Cornelia (gens)

House of Cornelius Rufus, Pompeii

The gens Cornelia was one of the most distinguished Roman gentes, and produced a greater number of illustrious men than any other house at Rome. The first of this gens to achieve the consulship was Servius Cornelius Cossus Maluginensis, who held that office in 485 BC.[1]

The gens was a major contributor to the highest offices of the Republic, and contested for consulships with the Fabii and the Valerii from the 3rd century BC. Over thirty percent of all consulships were held by men from this gens; several great commanders also came from this family.

Contents

Origin of the gens

The origin of the Cornelii are lost to history, but the nomen Cornelius may be formed from the hypothetical cognomen Corneus, meaning "horny", that is, having thick or callused skin. The existence of such a cognomen in early times may be inferred from its diminutive, Corneolus.[2]

Another possibility is that the name is related to the surname Cossus, used by the most ancient branch of the gens. Cossus may be an archaic praenomen used by the ancestors of the Cornelii, which was subsequently used as a cognomen by the family. A similar instance is found in the patrician Furia gens, originally Fusia, which was evidently derived from the archaic praenomen Fusus. That gens later used Fusus as a cognomen, just as the Cornelii did with Cossus. Long after that branch of the family had disappeared, Cossus was revived as a praenomen by the later Cornelii.[1]

Praenomina used by the gens

The Cornelii employed a wide variety of praenomina, although individual families tended to favor certain names and avoid others. Servius, Lucius, Publius, Gnaeus, and Marcus were common to most branches. Aulus was used by the Cornelii Cossi. Gaius was used by both the Cornelii Cethegi and Lentuli. The praenomen Tiberius also appears once amongst the Lentuli, who later revived the former cognomen Cossus as a praenomen.[1]

In the 1st century BC, the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla named his twin children Faustus and Fausta, reviving an old praenomen that was regularly used by his descendants over the next two centuries, and making the Cornelii the only patrician family known to have used that name. Sulla's youngest daughter is believed to have been named Postuma, although no other instances of this name amongst the Cornelii are known.[3]

Branches and cognomina of the gens

Tombstone of the brothers Gaius and Lucius Cornelius, sons of Gaius

The gens included both patricians and plebeians, but all its great families belonged to the patrician order. The names of the patrician families are Arvina, Blasio, Cethegus, Cinna, Cossus, Dolabella, Lentulus, Maluginensis, Mammula, Merenda, Merula, Rufinus, Scapula, Scipio, Sisenna, and Sulla. The names of the plebeian families are Balbus and Gallus, and we also find various cognomina, as Chrysogonus, Culleolus, Phagita, etc., given to freedmen of this gens. There are also several plebeians mentioned without any surname. Under the Empire the number of cognomina increased considerably.[1]

The most ancient stirpes of the Cornelii bore the cognomina Cossus and Maluginensis. The Cossi and Maluginenses were probably one family originally, for at first both these surnames are united, as for instance, in the case of Servius Cornelius Cossus Maluginensis, consul in 485 BC. Afterwards, however, the Cossi and Maluginenses became two separate families. The Cossi produced many illustrious men in the 4th and 5th centuries BC, but afterwards sunk into oblivion. The last consuls from this stirps bore the surname Arvina. The name Cossus was afterwards revived as a praenomen in the family of the Lentuli, who belonged to the same gens. The Maluginenses last held consular authority in 367 BC.[1]

The Cornelii Scipiones first appear at the beginning of the 4th century BC, with Publius Cornelius Scipio, said to have been magister equitum to the dictator Marcus Furius Camillus in 396 BC. The Capitoline Fasti identify the magister equitum of that year as Publius Cornelius Maluginensis, suggesting that the Scipiones may have originated as a branch of the Maluginenses.[4][5]

