Episode 116 – The Second Secession

CW: The accounts of Verginia include paedophilic desire and violence against women.

The Second Secession is a contested moment in Roman’s early republican history. The fallout from two key events lead us to this point according to our later written sources: one is the murder of Lucius Siccus Dentatus “the Roman Achilles” and the other is the murder of the young plebeian Verginia (also known as Virginia). We’ll be exploring what the sources can tell us and what we might make of this challenging moment in Rome’s history.

Episode 116 – The Second Secession

The Second Decemvirate

In what feels like a period of time packed with action, the second decemvirate continues to rule in Rome. Originally placed in power to oversee the the project of writing down laws, there has been a big shift from serving the state to serving their own self-interest. With all other magistracies suspended while the decemvirate remains in power, Rome feels increasingly adrift. The further things drift, the more likely a secession of the plebeians becomes…

Looking to recap earlier material on the decemvirate? It all begins with Episode 109!

Fathers in Rome

We follow Verginius, the father of Verginia, who flees Rome after murdering her in the forum and returns to the armed forces. How he copes with his grief and what he chooses to do next will determine much of what follows. This leads us to consider the nature of Roman patriarchal society. What do the Romans value when it comes to familial and state structures and how does this system affect men and women differently?

Being a father is one role that many Roman men fulfilled, but it came with other duties like those to the state. We spend time in Roman camps, with men reflecting on their duty, what might be politically appropriate, and what kind of leadership they want from the ruling elite. All of this should give the patricians pause. It certainly has the decemvirate worried.

Things to come as the Secession hots up

Tune in the hear the conflicting accounts of this period that come down to us including:

  • The call to revolt against the decemvirs and restore the republic!
  • The rumour that the decemvirate has already been overthrown and doesn’t require anyone’s revolution!
  • The sacred quality of the army standards
  • Rival groups of ten!
Verginia and the Second Secession

Guillaume Guillon-Lethière c. 1800 The Death of Virginia.
You can explore this artwork in detail of Google Arts & Culture

Our Players

The Decemvirs

  • Appius Claudius. Ap. f. M. n. Crassus Inregillensis Sabinus Pat – Cos. 471, 451
  • Spurius Oppius Cornicen
  • Quintus Fabius M. f. M. n. Vibulanus Pat – Cos. 467, 465, 459
  • Quintus Poetelius Libo Visolus
  • Manius Rabuleius
  • Marcus Cornelius – f. Ser. n. Maluginenesis Pat
  • Lucius Minucius P. f. M. n. Esquilinus Augurinus Pat – Cos. 458
  • Marcus? Sergius Esquilinus Pat
  • Titus Antonius Merenda
  • Caeso Duillius Longus?

The Senators

  • Lucius Valerius Potitus
  • Marcus Horatius Barbatus

The Verginii and Supporters

  • Verginia
  • Verginius – father of Verginia
  • Publius Numitorius – Verginia’s maternal uncle
  • Lucius(?) Icilius – former tribune of the plebs and Verginia’s betrothed

Other Notables

  • Spurius Tarpeius
  • Gaius Julius
  • Publius Sulpicius
  • Marcus Oppius
  • Sextus Malius (or Manlius)


  • Dr G reads Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 11.40-44 and Diodorus Siculus Bibliotheca Historica 12.22-25
  • Dr Rad reads Livy ab Urbe Condita 3.49-51

Music and Sound Effects

Additional music and sound in this episode includes an original composition for our podcast by the wonderful Bettina Joy de Guzman. Sound Effects courtesy of BBC Sound Effects Beta, and 13NHarri.

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

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