The gens Decia was a plebeian family of high antiquity, which became illustrious in Roman history by two of its members sacrificing themselves for the preservation of their country. The first of the family known to history was Marcus Decius, chosen as a representative of the plebeians during the secession of 495 BC.
Decius is the Latin form of the Oscan praenomen Dekis, or its gentile equivalent, Dekiis. The praenomen itself is the Oscan equivalent of the Latin name Decimus, and thus the nomen Decius is cognate with the Latin Decimius. From this it may be supposed that the Decii were of Oscan extraction, perhaps arising from the Sabine portion of Rome's original inhabitants. In any event, they were already at Rome in the earliest years of the Republic, as one of them was chosen to represent the plebeians during the first secession in 495 BC.
The praenomina associated with the Decii are Marcus, Publius, and Quintus, of which Publius is the most famous, due to its association with the two consuls who devoted themselves to obtain victory for the soldiers under their command.
Branches and cognomina
The only cognomens that occur in this gens are Mus and Subulo. Mus, or "mouse", was the name of a family which was renowned in early Roman history for two of its members devoting themselves to death in order to save the Republic.
- Marcus Decius, one of the deputies sent to the Senate by the plebeians during their secession to the mons sacer in 495 BC.
- Marcus Decius, tribune of the people in 311 BC, when he carried a plebiscitum, that the people should appoint duumviri navales to restore and equip the Roman fleet.
- Publius Decius Subulo, one of the triumvirs for settling new colonists at Aquileia in 169 BC. He is probably the same person as the legate of 168.
- Publius Decius, one of the legates who in BC 168 brought the news of the defeat of the Illyrians and the capture of their king, Gentius, to Rome.
- Publius Decius, tribune of the people in 120 BC, brought Lucius Opimius to trial for having caused the murder of Gaius Sempronius Gracchus, and for having thrown citizens into prison without a judicial verdict. In 115, Decius was praetor urbanus, when he refused to rise for the consul, Marcus Aemilius Scaurus, who had induced Opimius to take up arms against Gracchus. The consul tore Decius' gown, broke his chair to pieces, and ordered that no-one should receive justice at the hands of the praetor. Cicero describes Decius as an orator who emulated Marcus Fulvius Flaccus, the friend of Gracchus, and was as turbulent in his speeches as he was in life.
- Publius Decius, a colleague of Marcus Antonius, who was taken prisoner at Mutina, but afterward allowed by Octavian to return to his friend. Cicero writes that he endeavoured to follow the example of his ancestors by sacrificing himself to his debts (by accompanying Antonius, through whose influence he hoped to rid himself of debt).
- Decius, proscribed by the Second Triumvirate, took to flight, but while hurrying out of the gates of Rome, was recognized by the centurions and put to death.
- Decius, a Roman sculptor, by whom there was an admired colossal head in the Capitol. He perhaps lived in the first century BC, but his date is very doubtful.
- Quintus Decius Mus, father of the consul of 340 BC.
- Publius Decius Q. f. Mus, consul in 340 BC, during the Latin War. Following a vision that appeared to him and his colleague, when his wing of the army began to waver, he devoted himself and the enemy's army to the gods of death before the Pontifex Maximus, before plunging into the thick of battle, where he was slain, even as the Romans gained the victory.
- Publius Decius P. f. Q. n. Mus, consul in 312, 308, 297, and 295 BC, magister equitum in 306, censor in 304. At the Battle of Sentinum in 295, his troops began to give way under the terrible attacks of the Gauls, so Decius, emulating his father, dedicated himself and the army of the enemy to the gods of the dead, sacrificing himself for his country.
- Publius Decius P. f. P. n. Mus, consul in 279 BC, when he fought against Pyrrhus of Epirus at the Battle of Asculum. Forewarned of the deeds of the consul's father and grandfather, Pyrrhus ordered that Decius should be taken alive, and sent word of this to his opponent.
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
- George Davis Chase, "The Origin of Roman Praenomina", in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, vol. VIII (1897).
- Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, vi. 88.
- Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, ix. 30.
- Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, xliii. 17.
- Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, xlv. 3.
- Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Oratore, ii. 31, 62.
- Sextus Aurelius Victor, De Viris Illustribus, 72.
- Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita Epitome, 61.
- Marcus Tullius Cicero, Philippicae, xi. 6, xiii. 14.
- Appianus, Bellum Civile, iii. 80.
- Appianus, Bellum Civile, iv. 27.