The surname Scipio, which signifies a stick or staff, is said to have been originally given to a Cornelius, because he served as a staff in directing his blind father (patrem pro baculo regebat), and to have been handed down by him as a family name to his descendants. This family produced some of the greatest men in Rome, and to them she was more indebted than to any others for the empire of the world. They bore the agnomina Africanus, Asiaticus, Asina, Barbatus, Calvus, Hispallus, Nasica, and Serapio. With the additional cognomen Orfitus, the family remained prominent until the 2nd century AD[1][6]

Lentulus was the name of one of the haughtiest families of the Cornelian gens; so that Cicero coins the words Appietas and Lentulitas to express the qualities of the high patrician party. When we find plebeians bearing the name (as tribunes of the plebs), they were no doubt descendants of freedmen. Lentulus was said to be derived from lens, a lentil, much as Cicero is said to be derived from cicer, a chickpea. However, the Latin adjective lentulus means "slow". The Lentuli first appear in history at the time of the Gallic sack of Rome, early in the 4th century BC, and from that time remained prominent until the 1st century AD. They bore the agnomina Caudinus, Clodianus, Crus, Gaetulicus, Lupus, Maluginensis, Marcellinus, Niger, Rufinus, Scipio, Spinther, and Sura.[1][7][8]

The Cornelii Rufini appear in the latter half of the 4th century BC, beginning with Publius Cornelius Rufinus, dictator in 334 BC. From the surname Rufinus, meaning "reddish", one may infer that the first of this family had red hair. A descendant of this family was the first to assume the cognomen Sulla, about the time of the Second Punic War. The name is probably a diminutive of Sura, a cognomen found in several gentes, including among the Cornelii Lentuli. Plutarch, who erroneously believed that the dictator Sulla was the first to bear the name, thought it must have referred to a blotchy, reddish complexion, while Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius derives it from Sibylla, an etymology that is rejected by Quintilian. The Sullae continued in the highest offices of the state well into imperial times. Some of them bore the agnomen Felix.[1][9][10]

The Dolabellae first came to prominence at the beginning of the 3rd century BC, and so remained until the second half of the 1st century AD. The Cornelii Blasiones flourished for about a century, beginning in the early 3rd century BC. The Cethegi, who first appear in the latter half of the 3rd century BC, were described by Quintus Horatius Flaccus as cinctuti Cethegi, for their old-fashioned practice of wearing their arms bare. They remained prominent for the next two centuries.[1][11]

Merula signifies an ouzle, or blackbird. The family that bore this surname rose from obscurity at the beginning of the 2nd century BC., and continued for the next century. The Cornelii Cinnae flourished from the late 2nd century BC to the early decades of the Empire.[1]

The Cornelii Balbi were, properly speaking, no part of the Cornelia gens. The first of this name was not a Roman; he was a native of Gades; and his original name probably bore some resemblance to the Latin Balbus. Gaius Cornelius Gallus, the poet, and later prefect of Egypt, was evidently of Gallic descent, coming as a young man from the town of Forum Julii, and presumably manumitted by one of the Cornelii Cinnae or Sullae. None of his descendants achieved any prominence.[1]

Over 30% of all the consuls of the republican period of ancient Rome were Cornelians. The notable men and women of the Cornelii family are listed separately, below.

Members of the gens

Cornelii Maluginenses

  • Servius Cornelius P. f. Cossus Maluginensis, consul in 485 BC.
  • Lucius Cornelius Ser. f. P. n. Maluginensis, consul in 459 BC.
  • Marcus Cornelius L. f. Ser. n. Maluginensis, a member of the second decemvirate in 450 BC.[12][13]
  • Marcus Cornelius M. f. Maluginensis, consul in 436 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius M. f. M. n. Maluginensis, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 404 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius P. f. M. n. Maluginensis, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 397 and 390, and magister equitum in 396 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius Maluginensis Cossus, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 395, and consul in 393 BC.
  • Marcus Cornelius P. f. P. n. Maluginensis, censor in 393 BC.
  • Servius Cornelius P. f. M. n. Maluginensis, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 386, 384, 382, 380, 376, 370, and 368 BC.[14][15]
  • Marcus Cornelius Maluginensis, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 369 and 367 BC.[16]
  • Servius Cornelius Ser. f. M. n. Maluginensis, magister equitum in 361 BC.

