The chart of the Roman noble families of late republican period, version 1.2

As the work with re-drawing of the main chart is progressing slowly, albeit still progressing one baby step at a time, I decided to publish the latest version of the chart. The changes are mainly visual, with some obvious errors corrected along the way.

The contents of the chart will not see any updates until the re-drawing is finished. For what it is worth, I aim to have the re-drawing finished during the Summer of 2772 AUC (2019).

The main family chart version 1.2: Late republican era Roman noble families with filiation and inter-family relationships illustrated as well as information about individuals themselves.

You can view the full resolution image here.

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The chart of the Roman noble families of late republican period, version 1.1

Great news! The big chart of the Roman noble families of late republican period has now reached version 1.1!

This is a major upgrade from the last version 1.0 that was published at September 2016.

There are numerous smaller fixes and updates, but also major updates on many families, as well as addition of the last families included in the project, to the chart.

The families with most updates include:
-Aemilii Paulli
-Antonii
-Appuleii
-Aquilii
-Atilii Serrani
-Aurelii Cottae
-Claudii Marcelli
-Claudii Pulchri
-Cornelii Dolabellae
-Cornelii Scipiones
-Cornelii Sullae
-Domitii Ahenobarbi
-Fabii Maximi
-Hortensii
-Junii Silani
-Laelii
-Licinii Crassi
-Licinii Getae
-Licinii Murenae
-Manlii Capitolini
-Marcii Philippi
-Marcii Figuli
-Marcii Regi
-Marcii Censorini
-Marii
-Mucii Scaevolae
-Octavii
-Pompeii
-Pomponii
-Porcii Catones
-Pupii Pisones
-Scribonii Libones
-Sempronii Gracchi
-Tullii Cicerones

The chart now contains about 1800 individuals (and no, I haven’t counted them, this is just an estimation) and has reached the extent planned for the project.

The next version of the chart will be 2.0, which will have updated visuals for inter-family connections making them easier to read. This update work will take considerable time.

The family trees of late republican era Roman families

The main family chart version 1.1: Late republican era Roman noble families with filiation and inter-family relationships illustrated as well as information about individuals themselves.

You can see the full resolution image here.

Cn. Pompeius Cn.f. Sex.n. Magnus or Pompey?

When I was in the university studying history, we were told to a point of boredom how flawed the Great Men History was. While methodological discussion is always very important, I couldn’t help asking myself then, what the heck lecturers meant by this attack. I didn’t recognise the phenomenon and I felt they were stucked into past decades discourses, into something that was way before my time. History professors stuck in the past, some irony there.

Now that I’m not attached into the academic world anymore I have come to appreciate their point of view more, and I’m taking a liberty of interpreting their meaning to be against history culture, not history students nor academic circles. History culture, or popular history, or representations of history in popular culture, whichever term is now in vogue, is still full of great men history. It’s not that it’s intentional violence against methodology, but popular productions need simple stories that focus into individual, and that’s all you need to lower yourself into the level of great men history.

The great men history means the quite flawed view of history, where historical events and developments are presented to be a consequence of will and actions of one individual, typically a well-born man. Usual hallmarks of this genre are idealizations of individuals, building saints over mortal men, forgetting their flaws or portraying their adversaries as thoroughly evil. Everyone surely agrees that this is wrong.

However, the question is more complicated than just evil Hollywood history vs. academic purity. History is not only facts, it’s interpretation. History is not a science where only facts exist or where the truth can be verified by numbers. History is part of our identity, so it’s also a psychological and cultural phenomenon – a past event can have very different interpretations depending on individual. Take any war for example: when you move on to make a historical interpretation on it, you’ll take a walk in a minefield.

Also it’s a question of the mission, role and meaning of history. Why do we create interpretations on past? What do we want to achieve by it? The ancient historians had a clear answer for this: to teach. There’s also the root of great men history, it originally meant to teach a moral lesson how to live your life and what to learn from the great leaders of past.

