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Volume1, Issue 2
Pro Mn. Fonteio C. f.   By: Mark Passehl

The mint magistracy of Marcus Fonteius (Crawford RRC no.347) is doubly rare for being attested in the classical literature (Cicero pro M. Fonteio 5) but not represented by any extant coinage bearing his name. Certainly not impossible. However a closer examination of Cicero's evidence and a key characteristic of the manuscript copying tradition would indicate that Cr347 and 353 belong so closely together that they may well be interpreted as one and the same.

I.      Marcus  v.  Manius.

There is nothing new about the problem of distinguishing the three Roman forenames beginning M in manuscript traditions. G. V. Sumner began a notable paper on the career of Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus Livianus (cos.77) with an examination of the reported manuscript readings of Asconius and Valerius Maximus for a list of five viri consulares1appearing in both as hostile witnesses at the trial of Gaius Cornelius in 66 BC.2 His analysis is instructive. The two lists differ by one entire name and identity, but the other four are common to both, including a Lepidus. He was able to demonstrate with ease that the variant identity in Valerius' list is an error: once again vindicating the historical reliability of Asconius, an authority noted for minute accuracy of detail. However, in the endeavour of identifying Lepidus between the two possibilities of Manius the consul of 66 and Mam. Livianus the results were almost the reverse. In this case the historical analysis indicated that the witness had to be Mamercus,3 but when it came to the manuscript tradition (over which the original author obviously had no control), Sumner was able to show that the extant texts of Asconius are incapable of reproducing the abbreviations for Manius (m. or M., with some form of right-side or superscript annotation) or Mamercus (Mam.) and, when not making clangers like “L.” for “M.”, invariably render all three M-forenames in the simplest form (m. or M.) which signifies Marcus. 4 On the other hand the two principal manuscripts of Valerius both abbreviate Mamercus' forename with a superscript, which while properly standing for Manius (and duly rendered as such in at least the Iulius Paris epitome of the text), was at least a tradition capable of something better than the simplest form.


Now Graham Sumner is an expert prosopographer alert to the importance of such minutiae for reconstructing ancient biography and ultimately historical events, and not all modern scholars share his understanding, even the most proficient editors of ancient texts. Recently when flicking through the Teubner edition of Velleius Paterculus' brief history a curious piece of editorial work glared back at me.5 Velleius' received text dates the death of Cato the censor by the appropriate consuls, but the second of them rendered inexactly (I 13.1): "L. Censorino M. Manlio consulibus" (approx. 149 BC). The editior emends to "M. Man<i>lio", correctly so for the gentilicum, but oddly overlooking the forename, which is fully preserved in the Capitoline fasti for this year (ad an.604):


L. Marcius Censorinus' colleague was Manius Manilius. It is not merely the mediaeval copyists who struggle with the M-forenames.

This invites something to supplement Sumner's observations. And who better than the most famous Manius of all? The first of the Glabriones (cos.191) victor of Thermopylae in the bellum Antiochinum. He also seems to have been the first man in Italy to receive a golden statue in celebration of his achievements (Livy XL 34).

Polybius barely knows what a cognomen is, and normally uses forenames with gentilica, or just forenames. So in his surviving passages Glabrio is plain Manios (XX 9-10, XXI 2-5). And of course the fasti Capitolini almost never err. Ad an.562 (ca.191 BC):


Next stop Livy, with a specific query about the proportions of Manius to Marcus abbreviations in the mss. Livy relied heavily on Polybius for his accounts of Rome's eastern wars down to 146 BC. So this is where it gets interesting. The answer is Manius 0, Marcus 100%. That is following the Oxford texts by McDonald (1965) and Walsh (1999) for Livy 31-40. In every case the forename abbreviation is m. or M. emended to M'. by editors. McDonald has some detailed notes on (absence of) the Manius forename in his apparatus criticus (e. g. pp.142-45 ad Livy XXXIII 24-26) where Glabrio is aedilis and elected praetor and allotted a province. Further on he is elected consul as m., again becoming M.' only by emendation (McDonald app.crit.p.273 ad Livy XXXV 24.5). Over to Walsh and the bellum Antiochinum command. Here it's all very simple, as Acilius Glabrio appears as consul in the opening line of bk.36. Walsh makes a blanket comment in the apparatus (p.1): M. in the manuscripts emended to M.' by Sigonius, "as always". When he troubles to return to the matter (rarely) it is only to repeat more of the same (e. g. p.316 ad Livy XL 34, the occasion of his son's establishment of the statua aurata).

This exercise is indicative of a serious issue in Roman prosopography. The manuscript tradition is simply incapable of preserving the abbreviation for Manius, against simplification to plain M for Marcus, with any degree of reliability or regularity. And often enough, with none at all.


