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Most famous and influential Roman gentes in history

Most prominent Roman gentes


Introduction

In ancient Roman society the gentes (singular gens), which can be translated as family or clan, played an important role regarding social status and prestige, but also legal rights. Gentes were divided between Patricians, i.e. the aristocratic families linked with the founding of Rome, and Plebeians - the rest of society. Throughout the history of the Roman Republic, Patrician gentes dominated the magistracies and in particular consulships. In addition, only Patricians could hold high religious offices such as flamines maiores (priests of Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus).

In 367 BCE , at the height of the Conflict of the Orders between the Plebeians and Patricians, the Lex Licinia Sextia required the election of at least one Plebeian Consul each year. Soon afterwards the offices of Censor (the most prestigious, open only to former consuls and elected for 5 years) and Praetor (judge and provincial governor) were also open to the Plebeians.

Another important office in Roman politics was that of Tribune of the plebs. Open only to the Plebeians, its role was to protect the interests of the Plebeians as a class. The Tribune of the Plebs presided over the People's Assembly, could summon the senate, propose legislation, intervene on behalf of plebeians in legal matters, and most significantly they had a right of veto upon the actions of the consuls and other magistrates. In imperial times the emperor took on the role of Tribune of the Plebs.

Ranking of Roman gentes by political influence

The table below summarises the total number of times each gens held magistracies (including consulships and dictatorships and censorships) and the number of plebeian tribunes during the Republic. Columns on the right side show the number of emperors and consulships (often held by emperors themselves) during the imperial period.

The number of consulships is based on the Wikipedia list of Roman consuls, but excludes non-Italian families who adopted Roman names from the 2nd century onwards (such as the African Septimii, the Arabian Julii, and the Illyrian Flavii and Valerii). Wikipedia is also the source for the number of Censors and Plebeian Tribunes.

Note that each column below is sortable by clicking on the title.

Origins of the Patricians

Patrician gentes are indicated in bold. Note that most Patrician families also possessed Plebeian branches, especially toward the end of the Republic.

One column shows the origin of each family whenever information was available. Patrician gentes fall into four categories:

  1. Roman: present in the city since the early Roman Kingdom (753-672 BCE)
  2. Alban: the noble families from rom Alba Longa that settled in Rome in the time of Tullus Hostilius (673-642 BCE)
  3. Etruscan: a few families who migrated to Rome during the early kingdom with the Tarquinii, who provided the 5th and 7th kings of Rome (between 616 and 509 BCE).
  4. Sabine: gentes incorporated into Roman ruling class during or after the Roman-Sabine wars, from the Rape of the Sabine Women until 504 BCE (the Claudii were the last gens admitted into the Patrician order that year). The Pomponii, Pinarii, Calpurnii, and Aemilii all claim descent from Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome.

