Episode 120 – Rebels Without a Cause

After spending many, many episodes on the events of 449 BCE, we are now flying through multiple years in ONE episode! Ah, the ups and downs of the early Republic. Tune in to find out what happened to Rome in 448, 447 and 446 BCE.

Episode 120 – Rebels Without a Cause

The Year 448 BCE

This has to be one of the briefest and most mysterious years on record. Now that we are out of the decemvirate, there are two new consuls on the block – neither of whom have held the position before. One may even have Etruscan ancestry. This may indicate that experienced and suitable candidates are hard to come by now that the members of the decemvirate are either dead or exiled. This pair of consuls are quite happy to sit on the fence between the patricians and plebeians and have an uneventful year.

Something very unusual did take place in this year. Livy records that two patrician ex-consuls were elected to serve as tribunes of the plebs!

There is some doubt about the accuracy of this claim, but Livy’s account tells us that some of the new tribunes consulted with the patricians when co-opting colleagues after the election fell short at the end of 449 BCE. What a world we live in! One of the tribunes is most displeased, and Lucius Trebonius pushes for a law that stipulates that elections need to continue until no fewer than ten tribune of the plebs are elected. Trebonius is given the cognomen ‘Asper’ (prickly or truculent) in recognition of his fight to keep patrician power in check.

A prickly pear, which seems like an apt image for Lucius Trebonius Asper. Image Courtesy of Ken Bosma on Flickr.

The 447 BCE

The new consuls, Geganius and Iulius, just want there to be less tension between the social orders in 447, but it is hard to keep everyone happy in this situation.

In Livy, they manage to calm the plebeians down by suspending a levy for a war against the Volscians and Aequians (although Dr G has an inscription that indicates otherwise). After all, is this war really necessary? The enemies of Rome only want to fight when they sense that Rome is distracted by domestic turmoil, and there’s none of that around now…. Right? Right, guys?

Unfortunately for this consular duo, the young patricians are back on the scene and causing all sorts of trouble. They start with general abuse of the plebeians, but it quickly escalates to violence – even against the tribunes themselves! With the Valerio-Horatian law about the sacrosanctity of tribunes having JUST been passed, you would think that the patricians would have to show more respect. Clearly all is not well in the city of Rome… at least for plebeians!

James Dean, who did not live in ancient Rome, but who embodies that rebellious spirit of the young patricians… in our imaginations!

Our Players

The Consuls 448 BCE

  • Lars (or Sp.) HERMINIUS – Cortinesanus (Pat.) –   
  • T. VERGINIUS – Tricostus Caeliomontanus (Pat.)

Tribunes of the Plebs 448 BCE

  • A Aternius – Varus Fontinalis (Pat.) – Cos. 454
  • Sp. TARPEIUS Montanus Capitolinus (Pat.) –Cos.454
  • L. TREBONIUS Asper

Other Notables

  • Lucius Valerius Potitus (Cos. 449)
  • Marcus Horatius Barbatus (Cos. 449)

The Consuls 447 BCE

  • M Geganius M. f. – n. Macerinus (Pat.) – Cos. 443, 437
  • C. Iulius (-f. – n. Iullus?) (Pat.) – Cos. 435, 434?


  • Dr G reads Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 11.51 and Diodorus Siculus
  • Dr Rad reads Livy ab Urbe Condita 3.65
  • Broughton, T. R. S., Patterson, M. L. 1951. The Magistrates of the Roman Republic Volume 1: 509 B.C. – 100 B.C. (The American Philological Association)
  • Cornell, T. J. 1995. The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000-264 BC) (Taylor & Francis)
  • Degrassi, A. Inscriptiones Italiae 13.1.67 (Geganius triumphs over the Volscii c. 447 BCE)
  • Degrassi, A. Inscriptiones Italiae 13.1.366f (Lars Herminius mentioned in a fragmented fasti) also corresponds to EDR156418
  • Forsythe, G. 2006. A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War(University of California Press) 

Sound Credits

Thanks to Orange Free Sounds, BBC Sounds, and Sound Bible for sound effects and the incomparable Bettina Joy de Guzman for our music.

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

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