Licinia (gens)

Denarius of Publius Licinius Crassus[1]

The gens Licinia was a celebrated plebeian family at Rome, which appears from the earliest days of the Republic until imperial times, and which eventually obtained the imperial dignity. The first of the gens to obtain the consulship was Gaius Licinius Calvus Stolo, who, as tribune of the plebs from 376 to 367 BC, prevented the election of any of the annual magistrates, until the patricians acquiesced to the passage of the lex Licinia Sextia, or Licinian Rogations. This law, named for Licinius and his colleague, Lucius Sextius, opened the consulship for the first time to the plebeians. Licinius himself was subsequently elected consul in 364 and 361 BC, and from this time, the Licinii became one of the most illustrious gentes in the Republic.[2][3]


The nomen Licinius is derived from the cognomen Licinus, or "upturned", found in a number of Roman gentes.[4] Licinus may have been an ancient praenomen, but few examples of its use as such are known. The name seems to be identical with the Etruscan Lecne, which frequently occurs on Etruscan sepulchral monuments.[5] Some scholars have seen evidence of an Etruscan origin for the Licinii in the tradition that Etruscan players were first brought to Rome to take part in the theatrical performances (ludi scaenici) in the consulship of Gaius Licinius Calvus, BC 364. This could, however, be coincidental, as Livy explains that the games were instituted this year in order to palliate the anger of the gods.[6] In fact, the name of Licinius appears to have been spread throughout both Latium and Etruria from a very early time, so the fact that it had an Etruscan equivalent does not definitely show that the gens was of Etruscan derivation.[3]


The chief praenomina used by the Licinii were Publius, Gaius, Lucius, and Marcus, all of which were very common throughout Roman history. The family occasionally used Sextus, and there is at least one instance of Gnaeus during the first century BC. Aulus was used by the Licinii Nervae. As in other Roman families, the women of the Licinii generally did not have formal praenomina, but were referred to simply as Licinia; if further distinction were needed, they would be described using various personal or family cognomina.

Branches and cognomina

The family-names of the Licinii are Calvus (with the agnomina Esquilinus and Stolo), Crassus (with the agnomen Dives), Geta, Lucullus, Macer, Murena, Nerva, Sacerdos, and Varus. The other cognomina of the gens are personal surnames, rather than family-names; these include Archias, Caecina, Damasippus, Imbrex, Lartius, Lenticula, Nepos, Proculus, Regulus, Rufinus, Squillus, and Tegula. The only cognomina which occur on coins are Crassus, Macer, Murena, Nerva, and Stolo. A few Licinii are known without a surname; most of these in later times were freedmen.[3]

The surname Calvus was originally given to a person who was bald,[7] and it was the cognomen of the earliest family of the Licinii to distinguish itself under the Republic. The first of this family bore the agnomen Esquilinus, probably because he lived on the Esquiline Hill.[8] Stolo, a surname given to the most famous of the family, may be derived from the stola, a long outer garment or cloak, or might also refer to a branch, or sucker.[9][10] Although the family of the Licinii Calvi afterward vanished into obscurity, the surname Calvus was later borne by the celebrated orator and poet Gaius Licinius Macer, who lived in the first century BC. His cognomen Macer, designated someone who was lean.[7][11][12]

Another family of the Licinii bore the cognomen Varus, which means "crooked, bent," or "knock-kneed."[4] The Licinii Vari were already distinguished, when their surname was replaced by that of Crassus. This was a common surname, which could mean "dull, thick," or "solid," and may have been adopted because of the contrast between this meaning and that of Varus.[7][12]

The surname Dives, meaning "rich" or "wealthy," was borne by some of the Licinii Crassi.[13] It was most famous as the surname of Marcus Licinius Crassus, the triumvir, and has been ascribed to his father and brothers, but it is not altogether certain whether it originated with his father, or with the triumvir, in which case it was retroactively applied to the previous generation.[14][15][16]

Lucullus, the cognomen of a branch of the Licinii, which first occurs in history towards the end of the Second Punic War, is probably derived from lucus, a grove, or perhaps a diminutive of the praenomen Lucius. The surname does not appear on any coins of the gens.[17][18]