Now, for me as a history buff since something like 5 years old, the pedagogic value of history and great men history especially, has been there always. Like the characters of fictional literature, also the individuals of the past have been a source of contemplation, emulation and inspiration to me. A question that has been there ever since my pre-school years has been: why people do the things they do? As a school age kid I enjoyed immensely to read different presentations of great historical leaders. And I especially enjoyed the moments when I found something so compelling from a source I otherwise despised, that I had to update my own opinions. Without those moments I doubt very much I would have taken a life-long interest in history.

So when I went to the university, the over repeated condamnation of the great men history for me felt like the professors were stuck into the contemplations I had solved already in my pre-teen years: surely we were all adults (or thereabouts) as university students and didn’t need to dwell in the obvious: all men are mortal and have their traits seen as strengths or weaknesses depending on the interpreter. In fact, I felt that condamnation of the great men history was counter-productive. I felt strongly, and still do to a limit, that there is pedagogical value, or moral value, in the great men history. If we remove the moral lesson from history altogether, I think we remove a great deal of its value for humanity too. As humans, we have a great ability for abstract thinking and learning lessons from the past, without the need to necessarily make same mistakes again, and we should not waste that talent.

However, and now I’m finally coming to the point I try to make, the history is not just for moral upbringing, it needs its own ethical code as well. For me the prime ethical rule for making interpretations and representations of past is to make justice for the people of the past. The question I ask myself every time I write or speak about the past is that am I making the justice for the past people. Do I understood their view of the world, do I understand their culture, surroundings, their experience of events, their values? And if I do I think I do, then do I manage to translate this understanding in my own representations for my audience in my time and in my culture? Do I do justice to the past individuals as humans?

As a student of Roman noble families, the bulk of people I write about are very little known generally, and for these individuals fulfilling the ethical requirements of this work is quite easy, I don’t need to care about popular images of these people, as there are no such existing. However, the task is considerably more challenging with well-known figures of Roman history, who also tend to be controversial and loaded with meanings, motivations and interpretations of different kinds, piled up during the 2000+ years on these personae. How to approach individuals like Caesar or Pompeius, when whatever I say about them can be seen as taking a stand of some kind, a leaning into one camp of interpretators or another? With these over-used great men of history, the problem is how loaded their images are in the minds of my temporaries.

One problem I face with writing about Pompeius is then that am I writing about Cn. Pompeius Cn.f. Sex.n. Magnus or Pompey the Great? If I’m writing about the Pompey, then I’m writing about an individual, almost like a biographist, trying to find individuality and characterisations of an individual there, or perhaps I’m not writing just life, but life and times, in any case, the focus is on individual and more or less great men history. If I write about Cn. Pompeius Cn.f. Sex.n. Magnus, then I’m writing about an individual member of moderately influental late-republican Roman plebeian family.

With Pompeius this problem of great men history vs. making justice to the individual is markedly present: all seems to hint to that Pompeius didn’t want to conform to be just a typical member of gens Pompeia, or a typical member of Roman upper class. So, while typically one would make most justice (considering the historical individual) to a member of Roman upper class by emphasising the meaning of family networks, as the historical individual would have himself been very aware of the limitations of this cultural setting and conforming to it, one struggles to do this with Pompeius. Pompeius did practically almost everything he could to break free from these limitations and cultural traditions, he was a rebel, and did everything he could to build an exceptional image for himself. To make justice for such a person, wouldn’t great men history approach be ideal? It would represent him in a way he would himself like. However, doing so would also mean to make counter-justice to his family, and to other Roman families as well. This problem is very manifest in countless Pompey-biographies one finds everywhere.

