Episode 139 – The Trials of Sempronius and Postumia

The Partial Historians are back in the 420s BCE and we are wrapping up the decade with some first-class DRAMA! At the centre of it all are the trials of Sempronius and Postumia. The only question is, can you handle it?

Episode 139 – The Trials of Sempronius and Postumia

Fake Elections

The year began with some classic conflict between the patricians and the plebeians. The tribunes of the plebs were FURIOUS when their relatives did not get elected as quaestors. There was only one possible explanation – election fraud!

There was clearly one man to blame: Aulus Sempronius Atratinus. He had been in charge of overseeing the elections and he had rigged the results. Unfortunately, he was also a military tribune and therefore immune from prosecution. But that didn’t mean that his relatives were…

The Trial of Sempronius

The tribunes set their sights on Atratinus’ cousin, Gaius Sempronius. Sempronius was the perfect target. He had been in charge of a DISASTROUS military campaign in 423 BCE. Time for vengeance!

Jean Lemaire c. 1645-1655. Roman Senators and Legates. The picture shows senators walking though a square attended by lictors.

Jean Lemaire c. 1645-1655. Roman Senators and Legates.
The picture shows senators walking though a square attended by lictors. Maybe they’re on their way to a trial!

Poor Postumia

Sempronius was not the only person to find themselves on trial in 420 BCE. A Vestal Virgin named Postumia was accused of incestum. Apparently, her clothing was a bit too sexy, and she had a sense of humour. What a horrible combination! Think of the children!

However, incestum was a very serious charge as it put the Romans’ relationship with the gods in jeopardy. It was no joke for Postumia either. Charges like this could lead to live burial for a Vestal.

Tune in to find out whether Sempronius and Postumia manage to emerge victorious from their respective trials.

A modern imagining of Vestal Virgin by sculptor Joseph-Charles Marin 1791-95.
Courtesy of Mary Harrsch on Flickr.

Things to Look Out For:

  • Clear signs of our Partiality
  • Lengthy digressions on work apparel
  • Red lipstick and mini skirts
  • Patrician morality par excellence  
  • Family rivalry
  • Immense excitement to find a woman in our story – at last!
  • Dr G’s immense expertise on Vestal Virgins

Need a recap on Sempronius? Check out our previous episodes on 423 BCE and 422-21 BCE.

Our Players 420 BCE

Military Tribunes with Consular Power

  • L. Quinctius L. f. L. n. Cincinnatus (Pat) Mil. Tr. c. p. 438, 425
  • T. Quinctius L. f. L. n. Poenus Cincinnatus (Pat) Cos. 431, 428a, Mil. Tr. c. p. 426
  • L. Furius Sp. f. -n. Medullinus (Pat) Mil. Tr. c. p. 432, 425
  • M. Manlius – f. – n. Vulso (Pat)
  • A. Sempronius L. f. A. n. Atratinus (Pat) Cos. 428b, Mil. Tr. c. p. 428, 416  

Tribunes of the Plebs

  • A. Antistius
  • Sex. Pompilius
  • M. Canuleius


  • L. Papirius Mugillanus (Pat) Cos. 427, Mil. Tr. c. p. 422


  • Sp. Minucius

Vestal Virgin

  • Postumia

Our Sources

Sound Credits

Our music was composed by Bettina Joy de Guzman

Sound effects thanks to Pixabay, Fesliyan Studios and BBC Sounds.

A statue of a Vestal Virgin in the atrium Vestae (house of the Vestals) in Rome. Courtesy of Carole Raddato via Wikimedia Commons.

A statue of a Vestal Virgin in the atrium Vestae (house of the Vestals) in Rome.
Courtesy of Carole Raddato via Wikimedia Commons.

Automated Transcript

An automated transcript of this episode has been provided thank to Otter AI.

Dr Rad  00:16

Welcome to the partial historians,

Dr G  00:20

we explore all the details of ancient Rome.

Dr Rad  00:23

Everything from the political scandals, the love of ours, the battles waged, and when citizens turn against each other. I’m Dr. Rad.

Dr G  00:34

And I’m Dr. G. We consider Rome as the Roman Sword by reading different authors from the ancient past and comparing their stories.

Dr Rad  00:43

Join us as we trace the journey of Rome from the founding of the city.

Dr G  01:06

Hello, and welcome to a brand new episode of the partial historians. I am Dr. G.

Dr Rad  01:16

And I am Dr. Red and I’m in a very special t shirt today. Dr. G. My All, roads lead to Rome t shirt.

Dr G  01:26

Are you hoping to sneak into my suitcase to come on a certain trip?

Dr Rad  01:30

I’m just dropping subtle hints.

Dr G  01:34

If I can fit you, I’ll take you.

Dr Rad  01:36

Excellent. Excellent.

Dr G  01:37

So we have been tracing the history of Rome from the foundation, the traditional foundation date of 753 BCE. And in our last episode, I think if I remember rightly, we were dealing with 422 BCE, (and 421) and 421. So yeah, go we covered a lot of ground, because I remember the four horsemen being very-  they were stand out for me. So this means that we’re going to be talking about we’re starting at 420. So real shame that we didn’t record this in April.

Dr Rad  02:15

Yes, yes, that’s absolutely right. We are recording about 420 today. So to briefly recap, 422 and 421, which is our previous episode, we’re interested in good ol conflicts of the orders. Dr. G.

Dr G  02:30

Oh, yes. Well, I love a good conflict of the orders. hasn’t this been going on for centuries now?

Dr Rad  02:36

Not quite centuries, almost a century I think. Only there were nearly there. We still got, you know, a couple of centuries to go. It’ll fly by the flyway. We won’t, we won’t be dead at all. By the time we finish.

Dr G  02:51

Everything seemed to swill around the situation with Sempronius, one of the guys that’s been sent out with some troops, and he’s done seemingly a poor job. And he’s then been taken on to trial for being such a bad general. And all of his, all of his lower down cavalry commanders have come to his aid being like, this guy was great. And he did the best he could in a tough situation.

Dr Rad  03:16

Yeah, absolutely. So we do have the situation with Sempronius, which is fallout from seemingly a not great military encounter that Rome had with the Volscians in 423 Sempronius, the unfortunate and perhaps incompetent leader of said military effort, and we’re dealing with the fallout of that. And definitely we saw that some of his men came to his assistance when it looked like he was going to be in danger of being prosecuted or something like that. And then we had even more conflict of the orders. I mean, that wasn’t really conflict for the orders, except that it was interesting that it was this fight happening with Tribune’s of the plebs who were our four horsemen, and they’d been involved in the battle in the previous year. And then Sempronius, who was a patrician, we then got more explicitly into the conflict of the orders in the following year, where we had this debate about could a plebeian become a quaestor? And we had so many interreges, they were coming out of our ears, Dr. G.

Dr G  04:18

And it’s been a really weird time. Rome is definitely trying to figure itself out politically, militarily. It’s been a rough ride.

Dr Rad  04:27

Yeah, it really has. But there was the resolution was they ended up coming full circle. And going back to the compromise that was put forward, right at the beginning of this debate, which was that you can have a plebeian quaestor. Sure, as in they can run for election, but Will anybody vote for them? Time will tell Dr. G.

Dr G  04:49

Are they gonna be able to put together a sophisticated and well funded campaign? Doubtful. No.

Dr Rad  04:55

All right, we’ll see yeah that’s really all we need to know about 421 So let’s go into 420 V c

Dr G  05:30

so 420 BCE for key listeners who enjoy the smoking of the green leaf now is your time to light up because this is happening all year. We have military tribunes with consular power and many of them I might add our first cab off the rank is Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus a family we know well, yes, the lineage is continuing. And he’s had a couple of positions ahead of this one so we’ve seen this guy before. He is not a surprise. Now. We also have Lucius Furius Medullinus, also previously has appeared and most recently served together with Cincinnatus as another military Tribune in 425. Yeah, so they’ve been buddies before and here they are, again, five years later.

