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Silanus (and) Murena ('I.Priene' 121).

An inscription from Priene, first published at the beginning of this century, honours a local citizen who had among other accomplishments conducted a series of embassies to Roman officials in Asia. The text was originally published by Hiller von Gaertringen, though (as we shall see) his interpretation of it was unsatisfactory in at least one respect.(1)


This paper is especially concerned with the identity of the last of these officials, M. Silanus, quaestor. His identification, however, will be closely connected with that of the governors whose names precede his, and identifying them has caused some problems for scholars. Sumner, for example, assumed that they held office consecutively not long before the composition of this decree,(2) suggesting they served in 101-99 or 97-95 B.C. This suggestion, however, has been rendered untenable by Stumpf, who has shown that an Ephesian cistophoros, dated to the thirteenth year of that city's civic era, reveals that a C. Atinius C.f was governor of Asia in 122/121 B.C.(3) He should therefore be identical with C. Atinius Labeo Macerio (tr. pl. 131)(4) and with the C. Labeo of I.Priene 121. With Labeo thus identified, another identification falls into place: L. Piso should be L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus (cost 115), who would have been a praetorian governor of Asia no later than 118. M. Hypsaeus belongs sometime thereafter, which means that he cannot be M. Plautius Hypsaeus (cost 125), who would be ruled out in any case by the fact that the governors of Asia are all known for the years in which his praetorship could have occurred.(5) The Hypsaeus of our inscription is presumably his son. To judge from the father's consulship, the son will not have reached the praetorship until close to the end of the century. It should be noted, however, that since Hypsaeus pater was a novus homo and so may have been a late consul, Hypsaeus filius may have become praetor slightly earlier than the date of c. 100 suggested by Stumpf. A date as early as c. 105 should not be excluded.

Our special interest is the last of these Roman officials to whom embassies were sent, M. Silanus, quaestor. The name is an unusual one, and has been the subject of various interpretations. Hiller von Gaertringen, who first published the inscription, suggested that the accusative [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which appears on the stone, was a lapicide's error for [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (genitive), and that the embassy approached a `M. Silanus, quaestor of Murena'. He was followed in this interpretation by Munzer and Broughton.(6) It was then supposed that he served under (L. Licinius) Murena, whom Sulla left in charge of Asia in 84 B.C., Silanus being identified with M. Iunius Silanus (pr. 77), who himself became governor of Asia in 76.(7) There are, however, several serious problems with this approach. Even if the text did contain the genitive [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], this would be an unusual and unparalleled way to refer to someone's quaestorship. Any reference to Murena would normally require the use of his praenomen, as with the other Romans named in this inscription, and indeed elsewhere in Greek epigraphy. Finally, the other embassies reported in this inscription seem to have occurred decades before the date required by this interpretation. The ambassador being honoured made other embassies including one to Seleucus, son of Antiochus Grypos of Syria, before the accession of this young man to the throne in 95.(8) If the embassy to Seleucus came before 96, we have no reason to suppose that the decree honouring our Greek ambassador did not also belong before this date, especially since the datable embassies listed all come well before this, with the series of embassies to Roman officials beginning in 122 B.C.