The core of the problem is that Pompeius wished to be, and to be seen, as exception, but in reality he was as deeply tied into the surrounding time and culture as every other Roman was. His own family was as little exceptional as every other family. I’m not saying we should see gens Pompeia as without individual characteristics, but what I’m saying is that we should see Pompey in the setting where Cn. Pompeius Cn.f. Sex.n. Magnus was, as a member of Roman family and its networks, and that we should understand Pompey in the setting of gens Pompeia provided him, not as an idealised or exceptional individual. In this way, we will have both much more deeper understanding of the individual as well as do most justice to the people of the past.

pompeii

Looking at the family tree of Pompeii during the republican period, one notices two things immediately: there are two main branches of the family, whose common ancestor, should one exist, cannot be traced and that the family on the whole has been active in forming alliances through marriages. The latter note shouldn’t come as surprise as it seems to be tendency of the lesser families to align themselves with more established families through marriages.

The strong alignment to the party of Sulla is also very evident through the marriage connections. Mucii, Licinii Crassi and Caecilii Metelli are abundantly also present. Also one notices some cumbersome (for us, but probably pretty straightforward for Romans themselves) multi-generational family relationship arrangements.

For example: Pompeius Magnus (cos 70, 55, 52) had a daughter with his wife Mucia tertia. This daughter Pompeia married first Faustus Cornelius Sulla and then L. Cornelius Cinna (cos 32). Cornelia and Cinna had a daughter Cornelia Pompeia Magna, who married L. Scribonius Libo (pr 80), and they had a son L. Scribonius Libo (cos 34). This younger Libo had a daughter Scribonia, who became the wife of Sex. Pompeius Magnus Pius (cos 33). This Pompeius Magnus Pius was of course brother of Pompeia Magna, who married cos 32 Cinna – so we jump some three generations and come back again almost to the starting point.

When we add here the fact that sister of cos 32 Cinna married C. Julius Caesar (the Caesar), who also married a Pompeia from the other branch of the Pompeii, we also get a sense of broader Pompeian family coordination. That makes one presume common ancestor for all Pompeii.

The image of the gens Pompeia starts to emerge where we can find very strong marriage connections to many of the leading families of their era: Cornelii Sullae, Marii, Julii Caesari, Licinii Crassi, Caecilii Metelli, Aemilii Scauri and Claudii Pulchri, within a relative short span of time few decades. While this speaks obviously about the importance of marriage connections, it also raises an observation about the importance of the Pompeii family. If they would have been an irrelevant family, they wouldn’t have managed to build such connections. Shear number of consulships before the Caesar’s civil war is not exceptional, but of course the achievement of three consulships for Pompeius Magnus is exceptional, while added to them there’s only his father consulship and consulships of father-son pair from the other branch of the Pompeii. The Pompeii must have had something valuable to offer for other more established families.

One hint can be found from the life of Pompeius Magnus’ father, consul of 89, Pompeius Strabo. He had won important victories during the civil war and after his consulship (cos 89) ended, he was ordered to disband his armies. However, he was reluctant to do so, and Pompeius Rufus (cos 88) was given order to get the troops of Pompeius Strabo under his command. Strabo refused and eventually was murdered. His son, the future triumvir Pompeius Magnus was also given order of give up his wife and marry according to the command of Sulla. Pompeius Magnus did so as he wad told. The fact was that the Pompeii were useful henchmen of much more important families and got their payment in the form of marital connections and thus growing influence of the family. However, this meant also great sacrifices and loss of freedom of action. I think this is the background one needs to understand about the character of Pompeius Magnus and why he wanted to break free from traditional limits of Roman statesman. One can only guess the pressure he must have felt in conforming the role the family had.

In fact, one perhaps finds same kind of pressure of family position in Pompeius Magnus as one finds in the younger Scipio. Both were obviously very talented, but also very troubled individuals, who were rebels, if not reformers in their setting. Against this background of very strong, if still quite different kind of, family pressure on them, one can find ideas and insights for their exceptional careers and exceptional deeds.

The mystery of Octavii

Let me start by a personal note. I have always deeply disliked both Caesar and Augustus and disapproved what they did to the Roman Republic. I disapprove tyranny and the administration they built was a tyranny. Both of these men, such as many Roman emprerors had good, even excellent, qualities and not all they did was bad. However I do disapprove the pricipal structure of one man rule and while the Roman republican period is full of strong men, even temporary tyrants, the republic endured hundreds of years by its self-correcting mechanism. What Caesar and Augustus did, was to break that mechanism. Both in fact did it very skillfully, and I can admire technical aspects of that work of undoing, but still I very deeply disapprove their act.