How does this affect Cr347? He of the rarest coinage of all: none. The suspicion arises that this mint magister may well be modern imagining and that Cicero's client was Cr353: M/. FONTEI.C.F. This was the witty fellow whose denarii combined laureate Apollo obverse with the unusual Bacchic motif of Cupid astride a goat on the other side. Crawford (RRC p.369) dates him to 85 BC and lists five variants with a count of some 215 obverse dies. Plus a small issue of full unit bronzes. He suggests a brother of M. Fonteius no.347. However there doesn't appear to be a Marcus in this family attested independently of the literature and thus the manuscript copying foibles. Another Manius Fonteius Gai filius appears as a senator in a contemporary Greek inscription from the mid 2nd

century BC.6 Furthermore the earlier Fontei who struck coinage are attested as Gaius (Cr290, ca.113 BC) or Manius (Cr307). A Marcus Fonteius does appear as a praetor of Rome in the last elections registered in Livy's extant text at the end of bk.45. But this is merely a one-off manuscript M at the end of the worst and most thinly attested part of Livy's text.7 We have already seen the value of the readings when there are plenty of manuscripts and the subject is the famous Manius Acilius. So the reliability of this one may be doubted. More promising is an isolated inscription attesting a Marcus in the praetorian noble family of Fontei Balbi.8 However the text is from Tuscany, and combines with the cognomen Balbus and tribe Sabatina to confirm the accents of a family from the Etruscan-speaking regions. Cicero is explicit about the Tusculan patria of his client (pro Fonteio 41), where the language was Latin and the predominant tribe was Papiria. The two families were quite distinct in the historical period, even if both came from Etruria in their ultimate origins.


There also seems to be an exact convergence of dates for the mint triumvirates of Cr347 and 353, despite Crawford's tentative and dubious "?before 87 BC" for "Marcus"(347). He cannot date any later than 85 since C. Licinius Macer, C. Cassius and L. Salinator (Cr354-5) are all attributed to 84, as well as the coining aedilis cur. P. Fourius Crassipes (no.356). 87 is full with L. Rubrius Dossenus and the two Memmi of Galeria tribe (Cr348-349), likewise 86 with GAR, OGVL and VER signing their coins together (Cr350A, 456 obv. dies for the silver), and the small issue of the aediles pl. (Cr351, 22 obv. dies). Cicero attests his client's mint magistracy prior to his quaestura in 84 BC, and followed by a legatio in Spain in 83 (pro Fonteio 1-6, the Vatican fragments found by

Niebuhr). Although the relevant passages are quite corrupt and lacuna-ridden, enough survives to show that his finance magistracies were very busy postings in a period of reform following the lex Valeria of 86 BC (Font.1). Finally Cicero's reasonably good record of his client's command in Gallia Transalpina (in 74-71 BC, following a praetura in 75) includes numerous subordinate officers and legates, among them the legatus C. Fonteius (Font.18) who could well be a frater, whether germanus or patruelis, but no hint of of the brother Manius one expects in accordance with Crawford's suggestion about the relationship of his nos.347 and 353. Nor a subordinate Marcus for that matter, on the supposition that no Manius in Cicero's original text would have survived unconverted. There seems every reason, then, to suppose that the initial suspicion holds good: that in combination with the career convergence of Cicero's client and the independently (hoard-collation-based) dated mint master of ca.85, there is no M-forename legate Fonteius serving under the commander of Gallia Transalpina because the latter IS the Manius Fonteius of that generation.


Against is the mss. unanimity of the pro Fonteio text and title for M. Fonteius. This title has become extremely familiar among the classically trained (whose ranks certainly include M. Crawford) through the constant repetition, and frequent conversion into long-hand translations (“For Marcus Fonteius”) until it sinks in as an immutable fact. Thus disguising the essential worthlessness of the manuscript tradition in the question of Manius v. Marcus. However, I'm only assuming the mentioned unanimity of the codices, since the apparatus criticus of the Oxford pro Fonteio doesn't register any variants. There might be some if the manuscripts were ever collated with an eye for the issue. As it is we are allowed to see that when a different and historical Manius (Aquillius) is referred to in the same speech (Font.38) the manuscripts all have plain m., duly emended to M.' by an early editor (Manutius).


