Marcia (gens)

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The gens Marcia, occasionally written Martia, was one of the oldest and noblest houses at ancient Rome. They claimed descent from the second and fourth Roman Kings, and the first of the Marcii appearing in the history of the Republic would seem to have been patrician; but all of the families of the Marcii known in the later Republic were plebeian. The first to obtain the consulship was Gaius Marcius Rutilus Censorinus in 310 BC.[1]


The Marcii are supposed to have been Sabines, descended from a certain Marcus Marcius of Cures, a kinsman of Numa Pompilius, and his son, Numa Marcius, a childhood friend of Pompilius, who accompanied him to Rome and served as his chief advisor. His son, the younger Numa Marcius, was urban prefect under Tullus Hostilius, and his grandson was Ancus Marcius, the fourth King of Rome.[1]

Although the Roman monarchy was not strictly hereditary, tradition holds that the sons of Ancus Marcius hoped to succeed their father, but were prevented from doing so when his chief advisor, the Etruscan Lucius Tarquinius, took advantage of their absence at the time of the king's death to solicit support for his own claim, and was elected king.[2]

After biding their time for many years, the sons of Marcius gained their revenge by engineering the assassination of Tarquin, but they were again prevented from claiming the throne by a ruse of Tanaquil, the Roman queen, who installed her stepson, Servius Tullius, as regent, until he had sufficient support to rule on his own. The later Marcii claimed descent from Ancus Marcius, but nothing further is recorded of his sons or the generations between them and the Marcii of the early Republic.[3][1]

The nomen Marcius is a patronymic surname, based on the common praenomen Marcus. There is no reason to doubt that both names are in turn derived from the god Mars, although the precise linguistic process by which this occurred is complex and uncertain.[4]


The Marcii were relatively conservative with respect to praenomina, with only three names accounting for nearly all of the Marcii of the Republic. Most branches of the family used Lucius, but preferred either Gaius or Quintus, seldom if ever using both in the same branch. There were isolated instances of Publius, Marcus, and perhaps one instance of Gnaeus, although this case is doubtful. All were very common names throughout Roman history; but there was also at least one Septimus, a praenomen that was quite rare at Rome.

The ancient praenomina Numa and Ancus evidently passed out of use some time before the establishment of the Republic. Both are likely Sabine or Oscan names, as were all of the persons known to have borne them. No attempt seems to have been made to revive either of them at Rome, either as praenomen or cognomen. Numa seems to be related to Numitor, the name of one of the ancient Kings of Alba Longa, and the grandfather of Romulus, and may share a common root with the praenomen Numerius, which remained in use at Rome for many centuries; Chase suggests a meaning related to "arranger" or "orderer", which would suit both Numa Pompilius and his kinsman, Numa Marcius. For Ancus, otherwise known only from the legendary founder of the Publician gens, he suggests the meaning of "servant", perhaps in the religious sense.[5]

Branches and cognomina[edit]

The only surname associated with the patrician Marcii was Coriolanus, which does not seem to have represented a distinct family of the Marcian gens. During the time of the Republic, the plebeian Marcii bore the cognomina Censorinus, Crispus, Figulus, Libo, Philippus, Ralla, Rex, Rufus, Rutilus, Septimus, Sermo, and Tremulus. Those of Censorinus, Libo, and Philippus are found on coins.[1]