Gentes Origin Magistracies (Republic) Consulships (Republic) Dictators (Republic) Censors (Republic) Plebeian Tribunes Consulships (Empire) Emperors
Aebutia Roman 11 3 0 0 1
Aemilia Sabine 56 53 7 0 13 0
Antonia Roman 16 9 2 5 10
Aquillia Roman 16 5 0 1 1
Atilia Roman 35 19 3 3 6 0
Claudia/Clodia Sabine 92 45 7 9 22 4
Cloelia Alban 9 3 1 1 0
Cominia Aurunci? 4 3 0 1 0
Cornelia Roman 185 107 2 15 5 54 0
Curiatia Alban 5 2 0 1 0
Curtia Sabine 9 1 0 2 3
Fabia Roman 72 62 1 6 5 17 0
Furia Tusculum 50 41 5 3 1 0
Gegania Alban 6 7 1 0 0
Genucia Roman 17 12 0 4 0
Herminia Etruscan 2 2 0 0 0
Horatia Roman 9 8 0 0 0
Hostilia Roman 18 3 0 4 0
Julia Alban 39 33 3 0 76 3
Junia Roman 56 17 3 9 41 0
Larcia/Lartia Etruscan 2 4 0 0 4
Lucretia Roman 20 12 0 3 1
Manlia Tusculum 62 36 3 4 6 0
Marcia Sabine 50 21 7 9 7 0
Menenia Roman 9 11 0 4 0
Metilia Alban 4 0 0 4 4
Minucia Roman 39 15 0 10 0
Mucia Roman 12 6 0 5 0
Nautia Roman 10 10 0 0 0
Numicia Roman? 2 1 0 1 0
Papiria Alban 53 35 2 6 6 3 0
Pinaria Sabine 12 3 0 0 1
Postumia Roman 50 33 7 0 4 0
Quinctia/Quintia Alban 36 37 2 1 1 4 0
Quinctilia Roman 10 2 0 0 1
Sempronia Roman 52 24 6 12 2 0
Sergia Roman 16 13 0 0 3
Servilia Alban 64 41 3 11 7 0
Sestia Roman 6 2 0 2 1
Siccia/Seccia Roman? 3 0 0 1 0
Sulpicia Roman 43 38 5 2 10 1
Tarquitia Etruscan 3 0 0 0 0
Tullia Alban? 10 4 0 0 6
Valeria Sabine 78 74 2 6 4 47 0
Verginia Etruscan 18 14 0 9 3
Veturia Roman or Sabine 16 17 1 0 0
Volumnia Etruscan 8 3 0 0 0
Aburia 4 0 0 1 1
Acilia 17 6 0 3 14
Aelia Roman? 22 6 2 4 13 3
Afinia 2 0 0 0 1
Afrania Picentine 3 1 0 1 2
Albia 2 0 0 0 1
Albinia 3 1 0 1 0
Aliena 2 0 0 1 1
Allia 4 0 0 0 2
Ampia 2 0 0 1 0
Ancharia Etruscan 2 0 0 1 0
Anicia Praeneste 5 1 0 0 6 2
Annia Picentine 23 2 0 2 31 2
Antia 4 0 0 2 2
Antistia Gabii 20 2 0 6 9
Appuleia Roman? 22 2 0 5 2
Apronia 2 0 0 1 2
Apustia 4 1 0 0 0
Arrenia 2 0 0 2 0
Arria 3 0 0 0 6
Arruntia Etruscan 2 0 0 0 7
Asellia 3 0 0 1 0
Asinia Marrucini 3 1 0 1 9
Ateia 5 0 0 1 1
Atinia 8 0 0 3 0
Attia 10 0 0 0 3
Aufidia 9 1 0 2 5
Aulia 3 2 0 0 0
Aurelia Sabine 27 12 2 4 14 3
Aurunculeia Aurunci? 4 0 0 0 0
Autronia 3 2 0 0 0
Axia 2 0 0 0 0
Baebia 18 2 0 8 4
Caecilia Praeneste 47 19 5 12 8 0
Caecinia Etruscan 0 0 0 0 7
Caedicia 5 2 1 1 0
Caepasia 2 0 0 0 0
Caesetia 3 0 0 1 0
Caesia 2 0 0 0 1
Calidia 4 0 0 1 0
Calpurnia Sabine 34 10 2 4 21
Caninia Tusculum 6 2 0 1 3
Canuleia 5 0 0 5 0
Carisia 2 0 0 0 0
Carvilia 8 4 1 2 0
Cassia Hirpini 24 10 2 8 12
Catia 3 1 0 0 3
Cestia 3 0 0 0 3
Cicereia 2 0 0 0 0
Cincia 4 0 0 1 0
Cispia Hernician 2 0 0 1 0
Cluvia 5 0 0 0 1
Cocceia Umbrian 3 2 0 0 4 1
Coelia/Caelia Etruscan 19 1 0 5 12 1
Considia Roman? 7 0 0 1 0
Coponia Tibur 3 0 0 0 0
Cornificia Rhegium 4 1 0 3 0
Coruncania Tusculum 3 1 0 0 0
Cosconia 9 0 0 1 0
Cossutia 2 0 0 0 0
Crepereia 3 0 0 0 0
Critonia 2 0 0 0 0
Cupiennia 2 0 0 0 0
Curia 6 3 1 4 0
Decia Sabine? 10 6 1 5 0
Decidia 3 0 0 1 0
Decimia Samnite 7 1 0 0 0
Didia Roman? 6 2 0 2 3 1
Digitia 2 0 0 0 0
Domitia 18 11 3 2 15 1
Duillia Roman? 8 4 0 2 0
Duronia 2 0 0 1 0
Egnatia Samnite 5 0 0 0 2
Egnatuleia 2 0 0 0 0
