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Lucius Valerius Flaccus (suffect consul 86 BC)

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Title: Lucius Valerius Flaccus (suffect consul 86 BC)  
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Subject: Lucius Cornelius Cinna, Roman command structure during First Mithridatic War, First Mithridatic War, Flaccus, Sulla's second civil war
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Lucius Valerius Flaccus (suffect consul 86 BC)

Lucius Valerius Flaccus (d. 85 BC) was the suffect consul who completed the term of Gaius Marius in 86 BC. He was sent as governor in that year to the Roman province of Asia, but was murdered in a mutiny by Fimbria during the turmoil of the Sullan civil wars and the Mithridatic Wars.

Flaccus is also known for the Lex Valeria de aere alieno, his legislation on debt reform during the Roman economic crisis of the 80s BC.


Lucius was the younger brother of the Gaius Valerius Flaccus who was consul in 93 BC;[1] his son was the Lucius Valerius Flaccus (praetor 63 BC) who was defended by Cicero in the speech Pro Flacco. The older Lucius Valerius Flaccus who was consul in 100 BC and princeps senatus in 86 is a cousin.

Inscriptional evidence from Magnesia on the Maeander pertaining either to this Lucius Flaccus or to his son, who also was a governor of Asia, says he was married to a daughter of L. Saufeius and had a daughter named Valeria Paulla;[2] his mother, a Baebia, is also commemorated. Flaccus is called ἀνθύπατος (anthupatos), a Greek term for proconsul, which would point to the father rather than the son defended by Cicero.[3]

Life and career

Lucius Flaccus[4] was a military tribune sometime before 100 BC. In 99, he was curule aedile.[5] Upon completion of his term, he was prosecuted unsuccessfully by Decianus.[6] The charges are vague and the case is perhaps best viewed in the context of several politically motivated prosecutions in the 90s that transferred the political violence of the preceding decade to the law courts.[7] The trial did little to slow Flaccus's career.[8] He was elected praetor by 92, and was praetor or propraetor in Asia around 92–91, within a few years of his brother Gaius having held the same post.[9]

Governor of Asia

During Flaccus's governorship of Asia and before the First Mithridatic War, collections were made for a festival and games in his honor and deposited at Tralles. The money seems not to have been spent as planned, as Cicero claims the town had lent the funds at interest for its own profit.[10] Three decades later, Flaccus's son Lucius was governor of the same province; Cicero defended him against multiple charges of financial impropriety during his administration, in particular by claiming that he was merely "recuperating" these particular funds when the Trallians accused him of embezzlement.[11]

Both Lucius Flaccus and his brother Gaius, who had held a promagisterial command in Asia around 96 BC, were recognized as patrons of Colophon in Lydia.[12] The two are the first Roman governors known to be addressed as patrons of a free city, a practice that became common in the 60s BC.[13]

Pro-Marian and suffect consul

In 87 BC, during Sulla's first civil war, a Valerius who commanded a cavalry garrison handed over Ostia to Marius ("treacherously," according to Plutarch[14]); this Valerius may be the future suffect consul.[15] During the 90s and into the mid-80s the Valerii Flacci appear securely aligned with the Marian-Cinnan faction; when the elder cousin Lucius Flaccus held the consulship jointly with Marius in 100 BC, he was accused of being "more a servant than a colleague."[16] E. Badian considers the Valerii Flacci "one of the foremost pro-Marian families."[17]

In 86 BC, Lucius Flaccus became suffect consul, replacing Gaius Marius when he died unexpectedly in mid-January at the beginning of his seventh term. His colleague in the consulship was Cornelius Cinna.

Credit crisis of the 80s

Flaccus's most controversial act as consul may have been the Lex Valeria de aere alieno, a radical restructuring of debt. Immediately upon entering office, Flaccus needed to confront Rome's credit crisis, which several factors had exacerbated. The credit system at Rome was based on the amount of money in circulation, stable land prices, and fides, "general faith in the eventual repayment of loans and in the strength of the economy," a concept comparable to the 21st-century belief in the economic power of "consumer confidence." Land was the most common security for loans, but the large amount of land seized in the armed conflict of the Social War (91–88 BC) had become worthless as collateral. With the loss of income from farms and estates, property values dropped, and creditors began to call in their loans. At the same time, general social turmoil resulted in coin hoarding; as the amount of money in circulation shrank, debtors found it increasingly difficult to pay off their loan or renegotiate the terms.[18] The Roman economy was also slammed by the consequences of the First Mithridatic War, which devastated Italian businesses in the East and depleted tax revenues from the province of Asia.[19]

Flaccus took drastic measures: with the silver sestertius valued at four copper asses, debtors were allowed to pay off their loan at a rate of one as on the sestertius. The debts owed by the government were included in the plan, which eased the budget deficit.[20] The historian Sallust, who was born in the year of Flaccus's consulship, says that the conservative senatorial elite as a whole supported the plan.[21] Writing a hundred years after the fact, during the era of Augustan prosperity, the historian Velleius Paterculus characterized Flaccus's plan as turpissima, "utterly disgraceful."[22]

