Decimus Valerius Asiaticus
Decimus Valerius Asiaticus (around 5 BC-47, Greek: Δέκιμος Οὐαλέριος Ἀσιατικός) was a prominent Roman Senator of provincial origin. Asiaticus was twice consul: first in 35 as suffect consul with Aulus Gabinius Secundus as his colleague; second in 46 as ordinary consul with Marcus Junius Silanus as his colleague. He was the first man from Gaul to be admitted into the Roman Senate, as well as the first one from Gaul to attain the consulship.
Family background and early life
Our information about his family is incomplete. Asiaticus was of Allobrogian origin, in the words of Ronald Syme "of native dynastic stock." An ancestor of Asiaticus received Roman citizenship from Gaius Valerius Flaccus who was the Roman Governor of Transalpine Gaul in 80 BC and seems to have inherited Flaccus’ name. We do not know the names of either his parents; we know Astiaticus had a brother but not his name.
Asiaticus was born in Vienna in Gallia Narbonensis. At a young age he may have been sent to Rome to make a career. He was a cultivated man, renowned for his athleticism and he became close to the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He regularly attended the house of Antonia Minor the mother of Roman emperor Claudius and grandmother of the Roman emperor Caligula.
Many of the details of his career are not known, beyond the fact Asiaticus was a close friend of the imperial house. He acceded to his first consulship during the reign of Tiberius, an office he could only have achieved with the acquiescence, if not the act, of the emperor. Tiberius' successor Caligula was also a friend to Asiaticus, and may have granted him estates in Egypt. Despite this, there were drawbacks in this relationship: Caligula confessed to committing adultery with Asiaticus' wife at a public drinking bout by complaining about her performance in bed, in front of Asiaticus; offended, he began to hate Caligula.
Despite this, Asiaticus was invited to sit with Caligula on January 24, 41 at the theatre an hour prior to his assassination. When news of the deed swept through Rome and the identity of the slayers was not yet known, based on Caligula's insult to him, Asiaticus was accused of participating in Caligula's death; he replied, "I wish I had been the man." Nevertheless, some modern historians suspect Asiaticus was an accomplice in Caligula's murder. However, Michael Swan has pointed out several reasons not to suspect he was a party to the act, such as Asiaticus' own denial. One point Swan raises is that after Caligula's death, when Asiaticus offered his name to the Senate to succeed Caligula, his candidacy was opposed by one of the known participants in the assassination, Lucius Annius Vinicianus.
Whether or not Asiaticus was involved in Caligula's death, contemporaries such as Sosibius, suspected he was involved. This was doubtlessly the basis for Claudius' antipathy towards Asiaticus: although Asiaticus accompanied Claudius in 43 in his campaign in Britain, it was arguably because Claudius mistrusted him and wanted Asiaticus where he could keep an eye on him. In a speech to the Senate, where Claudius defended the adlection of Gaulish men into the Senate, he obliquely disparaged Asiaticus, refusing to mention his name:
There is, however, one Gaul whose name I shall keep out of this speech, because he was a rascally robber and I hate the very mention of him. He was a sort of wrestling-school prodigy and carried a Consulship back to his colony before the place had even been granted the Roman citizenship. I have an equally low opinion of his brother – such a miserable and unworthy wretch that he could not possibly be of any use to you as a senator.
Purchase of the Gardens of Lucullus and downfall
Sometime after his second consulship, as Asiaticus was a well-connected man of immense wealth, he had used some of his fortune to acquire and to redevelop one of Rome’s most magnificent private properties, the pleasure gardens of Lucius Licinius Lucullus, a famous general, politician and glutton of the 1st century BC. In 47, the notorious Roman Senator Publius Suillius Rufus, brought capital charges against Asiaticus before the Roman Senate. Among those charges was adultery with Poppaea Sabina, mother of Roman empress Poppaea Sabina.
The charges brought against Asiaticus was a convoluted sexual conspiracy and a plot from Claudius’ third wife, the Roman empress Valeria Messalina to seize Asiaticus’ gardens. Through the contrivance of Messalina, Claudius condemned Asiaticus to death. Although Asiaticus was probably in favor with the public, he cannot easily be seen as a threat to Claudius or Messalina. Asiaticus went to his death calmly, making arrangements for his funeral. He committed suicide by opening his veins. Asiaticus was survived by his wife and his son.
