“6 Patrician Families of Rome

 Manlii (gens Manlia) * Fabii (gens Fabia) * Aemilii (gens Aemilia) * Claudii (gens Claudia) * Valerii Cornelli (gens Cornelia)

The six major Patrician families of Rome—the gentes maiores—claimed descent from the priesthoods held by their ancestors at the time of the city’s foundation by Romulus and the first seven kings, when the senate was just a gathering of priests checking that the royal decrees were consistent with the will of the gods. The Manlii remembered their origins from the Etruscan Tusculum. Fabians claimed descent from Hercules through Sabine highlanders and kept control of the ancient Lupercalia festival—though their detractors argued that their name derived either from ‘peasant,’ ‘bean,’ or ‘ditch [cleaner].’ The Aemilians traced their origin to Sabine highland chieftains invited to Rome by the second king, Numa Pompilius, and their bloodline to Aemylos son of Ascanius—though others argued that they were descended from Romulus and Remus’s sinful uncle, Amulius.

The Claudians were yet another Sabine family ‘distinguished by a spirit of haughty defiance, disdain for the laws and an iron hardness of heart,’ who were divided into either the very good or the very bad-and contributed the Claudian line of emperors (Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero) along with twenty-eight consuls, five dictators, and seven censors. The Valerians had their own throne on the Circus Maximus and tended to ally with the Fabians to form a power block second in influence to the Cornelli.

The Cornelli were the most powerful of all the families, and it was said that one in every three of all the consuls of the Republic owed them some allegiance in blood. Their subsidiary clans included such powerful factions as the Scipio, Sulla, Lentulus, Dolabellae, and Cinna families.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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