Gaius Valerius Flaccus (consul)

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Gaius Valerius Flaccus (fl. early 1st century BC)[1] was a consul of the Roman Republic in 93 BC and a provincial governor in the late-90s and throughout the 80s.[2] He is notable for his balanced stance during the Sullan civil wars, the longevity of his term as governor, and his efforts to extend citizenship to non-Romans.

Life and career[edit]

Valerius Flaccus was praetor sometime before 95 BC, most probably in 96.[3] An inscription from Claros indicates that following his praetorship and before 95 he held a promagisterial command in the Roman province of Asia.[4] Both he and his brother Lucius, who was a governor of Asia in the late 90s and again for 85, are honored as patrons of the city of Colophon in Lydia.[5] The two are the first Roman governors known to be addressed as patrons of a free city, a practice that became common in the 60s BC.[6]

Flaccus may have been a candidate for the consulship of 94, losing to the novus homo C. Coelius Caldus, who is said to have run against two highly distinguished nobiles and beaten one of them.[7] It was not unusual for a defeated candidate to run again the following year, often with success.[8] The colleague of Flaccus in the consulship of 93 was M. Herennius.[9]

Proponent of citizenship[edit]

In 96, while praetor urbanus, Valerius Flaccus sponsored legislation to grant citizenship to Calliphana of Velia, a priestess of Ceres.[10] Julius Caesar, in his account of the Gallic Wars, identifies the Helvian Celt Caburus as another recipient of citizenship from Flaccus, during his time as governor of Gallia Transalpina. Caburus followed custom in assuming his patron's gentilic name Gaius Valerius.[11] This interest in expanding citizenship may be viewed in the context of the family's moderate popularism and their relations with social inferiors; E. Badian has pointed out that the Valerii Flacci "were given to taking up new men and families: inscriptions (Inschr. V. Magn. 144f.) reveal a policy of low-class connections."[12]


Flaccus succeeded Titus Didius as proconsul of Hispania Citerior in 92, and assumed his post before the conclusion of his consulship in order to deal with an uprising among the Celtiberi. The historian Appian says the revolt was motivated by the exceptional cruelty and treachery of Didius, who had dealt with unrest and crime among the poor by promising them land to live on and then luring them into a trap. When the families had assembled within the enclosure of the Roman castra for the required registration, Didius slaughtered them all.[13] While implying that the revolt against Didius was justified, Appian's account of the subsequent actions of Flaccus is not overtly critical. In an attempt to restore order, Flaccus engaged in armed conflicts that left 20,000 Celtiberi dead. At Belgida, however, the local senate refused to issue an official declaration of war against Rome, or were perhaps still deliberating. The rebels set fire to the structure and burned their own senators alive. The local reaction to the mass murder of their governing class was no doubt mixed. Flaccus appears to have succeeded at halting large-scale violence, perhaps because he capitalized on any outrage or ambivalence within the community at the deaths of their senators and executed those responsible.

Flaccus remained in Spain longer than any other Roman governor had up to that time, and he seems to have been in charge of Hispania Ulterior as well as Citerior.[14] His extended command probably resulted from the disruptions of the Social War and its aftermath, and the civil wars of the 80s. After stabilizing the region, Flaccus appears to have governed prudently and with respect to legal authority.[15]

Contrebian water rights[edit]

Flaccus remained in Spain as governor at least until 87, as evidenced by the Tabula Contrebiensis, a bronze tablet on which is inscribed his iudicium pertaining to boundaries and water-rights arbitration. The document is written in Latin[16] based on Roman legal formulae, but the judges are the local senate of Contrebia Balaisca (near present-day Botorrita).[17] Flaccus understood the legal issue as a distinction between ager publicus or ager privatus, publicly held or private land. He used a legal fiction to show how the principles of the two communities involved in the dispute could be applied mutually, and provided a Roman legal framework within which the Contrebians could cite precedent from Celtiberian law.[18]


Scholars have been unable to determine the extent to which Flaccus's terms as governor in Spain and Gaul were overlapping or sequential, as a continuous line of succession can rarely be traced for any province. A dual governorship of both provinces has been disparaged as "unprecedented,"[19] but no other promagistrate is documented for Spain in this period, and since the senate only began assigning Transalpine Gaul as a regular provincia in the mid-90s, administrative arrangements were still evolving. By 85, Flaccus is "firmly installed" in Transalpina, though Cicero, as Badian notes, refrains from calling him the lawful governor there.[20] He was acclaimed imperator and retained his province until he celebrated a triumph over Celtiberia and Gaul in 81.[21] The two Gallic provinces were often governed jointly, and no other promagistrate is recorded for Cisalpina, the ethnically Celtic north of Italy, for the period 87–82.[22] It is possible to argue that by the mid-80s, Flaccus was responsible for both Gallia Transalpina and Cisalpina, as well as Hispania Ulterior and Citerior.[23]