Epidia 2 0 0 1 0
Erucia Etruscan 2 0 0 0 4
Fabricia Hernician 5 2 1 1 1
Falcidia 2 0 0 2 0
Fannia 11 2 0 4 0
Flaminia Roman? 8 3 1 2 0
Flavia Sabine 11 2 0 5 41 3
Folia 2 2 0 0 0
Fonteia Tusculum 19 1 0 0 4
Fufia 3 1 0 2 2
Fufidia 2 0 0 0 1
Fulvia Tusculum 34 20 4 5 11 0
Fundania Volscian? 6 1 0 3 1
Furnia 2 0 0 2 1
Gabinia 7 1 0 3 3
Gallia Samnite 4 0 0 0 0
Gellia Samnite 4 2 1 0 0
Gratidia 3 0 0 1 0
Helvia 4 0 0 1 1
Herennia Samnite 9 2 0 5 7
Hirtuleia 2 0 0 0 0
Hortensia Roman? 8 1 0 1 0
Icilia Roman? 6 0 0 13 0
Insteia 3 0 0 1 1
Juventia Tusculum 10 0 0 1 4
Laberia 3 0 0 0 4
Labiena 2 0 0 1 0
Laelia 5 2 0 1 3
Laetoria 6 0 0 1 0
Licinia Etruscan? 64 20 5 26 37 3
Ligaria Sabine 2 0 0 0 0
Livia Roman? 16 6 2 4 2
Livineia 2 0 0 0 0
Lollia 7 0 0 1 3
Lucceia 2 0 0 1 0
Lucilia 9 0 0 2 1
Lutatia 9 5 2 0 0
Maecilia 2 1 0 4 0
Maelia 3 2 0 2 0
Maenia 10 1 1 5 0
Maevia 2 0 0 1 0
Magia Campania 4 0 0 1 0
Maiania 2 0 0 0 0
Mallia 6 1 0 0 1
Mamilia Tusculum 10 3 0 2 0
Mania 2 0 0 0 0
Manilia Latin? 9 2 0 3 3
Maria 11 8 0 3 7
Matiena 5 0 0 0 0
Memmia 18 1 0 5 3
Mindia 2 0 0 0 0
Mummia 8 1 1 2 5
Munatia 6 1 1 1 3
Naevia 5 0 0 1 2
Nasidia 2 0 0 0 0
Nigidia 2 0 0 1 0
Nonia Picentine? 8 1 0 3 14
Norbana 3 2 0 0 3
Novia 2 0 0 1 2
Numisia 2 0 0 0 0
Numitoria Alban 4 0 0 3 0
Occia 2 0 0 0 0
Octavia Volscian 28 5 0 3 7 1
Ogulnia 5 1 0 2 0
Opimia Roman? 10 2 0 1 0
Oppia Sabine 19 2 0 3 2
Otacilia Samnite? 6 3 0 0 1
Papia Samnite 6 0 0 1 2
Pedia 2 1 0 0 1
Peducaea Umbrian 6 1 0 2 5
Perperna Etruscan 6 2 1 0 0
Petillia 5 1 0 2 3
Petronia Sabine 4 0 0 0 19
Plaetoria Tusculum? 11 0 0 2 0
Plautia/Plotia Roman/Latin 30 9 1 3 12
Poetelia 7 6 0 1 0
Pompeia Sabine 29 8 1 4 21
Pomponia Sabine 26 3 0 6 26
Popillia Sabine 23 10 1 1 0
Poppaea Sabine 0 0 0 5
Porcia Tusculum 24 5 1 4 1
Procilia 2 0 0 1 0
Publicia Volscian 13 1 0 1 0
Publilia Roman? 10 6 1 3 2
Pullia 2 0 0 1 0
Pupia Roman? 6 1 0 0 0
Quintia 2 0 0 0 0
Rabiria Tibur/Tusculum 3 0 0 0 0
Rabuleia Sabine? 2 2 0 1 0
Raecia 2 0 0 0 0
Remmia 2 0 0 0 0
Roscia 5 0 0 3 5
Rubria Roman? 8 1 0 3 0
Rupilia 3 1 0 0 0
Rutilia 12 2 0 3 1
Saenia 2 1 0 0 1
Sallustia Sabine 2 0 0 1 6
Salonia 3 0 0 0 0
Salvia 2 0 0 1 9 1
Saufeia 3 0 0 1 0
Scantia 2 0 0 2 0
Scantinia 2 0 0 0 0
Scaptia 2 0 0 0 0
Scribonia 12 3 1 4 1
Sentia Latin? 4 0 0 0 5
Septimia 4 0 0 0 3
Serria 2 0 0 0 0
Sextia Roman? 9 2 0 11 5
Sextilia 11 1 0 0 0
Sicinia Sabine 10 1 0 10 0
Silia 7 0 0 2 7
Sosia 2 1 0 0 2
Statia 2 0 0 1 4
Stertinia 3 0 0 0 4
Terentia 24 2 0 4 6
Thoria 2 0 0 1 0
Tillia 2 0 0 0 0
Titia Sabine 16 1 0 3 3
Titinia 13 2 0 4 1
Tituria 2 0 0 0 0
Trebellia 2 0 0 2 1
Trebonia 7 3 0 3 2
Tremellia 6 0 0 1 1
Tuccia 2 0 0 0 1
Turia 2 0 0 0 0
Turullia 2 0 0 0 0
Ulpia Umbrian 0 0 0 0 7 1
Valgia 2 0 0 0 1
Vargunteia 3 0 0 0 0
Varia 2 0 0 1 0
Velleia 3 0 0 0 2
Ventidia 2 1 0 0 0
Venuleia 2 0 0 0 3
Vergilia 3 0 0 0 0
Vettia 3 0 0 0 12
Vibia Samnite 10 1 0 1 15 2
Vibullia 2 0 0 0 0
Villia 7 1 0 4 0
Vinicia 2 1 0 1 6
Vipsania 3 1 1 0 3
Vitellia 0 0 0 0 8 1
Voconia 5 0 0 1 1
Volcatia 5 1 0 1 0
Volteia 2 0 0 0 0
Volusena 2 0 0 0 0
Volusia 3 0 0 0 6

