Gens Coruncania (Nova Roma)

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Gens Coruncania is an attested gens, the Coruncanii were pontifices, jurists, censors and consuls.

Tiberius Coruncanius, a distinguished Roman Pontifex and jurist, was descented from a father and grandfather of the same name, but none of his ancestors had ever obtained the honours of the Roman Magistracy. According to a speech of the emperor Claudinus in Tacitus, the Coruncanii came from Camerium (Ann. xi 24); but Cicero makes the jurist a townsman of Tusculum (pro Plane. 8).


T. Coruncanius as Consul and Censor

Notwithstanding his provincial extraction, this novus homo was promoted to all the highest offices at Rome. (Vell. Pat. iix 128) In BC 280, he was consul with P. Valerius Laevinus, and while his colleage was engaged in the commencement of the war againts Pyrrhus, the province of Etruria fell to Coruncanius, who was successful in quelling the remains of disaffection, and entirely defeated the Vulsinienses and Vulcientes. For these victories he was honoured with a triumph early in the following year. After subduing Etruria, he returned towards Rome to aid Laevinius in checking the advance of Pyrrhus. (Appian, Samn. 10. § 3.) In BC 270, he seems to have been censor with C. Claudius Canina. Modern writers appear to be ignorant of any ancient historical account of this censorship. In l'Art de vérifier les Dates, i. p. 605, Coruncanius is inferred to have been censor in the 34th lustrum, from the expressions of Velleius Paterculus (ii. 128), and a Claudius is wanting to complete the seven censors in that family mentioned bu Suetonius. Seneca (de Vit. Beat. 21) says, that Cato of Utica was wont to praise the age of M. Curius and Coruncanius, when it was a censorian crime to possess a few thin plates of silver. Niebuhr (iii. p. 555) speaks of this censorship as missing; but thought it is not mentioned by the epitomizer of Livy, we suspect that there is some classical authority extant concerning it, known to less modern scholars, for Paneiroli (de Clar. Interp. p. 21) says, that Coruncanius was censor with C. Claudius; and Val. Forsterus (Historia Juris, fol. 41, b.) states, that in his censorship the population in the census amounted to 277,222.

The first plebeian Pontifex Maximus

About BC 254, Coruncanius was created Pontifex Maximus, and was the first plebeian who ever filled that office (Liv. Epist. xviii.), although, before that time, his brother jurist, P. Sempronius Sophus, and other plebeians, had been pontifices. (Liv. x. 9.) In BC 346, he was appointed dictator for the purpose of holding the comitia, in order to prevent the necessity of recallinf either of the consuls from Sicily; and he must have died shortly afterwards, at a very advanced age (Cic. de Senect. 6), for in Liv. Epit. xix, Caecilius Metellus is named as Pontifex Maximus.

The jurist

Coruncanius was a remarkable man. He lived on terms of strict friendship with M. Curius and other eminent statesment of his day. He was a Roman sage (Sapiens), a character more practical than that of a Grecian philosopher, but he was sufficiently versed in the learning of the times. That philosophy which placed the highest good in pleasure he rejected, and, with M. Curius, wished that the enemies of Rome, Pyrruhs and the Samnites, could be taught to believe its precepts. He was a manly orator; his advice and opinion were respected in war as well as in peace, and he had great influence in the senate as well as in the public assembly. (Cic. de Orat. iii. 33) Cicero, who often sounds his praises, speaks of him as one of those extraordinary persons whose greatness was owing to a special Providence. (De Nat Deor. ii. 66) To the highest acquirements of a politician he united profound knowledge of a pontifical and civil law. Pomponious (Dig. 1. tit. 2. s. 2. § 38) says, that he left behind no writings, but that he gave many oral opinions, which were handed down to remembrance by legal tradition. Cicero says, that the Pontificum Comentarii afforded proof of his surpassing habilities (Brut. 14); and, in the treatise de Legibus (ii. 21), he cites one of his memorabilia. Another of his legal fragments is preserved by Pliny. (H.N. viii. 51. s. 77.) It might be supposed from a passage in Seneca (Ep. 114), that writings of Coruncanius were extant in his time, for he there ridicules the affectation of orators, who, thinking Gracchus and Crassus and Curio too modern, went back to the language of the 12 tables, of Appius, and of Coruncanius.

Other Coruncanii

The two Coruncanii who were sent BC 228 as ambassadors from Rome to Teuta, queen of Illyricum, to complain of the maritime depredations of her subjects, and one of whom at least was put to death by her orders, were probably sons of the jurist.

Source: Ancient Library

Gens Coruncania in Nova Roma

Lucius Coruncanius Cato

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