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


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.

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.

Titus and Lucius Quinctius Flamininus: how to build an exceptional career in Roman politics

The Quinctii were one of the most ancient and influental families in the republic. The different branches of them were active in the highest circles of Roman politics ever since the establishing of the republic. The first Quinctius to hold consulship was T. Quinctius Capitolinus Barbatus at 471 and the last one T. Quinctius Crispinus Sulpicianus at 9. Even with Roman measure, it was rare that a family stayed consular for over 450 years!

During the mid/late republic one of the most active branches were Flaminini. The branch had its cognomen from an otherwise unkown ancestor who was a flamen dialis, so his sons became known for some reason as flamininus, son of flamen dialis. It is very rare cognomen.

Family tree Quinctius Flamininus

The family tree of Quinctii Flaminini.

Two most well-known Flaminini were brothers Titus and Lucius. They both held high public profile as well as for their military achievements and philhellenic policies. Younger Titus was also a skilled diplomat whereas few years elder Lucius was known also for his scandals. Titus was consul at 198 and Lucius at 192. Both of them earned their highest merits at war against Macedonia, which they won. Titus was consul during the war at 198 and conquered almost all the Macedonia. He was in fact negotiating for peace when the Senate decided to prolong his command (and thus continue the war to the end) as proconsul. During the war his brother Lucius was the commander of navy and was one of the few successful Roman naval commanders of all times.

T. Quinctius Flamininus’ exceptional achievements and career

After the war Titus stayed in Greece and re-organised the whole area and its states in satisfactory way during the years of 197-194. He was a skilled diplomat and his work in Greece ensured the support of Greek states for Rome. He for exampled made a public declaration of freedom of Greece during the Isthmian Games of 196. The Greek states minted coins honouring him and he was even deified in some places! This is exceptional as the Greek states traditionally did not welcome foreign conquerors. Titus understood this and therefore presented the Roman rule as liberation from Macedonian hegemony rather than instituting Roman one. His fluency in Greek and admiration for its culture certainly helped him. After leaving Greece he also had several other diplomatic duties.

Gold coin of T. Quinctius Flamininus.

Titus’ career also was exceptional in many ways and probably owes to his political connections and skills. In the beginning of his official career he served as military tribune in the second Punic war at 208. After this he served as propraetor in Tarentum during 205-204. Then he was selected to be one of the ten commission to settle the veterans of Scipio at 201-200 and was elected as questor at 199.

This far his career had been a fast one, but not that exceptional. However his next career step was very exceptional. He was elected as consul at 198, that is next year form his questorship. The usual cursus honorum was quaestor – aedile – praetor – consul, and with couple of year intervals between offices. So normally one could become a consul at the age of 43, but Titus was under 30 when he was elected as consul! Further he got under his command two legions and allied forces, altogether over 20 000 men, for the important second Macedonian war. This was one of the incidents that lead at 180 to creation of Lex Villia annalis, which regulated the cursus and minimum ages by law. It’s also interesting to note that Titus’ consular colleague Sex. Aelius Paetus Catus attained his consulship directly after aedileship, thus skipping over praetorship.

After his consulship his career was more regular one and he was elected as censor at 189 defeating many illustrious candidates, including future censor Cato. Titus was married with unknown Fabia.

The career of the elder brother Lucius was a more conservative one. He was selected as an augur at 213 and was a curule aedile at 201. At 199, when his brother was a quaestor, he was elected as praetor. His colleague both as aedile and praetor was L. Valerius Flaccus, with whom he seems to be allied with. During his brothers consul and proconsulships 198-194 Lucius served as the commander of the fleet and became as one of the few successful Roman naval commanders. His consulship was at 192 and his colleague was Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus. It was agreed that he would not candidate as consul earlier and instead left the post open for the second consulship of P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus – the famous military commanders didn’t want to compete against each other in popularity. These were also the years when Scipio Africanus’ brother and cousin also were elected as consuls: brother L. Cornelius Scipio Asiagenes at 190 and cousin P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica at year earlier 191.

After Titus’ time as censor came to an end and new censor was elected, it was finally time for Cato the elder to become a censor at 185. As one of his first official acts he dispelled Lucius from the senate for improper behaviour for a man of consular rank! Was this because of Cato’s opposition to Scipionic hellenistic policies or for good reasons is up to debate.

