Decimus Valerius Asiaticus

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Decimus Valerius Asiaticus,[1] also known as Valerius Asiaticus[2] (around 5 BC[3]-47,[1][2] Greek: Δέκιμος Οὐαλέριος Ἀσιατικός[3]) was a respected,[1] wealthy and prominent Roman Senator[4] of provincial origin.[1] In Roman history, Asiaticus is a well-known person.[3]

Family background and early life[edit]

Asiaticus was of Allobrogian origin.[5] He was born in Vienna[3] in Gallia Narbonensis.[6] Little is known on his family. Although he was from a wealthy family, an ancestor of Asiaticus received Roman citizenship from Gaius Valerius Flaccus who was the Roman Governor of Transalpine Gaul in 80 BC and seem to have inherited Flaccus’ name.[5] Asiaticus had a brother who served as a Roman Senator until 47.[5]

Asiaticus at a young age may had 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.[5]

Political career[edit]

Asiaticus married the social, beautiful Roman noble woman Lollia Saturnina,[7] whose younger sister Lollia Paulina was a Roman empress and the third wife of the Roman emperor Caligula.[2] Saturnina was the first daughter of the suffect consul Marcus Lollius and the noble woman Volusia Saturnina,[8] as she was a first cousin to Roman emperor Tiberius and his brother, the General Nero Claudius Drusus.[9] Saturnina with Asiaticus had a son called Decimus Valerius Asiaticus.[10] There is a possibility they may had other children.

The political career of Asiaticus was a contemporary of the rule of the Roman emperors Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius. The political rise of Asiaticus may have been due to his powerful Gallic connections, which have included his friendship with Claudius[11] in which he was born in Lugdunum Gaul.[12] He must have had proven himself as a capable politician, as he could have himself be named as a potential emperor.[13] Asiaticus in 35 became and served as a suffect consul.[3] He was the first citizen from Vienna to become consul,[3] the first man from Gaul to attain the consulship[2] and became the first man from Gaul to be admitted into the Roman Senate.[5]

Asiaticus was a friend of Caligula.[3] Around 39, six months after Caligula divorced Lollia Paulina, Saturnina became a mistress to Caligula. When Caligula started publicly discussing their relationship, including in the presence of Asiaticus, this lead him to hate Caligula.[14] As a result of Asiaticus being offended by Caligula during a banquet, he became an accomplice[2] and the main instigator of the murder of Caligula.[3] Caligula and his family were killed on January 24, 41 and his paternal uncle Claudius succeeded him as Roman emperor. Asiaticus' attempt to succeed Caligula as Emperor failed.[3]

Asiaticus accompanied Claudius in 43 in his campaign in Britain.[3] In 46, he served as an ordinary consul.[3]>

Purchase of the Gardens of Lucullus and downfall[edit]

Sometime after his second consulship, as Asiaticus was a well-connected man of immense wealth,[2] 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.[2] 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.[15]

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.[1] Through the contrivance of Messalina, Claudius condemned Asiaticus to death.[3] Although Asiaticus was probably in favor with the public,[16] he cannot easily be seen as a threat to Claudius or Messalina.[1] Asiaticus went to his death calmly, making arrangements for his funeral.[17] He committed suicide by opening his veins.[3] Asiaticus was survived by his wife and his son.

Claudius eschewed to mention him by name in his famous speech of Lugudunum (CIL XIII, 1668, 14-15) in 48. This part of the speech, that mentions Asiaticus and his brother, reveals Claudius’ opinion on both of the men:

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.

Land property and benefactions[edit]

Asiaticus invested the major part of his money in land property.[3] According to inscriptional evidence, he owned properties in Gaul,[5] Egypt and Italy.[3]

According to a Papyrus found in Egypt, he owned an estate in the Egyptian town of Euhemeria.[3] The Papyrus is dated from the reign of Caligula.[3]

The Papyrus is translated from Greek into English:

Γαίωι Ίου[λίωι Φόλωι]
ἐπαστάτη[ι φυλακιτῶν]
παρά Μεγχή[ους τοῦ ]
[ε]ως τὢν ά[πό Εύημερείας]
[γ]εωργοῦ ούσία[ς Δεκίμου]
Ούαλερίου Άσια[τικοῦ.]
τῆι κΘ τοῦ Τῦ[βι τοῦ ένεσ-]
τὢτος <x (ἕτουςs)> Γαίου Κ[αίσαρος]
Γερμανικοῦ έκ[λάπη μου]
χοιρίδιον ἂξιο[ν άργυρίου]
(δραχμὢν) ις. διό άξ[ιὢ γράψαι]
τῶι τῆς κώ[μης ὰρχε-]
φόδωι ὂπως [τήν ύπέρ]
τοῦ μέρους ὲπι[ζήτησιν]
ποήσεται. [εύτύχει.]
Μεγχῆ(ς) (έτὤν)μ ούλ(ή) [
7κθ: κ ex λ
To Gaius Julius Pholus, chief of police, from Menches son of N.N. of Euhemeria, farmer on the estate of Decimus Valerius Asiaticus. On the 29th of Tybi of the present <x year> of Gaius Caesar Germanicus a piglet worth 16 dr(achmas) was stolen from me. I therefore entreat you to write to the archephodus of the village that he makes an inquiry into the matter. Farewell.
Menches, aged 40 have a scar on [
Verso (2nd h) To the archephodus of Euhemeria.

Within 3 years of his death the properties that were owned by Asiaticus were confiscated by the Roman state.[3]

In Vienna, Asiaticus with his brother finance constructions to beautify the city.[5] 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[5] or his father. According to inscriptional evidence, one of the freedmen of Asiaticus was known to become a very wealthy man[18] who probably owned properties in Lugdunum.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Alston, Aspects of Roman History AD 14-117, p. 92
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Freisenbruch, The First Ladies of Rome: The Women Behind the Caesars, p. 131
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r P.J. Sijpesteijn, "Another οὐσία of Decimus Valerius Asiaticus in Egypt", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 79 (1989), p. 193
  4. ^ Wiseman, Talking to Virgil: A Miscellany, p.75
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Decimus Valerius Asiaticus: A notable Gallo-Roman from Vienna in the 1st century, translated from French to English[dead link]
  6. ^ Genealogy of Lollius by D.C. O’Driscoll
  7. ^ Wiseman, Talking to Virgil: A Miscellany, p.75
  8. ^ Lollius by D.C. O’Driscoll
  9. ^ After Actium: Two Caesars Are Not Enough: Chapter LXXXVII: The Trials of Livia Valeria
  10. ^ The Roman World: Gallia Narbonensis's Urbs of Vienna
  11. ^ Tacitus, Annals, 11.3
  12. ^ Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars – Claudius: 1.6
  13. ^ Wiseman, Talking to Virgil: A Miscellany, p.75
  14. ^ Seneca the Younger, De Constantia sapientis: 18,2
  15. ^ Tacitus, Annals, 11.2
  16. ^ Alston, Aspects of Roman History AD 14-117, p. 95
  17. ^ Alston, Aspects of Roman History AD 14-117, p. 93
  18. ^ CIL XIII, 5012


Political offices
Preceded by
Paullus Fabius Persicus and Lucius Vitellius the Elder
Consul of the Roman Empire together with Gaius Cestius Gallus
Succeeded by
Sextus Papinius Allenius and Q. Plautius
Preceded by
Marcus Vinicius and Titus Statilius Taurus Corvinus
Consul of the Roman Empire together with Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus
Succeeded by
Claudius and Lucius Vitellius the Elder