Text #9239

"Spurius Maelius", in Wikipedia.

Spurius Maelius (died 439 BC) was a wealthy Roman plebeian who was slain because he was suspected of intending to make himself king.

Biography: During a severe famine, Spurius Maelius bought up a large amount of wheat and sold it at a low price to the people of Rome. According to Livy, Lucius Minucius Augurinus, the patrician praefectus annonae (president of the market), thereupon accused him of collecting arms in Maelius’ house, and that he was holding secret meetings at which plans were being undoubtedly formed to establish a monarchy. The cry was taken up. Maelius, summoned before the aged Cincinnatus (specially appointed dictator), refused to appear, and was slain by the Master of the Horse, Gaius Servilius Ahala. Afterward his house was razed to the ground, his wheat distributed amongst the people, and his property confiscated. The open space called the Equimaelium, on which his house had stood, preserved the memory of his death along the Vicus Jugarius. Cicero calls Ahala’s deed a glorious one, but, whether Maelius entertained any ambitious projects or not, his summary execution was an act of murder, since by the Leges Valeria Horatiae the dictator was bound to allow the right of appeal.


Niebuhr’s History of Rome, ii. 418 (Eng. trans., 1851);
G. Cornewall Lewis, Credibility of early Roman History, ii.;
Ancient sources: Livy, iv.13; Cicero, De senectute 16, De amicitia 8, De republica, ii.49; Florus, i.26; Dionysius Halicarnassensis xii.I.

Text #9289

Zohren. Valerius Antias and Caesar

According to orally transmitted tradition, it is known that Brutus forced all Romans to never again allow another king to rule over Rome. This is a process which is unique in all of roman history. One may be tempted to compare the “leges sacratae” in parallel with the contract regarding the tribunes that was made between the citizens and the plebs following the first secession. But, as the term says, it was a contract, a regulation, that was put under the protection of the gods by a vow , where a “lex” precedes the vow. That is, the law came first and the vow to uphold the law came after. In roman history we know of several purely legal condemnations of exceptional magistrates , but none of them can be compared with the event in question here…..

Livy mentions this vow twice, firstly as follows:

To begin with, when the people were still jealous of their new freedom, he [Brutus] obliged them to swear an oath that they would suffer no man to be king in Rome, lest they might later be turned from their purpose by the entreaties of the gifts of princes. ( Liv. II. 1, 9.)

Secondly, because the young republic seemed to be endangered by the fact that one of the first two consuls carried the name Tarquinius, Brutus tried to persuade him to leave Rome and called the vow into mind:

Brutus summoned the people to an assembly. There he first of all recited the oath which the people had taken, that they would suffer no king in Rome, nor any man who might be dangerous to liberty. (Liv. II. 2, 4.)

On the second occasion we find a small, insignificant extension where Brutus adds corroboratively:

This oath they must uphold, he said, with all their might, nor make light of anything which bore upon it.

Because both quotes are so similar, it hardly can be doubted that in both cases Livy used the same source. Dionysius is more explicit:

Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus were the first consuls invested with the royal power… called an assembly of the people a few days after the expulsion of the tyrant, and having spoken at length upon the advantages of harmony, again caused them to pass another vote confirming everything which those in the city had previously voted when condemning the Tarquinii to perpetual banishment. After this they performed rites of purification for the city and entered into a solemn covenant… and they themselves … first swore, and then prevailed upon the rest of the citizens likewise to swear, that they would never restore from exile King Tarquinius or his sons or their posterity, and that they would never again make anyone king of Rome or permit others who wished it to do so; and this oath they took not only for themselves but also for their children and their posterity. (Dion. V. 1.)

Later, as a delegation from Tarquinius came and asked for his return, Brutus answered them that this was impossible:

For a vote has already been passed condemning them to perpetual banishment, and we have all sworn by the gods neither to restore the tyrants ourselves nor to permit others to restore them. (Dion. V. 5.)

Contrary to Livy, the vow is different in such a way that first, the entire family of Tarqunius is banned, and only after that, the vow is extended into all of eternity. The obvious reason why this addition is missing from the second place is that a direct answer was only given to the direct request of the delegation.

Appian briefly connects the vow to Caesars murderers:

…and recall the memory of the elder Brutus and of those who took the oath together against the ancient kings. (App. Civil Wars, II, XVII, 119.)

Finally, Plutarch:

But when Brutus, who had his suspicions of certain others also, desired the senators to take a sacrificial oath, and set a day for the ceremony, Valerius went down into the forum, and was the first to take oath that he would make no submission or concession to the Tarquins, but would fight with all his might in defense of freedom. (Plut. Publicola, 2. )

I want to examine the different renderings – by different sources – of this important event a little more closely. The most detailed version of the vow, and most rich in substance, is reported by Dionysius. He reports a natural development within a believable context. First, he brings up the law to ban the Tarquinier forever and to punish with death him who dares to bring them back. Then, the vow is extended in such a way that everyone has to promise to himself and to his children that they never will allow another king to rule over Rome again, and to not allow anyone to reinstate kingship. For some strange reason, however, Livy skips over this special case entirely and mentions rather suddenly, and without the progression [of voting, purification, etc], the outlawing of the kingship by oath of all the people. Opposed to that is Appian where we only find the vow that went “against the ancient kings” mentioned in passing. Most believable is the story of Plutarch who reports that Brutus – fearing a conspiracy - had the Senate (not the entire populace) swear to never let the Tarquinier return. We can find this general application of the vow to all the people only in Livy and Dionysius. …

