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Publicola – Piety and Politics in the Early Republic

Valerius Publius, aka Publicola, topples the tyrant with Brutus and founds the Republic on better justice than the Roman kings had exercised. Like his parallel Solon, his obsession with justice makes him seek the happiness of his own people all the way to his death. Remembering Solon’s examples of happiness, does Publius die a happy man?

Parallel – Solon

Important People

  • Tarquinius Superbus – The seventh, and last, king of Rome. Thrown out because of his refusal to punish his nephew who had forcibly raped a Roman noblewoman named Lucretia. This is important to the backstory and Plutarch will only briefly summarize it.
  • Lucius Junius Brutus – The citizen who stood up to Tarquinius and drove him into exile. Also elected first consul.
  • Mucius Scaevola – Roman soldier famous for breaking into the enemy camp, killing the wrong man, and then sticking his hand in fire to prove Roman toughness. It worked. He lost his right hand but earned the nickname “Lefty” and regained his freedom along with deep respect from the enemy of Rome, Lars Porsena.
  • Lars Porsena – described by Plutarch as “the most powerful king in Italy” he attacks Rome but later becomes a strong ally. Read on to find out how.
  • Cloelia and Valeria – Two Roman maidens given to the enemy in a hostage exchange.
  • Horatius Cocles – A one-eyed Roman veteran who single-handedly defends the last bridge into the city of Rome while his two friends destroy the bridge behind him. While taking several more wounds, he leaps into the river in full armor and swims across to safety and eternal glory.
  • Appius Claudius – A Sabine who breaks off from the Sabines out of respect for the Romans and, along with 5000 other families, is inducted into the citizen rolls. He himself becomes a Senator and the patriarch of a powerful family that wields political influence in Rome for the next 700 years.

IMportant Places

  • Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline (see map of Republican Rome)
  • Clusium (see map of Rome environs) – Lars Porsena’s town, far north up a tributary of the Tiber (called the Clanis)
  • Anio River – The land given to the defecting Sabines are along this tributary of the Tiber
  • Fidenae (town, see black and white environs map) – Another rival polis
Map of the Forum in Republican Times
Map of Republican Rome – Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus labeled.
Temple of Saturn identified with the number 10 at the bottom of the Vicus Jugarius coming down from the Capitoline into the Forum.
Rome and Environs. Fidenae (town) and the Anio river mentioned in this life.
Lars Porsena of Clusium attacks Rome but is converted from adversary to ally by Publius.
Clusium way up by Lake Trasimene

C. 1 – Lineage and Establishment of the Republic

1-2. Solon —> Nickname earned for integrity and boldness in justice, lineage, an ancestor had made peace between Romans and Sabines (causing them to come together for the first time, cf. Life of Romulus).

3. Tarquin summary

4. Brutus elected consul but the Romans no longer want ONE ruler.

5. Sadly, Valerius not elected co-consul with Brutus (instead Collatinus, husband of Lucretia)

C. 2 – Tarquin trying to infiltrate

  1. Publius withdraws from the Senate and public life
  2. Brutus requires an oath; Publius lines up first.
  3. Tarquin tries to win the people over through envoys and promises to the poor (who “fear war more than tyranny”) 

C. 3 – The Plot against Brutus

  1. Tarquin negotiates for his property and money; Brutus rejects the terms. 
  2. Use the wealth to fight the tyrants or cast it out with the tyrants? Tarquin just testing the people’s attitude towards him. 
  3. The envoys delay in the city under the pretense of taking care of the property, but really sounding the opinion of the people.
  4. Brutus’s two sons have joined with the Vitelli in a plot to return Tarquin to the throne. Their motives? Replace tyranny of their father with tyranny of their king. How Brutus earned such a disreputable name (means stupid). 

C. 4 – Vindicius discovers the plots

  1. The conspirators meet in the dark and consummate their oath in the blood and entrails of a dead man. Etym/aetio: vindicius
  2. Vindicius overhears/eaves-drops accidentally hears their plan to murder the consuls.
  3. He hesitates because he will be implicating the sons of the consul in a plot to kill the consul!
  4. Nonetheless, Vindicius reports the information to Publicola, because he is so trustworthy and kept his house open to all who needed help. 

