Julia (gens)

The gens Julia or Iulia was one of the most ancient patrician families at Ancient Rome. Members of the gens attained the highest dignities of the state in the earliest times of the Republic. The first of the family to obtain the consulship was Gaius Julius Iulus in 489 BC. The gens is perhaps best known, however, for Gaius Julius Caesar, the dictator and grand uncle of the emperor Augustus, through whom the name was passed to the so-called Julio-Claudian dynasty of the 1st century AD. The nomen Julius became very common in imperial times, as the descendants of persons enrolled as citizens under the early emperors began to make their mark in history.[1]


The Julii were of Alban origin, mentioned as one of the leading Alban houses, which Tullus Hostilius removed to Rome upon the destruction of Alba Longa. The Julii also existed at an early period at Bovillae, evidenced by a very ancient inscription on an altar in the theatre of that town, which speaks of their offering sacrifices according to the lege Albana, or Alban rites. Their connection with Bovillae is also implied by the sacrarium, or chapel, which the emperor Tiberius dedicated to the gens Julia in the town, and in which he placed the statue of Augustus. Some of the Julii may have settled at Bovillae after the fall of Alba Longa.[2][3][4]

As it became the fashion in the later times of the Republic to claim a divine origin for the most distinguished of the Roman gentes, it was contended that Iulus, the mythical ancestor of the race, was the same as Ascanius, the son of Aeneas, and founder of Alba Longa. Aeneas was, in turn, the son of Venus and Anchises. In order to prove the identity of Ascanius and Iulus, recourse was had to etymology, some specimens of which the reader curious in such matters will find in Servius. Other traditions held that Iulus was the son of Aeneas by his Trojan wife, Creusa, while Ascanius was the son of Aeneas and Lavinia, daughter of Latinus.[5][6]

The dictator Caesar frequently alluded to the divine origin of his race, as, for instance, in the funeral oration which he pronounced when quaestor over his aunt Julia, and in giving Venus Genetrix as the word to his soldiers at the battles of Pharsalus and Munda; and subsequent writers and poets were ready enough to fall in with a belief which flattered the pride and exalted the origin of the imperial family.[7]

Though it would seem that the Julii first came to Rome in the reign of Tullus Hostilius, the name occurs in Roman legend as early as the time of Romulus. It was Proculus Julius who was said to have informed the sorrowing Roman people, after the strange departure of Romulus from the world, that their king had descended from heaven and appeared to him, bidding him tell the people to honor him in future as a god, under the name of Quirinus. Some modern critics have inferred from this, that a few of the Julii might have settled in Rome in the reign of the first king; but considering the entirely fabulous nature of the tale, and the circumstance that the celebrity of the Julia gens in later times would easily lead to its connection with the earliest times of Roman story, no historical argument can be drawn from the mere name occurring in this legend.[1][8][9]

In the later Empire, the distinction between praenomen, nomen, and cognomen was gradually lost, and Julius was treated much like a personal name, which it ultimately became. The Latin form is common in many languages, but other familiar forms exist, including Giulio (Italian), Julio (Spanish), Jules (French), Júlio (Portuguese), Iuliu (Romanian) and Юлий (Yuliy, Bulgarian and Russian).


The Julii of the Republic used the praenomina Lucius, Gaius, and Sextus. There are also instances of Vopiscus and Spurius in the early generations of the family. The earliest of the Julii appearing in legend bore the praenomen Proculus, and it is possible that this name was used by some of the early Julii, although no later examples are known. In the later Republic and imperial times, Vopiscus and Proculus were generally used as personal cognomina.

The gens was always said to have descended from and been named after a mythical personage named Iulus or Iullus, even before he was asserted to be the son of Aeneas; and it is entirely possible that Iulus was an ancient praenomen, which had fallen out of use by the early Republic, and was preserved as a cognomen by the eldest branch of the Julii. The name was later revived as a praenomen by Marcus Antonius, the triumvir, who had a son and grandson named Iulus. Classical Latin did not distinguish between the letters "I" and "J", which were both written with "I", and for this reason the name is sometimes written Julus, just as Julius is also written Iulius.