It had been concluded that Asiaticus had married Lollia Saturnina, the sister of Lollia Paulina, the third wife of the Roman emperor Caligula. However, Bernard Kavanagh has argued not only that it is more likely that Saturnina was not Asiaticus' wife, but the wife of his son, but also in consequence Lollia Saturnina is likely the niece of Lollia Paulina.
Regardless of the identity of his wife, an inscription found at Tibur provides information about the identity of his son Decimus Valerius Asiaticus and grandson Marcus Lollius Paulinus Decimus Valerius Asiaticus Saturninus. It is possible that Asiaticus may have had other children.
Land, property and benefactions
Asiaticus invested the major part of his money in land property. According to inscriptional evidence, he owned properties in Gaul, Egypt and Italy. We know he specifically owned an estate in the Egyptian towns of Euhemeria and in Philadelphia.
Within 3 years of his death the properties that were owned by Asiaticus were confiscated by the Roman state.
In Vienna, Asiaticus with his brother finance constructions to beautify the city. According to an inscription found in North Vienna marks the tomb of the Scaenici Asiaticiani, a comedy troupe which owed their existence to a certain Asiaticus, perhaps may have been Decimus Valerius Asiaticus or his father. According to inscriptional evidence, one of the freedmen of Asiaticus was known to become a very wealthy man who probably owned properties in Lugdunum.
- P.J. Sijpesteijn, "Another οὐσία of Decimus Valerius Asiaticus in Egypt", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 79 (1989), p. 193
- Alston, Aspects of Roman History AD 14-117, p. 92
- Freisenbruch, The First Ladies of Rome: The Women Behind the Caesars, p. 131
- Wiseman, Talking to Virgil: A Miscellany, p.75
- Paul Gallivan, "The Fasti for the Reign of Claudius", Classical Quarterly, 28 (1978), pp. 408, 425
- Ronald Syme, Tacitus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), p. 590
- Decimus Valerius Asiaticus: A notable Gallo-Roman from Vienna in the 1st century, translated from French to English[dead link]
- Claudius alludes to the brother of Asiaticus in his speech, part of which is recorded on CIL XIII, 1668
- A general rule explained by Richard J. Talbert, The Senate of Imperial Rome (Princeton: University Press, 1984), p. 21
- Seneca the Younger, De Constantia Sapientis, 18
- Josephius, Antiquities of the Jews, XIX.1.20
- Swan, "Josephus, A. J., XIX, 251-252: Opposition to Gaius and Claudius", American Journal of Philology, 91 (1970), pp. 149-164
- Swan, "Josephus, A. J.", p. 156
- Tacitus, Annales, XI.1
- CIL XIII, 1668
- Tacitus, Annals, 11.2
- Alston, Aspects of Roman History AD 14-117, p. 95
- Alston, Aspects of Roman History AD 14-117, p. 93
- Wiseman, Talking to Virgil: A Miscellany, p.75
- Kavanagh, "Lollia Saturnina", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 136 (2001), pp. 229-232
- CIL XIV, 4240
- CIL XIII, 5012
- Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome
- Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Claudius
- Seneca the Younger, De Constantia sapientis
- T.P. Wiseman, Talking to Virgil: A Miscellany, University of Exeter Press, 1992
- R. Alston, Aspects of Roman History AD 14-117, Routledge, 2002
- A. Freisenbruch, The First Ladies of Rome: The Women Behind the Caesars (Google eBook), Random House, 2011
- Decimus Valerius Asiaticus: A notable Gallo-Roman from Vienna in the 1st century, translated from French to English
- After Actium: Two Caesars Are Not Enough: Chapter LXXXVII: The Trials of Livia Valeria
- The Roman World: Gallia Narbonensis's Urbs of Vienna
Gaius Cestius Gallus,
and Marcus Servilius Nonianus
as Ordinary consuls
|Suffect consul of the Roman Empire
with Aulus Gabinius Secundus
Sextus Papinius Allenius,
and Quintus Plautius
as Ordinary consuls
Aulus Antonius Rufus,
and Marcus Pompeius Silvanus Staberius Flavianus
as Suffect consuls
|Consul of the Roman Empire
with Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus
Camerinus Antistius Vetus
as Suffect consul