Mutiny and murder

At the end of his term, Flaccus was assigned the province of Asia as a countermeasure to Sulla's military operations and diplomatic efforts toward Mithridates VI of Pontus, Rome's chief foreign adversary of the period.[23] Although Sulla operated illegally, and had even been declared a public enemy (hostis), Cinna appears to have recognized that the threat of Mithridates required Roman cooperation.[24]

Because the Cinnan government was operating with a depleted treasury, it could fund only five legions, two of which were sent with Lucius Flaccus to Asia. Flaccus was far outnumbered by Sulla's forces, and lost a number of his troops while they were still in transit:[25] an advance guard had been separated from the fleet, stranded by storms, and their ships burnt by Mithridates' Pontic navy. These men managed to make their way to Thessaly, where they promptly deserted to Sulla.[26] The consular army eventually marched across Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace to Byzantium, with growing tensions within the ranks and the officer corps.[27] Flaccus's strongest legate, sometimes identified as his quaestor, was Gaius Flavius Fimbria, a devoted Marian who seized on the discontent of the troops to position himself as a rival for command. Fimbria's motives otherwise are difficult to discern and are sometimes treated as irrational vehemence, but he may have felt that Flaccus's position toward Sulla was too conciliatory. Flaccus may have played an early role in the attempts of his cousin, the princeps senatus, to come to a peaceful settlement with Sulla,[28] and Sulla at any rate made no hostile advance toward Flaccus.[29]

According to Diodorus, during the march through Thrace in the winter of 86–85, Fimbria led advance troops whose allegiance he tried to win by allowing them to plunder "the territory of allies as if it were enemy country, enslaving anyone they encountered." When the people complained of abuse, Flaccus rebuked Fimbria. The account is structured by a moral pattern Diodorus favors in interpreting events, notes Liv Mariah Yarrow: "the abuse of the allies by Fimbria in a ploy to gain power within the military structure actually leads to the disintegration of that military structure."[30]

At the Hellespont, Flaccus dismissed Fimbria with orders to return to Rome and replaced him with Q. Minucius Thermus, whom he left in charge of Byzantium.[31] But Fimbria continued to stir up the troops, until they defected to him and he took over Thermus's command. Flaccus, who had advanced to Chalcedon in Bithynia, then returned to deal with the situation.[32] The most sensational account of events has Fimbria seizing the fasces and Flaccus running first to Chalcedon and then to Nicomedia. Fimbria pursued him, found him hiding in a well, and had him beheaded. Fimbria then assumes the consular command before Flaccus had even reached his province.[33]

Flaccus had been accompanied to Asia by his son Lucius, who was probably still under age 20 at the time and on his first tour of military duty. After the death of his father, he escaped and went to join his uncle Gaius in Gaul.[34]


The 1st-century A.D. historian Memnon[35] is highly critical of Flaccus, blaming his own arrogance and cruelty for driving his men to mutiny. Appian finds both Flaccus and Fimbria reprehensible, while Diodorus vilifies Fimbria, mentioning Flaccus only once and in a positive light.[36] Michael Lovano attempts to filter out the biases of the sources in assessing the character of Flaccus and his predicament in Asia:

Effect on civil war

See also Gaius Valerius Flaccus (consul 93 BCE): Role in civil war and Lucius Valerius Flaccus (princeps senatus 86 BC): Role in civil war.

At the time of the murder, Lucius's brother Gaius was governor of Gallia Transalpina and most likely Cisalpina, and also a recent and possibly still current governor of one or both of the Spanish provinces. He thus would have commanded the largest number of troops in the western empire.[38] Gaius had either remained neutral or supported the Cinnan government until that point. He is thought to have begun turning away from the Marian-Cinnan faction when a Marian was responsible for his brother's death, and to have accepted the new regime once Sulla's troops were in Cisalpine Gaul. His nephew, who had joined him in Gaul after Lucius Flaccus's death in Asia, served as his military tribune in 82 or 81.

Gaius also may have been influenced by their cousin Lucius who was princeps senatus at the time of the murder. The elder Lucius had been the colleague of Marius in the consulship for 100 BC, but after the failure of his peace initiatives toward Sulla, he sponsored the legislation to establish the dictatorship.

