Servilius Nonianus

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Marcus Servilius Nonianus (died in AD 59) was a Roman senator, best known for being a historian. He was ordinary consul in AD 35 as the colleague of Gaius Cestius Gallus.[1] Tacitus describes Servilius Nonianus as a man of great eloquence and good-nature.[2]


Nonianus was descended from Gaius Servilius Geminus the praetor, who had renounced his Patrician status.[3] His father was Marcus Servilius, consul in AD 3, and his mother the daughter of the Nonius, whom Mark Antony proscribed over the possession of a gem.[4] He was proconsular governor of Africa in 46/47.[5]

Pliny the Elder recounts some anecdotes about Nonianus. One was that he was terribly worried about losing his sight, and prevent this from happening Nonianus wore a lucky charm around his neck consisting of the two Greek letters alpha and rho. Pliny reports that the charm worked. Another anecdote was that his daughter was cured of an illness with goats' milk, as advised by the family doctor Servilius Democrates.[6]

The poet Persius revered Nonianus like a father, according to the historian Ronald Syme.[7]

Nonianus married one Considia; their daughter Servilia Considia married the senator Quintus Marcius Barea Soranus. This marriage, and the admiration Persius had for him led Syme to suspect Nonianus was part of the Stoic circle of the Principate.[8]

Tacitus dates the death of Servilius Nonianus to AD 59, contrasting his elegant life to another senator who died that year, Domitius Afer, who possessed the same genius yet was a provincial.[2]

Historical work[edit]

Servilius Nonianus wrote a book on the history of Rome, but this work has not been preserved: even its title is unknown. According to Tacitus and Quintilian, this work at their time was considered a very important Rome history reference book, especially for those historians who belonged to the Senatorial Party.

Quintilian writes also that Servilius Nonianus used to publicly read his own work (recitationes).[9] Several scholars have suggested Tacitus drew on Servilius Nonianus for the material of the first Imperial period, along with the historian Aufidius Bassus.[10] The exact period covered by the historical narration by Servilius Nonianus is unknown. It is very probable that Nonianus treated also the reign of the emperor Tiberius.[11]

Pliny the Younger records the anecdote that, during one of the public recitationes of Nonianus, the emperor Claudius (who was strolling nearby) was so attracted by the applause that he asked who was reading, and joined the audience.[12]


  • Olivier Devillers: Tacite et les sources des Annales. Leuven 2003.
  • Michael M. Sage: "Tacitus’ Historical Works: A Survey and Appraisal," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt. Vol. II.33.2. Berlin-New York 1990, pp. 851–1030.
  • Ronald Syme, Tacitus. 2 volumes. Oxford 1958.
  • Ronald Syme, "The Historian Servilius Nonianus" Hermes, 92 (1964), pp. 408ff.


  1. ^ Tacitus, Annales, VI.31
  2. ^ a b Tacitus, Annales, XIV.19
  3. ^ Syme, "Servilius Nonianus", p. 409
  4. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History, XXXVII.81
  5. ^ Ursula Vogel-Weidemann: Die Statthalter von Africa und Asia in den Jahren 14–68 n. Chr. Eine Untersuchung zum Verhältnis Princeps und Senat (Bonn: Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 1982), pp. 145-150 ISBN 3-7749-1412-5; Bengt E. Thomasson: Fasti Africani. Senatorische und ritterliche Amtsträger in den römischen Provinzen Nordafrikas von Augustus bis Diokletian (Stockholm: 1996), p. 36
  6. ^ Syme, "Servilius Nonianus", Hermes, 92. Bd (1964), pp. 408f
  7. ^ Syme, "Servilius Nonianus", p. 415, citing Vita Persi, l. 17
  8. ^ Syme, "Servilius Nonianus", pp. 414f
  9. ^ Institutio oratoria 10,1,102.
  10. ^ Devillers, Tacite, pp. 15ff.; Syme, Tacitus, Vol. 1, pp. 274ff.
  11. ^ See Sage, Historical Works, p. 1006.
  12. ^ Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, I,13,3.
Political offices
Preceded by
Quintus Marcius Barea Soranus,
and Titus Rustius Nummius Gallus

as Suffect consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Gaius Cestius Gallus
Succeeded by
Decimus Valerius Asiaticus,
and Aulus Gabinius Secundus

as Suffect consuls