C. 5 – Publius brings the plot to public attention

  1. Valerius informed of the plot, locks Vindicius in a room.
  2. Goes to the house of the conspirators (Aquiliī), forces himself in, and finds evidence and, after a scuffle with the returning Aquiliī, hands the letters over to Brutus

C. 6 – Brutus brings justice to conspirators

  1. Valerius releases Vindicius and the evidence is presented. Some recommend exile; Collatinus in tears, Valerius silent. 
  2. Brutus’s own sons do not publicly reply to the charges. The sons are scourged by the lictors in front of the father. 
  3. Brutus watches as the lictors beat them to the ground, and behead them with the ax. Praise? blame? Even Plutarch is confused. 
  4. Either godlike or brutish (pun in English and Latin, but not in Greek). Brutus better than Romulus because he established a gov’t rather than founded a city. 

C. 7 – Collatinus falls; Publius (Publicola) rises

  1. Silence and fear reign. Aquiliī ask Collatinus for return of Vindicius. 
  2. Publius intervenes, recalling Brutus to the forum and demands he defend the people who defended the Republic.
  3. Collatinus tries to use the lictors to seize Vindicius. Brutus returns and allows the citizens to vote on the fate of the accused. The conspirators are unanimously condemned to death (beheaded). 
  4. Collatinus withdraws from politics and leaves the city. Publius elected consul-suffect.
  5. Vindicius given freedom and citizenship with a vote in a Curia of his choosing. Thus, a perfect manumission is called a “vindicta,”  also the root of vindicate in English?

C. 8 – Ridding the Remains of the Tarquins from Rome

  1. Roman raze the palace of the Tarquins, Field of Mars dedicated to that god, but it contained ripe, reaped grain. The Romans “sacrifice” the grain by throwing it into the river. 
  2. They empty the field of trees and dump them in the river as well. Leave the field fallow for Mars. 
  3. The quantity of grain and trees dumped in the river captures mud and eventually builds an island in the Tiber. 
  4. An alternative story involving a Vestal Virgin who had the right to testify in court and marry (after her Vestal term was up; which she didn’t do). 

C. 9 – The Romans Win By One

  1. Neighboring cities (called Tuscans/Tyrrhenian by Plutarch), welcome Tarquin and give him a fighting force to take back his crown. 
  2. Aruns (son of Tarquin) and Brutus meet in battle and kill each other. Battle ends in similar indecisive way. 
  3. Publius perplexed by the ambiguity of the verdict. 
  4. Night falls; a god speaks in a booming voice declaring the Romans victorious by losing one man fewer than the Tuscans. The Tuscans abandon their camp and retreat. 
  5. At daybreak, Romans fall upon those who stayed behind and plunder the camp. Dead are counted; the god was right! Last day of February, Publius celebrates a triumph. 
  6. Publius celebrates a triumph tastefully. First consul to drive a four-horse chariot, like the kings had before hime, into the city. 
  7. Publius delivers a funeral oration in Brutus’s honor (starting this tradition for later Romans). The custom of funeral orations for great men is even earlier for the Romans than for the Greeks (worth noting because it’s rare). 

C. 10 – Publicola Earns his Nickname

  1. Publius, still called Valerius by Plutarch up to this point in the story, offends the people by refusing to choose a suffect consul to replace Brutus for the rest of his term. 
  2. He also lives as opulently as Tarquin had, with a great view of the Forum. 
  3. At this point, he responds to public opinion, which Plutarch says is a good thing for men in power and high position. He tears his own house down during the night. 
  4. Romans distressed by the outcome of their own envy. Publius living with friends. 
  5. Publicola eventually builds a smaller house at the foot of the hill instead of the grand house he had on top of the hill. He further alters the symbols of power: the axes are removed from the fasces and the rods are lowered towards. the people when a consul enters the assembly.
  6. In reality, this move increased his authority with the people, though it looked as if he was humbling himself. For this, he earns the name Publicola (cherisher of the People), and Plutarch switches to that name at this point in the Biography. 
Publicola destroys his opulent mansion on a hill overlooking the Forum.

C. 11 – Consular Elections and Reform Laws

  1. Anyone can run for consul; but he first stacks the deck in his favor by choosing more Senators, some of whom had been killed by Tarquin and some fallen in battle. 
  2. Now the Senate numbers 164. He give a defendant the right of appeal to the people. It is a capital offense to assume a magistracy that the people had not ratified. 
  3. Third reform: tax-relief
  4. Fourth reform: lowering the fine for disobedience to  a consul to five oxen and two sheep (520 obols). Money: etymology of Roman word pecunia from pecus – herd-animal. Common Roman names also attested at this time: Porcius (piggy), Suillius (swine-y), Bubulcus (beefy), or Caprarius (goat-y). Romans also stamped their money with images of animals. Origin of our words pecuniary and peculiar.

