Arval Brethren

In ancient Roman religion, the Arval Brethren (Latin: Fratres Arvales, "Brothers of the Fields") or Arval Brothers were a body of priests who offered annual sacrifices to the Lares and gods to guarantee good harvests.[1] Inscriptions provide evidence of their oaths, rituals and sacrifices.


Roman legend held that the priestly college was originated by Romulus, first king of Rome, who took the place of a dead son of his nurse Acca Laurentia, and formed the priesthood with the remaining eleven sons. They were also connected originally with the Sabine priesthood of Sodales Titii who were probably originally their counterpart among the Sabines. Thus it can be inferred that they existed before the founding of the city.[2] There is further proof of the high antiquity of the college in the verbal forms of the song with which, down to late times, a part of the ceremonies was accompanied, and which is still preserved.[3] They persisted to the imperial period.

Structure and duties

Arval Brethren formed a college of twelve priests, although archaeologists have found only up to nine names at a time in the inscriptions. They were appointed for life and did not lose their status even in exile. According to Pliny the Elder, their sign was a white band with the chaplet of sheaves of grain (Naturalis Historia 18.2).

The Brethren assembled in the Regia. Their task was the worship of Dea Dia, an old fertility goddess, possibly an aspect of Maia or Ceres. On the three days of her May festival, they offered sacrifices and chanted secretly inside the temple of the goddess at her lucus the Carmen Arvale. The magister (master) of the college selected the exact three days of the celebration by an unknown method.

The celebration began in Rome on the first day, was transferred to a sacred grove outside the city wall on the second day and ended back in the city on the third day.[4] Their duties included ritual propitiations or thanksgivings as the Ambarvalia, the sacrifices done at the borders of Rome at the fifth mile of the Via Campana or Salaria (a place now on the hill Monte delle Piche at the Magliana Vecchia on the right bank of the Tiber). Before the sacrifice, the sacrificial victim was led three times around a grain field where a chorus of farmers and farm-servants danced and sang praises for Ceres and offered her libations of milk, honey and wine.

Archaic traits of the rituals included the prohibition of the use of iron, the use of the olla terrea (a jar made of unbaked earth) and of the sacrificial burner of Dea Dia made of silver and adorned with grassy clods.

Lucius Verus Frater Arvalis Louvre Ma1169
Portrait of Lucius Verus as an Arval Brother (ca. 160 AD)

Restoration of the priesthood

The importance of Arval Brethren apparently dwindled during the Roman Republic, but emperor Augustus revived their practices to enforce his own authority. In his time the college consisted of a master (magister), a vice-master (promagister), a priest (flamen), and a praetor, with eight ordinary members, attended by various servants, and in particular by four chorus boys, sons of senators, having both parents alive. Each wore a wreath of corn, a white fillet and the toga praetexta. The election of members was by co-optation on the motion of the president, who, with a flamen, was himself elected for one year.[3]

After Augustus' time emperors and senators frequented the festivities. At least two emperors, Marcus Aurelius and Elagabalus, were formally accepted as members of the Brethren. The first full descriptions of their rituals also originate from this time.

It is clear that, while the members were themselves always persons of distinction, the duties of their office were held in high respect. And yet no mention of them occurs in the writings of Cicero or Livy, and that literary allusions to them are very scarce. On the other hand, we possess a long series of the acta or minutes of their proceedings, drawn up by themselves, and inscribed on stone. Excavations, commenced in the 16th century and continued to the 19th, in the grove of the Dea Dia, yielded 96 of these records from 14 to 241 AD.[3] The last inscriptions (Acta Arvalia) about the Arval Brethren date from about 325 AD. They were abolished along with Rome's other traditional priesthoods by 400 AD.


  1. ^ "Arval Brothers on Britannica". Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  2. ^ Aulus Gellius VII 7, 7; Pliny XVII 2, 6.
  3. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Arval Brothers" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 711.
  4. ^ Chisholm 1911.
Aulus Petronius Lurco

Aulus Petronius Lurco was a Roman senator, who was active during the Principate. He was suffect consul in the nundinium for the second half of the year 58 with Aulus Paconius Sabinus as his colleague. He is known entirely from inscriptions.

