Valerii: Wikis


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Valerius is the nomen of gens Valeria, one of the oldest patrician families of Rome. The name was in use throughout Roman history. In imperial times it was frequently treated as a personal name.

Possible Latin forms include, in the nominative:

  • Valerius, masculine singular
  • Valeria, feminine singular
  • Valerii, masculine plural
  • Valeriae, feminine plural
  • Valerianus, masculine adoptive
  • Valeriana, feminine adoptive



The Valeria gens was one of the most ancient and most celebrated at Rome; and no other Roman gens was distinguished for so long a period, although a few others, such as the Cornelia gens, produced a greater number of illustrious men. The Valerii are universally admitted to have been of Sabine origin, and their ancestor Volesus or Volusus is said to have settled at Rome with Titus Tatius.[1]

One of the descendants of this Volesus, P. Valerius, afterwards surnamed Publicola, plays a distinguished part in the story of the expulsion of the kings, and was elected consul in the first year of the republic, 509 BC. From this time forward down to the latest period of the empire, for nearly a thousand years, the name occurs more or less frequently in the Fasti, and it was borne by the emperors Maximinus, Maximianus, Maxentius, Diocletian, Constantius, Constantine the Great and others.

The Valeria gens enjoyed extraordinary honours and privileges at Rome. Their house at the bottom of the Velia was the only one in Rome of which the doors were allowed to open back into the street.[2] In the Circus Maximus a conspicuous place was set apart for them, where a small throne was erected, an honour of which there was no other example among the Romans.[3] They were also allowed to bury their dead within the walls, a privilege which was also granted to some other gentes; and when they had exchanged the older custom of interment for that of burning the corpse, although they did not light the funeral pile on their burying-ground, the bier was set down there, as a symbolical way of preserving their right.[4] Niebuhr, who mentions these distinctions, conjectures that among the gradual changes of the constitution from a monarchy to an aristocracy, the Valeria gens for a time possessed the right that one of its members should exercise the kingly power for the Tities, to which tribe the Valerii must have belonged, as their Sabine origin indicates;[5] but on this point, as on many others in early Roman history, it is impossible to come to any certainty.

The Valerii in early times were always foremost in advocating the rights of the plebeians, and the laws which they proposed at various times were the great charters of the liberties of the second order.[6]

Branches of the gens Valeria

The earliest branches of Poplicola, Potitus, and Volusus appear to be derived from Publius Valerius Poplicola, an early republican hero. The other branches appear only from the mid-fourth century, starting with Corvus or Corvinus, apparently descended from another great Valerian consul. The Messalla or Messala branch, so prominent in imperial Rome, is a sub-branch of this. The origins of the Flaccus branch is less certain; the first consul by that name appears in 261 BC, but a Potitus had been nicknamed Flacus (with one "c") some decades earlier circa 331 BC. In late republican Rome, the branches of Messalla (or Messala) and Flaccus were the best-known and most influential.


The Valerii Messalla (or Valerii Messala)

Among the branches of the Valerii, there were those who bore the cognomen Messalla. Messalla was originally assumed by Manius Valerius Maximus Corvinus Messalla after his relief of Messana in Sicily from blockade by the Carthaginians in the second year of the first Punic War, 263 BC.[7]

They appear for the first time on the consular Fasti in 263 BC, and for the last in 506; during these nearly eight centuries, they held twenty-two consulships and three censorships.[8]

The cognomen Messalla, frequently written Messala, appears with the agnomens Barbatus, Niger or Rufus, with the nomens Ennodius, Pacatus, Silius, Thrasia Priscus or Vipstanus, and with the praenomens Potitus and Volesus, and was itself originally, and when combined with Corvinus, an agnomen, as M. Valerius Maximus Corvinus Messalla, i. e. of Messana.

Notable members of the gens Valeria

The gens Valeria produced many consuls and censors, mostly in the early republic. Several authors notably Valerius Maximus also bear the name of Valerius, but their antecedents are mostly unknown.