Selected bibliography

  • Brennan, T. Corey. The Praetorship in the Roman Republic. Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Broughton, T.R.S. The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 2, 99 B.C.–31 B.C. New York: American Philological Association, 1952.
  • The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition 1994), vol. 9.
  • Lovano, Michael. The Age of Cinna: Crucible of Late Republican Rome. Franz Steiner Verlag, 2002.
Preceded by
Gaius Marius
Consul (suffectus) of the Roman Republic
with L. Cornelius Cinna
86 BC
Succeeded by
L. Cornelius Cinna and Cn. Papirius Carbo


  1. ^ Birth order as determined by the dates of offices held and by his brother carrying their father's name, as was conventional for the elder son.
  2. ^ Not the sister of Valerius Triarius who had the same name.
  3. ^ T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 2, 99 B.C.–31 B.C. (New York: American Philological Association, 1952), p. 178, note 2.
  4. ^ Unless otherwise noted, dates and offices are from Broughton, MRR, vol. 2, pp. 1, 18–19, 629.
  5. ^ Cicero, Pro Flacco 77; Bobbio Scholiast 95 and 105 (Stangl).
  6. ^ Cicero, Pro Flacco 51, 70ff. on the Deciani father and son.
  7. ^ Erich S. Gruen, "Political Prosecutions in the 90's BC," Historia 15 (1966), pp. 36–37; for more on the case and its context, see C. Appuleius Decianus, especially "The case against L. Valerius Flaccus".
  8. ^ Michael Charles Alexander, The Case for the Prosecution in the Ciceronian Era (University of Michigan Press, 2002), p. 80 online.
  9. ^ T. Corey Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic (Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 555.
  10. ^ For discussion of the nature and purpose of the festival, see T. Corey Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic (Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 553–554 online.
  11. ^ Cicero, Pro Flacco 55–57.
  12. ^ Claude Eilers, Roman Patrons of Greek Cities (Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 79 online and p. 137 online.
  13. ^ Richard Gordon with Joyce Reynolds, "Roman Inscriptions 1995–2000," Journal of Roman Studies 93 (2003), p. 225.
  14. ^ Plutarch, Marius 42.1
  15. ^ Granius Licinianus 25B names Valerius; on Marius seizing Ostia, Livy, Periocha 79; Appian, Bellum civile 1.67; Orosius 5.19.17; Broughton, MRR pp. 51 and 53, note 12; Michael Lovano, The Age of Cinna: Crucible of Late Republican Rome (Franz Steiner Verlag, 2002), p. 56, note 13.
  16. ^ Rutilius Rufus, as quoted by Plutarch, Marius 28.8.
  17. ^ E. Badian, "Notes on Provincial Governors from the Social War down to Sulla's Victory," originally published in Proceedings of the African Classical Associations (1958), reprinted in Studies in Greek and Roman History (New York, 1964), p. 94.
  18. ^ Charles T. Barlow, "The Roman Government and the Roman Economy, 92–80 B.C.," American Journal of Philology 101 (1980), pp. 212–213.
  19. ^ Lovano, The Age of Cinna, pp. 70–75.
  20. ^ Sallust, Bellum Catilinae 33.2; Cicero, Pro Fonteio 1–5.
  21. ^ Sallust, Cat. 33: volentibus omnibus bonis.
  22. ^ Velleius Paterculus, 2.23.2. Discussion in Lovano, The Age of Cinna, pp. 72-73 online.
  23. ^ Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic, p. 526.
  24. ^ Robin Seager, "Sulla," in The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge University Press, 1994), vol. 9, p. 181 online.
  25. ^ Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic, p. 526; Lovano, The Age of Cinna, p. 98; Charles T. Barlow, "The Roman Government and the Roman Economy, 92–80 B.C.," American Journal of Philology 101 (1980), p. 207.
  26. ^ Arthur Keaveney, Sulla, the Last Republican (Routledge, 2nd edition 2005), p. 77 online.
  27. ^ John G.F. Hind, "Mithridates," in The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition 1994), vol. 9, p. 160 online.
  28. ^ Seager, "Cambridge Ancient History, p. 181.
  29. ^ Mary Taliaferro Boatwright, Daniel J. Gargola, Richard J. A. Talbert, The Romans: From Village to Empire (Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 188 online.
  30. ^ Liv Mariah Yarrow, Historiography at the End of the Republic: Provincial Perspectives on Roman Rule (Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 246 online.
  31. ^ This Thermus is the brother of Marcus Minucius Thermus.
  32. ^ Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic, pp. 556–557.
  33. ^ Hind, The Cambridge Ancient History, p. 160; Brennan, The Praetorship in the Roman Republic, p. 557; Broughton, p. 18.
  34. ^ Bobbio Scholiast 96.3 (Stangl 11), Cicero, Pro Flacco 63 and 100; Christoph F. Konrad, Plutarch's Sertorius: A Historical Commentary (University of North Carolina Press, 1994), p. 85–86 online.
  35. ^ Memnon 24.3.
  36. ^ Liv Mariah Yarrow, Historiography at the End of the Republic: Provincial Perspectives on Roman Rule (Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 246 online.
  37. ^ Lovano, The Age of Cinna, pp. 98–99 online.
  38. ^ Bruce W. Frier, "Sulla's Propaganda: The Collapse of the Cinnan Republic," American Journal of Philology 92 (1971), p. 597.
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