Mommsen, in his RÖMISCHES STATTSRECHT (21, 15), wondered about the strange monosyllabic way of recounting this important tradition…

What catches our attention here mostly is not only the shortness of the account, but the complete absence of the mention of a vow in Cicero. This fact alone is very strange, but weighs even heavier when we consider that Cicero often discussed the elimination of the kingship but never mentioned any vow. To really feel the strangeness of this silence we must take a closer look at all the individual literary items. Here, I particularly note the report about the eviction of Tarquinius in DE RE PUBLICA II 46.

Lucius Brutus, a man pre-eminent for wisdom and bravery, freed his fellow-citizens from the unjust yoke of cruel servitude. And though Brutus was only a private citizen, he sustained the whole burden of the government, and was the first in our state to demonstrate that no one is a mere private citizen when the liberty of his fellows needs protection. On his initiative and under his leadership, the people, aroused not only by the bitter complains still fresh in their memories of Lucretia’s father and kinsmen, but also by their own recollection of the pride of Tarquinius and the many acts of injustice committed by him and his sons, banished the king himself, his children, and the whole race of the Tarquinii.

In paragraph 46 the handwritten account is complete and in beautiful context. The report is only about the expulsion of the Tarquinier. In I. 62 and II. 52 he speaks about the hatred of the public against the kingship, but does not explain this with a vow. Then, one should pay attention to Brutus 53:

Who dethroned and banished a powerful monarch [Tarquinius], the son of an illustrious sovereign? Who settled the State, which he had rescued from arbitrary power, by the appointment of an annual magistracy, a regular system of laws, and a free and open course of justice? And who abrogated the authority of his colleague [Collatinus], that he might rid the city of the smallest vestige of the regal name?1

Here, Cicero would never have ignored a vow if it had been mentioned in his sources, especially because he lists by which means Brutus had consolidated the republic.

But the greatest curiosity is: Why would he have wanted to not mention a such weighty argument – to incite against the threatening kingship of Caesar – in his letters to Brutus and Atticus? We cannot find a compelling reason for an intentional silence or for carelessness of Cicero. Hence, he obviously did not know about a vow, and was not silent because of historical ignorance, but because such a report was not available.

We can draw another important conclusion from this. For the DE RE PUBLICA, Cicero has drawn from the most important historians who are regarded as the main authorities on Roman history available during his time. He took his theoretical perspectives from Plato, Aristotle, and Theophrastus, while for the positive parts he drew from Polybius and Ennius. , whose names he mentions several times. Hence, they didn’t mention anything about a vow either – at least it is likely that they didn’t –, and this fact essentially proves that Cicero’s historical credibility is not too far-fetched. I also want to mention the AUCTOR AD HERRENIUM2 which also silently ignores this event:

Again: “But if that great Lucius Brutus should now come to life again and appear here before you, would he not use this language? ‘I banished kings; you bring in tyrants. I created liberty, which did not exist; what I created you do not wish to preserve. I, at peril of my life, freed the fatherland; you, even without peril, do not care to be free.’ “3

It would have been unforgivable for a writer to omit such a vow in this context, because he could have used it in a beautiful way to bolster his literary eloquence. This work originates in the Sullanic time between 86 and 82. At this time, this vow had not yet been reported [was not a tradition nor a matter of common knowledge]. For the mentioned reasons it is clear that this entire issue must have been created at a later time. We are dealing with a falsification that shows a particular tendency.

Mommsen has proven in an essay about the Scipionic lawsuits that Caesar was attacked under the mask of Scipio.4 … Our current issue is very similar to the that one, but it is more far-reaching than the one discovered by Mommsen, even if it has not been interwoven with history in such an elaborate way.

Let me also draw your attention to an inner contradiction in Livy. If the vow had exactly been what has been reported about it – with its profound obligation –, then the transfer of power to the first magistrates of Rome could have been an offense, because the unlimited authority of the state was transferred from the king to the consuls. … But I want to return to the basic tendency of the whole falsification and point out a detail in Caesar’s life that provided the impetus for it.

Due to the apparently acute concern of the senate to secure the approval of the all-powerful dictator, the senate demonstrated an outsized concern for Caesar’s life and had made the decision to send out a number of knights and senators to protect him permanently. In addition, all senators were required to swear a vow to protect the dictator’s life and honour [with their own]. After that, Caesar dismissed his personal bodyguard but did not accept the senate’s protection [in replacement]. By this he demonstrated great trust that he was protected by the vow of the senate. This assumed duty was holy, and the murderers of Caesar – who consisted of knights and senators – were guilty of breaking this vow; even more because the murder was committed during a senate meeting. That provided the Caesarians and avengers of the murdered dictator with a handle with which to direct the hatred of the populace against these men, and they did so skillfully. …

Antonius now had the law on his side, because he presented the revenge for Caesar as a religious necessity to the senators and the populace. But how did the murderers and the republicans, who were happy about the deed, respond to the grave accusation that was played against them? That they had broken their promise [of protecting Caesar] was clearly seen by everyone and could not be hidden. The only defense for them, the only solution was to have something that would have rendered their promise invalid; and that only could have been an earlier vow to which they had been bound, one that deprived the later vow of legal force.