Dr Rad  06:33

Lovely. It’s cute. Yeah,

Dr G  06:36

We also have Marcus Manlius Vulso, a man for which I don’t have any more detail than his name.

Dr Rad  06:43

No, that is that’s an unusual name that level so isn’t it?

Dr G  06:48

Yeah, I’m not sure it is. I’ve heard before Yeah. Well, so it’s not standing out for me one way or the other. We might have encountered one in the past but I’m not sure.

Dr Rad  06:56

Yeah, the Manlius I recognise.

Dr G  06:59

The Manlius gens, they’re doing well for them. Yeah, very manly all the way down their line. Yeah. And then Aulus Sempronius Atratinus. Also, previously a consul in 428. And also apparently a military tribune in the same year.

Dr Rad  07:18

Excellent. So getting the gang back together.

Dr G  07:21

Yay. So there are military Tribune’s and then I also have some tribune of the plebs as well. Oh, we have Aulus Antistius, potentially a relation of Tiberius Antistius, the plebeian tribune of 422. So we get another one of the same gens coming through Sextus Pompilius. Yep. Most famous because of the Pompilius gens, which means you definitely of Sabine extraction. Yeah. And Marcus Canulinus, and this is known as a plebeian gens.

Dr Rad  08:05

Why ,I have him as Marcus Canuleius.

Dr G  08:09

it might just be my mispronunciation. I mean, I have clearly two variant spellings in my notes. Now that I know that I’m looking closely at them. So apparently the most famous bearer of the Canuleius name was Gaius Canuleius who was tripped into the plebs in 445. So somebody that we have encountered before, and is the one who introduced the plebiscite on a marriage the repeal to ban the marriage between patricians and plebeians.

Dr Rad  08:46

Well, that’s right. I was like I was looking at that name going, it’s so familiar. That’s a huge thing to have in your family.

Dr G  08:53

He’s Yeah, so this guy seems to be a comes from the same gens as that really famous tribune of the plebs from a couple of decades ago at this point, and the family seems to lose prominence after that. So this I don’t know if this is the last Canuleius we’re gonna see but-er, You heard it here first.

Dr Rad  09:14

Well, they’re hanging in it. They’ve got they’ve got a fingernail

Dr G  09:19

clutching on to the tribune of the plebs for dear life.

Dr Rad  09:22

Yeah, this is where I think 421 and 420 get a bit blendy because I also have an interrex listed for this year, which is Lucius Papirius Mugillanus who we talked about in our last episode, because he’s the one that came in and like, stop this madness. We can’t keep having all these interreges. This is crazy.

Dr G  09:45

This is madness. I indeed also have Mugillanus down as interrex for this year. But also, and I have to say, most excitingly, I also have a Pontifex Maximus and a Vestal virgin.

Dr Rad  09:58

I know I have not bothered to do any reading about this because I know that I’ve got the world leading expert on Vestals and I was like, I don’t need to do anything.

Dr G  10:11

I’m happy to take the reins on this tale of woe such as it is.

Dr Rad  10:15

Exactly. Which means you finally have you know, source material. Very exciting.

Dr G  10:20

Look, you’d be surprised about how little I have even.

Dr Rad  10:25

I’m on board whenever you have.

Dr G  10:26

It is a tough year. I’m in a really fellow section in terms of source material. As you know, Dionysius of Halicarnassus is perenially missing and even Diodorus Siculus, who is unreliable at the best of times, but we do like him is also currently unavailable. So

Dr Rad  10:42

that’s okay, you know, it’s actually this year is actually structured well for us in that most of the action that you wouldn’t be aware of happens first, then we get to the Vestal.

Dr G  10:52

Okay, that’s exciting. So I’ll just tell you the names of these characters and yeah, well let you get into like the the main action for the year which I’m completely at, like lacking. So we’ve got Spurius Minucius is our Pontifex Maximus. Yeah, and our festival virgin is Postumia.

Dr Rad  11:14

Okay, exciting times. Alright, so let me tell you about 420 BC Dr. G. Nobody remembered anything because of all that stuff they were smoking – no, I’m just kidding.

Dr G  11:27

that explains a lot about what’s going on with my source material.

Dr Rad  11:31

So allegedly, we had this period, unfortunately, we’re on there where there are and maybe the 420. Who knows where there were lots of interreges, but they managed to resolve that situation. And at the end of that whole process, they come out with military tribunes with consular power. And it’s all patricians all the time, Dr. G.

Dr G  11:51

Colour me surprised. I’m shocked. I’m really shocked.

Dr Rad  11:55

I know. So one of these military tribunes with consular power Atratinus Atratinus What do we prefer?

Dr G  12:03

Oh, look, I like Atratinus. But that’s just me really. Don’t feel wedded the fact that we learned Latin in Australia, it’s probably means that we’re butchering it a lot. Certainly, I know others would pronounce it differently.

Dr Rad  12:21

Like there’s nothing I enjoy more than butchering an ancient language. All right, I’ll go to Atratinus or Atratinus then oversees the election of quaestors which had been the sore point the previous year in terms of who gets to be a quaestor and that sort of thing. So there were some keen for plebeians in the race so the tribunes finally be like Yes, finally someone’s actually running for something – amazing!

Dr G  12:47

they got up and said like we’re going to abolish the whole thing because you none of you are even trying what’s the point of view even having a chance

Dr Rad  12:55

Exactly. You’re embarrassing us you’re embarrassing the whole day in class, whatever that is. One of them was a guy called Aulus Antistius. Son of a tribune of a pleb No, son of a tribune of the plebs.

Dr G  13:13

Okay, so the Antistius that I have listed down as the tribune of the plebs is quite possibly either running for quaestor as well, or running for quaestor instead?

Dr Rad  13:25

I would say it’s probably his son. Yeah, I would say it his son.

Dr G  13:31

Okay. Somebody lower down on our hypothetical cursus honorum that we don’t exist.

Dr Rad  13:36

And then and then we also have a brother of a tribune of a tribunes of the plebs, the brother of Sextus Pompilius.

Dr G  13:43

Oh, what’s his name?

Dr Rad  13:44

I don’t know. Actually, it just says it’s just as his brother. I mean, yeah.

Dr G  13:50

Pompilius the other one, we’ll call him Pompilius Secundus.

Dr Rad  13:54

Bro Pomp. Bro Pompey, that’s what we’re going to call him. Yeah, so though these guys are obviously connected to people in power, because you know, they have these connections with guys who have either held the office of Tribune or are currently holding the office of Tribune. The people still couldn’t resist the lure, the glow, that was coming off the patrician candidates because they have the blood of mighty consuls running in their veins. I mean, you can see it in their blue veins.

Dr G  14:30

When I get a wound on the front, little consuls come out instead of blood drops.

Dr Rad  14:38

That’s exactly right. So as a result, they don’t get to look in. They ran and they fail.

Dr G  14:44

Damn, what are we going to see some power to the people around you is

Dr Rad  14:48

what kicks off the problem because the tribune of the plebs are ropable, particularly Antistius and Pompilius understandably, because they like

Dr G  14:59

yeah They were pretty invested

Dr Rad  15:01

the hell like our guys are just as connected as the other guys. This is actually a burn to us. We feel it we feel it because it’s like an insult that their connections to us is somehow not the same as a console we’re not good enough for you. Like you only have to have certain kinds of connections in this world deaths guesting Okay, so they’re not happy at all that like the tribune of the plebs have done so much for Rome. They serve so well. And what about the politicians? They are douchebags they’ve done nothing.


They screw up all the time.

Dr Rad  15:44

The patricians were such douchebags How could no plebeian ever be chosen military military tribute with concealed power? And now also not be chosen as frickin quaestor? What, I’m not good enough to do your paperwork?

Dr G  16:00

Look, I think this might in part be related to the way voting is conducted in the ancient Roman world. And I’ll caveat this being like, like everything with this period of Roman history, we don’t know much, for sure. But the voting system as it develops, seems to really be a top down approach. So everybody who’s there, who is a citizen who is male gets to have a vote, and that’s fine, but you’re voting in groups. And those groups are voted from the most senior, and hence the most patrician down, and it’s first pass the post. So by the time anybody might even be thinking about bringing in a vote for a plebeian candidate, chances are all the positions have been filled by patricians voting in their buddies.