It is known that Lurco was one of the Arval Brethren. A "M. Petronius Lurco" is mentioned as one of the three curatores tabulariorum publicorum, along with Gaius Calpetanus Rantius Sedatus and Titus Satrius Decianus; this Petronius Lurco may be a brother of the consul of 58. Yet because the inscription that attests to this is known from a transcription in the Einsiedeln Itinerary, which has errors, it is also possible the initial should be an "A." and Petronius Lurco is identical to the consul.

Carmen Arvale

The Carmen Arvale is the preserved chant of the Arval priests or Fratres Arvales of ancient Rome.The Arval priests were devoted to the goddess Dia, and offered sacrifices to her to ensure the fertility of ploughed fields (Latin arvum). There were twelve Arval priests, chosen from patrician families. During the Roman Empire the Emperor was always an Arval priest. They retained the office for life, even if disgraced or exiled. Their most important festival, the Ambarvalia, occurred during the month of May, in a grove dedicated to Dia.

The Carmen Arvale is preserved in an inscription dating from 218 AD which contains records of the meetings of the Arval Brethren. It is written in an archaic form of Old Latin, likely not fully understood any more at the time the inscription was made.One of its interpretations goes as follows:

enos Lases iuuate

enos Lases iuuate

enos Lases iuuateneue lue rue Marmar sins incurrere in pleores

neue lue rue Marmar sins incurrere in pleores

neue lue rue Marmar sins incurrere in pleoressatur fu, fere Mars, limen sali, sta berber

satur fu, fere Mars, limen sali, sta berber

satur fu, fere Mars, limen sali, sta berbersemunis alternei advocapit conctos

semunis alternei advocapit conctos

semunis alternei advocapit conctosenos Marmor iuuato

enos Marmor iuuato

enos Marmor iuuatotriumpe triumpe triumpe triumpe triumpeWhile passages of this text are obscure, the traditional interpretation makes the chant a prayer to seek aid of Mars and the Lares (lases), beseeching Mars not to let plagues or disasters overtake in the fields, asking him to be satiated, and dance, and call forth the "Semones", who may represent sacred sowers. (Cf. Semo Sancus, a god of good faith.) Semones are minor tutelary deities, in particular Sancus, Priapus, Faunus, all Vertumni, all Silvani, Bona Dea.The semones are probably the hidden life forces residing in seeds: they were presented only offers of milk in the earliest tradition.limen sali, sta means jump over the beam of the threshold/door/lintel, stand in standard Latin.

Gaius Antius Aulus Julius Quadratus

Gaius Antius Aulus Julius Quadratus (fl. 1st and 2nd centuries) was a Roman senator who was appointed consul twice, in AD 94 and then in AD 105.

Gaius Catellius Celer

Gaius Catellius Celer (also known as Lucius Pompeius Vopiscus Catellius Celer) was a Roman senator who flourished during the Flavian dynasty. He served as suffect consul with Marcus Arruntius Aquila in late AD 77.At times Celer also included the nomen "Arruntius" in his name, indicating either that his mother belonged to that family, or he received a legacy from someone of that family in return for adopting that person's name, a practice referred to by scholars as "testamentary adoption". Further, no later than AD 80 Celer adopted the longer version of his name -- Lucius Pompeius Vopiscus Catellius Celer -- suggesting he accepted another testamentary adoption around that time, in this case from one Lucius Pompeius Vopiscus. This Pompeius Vopiscus might be the suffect consul of 69.Details of Celer's life are lacking before 20 May 75, when he first appears in the records of the Arval Brethren as a member of that college. Ronald Syme argues that between that date and October 77, when he is mentioned again, he was away from Rome, serving as governor of Lusitania. He returned to Rome to serve as suffect consul in 77, and attended all the known ceremonies of the Arval Brethren until 86, and does not appear again until 27 May 90. Syme explains his absence by dating Celer's term as juridicus of Tarraconensis to these years. Prior to serving as juridicus, Celer is known to have served as curator operum publicorum, succeeding Marcus Hirrius Fronto Neratius Pansa.In AD 91, when he was eligible to participate in the sortition for the proconsulate of either Africa or Asia, he failed to obtain either one.Some authorities raise the possibility that Pompeia Celerina, the mother of Pliny the Younger's second wife, was Celer's daughter. In his monograph on Imperial Roman nomenclature, Olli Salomies points out that if this were the case, she had to be born after Celer accepted the testamentary adoption -- after 80 -- but "a lady born at the earliest in c. 80 cannot have been the mother of Pliny's second wife."