The deed of Servilius Ahala could serve as a precedent for the murder of tyrants, of which Brutus was reminded because of his kinship with him. But this precedent and all other murders of tyrants could not serve as an excuse against the accusation of making a false oath [the vow to protect Caesar]. Nothing could be found in their history that could excuse or ameliorate this breaking of the oath to protect Caesar; and so they resolved to a ruthlessly applied method in Roman history: a falsification.

What would have been more natural than to attempt a falsification of the history about the expulsion of kings, and to connect it to Brutus, who was seen as the progenitor of the murder of Caesar, a shining example from which the final expulsion of kings dated? He therefore became the originator of the invented vow that denied the kingship and that spoke of outlawing it everywhere and throughout time. If the murderers succeeded in giving credibility to such a story, then they would have attained a double goal: they would have freed themselves from the [allegation of] making a false oath, plus, their deed would appear in a shining light; they would have gotten rid of a man who daily sneered at the republican traditions and who didn’t hesitate to accept the crown of a King.

The murderers appear to have achieved their goal: whenever we read exuberant reports about the murder of a tyrant, the names of the assassins of Caesar usually appear first and foremost as [precedental role models]. It would go too far to elaborate on the consequences of this discovery, but I at least would like to mention that the whole character of the conspiracy against Caesar now appears in a completely different light, and that the idealized glamor of the assassins – that they were freedom fighters - has been stripped away.

Was there only one source from which authors, who reported about the [invented] vow, derived their tale? We can assume that it is most certain. The small differences in the accounts do not contradict this assumption because the differences do not conflict. The source was probably closest to the story as it is found in Dionysius, and nothing would have been more natural than to just add a little to the expulsion of the Tarquinier, such as a holy vow respecting the prohibition of the kingship for all of eternity. The fact that Livy only emphasized the part about all eternity was probably due to the fact that to him – an enthusiastic fan of the republic – this specific case was not too important; and that would be why he unconsciously played into the original intention of the falsifier, for whom this element must have been most important. In Plutarch the most obvious tendency is to justify the murderers – who were members of the senate – thanks to the vow, because, according to him, only senators made the vow. If he differs in this point from others, this does not deny the possibility of a single source; because we also have found in Suetonius and Appian that the duty of avenging Caesar was expanded to everyone, even though only the senate made the vow.

The nature and the repercussions of the [invented] vow, which is the subject of this discussion, is a unique case in Roman history, and it was due to this fact alone – its extraordinary conditions - that doubts were triggered about its authenticity. Consider the fact that the vow through which the senate made itself protector and defender of Caesar, was only valid for his lifetime and was binding only for the senate, whereas the vow from the time of the expulsion of kingship was claimed to have been a vow that was binding on the entire populace for all of eternity!

Let me turn now to examine the validity of the lex Valeria Publicolae. Here, we need to keep in mind that it is a law that was applied in later Roman history several times, e.g. against extraordinary magistrates. I want to begin again with the accounts, first Livy:

Laws were then proposed … above all, the law about appealing from the magistrates to the people, and the one that pronounced a curse on the life and property of a man who should plot to make himself king, were welcome to the commons. (Livy II 8.)

Next, Dionysius:

He [Valerius] also introduced most beneficent laws… by one of these he expressly forbade that anyone should be magistrate over the Romans who did not receive the office from the people; and he fixed as the death penalty for transgressing this law, and granted impunity to the one who should kill any such transgressor. (Dionysius V 19.)

Then follows the law about the right of appeal – provocation; it contains the additional information that Valerius was given the nickname “Publicola” – the people’s friend – because of these laws. Now, Plutarch:

A second [law] made it a capital offense to assume a magistracy which the people had not bestowed… For he enacted a law by which anyone who sought to make himself tyrant might be slain without trial and the slayer should be free from blood-guilt if he produced the proofs of the crime. (Plutarch: Publicola 11.12)

Here, we see the same law from both Dionysius and Plutarch, only in different words. The Romans considered as kings or tyrants even those who occupied a special status in the state for a longer time. [compare with CICERO, de re publica II. 49:

… we Romans have always given the name of king to all who exercise for life sole authority over a nation. Thus, for example, it has been said that Spurius Cassius, Marcus Manlius, and Spurius Melius attempted to win the kingship, and recently … [lines missing]

The reports about this are even thinner than the reports about the vow. We can find other issues of the Lex Valeria Publicola in abundance but we only can find three indications of the law “de sacrando …”. Cicero naturally fails us here again, even more clearly than before. Similar to all the other sources he lists the aims of Publicola, records how he tries to evade the suspicion that he strives for the crown, and then continues:

It was the same man who, by an act whereby he shows himself in the highest sense “the people’s friend” proposed to the citizens that first law passed by the centuriate assembly, which forbade any magistrate to execute or scourge a Roman citizen in the face of an appeal. (Cicero DE RE PUBL. II 53.)