II. Macedonica legatio of Manius Fonteius (pr.75), 78-77 BC.

P. Clodius became a plebeian by a notoriously bogus transaction in which he was adopted by a married 19 y.o. turning 20 soon after, P. Fonteius (Cicero dom.sua 34, 77). Cicero, however, stresses the negative. He didn't like Clodius to an excess, and tells us all about the irregularities. So it's legitimate to infer that what he doesn't mention was done properly. The key essential of status transfer per plenary adoption was for the adoptee to enter the tribe and family rites of the adoptor, and it is doubtful whether P. Claudius Pulcher, who renamed himself P. Clodius, would have been permitted to be tribune, even under the Gang of Three regime, without transferring into the rites of the Fontei and their Tusculan tribe of Papiria (patrician Claudi were Arnensis). He was already married to a noted lady of Tusculum, Fulvia M. f., and because of the religious nature of the transitio it was unvarying practice to be adopted only by relatives with shared blood (propinqui) owing to a previous marriage connection. Cicero's silence on these specifics may be taken to mean that in these essential respects Clodius and Fonteius adhered to the rules. An available definition of the Claudio-Fonteian propinquitas and perhaps the most likely scenario, is to identify the second wife of the Gracchanus Appius Claudius (cos.143) and mother of the consular brothers (Caius cos.92, Appius cos.79) as a Fonteia. This would suitably make P. Clodius her grandson, and again no reason to expect Cicero to mention such "legitimizing" details.


The mysterious Macedonian command of Manius Fonteius (IIIvir mint 85, pr.75) is mentioned in the extant summarizing conclusion of Cicero's pro Fonteio. The details are lost with the early missing portions of the speech, between the so-called fragmenta Niebuhriana dealing with his service under the Marian government, and the inception of the codex Vaticanus text already discussing his Gallic command post praeturam. Still, it is evident from what remains even in the concluding summary that Fonteius found himself in a difficult situation which he handled with sufficient competence and success to gain significant reputation and admiration among the Macedones (pro Fonteio 44):

“The first obstacle thrown up to oppose the onslaughts of these opponents of ours is Macedonia: a loyal and friendly province to the Roman People, which states that both itself and its cities were preserved not just by the planning but by the hand too of M<anius> Fonteius, when it was defended by his person from the advent and plundering of the Thracians.”9

Since his quaestura was in Italy under the Mariani and his praetura was followed by a triennium in command of the Transalpina, it follows that this posting belongs under the Sullan restoration to the period 81/76 BC, but before about Quintilis 76 when he was in Rome canvassing and being elected praetor. Now that was around the same time as the death of the Macedonian commander Appius Claudius (cos.79), amid hard campaigning in the Rhodope mountains. The situation was still critical in the Balkans following all the invasions of Macedonia during the Mithradatic Wars. So much so that following Appius' death the normal practice of awaiting the new command year was not followed. Instead the current consul Gaius Scribonius Curio went out in office to take over and push on with the offensive operations which Claudius had begun after stemming the tide of the invasions.

But Appius' command involves a really curious anomaly. One grows accustomed to expecting the wierd and wonderful wherever the patrician Claudi are involved. This case also appears to be unique. Appius departed Rome for his province in spring or early summer 78 post consulatum in the normal way, indeed at the same time as his colleague P. Servilius was heading out to Cilicia, with such later military luminaries among the junior officers on his command staff as L. Valerius Flaccus (pr.63), C. Caesar (pr.62) and Titus Labienus (pr.59). But things quickly went awry for Appius. He fell ill at Tarentum just short of the normal crossing point to set out for eastern commands. There's an interesting relevant fragment from Sallust's Histories (I 127, ed. Maurenbrecher):

Itaque Servilius aegrotum Tarenti collegam, prior transgressus. . .

Appius remained so ill that he could not complete the journey to Macedonia to succeed Cn. Dolabella, as must have been ordered by the S. C. extending his command rights ex consulatu. After returning to Rome for the remainder of the year and even serving as interrex at the opening of the 77 consular year amid the tumultus Lepidanus (Sallust's oratio Philippi 22), he eventually took up his Macedonian command in about the summer of 77 BC, no doubt only subsequent to Lepidus' defeat and flight to Sardinia. This is the real constitutional oddity. Once he returned to Rome in 78 his imperium lapsed, and must have been renewed again in 77. That would be extremely odd, even for a Claudius, especially if we follow the common assumption that Dolabella remained in place until Appius came out in 77, and so returned to Rome and triumphed that year.10 But there is no good reason to suppose that this happened. Dolabella had been in Macedonia since summer 80 BC, unable to stem the invasions effectively, and after two years of it was probably keen to return in accordance with the S. C. appointing Appius his successor. Suetonius provides the evidence that Caesar's prosecution of Dolabella took place in 77, only after the defeat of Lepidus and his flight from Italy,11 but not for the date of Dolabella's return and triumph, both of which were prior. Caesar himself accompanied P. Servilius' army beyond Tarentum to Pamphylia in summer 78, and seems to have briefly participated in some early campaigning, but hurried home after hearing of the serious troubles being stirred up by the consul M. Lepidus, and did not return to the post he had deserted even though he ultimately decided not to join Lepidus' insurrection (Suetonius DIulius 3). Sallust's phrase "prior transgressus" for Servilius' crossing in summer 78 indicates that Appius made the crossing to Dyrrachium or Apollonia at that time, even though he could not proceed to Macedonia proper. But there is no reason that he could not have sent his quaestor or a legatus with the five lictors and delegated imperium pro praetore to take over the province in his name, and there are good grounds to argue that this is indeed what happened. Namely the evident propinquitas of the Fontei of Tusculum with Appius' family, and Cicero's extant evidence, even such as it is, for Manius Fonteius' command among the Macedones.