Gaius Julius Silanus

Gaius Julius Silanus was a Roman senator and general who held a series of offices in the emperor's service. He was suffect consul for the nundinium of January-April 92 as the colleague of Quintus Junius Arulenus Rusticus. Silanus is known solely through inscriptions.

Ronald Syme speculates Silanus came from Tres Galliae, and adds that "the cognomen need have nothing to do with the aristocratic Junii Silani." He was co-opted into the Arval Brethren 22 January 86 to replace the recently deceased Gaius Vipstanus Apronianus. While he was appointed magister in the year 87, he was absent from the records of the sodales for the rest of that year, and again in 89-91; Syme speculates Silanus was absent due to imperial appointment either to command a legion or to govern one of the eight imperial praetorian provinces.

Gaius Salvius Liberalis

Gaius Salvius Liberalis Nonius Bassus (fl. 80s CE) was a Roman senator and general, who held civil office in Britain and was a member of the Arval Brethren.

Gaius Vipstanus Apronianus

Gaius Vipstanus Apronianus (died 91) was a Roman Senator who was consul ordinarius in AD 59 with Gaius Fonteius Capito as his colleague. Apronianus was afterwards proconsular governor of Africa. Apronianus was also a member of the Arval Brethren.

The cognomen Apronianus poses uncertainty. In the words of Ronald Syme, his name indicates he was "either an Apronius adopted by a Lucius Vipstanus, or a Vipstanus whose father had married an Apronia", then implies the woman's father could have been the consul of 39, Lucius Apronius Caesianus. His further relationship to other Vipstani is unknown.

Apronianus was co-opted into the Arval Brethren in 57; he remained a member of the religious college until his death 34 years later, which made him one of the longest-serving members of the Brethren.

Gaius Vitorius Hosidius Geta

Gaius Vitorius Hosidius Geta () was a Roman who lived in the 1st century and 2nd century. Geta was an only son and might have had a sister called Vitoria. His father was Roman consul and senator Marcus Vitorius Marcellus and his mother was Hosidia Geta. Geta’s maternal grandfather was Roman Senator and General Gnaeus Hosidius Geta.

Geta is mentioned in the fourth book of Silvae by poet Statius and in the writings of Roman teacher Quintilian. Both Statius and Quintilian were friends of his father's. Statius mentions that Geta’s grandfather demanded worthy feats from him.

Quintilian had appeared to be Geta’s tutor, because in his letters to Marcellus, Quintilian mentions about Marcellus’ instructions to him. Quintilian writes to Marcellus, how impressed he is of Geta’s academic abilities and hopes Geta would aspire to them.

Geta became a member of the Arval Brethren. The Arval Brethren was an ancient group of priests that offered annual sacrifices to lares and the gods to guarantee good harvests. His name appears as an inscription in the records of the Arval Brethren.

Lucius Aemilius Paullus (consul 1)

Lucius Aemilius Paullus (b. before 29 BC - 14 AD) was the son of Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus (suffect consul 34 BC and later censor) and Cornelia, the elder daughter of Scribonia. He was married to Vipsania Julia, the eldest granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus.

He is first mentioned in his mother Cornelia's funeral elegy in 16 BC, the same year her brother became consul.

He was brought up by his father, Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus. Sometime after 13 BC, this elder Paullus married Claudia Marcella Minor, who herself was a widow with a small child. The early career of the younger Paullus is unknown, his first and only known post being that of consul in 1 AD with his brother-in-law, Gaius Caesar. He is also known to have been a member of the Arval Brethren.According to ancient historians, his wife Julia was exiled in 8 AD for having an affair with a senator. Paullus himself was executed as a conspirator in a plot to assassinate Augustus at some point between 1 and 14.He only had one child by his wife, a girl named Aemilia Lepida (4/3 BC – 53 AD), who was betrothed to Claudius until the downfall of her parents caused her great-grandfather, Augustus, to break off the betrothal and marry her to Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus, consul in AD 19, by whom she had several children, including Junia Calvina and Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus, consul in AD 46.