After that follows the lex Valeria Horatia: “ne quis magistratus sine provocatione crearetur” (“No magistrate not subject to appeal shall be elected”) , and then the other deeds and actions of Publicola are listed, similar to the other authors.

Why does Cicero ignore a law which in his own eyes must have been more important than the right to appeal and all the others? Why is the law about the vow missing from DE LEGIBUS when it should have been the primary one because it was fundamental to the republic? Further, Livy, in addition, emphasizes clearly, “ante omnes”, that both mentioned laws would have been suitable to lend popularity to Valerius Publicola and that especially through the lex sacrata he could demolish the allegations – that he aspired to autocratic rule – in the best way. Again we can assume with certainty that Cicero didn’t know about such a law at all, and that he couldn’t have known it, because his sources and the tradition didn’t know it either. ….

Again we are dealing with a falsification which is motivated by the intention to give a juridical defense to the murder of Caesar in addition to the religious defense, and to protect the perpetrators from pursuit. …

Now, Caesar already had been subject to the previously mentioned laws, but there must have been more to it, if, during the birth of the republic, there was a new regulation that explicitly demanded the murder of a tyrant by good patriots.

If I really believe that I have identified the Lex Valeria Publicola as an anti-Caesarian falsification, then, to avoid certain criticism, I must also introduce something into this discussion that usually is called the Conference of the Vow and the Law by which I refer to the murder of Spurius Maelius by Servilius Ahala. (Mommsen, RÖM. FORSCH. II. S. 205.) Mommsen has assembled the original story of this event from the later ingredients found in the version that was transmitted by Piso and the annalists who followed him.

If the vow and the law were indeed a historical fact, then Ahala – who, according to the ancient report, murdered the tyrant Maelius – was a real patriot, because he only obeyed a law which could be considered to be the foundation of the republic. Mommsen recognizes this and adds: “That the sacralization occurs through the act itself, and not through the words of a judge, corresponds to the [later] common interpretation of this law”. However, it appears that, in the sources mentioned, such a murder was still considered “politically and legally offensive” which could only be the case if the Romans didn’t know of any vow or any sacralization-law. Otherwise, Servilius Ahala5 would have been represented as innocent and unpunished and would have been lauded for his deed. Later he indeed was celebrated as a tyrant-murderer; and it is known from history that that his example was used later to bolster and encourage his descendant Brutus. It was the precedent of a tyrant-murder, and as such it has come across in Roman history, even though the report with all its details “is an invented falsification in an aristocratic sense”. (Mommsen, RÖM. FORSCH. II, p. 199.)

But in order to achieve that goal, to justify it, they – [some falsifier of history] - had to give a different character to this issue. The deed of Servilius Ahala was altered to appear less like the deed of a single man by the expedient of involving the whole senate in it. The story was changed so that the actions and deeds of Spurius Maelius – indicating that he aspired to become a king – were reported to the senate which then rebuked the consuls because they ignored such doings. In their defense it was said that they didn’t have the power to effectively change anything since they were hindered by the law of appeal – provocation – and thus “opus esse non forti solum viro, sed etiam libero exsolutoque legum vinclis”. After saying this, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was appointed dictator and he then took Servilius as magister equitum.[Right-hand man; hatchet man.] The latter attempted to bring Spurius Maelius before the court of the dictator, and because he refused, he was stabbed down by Ahala there and then.

Then, as the crowd was in a turmoil, not knowing what to think of the deed, he bade convoke them to an assembly. There he asserted that Maelius had been justly slain, even though he had been innocent of plotting to make himself king, since he had been cited before the dictator by the master of the horse and had not obeyed. … planning violence to avoid undergoing trial, he had been repressed by violence. (Livy, IV, xiv.)

This and similar versions dominate in our later texts, and also Cicero emphasizes that Sp. Maelis’ killing had been ordered by the dictator. In Livy’s report we can see clearly that no law and no vow was brought forward to serve as a protection. Why did Quinctius Cincinnatus say: “opus esse … viro … exsoluto vinclis legum” [there was need of a man unfettered by the laws] when they could have used a much more powerful argument? Regarding this, Quinctius defended himself in a long monologue, but he only used arguments that had previously used against the kingship, and never alludes at all to the lex Valeria or any [Republic founding] vow.

