Roman Republic

Roman Conquest of Italy (509 - 241 BC)

M. Furius Camillus (403 - 366 BC)

Probable family tree of M. Furius Camillus (underlined in red), the first of the documented Furii Camilli

Adapted from Valerie Warrior (referenced below, at p. 414): my additions in red

See Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 30) for the second and third generations of the Furii Camilli 

Camillus’ Early Career

With the exception of Plutarch (see below), all our surviving sources first mention Camillus in 403 BC:

Livy believed that he had been one of eight consular tribunes in this year; but

all of our other surviving sources (including Plutarch) believe that he had served as censor.

  1. I discuss this conflict among the sources below: for the moment we should focus on the fact that Plutarch is our only surviving source for Camillus’ career prior to 403 BC; and

  2. by Plutarch’s reckoning (see below), Camillus would have been about 36 years old at this time.

According to Plutarch:

  1. “At a time when the house of the Furii was not yet very conspicuous, [Camillus], by his own efforts, was the first of his clan to achieve fame.  He did this in the great battle with the Aequi and Volsci, serving under Postumius Tubertus the dictator.  Dashing out on his horse in front of the army,... [and, despite ] a wound in the thigh, ... he engaged the bravest of the enemy and put them to flight. For this exploit, among other honours bestowed upon him, he was appointed censor ...”, (‘Life of Camillus’, 2: 1-3).

Camillus and the Gens Furia

Plutarch’s comment that Camillus was the first member of the gens Furia to ‘achieve fame’ might be correct, although, as Valerie Warrior (referenced below, at pp. 413-5) pointed out, several members this family had held high office before 403 BC.  He is, however, the first member of this family to use the cognomen Camillus.  Valerie Warrior observed (at p. 414) that he:

  1. “... is identified by the [Augustan]  fasti Capitolini [in 403 BC and thereafter] as M. Furius L. f. Sp. n. Camillus, thus suggesting that he belonged to the Medulline branch of the family.”

The family tree above is based on that hypothesis.

Camillus and the ‘Great Battle with the Aequi and Volsci’

Plutarch’s claim that Camillus served heroically in the great battle in the cavalry of ‘Postumius Tubertus the dictator’ in must refer to the year 431 BC, when, according to Livy, the dictator A. Postumius Tubertus defeated these nations in a major battle on the Algidus.  However, the story of Camillus’ participation in the battle is undermined by the fact that, by Plutarch’s own reckoning, he would have been only about 16 years old at this time.  Furthermore, although Livy provided a detailed account of the battle of 431 BC that included a number of variant sources, none of these sources apparently recorded that  Camillus (whom he later lionised) had played any part in it.  On the other hand, he did record that ‘Fabius’, one of Tubertus’ officers:

“... had his thigh almost pinned to his horse ... but ... refused to retire while the battle was undecided”, (‘History of Rome’, 4: 28: 8).

It seems to me that the tail of the heroic cavalry officer who took a thigh wound in the great battle of 431 BC had been claimed by the Fabii by Livy’s time of writing, but that their claim on him was not universally accepted.

Camillus’ Early Career: Conclusions

The fact that Camillus’ first appeared in the fasti Capitolini in 403 BC, when he would have been about 36, is not particularly surprising.  However, if:

  1. he never served as consul (as Plutarch claimed -see (‘Life of Camillus’, 1: 1); and

  2. he is correctly recorded in the fasti Capitolini as consular tribune for the first time in 401 BC;

then his putative censorship of 403 BC (which Plutarch also recorded) is difficult to explain, even if his hypothesised family connections are accepted.  This could explain why Plutarch (or perhaps his source, which, f it existed, was unknown to or discounted by Livy), had attached it to Camillus.  The bottom line is that:

  1. Plutarch’s account of Camillus’ career before 403 BC is highly suspect; and

  2. without it, we know nothing whatsoever about this period of his life.

Magistrates of 403 BC


Livy began his Book 5 with the events of 403 BC, three years after the Romans had declared war on Veii and at a time when the two cities:

  1. “... were warring with such anger and hatred that the end was clearly at hand for whichever of them was conquered.  Each people held an election that was very different from the other.  The Romans increased the number of military tribunes with consular power [hereafter consular tribunes]: eight were elected, an unprecedented number:

  2. M’ Aemilius Mamercus (also Mamercinus) for the second time;

  3. L. Valerius Potitus for the third time;

  4. Ap. Claudius Crassus;

  5. M. Quinctilius Varus;

  6. L. Julius Iulus ;

  7. M. Postumius;

  8. M. Furius Camillus; and

  9. M. Postumius Albinus”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 1: 1-2).

This represents Livy’s first reference to Camillus, the man who was to dominate his Book 5 and also much of his Book VI (which he ended in 367 BC, the year before Camillus’ death). 