Cornelii Cossi

  • Servius Cornelius P. f. Cossus Maluginensis, consul in 485 BC.
  • Servius Cornelius M. f. L. n. Cossus, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 434 BC.[17][18]
  • Aulus Cornelius M. f. L. n. Cossus, consul in 428 and tribunus militum consulari potestate in 426 BC, slew Lars Tolumnius, King of Veii.
  • Publius Cornelius A. f. P. n. Cossus, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 415 BC.[19][20]
  • Gnaeus Cornelius A. f. M. n. Cossus, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 415 and consul in 409 BC.
  • Aulus Cornelius A. f. M. n. Cossus, consul in 413 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius A. f. M. n. Cossus, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 408 BC.[21][22]
  • Publius Cornelius M. f. L. n. Rutilus Cossus, dictator in 408 and tribunus militum consulari potestate in 406 BC.
  • Gnaeus Cornelius P. f. A. n. Cossus, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 406, 404, and 401 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius Maluginensis Cossus, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 395, and consul in 393 BC.
  • Aulus Cornelius Cossus, dictator in 385 BC.
  • Aulus Cornelius Cossus, tribunus militum consulari potestate in 369 and 367 BC.[16]
  • Aulus Cornelius P. f. A. n. Cossus Arvina, consul in 343 and 332, and dictator in 322 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius A. f. P. n. Arvina, consul in 306 and 288, and censor in 294 BC.