The many Julii of imperial times, who were not descended from the gens Julia, did not limit themselves to the praenomina of that family. The imperial family set the example by freely mingling the praenomina of the Julii with those of the gens Claudia, using titles and cognomina as praenomina, and regularly changing their praenomina to reflect the political winds of the empire.

Branches and cognomina

The family-names of the Julii in the time of the Republic are Caesar, Iulus, Mento, and Libo, of which the first three are undoubtedly patrician; but the only families which were particularly celebrated were those of Iulus and Caesar, the former at the beginning and the latter in the last century of the Republic. On coins the only names which we find are Caesar and Bursio, the latter of which does not occur in ancient writers.[1]

Due to the activity of Julius Caesar in Gaul over many years, a number of natives of the Gallic provinces adopted Julius as their gentilicum, and have no other connection to the Republican Julii. Examples of their descendants include Julius Florus, and Gaius Julius Civilis. Other Julii are descended from the numerous freedmen, and it may have been assumed by some out of vanity and ostentation.[1]


Iulus, also written as Iullus and Julus, was the surname of the eldest branch of the Julii to appear in Roman history. The gens claimed descent from Iulus, who was in some manner connected with Aeneas, although the traditions differed with respect to the details.[10]

In some accounts, Iulus was the son of Aeneas and Creüsa, who came to Latium from the ruins of Troy, together with his father and others seeking a land in which to settle. In others, Ascanius was the son of Creüsa, while Iulus was the son of Lavinia, daughter of Latinus, the king of Latium with whom Aeneas made peace after landing in Italy. In still different accounts, Iulus was the son not of Aeneas, but of Ascanius.

Perhaps an indigenous origin of the name is suggested by De Origo Gentis Romanae, in which Iulus and Ascanius are identical. Described as the son of Jupiter, he was originally known as Jobus, and then Julus. This calls to mind the use of Jove for Jupiter, and the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology suggests that Iulus might be a diminutive of Dius, which is also the root of Jupiter.[10] Furthermore, Livy reports that after his death Aeneas was worshiped as Jupiter Indiges, "the local Jove".[11] This suggests the early fusion of the Aeneas story with a local cult hero, said to have been the son of Jupiter.

Irrespective of the historicity of the Iulus of Roman myth, there is little reason to doubt that Iulus was an ancient personal name, perhaps even a praenomen,[lower-roman 1] and that Julius is a patronymic surname built upon it. Iullus seems to be the older spelling, although Iulus was more common, and some records mistakenly substitute the more familiar Tullus or Tullius for it.[12]


During the century and a half between the last records of the Julii Iuli and the first appearance of the Julii Caesares, we encounter a Lucius Julius Libo, consul in BC 267. His surname Chase translates as "sprinkler", deriving it from libare, and suggests that it might originally have signified the libation pourer at religious ceremonies.[13] It is not certain whether the name was personal, or whether the consul inherited it from his father and grandfather, of whom all we know is that they were named Lucius. Some scholars have supposed that Libo was descended from the Julii Iuli, and that Lucius, the father of Sextus Julius Caesar, was his son; but the evidence is very slight.[14]


The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology says this of the cognomen Caesar:

It is uncertain which member of the Julia gens first obtained the surname of Caesar, but the first who occurs in history is Sextus Julius Caesar, praetor in BC 208. The origin of the name is equally uncertain. Spartianus, in his life of Aelius Verus, mentions four different opinions respecting its origin:

  1. That the word signified an elephant in the language of the Moors, and was given as a surname to one of the Julii because he had killed an elephant.
  2. That it was given to one of the Julii because he had been cut (caesus) out of his mother's womb after her death; or
  3. Because he had been born with a great quantity of hair (caesaries) on his head; or
  4. Because he had azure-colored (caesii) eyes of an almost supernatural kind.