The longevity of Flaccus's command has been cited as evidence that the prolongment of Julius Caesar's term in Gaul in the 50s, and the five-year proconsular commands granted to Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Crassus after their joint consulship in 55, were less exceptional than has sometimes been thought.[24]

The case of Quinctius[edit]

In 83 BC, Flaccus was brought into a property dispute between Publius Quinctius and a Naevius. Quinctius had inherited land in Transalpina from his brother, Lucius Quinctius, along with attached debts. Naevius, who had been the brother's business partner, tried to foreclose on the property,[25] and ejected Quinctius by force. Flaccus ruled that Naevius had seized the property improperly and ordered restitution.[26] Two years later, the case, still dragging on, helped launch the career of Cicero, who in 81 was a young advocate in his mid-twenties arguing on behalf of Quinctius.[27]

Role in civil war[edit]

If Flaccus governed both Spains and both Gauls, or any combination of the four provinces, the armed forces at his disposal were unmatched in the western empire.[28] "The loyalty of these armies," it has been noted, "was crucial to the State."[29] Until 85 BC or later, Flaccus either supported or acted in no way contrary to the interests of the Marian and Cinnan faction, which held the consulship from 87 to 82 BC. He appears to have been attempting to preserve legitimate authority while remaining neutral in the factional conflict, though the Valerii Flacci were generally popularist in their politics and had strong ties to Gaius Marius.[30]

The death of Flaccus's brother, Lucius, marks a turning point. Lucius Valerius Flaccus was the suffect consul who completed Marius's term in 86 BC. He was sent as governor to the Roman province of Asia, where he was murdered in 85 by the mutinous Gaius Flavius Fimbria, who then took command of the troops assigned to Lucius. The Cinnan government failed to take action against Fimbria, who had been a particularly ferocious supporter of the Marian faction.[31] Lucius's son, also named Lucius, fled Asia and sought refuge with his uncle in Massalia (present-day Marseille), then still an independent Greek city-state; this nephew was the Lucius Valerius Flaccus defended by Cicero in his speech Pro Flacco two decades later.

No replacement for Flaccus was sent from Rome, but doubts about his allegiance were perhaps raised.[32] Cinna was assassinated in 84; Sulla returned to Italy in 83. The Marian-Cinnan faction, now led by the son of Gaius Marius, set about securing Spain, which Flaccus, given the vastness of his command, could only have been administering through legates such as the disreputable Marcus Fonteius.[33] That the armed forces of Spain might ally with the Sullan forces now in Italy was a dangerous possibility for the besieged government. When the young Marcus Crassus, the future triumvir, had raised Spanish troops for Sulla in 84,[34] Flaccus did nothing to stop him.[35] Quintus Sertorius, impeccably loyal to the anti-Sullan cause, was sent overland to the Iberian peninsula with a relatively small force in late 83 or early 82.[36] Flaccus allowed Sertorius to march through Transalpina, and Sertorius likewise took no action against the imperium of Flaccus.[37] The Marians may have wished to secure their interests in the west without requiring Flaccus to take sides in a direct confrontation: "The government could ill afford to alienate the man even further when he had shown no actual sign of disaffection."[38] Sertorius was a logical successor to govern Spain because he had served there earlier, and to relieve Flaccus after such a prolonged term was reasonable rather than provocative.[39]

No sources identify Flaccus as a Sullan, but the governor could have signalled his displeasure by withholding tax revenues.[40] Flaccus tilts observably only after Sulla gained control of Cisalpine Gaul.[41] Flaccus's cousin, the princeps senatus named Lucius Valerius Flaccus[42] (also the name of his brother), may have been an influence in Gaius's shift toward Sulla; he sponsored the Lex Valeria, the legislation that made Sulla dictator at the end of 82 or the beginning of 81. Flaccus had his triumph under the dictatorship, an honor Sulla would hardly have permitted had Flaccus not supported his regime.[43]


