Episode 85 – Murder and Volero!

When we left you at the end of the last episode, there was some major events afoot. There’s nothing like a murder in the city. This is especially the case when the person turning up dead is a Roman magistrate! In this episode we consider what happens to Gnaeus Genucius and Volero Publius.

Murder Most Foul: Gnaeus Genucius

Gnaeus Genucius, tribune of the plebs for the year c. 473 BCE, is in a stoush with the consuls Lucius Aemilius Mamercus and Vopiscus Julius. But the problems don’t stop there. The tensions carry over from the previous year. Genucius levels charges against the consuls of c. 474 BCE: Lucius Furius Medullinus Fusus and Aulus Manlius Vulso. He argues that they should be charged because they did not carry out the measures agreed to in c. 486 BCE.

But after bringing the consuls to trial … Genucius TURNS UP DEAD!

To unravel this mystery we’ll consider:

  • the role of the tribune of the plebs;
  • the sacrosanctitas of this magistracy;
  • what our disparate sources (clues!) have to say about the patricians’ role in this sordid affair;
  • and some of the key consequences of this significant political moment.

Volero, Front and Centre

A violent response to the patricians overreach after the death of Genucius is perhaps unsurprising, but it does come from an interesting quarter. We follow the rise to prominence of the centurion Volero Publius (aka Volero Publilius). Things start innocently enough. He turns up to enlist for the military campaigns. But things go awry when he discovers that he’s been listed as a common soldier.

This is not the story about why Volero appears to have been demoted between one campaigning season and another. Rather, it is the story of how his response reveals the knife’s edge of tension between the ruling elite and the general citizen body.

The unfolding tension on the streets of Rome provides pivotal space for considering a number of issues:

  • the background of the lictors;
  • the consequences when Roman citizens reject the legitimacy of the violence meted out to Volero on the orders of the consuls;
  • the dangers of street politics for the consuls.

Here it all here: Murder! And Volero

Gnaeus Genucius Volero Publius Publilius
“A lictor is sent to arrest Publilius Volero, from: The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett. Bradbury, Evans & Co, London, c. 1850.” – Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Drs R and G laugh and spar their way through the ancient Roman world!

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