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Titus Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus


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Events of 363 BC

The future Titus Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus entered recorded history in 363 BC, as the young son of Lucius Manlius Imperiosus.

Impeachment of Lucius Manlius Imperiosus

Lucius Manlius Imperiosus first appears in our surviving sources in 363 BC, when, according to both Livy (‘History of Rome’, 7: 3: 8) and the fasti Capitolini, he was appointed as dictator clavi figendi causa (see below).   He is the first member of the gens Manlia who is known to use the cognomen Imperiosus: according to Livy:

  1. “... he had adopted it himself to show off his harsh nature, which he exercised just as much on his blood relations and [others close to him] as on those outside the family”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 4: 3, translation of Denis Feeney, referenced below, at p. 208).

The cognomen and the reputation that was associated with it passed down through successive generations: as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 86) pointed out:

  1. “... annalists liked to portray families as having fixed characteristics, and excessive severity and officiousness became the hallmark of the Manlii in the historical tradition.”

I describe the nature of Manlius’ dictatorship in my page on the Dictatorship Clavi Figendi Causa: in short, dictators of this kind were first appointed in 363 BC (and then on at least three later occasions) for the purpose of presiding over a ritual of propitiation of the gods that involved the ‘fixing’ of a sacred nail.  In fact, Livy did not record whether Manlius actually hammered in the propitiatory nail: he simply recorded that he:

  1. “... acted as if his had been appointed for military purposes rather than for the purpose of correcting a failure in religious observance.  He harboured ambitions for war with the Hernici, and angered the men liable to serve [in this war] by the oppressive way in which he conducted their conscription.  [When he found himself  facing] the unanimous resistance of the tribunes of the plebs, he gave way (either voluntarily or through compulsion) and laid down his dictatorship”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 3: 9).

However, according to Livy, this resignation:

  1. “.. did not... prevent his impeachment the following year ... The prosecutor was Marcus Pomponius, one of the tribunes of the plebs”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 4: 1).

Livy claimed that the one of the charges against Manlius was  that he had used exceptional brutality in order to conscript men to fight the Hernici.  Cicero added that he had been charged

“... with having extended the term of his dictatorship a few days beyond its expiration’, (‘De Officiis’, 112). 

Both men agreed that, in Cicero’s words”

  1. “He [was] further charged  ... with having banished his own son Titus ... from all companionship with his fellow men, [exiling him from Rome and] requiring him to live in the country.”

Thus, the scene was set for the future Titus Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus to enter recorded history.

Intervention of the Young Titus

Livy then came to the point of his long account of the impeachment of Lucius Manlius Imperiosus: it gave him an opportunity demonstrate Titus’ filial pietas: far from welcoming the prosecution of his tyrannical father, he was:

  1. “... indignant to find himself made the grounds for the charges against his father and ... determined to let gods and men see that he would rather stand by [him] than help his enemies”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 4: 4). 

He therefore visited Pomponius in his home, where he: 

  1. “... announced himself as Titus Manlius, the son of Lucius.  Pomponius imagined that he was ... bringing some matter for a fresh charge ... [against] his father ... [Titus] disingenuously] informed Pomponius that he wished the business in hand to be transacted in the absence of witnesses ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 4: 5) 

Pomponius duly dismissed his attendants at which point, Titus:

  1. “... threatened [him with a knife, telling him that he would use it] unless he ... [swore that] he would never hold an assembly of the plebs for the prosecution of his father.  Pomponius was terrified ... and defenceless in the presence of a youth of exceptional strength ... He [therefore] took the required oath and publicly announced that, yielding to violence, he had abandoned his original purpose”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 4: 6).  

