also establishing this very dangerous political tool for future years to be used as ultimate measure in internal power struggles.

L. Opimius got the Senate to arm itself and to command all members of the equesterians to arm themselves along with two slaves each and to assemble next morning. At this point there was no turning back from the road of violence. Fulvius and his supporters armed themselves for the morning meeting from the spoils of Fulvius’ Gallic battles, but C. Gracchus refused both to wear armour and to arm himself with anything else than a dagger.

When Gracchus was leaving his home, his wife Licinia begged him not to go as she knew as well as he, that Gracchus would be killed if he went to the public meeting. When Gracchus went and left Licinia crying, the slaves carried devastated Licinia into her brother’s house.

After half-hearted attempt for negotiations L. Opimius ordered the violence to start and following tumult saw Fulvius to be put into death along with his oldest son and many supporters. Gracchus fled having taken no part into fighting and after a prayer in the temple of Diana at Mons Aventinus continued his escape into a grove across the river Tiber sacred to Furrina, where he committed a suicide.

Opimius had announced, that whomever brings the head of Gracchus to him will recieve its weight of gold. A certain Septimuleius did this and the head was weighted to be exceptionally heavy – Septimuleius had removed the brain and poured melted lead into the skull! The bodies of Gracchus, Fulvius and 3000 of their supporters were thrown into Tiber. The property of dead was confiscated and their wives were forbidden to mourn their husbands. Licinia was also stripped of her dowry. Opimius on the other hand built the temple of Concordia to the Forum Romanum – a distasteful act to many.

Later on Licinia’s cause was successfully defended by a half-brother of his father and she got the confiscated dowry back. Who was this Licinia?

The family tree of the Sempronii Gracchi and Licinia Crassa, the wife of tribune C. Sempronius Gracchus.

The family tree of the Sempronii Gracchi and Licinia Crassa, the wife of tribune C. Sempronius Gracchus.

She was daughter of P. Licinius Crassus Dives Mucianus, consul of the year 131. Father Mucianus was originally known as P. Mucius Scaevola and was a son of P. Mucius Scaevola (consul of 175) and Licinia (a sister of consul 171 P. Licinius Crassus and consul of 168 C. Licinius Crassus). Mucianus was adopted by consul of 171 Licinius Crassus, that is a brother of his mother. Mucianus married with Claudia, daughter of consul 177 C. Claudius Pulcher and unknown mother. Claudia’s brother was consul of 143 and her ancestors from father side were consuls in three generation. Also Mucianus was both biologically as well as through adoption of consular rank. So Licinia’s both parents were from the very top of Roman nobility of the 170’s.

Licinia’s husband C. Gracchus was also of very strong consular line. His father was consul of 177 and 163, the famous Ti. Sempronius Gracchus, who was one of the leading public figures of his era. Father Sempronius was allied with his consular colleague of 177, C. Claudius Pulcher and probably from this alliance also came wish to strengthen the alliance further by marriage of the offspring. Father Sempronius had son and Claudius had a grand daughter Licinia from his daughter Claudia. Licinia also brought family connections with Licinii Crassi and Mucii Scaevolae, both of which were leading families during the period. Interesting enough, C. Gracchus’ brother Tiberius was married with, you guessed it, Claudia, who was a daughter of consul 143 Ap. Claudius Pulcher, himself son of consul 177 Claudius! So the two families were very tightly allied.

C. Gracchus had very high profile family also from his mother’s side. His mother Cornelia Africana was a daughter of the Scipio the elder, P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus, consul of 205 and 194 and the hero of the Punic Wars. Cornelia’s mother was Aemilia Paulla, a daughter of L. Aemilius Paullus, consul of 219 and sister of L. Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, consul of 182 and 168. Both Scipones and Aemilii Paulli were leading families of the previous era and Cornelia Africana surely the most high born lady of her time according to the Roman way of looking things.

One way to look at the life of Licinia is to view it as pre-arranged in many ways. With such high born parents she would be marrying some other equally high born man. The same goes with C. Gracchus. We do not know about their relationship anything else than the dramatic parting of Gracchus to meet his destiny, but perhaps we can read between the lines that the marriage was a happy one. Why Opimius also wanted to confiscate the dowry of Licinia? Perhaps there we can see also a hint of Licinia being politically active figure in some way too? The successful court case some years later, advocated by the consul of 133 P. Mucius Scaevola, a biological brother of Licinia’s father as well as a son of Licinia the elder (wife of consul 175 Scaevola), also tells us about changing political situation in Rome and perhaps a little something about Licinia and her position in the Roman society.

Still, the central influence of the family connections in the Roman politics is very clear. In fact, drawing the distinction between politics, family, life and death is difficult. C. Gracchus’ elder brother was murdered because of his politics. C. Gracchus continued and was in fact even more radical than his brother and was driven into suicide.

This can be seen also from the lives of two other of the closest women in C. Gracchus’ life: his mother and sister. The conservative opposition to the agenda of brothers Gracchi was lead by the Scipiones before L. Opimius. When the elder Scipio died in unclear circumstances, both Cornelia Africana, his own daughter and mother of Gracchi, as well as Sempronia, the sister of Gracchi were suspected of murdering him in their turn! Sempronia was also the wife of Scipio the younger (who was a biological child of L. Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus the consul of 182 and 168, i.e. brother of Cornelias mother Aemilia), and we know that their marriage was not a happy one.

The family connections designed to unite, did not necessarily work that way. At least when Licinia and C. Gracchus had such deep and diverse family connections on top of, or actually behind the more faster changing daily political struggles and alliances. For Licinia and Gracchus they were questions of life and death. They even controlled how Licinia was allowed to express her feelings for the death of his husband. What Licinia thought of all this, what she felt? We never know.

And what happened to L. Opimius? He was appointed as a commander to the Jugurthine War, was bribed by king Jugurtha to delay the war and spent rest of his days in exile.