Of these opinions the third, which is also given by Festus, seems to come nearest the truth. Caesar and caesaries are both probably connected with the Sanskrit kêsa, "hair", and it is quite in accordance with the Roman custom for a surname to be given to an individual from some peculiarity in his personal appearance. The second opinion, which seems to have been the most popular one with the ancient writers, arose without doubt from a false etymology. With respect to the first, which was the one adopted, says Spartianus, by the most learned men, it is impossible to disprove it absolutely, as we know next to nothing of the ancient Moorish language; but it has no inherent probability in it; and the statement of Servius is undoubtedly false, that the grandfather of the dictator obtained the surname on account of killing an elephant with his own hand in Africa, as there were several of the Julii with this name before his time.

An inquiry into the etymology of this name is of some interest, as no other name has ever obtained such celebrity — "clarum et duraturum cum aeternitate mundi nomen."[15][16] It was assumed by Augustus as the adopted son of the dictator, and was by Augustus handed down to his adopted son Tiberius. It continued to be used by Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, as members either by adoption or female descent of Caesar's family; but though the family became extinct with Nero, succeeding emperors still retained it as part of their titles, and it was the practice to prefix it to their own name, as for instance, Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus. When Hadrian adopted Aelius Verus, he allowed the latter to take the title of Caesar; and from this time, though the title of Augustus continued to be confined to the reigning prince, that of Caesar was also granted to the second person in the state and the heir presumptive to the throne.[17]


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

Julii Iuli

Julii Mentones

Julii Libones

Julii Caesares

Julio-Claudian dynasty


First century BC

  • Lucius Julius Bursio, triumvir monetalis in 85 BC.[35]
  • Julius Polyaenus, a contemporary of Caesar, and the author of four epigrams in the Anthologia Graeca.[36][37]
  • Lucius Julius Calidus, a poet in the final years of the Republic, proscribed by Volumnius, the partisan of Marcus Antonius, but saved through the intercession of Atticus.[38]
  • Gaius Julius Hyginus, a freedman of Augustus, appointed head of the Palatine library, and the author of numerous books about history, mythology, and science.
  • Julius Modestus, a freedman of Gaius Julius Hyginus, who became a distinguished grammarian, and the author of Quaestiones Confusae.[39][40][41]
  • Julius Marathas, a freedman of Augustus, who wrote a life of his master.[42]
  • Marcus Julius Cottius, king of several Alpine tribes of the Ligures, submitted to Augustus and granted the title of praefectus.