From all this we can see clearly that Servilius’s fame rested merely on the fact that he had committed an “approved”murder – not more and not less – which could not be vindicated by any law, and where the only excuse was that he acted according to the example of the predecessors out of concern for freedom. That explains why the altered version has taken such a strong hold in the tradition, and why nobody has ever questioned the invention of the vow and even fewer have seen this process as a necessary consequence of these regulations. …

Now I would like to mention another falsification of a similar kind that was proven by Otto Seeck. (Hermes VIII, p. 116 ÜBER DEN WINTER 218/217) Consul Flaminius had made enemies with the senate due to his former political behavior ; his plans had been thwarted several times by the senate and because he feared that he would be locked into the city by invented auspices or other similar methods he left Rome as a civilian without the appropriate rituals to become consul. By lot he was assigned the army which was located at the Po. Via edict, he ordered the army to relocate to Ariminium at the 15th of March, where he intended to start his consulate. The senate upon learning of his plans, threatened to recall him. They sent envoys who were supposed to bring him back but failed. Seeck has proven that this report, from Livy cannot correspond to facts. To illuminate the tendency for this falsification, [Seeck] refers to a similar episode in Caesar’s life, who, aged 49, also left Rome as a civilian to start a consulate in Brundisium. Compare the details with the mentioned essay.

I doubt that these mentioned falsifications exhaust everything that can be found in Roman history that reflect anti-Caesarian tendencies [propaganda]. When I reflect on the image of the last king of Rome, and when I see similarities to Caesar in it, then I am fully aware that I must not claim absolute belief in it. But in relation to all that has been previously mentioned, my perspective gains in likelihood, especially when we consider that the falsifier, who acted intentionally and was looking for contemporary parallels, must have focused on the last King from whom all hatred of the kinghip originated. If he was able to foist offensive acts of Scipio onto Caesar, then it must have been even easier for him to add negative aspects to a person who lived long before him, like Tarquinius, the roman tyrant exemplar.

Even though Cicero mentions Tarquinius rather often, he actually reports fewer details about him than later historians, and he doesn’t judge him harshly at all; and that not likely due to any feeling of mercy; [obviously, the Tarquinius Cicero knew was not the same Tarquinius that we know today thanks to later historians and falsifications as is discussed here]. I want to add that it doesn’t matter so much what actually Caesar did, but what accusations were made against him. The similarities are as follows: 1.Caesar surrounded himself with Spanish body guards and that was only necessary to someone who claimed his position illegally. About Tarqunius it is said: “Conscius male quaerendi regni a se ipso adversus se exemplum capi posse, armatis corpus circumsaepsit”. [Conscious that the precedent which he had set, of winning a throne by violence, might be used against himself, he surrounded himself with a guard.]

2.Caesar so strikingly cared about the goodwill of the Transpadanians, who employed the Latin law, that allegations of selfish behavior were raised against him, because it was thought that he hoped that they would support him. In Tarquinius it is the Latins that are backing him: “Latinorum sibi maxime gentem conciliabat, ut peregrinis quoque opibus tutior inter cives esset”; [He made a special point of securing the Latin nation, that through his power and influence abroad he might be safer amongst his subjects at home.] he apparently did that repeatedly, but in the later parts of the story the only intention of Tarquinius was said to be to bring the Latins under the rule of Rome, and he did not hesitate to use force to achieve that. Contradicting himself, Livy later said: “… necem machinatur, ut eundem terrorem, quo civium animos domi oppresserat, Latinis iniceret”.[… in order that he might inspire the Latins with the same terror through which he had crushed the spirits of his subjects at home.] That is why the first motive must have been added later.

3.By decree of the Senate, Caesar obtained the power to decide about war and peace; he used this power to represent the Senate and populace by his own person and issued decrees, to which he added names of Senators: “omnia delata ad unum sunt, is utitur consilio ne suorum quidem, sed suo.” [ For authority of every kind has been committed to one man. He consults nobody but himself, not even his friends.] Tarquinius is accused of the same arbitrariness: “… traditum a prioribus morem, de ombibus senatum consulendi solvit” [For this king was the first to break with the custom handed down… of consulting the senate on all occasions, and governed the nation without other advice than that of his own household.] and “ut qui neque populi iussu neque auctoribus patribus regnaret.” and “… bellum, pacem, foedera, societates per se ipse, cum quibus voluit, iniussu populi ac senatus fecit, diremitqe.”[War, peace, treaties, and alliances were entered upon or broken off by the monarch himself, with whatever states he wished, and without the decree of people or senate.] Here, the kingship seems to be limited, which, from a historic perspective, is not believable. The accusations cannot hit Tarquinius. We may want to pay attention to the expressions “populi iussu” [by order or consent of the people] and “iniussu populi ac senatus” [by vote of the people or senate], whereas surely only “auctoritas” [authority] can be applied to Tarquinius.

4.Caesar created a similar offense with his arbitrariness regarding the judiciary. Compare with Tarqunius: “…cognitiones capitalium rerum sine consiliis per se solus exercebat.” [To inspire terror … he adopted the practice of trying capital causes by himself, without advisers…] This reproach is pointless since the King “sat in court for all private and criminal matters of law and absolutely ruled over life and death.”

5.Caesar made many enemies because he selected only a few men to be close advisors, and because, somewhat abruptly, he installed a secret advisory council, bypassing the administration as elected by the public. Tarquinius also mentions: “domesticis consiliis rem publicam administrabat” [governed the nation without other advice than that of his own household.]. An attempt to find examples and evidence for these bad habits of Tarquinius naturally will be in vain.