A family of the Licinii bore the surname Murena (sometimes, but erroneously, written Muraena), referring to the sea-fish known as the murry or lamprey, a prized delicacy since ancient times. This family came from the city of Lanuvium, to the southeast of Rome, and was said to have acquired its name because one of its members had a great liking for lampreys, and built tanks for them. The same surname occurring in other families might be said to be derived from the type of shellfish known as murex, from which a valuable dye was extracted.[17][19][20][21][22]

Of the other surnames of the Licinii might be mentioned Nerva, the surname of a family of the Licinii that flourished from the time of the Second Punic War until the early Empire, derived from nervus, "sinewy";[7] Geta, perhaps the name of a Thracian people, to whom one of the Licinii might have been compared;[23] and Sacerdos, a priest, one of a number of cognomina derived from occupations.[24][25]


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

Early Licinii

Licinii Calvi

Licinii Vari

Licinii Crassi

Licinii Luculli

Licinii Nervae

Licinii Murenae



  1. The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology lists this Licinius as consular tribune in 377 or 378 B.C. based on Livy, vi. 31. 377 appears to be an error in the text, as 378 appears in the chronology in the appendix. This identification may have been based on Livius' identification of Licinius Menenius as the tribune of that year. Menenius, whose name is given variously as Licinus or Lucius, is elsewhere accepted as by the same source as consular tribune in 378; thus the year that Licinius Calvus was consular tribune remains uncertain.[10]
  2. Both the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology and Broughton, following Livy, agree that Plutarch and Cassius Dio are mistaken in identifying this Gaius Licinius Calvus with Gaius Licinius Calvus Stolo, tribune of the plebs in the same year.[10][37]
  3. The Capitoline Fasti state that Calvus was consul in 364, and Stolo in 361; but Livy, Valerius Maximus, and Plutarch all state that Stolo was consul in 364, and Calvus in 361; in the Capitoline Fasti they are reversed. The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology supposes that Stolo was consul in both years. Both Calvus and Stolo had good claims to the consulship, the first having served as magister equitum in 368, the other having brought forward the law permitting the election of plebeian consuls.[10][40]