First century

  • Julius Florus, a poet and the author or editor of satires, perhaps the same Julius Florus called by Quintilian one of the foremost orators of Gaul. A Julius Florus, perhaps also the same man, led an insurrection of the Treviri during the reign of Tiberius.
  • Julius Sacrovir, a leader of the Aedui, who together with Julius Florus revolted in AD 21.[43]
  • Julius Secundus Florus, an orator and friend of Quintilian, and nephew of the Gallic orator.[44][45]
  • Julius Montanus, a poet and friend of Tiberius, cited by both the elder and younger Seneca.[46][47]
  • Sextus Julius Postumus, used by Sejanus in one of his schemes, AD 23.[48]
  • Julius Africanus, of the Gallic state of the Santoni, condemned by Tiberius in AD 32.[49]
  • Julius Celsus, a tribune of the city cohort, condemned to death under Tiberius, who broke his own neck in prison, in order to avoid a public execution.[50]
  • Julius Canus, a Stoic philosopher, condemned to death by the emperor Caligula, who promised to appear to his friends after his death, and fulfilled his promise by appearing to one of them in a vision.[51][52]
  • Julius Graecinus, a writer on botany and the father of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, put to death by Caligula.[53][54][55]
  • Gaius Julius Callistus, a freedman of Caligula, influential during his reign and that of Claudius.
  • Gaius Julius Sex. f. Postumus, praefect of Egypt in the reign of Claudius.
  • Marcus Julius M. f. Cottius, son of Marcus Julius Cottius, praefect of the Ligures, upon whom the title of king was conferred by the emperor Claudius.
  • Julius Pelignus, Procurator of Cappadocia in the reign of Claudius, AD 52.[56]
  • Julius Bassus, said by the elder Plinius to have written a medical work in Greek.[57]
  • Gaius Julius Aquila, an eques, sent to protect Cotys, King of the Bosporus, in AD 50.
  • Julius Densus, an eques during the reign of Nero, accused of being too favorably disposed towards Britannicus in AD 56.[58]
  • Julius Diocles of Carystus, author of four epigrams in the Anthologia Graeca.
  • Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, procurator of Britannia from AD 61 to 65.
  • Julia Pacata, wife of Classicanus.
  • Julius Indus, a cavalry commander of the Treviri, and father-in-law of Classicanus.
  • Julius Africanus, a celebrated orator in the reign of Nero.
  • Julius Rufus, consul in AD 67, his death is related by the elder Plinius.[59]
  • Gaius Julius Vindex, one of the chief supporters of Galba, led the rebellion against Nero.
  • Julius Fronto, a supporter of Otho, put in chains by the soldiers because his brother, Julius Gratus, was a supporter of Vitellius.
  • Julius Gratus, praefectus of the camp in the army of Aulus Caecina Alienus, the general of Vitellius, put in chains by the soldiers because his brother, Julius Fronto, was a supporter of Otho.
  • Julius Carus, one of the murderers of Titus Vinius when the emperor Galba was put to death in AD 69.[60]
  • Gaius Julius Civilis, leader of the Batavian Rebellion in AD 69.
  • Julius Classicus, of the Treviri, with Civilis, one of the leaders of the Batavian Rebellion.
  • Julius Paulus, the brother of Civilis, put to death on a false charge of treason by Gaius Fonteius Capito, the governor of Germania Inferior.[61]
  • Julius Briganticus, a nephew of Civilis, who fought under Cerealis in Germania, and fell in battle in AD 71.
  • Julius Sabinus, of the Lingones, joined in the revolt of the Batavi.
  • Julius Tutor, of the Treviri, joined in the rebellion of Classicus.[62]
  • Julius Calenus, of the Aedui, a partisan of Vitellius, sent to Gaul as proof of the emperor's defeat at Cremona in AD 69.[63]
  • Julius Burdo, commander of the Roman fleet in Germania, in AD 70. Previously suspected by the soldiers of having a hand in the death of Gaius Fonteius Capito, he was protected by the emperor Vitellius.[64]
  • Julius Priscus, appointed Praetorian Prefect by Vitellius in AD 69, he failed to hold the passes of the Apennines, and returned to Rome in disgrace.[65]
  • Julius Placidus, tribune of a cohort in the army of Vespasian, who dragged Vitellius from his hiding place.[66][67]
  • Sextus Julius Gabinianus, a celebrated rhetorician who taught in Gaul during the time of Vespasian, and was spoken of by Suetonius in de Claris Rhetoribus.[68][69]
  • Julia Procilla, the mother of Agricola.[70]
  • Gnaeus Julius Agricola, consul in AD 77, the conqueror of Britannia.
  • Julius Cerealis, a poet, and a friend and contemporary of the younger Pliny and Martial.[71][72]
  • Lucius Julius Marinus, governor of Bithynia and Pontus in the late AD 80s.
  • Julius Rufus, a writer of satires, contemporary with Martial.[73]
  • Sextus Julius Frontinus, twice consul in the late 1st century, and author of De Aquaeductu.
  • Julius Naso, a friend of both the younger Pliny and Tacitus, who were interested in his success as a candidate for public office.[74]
  • Julius Calvaster, a military tribune who took part in the rebellion of Lucius Antonius Saturninus, but was pardoned by Domitian.[75][76]
  • Julius Ferox, consul suffectus Ex. Kal. Nov. in AD 100, and curator alvei et riparum Tiberis et cloacarum, sometimes confused with the jurist Urseius Ferox.[77][78]

