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Gaius Paulinus Maximus

Greatest Or Most Influential Roman Family

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There has been many great families in the history of Rome but who do you think has been the most influential?

I've recently been reading up on Scipio Africanus and came up with quite an interseting fact that in less than a hundred years the members of this family alone gained no less than twenty-three consulships for themselves, their surviving epitaphs place overwhelming emphasis, not only on public office and military success, but on genealogical descent as well.

 

This just set me thinking about other families in Roman times, there's the Claudii, Grachii, Julians etc etc

 

Who's the greatest.....you decide!

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This is a good question (and a very Roman one). I'll think about this some more, but just looking at the period 78-49, there were 178 praetors, and just 10 families provided about 1/3 of them. Those families were the Valerii (3), Aemilii (4), Aurelii (4), Calpurnii (4), Licinii (4), Sulpicii (4), Manlii (5), Claudii (6), Metelli (6), and Cornelii (9). If you follow these families back to the founding of the Republic, you'll find that they produced some of the most eminent men of the Republic.

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Wouldn't the Julio-Claudians head that list for the Empire period? It would seem that they set the tone for the subsequent Empire.

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True but the Jullii and Claudii families have strong roots going back to the very foundation of the Republic, so although in a way they were the founding members of the Empire, they had also been heavy involved in the Republican years too

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The Julio-Claudians did preside over the hallmark of Roman epochs - the transition from Republic to Principate - and set the socio-political framework that was to endure for the next 300 years.

 

Augustus in particular presided over a period of cultural rebirth and renewal - "Tu, Caesar, Aetas."

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Ursus:

 

"Tu, Caesar, Aetas." = "You, Caesar, for the Ages."? (That's a question.)

Edited by Gaius Octavius

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Gods, my Latin is horrific.

 

It should be "tua, Caesar, Aetas." 'Your age, Caesar.' Horace's Ode to Augustus giving him credit for the new age.

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I think the answer to this question may be less obvious than it would seem at first, because there are a number of families that forever changed Rome, for better and for worse. However, I think there is still a clear-cut answer, and that is the Julii family and the Julio-Claudian line. After all, it was Marius who advocated reforms in the army, turning military service into an actual profession rather than an obligation of citizens. Then, of course, there is the great Julius Caesar, who conquered Gaul for the glory of Rome (and his own). He also was the biggest cause of the collapse of the Roman Republic. Octavian, Caesar's nephew, would later establish the Principate and declare himself Caesar Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome. From then on, the Julio-Claudian emperors all had an everlasting and often debilitating effect on the empire, from Tiberius to Nero. Can this really be said about any other family line throughout Roman history? In my opinion, certainly not! :D

 

T. Cornelius Brutus

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All told the Cornelia gens produced more illustrious men than any other house in the history of the republic. The 16 families of the Cornelia gens included: Arvina, Blasio, Cethegus, CINNA, Cossus, DOLABELLA, LENTULUS, Maluginensis, Mammula, Merenda, Mercula, RUFINUS, Scapula, SCIPIO, Sisena, SULLA, and two plebeian lines (Balbus and Gallus). The men from this house are too numerous for me to bother listing, but take a look at Smith's dictionary if you're interested in the most illustrious gens in the Roman republic.

 

The Julii gens, though ancient, had descended to almost obscurity by the last century of the republic, so I wouldn't list them as one of the most influential families of the republic.

 

The Julii gens had just 4 families--Iulus, Mento, Caesar, and Libo. The last is completely obscure, but we do know about the other three.

 

IULUS

C. Julius Julus, cos 489

C. Julius Julus, cos 482

Vopiscus Julius Julus, cos 473

C. Julius Julus, cos 447, 435

L. Julius Julus, cos 430

C. Julius Julus, cens 393

C. Julius Julus, nominated dictator in 352 under pretence of a war with the Etruscans, but in reality to get two patricians elected in violation of the Licinian Law

 

MENTO

C. Julius Meno, cos 431

 

CAESAR

Sex. Julius Caesar, pr 208

L. Julius Caesar, pr 183

L. Julius Caesar, pr 166

Sex. Julius Caesar, cos 157

Sex. Julius Caesar, pr 123

L. Julius Caesar, pr 123

L Julius Caesar, cos 90

L Julius Caesar, cos 64

Sex Julius Caesar, cos 91

C. Julius Caesar, cos 59, 48

 

I'd also point out that the Claudia gens may have been the most illustrious in all Roman history, though perhaps the least lovable. The eminent historian Niebuhr said of them: "That house during the course of centuries produced several very eminent, few great men; hardly a single noble-minded one. In all ages it distinguished itself alike by a spirit of haughty defiance, by disdain for the laws, and iron hardness of heart." Patrician surnames included Caecus, Caudex, Centho, Crassus, Pulcher, Regillensis, Sabinus; plebeian surnames included Asellus, Canina, Centumalus, Cicero, Flamen, and Marcellus. Almost everyone connected to the family took the Claudian name, the exceptions being the emperor Claudius and Nero.

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Could one conclude that Crassus and Cicero and Caesar were related in some distant way?

 

Not in any direct way that I can see. I guess we're all ultimately descended from a common ancestor, but...

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I also add my vote for the Corneli Family. I would think the conquests of Africanis, Asiaticus and Aemelianus combined added more territory in to the Empire than most others.

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Yup Cornelii are best. :D

 

I'm surprised no mention of the Fabii however. This family held considerable power, perhaps almost total power, for much of the early Republic until the defeat at Veii. Even after that time, with their family so depleted, the sole survivors carried awesome auctoritas due just to their illustrious name.

 

Remember, marriage and adoption between patrician families was frequent, and used as a method of preventing family names from dying out. Many of the great names carried by men in the late Republic actually carry no true blood of the original family.

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Going back a bit I know, but what about the Metelli - let's face it - if there was a pie their fingers were in it up to the bottom knuckle for hundreds of years....

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I put my vote down for the gens Julii. While the Cornelii were a major factor in the Republic, they were soon overshadowed by the Julii. Also, they did not have as lasting an impact on Western history or mindset as the Julii had. Did Jesus say, "Give to Cornelius what is Cornelius'"? Even though the Julian gens was replaced by the Claudii and the Flavii, the name stuck. Suetonius wrote about the twelve Caesars, even though only three of them were actually of the Caesar family. Later Roman Emporers were called Augusti and their co-emperors were called Caesari. Even later, the emperors of Germany and Russian were called Kaisar and Tsar until 1918 and 1917, respectively.

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