Dr Rad  16:48

Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly it. So I don’t know why there’s no outrage. It’s like the system’s rigged against you

Dr G  16:52

guys. Yeah, the system is rigged. That’s that’s entirely the point. Yeah, exactly. But

Dr Rad  16:56

they, they just can’t get over it. Because they’re like, they obviously had campaigned hard on behalf of their relatives. So like, we were personally campaigning, personally asking people for them to vote for our relatives, our son, our brother. Okay. How is this possible that after everything we’ve done for the people, it hasn’t worked? And their conclusion is this strategy. There is no doubt about it. Aulus Sempronius Atratinus has done something dodgy, in fact, a fake election, someone called fake election here.

Dr G  17:35

I’m here to tell you that these results will not stand because they cannot. Somebody made them up.

Dr Rad  17:42

I was. So it actually, I laughed. And then I felt sad when I read this because I was like, Oh, my God, the fact that painful? Yeah, like fake elections is

Dr G  17:53

it’s kind of like the oldest trick in the book, which is why you have to have a rigorous independent body overseeing electoral process. The only way to get it done right. Yeah.

Dr Rad  18:01

And to be fair, it’s not that in the past, there haven’t been people who have tried to fake elections or people who have successfully faked elections.

Dr G  18:11

Are you telling me that corruption is baked into the human condition?

Dr Rad  18:14

I just thought I should caveat that with the fact that I’m more sceptical of claims to fake elections, because I live in the age of Trump just in case anybody’s listening to this in 15 years. And I don’t for a second believe that elections in America have been faked. Like now. But I acknowledge that Sure. There have in the past been such things.

Dr G  18:36

Yeah, historically, there have been cases of fraudulent elections and, you know, not dissimilar to things that we’ve seen across the 20th and even the 21st century, in some situations, but not we would note in the US,

Dr Rad  18:51

yeah, I just think that Trump is a very dangerous person, and that’s probably why it’s not getting elected. God, God can only hope that it continues that way.

Dr G  19:00

Time will tell Yeah.

Dr Rad  19:03

political stance over

Dr G  19:07

Just a little excerpt on our own leftism again.

Dr Rad  19:10

You know, these days, I don’t even think it’s leftism, I just think it’s called being sane and recognise, recognising a dangerous precedent when you see them, Ah judgments, judgments, judgments. Anyway. So unfortunately, the tribunes couldn’t really do anything about this situation. They can’t go after Atratinus. Not just because he’s smugly, sitting there pretending that he’s innocent, blah!, but also because he is a military tribune with consular power, and therefore his office affords him some protection.

Dr G  19:44

Oh, does it now. Well, he should have Imperium, but it doesn’t mean that he’s body’s inviolable. Now somebody could run up to him and punch him in the face.

Dr Rad  19:53

If only someone would do that to Donald Trump. No, don’t make him a martyr, leave him untouched. Anyway, so instead, the tribunes decide to go to go after Atratinus’ cousin who is our old friend Gaius Sempronius from  423.

Dr G  20:17

When in doubt return to the guy that failed on the battlefield as if he hasn’t experienced enough humiliation.

Dr Rad  20:23

He thought he got away with it but not this time. So they decided they’re going to prosecute him with the help of another Tribune, one Marcus Canuleius for his conduct in the war against the Volsci. The  Tribunes also decided they’re going to bring up the way that the Senate is splitting up the public lands because Gaius Sempronius had always been against this – shocker. Against the splitting up of public lands in a particular way – what?

Dr G  20:57

Yeah, I mean, we’re really playing into the stereotypes this year out, we goodness me patricians. What are you doing to yourselves?

Dr Rad  21:04

Well, the reason why they brought this up, it’s very strategics. Very clever, actually very devious. They know that he’s held this stance on public lands. And so what they’re hoping is it’ll be like a red rag to a bull. They’re thinking he’s going to either act a certain like he’s going to a couple of ways he could either maintain his attitude that he’s historically held, and therefore, piss off the plebeians, which will obviously probably not work in his favour with this whole prosecution thing, right,

Dr G  21:33

considering they’re coming after him because they’re already annoyed. Yes, yeah,

Dr Rad  21:37

exactly. Or he would back down on this issue, and the patricians would be like class traitor, and stop caring about him.

Dr G  21:46

I see the own political wedge. All right. Yeah. I’m excited to see which way he goes.

Dr Rad  21:52

Okay. So Sempronius decides that it’s most important to do right by Rome. To hell with his own future.

Dr G  22:03

That is not revealing about what his stance is going to be

Dr Rad  22:06

okay. So you basically says To hell with my own future, I’m going to stick to my guns over the land issue. So he goes with Option A. He doesn’t want the tribunes to get any credit for anything that they’re doing here. So he points out that the tribunes actually have been very cynical themselves. They’re actually care about the division of public lands. They’re just using this to get him so he sees through their plan because he’s also deviously clever.

Dr G  22:37

I mean, he would say that though, but historically, the tribune of the plebs have always been interested in land redistribution. So there’s an easy comeback for that claim.

Dr Rad  22:46

I know. I’m like well, okay, like maybe maybe they are being very clever in the way that they use this issue. But there’s a reason that they bring it up because you’ve spoken on this issue in the past. It is an ongoing issue, Sempronius. Anyway, so he decides I’m not going to be cowed. He says they can try all their dirty tricks, stupid tribunes. I think they’re so clever. But I I am brave. I am patrician. I will not back down not for one second.

Dr G  23:17

A man’s asking for a punch in the face.

Dr Rad  23:20

Exactly. Well, I mean, yes, but of course the patricians are just like we’re falling even more in love with you. Sempronius

Dr G  23:27

Oh, no,

Dr Rad  23:28

I just gonna gaze into those cold, lacking in empathy eyes and

Dr G  23:34

be like, That’s my man. That’s my patrician right there.

Dr Rad  23:38

And he says the Senate should not value me or any individual so much that they aren’t making the right choices for Rome. They should always be acting in Rome’s best interests. Okay. So getting even more selfless by the second.

Dr G  23:57

Well, and there’s a nice sort of didacticism built into that. I shouldn’t say didacticism get all of my syllables out. Well, I’m gonna say something. Because part of what is happening here is this is kind of like a training manual for patricians, in some respect, this kind of source material, because it’s, it’s like, well, if you want to be in this very elite group, part of what you have to do is you have to decide what’s best for Rome. And they don’t make this sort of critical distinction that maybe what’s best for Rome might also just always be what’s best for them as as the elite, but this idea that somehow the way that you frame things rhetorically is around what is best for the city, and hence for

Dr Rad  24:42

everything. Yeah, exactly. So Sempronius then has to trot off to his trial. Let’s see how this works out for him. So he decides to defend himself naturally. I mean, who could do a better job clever? Yeah. Although of course, this is not a is not necessarily super unusual in ancient Rome and standards like usually, if you’re watching a television show these days, and a character makes a choice to defend themselves. It’s either because they’re a hero and a genius, or they’re the villain.

Dr G  25:14

Yeah, they either know everything about the law and they gotta be fine. Or they do nothing about the the law and it’s going to be a spectacular failure.

Dr Rad  25:23

I mean, obviously, as you say, we can’t really speak to what’s going on in room at this point in time in terms of exactly what it patricians education looks like. But if I’m using what I know from later on, he would be trained in public speaking, and he would have some experience with rhetoric. So

Dr G  25:38

he would Yeah, he would not only have that rhetorical training, one would assume but also be well versed in the laws at play. So that’s part of that’s part of the elite education if you like, so. Yeah,

Dr Rad  25:52

yeah, exactly. So the senators, of course, because they love him so much, because he’s just been super honourable and selfless throughout this whole affair. As far as they’re concerned. They tried very hard to soften the plebs up before a vote, you know, for his verdict is rendered, however, it doesn’t work. Yay. And so he ended up being fined 15,000. mighty fine asses.