Denarius issued in 82 BC by Gaius Valerius Flaccus, depicting Victory

After Sulla emerged victorious, the senate authorized Flaccus to strike coinage to cover expenses for his final months in command. Many examples of this military issue have survived. In 82, to commemorate his victories, the mint in Massalia issued a denarius depicting a winged bust of Victory and a caduceus on the obverse.[44] The reverse shows a legionary aquila flanked by military standards. The one on the left is marked with an H (for Hastati, spearmen), the one on the right P (Principes, also a term for spearmen). Below is the abbreviation ex s(enatus) c(onsulto), "by decree of the senate". On the left appears an abbreviated form of the name C(aius) Val(erius) Fla(ccus), with imperat(or) on the right.[45] Flaccus's coin is modeled after a Sullan type, and the symbolism of coins minted in Spain and Gaul during the period frequently advertised "legitimacy and military success".[46] The output has been estimated at 540,000 denarii.[47]

End of life[edit]

Flaccus was in his mid-50s or older when he held his triumph. The date and circumstances of his death are not known; after closing his career with one of Rome's greatest honors, he may have chosen to live quietly and distance himself from factional politics.

Selected primary sources[edit]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Badian, E. "Notes on Provincial Governors" and "Waiting for Sulla." As reprinted in Studies in Greek and Roman History. New York 1964.
  • Brennan, T. Corey. The Praetorship in the Roman Republic. Oxford University Press, 2000. Limited preview online.
  • Frier, Bruce W. "Sulla's Propaganda: The Collapse of the Cinnan Republic." American Journal of Philology 92 (1971) 585–604.
  • Konrad, Christoph F. Plutarch's Sertorius: A Historical Commentary. University of North Carolina Press, 1994. Limited preview online.
  • Lovano, Michael. The Age of Cinna: Crucible of Late Republican Rome. Franz Steiner Verlag, 2002. Limited preview online.