See also


  1. This Publius Licinius Crassus is probably the father of the triumvir, but has also been conjectured to be his son. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
  2. Drumann, Geschichte Roms.
  3. 1 2 3 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. II, p. 782 ("Licinia Gens").
  4. 1 2 Chase, p. 109.
  5. Lanzi, vol. II, p. 342.
  6. Livy, vii. 2.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Chase, p. 110
  8. Chase, pp. 113, 114.
  9. Chase, pp. 112 (Stola), 113 (Stolo).
  10. 1 2 3 4 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, p. 586 ("Calvus").
  11. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, p. 586 ("Calvus", "Gaius Licinius Macer Calvus").
  12. 1 2 Cassell's Latin and English Dictionary.
  13. Chase, p. 111.
  14. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, pp. 872, 873 ("Crassus").
  15. Marshall, "Crassus and the Cognomen Dives."
  16. Drumann, vol. IV, pp. 71–115.
  17. 1 2 Chase, p. 113.
  18. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. II, pp. 830, 831 ("Lucullus").
  19. Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, ix. 54.
  20. Macrobius, Saturnalia, ii. 11.
  21. Drumann, vol. IV, p. 183 ff.
  22. 1 2 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. II, p. 1121 ("Murena").
  23. The New College Latin & English Dictionary, "Geta".
  24. Chase, pp. 111, 112.
  25. The New College Latin & English Dictionary, "sacerdos".
  26. 1 2 Livy|, ii. 33.
  27. 1 2 Dionysius, vi. 89.
  28. Livy, ii. 43.
  29. Dionysius, ix. 1.
  30. Livy, v. 12.
  31. Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft, "Licinius" no. 43.
  32. Mommsen, Römische Forschungen, vol. I, p. 95.
  33. Livy, v. 18.
  34. Diodorus Siculus, xiv. 90.
  35. The Capitoline Fasti mention only the father, elected for the second time.
  36. Broughton, vol. I, pp. 87, 88.
  37. 1 2 Broughton, vol. I, pp. 112, 113.
  38. Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, vi. 39.
  39. Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, xiv. 57.
  40. 1 2 Broughton, vol. I, pp. 116, 118, 119.
  41. Zonaras, viii. 18, p. 400.
  42. Livy, xxi. 18, Epitome, 50.
  43. Livy, xxvii. 22, 23, 51.
  44. Livy, xli, xlii, xliii.
  45. Livy, xlv. 17.
  46. Cicero, Laelius de Amicitia, 25; Brutus, 21.
  47. Varro, Rerum Rusticarum, i. 2.
  48. Cassius Dio, fragmentum xcii.
  49. Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, vii. 18.
  50. Cicero, De Finibus, v. 30.
  51. Cicero, Brutus, 58.
  52. Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, xxxiv. 3. s. 8.
  53. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, xii. 24.
  54. Florus, iii. 21. § 14.
  55. Appian, Bellum Civile, i. p. 394.
  56. Plutarch, "The Life of Crassus", 1, 4.
  57. Valerius Maximus, vi. 9. § 12.
  58. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, pp. 381, 382 ("Crassus", no. 27).
  59. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, ii. 24. § 2.
  60. Cicero, Post Reditum in Senatu, 9.
  61. Cicero, Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem, iii. 8. § 3.
  62. Plutarch, "The Life of Cato the Elder" 70, fin.
  63. Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, v. 8.
  64. Caesar, De Bello Gallico, v. 24.
  65. Justin, xlii. 4.
  66. Livy, Epitome, cxxxiv, cxxxv.
  67. Cassius Dio, liv. 24.
  68. Tacitus, Historiae, i. 47, iv. 39.
  69. Suetonius, "The Life of Caligula"; "The Life of Claudius."
  70. Livy, xxx. 39.
  71. Livy, xxxiii. 42, xxxvi. 36.
  72. Livy, xxxix. 6, 8, 18.
  73. Sallust Bellum Jugurthinum, 37.
  74. Dionysius, xxxvi. 24.
  75. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, xv. 1.
  76. Cicero, De Finibus, iii. 2; Epistulae ad Atticum, xiii. 6; Philippicae, x. 4.
  77. Velleius Paterculus, ii. 71.
  78. Valerius Maximus, iv. 7. § 4.
  79. Livy, xlv. 16.
  80. 1 2 Livy, xlv. 3, 42.
  81. Livy, Epitome, 53.
  82. Eutropius, iv. 15.
  83. Diodorus Siculus, xxxvi.
  84. Cicero, Brutus, 34.
  85. Drumann, vol. IV. p. 19 (no. 85).
  86. Velleius Paterculus ii. 116.
  87. Cassius Dio, lv. 30.
  88. Cicero, Brutus, 54, 90.
  89. Sallust Bellum Catilinae, 42.
  90. Horace, Carmen Saeculare, ii. 2, 10.
  91. Cassius Dio, liii. 25, liv. 3.
  92. Ando, p. 140.
  93. Livy, xxxi. 12.
  94. Cicero, Pro Cluentio, 48.
  95. Valerius Maximus, iv. 1. § 10.
  96. Plutarch, "The Life of Tiberius Gracchus", 2.
  97. Cicero, De Oratore, iii. 60.
  98. Aulus Gellius, i. 11.
  99. Cicero, Pro Cluentio, 42.
  100. Valerius Maximus, ii. 9. § 9.
  101. Livy, Epitome, 80.
  102. Plutarch, "The Life of Marius", 45.
  103. Cassius Dio, fragmentum 120.
  104. Cicero, In Verrem, i. 10, 46, 50, ii. 28, iii. 50, 92, Pro Plancio, 11.
  105. Asconius, in Toga Candida, p. 83 (ed. Orelli).
  106. Caesar, De Bello Civili, ii. 44; De Bello Africo, 96.
  107. Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, vii. 23; Epistulae ad Atticum, xii. 29, 33.
  108. Horace Satirae, ii. 3, 16, 64.
  109. Cicero, Philippicae, ii. 23.
  110. Cassius Dio, xlv. 47.
  111. Cassius Dio, liv. 14.
  112. Festus, s. vv. Imbrex, Obstitum.
  113. Aulus Gellius, xiii. 22, xv. 24.
  114. Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, xix. 2. s. 11, xxxi. 2. s. 18.
  115. Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, ii. 14, iii. 5.
  116. Gruter, p. 180.
  117. Tacitus, Historiae, ii. 53.
  118. Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, xx. 18. s. 76.
  119. Tacitus, Historiae, i. 46, 82, 87, ii. 33, 39, 44, 60.
  120. Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, iv. 29, v. 4, 21, vi. 5.
  121. Digesta seu Pandectae, 40. tit. 13. s. 4.
  122. Zimmern, vol. I.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 

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