Caecilia (gens)

The gens Caecilia was a plebeian[lower-roman 1] family at Rome. Members of this gens are mentioned in history as early as the fifth century BC, but the first of the Caecilii who obtained the consulship was Lucius Caecilius Metellus Denter, in 284 BC.[1][2]


Like other Roman families in the later times of the Republic, the Caecilii traced their origin to a mythical personage, Caeculus, the founder of Praeneste. He was said to be the son of Vulcan, and engendered by a spark; a similar story was told of Servius Tullius. He was exposed as an infant, but preserved by his divine father, and raised by maidens. He grew up amongst the shepherds, and became a highwayman. Coming of age, he called upon the people of the countryside to build a new town, convincing them with the aid of a miracle. An alternative tradition claimed that the Caecilii were descended from Caecas, one of the companions of Aeneas, who came with him to Italy after the sack of Troy.[3][4][5][1][6][7]


The praenomina used by the Caecilii during the Republic are Lucius, Quintus, Gaius, and Marcus. Titus appears only towards the very end of the Republic, and is not known to have been used by the great house of the Caecilii Metelli.

Branches and cognomina

The cognomina of this gens under the Republic are Bassus, Denter, Cornutus, Metellus, Niger, Pinna, and Rufus, of which the Metelli are the best known. From the consulship of Lucius Caecilius Metellus Denter, the family of the Metelli became one of the most distinguished at Rome. In the latter half of the second century BC, it obtained an extraordinary number of the highest offices of the state. Quintus Metellus, who was consul in 143 BC, had four sons, who were raised to the consulship in succession; and his brother, Lucius Metellus, who was consul in 142, had two sons, who were likewise elevated to the same dignity.

The Metelli were distinguished as a family for their unwavering support of the party of the optimates. The etymology of their name is quite uncertain. Festus connects it, probably from mere similarity of sound, with mercenarii. The history of the family is very difficult to trace, and in many parts conjectural. It is treated at length by Drumann.[8][9][10]

The victory of the consul L. Caecilius Metellus against Hasdrubal's elephants at Panormus in 251 seems to have left a durable impression on the Caecili Metelli, as many of them featured an elephant on the coins they minted. In fact, elephants are so often used on their coins that it might have become their emblem.[11]


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

Caecilii Metelli

Caecilii Dentri

  • Lucius Caecilius Denter, praetor in 182 BC, obtained Sicilia for his province.[26]
  • Marcus Caecilius Denter, one of the ambassadors sent to Perseus in 173 BC to inspect the affairs of Macedonia, and to Alexandria to renew the friendship with Ptolemaeus.[27]

Caecilii Cornuti

  • Gaius Caecilius Cornutus, praetor before 90 BC, then legate in 89 and 88 during the Social War.[28]
  • Gaius Caecilius Cornutus, tribune of the plebs in 61 BC, praetor in 57, and promagistrate the following year in Bythinia and Pontus. He helped Cicero to return from exile during his praetorship, who affectionately called him a "quasi-Cato" for his Optimate ideas. He was probably the historian Cornutus, known from only three fragments, which deal with the Civil War between Caesar and Pompey.[29][30][31]
  • Marcus Caecilius Cornutus, praetor urbanus in 43 BC. He committed suicide when Octavian seized Rome after the Battle of Mutina.[32]
  • Marcus Caecilius M. f. Cornutus, a member of the College of Arvales in 21–20 BC, but perhaps as early as 29, when Augustus re-established the college.[33]
  • Marcus Caecilius M. f. M. n. Cornutus, succeeded his father as Arval. He was of praetorian rank in the reign of Tiberius but, unjustly accused in connection with a plot against the Emperor, put an end to his own life in AD 24.[34][35]



  1. The appearance of Titus Caecilius, a patrician consular tribune for the year 444 BC in Livy, is a false reading for Titus Cloelius.

See also


  1. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, p. 526 ("Caecilia Gens").
  2. Livy, iv. 7.
  3. Festus, s. v. Caeculus.
  4. Servius, vii. 678.
  5. Solinus, ii. 9.
  6. Hartung, Die Religion der Römer, vol. i, pp. 88 ff.
  7. Klausen, Aeneas und die Penaten, pp. 761 ff.
  8. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. II, pp. 1055, 1056 ("Metellus").
  9. Festus, p. 146 (ed. Müller).
  10. Drumann, Geschichte Roms, vol. ii, pp. 17–58.
  11. Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, pp. 287, 288, 292, 293, 387, 388, 390, 471.
  12. Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, p. 390.
  13. Broughton, vol. I, pp. 531–533 (note 1).
  14. Waterfield, Plutarch: Roman Lives, p. 481.
  15. Drumann, Geschichte Roms, ii. 57.
  16. Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, xv. 21. § 2.
  17. Plutarch, "The Life of Caesar", 35, "The Life of Pompeius", 62.
  18. Cassius Dio, xli. 17.
  19. Appian, Bellum Civile, ii. 41.
  20. Caesar, De Bello Civili, i. 33.
  21. Lucan, iii. 114 ff.
  22. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, x. 4, 8.
  23. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, ii. 1. § 1.
  24. Cassius Dio, lv. 30.
  25. Fasti Capitolini, AE 1927, 101; 1940, 59, 60.
  26. Livy, xxxix. 56, xl. 1.
  27. Livy, xlii. 6.
  28. Broughton, vol. II, pp. 26, 30 (note 2), 31 (note 13), 36, 43, 45 (note 11).
  29. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, i. 14.
  30. Broughton, vol. II, pp. 179, 200, 210.
  31. B. M. Levick in Cornell, Fragments, vol. I, pp. 426–428; vol. II, pp. 848–851; vol. III, p. 519. Levick writes that Marcus Caecilius Cornutus, the Arval of 21 BC is another, but less likely possibility.
  32. Broughton, vol. II, p. 338.
  33. Rüpke, Fasti Sacerdotum, pp. 578, 579.
  34. Tacitus, Annales, iv. 28.
  35. Rüpke, Fasti Sacerdotum, p. 579.
  36. Pliny the Elder, vii. 74.
  37. Livy, iv. 16.
  38. Livy, Epitome, 76.
  39. Cicero, Divinatio in Caecilium.
  40. Cicero, Pro Sulla, 22, 23; Post Reditum in Senatu, 9; Pro Milone 14; Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem, iii. 3. § 2.
  41. Asconius Pedianus, In Ciceronis Pro Milone, p. 48 (ed. Orelli).
  42. Quintus Tullius Cicero, De Petitione Consulatus, 2.
  43. Asconius Pedianus, In Ciceronis In Toga Candida, 84 (ed. Orelli).
  44. Cornelius Nepos, The Life of Atticus, 5.
  45. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, i. 1, 12, ii. 19, 20, iii. 20.
  46. Caesar, De Bello Civili, i. 46.
  47. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, xi. 23, xii. 52, xiii. 7.
  48. Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum, iv. 15.
  49. Tacitus, Annales, ii. 41.
  50. Cassius Dio, lvii. 17.
  51. Pliny the Elder, xxviii. 57.
  52. Tacitus, Historiae, ii. 60, iii. 68.
  53. Cassius Dio, lxv. 17.
  54. Cassius Dio, lxvii. 13.
  55. Suetonius, "The Life of Domitian", 8.
  56. Alföldy, Konsulat und Senatorenstand unter der Antoninen, pp. 202 ff.
  57. Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, i. 13.
  58. Minucius Felix, Octavius.
  59. Bähr, Die Christlich-Römische Theologie, § 19.


 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.

  1. Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, p. 471.
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