A different approach to the name has been proposed by Wiseman. He retained the original reading of line 23, [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which results in a senator named M. (Iunius) Silanus Murena.(9) His name is explained by supposing that he was born a Licinius Murena, but was subsequently adopted by M. Iunius Silanus. Again, however, there are problems. The first involves the senator's name. Although the practice of keeping one's original cognomen after adoption is known in the late Republic,(10) it is not attested as early as the second century. Traditionally, an adoptee kept a trace of his original family after his adoption by forming an adjectival cognomen from his original gentilicium: Scipio Aemilianus, to cite a famous example, was an Aemilius adopted into the Cornelii Scipiones. Later a different system came into fashion whereby the adoptee's original cognomen was preserved unchanged and added to his new adopted name.(11) In his treatment of adoptive onomastics, Shackleton Bailey cites Cn. Aufidius Orestes (cost 71), an Aurelius Orestes adopted by an Aufidius, as an early example of this new system.(12) More analogous to our case, where the adoptee ends up with two cognomina, is M. Terentius Varro Lucullus (cost 73). He was a Licinius Lucullus adopted by a Terentius Varro.(13) Aufidius Orestes and Varro Lucullus are the earliest attested cases where original cognomina are kept following adoption, and adoptive cognomina in -ianus remain more common for another generation after them. This, however, creates a problem with interpreting Silanus Murena as the name of a single senator, since he would thus exhibit an onomastic fashion of a later period. It is not completely impossible, of course, that our quaestor is the earliest attested case of this new onomastic practice. But even if his full name had been M. Iunius Silanus Murena, it is far from obvious why his name would appear as it does in I.Priene 121. Whoever composed its text edited the names of the Roman officials included in it. No gentilicium is mentioned for any of the Roman governors mentioned, each of whom is named in a simple binomial fashion: C. (Atinius) Labeo (Macerio), L. (Calpurnius) Piso (Caesoninus) and M. (Plautius) Hypsaeus. All of them are called by praenomen and cognomen only; gentilicia and supplementary cognomina are omitted. Again the name `Silanus Murena' seems out of place.

Because of these two consideration--the apparently anachronistic form of Murena's name and the lack of consistency between its presentation and that of the other names listed--I wish to resurrect the suggestion, made by Wosnick several decades ago, that the name M. Silanus Murena is the result of a lapicide's error and that this part of the inscription was supposed to read [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] < [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] > [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] < [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] >.(14) Epigraphically Wosnick's solution is credible, since the lapicide has made exactly the same kind of error only one word earlier--just as his eye jumped from the alpha in [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], to the alpha in [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], so too could he pass over the letters between the ON in [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and the same letters at the end of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (Apparently someone was having a bad day.)(15) Nor should we be surprised that the mistake, which appears in the middle of a decree that was originally over forty lines long, was not caught and corrected. The Romans are mentioned not in order to honour them, but because of their connection with the Greek whose career is being recounted. Years will have passed between their presence in Asia and the composition of this decree. Moreover, this particular mistake has not resulted in anything that is obviously nonsensical or especially noticeable. Wosnick's solution explains all the evidence and raises none of the problems presented by the interpretations advocated by Hiller von Gaertringen and Wiseman. It has the important advantage of producing names that are onomastically `normal' and consistent with the practice of using only a praenomen and single cognomen for each of the Roman officials mentioned in the text. The upshot of it is that we now have two senators, not one, to place in the context of the late second century, a M. Silanus and a Murena. It is this implication that the rest of this article will examine.

Let us begin with the M. (Iunius) Silanus. The honorand of I.Priene 121 conducted a series of embassies to Roman officials (accepting Wosnick's emendation) [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] | [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] < [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] > [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] < [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Silanus is clearly to be numbered among the plural in [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; he is not a [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which (because it is singular) can only describe Murena. Thus Silanus will have been praetor sometime in the late second century. Although a praetorian governorship in Asia would not be strictly impossible for the one M. Silanus known for this period (cost 109),(16) this man seems not to be the Silanus of I.Priene 121. The list of praetors whom the honorand approached is, as far as we can tell, in chronological order, and so Silanus will have been governor after M. Hypsaeus, who seems to belong at the very end of the second century, as we have seen. It seems necessary, therefore, to suppose that there was another M. Silanus. slightly younger than the consul of 109.