C. 12 – Tyranny and the Treasury

  1. Publicola’s harshest law: anyone seeking tyranny may be slain without trial; slayer free from blood-guilt if he shows proofs. Does this exonerate Cicero for his punishment of the Catiline conspirators? Did this inspire the later Brutus to kill Caesar, knowing he had proof of his tyranny?
  2. Temple of Saturn set up as a treasury. Two quaestors appointed by the people to manage its affairs. 
  3. First two quaestors named; amount gathered; widows and orphans exempt. 
  4. Lucretius appointed suffect-consul and given seniority, but dies a few days later. Then Marcus Horatius. 

C. 13 – Jupiter Capitoline: The Chariot on Top

  1. When Tarquin had been king, he had commissioned (from nearby town of Veii) a terra-cotta chariot to be placed on top of the temple of Jupiter Capitoline
  2. The clay figure didn’t shrink in the oven but expanded in size AND weight. Difficult to move!
  3. Divine message: prosperity and power for those who possess this chariot. The people of Veii keep it!
  4. At the end of a chariot race in Veii, the victor loses control of his horses who bolt for Rome, stopping at the Capitol and throwing their charioteer there. The Veientians deliver the chariot at that point. 

C. 14 – Jupiter Capitoline: Building and Consecration

  1. This temple to Jupiter had been promised to Jupiter by the elder Tarquin, but constructed by Superbus (the grandson and last king who was just ejected from the city), but had not reached the point of consecration. Publius thus wants to consecrate it. 
  2. Others want to give Horatius the privilege of consecrating the temple, so they wait for Publicola to go on military duty and then pass the measure. 
  3. Others say this designation occurred by the casting of lots. Sept. 1 the day for consecration. 
  4. Publicola’s brother, Marcus, waits for the most important part of the consecration ceremony to alert Horatius of the death of his son. 
  5. Horatius completes the consecration unperturbed. Later turns out that Horatius’s son is fine. Plutarch admires the equanimity of Horatius. 

C. 15 – Jupiter Capitoline: Later Versions (2, 3, and 4)

  1. The replacement for this temple, rebuilt by Sulla and dedicated by the (consul) Catulus, seems to have experienced a similar fate of one man starting and another consecrating the temple. 
  2. Vespasian built the third round after the year of three emperors and had only good luck with the execution of the temple. When Vespasian died (80 A.D.) the Capitol was lit on fire. 
  3. Fourth temple completed and consecrated by Domitian, the gilding of the current temple alone significantly overshadows the original cost of the first temple (separated by 900 years). 
  4. Pillars of Pentelic marble, originally with perfect proportions, but when polished in Rome they became too thin and lost their beauty. 
  5. Plutarch critiques Domitian for having the excesses of Midas and wanting to turn everything he touches into gold or marble (stone). Parallel with Solon’s reaction to Croesus?

C. 16 – Porsena v. Publicola

  1. Tarquin, after the battle, flees to Clusium and Lars Porsena, the “most powerful king in Italy.” Porsena orders the Romans to take Tarquin back as their king. They refuse. Thus, he marches against them. 
  2. Publicola re-elected to consul with Titus Lucretius as colleague. Publicola builds a city in the teeth of an oncoming attack. The garrison is ousted from the city Publicola just finished. 
  3. Publicola sallies forth from Rome to bring in the fleeing Roman colonists. He is wounded in this battle. 
  4. Lucretius also wounded, and the Romans begin to fall back. 
  5. A veteran who had already lost one eye in service to Rome , Horatius Cocles (a messed-up attempt to call him Cyclops), and two other men defend the wooden bridge which, if Lars Porsena’s men managed to cross, then Rome would be sacked!
  6. He jumps into the river in full armor and swims to the other side after his friends have destroyed the bridge. In so doing, he takes a wound in the backside. 
  7. In gratitude for this, the Roman people grant him as much land as he can plow in a day, an allowance of food for life, and he gets a statue in the temple of Vulan, a god who limps, to console him for his limp while at the same time celebrating his valorous action. 

C. 17 – Porsena v. Mucius Scaevola

  1. Lars Porsena besieges Rome and FAMINE strikes. Publius (consul for the third time), sallies forth to destroy an ally coming to aid Lars. 
  2. Mucius Scaevola’s story often told, but Plutarch feels obligated to give his own version. Mucius, a virtuous man with his greatest virtue being prowess in war, wearing a disguise breaks into the Etruscan camp. He slays a man on the dais he thinks most likely to be the king. 
  3. In custody, he puts his right hand over a fire and allows it to burn while staring down Lars Porsena. Porsena impressed, hands him back his sword (which he takes with his left hand), and releases him. 
  4. In response to Porsena’s nobility, Scaevola says There are 300 more Romans just like me who will try to do the same; I was just the first chosen by lot to try. You are so noble you ought to be a friend and not an enemy of Rome. 
  5. Porsena sues for peace out of respect for the nobility of these Romans. 

