85 of 234: Norbanus

This post is a prosopographical pre writing exercise ahead of my conference presentation later this month as part of the RACOM event at the BSR.

We assume the moneyer of 83 BCE is the son of the Consul of the same year (RRC 357/1), BUT we don’t actually have any proof to that regard. We could suggest that the consul issued the coins himself, but then we might expect to see some indication of his office, such as we find for the Praetor of this time Q. Antonius Balbus (RRC 364/1).

There is plenty of epigraphic evidence of imperial era members of the gens Norbana but no real evidence that I can see about whether those lines descend in any way from the consul of 83 BCE. Hinard 1985 even went so far as to assume that the moneyer the putative son of the consul was (a) a senator and (b) proscribed. I can’t substantiate these assumptions beyond saying they seem vaguely logical. The most famous later member of the gens is the consul of 38 BCE who issued coins in 43 BCE, RRC 491 as praetor. He was a partisan of the future Augustus from an early date and was generally allied with the Caesarians in the early period of the civil wars. I see no evidence he was related or un related to the consul of 83 BCE, but I’d have to dig more to be confident. He may have been borne c. 85 BCE according to Rüpke 2005.

The gens Norbana has a variety of cognomina associated with it, we know the consul of 38 BCE was a Flaccus (e.g. CIL 06, 02014) and the consul of 19 BCE (as Lucius not a Gaius) used Balbus (e.g. AE 2016, 55), but we don’t know what if any cognomen the moneyer and/or consul of 83 BCE used. At Capua in the first half of the first cent CE we have a soldier of the tribus Falerna using the cognomen Faustus (CIL 10, 03891 cf. this female memorial from the city of Rome), but this soldier may well be the son of a freedman (cf. CIL 6 35931). That the Flacci and the Balbi were really one family is illustrated by monument of “Chrestus, dispensator, Norbanorum Flacci et Balbi”. A dispensator was a household manager or accountant, the guy who was authorized to make payments and keep accounts for the family (cf. also this monument).

My guess but it is only a guess is that these later consular Norbani are related to the cos of 83 BCE and our moneyer (if they are separate people). I’d guess that the consul of 83 BCE went into exile with his son and perhaps his baby grandson and then that grandson was restored along with the rest of the children of the proscribed by one of the first acts of Julius Caesar as Dictator. This was a brilliant move by Caesar to ensure a loyal group of senators and elected officials and for Norbani it paid off and carried the family well into the principate.

From Rotondi 1912: Dio 41.18, 44.47*, Plut, Caes; Suet, Caes., Vell. Pat. 2.43: none of these refs attribute the law to Antony, so I’m confused how it got that name.

Norbanus (cos. 83) first shows up in the historical record with his prosecution as tribune of the plebs of Caepio for the lost of his army in 105 BCE and then his own subsequent prosecution for the violence that resulted. This matters because this Caepio is the maternal great-grandfather of Brutus, and his son is the quaestor of 100 BCE (RRC 330/1) and enemy of Saturninus and Marius. Fall out from the patrician Caepio’s refusal to cooperate with Cn. Mallius Maximus the new man and consul of 105 BCE has direct bearing down through the second triumvirate and arguable beyond.

The arguments on both sides of the case were of interest in Latin rhetorical handbooks as early as the 80s BCE, other accounts like Valerius Maximus are only interested in Caepio not Norbanus.

[Norbanus] did not commit treason in proceeding to violent measures in respect to Caepio ; for it was the first indignation of the Roman people that prompted that violent conduct, and not the conduct of the tribune : and the majesty, since it is identical with the greatness of the Roman people, was rather increased than diminished by retaining that man in power and office.” And when the reply is, ” Majesty consists of the dignity of the empire and name of the Roman people, which that man impairs, who excites sedition by appealing to the violent passions of the multitude;” then comes the dispute, ” Whether his conduct was calculated to impair that majesty, who acted upon the inclinations of the Roman people, so as to do a thing which was both just and acceptable to them by means of violence.”

Cicero, de Partitionibus Oratoriae 104-105, cf. Rhet. Her. 1.24 for briefer much earlier but similar use; as well as Cic. Or. 2.124, 197, and most esp. the long exposition on the nature of legal case at 199-204;

The dates of the court cases are disputed but not the events themselves. Generally the prosecution is of Caepio is place in 104 and and the retaliatory prosecution of Norbanus in 95 or 94 BCE, but I have no strong views on the chronology. All that particularly matters is that Norbanus was dedicated to attacking patrician privilege and had in turn been viciously attacked. (More text sources on this). Cicero’s primary interest seems to be the strategies of both defense and prosecution, until the De Officiis when he calls Norbanus, a seditious and dangerous citizen (2.49).