Events of 363 BC: Conclusions

There is no reason to doubt that Lucius Manlius Imperiosus was appointed as dictator clavi figendi causa in 363 BC for the purpose of propitiating the gods.  He may subsequently have been been accused by a tribune of the pleb of some sort of violation: as Mark Wilson (referenced below, at p. 141) observed:

  1. “... since he was only in office for a day or two [in order to perform the  ritual fixing of the nail], it is clear that, if he was accused in relation to his conduct in office, then he would have been] accused:

  2. not of remaining in office beyond some set term; but

  3. of remaining in office after he had discharged the duty for which he had been appointed (i.e. after he had fixed the nail]: according to long-established custom, he should [then] have foresworn his imperium and resigned.”

However, in that case, his voluntary or enforced resignation should have been the end of the matter.

In fact, as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 84) observed:

  1. “The historicity of the whole tale [of the prosecution of the recently-resigned dictator] is very doubtful ... :

  2. it is hard to see how so much detail could have survived from 362 BC to Livy’s time; and

  3. [the putative defendant] corresponds so well to the stock character of the Manlii.”

Oakley argued (at p. 87) that:

  1. “... the severity of the dictator, [which Livy saw as the fundamental reason for his impeachment] will have been invented to illustrate the Manlian type.”

Livy did not invent the story of the dictator’s impeachment: Cicero was clearly aware of it, albeit that he used it for a different purpose (to demonstrate the way that oaths had been respected in ‘the good old days’) : 

  1. “When [Titus Manlius], who was then a young man, heard that his father was in trouble on his account, he hastened to Rome (so the story goes) and presented himself at daybreak at Pomponius’ house, [where he] was announced to Pomponius.  Since Pomponius thought that the son, in his anger, meant to bring him some new evidence to use against the father, he arose from his bed, asked all who were present to leave the room, and sent word to the young man to come in.  Upon entering [Pomponius’ bedroom, Titus] at once drew a sword [in Livy’s account, it was a more easily concealed knife] and swore that he would kill the tribune on the spot if he did not swear an oath to withdraw the suit against his father.  Constrained by the terror of the situation, Pomponius gave his oath.  He [then] reported the matter to the plebs, explaining why he was obliged to drop the prosecution, and withdrew his suit against [the elder] Manlius.  Such was the regard for the sanctity of an oath in those days”, (‘De Officiis’, 112).

It seems to me that this obviously apocryphal account of Titus’ exemplary filial piety had to related to his father’s dictatorship because this was the only occasion on which his father was ever recorded as a holder of  public office.

Military Tribune (362 BC)

Livy recorded that the plebs:

  1. “...  were not displeased at [Titus’] daring deed in defence of his father [in 362 BC], which was all the more meritorious because it showed that his father's brutality had not in any way weakened his natural affection and sense of duty.  Not only was the prosecution of the father dropped, but the incident proved the means of distinction for the son: that year, for the first time, the military tribunes were elected by the popular vote, ... [and Titus] obtained the second out of six places, although he had done nothing at home or in the field to make him popular, having passed his youth [in exile] in the country, far from city life”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 4: 6).





In a short postscript, Cicero placed the episode of 363 BC in the context of what became the legend of Titus Manlius Torquatus:

  1. “And that lad was the Titus Manlius who:

  2. in the battle on the Anio [of 361 BC, as military tribune], killed the Gaul by whom he had been challenged to single combat, pulled off his torque and thus won his surname; and

  3. in his third consulship [of 340 BC], routed the Latins and put them to flight in the battle on the Veseris.

  4. He was one of the greatest of the great, and one who, while more than generous toward his father [in 362 BC], could yet be bitterly severe toward his son [whom he executed  on disciplinary grounds during the battle of 340 BC]”, (‘De Officiis’, 112).



Read more: 

M. Wilson, "The Needed Man: Evolution, Abandonment, and Resurrection of the Roman Dictatorship" (2017) thesis of City University of New York

D. Feeney, “Fathers and Sons: the Manlii Torquati and Family Continuity in Catullus and Horace”,

  1. in C. Kraus, J. Marincola and C. Pelling (eds.), “Ancient Historiography and its Contexts”, (2010) Oxford, at pp. 205-23

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


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