Dr G  26:21

Yes, a, it sounds like a significant sum, but it is. I guess. Maybe it is.

Dr Rad  26:30

A decent sum if we think that we don’t sound like a reasonable amount of money to be fine. Yeah, it is a decent sum. If we think about we actually had a trial not that long ago, when again, when we were dealing with the aftermath of 423 in the spectacular mess that Sempronius made, there was another patrician who found themselves on trial, Postumius for his conduct in battle from a few years before 423. And he was fined 10,000 assets, so

Dr G  26:54

Okay. All right. So there’s more it is this is this is upping the ante in terms of fining?

Dr Rad  27:00

Yeah, yeah, it definitely is. Anyway, so that is I hope the last we hear Sempronius Because he has been haunting us.

Dr G  27:10

He’s had a rough trot these last few years. Yeah, I guess we’ll he will have to pay his fine. Either that or he runs away to try and find a way out of it. Stay tuned.

Dr Rad  27:19

Yeah, exactly. Now, this is where I segue to a Vestals story, huh? Yeah. So thank you. Thank you. Yeah, so we’ve got a Vestal virgin being charged with unchastity and I’m not gonna say any more, I’m gonna let you tell me.

Dr G  27:37

All right, so our key characters at play here is the Pontifex Maximus, Spurius Minucius, and a Vestal virgin Postumia. So we can assume that she comes from the Postumius gens. So one of these elite patrician families, and that’s fine. But she finds herself and we don’t know, quite initially, like how that might happen. It doesn’t seem to be attached necessarily to the other politics that’s going on. But it is often the case that the way that Vestal virgins are treated, does link in to the other politics that their family members and gens colleagues are experiencing

Dr Rad  28:16

Well, funnily enough, I mean, we were just talking about whatever we do have a Postumius. Yeah, yeah. And he was just he was just found himself in trouble and was fine, like, not long before. And I actually think I think we were talking about the fact that it seems like there actually are some problems with the Postumius family, at this point in the republic in terms of they seem to be, I think it’s them in and the other family that they’re allied to, which I think is the Sempronii. Maybe it’s one of them. But anyway, yeah, it seems like the Postumii and their their allies might have been going through a bit of a tough time and potentially been involved in some sort of rivalry for who’s going to be the preeminent patrician ganz in Rome at this point in time.

Dr G  28:58

Yeah. And it seems like one of the things that can happen to Vestal virgins is that they get dragged into that broader politics, which makes sense. They’re elite women, drawn from elite families, and they have a legacy of continuity, that is not the same as what happens for the male members of their family. So what we what we tend to see in the political arena directly is that people hold posts for about a year. They get brought in, they do their thing, and they flew back out again, and there’s a new set of elections and some new patricians come in. Yes, and you can have repeats of people over the years, that’s fine. But there is always a system of choosing them. Again, it’s not like they have a legacy where they just keep going, not in this period of Rome’s history, but for vestals. It’s quite different because they’re selected for ritual purposes. And even though ritual purposes is always sort of in a relationship with political purpose, their choosing is done very differently and The length of time that they’re in their role is very different as well. So they’re chosen quite young, between the ages of six and 10. And they serve for a minimum of 30 years in the role. And these are visibly public women in the sense that they have things that they are tasked to do that they have to be present in the public space for. And this is not to suggest that Roman women in general weren’t in the public space. They definitely were. But people are expecting to see the Vestals at certain events, they have

Dr Rad  30:34

a they have an actual public role to perform. And then

Dr G  30:38

they’re not just out and about doing some shopping or going from place to place and things like that, you know, they’re, they’ve got a place to be, and I’ve got a task to do. And their relationship to the gods is an important one for ensuring the broader Pax deorum that Rome subscribes to, which is to be in right relationship with the divine. Yeah, and

Dr Rad  31:00

certainly compared to other elite women. And like, I think we can agree that obviously, the lower down the class you go, the less anybody cares, like what you do in terms of what that you know, how you’re conducting yourself in public. But for our leet women of this time, it would seem that the ideal is for them to be quite circumspect with their behaviour in public and certainly to have a level of seclusion to their lives, in terms of who they’re interacting with, what time of day, they’re interacting with people and that kind of stuff.

Dr G  31:30

Yeah, definitely. And women sort of fall under the protection of their partner familiarise, generally speaking. So this means that those women are under the power of a broader father figure that might be their direct father, it might be the grandfather further up, whoever is the chief man of the family at that point in time, or is the oldest guy, but the Vestals it’s a little bit different, because once they are brought into the Vestal virgin fold, they are removed from their natal family in a technical sense, which is interesting. But it’s obviously an also an incomplete kind of process, because it’s not like they changed their name or anything. They retain the name that is suggestive of the gins they belong to. So everybody knows which family they come from. Sure, but there’s a sort of technicality where they no longer fall under the potestas of their pater familiarise. They now fall under the potestas of their Pontifex Maximus.

Dr Rad  32:27

Yes. Still a man in the picture.

Dr G  32:30

There’s always a man in the picture.

Dr Rad  32:32

Yeah, certainly, as you’ve highlighted, particularly as we go later, in time in Rome’s history, we still see them having family loyalty and being, as you said, being caught up in family affairs, and I checked it, it was the Postumius and the Quinctii that I was talking about. But yeah, as you say, they do still have those ties to their birth families. Yeah.

Dr G  32:56

Yeah, definitely. I mean, you can take the kid out of the family, but can you take the family out of the kid? So Postumia is going around doing her business, but she does find herself accused of this crime that’s very particular called in incestum, which is often translated as unchastity, because we really don’t have a good word to describe the semantic field, for incestum in English. Unchastity sounds unwieldy? And indeed it is. So incestum, this covers both sort of behaviours, it covers appearance, and there’s a sense in which it ties into broader social concepts about morality, basically, and it’s like, are you behaving in the right kind of way? Are you appearing in the right kind of way? Do you seem to have a modest connection between the way you are in the world and the way that people perceive you, and it sort of functions as covering everything from the thoughts of the person involved, to the way in which they behave with their body in the physical realm, right, so it covers all sorts of things. So in custom is often thought about as just being a loss of virginity, but it covers much more than that, okay. And we can see that instantly when it comes to Postumia, because what she’s accused of is basically adorning herself in a way that suggests that, you know, she’s a little bit open and free in her demonstration of her personality. She has she is described in Plutarch as having a ready laugh and over bold talk when she’s in men’s company. Now, it might be the case that she also has already laugh, over bold talk when she’s in women’s company, but the men aren’t paying attention to that. So that’s not what she’s accused of. It may just be her personality,

Dr Rad  34:53

a woman having a personality I don’t think so. That’s not appropriate. Please put that away. Nobody wants to see it here.

Dr G  35:01

that personality, she seems to be having a good time at this party and I cannot abide by that something must be going wrong. Exactly. Yeah. So the other thing that she’s got going on is that she has a push on for dressing attractively goodness knows what that means. Chances are she’s just dressing the way that’s comfortable for her. And much like in the modern day, a woman’s dress does not tell you anything about what’s going on with her personally. Not an invitation.

Dr Rad  35:30

Is she wearing a miniskirt? I don’t know.

Dr G  35:33

I don’t know. I don’t know. But somebody’s found her attractive and that this becomes her problem then because she gets accused of this crime of incestum. And the problem within custom is because it’s it sort of covers everything from inappropriate dress, you know, being a little bit of a vivacious all the way up to lost virginity. The ultimate punishment for incestum is being buried alive.