Cornelii Scipiones

Cornelii Lentuli

  • Lucius Cornelius Lentulus, according to his son, the only senator who voted against paying Brennus and the Gauls to leave Rome, in 389 BC.[34]
  • Lucius Cornelius L. f. Lentulus, consul in 327 and dictator in 320 BC.
  • Servius Cornelius Cn. f. Cn. n. Lentulus, consul in 303 BC.[5][35]
  • Tiberius Cornelius Ser. f. Cn. n. Lentulus, son of the consul of 303 BC.[1]
  • Lucius Cornelius Ti. f. Ser. n. Lentulus Caudinus, consul in 275 BC.[5]
  • Lucius Cornelius L.f. Ti. n. Lentulus Caudinus, consul in 237 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius L.f. Ti. n. Lentulus Caudinus, consul in 236 BC.[5]
  • Lucius Cornelius L. f. L. n. Lentulus Caudinus, curule aedile in 209 BC.[36]
  • Publius Cornelius P. f. L. n. Lentulus, praetor in 214 BC.
  • Servius Cornelius Lentulus, curule aedile in 207 BC, and tribunus militum in Hispania in 205.[37]
  • Publius Cornelius L. f. L. n. Lentulus Caudinus, praetor in 204 BC.
  • Gnaeus Cornelius L. f. L. n. Lentulus, consul in 201 BC.
  • Lucius Cornelius L. f. L. n. Lentulus, consul in 199 BC.
  • Gaius Cornelius Lentulus, triumvir for the establishment of a new colony in 199 BC.[38]
  • Servius Cornelius Ser. f. Lentulus, ambassador sent to Greece in 171 BC, and praetor in Sicilia in 169.[39]
  • Publius Cornelius Ser. f. Lentulus, brother of the praetor of 169, also an ambassador sent to Greece in 171 BC.[40]
  • Lucius Cornelius Lentulus, messenger of Lucius Aemilius Paullus, after the defeat of Perseus, in 168 BC.[41]
  • Publius Cornelius L. f. L. n. Lentulus, consul suffectus in 162 BC.
  • Lucius Cornelius Cn. f. L. n. Lentulus Lupus, consul in 156 and censor in 147 BC.
  • Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus, consul in 146 BC.
  • Lucius Cornelius Ser. f. Ser. n. Lentulus, praetor in 140 BC.[42]
  • Cornelius Lentulus, praetor in Sicilia, defeated circa 134 BC. during the First Servile War.[43]
  • Publius Cornelius P. f. L. n. Lentulus, father of Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura, consul in 71 BC.[5]
  • Publius Cornelius L. f. Lentulus, father of Publius Cornelius Lentulus Spinther.[1]
  • Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus, consul in 97 BC.
  • Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Clodianus, consul in 72, and censor in 70 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius P. f. P. n. Lentulus Sura, consul in 71 BC, later one of Catiline's conspirators.
  • Publius Cornelius P. f. L. n. Lentulus Spinther, consul in 57 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius P. f. P. n. Lentulus Spinther, partisan of Gnaeus Pompeius, and later one of the conspirators against Caesar.
  • Publius Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus, the son of Marcus Claudius Marcellus, he was adopted by one of the Cornelii Lentuli. He was a lieutenant of Pompeius during the war against the pirates, in 67 BC, and was an orator of considerable merit.[44][45][46]
  • Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Cn. f. Clodianus, sent to observe the progress of the Helvetii in 60 BC.
  • Gnaeus Cornelius P. f. Lentulus Marcellinus, consul in 56 BC.
  • Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Vatia, mentioned by Cicero in 56 BC.[47]
  • Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Niger, Flamen Martialis, d. 56 BC.
  • Lucius Cornelius L. f. Lentulus (fl. 20 BC.), Flamen Martialis.
  • Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus, consul in 49 BC, partisan of Gnaeus Pompeius.
  • (Publius) Cornelius Cn. f. P. n. Lentullus Marcellinus, quaestor in the army of Caesar during the Civil War; he was defeated by Pompeius, who suffered heavy losses, at Dyrrhachium, and was afterward saved by Marcus Antonius.[48][49]
  • Cornelius Lentulus Cruscellio, proscribed by the triumvirs in 43 BC, but escaped.[50][51]
  • Lucius Cornelius Lentulus, consul suffectus in 38 BC.
  • Gnaeus Cornelius L. f. Lentulus, consul in 18 BC.[52]
  • Publius Cornelius Lentulus P. f. (Cn. n.) Marcellinus, consul in 18 BC.[53][54]
  • Gnaeus Cornelius Cn. f. Lentulus Augur, consul in 14 BC.
  • Lucius Cornelius L. f. Lentulus, consul in 3 BC.[55][56]
  • Cossus Cornelius Cn. f. (Cn. n.) Lentulus Gaetulicus, consul in 1 BC.
  • P. Cornelius Lentulus Scipio, consul suffectus in AD 2
  • Cossus Cornelius Cossi f. Cn. n. Lentulus, consul in AD 25
  • Gnaeus Cornelius Cossi f. Cn. n. Lentulus Gaetulicus, consul in AD 26
  • Cossus Cornelius (Cossi f. Cn. n.) Lentulus, consul in AD 60[57][58]
  • Cornelius Lentulus, an actor in and writer of pantomimes.[1]