It is clear that, apart from these listed “signs of the tyrant”, common and typical tyrannical traits are absent in Tarquinius; the specific offenses to the Roman Republican spirit seem to be later ingredients. The assumption is obvious that – because Caesar threatened the Republican freedom – the kingship had to be described as more hateful than it actually had been, and this was done by exaggerating the terrors of the last regal period. One only has to think about the dark perspective that Cicero gives: “cadem video, … regnum non modo Romano homini sed ne Persae cuiquam tolerabile”. [For I foresee a massacre if he wins and an onslaught on private property and return of exiles and cancellation of debts and elevation of rapscallions to office and despotism worse than any Persian, let alone Roman, could endure.]

Cicero’s whole essay is permeated by those pessimistic viewpoints. It didn’t become that bad, but every republican hated Caesar’s aspiration towards autocratic rule. What could have been a better method to fight against him, than to establish similar intentions and similar bad habits for Tarqunius! Cicero never gave a detailed description of Tarqunius, as the later historians did, quite the opposite: he judged him in a very favorable manner. Those detailed characteristics were created after Cicero, and the originator likely is the same person who carries the responsibility for the other falsifications. It seems that a way had been found to fight against the usurper, who seemed to create similar circumstances to those which caused the fall of the kingship.

Again we are confronted with the question who created those falsifications? They must have been created after 44, and, as mentioned earlier, later historians must have drawn from one, single source. What is the pool for our selection? Who wrote a historical essay between 44 and 30? …

However, if we look at the meaning of the falsifications [taken together with the time of writing that we can infer from the meaning], then we are forced to decide that he must be the author. Who else could it have been?

Nobody other than Valerius Antias. But in order to regard him as the source of the falsifications, we have to get rid of an obstacle in our way, and that is the common agreement about the dating of his life. Here I want to adhere very closely to the transmitted fragments in order to show that his work could not have been written in the time of Sulla [as is generally assumed], but between 40 and 30 B.C. …

Thus, the assumption that Varro first used Antias is an uncertain hypothesis, and if someone absolutely wants to bring both into a mutual context, then we can argue by the same token that, conversely, Antias used Varro.

That is the reason why only Dionysius and Livy remain as those who mentioned Antias first. Out of those two, Livy believes him to be so important and so influential that he mentions him most and probably uses him most , even though he sometimes feels himself obligated to point out his mendacity. He does not speak about the mendacity of the other sources. He does this because of the reasons argued by Krause, p. 269-270, Liebaldt, p. 19 and also to cause harm to his literary rivals and to bring his work into discredit. Therefore, he must have been highly acclaimed in this time, maybe even must have lived before Livy, so that such a harsh invective was needed to break his image. …

Also, Pliny would not have mentioned him so often if he hadn’t held him in such a high regard. Under these circumstances, shouldn’t we be astonished that Cicero never mentioned his name and his value? Certainly he did not known him and he could not have known him because his writings were published only after Cicero’s death. …

Now, how does it come that Cicero mentions his contemporary fellows Licinius Macer and Cornelius Sienna, but not Antias? Both of them died in the year 67, the former one convicted as a praetor by Cicero himself and driven to suicide. He certainly would know them well. But still, next to these persons he should not have missed a man of the importance of Valerius Antias who must have had a large circle of readers in Rome. And even if he didn’t mention him in his laws, then at least there must have been a trace of him in his other writings. That the reputation of Valerius Antias was not minor can be seen in Dionysius I. 7, 5, where he is put on the same level as men like Cato, Fabius Maximus, Licinius Macer, Calpurnius Piso, as one of the Κάσσιος. Nevertheless there is no trace of it in Cicero who certainly could not have left out a literary phenomenon of such proportions. That Cicero has not mentioned Antias because his style – “oratione sua” – did not match his (as Krause p. 107 assumes), is an easy way out which we will consider only if there is no other way; because Cicero was not someone who pretended that his opponents never existed. Hence, Cicero did not know Antias, and when we stay strictly with the Fragments, we find the following sure solution: For us, the terminus, post quem is no longer in the year 91, the last year for which Antias’ fragments reports a particular event, but the year 51 in which Cicero published his work DE LEGIBUS, or rather the year 43, in which Cicero died. Because, in Cicero’s lifetime, Antias’ historical work barely was published. We only approximately can determine the terminus ante quem based on the life times of Livy and Dionysius who mentioned him first for sure – approximately the year 30 B.C. This conclusion seems to be without doubt.

There are also several important arguments that Antias’ work was published between 44 and 30. Firstly, I must draw the attention to an essay of Holzapfel, who associates Fragment 45 with an event of the year 73 by identifying the mentioned tribune of the people, Licinius, with the annalist Licinius Macer, who brought Gaius Rabirius to court because of the desecration of holy places. In Fragment 75, he also believes to have identified the funeral of Caesar and dates this work to after the year 44.

Now, I’d like to speak about the extent of his annals and afterwards use the biggest intact Fragment as proof that Valerius Antias is guilty of the anti-Caesarian falsifications [which began a trend of fraudulent history that exists to this very day.]