Dr Rad  36:04

And oh my goodness, it seems like an overreaction to some red lipstick. I mean,

Dr G  36:08

For that mascara, you must die? Yes. Yeah, it’s a real problem. The Romans, they sort of they go a bit overboard with this kind of stuff. So the problem from the Roman perspective, and the way that they sort of understand these things, is that if, indeed Postumia is guilty of incestum, that means that the relationship with the gods is not right. It has been severed in a particular way because her behaviour in the physical realm, the things she thinks, what she wears, how she does things, all of those sorts of things contribute to her maintaining her responsibility within that broader sense of the Pax deorum. Right. So there are six Vestals, they all have to behave as appropriately as possible from the Roman perspective of what is appropriate for them. And heaven forfend. You should have a ready laugh or some over bold talk.

Dr Rad  37:07

I do actually like the translation of the view that I was reading it says that she got into trouble because of her clothing as you’ve highlighted, but also the amazing freedom of her wit.

Dr G  37:20

Yeah, like she likes she likes a good sneaky joke. So yeah, I

Dr Rad  37:25

think this for me was like a code of if either you or Dr. G wherever transported back to ancient Rome to become Vestals, you would definitely die.

Dr G  37:35

immediately be buried alive. This is why you do not time travel. Okay.

Dr Rad  37:43

Yeah, exactly. Sounds like a great idea. But before you know it, you’re in a chamber somewhere to to any station.

Dr G  37:49

Yeah, terrible, terrible. Yeah, she has apparently an easygoing character more easygoing than the fits a young woman. And so this accusation of in costume is raised against her. Now, the thing with these kinds of accusations is that any Roman citizen can make them. So it really doesn’t take a Yeah, it really doesn’t take much for them to happen. If somebody has decided that, you know, they’ve got an issue with your family, or they genuinely have a suspicion that, you know, maybe they’ve done something that they shouldn’t have. Anyone can come up to the Pontifex Maximus and be like, Oh, gee, I don’t know about that. Sheila. A. So that a little bit outrageous. Yeah, so that situation can happen. Anyway. I mean, the good news, yes. For Postumia Is that Spurius Minucius, the Pontifex Maximus, seems to be like a genuinely reasonable dude. And this is good news. So rather than finding her guilty, he does not. He takes the case to the Pontifical college. So there’s a group of lower pontificates underneath him. They go and take the case to a vote. And they find in her favour.

Dr Rad  39:03

Yay. miniskirts? Red lipstick, here we go. Yes.

Dr G  39:10

Postumia wins the day. Yeah. Now unfortunately, there are some stipulations that they make to her on the result. She is no longer able to make jokes. Wow. She must abstain from jokes. No more of that.

Dr Rad  39:29

Just lay off right. Just lay off the comedy. Leave. The patricians and the plebeians. I mean, I think you can say that we’re unintentionally hilarious.

Dr G  39:37

We know what’s funny. You don’t know what’s funny. Class Warfare.

Dr Rad  39:41

That’s what’s funny. Yeah.

Dr G  39:42

You know, I think it’s like the classic scenario where, you know, women in comedy have found it really hard to break through for a long time. A lot of stigma and his costume. Yeah. Postumia is on the front line of that being like but guys, I’m hilarious. And then like, I don’t think so. No more. Yeah. The other thing is that she is asked to dress with sanctity rather than elegance.

Dr Rad  40:09

Oh, yeah, she has to put away the sexy clothes.

Dr G  40:14

Yeah, no more showing off the figure in a way that appeals to you. You must dress like you’re wearing a hash and bag and preferably, just put on a hash and back. In fact, we’ve got one here, here it is. Go for it.

Dr Rad  40:26

And go for neutrals. You know, beige, beige, beige. We’re all about the beige.

Dr G  40:31

Oh, we love a good beige. There’s nothing that says like upper middle class aspirational than beige.

Dr Rad  40:37

Yeah, off white. Eggshell, ecru.

Dr G  40:42

I also kind of like what Plutarch has to say about this. So Spurius Minucius reminded her that the language she used should have no less dignity than her life.

Dr Rad  40:55

Oh, wow. That is a good one. I’m going to remember that actually, I’m going to use that against my students.

Dr G  41:04

Basically saying like, you’re a Vestal virgin, you really have to act like one.

Dr Rad  41:09

Well, okay. Like, I mean, yes, I do understand that this, you know, certain standards of behaviour that are professional. But then again, when you consider that being a vessel is a 24/7 gig. And when you consider the kind of workplace requirements, it’s like the fact that I find it increasingly ludicrous that all around the world, we force people to have these uncomfortable and restrictive unflattering office clothes. I mean, actually, I shouldn’t say unflattering. Sometimes they are very attractive, but nobody likes to wear them. Why do we force ourselves to? Like there is no, I increasingly baffles me that we don’t just dress to be comfortable, to be weather appropriate, and to be sustainable.

Dr G  41:55

This is like the, like the whole concept of the man’s tie. Yeah. And it’s like, like, I love a good 19th century career that, but yes, nobody can give me a good reason why anybody in the modern world has to wear the kind of ties that currently exist.

Dr Rad  42:09

I agree. Yeah, that’s, I mean, I’m just like, Look, if people want to wear office wear, because that’s their jam, go for it. But I will never understand why workplaces are like, Oh, no, you have to take this seriously. You really need to wear something made from you know, polyester and union. You know, you need to wear a suit, you know?

Dr G  42:28

No, I think this relates to possibly the distinction that has emerged over time that there is a dichotomy to be had between your private self and your Public Self. Yeah. And in a way, this ties in very nicely to what the Romans are doing throughout their whole sort of time as well. Because what Minucius is saying to Postumius, in this moment, is that actually, your job is a 24/7 job, being a vessel version is not about getting downtime, it is about always adhering to the principles that brought you into this space. So you joking around, and you wearing something that looks alright, is not doing the role justice. It is it is in fact, trying to bring something about your private self, if you like, into this public sphere. And we can’t have that. So it’s like, you know, she’s now in a situation where I’m pretty sure what happens to Postumia just gonna write my historical novel. Now. Postumia starts, she does take up this advice, and she does curtail her Public Self, because we certainly don’t hear about her coming back for another accusation of intestine, thank goodness. But I imagine she goes on with the body jokes. And she goes on with a dress ups in the safe space of the house of the Vestals, where she’s hanging out with her sisters during the business.

Dr Rad  43:50

Well, one can only hope. I do understand that being a Vestal is I suppose, kind of like the way we think of certain professions as being a vocation, not just a job. And so I can kind of understand that the difference is, of course, that she was forced to take this position as a child before she was maybe able to fully comprehend the way that her life was going to, you know, be shaped and changed by this very lengthy commitment.

Dr G  44:21

Yeah, this is a massive commitment to take on. And it’s one that invariably I would say, the candidates don’t choose for themselves. It’s about their physical ritual fitness to be chosen. It depends on them coming from an elite family. And if you’re an appropriate candidate, and the time is right, that we need a new Vestal virgin, chances are, you’re going to end up in a life situation that you did not choose for yourself, but happen to have been the chosen candidate for so the idea that Postumia might be railing against some of these pressures, just trying to be yourself and enjoy a little bit of life while she also has to do this thing that goes for years and is at is, is not surprising to me at all. And but I’m really pleased that Minucius allows that to be a disciplinary action rather than a live burial situation.

Dr Rad  45:13

Yeah, definitely. And look, I also should say, I’m not being naive here, I do understand that when you put on certain outfits, it does help you to get into a certain mindset. And I do also appreciate that whether we like it or not, humans are kind of superficial visual creatures at the best of time. So I do understand that there is a certain way that you present yourself, obviously, in certain scenarios, which are going to be expected whether you like it or not, I’m not naive, I just made I guess, it’s because I because I work in a profession where we’re quite active a lot of the time and our work is very unpredictable. And some schools I’ve been at not all schools, and certainly not the school that I’m currently at, very restrictive with what you’re allowed to wear as a teacher. And it’s kind of weird, because you’re wearing these, like quite expensive, fancy clothes, when you’re like running around, and you might be walking through mud, and you might be kneeling down all the time. And sometimes it just makes sense to have freedom of movement, and not to be worried about ruining these expensive clothes. And, you know, and and also, because I you know, because I’m a person that’s very concerned about climate change, and that sort of thing, I’m increasingly a fan of clothing that is sustainable. And to me clothing is sustainable. It’s clothing that you can wear in your private life and your public life so that you don’t have to have so many clothes, and are also made from certain fabrics. So I guess that’s why I’m a bit lighter. But I know that more more and more workplaces I know are being Freer with what employees can wear.