Wosnick, who first postulated the existence of this younger Silanus, did not venture to identify him more closely, suggesting only that he is a link between the Iunii Silani of the second century and those of the late Republic.(17) In this context, however, it is worth noting a moneyer of 116 or 115 B.C., M. (Iunius) Sila(nus), whom Crawford with hesitation identified with the consul of 109.(18) Crawford's slight reluctance about this identification arises from his discussion of Silanus' colleague as moneyer, Cn. Domitius, whom he identifies as the later consul of 96. To have one moneyer becoming consul a half-generation before his colleague is obviously difficult. Moreover, the interval between Silanus' moneyership and the year of his consulship, a mere six or seven years, is exceptionally short when compared to those known for other moneyers who later became consul.(19) Admittedly it is possible that Silanus became moneyer at a relatively advanced age and that the point in holding the magistracy was to provide him with additional self-advertisement in the years immediately leading up to praetorian or consular elections.(20) In Silanus' case, however, this explanation might not be necessary. We have already seen that I.priene 121 reveals the existence of a homonymous contemporary of the consul of 109, only slightly his junior, and we should consider whether it was he, not the consul of 109, who was the mint magistrate of c. 115. The younger of the two Silani was (as we saw) praetor of Asia sometime after M. Hypsaeus, whose term in Asia probably belongs to the last five years or so of the second century. Such a date would fit well with our new praetor of Asia, if he had indeed been moneyer c. 115--a decade or so between moneyership and praetorship is reasonably typical in this period.(21) Moreover, it would also make him a close contemporary with Cn. Ahenobarbus (cost 96), whom Crawford identified as his colleague as moneyer, which does away with the awkward half-generation between the ages of the two moneyers.

Two M. Iunii Silani, then, seem to have been active towards the end of the second century B.C. How were they related? The interval between their careers is not long enough for them to have been father and son; nor can they be brothers, since they have the same praenomen. Conveniently, two Iunii Silani of the previous generation can be supposed to be their fathers: D. Silanus (Manlianus) (pr. 141) and M. Iunius (Silanus), moneyer in c. 145.(22) Since a thirty-year interval between generations seems typical,(23) these were probably the fathers of the consul of 109 and the moneyer of c. 115, respectively. But this makes it unlikely that our two M. Silani were first cousins, since their fathers were very probably not brothers. Against the likelihood of this is the adoption of Manlianus into the Iunii Silani, which implies that his adoptive father had no living heir or reasonable hope of producing one.(24) If we accept Crawford's reasonable suggestion that the moneyer of c. 145 is identical with the M. Iunius D.f. who sponsored the lex Iunia de repetundis,(25) one reconstruction of their stemma would be as in Figure 1.(26)


We can now consider the identity of the final Roman official to whom the honorand said to have conducted an embassy: <? [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] > [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. His identification and the dating of his quaestorship is especially troublesome, since the error that probably occurred in this line could have obliterated any praenomen, which means that any Murena of the late second or early first century cannot be ruled out. He was, however, presumably related to L. Licinius Murena (cost 62), whom Cicero successfully defended in 63. In the pro Murena, Cicero informs us that Murena's great-grandfather, grandfather and father had all reached the praetorship.(27) His father, whom Sulla left to govern Asia in the 80s, was probably praetor in the year 88.(28) Broughton, following Munzer, suggested that the grandfather of the consul of 62 should have been praetor before 100.(29) Although this is surely correct as a terminus ante quem, a much earlier date is likely. Since the consul of 62 was born no later than 105, his grandfather can hardly have been born later than 155 or (better) 165, if a guess must be made. This means, however, that he was probably eligible for the praetorship by the 120s. Such a date also has the advantage of placing his praetorship about a generation before that of his son in 88, which is what one would expect anyway. A stemma for the family can be constructed as in Figure 2.(30)