The big picture that emerges from the brothers connections and career is that the Quinctii were closely aligned into policies of Scipiones, Fabii, Valerii Flacci and perhaps Ahenobarbi. All old and powerful families. At this moment Flaminini were on top of their fame in Rome, and son and grandson of Titus also reached consulships at 150 and at 123.

How to survive in Rome

Let’s examine the family connections of the consuls of the year 177: C. Claudius Pulcher & Ti. Sempronius Gracchus.

Gracchus (consul of 177 and 163) was married to Cornelia Africana, a daughter of P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus (consul of 205 and 194) and Aemilia Paulla. This Cornelia Africana was politically probably the most interesting daughter of Roman nobility of her era. Her parents were both from the most influental consular families. Furthermore, Cornelia’s uncle was L. Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus (consul of 182 and 168).

This uncle Paullus Macedonicus had two sons. First one was adopted into family of Fabii Maximi: Q. Fabius Maximus Aemilianus (consul of 145). The second one was adopted by P. Cornelius Scipio (praetor of 174): P. Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus (consul of 147 and 134). This P. Cornelius Scipio, who adopted him, was Cornelia Africana’s brother, i.e. son of Scipio Africanus. Evidently the family ties between Cornelii Scipiones and Aemilii Paulli were very tight.

However, the ties were to become even more tighter. Adopted Scipio Aemilianus Africanus was to marry Sempronia, who was a daughter of Cornelia Africana with Ti. Sempronius Gracchus.

The other children of the consul 177 Gracchus, named as Gaius and Tiberius, were also to marry into important ruling families.

Younger Gaius married with Licinia Crassa, who as a daughter of P. Licinius Crassus Dives Mucianus (consul of 131) and Claudia (the daughter of C. Claudius Pulcher, consul of 177). The grandparents of this Licinia Crassa from paternal side were P. Mucius Scaevola (consul of 175) and Licinia. We know very little of this elder Licinia, but we know that her grandfather was C. Licinius Varus (consul of 236) and that her brothers were C. Licinius Crassus (consul of 168) and P. Licinius Crassus (consul of 171). This Publius was to become also adoptive father of her son, above mentioned Crassus Dives Mucianus. Note that these were far from being only familiy ties between Mucii Scaevolae and Licinii Crassi: I have written before about the consuls of 95.

But added to the alliance of the Scaevolae and Crassi, there is very interesting similarity between the sons of Cornelia Africana and Gracchus (consul of 177). As said above, younger Gaius married Licinia, who was a grand daughter of Claudius Pulcher (consul of 177), i.e. his father’s consular colleague. Elder Tiberius in his turn married Claudia, who was daughter of Ap. Claudius Pulcher (consul of 143). This Appius was the son of the above mentioned C. Claudius Pulcher (consul of 177). So both Gracchus’ sons were to marry grand childrens of his consular colleague!

Here is a simplified diagram of the above mentioned family ties between Sempronii Gracchi, Claudii Pulchri, Cornelii Scipiones, Aemilii Paulli, Mucii Scaevolae and Licinii Crassi.

Family ties between Sempronii Gracchi, Claudii Pulchri, Cornelii Scipiones, Aemilii Paulli, Mucii Scaevolae and Licinii Crassi.

Family ties between Sempronii Gracchi, Claudii Pulchri, Cornelii Scipiones, Aemilii Paulli, Mucii Scaevolae and Licinii Crassi. Click for larger image.

From these ties we can see how tight group the highest Roman nobility was. We have here the consuls of following years: 194, 182, 177, 175, 171, 168, 163, 147, 145, 143, 134 and 131. That is over 10 % of the Roman consuls between years 194 and 131, all in this closely tied selection. When counting all the consulships from these families from this period of 63 years, we see that over 19 % of all consulships are taken by the members of these families, that is about one fifth. Longest period when no one from these families was a consul is 7 years from 154 to 148.

Considering all other elected offices of the Roman state, which one had to be elected into before being elected into consul, it is safe to assume that that every year during this period some members of these families were serving as elected officials. Favours and returned favours must have been everyday occurrances. When we consider that also the offices of the Roman religion were part of the political system, and that the members of these families were also active in being selected into religious offices, the amount and importance of these contacts between these families grows evermore higher.