Gentes of Roman Emperors

Adoptions

Adoptions were very common among the Romans. Many emperors were adopted to legitimise their succession. The successive adoptions complicate the classification of emperors by gens, as they can either be listed by genetic lineage or adoptive family. As either can be seen as legitimate, both will be listed.

Julio-Claudian dynasty: Emperor Augustus was born Gaius Octavius and therefore originally belonged to the gens Octavia. He was adopted by his great-uncle Gaius Julius Caesar, hence joining the gens Julia. Tiberius and his brother Germanicus were born in the gens Claudia, but were later adopted by Augustus, thus becoming Tiberius Julius Caesar and Germanicus Julius Caesar. Caligula was Germanicus's son, thus born in the gens Julia, but genetically a patrilineal descendant of the gens Claudia. Nero was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, but was later adopted by Emperor Claudius.

Nervan-Antonine dynasty: Emperor Marcus Cocceius Nerva chose Trajan as his heir and adopted him. Trajan added Nerva as a cognomen (third name), without changing is nomen (name of the gens). So technically Trajan was not a Cocceius despite his adoption. Hadrian was adopted by Trajan, but did not take his nomen (Ulpius) either and is therefore also only listed under his birth gens (Aelia). On the other hand, Hadrian chose as his adoptive heir Lucius Ceionius Commodus, who became known as Lucius Aelius. Lucius Aelius died in 138 before Hadrian and the emperor adopted Antoninus Pius as his new heir. In turn, Antoninus adopted Marcus Aurelius and the son of Aelius, Lucius (later to rule as Emperor Lucius Verus alongside Marcus). Marcus Aurelius was born into the gens Annia and became by adoption an Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius was succeeded by his son Commodus, who can also be listed either as an Annius or Aurelius.

Longest reigning Roman gentes

Here are the emperors by gens with their total length of reign. Adopted members of a gens are shown in blue.

  1. Julia: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula - 66 years and 11 months
  2. Aurelia: Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus - 54 years and 5 months
  3. Claudia: Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero - 53 years and 9 months
  4. Aelia: Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Lucius Aelius - 43 years and 7 months
  5. Octavia: Augustus - 40 years and 7 months
  6. Annia: Marcus Aurelius, Commodus - 31 years and 6 months
  7. Flavia: Vespasian, Titus, Domitian - 26 years and 9 months
  8. Ulpia: Trajan - 19 years and 6 months
  9. Licinia: Valerian, Gallienus, Saloninus - 14 years and 11 months
  10. Domitia: Nero - 13 years and 7 months
  11. Vibia: Trebonianus Gallus, Volusianus - 1 year and 10 months
  12. Cocceia: Nerva - 1 year and 4 months
  13. Vitellia: Vitellius - 8 months
  14. Sulpicia: Galba - 7 months
  15. Anicia: Petronius Maximus, Olybrius - 6 months
  16. Caelia: Balbinus - 3 months
  17. Salvia: Otho - 3 months
  18. Didia: Didius Julianus - 2 months



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