With this outline of the family, we can now turn to the question of the identity of Murena the quaestor of I.Priene 121. Since all known Murenae of this period are accounted for by this simple stemma, we should look for out quaestor here. We have already seen that the grandfather of the consul of 62 probably reached the praetorship by c. 120. If this is correct, he would be too old to be the quaestor mentioned in I.Priene 121, since if he held that magistracy, it would have come at least a decade, and more probably a dozen years, before his praetorship.(31) This would place any potential quaestorship held by him well before the embassies to the other Roman officials listed in the inscription and possibly even before the formation of the province of Asia. It is more likely that the quaestor is one of that man's sons, L. Murena (RE 122, pr. 88) or P. Murena (RE 124). The latter, whom Cicero characterizes as a hard-working orator of moderate talent,(32) was probably the younger brother of the former. Since the quaestor's praenomen has been lost, either identification is, strictly speaking, possible. An argument against P. Murena, however, can be made. Cicero mentions him in a section of the Brutus where the arrangement seems to correspond with the dates of birth of the orators being treated.(33) Cicero lists him among orators of the aetas of Hortensius, who have birth dates from c. 114 to c. 106.(34) Apparently Publius was Lucius' younger brother by some fifteen years--if, indeed, they were brothers at all. Be that as it may, if Publius was ever quaestor, he will probably not have reached this office before the early 80s. This makes it virtually impossible to identify him with the quaestor of I.Priene 121, since in all likelihood the series of embassies listed in that document ends before 96, as we have seen. The balance of probabilities, therefore, suggests that the Murena of I.Priene 121 should be identical with the praetor of 88, and that he had served in Asia both as quaestor and later as proconsul. We have already seen that typically a dozen years would separate a senator's quaestorship and praetorship in this period, which would place Murena's quaestorship within a few years of 100.(35) Such a date fits the chronological arrangement of the Roman officials listed in I. Priene 121, who are as follows:

C. (Atinius) Labeo (Macerio) (RE 3, 10): tr. pl. 131, pr. Asia 122.

L. (Calpurnius) Piso (Caesoninus) (RE 88): pr. Asia by 115, cost 112.

M. (Plautius) Hypsaeus (not in RE): pr. Asia c. 105.

M. (Iunius) Silanus (not in RE): mon. c. 115, pr. Asia c. 102.

<L.> (Licinius) Murena (RE 122); quaest. Asia c. 100, pr. 88.

We started with the suggestion of Hiller von Gaertringen that an embassy from Priene was sent to Murena's quaestor and have now come to the conclusion that the embassy probably approached Murena himself, but a dozen years earlier than had been supposed. There would not be much point in attempting to identify the praetor or proconsul under whom he served.(36) But it should be recognized that it is not impossible that Murena himself held imperium and governed the province in his own right. If a governor died or left his province before a replacement arrived, his quaestor would take charge as quaestor pro praetore,(37) and sometimes a quaestor or exquaestor would be sent with praetorian imperium to govern a province.(38) If this was in fact the case, it would neatly explain why Priene sent an embassy to a quaestor rather than to his superior. It would also fit well with the rough date that has been established above for Murena's quaestorship. That Cilicia had been made a separate command in these years will have meant that there was one less praetor available for the provincial lottery in a period in which provinces regularly outstripped the number of available praetors anyway.(39) One way of dealing with this structural deficiency in praetors was the prorogation of officials.(40) Another solution, however, seems to have been to allot provinces to quaestors, who governed pro praetore, and this may have been the case with Murena.

To conclude, this article has considered a series of Roman officials mentioned in I.Priene 121 and has placed them in their chronological and familial contexts. Its major point has been the identification of two roughly contemporary senators, both named M. Iunius Silanus, who flourished towards the end of the second century. They, though homonymous, may have been only distantly related--second cousins, once removed on the reconstruction suggested above. The supposed connection between them and the Licinii Murenae whether due to service as quaestor or due to adoption--has little justification and is probably merely the result of a simple error on the part of a lapicide. Murena, the quaestor mentioned in I.Priene 121, should be none other than Sulla's ally, who had probably served in Asia before Sulla had appointed him governor in the eighties. Perhaps this consideration had been a factor in his appointment.
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Author:Eilers, Claude
Publication:The Classical Quarterly
Date:Jan 1, 1996
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