Tacitus, Annals XI.25.1

After Claudius’s speech to the Senate in 48 CE, the Aedui are the first Gallic people to have the right to become members of the Roman Senate.
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110 CE to 121 CE
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This short passage appears just after the rewritten speech that Tacitus inserted in book XI of the Annals, a speech that was originally given by the emperor Claudius in 48 CE at the Senate in Rome (Tacitus, Annals XI.23-24). This oration appears also on an inscription, probably produced in Lyon, which transcribes the original speech (Lyon Tablet, 47-48 CE). In this speech, the emperor was responding to the plea of some leading citizens of Gallia Comata (that is the provinces of Aquitania, Lugdunensis and Belgica) who wanted to access Roman magistracies and thus to be part of the Roman Senate.
After the recomposed version of Claudius’s speech, in which he responded to the various objections of the senators opposed to his reform, Tacitus mentions that this reform proposal was ratified by the Senate with a patrum consultum, the equivalent of a senatus consultum. He added that: primi Aedui senatorum in urbe ius adepti sunt; “the Aedui became the first to acquire senatorial rights in the capital”. The Aedui were a Gallic people from the province of Gallia Lugdunensis, established between the rivers of the Loire and the Saône and whose capital was Augustodunum, modern Autun. Due to the reference to the Aedui, it has been debated whether Claudius’s reform concerned this Gallic tribe only, or if the Aedui’s admission into the Senate was a sort of precedent for the admission of some other leading citizens from Gallia Comata (for the bibliography see Malloch, The Annals, p. 378-379). The second interpretation seems preferable.
The formula senatorum in urbe ius has generated much debate, since it is clearly different from the initial formula that appears in Annals XI.23.1, when Tacitus writes that the leading citizens of Gallia Comata wanted to have access to the ius adipiscendorum in Urbe honorum, “the right of holding magistracies in the capital.” Some scholars have considered that these two expressions did not refer to the same legal procedures, even if the final aim was the integration of Gallic provincials in the Roman Senate. In fact, the admission of provincials among the senators was possible in three cases. First, some important Roman citizens could receive the latus clavus, that is the broad purple stripe on the tunic, from the emperor. The grant of the latus clavus meant that they could apply for the quaestorship, and, if they succeeded and fulfilled this office, they could finally enter into the Senate. The second procedure was more direct, since men could be integrated into the Senate after an adlectio, a sort of cooptation, by the emperor using his censorial power. The third possibility to enter into the Senate was the election to the quaestorship. For the scholars who believed in the existence of the ius honorum, that is of a right that would have been established under Augustus and which would have separated the citizens optimo iure, having a full citizenship, from the citizens, most of them being new citizens living in the provinces, who were not allowed to hold magistracies in Rome, only the rare provincials who were citizens optimo iure, most of them being citizens of a Roman colony, could have been candidates for the quaestorship (on that point, see Chastagnol, “Le nouveau statut,” p. 41-42; on the debate related to the existence of the ius honorum, see Lyon Tablet (CIL XIII, 1668)). Considering the difference in Tacitus’s vocabulary concerned with the request of the primores Galliae Comatae and the right given to the Aedui, scholars have variously interpreted the effects of Claudius’s reform (for the bibliography, see Malloch, The Annals, p. 378-379). For many of them, the expression ius adipiscendorum in Urbe honorum shows that the primores Galliae applied for the latus clavus, but that the senatorum in urbe ius refers to the fact that Claudius adlected the Aedui (Fabia, La table claudienne, p. 6; Griffin, “The Lyon Tablet,” p. 404, n. 2). However, it has also been underlined that Tacitus may not have wanted to distinguish “the substance of the privilege requested,” that is the claim of the primores Galliae to integrate into the Senate, and the “privilege granted” to the Aedui (Griffin, “The Lyon tablet,” p. 404). Even if we take this idea into account, it is still impossible to know whether the Aedui were first admitted to the Senate after having received the latus clavus, which was the common practice for novi homines, or after adlections (for the bibliography see Malloch, The Annals, p. 345-346, n. 225-226).