In my years of research for this project I have tended to avoid to very last moment taking up with families and individuals connected to Caesar and Augustus – simply because I could have done so. Now, however, the time come to map out the family Octavia.

The mystery of Octavii has been for me simply: Howcome a man (or boy) from such an modest family background became so powerful? Augustus’ father was a preator and successful soldier, no doubt, but his grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfater were all more or less nonentities. The mystery for me has been in this: without connections of the family, how is it possible, that an upstart gets away with it and succeeds to become a sole-ruler of highly networked, hierarchised, competitive and old aristocratic state? Support from Caesar and his party are important, but in Roman politics nothing is faster than forming and reforming of alliances to answer ever-changing situations.

I admit, that only knowledge I have had about the Octavii are about the immediate familyline of Augustus. In fact I was under impression, that there wasn’t much more than that about the Octavii. My surprise was complete, when I started to map out the Octavii of the republican period: there were far more of them than I had expected! And with this discovery, the mystery of Octavii was solved. The family had 5 consuls between 165 and 75, which is by all means no small feat. Also reading about individuals, there were military commanders, speakers and successful statesmen – everything one can expect to find from successful Roman noble family, and therefore the Octavii had lots of connections and dependencies with other families.

Octavii

Of course one cannot compare the Octavii to truly great plebeian families like Licinii and Caecilii, but on the other hand the Octavii were no wall-flowers, but a truly influental family with the other family line than Augustus’, a real power in Roman political arena.

As always, there is very little information surviving on some individuals, but given the importance of the family in republican setting and especially given the importance of Augustus, it is a minor surprise that we know so little even of some of the consules of the family and their connections. Perhaps Augustus was either very conscious that he belonged to less-important family-line or wanted to surpress the information for some other reason.

One very interesting detail to note is the evident wish of both lines of the Octavii to form an alliance with the Claudii:

1) Octavia minor (sister of Augustus) was married with C. Claudius Marcellus (cos 50), from the plebeian Claudii.

2) Augustus himself married Claudia (daughter of Clodius, from the patrician Claudii).

3) The daughter of M. Octavius (aedile at 50, from the other familyline) married Ap. Claudius Pulcher (cos 54) of the patrician Claudii.

There is a great number of Octavii, whom we know too little to even attempt filiation. Also there are several lines of the Octavii that are left out from this version of the chart, because they are not of consular level.

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.

The Cornelii Dolabellae

The Cornelian families very many and even though we don’t always information on their relationships with each other, the number of Cornelians active at any given moment during the republican era is quite staggering.

Of some Cornelian families we know quite a lot, both e.g. Cornelii Scipiones and Cornelii Sullae, had such illustrious representatives that they shaped the whole Roman history, if not even world history. However we know quite little on obviously very influential Cornelii Lentuli.

To this less well known group of Cornelian families belongs also the Cornelii Dolabellae. They were a long running line of Cornelii, and we do not know when they separated from the hypothetical common ancestor of all Cornelii. Quite an influental family line they were still: they held consulships at least 283, 159, 81 and 44. So not every generation had consul, but the long family history of consular level extending for over 300 years is no little achievement. The line also survived long into imperial era helding consulships and important military posts under first emperors.

Cornelii Dolabellae

Drawing a familytree of Cornelii Dolabellae is not an easy task however: we know of very few father-son pairs and even less on marriages. In the following I have drawn known filiations and placed hypothetical generations into same levels chronologically. A picture emerges of vast multi-line family (e.g. cos 81 and pr 81 having both same first name). There are possibilities that e.g. RE 132 could have been the grandfather of RE 134 or father of RE 133 or son of RE 131… but we do not have any evidence to support these hypothetical connections. I have therefore opted to leave them out from the chart.

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.