Second century

Third century

Fourth century

  • Julius Capitolinus, the supposed author of nine biographies in the Historia Augusta.
  • Flavius Julius Crispus, son of the emperor Constantine I; a distinguished soldier, put to death at the instigation of his stepmother in AD 326.
  • Julius Firmicus Maternus, a 4th-century astrologer and writer on the subject of profane religions.
  • Julius I, Pope from AD 337 to 352.
  • Julius Obsequens, perhaps of the 4th century, an author of a tract known as De Prodigiis, or Prodigiorum Libellus, describing various prodigies and phenomena found in the works of earlier writers.
  • Gaius Julius Victor, a rhetorician of the 4th century.
  • Julius Valerius, a historian, probably of the 4th century.[97]
  • Julius Ausonius, an eminent physician, and praefectus of Illyricum under the emperor Valentinian I.
  • (Julius) Ausonius, also called Decimus Magnus Ausonius, son of the physician, a celebrated poet.
  • Julia Dryadia, daughter of the physician Julius Ausonius.
  • Julius Rufinianus, a Latin rhetorician of uncertain date, and the author of a treatise called De Figuris Sententiarum et Elocutionis.[98]
  • Flavius Julius Valens, emperor from AD 364 to 378.
  • Julius Paris, author of an epitome of Valerius Maximus, written perhaps in the 4th or 5th century.

Fifth century and after

  • Flavius Julius Valerius Majorianus, emperor from AD 457 to 461.
  • Julius Nepos, emperor in AD 474 and 475.
  • Julius Exsuperantius, a late Roman historian, probably of the 5th or 6th century; his tract, De Marii, Lepidi, ac Sertorii bellis civilibus may have been abridged from the histories of Sallustius.
  • Claudius Julius or Joläus, a Greek historian of unknown date, wrote works on Phoenicia and the Peloponnesus.[99]
  • Julius Celsus, a scholar at Constantinople in the 7th century, who made a recension of the text of Caesar's commentaries.[100]


  1. During the first century BC, when the revival of ancient praenomina was fashionable, the triumvir Marcus Antonius gave this name to one of his sons, no doubt with the intention of reminding the people that he was himself a descendant of the Julian gens.