Despite all these debates, the Aedui were the first Gallic tribe to profit from Claudius’s reform. Tacitus explains why they had such a privilege. First, Rome had entered into a foedus (treaty) with the Aedui, a long time ago, probably between 150 and 140 BCE. The Aedui represented an ally of choice due to their military capacities and their strategic control of the confluence between the rivers of the Saône and the Rhône (Hostein, La cité, p. 348-349). Antony Hostein recalls that this foedus may have been a bilateral treaty within which the Aedui were considered, from a legal point of view, as equal to the Romans. This treaty provided for mutual military assistance between the two allies, but also privileged diplomatic and commercial relations in times of peace. However, at the difference of the allies of Rome who usually lost their autonomy in diplomatic matters, the Aedui must have remained fully independent when they dealt with other peoples (Hostein, La cité, p. 364-366). The second point that, according to Tacitus, justified the primacy of the Aedui to be first admitted to the Roman Senate in 48 CE, is that they were also the only ones who enjoyed the nomen (title) of the fraternitas or brotherhood with the Roman people (populus romanus). It is broadly admitted that this title of “brothers of the Roman people” was connected to the conclusion of the bilateral treaty. As Antony Hostein recalls, the titles of socii (allies) or amici (friends) were commonly used to refer to the relations between Rome and a foreign people with which an alliance had been formed. However, referring to the fact that the Roman people and a foreign ally were fratres (brothers), or linked by consanguinitas (kinship) was very rare and very prestigious for the granted people. The first testimonies mentioning that the Roman people and the Aedui were fratres are Latin writings of the second half of the first century BCE, and among Greek authors dealing with the relationships between the two peoples, only Plutarch refers to “brothers,” ἀδελφοί (for the use of fratres see Cicero, Ad Atticum I.19.2, Ad Familiares VII.10.4; Caesar, Gallic War I.33.2, I.36.5, I.44.9; for the use of consanguinitas see Caesar, Gallic War I.33.2; for the use of ἀδελφοί, see Plutarch, Life of Caesar XXVI.5; all the references are quoted in Hostein, La cité, p. 349-350, esp. n. 18). These testimonies show that the Aedui’s title had an official and institutional nature. Its origins, however, have been debated. Quoting Ammianus Marcellinus who assigns to Timagenes, a Greek author from the Augustan period whose work is totally lost, the narrative that after the destruction of Ilion some Trojan warriors would have ended up in Celtic Gaul and settled there, many scholars have associated the granting of the title of fratres to the Aedui with this legend (see the bibliography in Hostein, La cité, p. 354). Underlining that it is very strange to find no other mention of the Trojan origins of the Aedui in other sources, Antony Hostein suggests that the title of frater may have been first used by the Aedui to designate their Roman ally – in such a case they would have used the Celtic word Brār. In a second phase, Roman authorities would have adopted this term and Latinised it (Hostein, La cité, p. 354-357). During the first century BCE, this title of frater of the Roman people was recalled by several authors who dealt with the history of this Gallic people. Strabo is the first author who insists on the fact that the Aedui were the first in Gallia comata to enter into an alliance with Rome (Strabo, Geography IV.3.2). Afterwards, this title had great longevity and it became a main element of the Aedui’s identity. At the beginning of the second century CE, Tacitus recalls that, under Claudius’s reign, they were still “the only Gallic community” who enjoyed this title; a status which apparently enabled them to be the first people in Gaul who obtained the right to access Roman magistracies and thus to be part of the Roman Senate. A long time after Tacitus, the kinship of the Aedui with Rome was still recalled in various Latin panegyrics of the fourth century CE (Latin Panegyric IV(8).21.2; V(9).4.1.; VII(6), 22, 4; VIII(5).2.4; 3.1-2; 4.1; 4.3; see Hostein, La cité, p. 347-377). In these various panegyrics, the fraternitas between the Aedui and Rome is always praised as an antique title, but it was probably not connected anymore to the institutional reality or practice of the 4th century CE. However, Antony Hostein has shown that this prestigious title was still used by the men who composed these panegyrics – who were Aedui – in order to justify the superiority of the Aedui’s identity and patriotism through exempla from the past. The goal of this oratorical strategy was to preserve a local pride, and above all, to obtain some favours and privileges from the imperial power in the specific context of these panegyrics (see Hostein, La cité, p. 374-375).

Bibliographical references: 

“La table claudienne de Lyon”

Chastagnol, Andréarticle-in-a-bookLe Sénat romain à l’époque impériale. Recherches sur la composition de l’Assemblée et le statut de ses membres André Chastagnol79-96“La table claudienne de Lyon”ParisLes Belles Lettres1992

“Le nouveau statut des sénateurs”

Chastagnol, Andréarticle-in-a-bookLe Sénat romain à l’époque impériale. Recherches sur la composition de l’Assemblée et le statut de ses membres André Chastagnol31-48“Le nouveau statut des sénateurs”ParisLes Belles Lettres1992
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