It is long known that marriages and adoptions were integral part of the Roman politics, but one really grasps the importance of them when one considers the system from the perspective of the survival of the family in the political system. There were no lone wolves in the Roman republic, one belonged into family. I have illustrated this by selecting the consuls of one year, and kept the listing of family ties in the minimum here for clarity. Still what we have discovered here, by mere scratching of surface, is complicated system of family alliances and contacts.

Licinius married with Mucia and Mucius married with Licinia

I would like to take a look into manyfold family connections of the three consuls discussed previously in the context of general Roman history, namely the consul of 96 Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus and consuls of 95 L. Licinius Crassus and Q. Mucius Scaevola.


The family lines of three consuls.

There is a very strong connection between the Licini Crassi and Mucii Scaevolae through marriages. This is perhaps the reason why Crassi wished to send their son to serve with Ahenobarbus (cos 122). On the other hand we do not know anything about the marriages of Ahenobarbi before the children of Ahenobarbus (cos 96), so it might very well be that there had been connections there as well.


The marriages of the Ahenobarbi are unfortunately very poorly known.

Consuls of 95 are an interesting pair: Licinius married with Mucia and Mucius married with Licinia. In fact their grandparents were sisters. Consul of 171 P. Licinius Crassus is grandfather of consul 95 Licinius Crassus while his sister is grandmother of consul 95 Mucius Scaevola. Grandfather Crassus also adopted the uncle of consul 95 Scaevola, thus making him also an uncle by adoption to consul 95 Crassus!


Family relations of the consuls of the year 95.

Their marriages are also of an interest in this context. Crassus was married with Mucia, a daughter of cousin of Scaevolas father. This means that the line of Licinii Crassi that consul 95 Crassus belongs to is allied by adoption and marriage into both surviving lines of Mucii Scaevolae.

Perhaps not to be left second in this bonding, consul 95 Scaevola married not just one, but two Liciniae. The family connections of them are not clear, but I think it is a pretty safe to guess that they were close enough the consul of 95 Crassus, although we must keep in mind that Licinii were a rather large family with many lines.

In any case the three generations of Crassi and Scaevolae were closely connected with each other by several ties in family. Consul 171 Crassus, consul 175 Scaevola, consul 174 Scaevola, consul 133 Scaevola, consul 131 Scaevola (adopted as Crassus), consul 117 Scaevola, consul 95 Crassus and consul 95 Scaevola make a formidable multi-generation power block of 8 consuls in 80 years with close family ties! To these ties we know to add also Laelia and Claudia. Laelia was a daughter of C. Laelius Sapiens, consul of 140, she was married with consul of 117 Scaevola. Claudia was a daughter of C. Claudius Pulcher, consul of 177, and she was married with P. Mucius Scaevola (adopted as P. Licinius Crassus Dives Mucianus, consul of 131. We might perhaps see here a finger print of either his biological father consul of 175 Scaevola or of adopted father consul of 171 Crassus – in any case this Claudia was very nicely connected with Claudii Pulchri, being also a sister of consul 143 Pulcher.


Connections of the extended families of the consuls of 95.

While not omnipotent, these family ties alone certainly made Crassus-Scaevola family block a force to reckon for anyone active in politics in Rome during the years of 170 – 95.

Licinii Crassi and Mucii Scaevolae had further interesting family ties with two powerful group of families: the Cornelii Scipiones and Caecilii Metelli. These ties were forged through marrying the daughters of Licinii with these families. Daughter of consul 131 Crassus (Scaevola) and Claudia was married to C. Sempronius Gracchus, who was a son of Ti. Sempronius Gracchus and Cornelia Africana, daughter of famous hero of Punic Wars, Scipio Africanus.

Daughter of consul 95 Licinius Crassus was married with P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio, who was consul at 111. Their son Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica was adopted by Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius (consul of 80) who in turn was married with Licinia of unknown relation to the Licini Crassi. Another daughter of consul of 95 Crassus was married to C. Marius, who was son of famed C. Marius, seven time consular.