  1. ^ Given the age requirement for the consulship, Flaccus would have been born no later than the mid-130s BC.
  2. ^ T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 2, 99 B.C.–31 B.C. (New York: American Philological Association, 1952), pp. 9, 10 (note 4), 18, 58–59, 61, 64, 70, 77–78, 628.
  3. ^ Based on the date of his consulship and evidence from Cicero, Pro Balbo 55, and Valerius Maximus 1.1.1; Broughton, Magistrates, p. 10.
  4. ^ T. Corey Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic (Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 442 online and p. 552 online.
  5. ^ Claude Eilers, Roman Patrons of Greek Cities (Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 79 online and p. 137 online. Lucius was murdered before he reached his province for the year of 85.
  6. ^ Richard Gordon with Joyce Reynolds, "Roman Inscriptions 1995–2000," Journal of Roman Studies 93 (2003), p. 225.
  7. ^ Commentariolum Petitionis 11.
  8. ^ T.R.S. Broughton, "Candidates Defeated in Roman Elections: Some Ancient Roman 'Also-Rans'," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 81 (1991), pp. 19–20 online.
  9. ^ David L. Vagi, Coinage and History of the Roman Empire (Taylor & Francis, 1999), vol. 1, p. 33 online. The election is discussed more fully by E. Badian, "Notes on Provincial Governors," Proceedings of the African Classical Associations (1958), as republished in Studies in Greek and Roman History (New York 1964), p. 94.
  10. ^ Cicero, Pro Balbo 55; Valerius Maximus 1.1.1; Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic, p. 472 online.
  11. ^ Julius Caesar, Bellum Gallicum 1.47.4.
  12. ^ E. Badian, "Waiting for Sulla," Journal of Roman Studies (1962), as republished in Studies in Greek and Roman History (New York 1964), p. 222.
  13. ^ Appian, Iberica 100 online.
  14. ^ Leonard A. Curchin, Roman Spain (Routledge, 1991), p. 42 online; Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic, p. 502 online.
  15. ^ J.S. Richardson, Hispaniae: Spain and the Development of Roman Imperialism, 218–82 BC (Cambridge University Press, 1986, reprinted 2004), pp. 159–160 online. One of the fullest discussions of Flaccus's provincial commands in Spain and Gaul is E. Badian, "Notes on Provincial Governors," pp. 88–96.
  16. ^ For an English translation, see Rabun Taylor, "The Tabula Contrebiensis," in Public Needs and Private Pleasures: Water Distribution, the Tiber River and the Urban Development of Ancient Rome (L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2000), pp. 121–122 online.
  17. ^ Andrew Lintott, "The Roman Empire and Its Problems in the Late Second Century," in The Cambridge Ancient History: The Last Age of the Roman Republic, 146–43 B.C. (Cambridge University Press, 2000), vol. 9, pp. 22–23 online.
  18. ^ Clifford Ando, "The Administration of the Provinces," in A Companion to the Roman Empire (Blackwell, 2006), pp. 184–185 online; Andrew Lintott, Imperium Romanum: Politics and Administration (Routledge, 1993), p. 155 online.
  19. ^ Leonard A. Curchin, Roman Spain (Routledge, 1991), p. 42.
  20. ^ E. Badian, "Notes on Provincial Governors," p. 95; that he was there in 83 is attested by Julius Caesar, Bellum Gallicum 1.47.4.
  21. ^ Granius Licinianus, 36.31.5.
  22. ^ Cicero, Pro Quinctio 24 and 28; Bobbio Scholiast 96 (in Stangl); Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic, p. 363 online.
  23. ^ Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic, p. 363 online.
  24. ^ Ronald T. Ridley, "The Extraordinary Commands of the Late Republic: A Matter of Definition," Historia 30 (1981), p. 294, especially note 43.
  25. ^ Michael Lovano, The Age of Cinna: Crucible of Late Republican Rome (Franz Steiner Verlag, 2002), p. 65 online.
  26. ^ Andrew Lintott, Cicero as Evidence: A Historian's Companion (Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 51–55 online. Lintott presents an extensive discussion of the case pp. 43–59.
  27. ^ D.H. Berry, Cicero: Political Speeches (Oxford University Press, 2006), p. xiii online.
  28. ^ Christoph F. Konrad, Plutarch's Sertorius: A Historical Commentary (University of North Carolina Press, 1994), p. 86 online.
  29. ^ Bruce W. Frier, "Sulla's Propaganda: The Collapse of the Cinnan Republic," American Journal of Philology 92 (1971), p. 592; also Arthur Keaveney, Sulla, the Last Republican (Routledge, 1982, 2nd edition 2005), p. 100 online, where Gaius is erroneously identified as brother of the Lucius who was princeps senatus.
  30. ^ Michael Lovano, The Age of Cinna (Franz Steiner Verlag, 2002), pp. 81 and 83; Lawrence Keppie, The Making of the Roman Army from Republic to Empire (University of Oklahoma Press, 1998), p. 224; Ronald T. Ridley, "The Dictator's Mistake: Caesar's Escape from Sulla," Historia (2000), p. 214.
  31. ^ Lovano, The Age of Cinna, p. 81.
  32. ^ E. Badian, Studies in Greek and Roman History (New York 1964), p. 229; Lovano, The Age of Cinna, p. 82.
  33. ^ Lovano, The Age of Cinna, p. 83 online. Fonteius is later defended by Cicero in his speech Pro Fonteio for extortion in Transalpina.
  34. ^ Plutarch, Crassus 6.1.
  35. ^ Bruce W. Frier, "Sulla's Propaganda," American Journal of Philology 92 (1971), p. 597.
  36. ^ Plutarch, Sertorius 6.1–3; Appian, Bellum civile 1.86.392; Lovano, The Age of Cinna, p. 82; Frier, "Sulla's Propaganda," p. 597.
  37. ^ E. Badian, Studies in Greek and Roman History (New York 1964), p. 96; Lovano, The Age of Cinna, pp. 83 and 85.
  38. ^ Christoph F. Konrad, Plutarch's Sertorius, p. 86 online.
  39. ^ Konrad, Plutarch's Sertorius, pp. 86–87.
  40. ^ Lovano, The Age of Cinna, p. 74.
  41. ^ Konrad, Plutarch's Sertorius, p. 87.
  42. ^ The L. Valerius Flaccus who was princeps senatus is sometimes confused with the brother of the consul of 93 BC, as potentially in Arthur Keaveney, Sulla, the Last Republican (Routledge, 1982, 2nd edition 2005), p. 161.
  43. ^ Frier, "Sulla's Propaganda," American Journal of Philology 92 (1971), p. 597.
  44. ^ Michael H. Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage (Cambridge University Press, 1974), p. 80 online.
  45. ^ Lawrence Keppie, The Making of the Roman Army from Republic to Empire (University of Oklahoma Press, 1998), p. 224 online. For more on the numismatic significance of this coin, see David L. Vagi, Coinage and History of the Roman Empire (Taylor & Francis, 1999), vol. 1, pp. 33–34 online.
  46. ^ Frier, "Sulla's Propaganda," p. 602.
  47. ^ Harold B. Mattingly, "Coinage and the Roman State," in From Coins to History: Selected Numismatic Studies (University of Michigan Press, 2004), p. 271 online. Mattingly states that 36 obverse dies were used for the issue.
Political offices
Preceded by
Gaius Coelius Caldus and Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Marcus Herennius
93 BC
Succeeded by
Gaius Claudius Pulcher and Marcus Perperna

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1870). "Flaccus, Valerius (13)". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 2. p. 159.