See also


  1. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. II, pp. 642, 643.
  2. Dionysius, iii. 29.
  3. Tacitus, Annales, xi. 24.
  4. Niebuhr, vol. i. note 1240, vol. ii. note 421.
  5. Servius, i. 267.
  6. Livy, i. 3.
  7. Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, "Caesar", 6.
  8. Livy, i. 16.
  9. Ovid, ii. 499 ff.
  10. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. II, p. 656.
  11. Livy, i. 2.
  12. Broughton, vol. I pp. 18, 19.
  13. Chase, p. 111.
  14. Griffin, p. 13.
  15. Spartianus, Aelius Verus, 1.
  16. Festus, s. v. Caesar.
  17. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, p. 536.
  18. Broughton, vol. I, pp. 23, 45, 46.
  19. Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss / Slaby : CIL 06, 40956
  20. Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss / Slaby : AE 1900, 00083
  21. Broughton, vol. I, p. 91.
  22. Livy, iv. 35.
  23. Diodorus Siculus, xii. 82.
  24. Broughton, vol. I, pp.78, 80, 91.
  25. Livy, v. 1, 2.
  26. Diodorus Siculus, xiv. 35.
  27. Broughton, vol. I, p. 81.
  28. Broughton, vol. I, pp. 83, 86.
  29. Livy, vi. 4, 30.
  30. Diodorus Siculus, xv. 23, 51.
  31. Livy, vii. 21.
  32. Seneca the Elder, Controversiae, 2, 5, 7, 8, 14, 20, 24-29, 32.
  33. Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita. xlv. 44.
  34. Cicero, 6.
  35. Eckhel, v. p. 227 ff.
  36. Greek Anthology, ix. 1, 7-9.
  37. Suda, s. v. Πολυαινος.
  38. Cornelius Nepos, The Life of Atticus, 12.
  39. Suetonius, The Illustrious Grammarians, 20.
  40. Gellius, iii. 9.
  41. Macrobius, i. 4, 10, 16.
  42. Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, "Augustus", 79, 94.
  43. Tacitus, Annales, ii. 40-46, iv. 18, Historiae, iv. 57.
  44. Quintilian, x. 3. § 13.
  45. Seneca the Elder, Controversiae, iv. 25.
  46. Seneca the Elder, Controversiae, 16.
  47. Seneca the Younger, Letters to Lucilius, 122.
  48. Tacitus, Annales, iv. 12.
  49. Tacitus, Annales, vi. 7.
  50. Tacitus, Annales, vi. 9, 14.
  51. Lucius Annaeus Seneca, De Tranquillitate Animi, 14.
  52. Plutarchus, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, ap. Syncell. p. 330, d.
  53. Seneca the Younger, De Beneficiis, ii. 21, Letters to Lucilius, 29.
  54. Pliny the Elder, xiv-xviii, xiv. 2. § 33.
  55. Tacitus, Agricola, 4.
  56. Tacitus,, Annales, xii. 49.
  57. Pliny the Elder, xx. index.
  58. Tacitus, Agricola, xiii. 10.
  59. Pliny the Elder, xxvi. 1. s. 4.
  60. Tacitus, Historiae, i. 42.
  61. Tacitus, Historiae, iv. 13, 32.
  62. Tacitus, Historiae, iv. 55, 59, 70, v. 19-22.
  63. Tacitus, Historiae, iii. 35.
  64. Tacitus, Historiae, i. 58.
  65. Tacitus, Historiae, ii. 92, iii. 55, 61, iv. 11.
  66. Tacitus, Historiae, iii. 85.
  67. Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, "Vitellius", 16.
  68. Tacitus, Dialogus, 26.
  69. Eusebius of Caesarea, Chronicon ad Vespas. ann. 8.
  70. Tacitus, Agricola, 4.
  71. Pliny the Younger, ii. 19.
  72. Martial, xi. 52.
  73. Martial, x. 99.
  74. Pliny the Younger, iv. 6, vi. 6, 9.
  75. Cassius Dio, lxvii. 11.
  76. Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, "Domitianus", 10.
  77. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. II, pp. 145–147.
  78. Gruter, vol. i. p. 349.
  79. Gruter, p. 162.
  80. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. III, p. 797.
  81. Suda, s. v. Ουηστινος.
  82. Julius Capitolinus, Augustan History, "Maximinus Junior", c. 1.
  83. Servius, iv. 42, x. 18.
  84. Gaius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius, Epistulae, i. 1.
  85. Isidorus Hispalensis, Origines, ii. 2.
  86. Decimus Magnus Ausonius, Ep. xvi. Praef. and line 81.
  87. Cassius Dio, lxxii. 12, lxxiv. 2.
  88. Cassius Dio, lxxv. 10.
  89. Aelius Spartianus, Severus, 13.
  90. Aelius Lampridius, Augustan History, "Alexander Severus", 3.
  91. Cassius Dio, lxxviii. 5, 8.
  92. Sextus Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus and Epitome de Caesaribus (attributed), xviii.
  93. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. II, p. 221.
  94. Sextus Aurelius Victor, Epitome de Caesaribus (attributed), 33
  95. Gruter, cclxxv. 5.
  96. Trebellius Pollio, Augustan History, "Triginta Tyranni" (The Thirty Tyrands).
  97. Angelo Mai, Classici Auctores e Vaticanis codicibus editi (octavo Rom. 1835).
  98. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. III, p. 664.
  99. Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica, s. vv. Ακη, Ιουδαια, Δωρος, Λαμπη.
  100. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. I, p. 661.


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