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Anicia (gens)

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Anicia (gens)

The gens Anicia was a plebeian family at Rome, mentioned first towards the end of the fourth century BC. The first of the Anicii to achieve prominence under the Republic was Lucius Anicius Gallus, who conducted the war against the Illyrii during the Third Macedonian War, in 168 BC.

A noble family bore this name in the Imperial era, and may have been descended from the Anicii of the Republic.[1]


The Anicii may have been from the Latin town of Praeneste. The earliest of the family to hold any curule magistracy at Rome bore the surname Praenestinus.[2]


The Anicii are known to have used the praenomina Lucius, Quintus, Marcus, Gnaeus, Titus, and Gaius.[1]

Branches and cognomina

The only major branch of the family during the Republic used the cognomen Gallus, which may refer to a cock, or to a Gaul. The surname Praenestinus, found in earlier times, may indicate that the family originated at the city of Praeneste. It was probably a personal cognomen, as it does not appear in later times.[1]

Consular diptych of Anicius Faustus Albinus Basilius, the last consul (521 AD)

During the imperial age, in the fourth century, a Roman family bearing the nomen Anicius rose to great prominence. The historian Edward Gibbon writes:

From the reign of Diocletian to the final extinction of the Western empire, that name shone with a lustre which was not eclipsed, in the public estimation, by the majesty of the Imperial purple. The several branches, to whom it was communicated, united, by marriage or inheritance, the wealth and titles of the Annian, the Petronian, and the Olybrian houses; and in each generation the number of consulships was multiplied by an hereditary claim. The Anician family excelled in faith and in riches: they were the first of the Roman senate who embraced Christianity; and it is probable that Anicius Julian, who was afterwards consul and praefect of the city, atoned for his attachment to the party of Maxentius, by the readiness with which he accepted the religion of Constantine.

Their ample patrimony was increased by the industry of Probus, the chief of the Anician family; who shared with Gratian the honors of the consulship, and exercised, four times, the high office of Praetorian praefect. His immense estates were scattered over the wide extent of the Roman world; and though the public might suspect or disapprove the methods by which they had been acquired, the generosity and magnificence of that fortunate statesman deserved the gratitude of his clients, and the admiration of strangers. Such was the respect entertained for his memory, that the two sons of Probus, in their earliest youth, and at the request of the senate, were associated in the consular dignity; a memorable distinction, without example, in the annals of Rome.

"The marbles of the Anician palace," were used as a proverbial expression of opulence and splendor; but the nobles and senators of Rome aspired, in due gradation, to imitate that illustrious family.[3]

A branch of the family transferred to the Eastern Roman Empire, establishing itself in Constantinople (where Anicia Juliana, daughter of Western Emperor Anicius Olybrius, was a patron of the arts) and rising in prestige: the scholar and philosopher Boëthius was a member of this family, as was Anicius Faustus Albinus Basilius, the last person other than the Emperor of Byzantium himself to hold the office of consul, in 541. In the West, on the other side, the Anicii were supporters of the independence of the Western Empire from the Eastern one; they were, therefore, supporters of the Ostrogothic kings of Italy, and such celebrated by the king Theodahad.[4]


This list includes abbreviated praenomina. For an explanation of this practice, see filiation.

Anicii of the Republic

Imperial Anicii

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
  2. ^ Thomas Robert Shannon Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (1952).
  3. ^ Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter 31 [1]
  4. ^ Carmelo Capizzi, Anicia Giuliana, la committente (c. 463-c. 528), Jaca Book, 1997, ISBN 88-16-43504-6, pp. 18-19.
  5. ^ T. Robert S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (1952).
  6. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita xliv. 46.
  7. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem iii. 1. § 7.
  8. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem ii. 19, Epistulae ad Familiares vii. 26, xii. 21.


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