Dr G  46:40

And hopefully, if Postumia is ever coming back into this world reincarnated, she would be having a great time as well with a lot more freedom to express herself as she pleases and to wear whatever she wants.

Dr Rad  46:53

Exactly, exactly. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Postumia should be the woman I use on my logo for more sustainable workplace clothing.

Dr G  47:03

Done and Well, I reckon this is probably a good place to wrap up. Well, no. Oh, wait. Whoa,

Dr Rad  47:11

I do have a little bit to add to that. So as I said to you, when we spoke about the trial of Postumius and his colleague a few episodes ago from their own misconduct in battle, alleged misconduct, I should say, although I think Postumius was found guilty. So he can’t sue me for saying that. We talked about the fact that there was potentially this rivalry going on amongst the patricians. And I just wanted to add that I was reading up a little bit on this. I said, I didn’t read up on it, but I unintentionally did, I stumbled across something that that Postumii and the Sempronii were often very closely connected families through marriage. So whilst this Vestal case may seem to come out of nowhere and Livy’s narrative, if we think about the fact that we’ve got Sempronius, who’s had seen to escape prosecution earlier, now, he finds himself on the chopping block. If we put those cases together, it’s possible that these families were being attacked. And what this also is reading suggested was that possibly what we’re seeing is not only rivalry for like, who’s the greatest patrician gens, like that, but that maybe certain patrician families are advocating particular policies. So for example, the Postumii may have been on the side of more aggressive expansion to Rome, whereas other families like the Furii and the Manlii, we might remember our families represented as military tribunes with consular power in this year. We’re not as keen to to expand Rome at quite that pace. And in quite that way, so might be a matter of policies, I suppose. And factionalism, I think,

Dr G  48:56

yeah, I think family factionalism, we can definitely see as a an ongoing thread when festivals pop up in the narrative history. So thinking about what is that broader political context, which we’ve navigated very deeply or as deeply as we can give in our source material? Yeah. It seems to me like these sorts of things don’t come out of nowhere. And the, the idea that the thing that they’re the Vestals are accused of, it’s always the same crime, and it’s always a subjective kind of situation. So there’s very, very few ways to be able to verify that an in custom has happened, you know, you’ve gone and done it and cast it. Oh, no. No, it’s very, it’s very hard to back something like that up with actual evidence. So you can see the political thread underpinning that kind of situation because it’s a question That’s always related to the idea of Roman morality, and particularly how it functions for women through that patriarchal lens.

Dr Rad  50:10

Yeah, definitely. And I think we can’t obviously know for certain what exactly was going on within the patrician class at this point in time. We don’t even know if there is really a patrician class at this time. But I think shining into what we’ve been talking about in the last couple of episodes about this idea that the idea that the Roman state really wasn’t formalised at this point in time, if we go back to what you and I both alluded to, which is this theory that we’ve really just got, like warlords who have particular control over maybe certain areas, and they have clients and people who are loyal to them. And this is kind of more of a situation we’ve got going around rather than elections and consuls and that sort of thing. If we tie that together, I think we can definitely say whilst we don’t know what they’re fighting about, it obviously makes total sense that there is this constant rivalry because that’s how I kind of warlord era works like, you might have kind of divided up turf between particular families. And there might be pieces of you know, there might be periods of stability. But there’s also going to be those times when they you don’t agree or you can’t work together or you decide you want more.

Dr G  51:23

I gotta eliminate this whole family and all of their influence in order to increase my own.

Dr Rad  51:29

Now, I do have one final detail from Liddy for this year, which is a little side note that he loves to finish on these very anticlimactic side notes. Which is that the Greek control city of Cumae was taken by the Campanians.

Dr G  51:45

Oh, yeah, very interesting. So there was a Cumae in Italy. And it’s on the West Coast, and it is in Campania. So this is all making sense. This is all this is supposed to be where the Sibyls are. The cave, the cave at Cumae, interesting power dynamics happening in the South.

Dr Rad  52:05

Yeah, well, I thought I’d give a little bit of background to this detail. Because I realised that I just sort of went Oh, yeah. But then I thought, actually, I don’t really know what he’s talking about. So I’m going to look up, look it up. So the Campanian region, as you alluded to, it is below where the Volscians are positioned. So it’s a bit further afield, and the Romans generally then share with their military campaign. Yeah,

Dr G  52:27

you’re thinking if you’re if you’re thinking modern Italy, you’re thinking more Naples, and south.

Dr Rad  52:32

Exactly, yes. And this is like the region where Spartacus wreaks havoc eventually. But at this point in time, it’s actually probably kind of like a more distant place for rowing, because they’re really, really interacting with the people that are directly around them.

Dr G  52:49

And it’s also on the other side of Volscian territory. So it’s like, you know, in order to get there, you have to get through the Volsci, you and it’s like, I mean, that’s what’s always a nightmare, because they kind of always up for a fight instead. So

Dr Rad  53:01

there have been these Campanian and Greek settlements to the south, really all the way back to in the ninth century. Right. That’s when we started to see these, these peoples moving into the area and taking over. And it seems that they were even more powerful than Rome, in between the sort of ninth and sixth century. So we’re talking about probably very early room like technically before, you know, the traditional date of 753. But that that period, yeah.

Dr G  53:31

This this region that is known as Magna Grecia has been continuously colonised by the Greeks for centuries before we see the rise of Rome further to the north. And so there is a sense in which there is the the native italic peoples and the Greek colonisers have been in this sort of push and pull with each other for quite some time in the southern regions of it.

Dr Rad  53:59

Yeah, absolutely. So that these areas are powerful in the sort of regal period of Rome’s history, I suppose we’d say, and then we see a bit of a decline. And it’s interesting because there had been, we think, actually relatively strong connections between the Etruscans and the people in Campania, even though they are in different regions. So it does seem to have been connection between them in this regal period of Rome, let’s say. But then there had been two major events that had limited interest and power in Campania. And this is where we start to see I suppose the the gradual decline of the Etruscans as a major power in Italy. So one of them we have talked about, which is we going back to early republic, allegedly 505-504 There was

Dr G  54:50

five or five that is

Dr Rad  54:54

overhead occurred near Aricia where the Cumaens and the Latins were victorious against the Etruscans

Dr G  55:02

Interesting. Yeah, so this is where these are the kinds of stories that sort of really put into play this idea of like how far south were the Etruscans? And how independent are the Romans as a people from Etruscan culture? Because if the Etruscans and Cumae are fighting over Aricia like that is already more south than Rome itself. It Yeah, well,

Dr Rad  55:26

I mean this because it’s true. The reason why I looked into this is because I remember that a couple of episodes ago, I also mentioned a takeover Capua. And atrocities have been mentioned in that story as well. So that’s why I was like, I’m gonna look into this a little bit. Anyway, the other event was in 474. So again, still kind of earliest Republic, where a combination of Cumaean and Syracusan ships had won a battle against the Etruscans.

Dr G  55:52

Well, well, well. Syracuse is now in

Dr Rad  55:56

Syracuse. That’s right. Yeah. So we start to see the limitation of Etruscan power in the south. And increasingly, we see Oscan influence. Now, I think we’ve probably mentioned Oscan, before, but

Dr G  56:11

we have we have so this is one of the italic language groups of Italy. And I, if I’m remembering rightly and maybe correct me on this, because I’m just going off the top of my head. I think the Oscan language is sitting to the

Dr Rad  56:27

east are correct. Yes. And it’s generally most associated, I think, and again, this is off the top of my head. I think it’s mostly associated with the Samnite people. That’s correct.