Antias’ story begins with the beginnings of Rome, and the second book further elaborates on the history of Numa Pompilius. These portions dealing with the fabulous times of the kings are completely consonant with the character of the author, because on these topics, he could exercise his tendency to lie more and better regarding ancient times regarding which he could not easily be refuted. So, it is not unlikely that in his first book he went far afield and even elaborated on the Alban-kings. I note here that in the 22nd book he speaks about an event in the year 136. Now, there are at least 53 books after book 22 ; because Gellius mentions book 75 and this number is probably correct ; because Priscian mentions book 74. According to this, Antias would have needed 22 books to write the history up to the year 136, and at least another 50 books for the following time period of 70 years – if he, as is commonly believed, lived in the time of Sulla – i.e. even more volumes than Livy needed for the same time span. This improbability is reason enough to set his life time to a later point.

Antias’ largest Fragment, which we have access to , was addressed by Mommsen under the title of Die Scipionenprozesse. I cannot embark on a closer inspection of this here; we have to be satisfied with his conclusion (p. 493).

After Mommsen clearly examined the legal issues and the general situation – as told by Polybius and Claudius Quadrigarius (as well as Cicero and Nepos) – he responds to the falsifications that can be found in Livy’s reports. Due to a few particular points, it is clear that his main story is derived from Antias because Livy mentions his name several times, at the beginning of the story (50, 4) where he draws from another source (55, 8), and at the end (59, 2), where he again calls him by name. …

Also Gellius enumerates the elements where Antias differs from the older chronicles, and at the same moments we can find [diversions] in the story of Livy. Therefore, the falsifications which can be discerned in Livy have to be ‘booked’ onto the account of Antias. They consist of a forceful implementation of something that the following transmission conveys: “that, what writers of historical novels justifiably do, and what historians, who revive the past, unjustifiably do.”

That Livy mentions his source, Antias, so frequently, and repeatedly depends on him, must be attributed to the fact that Antius’ account deviated markedly from other sources. Mommsen suspects that Livy could not find much about this [legal] process [against the Scipios] in his source Quadragarius, but in Antias, he found a lively, dramatic report. Thus, it is easily understandable why he preferred the account from Antias. …

On the basis of the available transmitted materials I have proven extensively above that the long-assumed dates of the life of Antias must be disregarded; and we must presume that a historian of the ilk of Antias, who has pruned historical matters so ruthlessly and skillfully, would be equally skillful in inserting his own timeline into earlier history thus striking at his opponents who did not share his political viewpoint. That Livy, a staunch republican, recorded such sources without discernment, is not surprising since this essay of anti-Caesarian tendencies is a masterpiece of Antias.

Now [having exposed Antias’ level of cunning and subtlety] it is no longer difficult for us to connect other similar falsifications to him also, because other time periods were an even greater field of exploitation for him. We also can now completely exclude Tubero, especially when we consider that the name Antias appears 35 times in Livy , whereas Tubero occurs only 3 times.

Coming back now to consideration of the Roman oath against kingship, there are various arguments regarding authorship of the oath by Antias. It hardly can be doubted that he is the main source, if not the only source, in Plutarch’s “Publicola”. That is the reason why it is that in this source we find the version wherein it is attempted to justify and involve the whole Senate. That Antias was used for this account also follows from the fact that in Plutarch, Valerius Publicola takes the oath first thereby subtracting a bit from the credit and glory of Brutus. [This is a significant indicator of the identity of the falsifier who sought to bring glory to his own gens.]

The first writer who cited the existence of this oath, unknown to Cicero and those before him, must have been Asinius Pollio whom Appian used as his source almost exclusively. Pollio’s historical work appeared around the year 30. It is not certain if he elaborated beyond the times of the Battle of Philippi, but he must still have dealt with the dispute between Antonius and the murderers of Caesar. When Tacitus says about him: “Asinii Pollionis scripta egregiam eorundem (sc. Cassii et Bruti) memoriam tradunt” [Asinius Pollio has written a glorious account of them] it is natural that he didn’t leave himself open to be accused of memorializing individuals who had made a false oath to protect Caesar and therefore was obliged to mention the prior oath of the ancient Romans as the protective mechanism. The mention of this was very short in Appian, but by that time, everybody obviously knew about the meaning of it and the tale of the ancient oath had taken hold to such an extent that Livy and Dionysius incorporated it without a second thought. Antias’ popularity had enabled a wide dissemination of the story; due to his addiction to win readers by publishing the new and the outrageous, he had managed to achieve the exceptional amongst the younger writers.

The situation is even clearer in the lex Valerius Publicolae. According to Münzer, in the history of Piso, Valerius was not presented in a very favorable light; as a Patrician, he had aspired to kingship but dropped the undertaking in a moment of danger to re-gain the goodwill of the populace which had come to hate him. Münzer may have gone too far with this statement. But the historical tradition, taken as a whole, demonstrates that the ancient Valerius Publicola did not always demonstrate a republican disposition. [So again, we see then hand of Valerius Antias rehabilitating his ancestor.] There exists also some disagreement over Publicola’s attempts to silence all suspicions about his regnal intentions. One explanation could be that historians – due to dislike of the Valerians – have only focused and expanded upon the negative sides of Valerius Publicola. Piso was certainly one of them.