M. Aemilius Scaurus, princeps senatus, prosecuted C. Memmius for extortion, with strong evidence. As a witness he attacked C. Flavius, accused by the same law, with the same fierceness; he openly endeavoured to ruin C. Norbanus, who was brought to trial for treason. Yet neither by his authority, which was very great, nor by his piety, which no man doubted, could he inflict damage on any of them.

Val. Max. 8.5.2

This prosecution did not stop him earning the praetorship and it is likely in this role he held his social war command. Some time after Sulla’s departure for the East Norbanus was in charge of Syracuse and Sicily with an army, c. 88? 87?:

But when Sulla was engaged in the war in Asia against Mithridates, and Rome was filled with slaughters and internal strife, Marcus Lamponius and Tiberius Cleptius, and also Pompeius, the generals of those Italians who were left remaining in Bruttium, attempted to capture the strong city of Isiae. After they had lain before the city for a long time, they left part of their army to maintain the siege, and fiercely assaulted Rhegium, in the expectation, that if they gained this place, they might with ease transport their army into Sicily, and so become masters of the richest island under the sun. But Gaius Norbanus, the governor of Sicily, so overawed the Italians with the greatness of his army and his vast preparations, that they drew off from the siege; and so the Rhegians were freed from danger.

Diod. 37.2.13-14

Therefore, while these were the established regulations of the province, Caius Norbanus, a man neither very active nor very valiant, was at perfect ease, at the very moment that all Italy was raging with the servile war. For at that time Sicily easily took care of itself, so that no war could possibly arise there.

Cic. Verr. 2.5.8 cf. 2.3.117 (70 BCE)
CIL 01, 02951 = ILSicilia 00056 = Engfer-2017, 00412 = AE 1989, 00342a From Syracuse.

Norbanus sought refuge at Rhodes when proscribed by Sulla (Liv. Per. 89; Oros. 5.21.3) and based on this some want to have him be familiar with the island from his days as a quaestor but I don’t think we need to go that far.

Appian gives a brief account of his success levy of troops in 83 with his co consul and the consul of the previous year, saying that they generally had popular support but also held greater responsibility for what had happened in Sulla’s absence. During the events of the war he was for a time at Capua and refused to engage with messengers sent by Sulla (App. BC 1.84 & 86).

And a little while before he crossed over from Greece, there were seen on Mount Tifatum in Campania, in the day time, two great he-goats fighting together, and doing everything that men do when they fight a battle. But it proved to be an apparition, and gradually rising from earth it dispersed itself generally in the air, like vague phantoms, and then vanished from sight. And not long after,​ in this very place, when Marius the younger and Norbanus the consul led large forces up against him, Sulla, without either giving out an order of battle or forming his own army in companies, but taking advantage of a vigorous general alacrity and a transport of courage in them, routed the enemy and shut up Norbanus in the city of Capua, after slaying seven thousand of his men. It was on account of this success, he says, that his soldiers did not disperse into their several cities, but held together and despised their opponents, though these were many times more numerous.

Plut. Sulla 27

Diana Tifatina is a favorite of mine on this blog. And is often connected to the Diana imagery on Faustus’ coins. RRC 426

“It was while Sulla was ascending Mount Tifata that he had encountered Gaius Norbanus. After his victory over him he paid a vow of gratitude to Diana, to whom that region is sacred, and consecrated to the goddess the waters renowned for their salubrity and water to heal, as well as all the lands in the vicinity. The record of this pleasing act of piety is witnessed to this day by an inscription on the door of the temple, and a bronze tablet within the edifice.”

Vel. Pat. 2.25

[Albinovanus] invited Norbanus and his lieutenants, Gaius Antipater and Flavius Fimbria (brother of the one who committed suicide in Asia), together with such of Carbo’s lieutenants as were then present, to a feast. When they had all assembled except Norbanus (he was the only one who did not come), he murdered them all at the banquet and then fled to Sulla. Norbanus, having learned that, in consequence of this disaster, Ariminum and many other camps in the vicinity were going over to Sulla, and being unable to rely on the good faith and firm support of many of his friends on the spot, now that he found himself in adversity, took passage on a private ship, and sailed to Rhodes. When, at a later period, Sulla demanded his surrender, and while the Rhodians were deliberating on it, he killed himself in the middle of the market-place.

App. BC 1.91, cf. Livy Per. 89.8

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