Owing to his election in about Quintilis 76 there is no room for this command between Appius' death and Curio's arrival. Indeed Fonteius was probably back in Rome in spring 76 even before Appius died. The sources on Appius' command in person (especially Orosius V 23.17) stress how Macedonia was beset when he first arrived (77 BC) and that the worry of defeating and deflecting all these raiders undermined his health. We already know from Sallust and the circumstances of his delayed command that he had a serious health problem. But defeat the raiders he did, and when he died it was well north of the province tackling Maedi (Julius Obsequens 59) and other Thracians of the Rhodopa (Eutropius VI 2.1, etc.). Ignore the Scordisci mentioned by Orosius. They surely had the worst, or most fearsome reputation of the actively hostile Balkans nations, but L. Scipio had massacred them in 91 BC, driving the survivors back beyond the Danube (Appian Illyr. 5) and they were not historically a serious presence for several generations. Note also that the incursions which beset Dolabella's command are attested by contemporary epigraphy,12 whereas by the time Curio took over the Romans were on the offensive, and he eventually reached the Danube. So the attested defensive warfare conducted by Fonteius locks in with Appius' first operational season in command.

It would appear practically certain that Appius sent Fonteius as his senior and most experienced legatus to replace Cn. Dolabella, that the latter returned to Rome in about the late summer 78, that Lepidus waited until after Dolabella's triumph and disbandment of his army (or such elements as he brought home) to launch his rebellion, and that Fonteius governed Macedonia as Appius' legatus pro pr. for an entire command year (summer 78 to summer 77) prior to Appius' belated arrival. In the course of this ad hoc command he seems to have conducted significant defensive operations around the major cities in the north against invading raider nations which gained him not only reputation but a local clientele large and devoted enough to put in an enthusiastic appearance in Rome in 71 BC when he was being prosecuted for extortion from his Gallic command (Cic.Font.44).



1  That is, men who had held the highest office of consul.

2  “Manius or Mamercus?”, JRS 54 (1964), 41-48.

3   Sumner (n.2), passim.

4   Sumner (n.2), 41.

5  Together with the Oxford Classical Texts series and the Guillame Budé Society in Paris,  the German publisher Teubner produces  the state-of-the-art editions of  ancient  texts  upon which  literary scholars and  historians rely.

6  R. K. Sherk (ed.)  RDGE  5.

7  Livy registers  the praetors P. Fonteius Balbus  in 168  (XLIV 17),   P. Fonteius Capito  in the previous year  (XLIII 11), and  a  "T." Fonteius Capito  in 178 (XL 59).  The latter should be regarded  as a C. Fonteius.  The preceding name in the mss. is  “C. Claudius Nero”,  regularly emended  to Ti. for Tiberius.  While that is a correct change, the editors have failed to notice that these forenames have been  transposed, with C.  belonging to Fonteius and the T.  (a very common corruption, or simplification error,  for Ti. in Livian  manuscripts)  to  Claudius Nero.

8  CIL XI, 1809 (Saena = mod.Siena, Tuscany):    “M. Fonteio  C.  f.  / Sab. Balbo  /  et Titiae Q. f.  /[T]ertiae uxsori  fili  / posuerunt ex  /  testamento patris”.

9  Primum obicitur contra istorum impetus Macedonia, fidelis et amica populo Romano provincia, quae cum se ac suas urbis non solum consilio sed etiam manu M< ' >. Fontei conservatam esse dicit ut ipsa per hunc a Thraecum adventu ac depopulatione defensa <est>.

10  See the standard work on the Roman magistrates and provincial commanders,  T. R. S. Broughton MRR 2.74-89,  with no change in the main supplement,  MRR 3 (1986), 65:  “proconsul of Macedonia from 80 to 77”.

11 Divus Iulius 4.1:  “Once the civil insurrection had been settled he prosecuted the man of consular and triumphal status Cornelius Dolabella  for extortion”  (composita  seditione  civili  Cornelium Dolabellam  consularem  et  triumphalem repetundarum postulavit).

12  R. K. Sherk (ed.)  RDGE  21.



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