Gaius Julius Cornutus Tertullus

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Gaius Julius Cornutus Tertullus was a Roman senator who was active during the late 1st and early 2nd centuries. He is best known as the older friend of Pliny the Younger, with whom Cornutus was suffect consul for the nundinium of September-October 100.


How Cornutus is related to other known Romans of his time is unclear. Older authorities note that the one inscription that preserves his full name[1] is missing the middle of the relevant line, and conclude from the name of his son, Gaius Julius Plancius Varius Cornutus, Cornutus' full name may be Gaius Julius Plancius Varius Cornutus Tertullus. This would imply that he is somehow related to Marcus Plancius Varus, a citizen of Perga, who was proconsular governor of Bithynia and Pontus.[2] Further, at least one authority believes Cornutus is the father of Julia Tertulla.[3] However, Julia Tertulla married Lucius Julius Marinus Caecilius Simplex, who was suffect consul in 101, which indicates either Julia was married at a very young age, or would be better considered Cornutus' sister. Further, Olli Salomies reports an unpublished inscription that proves Cornutus' wife was Plancia Magna (which would explain how that element entered their son's name), and the full name of their son.[4]

Senatorial career[edit]

His career can be reconstructed from an inscription.[1] There is no information about which board he served as a member of the vigintiviri, so it may be possible Cornutus missed that office in his cursus honorum. Cornutus then was an urban quaestor and aedile as he proceeded through the traditional republican magistracies, before being adlected as a praetor by Vespasian and Titus, likely during their censorship of AD 73/74. With praetorian rank, Cornutus held two more offices, first as legate to the proconsular governor of Crete and Cyrenaica, then as governor of the public province of Gallia Narbonensis.[5]

Then a gap of roughly twenty years follows. Cornutus could have quickly served in both of the offices mentioned during the reign of Vespasian, who died in the year 79; the next office Cornutus held was prefect of the aerarium Saturni from 98 to 100, with the Younger Pliny as his colleague.[6] This gap spans the reign of Domitian. It is possible that Cornutus was out of favor with this suspicious Emperor, but Pliny supplies the answer: in his Panegyric to Trajan, Pliny notes that Cornutus declined to promote himself to the Emperor, thus refusing to hold offices during that Emperor's reign.[7]

After Trajan appointed him to the aerarium Saturni, Cornutus then served as a suffect consul with Pliny. Following this, Pliny's letters show that Cornutus was active in the Senate, taking part in the trial of Marius Priscus for mismanagement while proconsul of Africa,[8] and defending Publicius Certus when Pliny prosecuted the former delator or informer.[9] he was appointed curator Via Aemilia, an achievement Pliny excitedly reports to his friend Paternus the moment he learns of it.[10] After this, he was tasked with conducting a census in Gallia Aquitania, which was followed with governorship of Bithynia and Pontus between 112 and 115.[11] The acme of his career was when Cornutus was proconsular governor of Asia in 116/117.[12]

The date of his death is unknown. If we assume Cornutus was around 30 when adlected as praetor (the legal age one held that magistracy) in 73/74, when he concluded his term in Roman Asia he would have been in his seventies, so it is likely Cornutus died not long after.


  1. ^ a b CIL XIV, 2925
  2. ^ Shelagh Jameson, "Cornutus Tertullus and the Plancii of Perge", Journal of Roman Studies, 55 (1965), pp. 54-58
  3. ^ Brian W. Jones, The Emperor Domitian (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 176
  4. ^ Salomies, Adoptive and polyonymous nomenclature in the Roman Empire, (Helsinski: Societas Scientiarum Fenica, 1992), pp. 65f
  5. ^ The date of this office is unknown; Werner Eck dates it to the reigns of Vespasian or Domitian. ("Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis 138/139", Chiron 13 (1983), p. 200)
  6. ^ Date taken from Mireille Corbier, L'aerarium saturni et l'aerarium militare; Administration et prosopographie sénatoriale, Publications de l'École française de Rome, 24 (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1974), pp. 119-131
  7. ^ Panegyric, 90,6
  8. ^ Epistulae, II.11.19, 12.2f
  9. ^ Epistulae, IX.13.15
  10. ^ Epistulae, IV.14
  11. ^ Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten", Chiron, 12 (1982), pp. 353-358
  12. ^ Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten", (1982), pp. 361f
Political offices
Preceded by
Quintus Acutius Nerva,
and Lucius Fabius Tuscus

as suffect consul
Suffect Consul of the Roman Empire
with Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus
Succeeded by
Lucius Roscius Aelianus Maecius Celer,
and Tiberius Claudius Sacerdos Julianus

as suffect consul