Without question then, Antias has eagerly endeavored to remove all guilt from his alleged progenitor, and he indeed has managed to portray him to a naive audience as a liberator of the homeland, as a lawful founder of the republic. He obviously imputed to him more glorious aspects, and Livy alludes to that when he begins with: “ante omnes” without touching the other things. It was not easy to connect the authorship of the foundational laws of the Republic with Publicola since it should have originated from Brutus. But – he must have asked himself - why not additionally create a pre-existing law that rendered such exquisite benefits to the murderers of Caesar? It was entirely possible and he also could glorify his family with it, which was the most important thing in his work. At the same time, it was very easy to find the template for the law in the “leges Horatiae Valeriae”, which guaranteed the perpetuity of the provocation by the enactment that “no one should in future create a magistrate from whom there was no appeal; anyone who created such a magistrate should be protected by no law, sacred of profane, and might be slain with impunity.” It was P. Valerius who allegedly proposed this law to relieve himself from the suspicion of aiming at kingship but the big question is: did it really happen? Or did Antias make up that story as well?

As noted above, Livy states that the Valerian law was enacted again, for the third time, in 299 BC. Livy notes that in all three cases the law was enacted by a member of the Valerius family. However, the ancient history of the kings suggests that the original right of provocation emerged from them, not from the early Republic and that is, perhaps, why the law includes the term “Horatiae”? During the reign of Tullus Hostilias (approx.. 672-642 BC), the trial of Horatius for killing his sister, betrothed to a man he has just killed in a battle, took place. For the murder, he was condemned to death but, upon the advice of either the king – who did not want to condemn him though he was bound by his own laws to do so – or a certain jurist named Tullus - Horatius appealed to the assembly of the people. Horatius’ father, also called Publius, spoke to the people of his son’s recent victory, and entreated them not to render him childless since he had, until recently, had four children. Persuaded by his father’s arguments, the people acquitted Horatius. This legend is the more likely origin of the right of provocatio. but the terms could be retroactively utilized.

Thus, it appears that Antias, utilizing the same template of a pre-exiting law upheld by a holy vow, strove cunningly to rehabilitate not only his ancestor, but the murderers of Julius Caesar as well.

  1. It would require too much space to quote other sources directly. Notable ones are: De Off. III 40, Phil. III 8, II 87, Lael. 28, de re publ. I 62 and 64, ad Att. XIV 3, 2 and others. [OF]

  2. The current scholarly opinion is that this was written by Quintus Cornificius. Internal indications point to the date of compositions as 86 BC-82 BC/ the period of Marian domination in Rome. The unknown author, as may be inferred from the treatise itself, did not write to make money, but to oblige his relative and friend Herennius, for whose instruction he promises to supply other works on grammar, military matters and political administration. He expresses his contempt for the ordinary school rhetorician, the hair-splitting dialecticians and their sense of inability to speak, since they dare not even pronounce their own name for fear of expressing themselves ambiguously. Finally, he admits that rhetoric is not the highest accomplishment, and that philosophy is far more deserving of attention. Politically, it is evident that he was a staunch supporter of the popular party. The question of the relation of Cicero’s De inventione to the Rhetorica has been much discussed. Three views were held: that the Auctor copied from Cicero; that they were independent of each other, parallelisms being due to their having been taught by the same rhetorician at Rome; and that Cicero made extracts from the Rhetorica, as well as from other authorities, in his usual eclectic fashion. One of the 19th century editors, Friedrich Marx, puts forward the theory that Cicero and the Auctor have not produced original works, but have merely given the substance of two technai (both emanating from the Rhodian school); that neither used them directly, but reproduced the revised version of the rhetoricians whose school they attended, the introductions alone being their own work; and that the lectures on which the Ciceronian treatise was based were delivered before the lectures attended by the Auctor.

  3. Rhetorica ad Herennium, Loeb Classical Library, translated by Harry Caplan, transcribed by Bill Thayer.

  4. Mommsen, Röm. Forsch. II p. 417.

  5. Gaius Servilius Structus Ahala was a 5th-century BC politician of ancient Rome, considered by many later writers to have been a hero. His fame rested on the contention that he saved Rome from Spurius Maelius in 439 BC by killing him with a dagger concealed under an armpit. This may be less historical fact and more etiological myth, invented to explain the Servilian cognomen “Ahala”/”Axilla”, which means “armpit” and is probably of Etruscan origin. This is mentioned by several later writers as an example of ancient Roman heroism, and is frequently referred to by Cicero in terms of the highest admiration; but was regarded as a case of murder at the time. Ahala was brought to trial, and only escaped condemnation by going into voluntary exile. Livy passes over this, and only mentions that a bill was brought in three years afterwards, in 436 BC, by another Spurius Maelius, a tribune, for confiscating the property of Ahala, but that it failed. Sources: Cicero, CATILINE ORATIONS 1, PRO MILONE 3, CATO MAIOR DE SENECTUTE 16; Valerius Maximus, v. 3. § 2; Cicero, DE RE PUBLICA i. 3, PRO DOM. 32;Livy, iv. 21 [OF]

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