This list includes abbreviated praenomina. For an explanation of this practice, see filiation.
  • Marcus Marcius, a kinsman of Numa Pompilius, who together with Numa's father, Pompo, persuaded him to accept the Roman Kingdom.[6]
  • Numa Marcius M. f., the son of Marcus, was an intimate friend of Numa Pompilius, and accompanied him to Rome, where he was enrolled in the Senate, and created the first Pontifex Maximus. According to Plutarch, when the king died, after a reign of forty-three years, Numa Marcius contended with Tullus Hostilius for the throne, but being defeated he starved himself to death.[7][8]
  • Numa Marcius Numae f. M. n., the son of Numa Marcius, served as praefectus urbi under Tullus Hostilius. He married Pompilia, daughter of Numa Pompilius, and was the father of Ancus Marcius.[7][9][10]
  • Ancus Marcius Numae f. Numae n., the third King of Rome, according to tradition restored many religious ceremonies that Tullus Hostilius had neglected, but also ably defended the city in times of war. To him are credited many improvements in and around the city of Rome, including the fortification of the Janiculum, the building of a bridge over the Tiber, and the settling of captured Latins on the Aventine Hill.[i][12][13][14][7][15]
  • Gaius Marcius Coriolanus,[ii] a legendary Roman soldier who led the charge that captured the Volscian town of Corioli. He subsequently became a fierce opponent of the plebeians, urging that they surrender the hard-won office of Tribune of the Plebs before grain could be purchased for them during a famine. Rather than face trial for his effrontery, he fled into exile among the Volsci, then led a Volscian force against Rome, withdrawing only at the pleas of his mother and sister. He was the subject of one of Shakespeare's history plays.[16][17]

Marcii Rutili et Censorini[edit]

Denarius issued by the Gaius Censorinus who was moneyer in 88 BC, depicting Numa Pompilius and the gens ancestor Ancus Marcius on the obverse, with a desultor performing on two horses on the reverse
Further information: Marcii Censorini

Marcii Philippi[edit]

Marcii Reges[edit]

Marcii Rallae[edit]

  • Marcus Marcius Ralla, praetor urbanus in 204 BC.[30]
  • Quintus Marcius Ralla, duumvir in 194 BC, for dedicating a temple, and again in 192 BC for the same purpose.[30]

Marcii Figuli[edit]

Marcii Bareae[edit]



  1. ^ Niebuhr proposes that the descendants of these captives formed the origin of the plebeians.[11]
  2. ^ His praenomen is Gnaeus in some manuscripts, but this was not a name used by the Marcii in historical times, while Gaius was one of their favoured praenomina.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. II, p. 940 ("Marcia Gens").
  2. ^ Livy, i. 35.
  3. ^ Livy, i. 41.
  4. ^ Chase, pp. 131, 158, 159.
  5. ^ Chase, p. 144.
  6. ^ Plutarch, "The Life of Numa", 5–7.
  7. ^ a b c Plutarch, "The Life of Numa", 21.
  8. ^ Livy, i. 20.
  9. ^ Plutarch, "The Life of Coriolanus", 1.
  10. ^ Tacitus, Annales, vi. 11.
  11. ^ Niebuhr, vol. i, p. 352 ff.
  12. ^ Livy, i. 32, 33.
  13. ^ Dionysius, iii. 36–45.
  14. ^ Cicero, De Republica ii. 18.
  15. ^ Arnold, vol. i, p. 19.
  16. ^ Plutarch, "The Life of Coriolanus".
  17. ^ Shakespeare, Coriolanus.
  18. ^ Antony Kamm, The Romans, An Introduction, p. 13.
  19. ^ Appian, Bellum Civile 1.71.
  20. ^ Robin Seager, "Sulla," in The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge University Press, 1994), vol. 9, pp. 178 online and 193; Patrick McGushin, Sallust: The Histories (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), vol. 1, p. 101 online.
  21. ^ The praenomen is indicated by the coin, but not the gentilicum, which is given for the Censorinus who was an officer and is considered the same man.
  22. ^ Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae 16.165; Velleius Paterculus 2.101; Ronald Syme, "C. Marcius Censorinus in the East," in Anatolica (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 302–307, limited preview online.
  23. ^ Claude Eilers, Roman Patrons of Greek Cities (Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 236 online.
  24. ^ Fasti capitolini
  25. ^ a b Smith 1872, p. 293.
  26. ^ a b Smith 1872, p. 294.
  27. ^ Smith 1872, p. 296.
  28. ^ a b c d e Smith 1872, p. 646.
  29. ^ Napoleon III. Histoire de Jules César Volume 1, p. 253254 Paris: H. Plon 1865
  30. ^ a b Smith 1872, p. 640.