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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 also entered recorded history 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 have used 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

  1. “... 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”, (‘De Officiis’, 112).

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 not have been] accused:

  2. 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 become attached 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 (362-1 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).

Livy recorded that, in 361 BC, while the consuls were engaged against the Hernici, a band of Gallic raiders:

“... established a camp camp by the Via Salaria, at the bridge across the Anio, three miles from the City”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 9: 3-6).

T. Quinctius Poenus  was appointed as dictator, and he:

  1. “... marched out of the City with an immense army and fixed his camp on this side the Anio [opposite the Gallic camp on the other side of the river].  ... There were frequent skirmishes for the possession of the bridge and, [when these proved indecisive], a Gaul of extraordinary stature strode forward on to the unoccupied bridge, and  ... cried:

  2. ‘Let the bravest man that Rome possesses come out and fight me, that we two may decide which people is the superior in war”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 9: 6-8).

According to Livy, the bravest of the Romans turned out to be the young and inexperienced Titus Manlius Imperiosus.

Livy devoted the whole of the following chapter to the ensuing fight.  Livy’s view of the significance of both the battle in terms of Manlius’ acceptance of military discipline and that he fought for the honour of his family and Rome, is captured in his recreation of the initial exchange between Manlius and Quinctius:

  1. “Thereupon Titus Manlius, the youth who had protected his father from the persecution of the tribune [in 361 BC], left his post and went to the dictator and said: ‘Without  your orders, General, I will never leave my post to fight, not even if I saw that victory was certain; but if you give me permission I want to show that monster as he stalks so proudly in front of [the Gallic] lines that I am a scion of the family that hurled the  Gauls from the Tarpeian rock [a reference to the bravery of Marcus Manlius Capitolinus during the Gallic sack of Rome].’  The dictator replied: ‘Success to your courage, Titus Manlius, and to your affection for your father and your fatherland . Go and, with the help of the gods, show that the name of Rome is invincible”, ‘History of Rome’, 7: 10: 2-4).

Livy returned to the subject of family pride in his account of Manlius’ victory:

  1. “... turning the point of his blade upwards, Manlius gave two rapid thrusts in succession and stabbed the Gaul in the belly and the groin, laying him prostrate over a large extent of ground.  He left the body  ... un-despoiled, with the exception of his chain, which though smeared with blood he placed round his own neck.  Astonishment and fear kept the Gauls motionless; the Romans ran eagerly forward from their lines to meet their warrior, and amidst cheers and congratulations they conducted him to the [dictator.  In the doggerel verses which they extemporised in his honour they called him Torquatus (adorned with a chain), and this soubriquet became proud family name. of his descendants.  The dictator gave him a golden crown and, before the whole army, alluded to his victory in terms of the highest praise”, ‘History of Rome’, 7: 10: 10-14).

Livy attributed the Gaul’s withdrawal entirely to Manlius’ achievement: 

  1. “Strange to relate that single combat had such a far reaching influence on the whole war that the Gauls hastily abandoned their camp and moved to the neighbourhood of Tibur.  They formed an alliance  ... with that city, and the Tiburtines supplied them generously with provisions.  After receiving this assistance they withdrew into Campania”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 11: 1).

In a short postscript, Cicero placed the episode of 363 BC (above) 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 own son [whom he executed  on disciplinary grounds during the battle of 340 BC]”, (‘De Officiis’, 112).

First Dictatorship (353 BC)

According to Livy, since the consuls C. Sulpicius Peticus and  M. Valerius Publicola (both of whom were patricians) were engaged against the Tarquinians and Volscians respectively, when news arrived in Romme of a rebellion at Caere:

  1. “... Valerius, ... [who] had his camp on the frontiers of Tusculum, was recalled and ordered by the Senate to nominate a dictator.  He nominated Titus, the son of Lucius Manlius, who named A. Cornelius Cossus as master of the horse.  ... he was authorised by the Senate and the people to declare war on Caere”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 19: 9-10).

However, the rebellion soon evaporated and Manlius returned to Rome without having done any fighting.  Livy then recorded that:

  1. “At the close of the year, the consular elections were delayed owing to a quarrel between the two orders:

  2. the tribunes declared that they would not permit the elections to be held unless they were conducted in accordance with the Licinian Law; while

  3. the dictator [Manlius] was determined to [ensure the election of two] patricians.

  4. Since the elections had still not been held when [Manlius] resigned his office,  matters reverted to an interregnum.   ... Wearied out with the prolonged agitation, the Senate ordered L. Cornelius Scipio, the [eleventh] interrex, to restore harmony to the State by conducting the consular elections in accordance with the Licinian Law: [the patrician] P. Valerius Publicola was [duly] elected, and C. Marcius Rutilus was his plebeian colleague”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 21: 1-5). 

As Timothy Cornell (referenced below) pointed out that, since the military threat from Caere appears to have been minimal, it is possible that the primary reason for Manlius’ appointment had been to hold the consular elections in the consuls’ absence.

Dictator II: 349 BC (7: 26: 11); fC (resigned)

Cos I: 347 BC (7: 27: 30); fC

Cos II: 344 BC (7: 28: 6)

Cos III: 34o (8: 3: 5 ) - Veseris

Dictator III:  320 BC (9: 15: 9-10 n);  fC - after the Caudine Forks

Read more: 

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

T. Cornell, “Crisis and Deformation in the Roman Republic: The Example of the Dictatorship”, in:

  1. V. Gouschinand P. Rhodes (eds),  “Deformations and Crises of Ancient Civil Communities”, (2015)  Stuttgart, at pp. 101-26

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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