Sallustius Lucullus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Sallustius Lucullus (d. c. 89) was a governor of Roman Britain during the late 1st century, holding office after Gnaeus Julius Agricola although it is unclear whether he directly inherited the post or if there was another unknown governor in between. From epigraphic evidence it is possible he was of British descent.


Little is known of him other than the story recorded by Suetonius that Emperor Domitian put him to death for naming a new lance after himself.[1] This story may mask another reason for Sallustius' execution; the possibility that he took part in the conspiracy of Lucius Antonius Saturninus, legate of Germania Superior, which was put down in the spring of 89.[2]

It is possible that he may be identified with the Lucius Lucullus who was proconsul of Hispania Baetica, and a student of marine life, at the time Pliny the Elder wrote his Natural History (c. 77).[3] This Lucullus would have been of appropriate rank to be appointed governor of Britain at the right date.[4]

Dr. Miles Russell of Bournemouth University has suggested another possibility. An inscription from Chichester, recorded by Samuel Woodford in his Inscriptionum Romano-Britannicarum Conllectio (1658) but since lost, refers to Sallustius Lucullus, giving his praenomen as Gaius and describing him as a propraetorian legate of the emperor Domitian. Another inscription from Chichester, discovered in 1923, refers to a "Lucullus, son of Amminus". Russell suggests that this is the same Lucullus, and that his father was the native British prince Amminus, son of Cunobelinus, who fled to Rome c. 40. He also argues that Fishbourne Roman Palace, near Chichester, was built for Sallustius Lucullus as governor, rather than, as is often argued, for the client king Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus. Although other archaeologists have dated the construction of the palace to c. 73, Russell's reinterpretation of the ground plan and finds leads him to date the palace after 92, which would be consistent with Lucullus rather than Cogidubnus as its occupant.[5] However, other scholars argue against Russell's identification of the Lucullus of the 1923 inscription with the Roman governor. Woodford's missing inscription was dismissed as a fake by R. G. Collinwood and R. P. Wright in their Roman Inscriptions of Britain (1965): its mention of Domitian, whose name was removed from public inscriptions following his damnatio memoriae, argues for its inauthenticity, and the governors of Britain were proconsuls, not propraetors. The second inscription does not follow Roman naming conventions, meaning it is unlikely to refer to a Roman citizen,[6] but rather the conventions of Latin text occurring on Celtic coins circulating in Britain just prior to the 43 invasion, suggesting a British aristocrat writing for an audience familiar with the conventions of Celtic coinage.

Russell has argued [7] that it would be too much of a coincidence to have two inscriptions made at the same time in the same town citing two separate individuals with the same name, especially as the name ‘Lucullus’ does not appear anywhere else in the British Isles during the Roman period. The position of the altar, at the political centre of Roman Chichester, would further emphasise the importance of the donor for only a major local dignitary would have had the authority to place such piece here. The discovery of the altar citing Lucullus further validates the inscription found by Woodford. Had the discoveries been made the other way round, Woodford’s find following the recovery of the Lion Street Altar in 1923, then doubts would have certainly arisen concerning the authenticity of the latter piece. The reality is that the monumental dedication to Domitian and recorded by Woodford naming Lucullus as governor was recorded well before the Lion Street altar and thus both pieces would appear to be genuine.

Military activity[edit]

Archaeology can tell us something of Roman military activity in the years following Agricola's recall in 84. Sallustius (or his unknown predecessor, if one existed) may have attempted to consolidate Agricola's victories in Scotland by building the Glen Forts which Peter Salway dates to his rule. Forts at Ardoch and Dalswinton in southern Scotland, which Agricola had built, were extensively rebuilt in the late 80s and evidence of improvements of other military installations in the region points to a strong presence in the Scots Lowlands.

Inchtuthil was abandoned around this time as well however and it is likely that demands for troops elsewhere in the empire denied Sallustius enough manpower to continue to hold the far north. There is archaeological evidence that some of the Roman watchtowers in northern Scotland remained occupied until 90, however.

All in all, it is likely that troop shortages forced Sallustius to withdraw from northern Scotland but still permitted him to occupy the south.


  1. ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Domitian 10.3
  2. ^ Suetonius, Domitian 6.2, 7; Dio Cassius, Roman History 67.11
  3. ^ Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia 9.48
  4. ^ Letters, Current Archaeology 206, 2006, p. 51
  5. ^ Miles Russell (2006), "Roman Britain's Lost Governor", Current Archaeology 204, 2006, pp. 630-635; Miles Russell (2006), Roman Sussex, Tempus, Stroud;Sallustius Lucullus at
  6. ^ Various, "Lucullus: a new governor? Or not? The case against", Current Archaeology 205, 2006, pp. 48-49; Letters, Current Archaeology 205, 2006, p. 51
  7. ^ Miles Russell Roman Sussex Tempus (2006); Miles Russell Bloodline - the Celtic Kings of Roman Britain Amberley (2010)
Political offices
Preceded by
Gnaeus Julius Agricola
Roman governors of Britain
84-c. 89
Next known title holder:
Aulus Vicirius Proculus