Cornelii Rufini et Sullae

  • Publius Cornelius Rufinus, dictator in 334 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius P. f. Rufinus, consul in 290 and 277, and dictator in 280 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius P. n. Rufinus Sulla, Flamen Dialis, and praetor in 212 BC.
  • Publius Cornelius P. f. Sulla, praetor in 186 BC, obtained Sicilia as his province.[59]
  • Servius Cornelius P. f. Sulla, commissioner, sent to assist Lucius Aemilius Paullus in arranging the affairs of Macedonia (ancient kingdom), in 167 BC.[60]
  • Lucius Cornelius P. f. P. n. Sulla, father of the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla.[61]
  • Lucius Cornelius L. f. P. n. Sulla Felix (138-78 BC.), consul in 88 and 80, and dictator rei publicae constituendae causa 81-79 BC.
  • Servius Cornelius L. f. P. n. Sulla, brother of the dictator.[62][63]
  • Cornelia L. f. L. n., daughter of the dictator by his first wife, Ilia or Julia; married first Quintus Pompeius Rufus, and after his death, Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus Livianus.
  • Cornelius L. f. L. n. Sulla, son of the dictator by his fourth wife, Caecilia Metella, died in the lifetime of his father.[64][65]
  • Faustus Cornelius L. f. L. n. Sulla, quaestor in 54 BC, and later a partisan of Gnaeus Pompeius.
  • Fausta Cornelia L. f. L. n., twin sister of Faustus Cornelius Sulla.
  • Postuma Cornelia L. f. L. n., daughter of the dictator by his fifth wife, Valeria.
  • Publius Cornelius Ser. f. L. n., elected consul in 66 BC, but disqualified from the office.
  • Servius Cornelius Ser. f. L. n. Sulla, took part in both of the conspiracies of Catiline.[66][67]
  • Publius Cornelius P. f. Ser. n. Sulla, father of Lucius Cornelius Sulla, consul in 5 BC.[68]
  • Lucius Cornelius P. f. P. n. Sulla, consul in 5 BC.[69][70]
  • Lucius Cornelius L. f. P. n. Sulla Felix, consul in AD 33.[71][72]
  • Lucius Cornelius (L. f. L. n.) Sulla, consul suffectus in AD 52.[5]
  • Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix, consul in AD 52, put to death by Nero in 63.
  • Cornelius Sulla, governor of Cappadocia, put to death by Elagabalus.[73]
  • Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix Barbatullus, consul in AD 60.
  • Numerius Cornelius Sulla Felix Faustullus Barbatullus, consul in AD 150.
  • Salcus Cornelius Sulla Felix Faustullus Barbatullus Mactator, consul in AD 241.
  • Potitus Cornelius Sulla Felix Messalla, consul in AD 312.

Cornelii Dolabellae

Cornelii Blasiones

  • Gnaeus Cornelius L. f. Cn. n. Blasio, consul in 270 and 257 BC, and censor in 265.
  • Gnaeus Cornelius Blasio, praetor in Sicilia in 194 BC.[78]
  • Publius Cornelius Blasio, ambassador to the Carni, Istri, and Iapydes in 170 BC, and special commissioner in 168.[79]

Cornelii Cethegi

Cornelii Merulae

Cornelii Cinnae

Cornelii Balbi

Other Cornelii During the Republic

  • Publius Cornelius Scapula, consul in 328 BC.[85]
  • Servius Cornelius P. f. Ser. n. Merenda, consul in 274 BC.
  • Cornelius, scriba in the dictatorship of Sulla, and quaestor during that of Caesar.[86][87]
  • Cornelius Phagita, captured Caesar when he was proscribed by Sulla in 82 BC.[88][89]
  • Gaius Cornelius, quaestor of Gnaeus Pompeius, and tribunus plebis in 67 BC.
  • Gaius Cornelius, one of Catiline's conspirators in 63 BC.[90][91]
  • Publius Cornelius, tribunus plebis in 51 BC.[92]
  • Cornelius, a centurion in the army of Octavianus in 43 BC, sent to Rome to demand the consulship for their general.[93]
  • Gaius Cornelius Gallus, poet, and prefect of Egypt in 30 BC.

Other Cornelii of Imperial Times

See also

  • Prominent branches: Scipio, Cethegus, Lentulus, Dolabella, Sulla, Cinna
  • Notable Roman families: Aemilia, Fabia, and Sempronia gentes
  • List of many Roman families: Category:Ancient Roman families
  • List of Roman gentes

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  88. ^ Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, De Vita Caesarum Caesar 74.
  89. ^ Plutarchus, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans Caesar 1.
  90. ^ Gaius Sallustius Crispus, The Conspiracy of Catiline 17, 28.
  91. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Sulla 2, 6, 18.
  92. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares viii. 8.
  93. ^ Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, De Vita Caesarum Augustus 26.
  94. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, In Verrem iii. 28, iv. 13.
  95. ^ Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Suasoriae 2, sub fin.
  96. ^ Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annales vi. 29.
  97. ^ Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, Epistulae vii. 9.
  98. ^ Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annales xv. 71, Historiae iii. 70, 73.

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology by William Smith (1870).


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