Dr G  56:39

Yes, I think so. So

Dr Rad  56:42

and we still see traces of Oscan in in like Pompeii, for example, like when we look at the ruins, there are so often inscriptions in Pompeii. So it’s definitely, as you say, a language group. And it definitely has deep ties to Italy, and the various people that live there. So it seems that if we look at the bigger picture for a moment, that what we’re looking at, potentially in the for 20 years, and probably also to be honest, for decades before as well. a tonne of movement of people stopped to GE

Dr G  57:15

Hmm. There was a great movement and shift going on of people either pulling away as their power wanes, and then people coming in as their power starts.

Dr Rad  57:25

Yeah. And I mean, there’s possibly a range of reasons why people are moving, but particularly we see we start to see the movement of people from the central app unknowns into the region of Campania. And this is this ties into the story that I told about Capua being captured in 423, which seemed to come out of absolutely freaking nowhere. But it’s probably because we’re so focused on Rome, that we’re forgetting that there is this broader movement happening around Rome. And this will have an impact, of course, because one of the rooms, major entities on the horizon are the Samnites.

Dr G  57:59

Ah, yes. So I think part of this ties in nicely to some of the events that have come up in our narrative episodes previous to this one, where we’ve been looking at the way in which is a difficult climactic period, in Italy, where there’s been a whole bunch of sort of failed harvests, there’s been various pestilences come through. And this has really shaken up things. For the Romans, they’ve had some real problems around this. So if we take that as a broader sense of, there might be some like shifting, climactic interferences happening in the natural environment, that are changing the way that people are having to find food. In particular, if you’re from a mountainous region, it’s probably affecting you quite differently to people who live in a more Plains area where you can do a more sophisticated sort of harvest and organise sort of planting of crop and the mountainous regions. While you can do some of that you’re more limited because of the geography. So if the consequences that are having these negative impacts for the people who are not in the mountains in these plains regions, are also affecting people in the mountains, it’s going to lead to shifts of population as they have to find new sources of food, they have to find like food security is massive. So if you’ve got people who are awakening and power, part of that waning in power is directly tied to can we sustain a population in these regions? Or do we need to pull back? Yeah,

Dr Rad  59:32

absolutely. And this is the problem. We don’t have enough information about exactly what is causing this movement of people. And we don’t really know exactly what’s going on. Because if we look at the written sources, from rooms perspective, we have the southern random mentions from Livy where it seems like it’s a really violent takeover that happens, you know, sudden spurts or you know, there’s a sudden moment where a city is captured and you know, That’s the that’s the way that it appears. But if we look at the archaeology, it seems like there actually wasn’t really a sudden violent change where the Samnites suddenly came into power in this region, as you say, kind of to the east and a bit to the south, but actually quite a gradual shift, as we start to see more remnants with, you know, vestiges of often language churning up. So that’s a bit of a sign there. And it’s possible that what we’re dealing with is, you know, any number of situations like it could be that there were issues in campaign Yeah, between an increasing Oscan populace and uninterested elite, okay, it could be that we’re dealing with maybe an oppressed population fighting against their rulers, it’s really hard to tell exactly what’s going on between the Oscans, Etruscans and the Greeks and whether it’s even anything to do with ethnicity at all. It might just be, you know, the, the class nature of it, and where we’re dividing them up into the ethnic groups or the language groups or whatever. But certainly, it testifies to the fact that this is not just a tough period for Rome to go through, which we’ve mentioned before, but there are definitely some interesting and difficult changes happening in the broader Italian area.

Dr G  1:01:23

It’s really fascinating, isn’t it? Thank you so much for delving into that. That’s a I think that’s going to be good context for us as we move forward in time.

Dr Rad  1:01:31

Well, I never really thought about it cuz I was like, oh, yeah, that campaigns and then I’m like, wait a second.

Dr G  1:01:37

What do you mean Campania?

Dr Rad  1:01:39

Yeah, I suddenly realised that I actually, I probably should look that up. And the more I looked it up, I’m like, Oh, this is actually more complicated than I thought. Oh,

Dr G  1:01:48

good times. Good times. All right. We are at the official moment.

Dr Rad  1:01:55

It’s time for the Partial Pick. Thank you Igor, not Dr. G impersonating Igor

Dr G  1:02:08

Igor is currently on leave.

Dr Rad  1:02:13

All right. So tell me what is the partial pick a little about?

Dr G  1:02:16

Oh, look, it is a great time, Rome can win 50 Gold eagles. There are 10 possible eagles in each category up for grabs. Our first category is military clout.

Dr Rad  1:02:31

Who know there’s none of that going on in this episode.

Dr G  1:02:36

Yeah, we’ve got a lot of politics, but we don’t have a lot of fighting. Such.

Dr Rad  1:02:41

Yeah. Purely domestic politics. You’re all round. All right.

Dr G  1:02:45

Well, how about diplomacy?

Dr Rad  1:02:49

Hmm. I don’t think so.

Dr G  1:02:53

I mean, it’s kind of diplomatic of Minucius to you know, allow Postumia to not be buried alive.

Dr Rad  1:02:59

Okay. Okay. This is where I always get stuck. Yes. Okay. You could say it’s diplomatic. But isn’t diplomacy? I don’t think so. I mean,

Dr G  1:03:07

I’m trying to help. I’m trying to help Rome out to get some kind of score really?

Dr Rad  1:03:11

Let Rome suffer. It deserves it.

Dr G  1:03:14

Didn’t they put that guy on trial and charge him a whole bunch of these that diplomatic?

Dr Rad  1:03:22

Definitely no, decidedly.

Dr G  1:03:25

All right. All right. We shall move on. So far. It’s zilch from two. Expansion.

Dr Rad  1:03:32

Again, no, you generally don’t get expansion without military action. So very nice. What if they

Dr G  1:03:38

expanded their minds? I don’t

Dr Rad  1:03:41

think that there’s much evidence of that.

Dr G  1:03:46

Just what I try, just,

Dr Rad  1:03:48

I mean, I mean, sure somebody else is expanding. We’ve got this takeover q&a, but that’s not the Romans.

Dr G  1:03:54

All right. Well, I you know, yeah. The Campanian is doing all the heavy lifting this year. Yeah, exactly. All right. Nothing for expansion.

Dr Rad  1:04:02

No, we’re twos. No. I gave it long and hard thought. I mean, look, okay. I don’t know how do we feel about Sempronius? I despise him. But that was a rhetorical but

Dr G  1:04:20

it is very weird to us, for the patrician to take the rest of rhetorical stance that he’s going to be hard line for the good of Rome.

Dr Rad  1:04:31

It is Is it a thing? Is it weird to us or is it just

Dr G  1:04:35

attrition stubbornness at its finest?

Dr Rad  1:04:39

It is a patrician. It is

Dr G  1:04:42

more No, I know. I’m gonna I’m gonna say no, I was playing devil’s advocate. It’s okay. The answer is no, that’s not weird to us. I think we chose also has to involve the physical in some way if the body is not on the line. I don’t think we’re really talking about we’re towards here. I agree. I just thought a very specific type vibe. value within masculinity for the moments

Dr Rad  1:05:02

I’m fighting against my own bias against the patrician, so I want to make sure I am giving them the benefit of the doubt even though they are the Royalist of douchebags most of the time.

Dr G  1:05:17

So good. It’s all good. So, our subtotal currently still zero. All right, so everything hinges on this final category. Absolutely. All right, the citizens school, was this a good time in Rome to be a citizen?

Dr Rad  1:05:31

It doesn’t sound like the worst time in that we think about absence of evidence. Okay. So there’s no military action going on. So even though we don’t have anyone testifying that the citizens are doing cartwheels in the streets, it’s gotta be a benefit to them that they’re not, you know, risking death, risking destitution, that’s got to be of us. Yeah, they’re

Dr G  1:05:53

not suffering under a levy and then having to gather their equipment and head off into the sunset, never to be sure if they’ll see their families again. It’s a great time to be a citizen in that respect.

