M’. Valerius Maximus (494 BCE)

The Trusted Man
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Magister equitum: Q. Servilius Priscus Structus

Caussa: [rei gerundae]

Consuls: A. Verginius Tricostus Caeliomontanus, T. Veturius Geminus Cicurinus. Consuls named jointly: Livy 2.30.4, Dion. Hal. 6.39.2.

Circumstances: Plebeian secession before levy against Aequi and Volsci. Mandate actions: Appeased plebs; enemy defeated.

Nomination: Dictator is urged by plebs-hating Ap. Claudius because unanswerability would intimidate plebs (Livy 2.29.9-12) or to force senate and people into reaction (Dion. Hal. 6.38.3). Appius’s suggestion prevailed because of faction; he was nearly appointed (Livy 2.30.2). Dionysius: “young senators” supported him using violence (6.39.1). Consuls and senior senators made sure a gentler man was appointed (Livy 2.30.4-5). [For M’. Valerius, brother of P. Valerius Poplicola, note corrupted reference as M. at Livy 3.7.6. Praenomen M’. in AT and Dion. Hal. 6.23, but M. in Cic. Brut. 54, Orosius 2.5, Zon. 7.14. No praenomen in Val. Ant (fr 17P). Tradition has M. Valerius killed at Regillus (Elogium, Inscr.Ital. 13.78).] Consuls chose Valerius as favorable to commons and old, reasoning that the terror of the office need not be augmented by the ferocity of its occupant (Dion. Hal. 6.39.2). Valerius points out that senate would not have given him absolute power if he might betray the people (6.40.3).

Powers: Plebs saw dictatorship was aimed at them, but were mollified by choice of Valerius (Livy 2.30.5). His success in getting plebs to sign up for the levy owed to the greater credence in both the man and the office, compared to prior edicts from consul Servilius (Livy 2.30.6). Cicero: he earned cognomen by appeasing plebs during secession (Brut. 54). Livy: placating of plebs accomplished by Agrippa Menenius (2.32.8-12; 2.33.10-11). He is unable to carry senate when asking a resolution regarding nexum (2.31.8). Prevented from carrying the promises of relief by the same “young and violent” senators who had supported Appius (Dion. Hal. 6.43.2).

Exit: Triumphed and given dedicated seat at circus for himself and descendants (Livy 2.31.3; ff. elogium, AT). Consul Vetusius forced to fight another battle because his men accused him of delaying so that dictator would be out of office when they returned to the city, and so would not be able to fulfill his promises to them (Livy 2.31.4-5, not reported in Dionysius.). Valerius lays down his office after senate refuses his counsel, stating he won’t be dictator to no purpose (Livy 2.31.10) or because he says he is too old to face down his abusers (Dion. Hal. 6.44.3).

Notes: In the war with Aequi and Volsci, consuls had three armies, and dictator had four (Livy 2.30.7). Domus Valeriorum on Palatine was presented by the state (Val. Ant. ap. Asc. Pis. 52).


Appius Claudius, naturally harsh, and rendered savage by the hatred of the plebs on the one hand and the praises of the Fathers on the other, said that it was not misery but license that had stirred up so great a hubbub, and that wantonness was what ailed the plebs rather than anger. That was precisely the mischief which the appeal occasioned; for the consuls might threaten but could not command, when those who had shared in the guilt might be constituted the court of appeal. "Come," said he, "let us appoint a dictator, from whom there is no appeal. At once this frenzy which has now set everything ablaze will be stilled. Let anybody strike a lictor then, knowing that the right to scourge and behead him rests with that one man whose majesty he has violated!” … But the consuls and the older senators saw to it that a magistracy rendered formidable by its paramount authority should be committed to a man of gentle disposition, and chose for dictator Manius Valerius, son of Volesus.

Livy 2.29.9-12, 2.30.4


After this, when most people expected that Appius would be appointed dictator as the only person who would be capable of quelling the sedition, the consuls, acting with one mind, excluded him and appointed Manius Valerius, a brother of Publius Valerius, the first man to be made consul, who, it was thought, would be most favorable to the people and moreover was an old man. For they thought the terror alone of the dictator’s power was sufficient, and that the present situation required a person equitable in all respects, that he might occasion no fresh disturbances.

Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 6.39.2


Valerius, having succeeded in this war according to his desire and celebrated the customary triumph in honor of his victory, … asked the senate to fulfill for him the promises they had made, now that they had received the hearty co-operation of the plebeians in the late engagements. However, the senate paid no regard to him, but, just as before the young and violent men, who were superior to the other party in number, had joined together to oppose his motion, so on this occasion also they opposed it and raised a great outcry against him, calling his family flatterers of the people and the authors of vicious laws.

Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 6.43.1-2


This resolution having failed to pass, the dictator said: “I do not please you in urging harmony. You will soon wish, I warrant you, that the Roman plebs had men like me for their spokesmen. For my own part I will not be the means of further disappointing my fellow citizens, nor will I be dictator to no purpose. Internal strife and foreign war made this office necessary to the nation; peace has been secured abroad, but at home it is being thwarted; I will play my part as a private citizen rather than as a dictator, when the mutiny breaks out.” So saying he left the Curia and laid down his office.

Livy 2.31.9-10



† = died in office;  ‡ = resigned;  § = suffect.  ° = appointing consul.