Publius Valerius Publicola

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Publius Valerius Publicola
Consul suffectus of the Roman Republic 509 BC
Consul of the Roman Republic 508 BC
Consul of the Roman Republic 507 BC
Consul of the Roman Republic 504 BC

Publius Valerius Publicola (or Poplicola, his agnomen meaning "friend of the people") (died 503 BC) was one of four Roman aristocrats who led the overthrow of the monarchy, and became a Roman consul, the colleague of Lucius Junius Brutus in 509 BC, traditionally considered the first year of the Roman Republic. The authors of America's The Federalist Papers used the pseudonym "Publius" in his honour.[1]

Early life

According to Livy and Plutarch, Publius Valerius Publicola's family came from the Sabine region. Under the Valerius name, they had settled in Rome during the rule of the king of the Sabines, Titus Tatius (8th century BC), and worked for the peaceful unification of both regions.[2]

Publius Valerius Publicola came from a wealthy family. His father was Volesus Valerius and his brothers were Marcus Valerius Volusus and Manius Valerius Maximus. He was married and Valeria was the name of his daughter. Before holding Roman public office, Publicola had defended the plebs as a benefactor.[2][3]

The revolution

With Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, Spurius Lucretius Tricipitinus and Valerius, Lucius Junius Brutus led the Roman revolution of 509 BC, ending the Roman monarchy and banishing the tyrannical King of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. The Romans instituted the office of Consul, founding the Roman Republic. Brutus and Collatinus were voted as the first Consuls.

The Tarquins plotted with some disaffected Roman members of the Aquillii and Vitellii, who had benefited from the deposed regime, to assassinate both consuls. Publicola was informed of the plot by the slave Vindicius. Publicola investigated personally, sneaking into the Aquillius estate and finding incriminatory evidence. Using this evidence, both consuls headed a public trial. The conspirators, including Brutus' own children, were found guilty and executed. Valerius played a leading role in the trial.[2]

Election as consul, and battle of Silva Arsia, 509 BC

Collatinus worked with Tarquinius Superbus' relatives to restore their properties. After the failed conspiracy, Collatinus was denounced and left Rome, resigning his office of consul. Valerius was elected to replace him.[2][4]

"They annex strange incidents to this battle, --that in the silence of the next night a loud voice was emitted from the Arsian wood; that it was believed to be the voice of Silvanus: these words were spoken, "that more of the Etrurians by one had fallen in the battle; that the Roman was victorious in the war." Certainly the Romans departed thence as victors, the Etrurians as vanquished."
The History of Rome. Book 02. Chapter 7, by Titus Livius.[3]

The deposed king, Tarquinius Superbus, whose family originated from Tarquinii in Etruria, garnered the support of that city and also of Veii. The armies of the two cities followed Tarquin against Rome, and the Roman consuls Brutus and Valerius led the Roman army to meet them at the Battle of Silva Arsia. Valerius commanded the Roman infantry. Brutus died during the battle, but the Romans were ultimately victorious. Valerius collected the spoils of the routed Etruscans, and returned to Rome to celebrate a triumph on 1 March 509 BC. Publicola celebrated at Rome, riding a four horse chariot, which subsequently became a Roman tradition for celebrating victories. Also, he held a magnificent funeral for Brutus where he made a memorable speech.[2][5][6]

Livy wrote that later in 509 BC Valerius returned to fight the Veientes. It is unclear whether this was continuing from the Battle of Silva Arsia, or was some fresh dispute. It is also unclear what happened in this dispute.[7]

Reforms during first consulship, 509 BC

After the death of Brutus, Publius Valerius Publicola was the lone Roman Consul, which he held without scheduling new elections. He started to build a magnificent new residence on top of the Velian Hill, which was conspicuously visible from the Senate building. When people began to comment that he was apparently going to re-establish the monarchy, Publicola stopped its construction, demolishing it in a single night. Publicola defended himself before an assembly of the people, having firstly lowered the fasces in the face of the assembly as a mark of respect: "I have just liberated Rome, bravely, but now I am slandered, like being either an Aquillius or a Vitellian. I am the bitterest enemy of the former kings, so I shouldn't be accused of wanting to be king."[2][3] He volunteered to move his house to the foot rather than the peak of the Velian Hill, so as to diminish any suspicion levelled against him. His house was constructed at that site, where in later times was built the Temple of Victory.[8]

Before the impending elections, Publicola repopulated the Senate, which had been severely reduced by the king and the recent war. Also, he wrote a series of popular laws:

  • Any Roman could be appointed Consul.
  • Decisions of the Consuls could be appealed.
  • Anyone who seized an office without popular vote would suffer execution.
  • Anyone who attempted to re-establish the monarchy could be executed by any citizen without trial. (This was the law invoked by the Liberatores as justification for their assassination of Julius Caesar)
  • Needy Romans were exempt from taxation.
  • Patricians would be punished more severely than plebs for disobeying a Consul.
  • Control of the treasury was removed from the Consuls. It was physically moved to the temple of Saturn under the administration of appointed quaestors.