Dr Rad  1:06:03

You’re not being treated terribly. Well done. Yeah, yeah. So there’s that. But there’s also the fact that guys Sempronius, is actually finally held accountable. Because I mean, look, I can understand that sometimes things just don’t go the way they’re supposed to when you are the commander. And it’s not necessarily fair to put you on trial, just because it didn’t work out in a way that you couldn’t necessarily control.

Dr G  1:06:31

I do kind of love that the Romans do that, though, being like you failed the battle. That is a crime.

Dr Rad  1:06:38

behaviour was criminal, though, they’re really I’m going to put you on trial.

Dr G  1:06:42

criminal negligence, I tell you, that’s it.

Dr Rad  1:06:47

I believe our sources. And to be honest, I don’t see why I wouldn’t in the sense of Livy’s, clearly on a patrician side 99% of the time. So if he is willing to say that Sempronius did not prepare for battle and was just like, if Fortuna will take care of it, then you know, what you actually are liable to that like that, actually, is criminal negligence. That’s like the definition of criminal negligence. You just listen, you’ve just wasted everybody’s time. You’ve also put a lot of people’s lives on the line and cause death and heartache for people and their family. So yeah, you actually should be held accountable for that. So I actually think that this is a good thing. And the fact that the people aren’t swayed by the Senate trying to sweet talk them. I think that’s a positive. So I’m willing to maybe give a two for the citizen.

Dr G  1:07:42

Wow, all right. Yeah, I can’t imagine it could even possibly get up higher than like, to me the maximum ceiling would be five, because it’s not, it’s not like things went really well. It’s just that things didn’t go badly. So I’m like, we’re dealing with a glass half full or half empty situation. So five would be the maximum, and I’m happy to settle for two.

Dr Rad  1:08:06

Yeah. And I mean, actually, when you think about it, I mean, it’s not great that no perbanas get elected. But you see Livy’s puts the blame for that. On the for the audience. He doesn’t tell I think

Dr G  1:08:17

I feel like that’s misplaced and Livy’s should know better. No,

Dr Rad  1:08:21

I know. But when you think about it, this is actually you know what, Livy’s a frickin genius. Because when you think about the way he spun this narrative is artwork. He’s first of all blamed the plebeians for not electing their own as quaesters because the consular relatives are just so amazing. They’re falling all over themselves to get to the ballot box. When we fall know that if the if the voting system is anything like what we’ve got later on, or you know, anything like they say it’s so it’s totally us and whatever, set it up, as they are absolutely cut out of the voting system, if they are truly, you know, lower down. Now, look, there are wealthy beings out there. I know this is an entirely

Dr G  1:09:05

Yeah, but they’re gonna be sued. But like best case scenario, they’re sitting in one of the lower down voting groups, and they don’t get a chance. I mean, they should be rising up and getting angry about that, but they have to change the whole system. It’s not it’s not enough to try and get somebody elected. And it’s like, they actually need to overthrow the systemic issue in order and I can see how they’re like, Okay, well, we need to get in there so we can change it. And the problem is that the system is designed to keep them out. So it’s, it’s a massive issue.

Dr Rad  1:09:34

I mean, it’s genius, like the system designed to keep them out and yet it’s their fault when their own candidates don’t get elected. That’s genius. Point number one. Second of all, living in sets this up as this is the excuse that the tribunes are using to go against Sempronius when actually he absolutely should have his ass nailed to the wall because he absolutely did the wrong One thing, he is a dick, and there’s no getting around it like, and yet he set it up. So like, oh, the tribunes are being so diabolically clever, and they’re totally using this situation, as you know this pathetic front for going against him when they absolutely should have prosecuted and when they had the chance previously, and I don’t know why they didn’t. And then to add insult to injury, it’s Postumia fault that she’s dressing inappropriately and laughing too much, Dr. G. So he is blaming Oh, did she have a good time? Yeah, if ever there was an episode, systematic unfairness, this is the

Dr G  1:10:39

thank you so much for listening to the partial historians where it’s clear what our partiality

Dr Rad  1:10:45

is in the name Don’t get mad.

Dr G  1:10:49

We did try to warn you we did.

Dr Rad  1:10:52

I just think it’s actually it is actually artwork, the way that he’s written this particular account reading against what he’s telling me.

Dr G  1:11:00

Yeah. And I think it’s really useful to come to the source material with this kind of mindset, because it encourages you to question why are we being told these things? And these are good questions for historians to always ask? And I’m thinking of you listeners, because you two are historians, if you approach the material with the with the critical questions in mind, that’s doing history. So when you look at this sort of stuff, and you think to yourself, Well, why are they positioning it this way? Who is the real target audience here? Who is getting the benefit? And who is missing out on benefit? And how is that being leveraged against them? All of these kinds of questions really help you sort of see through some of the very clever rhetorical structuring that is at play.

Dr Rad  1:11:48

And that’s the thing like if I were busy researching something, and I was just dipping in and out of Livy, like, you know, reading the bits that were applicable to me, as you do when you’re researching, you don’t sit there and read Livy covered a cover because you need a section of Livy, what I’m getting such insight into the academic process here, but you don’t do that. So you dip in and out, right? If I were just to dip in, and I was on a deadline, and I was just researching this, I would absolutely just read that and be like, okay, yeah, that’s what happened. Cool. But the reason why I kind of love the fact that we move slowly, even though I’m sure everyone’s like, move faster.

Dr G  1:12:23

We literally can’t, because there’s too many things to analyse. So

Dr Rad  1:12:28

when you actually slow down and look at it year by year, you’re like, Oh, my God, this is genius. I mean, the line that this thing is really set

Dr G  1:12:38

up a trap, haven’t they?

Dr Rad  1:12:41

And you wouldn’t necessarily question it, because it’s just seems so matter of fact, it’s just like, oh, yeah, they did that. And they did that. And look, obviously, I’m not saying that I’m right. I can’t prove that I’m right, because it’s a theory. But certainly, I think as you say, it’s worth questioning why Livy has or who worked with, you know, whatever he sought before him was, Why have they position the events in this flow? You know, like, why, why have them connecting in this way? And why be attributing certain motives to people in this way. And I, personally, I think you can see our revenue only perspective at play 100% of the time in the year 420.

Dr G  1:13:22

I would agree humbly, based on the beautiful interpretation of Livy’s that you’ve provided.

Dr Rad  1:13:33

Maybe I’m just too suspicious, but you know, what the hell, as you say, we need to go on the boat closer to nothing people are here for our takes on things.

Dr G  1:13:42

Well, it has been an absolute pleasure. I’ve been very excited to talk about some Vestal virgins, and to learn so much about the year 420 BCE from you, Dr. Rad. Indeed. I’ll see you next time. Dr. G. Oh, and before we go, I’d like to thank our Patreons for their ongoing and beautiful support. You guys make this podcast even better than it already is. And so we appreciate that very much. And also, just doing a bit of a shout out for our book you want to hear about Rome and how it all began. We got you covered. We wrote a book on the Roman kings.

Dr Rad  1:14:18

We certainly did. There’s lots of interesting things that happen lots of conquest, lots of phalluses appearing when you least expect them.

Dr G  1:14:30

Until next time.

Dr Rad  1:14:41

Thank you for listening to this episode of the partial historians. You can find our sources, sound credits and an automated transcript in our show notes. Our music is by Bettina Joy De Guzman, you too can support our show and help us to produce more engaging content about the ancient world by becoming a Patreon. In return you receive exclusive early access to our special episodes and some bonus content. Today we’d like to send a special shout out to our newest Patreon, Steve Roger space for Luzi domesticate and Maple Leaf Ozzy. You could also support us by buying us a coffee on Kofi. However, if all of these avenues are beyond your means, please just tell someone about the show or give us a five star review. Be partial! Until next time, we are yours in ancient Rome.

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


  1. […] After the kerfuffles of 420 BCE, it’s time for a brand new year or two! In this episode we consider 419 and 418 BCE. These two years are packed with exciting moments as we get to learn about an uprising from below – we’re siding with the slaves! […]

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