Early republic

  • Publius Valerius Publicola, consul 509 BC, four times consul in the early Republic.
  • Marcus Valerius Volusus, consul 505 BC
  • Lucius Valerius M.f. Potitus (Publicola), consul 483 BC, 470 BC
  • Publius Valerius P.f. Poplicola, consul 475 BC, 460 BC
  • Marcus Valerius M'.f. Maximus Lactuca, consul 456 BC
  • Lucius Valerius Potitus, consul 449 BC
  • Gaius Valerius Potitus, consular tribune 415 BC
  • Lucius Valerius Potitus, consular tribune 414 BC
  • Gaius Valerius L.f. Potitus Volusus, consul 410 BC
  • Lucius Valerius L.f. Potitus, consul 393 BC-392 BC, 390 BC, possibly consular tribune 391 BC; possibly the same man who was consular tribune 379 BC in his fifth term.
  • Lucius Valerius Publicola, consular tribune 388 BC
  • Titus Valerius, consular tribune 385 BC-382 BC
  • Lucius Valerius, consular tribune 379 BC, possibly Lucius Valerius L.f. Potitus who had already been consul three times; said to have been this man's fifth term.
  • Publius Valerius, consular tribune in 379 BC in his third term, and 376 BC in his fourth term, per Varro
  • Gaius Valerius, consular tribune 374 BC
  • Publius Valerius, consular tribune 374 BC
  • Marcus Valerius L.f. Poplicola, consul 355 BC, 353 BC
  • Publius Valerius P.f. Poplicola, 352 BC
  • Marcus Valerius Corvus, consul several times in 4th century BC, starting in 348 BC as a young man, then 346 BC, 343 BC, and 335 BC. His last consulship was said to be in 300 BC, with a suffect consulship in 299 BC. He was also dictator in 342 BC and 301 BC. The range of years for his consulship and alleged accomplishments are not impossible, if he was elected consul while in his early twenties. However, it is more likely that the later consulships were attributable to his son, and were confused and exaggerated by later family members including Valerius Antias.
  • Gaius Valerius L.f. Potitus (Flacus), consul 331 BC, possible progenitor of the Valerii Flacci branch.
  • Marcus Valerius M.f. Maximus Corvinus (Corrinus?), consul 312 BC, 289 BC per Varro; possibly he was the consul in 300 BC and suffect consul in 299 BC and also dictator in 301 BC (the third dictator year), rather than his father.
  • Marcus Valerius Maximus Rullianus, dictator 301 BC in fourth dictator year

Middle republic

Late republic

Early imperial Rome

  • Marcus Valerius Messala Barbatus, husband of Domitia Lepida
  • Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus, consul 3 BC
  • Valerius Maximus, historian 1st century
  • Lucius Valerius Messalla Volesus, possible consul 5
  • Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus, consul 20
  • Decimus Valerius Asiaticus, consul in 35 and 46
  • Valeria Messalina, died 48, third wife of the Emperor Claudius
  • Potitus Valerius Corvus Rufus Sulla, consul in 100
  • Volsus Valerius Valus Sulla Valerianus, praetor in 132
  • Poplicola Valerius Sulla Felix
  • Phillipus Valerius Sulla Felix
  • Phillipus Valerius Sulla Felix Cassianus, consul in 193
  • Marcus Valerius Martialis (Martial), poet 1st century
  • Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, consul 58
  • Gaius Calpetanus Rantius Quirinalis Valerius Festus, suffect consul 71
  • Gaius Valerius Flaccus, poet 1st century
  • Lucius Valerius Licinianus, advocate 1st century
  • Valerius Probus, grammarian 1st century
  • Marcus Valerius Bradua Mauricus, consul 191
  • Lucius Valerius Messalla Thrasea Priscus, consul 196
  • Lucius Valerius Messalla Apollinaris, consul 214
  • Publius Valerius Comazon Eutychianus, consul 220
  • Lucius Valerius Maximus, consul 233
  • Valerius Maximus, consul 253
  • Lucius Valerius Maximus, consul 256

Late imperial Rome

Other uses of the name Valerius

Legendary ancestor of Hungarian Royalty

The Wallachian-Hungarian family of Korvin, which came to prominence with Janos Hunyadi and his son, Matthias Corvinus Hunyadi, King of Hungary and Bohemia, claimed to be descended from Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus.

This was based on the assertion that he became a big landowner on the Dacian-Pannonian frontiers, the future Hungary, that his descendants continued to live there for the following 1400 years, and that the Hunyadis were his ultimate descendants - for which there is scant if any historical evidence. The connection seems to have been made by Matthias' biographer, the Italian Antonio Bonfini, who was well-versed with the classical Latin authors.

Bonfini also provided the Hunyadis with the epithet Corvinus. This was supposedly due to a case in which Messalla, while on the battlefield, accepted a challenge to single combat issued to the Romans by a barbarian warrior of great size and strength. Suddenly, a raven flew from a trunk, perched upon Messalla's helmet, and began to attack his foe's eyes with its beak so fiercely that the barbarian was blinded, and the Roman beat him easily. In memory of this event, Messalla's agnomen Corvinus (from Corvus, "Raven") was interpreted as derived from this event.

The Hunyadis called themselves "Corvinus" and had their coins minted displaying a "raven with a ring". This was later taken up in the coat of arms of Polish aristocratic families connected with the Hunyadis, and also led to Messalla's exploits being commemorated in the pediment of the Krasiński Palace in Warsaw.

See also



  1. ^ Dionys. ii. 46 ; Plut. Num. 5, Publ. 1. (cited in Smith)
  2. ^ Dionys. v. 39 ; Pint. Publ. 20.(cited in Smith)
  3. ^ Liv. ii. 31.(cited in Smith)
  4. ^ Cic. de Leg. ii. 23 ; Plut. Publ. 23.(cited in Smith)
  5. ^ Hist. of Rome vol. i. p. 538( cited in Smith)
  6. ^ See Dict. of Antiq. s. v. Leges Valeriae.(cited in Smith)
  7. ^ Macrobius Saturnalia i. 6 ; Sen. Brev. Vit. 13.)
  8. ^ Sidon. Apollin. Carm. ix. 302 ; Rutil. L c.; Symmach. Ep. vii. 90.


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