C. 18 – Porsena: From Adversary to Ally

  1. Publicola submits Tarquin’s case to Porsena for dispute. Tarquin refuses to have “anyone as his judge.”
  2. This sways Porsena who gives up the war on the conditions of lands ceded in Tuscany and the return of prisoners and deserters. The Romans exchange 20 hostages: 10 young men and 10 young women. 

C. 19 – Hostages Escape, sent back, ambushed!

  1. Prisoner women go down to the river to bathe and no guard is set. They want to swim away down the Tiber back to Rome. 
  2. When Publicola returns, he is worried about breaking his word to Porsena. He sends the girls (which include his own daughter) back to Porsena. 
  3. Tarquin lays an ambush to capture the women. Valeria escapes and Aruns, son of Porsena, comes to the rescue of the women. 
  4. Porsena asks whose idea it was and Cloelia is presented. Impressed by her bravery, he gives her a horse. 
  5. Now a statue commemorates the bravery of the women on the Via Sacra (either Cloelia or Valeria, though Livy thinks its just a commemoration to female bravery). 
  6. As Porsena evacuates his camp, he leaves everything but his arms as a gift to the Romans. So at a public auction now, Porsena’s goods are mentioned first in honor of his noble action so long ago. A bronze statue erected near the Senate House to his honor. 

C. 20 – Triumphant Brother, with Publius’s help

  1. Marcus (Publicola’s brother) consul when the Sabines invade. He wins two battles, the second without losing a single Roman soldier (and killing 13,000 of the enemy!). 
  2. The Roman people give Marcus a triumph for this and they build him a house on the Palatine at public expense. The doors of his house go directly to the outside to give him a permanent share of public honor. 
  3. Greek doors used to open out directly onto the street, hence in Greek comedies they knock on the inside of the door to warn people passing outside that the doors are about to open. 

C. 21 – Fourth Consulship; Sabine Enemies (Appius Claudius)

  1. Next year, Publicola consul for the fourth time. Sabines and Latins form an alliance against Rome. Romans seized with fear because all pregnant women are giving birth to children with birth defects and prematurely.  Publicola consults the Sybilline Books, sacrifices to Pluto, renews festival games to Apollo, takes care of the gods and then turns to threats from men. 
  2. Sabine – Appius Clausus (or Claudius according to Livy): Wealthy and illustrious for character and eloquence. Hated by some of his own people, so when he tries to make peace with the Romans, they decry him for acting like a tyrant. 
  3. This resistance from within delays the Sabine plans. 
  4. Publicola promotes the faction/friction within the Sabines, offers Appius Claudius asylum in Rome if he switches sides. 
  5. Claudius defects to the Romans, bringing 5000 Sabine families with him, where they are admitted to all the same rights and privileges as Roman citizens (reflects on Romulus’s co-kingship with Tatius and the combination of the two peoples. Acts almost as a re-founding). 
  6. Every family receives two acres of land on the River Anio (location?) Claudius becomes a Senator and receives 25 acres, and thus becomes the patriarch of the powerful Claudius family who wields political power in Rome all the way to and through Julius Caesar and beyond. 

C. 22 – Sabines outwitted in a three-front counter-attack

  1. The remaining Sabines still prosecute their war against Rome. They camp near Fidenae and set an ambush near Rome. 
  2. Publicola, aware of the plan, splits his forces into three.
  3. He encircles the Sabines, and the ambush gets ambushed at the same time that Publius descends on the camp. 
  4. Sabines defeated on all fronts. Each group attempted to retreat to the other group, not knowing that all three positions were under attack. All Sabines would have died but Fidenae opens its gates as refuge for some. The rest killed or captured. 

C. 23 – Dies in Triumph

  1. Publicola declared the reason for the victory (even though the gods were usually given credit). Great wealth ensues from the capture of so many men and goods. 
  2. Publicola celebrates another triumph and promptly dies, handing power off to the consuls for the next year. “He had brought his life to perfection.” His body buried at public expense within the city limits with his entire family having the privilege to be buried there. 
  3. The women mourned for a whole year, as they had for Brutus (according to Livy). Publiī are no longer buried there, but are ritually placed there so that they can cede their right and be buried outside the city walls.

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