Episode 111 – Decemvirs in the Senate

The Second Decemvirate is hotting up and it’s not surprising to learn that Appius Claudius is somehow at the centre of things. We trace Rome through a precarious time, one that our sources have trouble dating – is it one year, two, three? It’s c. 437 BCE; the magistracies are in disarray and the decemvirs hold sway. The situation takes a turn as Rome’s neighbours sense an opportunity to invade…

Episode 111 – Decemvirs in the Senate

The Meeting of the Senate

It is perhaps a measure of how the Second Decemvirate is going that we’re not sure how much time has passed before the decemvirs seek a meeting with the senate. There’s a haziness around dates that indicates we could be looking at up to three years of decemvirate rule!

Appius Claudius speaks first in the Senate ostensibly to discuss how Rome will navigate the threats to her territory. But the Senate, having finally been called together under the rule of the decemvirs, have a lot of things they’d like to talk about! And boy do they have criticism to level. One very important point is that the decemvirs are operating outside the terms of their special magistracy and they are by consequence corrupting the nature of the republic.

Looking to catch up on the action so far? Episode 109 – The First Decemvirate and Episode 110 – The Mask Comes Off are just what you need!

The Power of Family

The real thorn in Appius’ side while in the senate meeting is the presence of his uncle, Gaius Claudius. The patriarchal structures dictate that Appius show respect for Gaius’ opinion and this opens the way for some power speechifying.

Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus differ in their accounts of how this moment unfolds, but the significance of a familial connection in the senate is retained by both writers. We’ll explore the similarities and differences of these sources.

There’s some explosive details with Gaius Claudius touching on everything from what makes an honourable patrician, to his personal take on Appius’ character flaws, to a savage endictment as to what can happen when you ignore relatives.

The Distraction Factor

Livy shifts from speeches to explore the politicking in the senate including a possible interregum and calls for the decemvirs to give up office by the Ides of May. Meanwhile Dionysius of Halicarnassus continues to explore the rhetorical potential of a large-scale senatorial debate!

Things to Come

  • A patrician call for a tribune to represent them and protect them from the decemvirate!
  • The accusation that the decemvirs are the ‘Ten Tarquins’ – ouch!
  • Intimidation in the senate!
  • Appius Claudius faces some heated criticism from his uncle Gaius…
  • Concerns about how Rome will raise an army
  • Has Rome been abandoned by her citizens?
  • Gaius Claudius offers Appius a way to salvage his reputation with the people
  • The possibility of an interrex
  • A Sabine defection!

Our Players

The Decemvirs (named in this episode)

  • Appius Claudius
  • Quintus Fabius Vibulanus (cos. 467, 465, 459 BCE)
  • Marcus Cornelius – f. Ser. n. Maluginensis

The Senators

  • Lucius Valerius Potitus
  • Marcus Horatius Barbatus
  • Lucius Cornelius – f. Ser. n. Maluginensis (brother of the decemvir Marcus)
  • Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus
  • Titus Quinctius Capitolinus
  • Lucius Lucretius

Appius Claudius’ Family

  • Gaius Claudius (Appius’ uncle)

Our Sources

  • Dr Rad reads Livy Ab Urbe Condita 3.39-40
  • Dr G reads Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman History 11.4-15

Sound Credits

Additional music and sound in this episode includes:

  • a piece called ‘Ancient Tragedies’ by 13NHarri
  • an original composition for our podcast by the incredible Bettina Joy de Guzman
  • and additional sound effects from BBC Sound Effects Beta
Roman senate

The Roman Senate in action. Image via wallpaperaccess.com

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

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