Agrippa Menenius Lanatus (consul 503 BC)
Agrippa Menenius Lanatus (died 493 BC), sometimes called Menenius Agrippa, was a consul of the Roman Republic in 503 BC, with Publius Postumius Tubertus. He was victorious over the Sabines and was awarded a triumph which he celebrated on 4 April, 503 BC. According to Livy, he also led Roman troops against the Latin town of Pometia.
According to Livy, writing five hundred years after the fact, Menenius was chosen by the patricians during the secession of the plebs in 494 BC to persuade the plebs to end their secession. Livy says that Menenius told the soldiers a fable about the parts of the human body and how each has its own purpose in the greater function of the body. The rest of the body thought the stomach was getting a free ride so the body decided to stop nourishing the stomach. Soon, the other parts became fatigued and unable to function so they realized that the stomach did serve a purpose and they were nothing without it. In the story, the stomach represents the patrician class and the other body parts represent the plebs. Eventually, Livy says, an accord was reached between the patricians and the plebs, which included creating the office of tribune of the plebs.
It is not improbable that Saint Paul, an educated Roman citizen, knew this story (not necessarily through Livy) and was prompted by it in his use of the same parable when he admonished the Christians of Corinth that, for all their "diversity of gifts", they were all members of one body (I Cor. 12: 13 ff). However, the imagery was not new, even for Livy. It appears in Xenophon's Memorabilia (2.iii.18) and in Cicero's De Officiis (III.v.22).
One puzzle about Menenius concerns his social status: Was he patrician or plebeian? Livy asserts that he was "an eloquent man and dear to the plebeians as being one of themselves by birth." On the other hand, he was sent to the plebs as a representative of the Senate, and furthermore he had held the office of consul. The consulship, according to the traditional historiography, was at this time reserved strictly for patricians. Ancient accounts of early Roman history are compromised by uneven use of sources, the author's bias toward either senatorial or popular interests, and sheer uncertainty. The existence of the "plebeian" and "patrician" social division in the earliest period of Rome's history has been questioned by modern scholars.
Menenius died in 493 BC. Livy records that during his life he had been beloved of both the senate and the plebs (particularly the latter since his involvement in ending their secession). As his estate lacked funds to pay for his funeral, the people contributed to his funeral expenses by way of a levy.
Menenius had a son who would become consul in 439 BC.
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- Livy, Ab urbe condita, II. 16, 32, 33.
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
- Fasti Triumphales
- Livy, 2.33
- Survey by A. Drummond, "Rome in the fifth century II," ch. 5, The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 7.2, The Rise of Rome.
- Walbank, F. W., A. E. Astin, M. W. Frederiksen, and R. M. Ogilvie. The Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge University Press 1990. ISBN 0-521-23446-8.
Publius Valerius Publicola
Titus Lucretius Tricipitinus
| Consul of the Roman Republic
With: Publius Postumius Tubertus
Opiter Verginius Tricostus
Spurius Cassius Viscellinus