Also Scaevola consul 95 had ties to the Caecili Metelli. With his first Licinia he had a daughter Mucia, who was married first with same C. Marius, consul of 82, as Licinia of his fathers consular colleague. Second time Mucia married with Cn. Pompeius Magnus and for third time with M. Aemilius Scaurus, who was son of M. Aemilius Scaurus, consul of 115 and famed princeps senatus, and Caecilia Metella. To close the circle the first Licinia of Scaevola consul 95 married with Q. Caecilius Metellus Nepos, consul of 98, although this might not have had any particular political advantage to Scaevola, because he divorced the first Licinia because of her adultery!

cos 96 and 95

All known family connections of the extended families of the consuls of 95.

With the additional contacts between Cornelii Scipiones and Caecilii Metelli as well as between Caecilii Metelli and Claudii Pulchri, we have with these few families a sizeable collection of most known Roman statesmen of the era as well as about 20 consuls. This small group of people had a genuine and deep impact to the history of Rome and therefore history of western civilization.

Sempronia and the death of Scipio

The relationship with family and politics was not necessarily a clear one in Rome. The story of Sempronia and her most famous husband is a good example of how complex and many-faceted this relationship could become.

In a way the story of Sempronia and Scipio began by their grandparents. L. Aemilius Paullus was consul at 219 and P. Cornelius Scipio next year 218. My guess is that they were political allies. Very often it was the case that consul of this year tried to get his ally to be consul in next year. This guess is of course made all more probable by the fact that son of Scipio married daughter of Paullus.

Scipio AfricanusSon of Paullus was L. Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus (cos 182 and 168) while son of Scipio was P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus (cos 205, 194), the hero of the second Punic war. This Scipio Africanus married Aemilia Paulla, daughter of Paullus.

Cornelia AfricanaScipio Africanus and Aemilia Paulla had a son and a daughter. Daughter Cornelia Africana married another famous Roman, Ti. Sempronius Gracchus. Together they had three children who survived into adulthood: the famous brothers of Gracchi and their sister Sempronia.

Son of Paullus, Paullus Macedonicus, married Papiria Masonia, a daughter of C. Papirius Maso (cos 231). They a boy and this boy was adopted by the son of Scipio Africanus. This adoption is an interesting continuity of the alliance that had binded together their grandfathers. The name of the boy in question after adoption became P. Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus and he was consul at 147 and 134.

Aemilianus Africanus married Sempronia, who was the sister of the Gracchi brothers and daughter of the sister of his adoptive father. Sempronia and ScipioSo far so good. But here is where the relationship between politics and family starts to get complicated. The marriage of Aemilianus Africanus and Sempronia of course had its usual political meaning of maintaining the family alliances. However, the brothers of Sempronia were of radically different political stand than Aemilius Africanus, or indeed any Scipio. They found their way to influence through popularistic politics while Aemilius Africanus was a staunch conservative.

The political situation detoriated and after some tumult the older brother of Sempronia, Tiberius GracchusTi. Gracchus, was killed. Aemilianus Africanus was one of the leaders of the group of senators, who killed him. So he was very much responsible for the death of his wifes brother. Aemilianus Africanus died some time after the murder and it was suspected that the death was not of natural causes – Sempronia and her younger brother Gaius were among the suspects, but there never was conclusive evidence about the cause of death.

While of course singular event, there is here something, I think, about the relatioship of politics and family in Rome. While family obviously is important, as can be seen by the importance of dynastic way the marriages are arranged, the same also applies to the politics. In fact, Aemilianus Africanus put politics above family when he was ready to get his wifes brother murdered. Aemilianus Africanus had had a marvellous career that far and he was old enough to retire, or at least not commit himself into the violent actions of anti-Gracchian movement. Yet he choose to be active. Aemilius Africanus belonged into two very powerful and famous families, Cornelii Scipiones and Aemilii Paulli.

Aemilia PaullaThe story of Sempronia is also very interesting one and her family connections nothing less than her husbands. In the history of Roman women, both her grandmother Aemilia Paulla and mother Cornelia Africana stand tall. They were learned women with strong characters and not without political ambitions. To what extent Sempronia was ideologically inclined remains unknown to us, but it is intriguing to think about alternatives and try to see the events from her point of view. This also brings about questions about to what extent the Roman politics were mans world, and in political marriages is it necessarily so that the woman is passive trading goods or perhaps much more active subject?