Fasti Capitolini and Other Surviving Sources

The fasti Capitolini identified six consular tribunes in this year,  which comprised of:

  1. Livy’s first five; and

  2. M. Furius Fusus.

This is broadly supported by Diodorus Siculus (‘Library of History’, 14: 35: 1), who recorded only five consular tribunes: all those in the fasti except M’ Aemilius Mamercus.

The fasti also recorded that a pair of censors appointed in this year:

  1. M. Furius ... ; and

  2. M. Postumiu Albinus Regillensis

Two other sources suggest that the lost cognomen in the fasti was Camillus:

  1. Valerius Maximus recorded that, in an unidentified year:

  2. “Censors Camillus and Postumius ordered persons who had reached old age as bachelors to pay copper coins to the treasury as a penalty”, (‘Memorable Deeds and Sayings’, 2: 9, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, at p. 211); and

  3. Plutarch recorded that:

  4. “... among the other honours that were bestowed upon [Camillus after his putative exploits in 431 BC - see above), he was appointed censor ... There is on record [at least two] noble achievements of his censorship:

  5. that of encouraging  the unmarried men ... [to marry the many women who had been widowed] in war; and

  6. that of making the orphans (who had previously contributed nothing to the support of the State) subject to taxation.

  7. The continuous and expensive campaigns [of the time], not the least of which was the on-going  siege of Veii], required this ...”, (‘Life of Camillus’, 2: 1-3).

Taken together, the records of all of our surviving sources other than Livy support the hypothesis that:

  1. the censor M. Furius ... in the fasti was none other than M. Furius Camillus; and

  2. according to the source(s) available to Plutarch and Valerius Maximus, the tasks that he had undertaken as censor in 403 BC included the widening of the tax base in order to finance military operations, including the on-going siege of Veii.

Reconciliation of Livy with the Fasti Capitolini 

On the basis of the analysis above, we can reasonably assume that, at least by the Augustan period, the consensus view was that:

  1. there had been only six consular tribunes in 403 BC; and

  2. these had been correctly identified in the fasti as:

  3. M’ Aemilius Mamercus/ Mamercinus, also named by Livy but not by Diodorus Siculus;

  4. four men also named by Livy and Diodorus Siculus;

  5. -L. Valerius Potitus;

  6. -Ap. Claudius Crassus;

  7. -M. Quinctilius Varus;

  8. -L. Julius Iulus; 

  9. M. Furius Fusus, also named by Diodorus but misnamed by Livy as M. Postumius.

Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 82, note 1) reasonably argued that:

  1. Livy’s identification of the sixth consular tribune as ‘M. Postumius’ was almost certainly a slip; and

  2. he had, for whatever reason, incorrectly added the names of the censors of 403 BC, M. Furius Camillus and M. Postumius Albinus, to his list of consular tribunes.

We know  that Livy’s inclusion of these last two names in his list of consular tribunes was not simply a slip or an error in transmission, since he commented the putative election of eight consular tribunes in this year was unprecedented.  However, we also know that mistake, since it had repercussions for his subsequent account: he recorded Camillus as as consular tribune for the second time in both:

  1. 401 BC ( ‘History of Rome’, 5: 10: 1, when the fasti him in this post for the first time); and

  2. 398 BC (‘History of Rome’, 5: 14: 6, in agreement with the fasti).

It seems therefore that Livy himself was responsible for the incorrect identification of Camillus and Postumius as consular tribunes in 403 BC.  Perhaps he had rejected their censorship in this year because neither of them had been previously recorded as consul or consular tribune.

Read more:

Warrior V. M., “Livy: History of Rome, Books 1–5 (Translated, with Introduction and Notes)”, (2006) Indianapolis IN

Shackleton Bailey D. (translator), “Valerius Maximus: ‘Memorable Doings and Sayings’; Vol. I, Books 1-5”, (2000) , Cambridge MA

Oakley S., “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume II: Books VII and VIII”, (1998) Oxford

Oakley S., “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume I: Introduction and Book VI”, 1997 (Oxford)

Broughton T. R. S., “Magistrates of the Roman Republic: Volume 1:  509 BC - 100 BC”, (1951) New York

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