Publicola removed the axe heads of the traditional fasces as carried in the Pomerium, the sacred inner city of Rome. Because of these, Publicus Valerius was called the "friend of the people", or Publicola.[2]

Four consulships

Publius Valerius Publicola was elected Roman Consul in 509 BC, 508 BC, 507 BC, and 504 BC. In 509 BC he held elections after the death of Brutus, and Spurius Lucretius Tricipitinus was chosen as consul suffectus. Lucretius died a few days later, and Marcus Horatius Pulvillus was elected in his place. In 508 BC and 504 BC his consular colleague was Titus Lucretius Tricipitinus. Marcus Horatius Pulvillus was his colleague again in 507 BC.[2][9][10]

War with Clusium

In 508 BC, Lars Porsena, the king of Clusium, attacked Rome at the behest of Tarquinius Superbus. According to Plutarch, both Publicola and his fellow Consul Titus Lucretius were severely wounded during the battle.[2]

During the siege, Publicola executed a successful sally, defeating a Clusian raiding party.[11]

According to Plutarch, Valerius negotiated a peace treaty with Porsena which ended the war. He surrendered hostages, including his daughter Valeria, and Porsena protected these hostages from the Tarquinii.[2]

War with the Sabines

In 506 BC, the Sabines attacked Rome. While his brother Marcus was Consul, Publicola participated in two Roman victories which repelled the invasion. The people rewarded Publicola with a house on the Palatine Hill.[2]

In 505 BC, the Latin League and the Sabines threatened Rome with a large army. Although diplomatic negotiations were halted, Publicola meddled in the inner politics of the Sabines by assisting Attius Clausus. With Publicola's help, he moved into Rome with 5,000 Sabines. He was made a citizen with the name Appius Claudius, and was the founder of the Claudii. When the Sabines attempted to besiege Rome, Publicola successfully commanded the army, anticipating their movements and thwarting their plans. He was elected consul in 504 BC (for the fourth time) and conducted war successfully against the Sabines, and celebrated a triumph in May of that year.[2][3]


Publius Valerius Publicola died in 503 BC, shortly after passing the consular office to his successors, Agrippa Menenius Lanatus and Publius Postumius Tubertus. Livy records that at the time of his death he was considered "by universal consent to be the ablest man in Rome, in the arts both of peace and war". He had little money and so he was buried at the public charge, and was mourned by the Roman matrons as had been done for Lucius Junius Brutus before him.[12]

By decree, each citizen contributed a Quadrans for the funeral. The remains of Publicola were buried within Rome, at the Velian Hill. His death was mourned by the Romans for an entire year. After Publicola, all noted members of the Valerius family were buried near the same spot."[citation needed]"


In a collection of 85 essays promoting the adoption of the United States Constitution, written in 1787–1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (collectively referred to as The Federalist Papers), the three statesmen used the allonym "Publius" in honor of Publicola's role in establishing the Roman Republic.

Following the Spanish American War a piece titled "The Duty of the American People as to the Philippines" was published under the pseudonym "Publicola".[13] The author recommended the development of the Philippines to improve the lives of the Filipino people as well as to further American trading interests in the Orient.

See also


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Lucius Iunius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus
Consul (Suffect) of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Junius Brutus
then with Spurius Lucretius Tricipitinus (Suffect)
and then with Marcus Horatius Pulvillus (Suffect)

509 BC
Succeeded by
Publius Valerius Poplicola and Titus Lucretius Tricipitinus
Preceded by
Marcus Horatius Pulvillus (Suffect) and Publius Valerius Poplicola (Suffect)
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Titus Lucretius Tricipitinus
508 BC
Succeeded by
Publius Valerius Poplicola and Marcus Horatius Pulvillus
Preceded by
Publius Valerius Poplicola and Titus Lucretius Tricipitinus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Marcus Horatius Pulvillus
507 BC
Succeeded by
Spurius Larcius Rufus and Titus Herminius Aquilinus
Preceded by
Marcus Valerius Volusus and Publius Postumius Tubertus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Titus Lucretius Tricipitinus
504 BC
Succeeded by
Agrippa Menenius Lanatus and Publius Postumius Tubertus