Lucius Venuleius Montanus Apronianus

Lucius Venuleius Montanus Apronianus was a Roman senator of the first century. He was suffect consul for the nundinium of January-April AD 92 with Qunintus Volusius Saturninus, replacing the emperor Domitian.The Venuleii were, in the words of Ronald Syme, "an eminent and opulent family at Pisae". Syme speculated that Apronianus' father might have been Lucius Montanus, proconsul of Bithynia et Pontus in the early years of Nero's reign; his speculation was confirmed by the proper understanding of a set of inscriptions from Pisa, which provided the name of Apronianus' father as Montanus, and his mother's name as Laetilla. As Apronianus was co-opted into the Arval Brethren in 80, it makes him unique in his generation for being the only known member of that priesthood whose father was a senator.In a paper published in 1968, Syme suggested that he may be identified as the otherwise unknown Montanus, to whom Pliny the Younger wrote two letters (Epistulae VII.29, VIII.6) complaining about an inscription set up by the Senate praising Pallas, the freedman of Claudius, whom they both detested.Apronianus may be the proconsul of Achaea of 89/90, attested in an inscription where the name is lost: according to the Acta Arvalia, he was absent from their ceremonies from June 90 to November 91. He may also have been adlected into the patrician class by Vespasian.His wife's name is known to have been Celerina; it is not known if he had any children. Although Syme believed Lucius Venuleius Apronianus Octavius Priscus, consul 123, was possibly his son, Schied has shown that this is not likely.

Manius Acilius Aviola

Manius Acilius Aviola was a Roman senator who served as Consul ordinarius in 239 as the colleague of Emperor Gordian III. He is considered a son of the Manius Acilius Aviola who is mentioned present as a child at the meetings of the Arval Brethren for the years 183 and 186; as well as the descendant of the homonymous consul of AD 122.Aviola may have owed being appointed the consul posterior to the young emperor Gordian due to his role as a leader of the senatorial opposition to Maximinus Thrax, as well as to distract senatorial ire at the murder of the patricians Pupienus and Balbinus, whom the Senate had appointed as emperors only to be murdered by partisans of Gordian.

Marcus Aponius Saturninus

Marcus Aponius Saturninus was a Senator of Imperial Rome who was the child of wealthy senatorial parents, who owned property in Egypt. He is mentioned in the Acta Arvalia in the year 57 AD; classicist Ronald Syme suggests that he was made a member of the Arval Brethren due to the influence of Annaeus Seneca. Saturninus is mentioned as being present in 66 for sacrifices on the Capitol with the emperor Nero. Tacitus calls him a consul, but the date of his office is uncertain. He may have been consul in 55; Paul Gallivan has argued that Saturninus was suffect consul between 63 and 66, by which time he was recorded as becoming promagister.Saturninus served as the governor of Moesia in 69, which may have been an appointment of Galba. He repulsed the Sarmatians, who had invaded the province, and was in consequence rewarded by a triumphal statue at the commencement of Otho's reign.

Marcus Julius Gessius Bassianus

Marcus Julius Gessius Bassianus (flourished 3rd century) was a Magister (master) in the Arval Brethren during the reign of Roman emperor Caracalla who ruled from 212 until 217.Bassianus seems to be linked to the Julii and the Bassiani. From his name, could point to him as a possible son of the Syrian Roman nobles Marcus Julius Gessius Marcianus and Julia Avita Mamaea, being a possible elder brother of Roman emperor Alexander Severus and his sister, Theoclia. If this is correct, Bassianus was a relation to the Royal family of Emesa and the Severan dynasty of the Roman Empire.Bassianus was not a known Priest of the cult of Elagabalus. Although he was a Roman Priest, was unable to attend the ceremonies of the Arval Brethren in Rome, probably due to Bassianus being based in the East.

Olla (Roman pot)

In ancient Roman culture, the olla (archaic Latin: aula or aulla; Greek: χύτρα, chytra) is a squat, rounded pot or jar. An olla would be used primarily to cook or store food, hence the word “olla" is still used in some Romance languages for either a cooking pot or a dish in the sense of cuisine. In the typology of ancient Roman pottery, the olla is a vessel distinguished by its rounded “belly,” typically with no or small handles or at times with volutes at the lip, and made within a Roman sphere of influence; the term olla may also be used for Etruscan and Gallic examples, or Greek pottery found in an Italian setting.

In ancient Roman religion, ollae (plural) have ritual use and significance, including as cinerary urns. In the study of Gallo-Roman art and culture, an olla is the small pot carried by Sucellus, by the mallet god often identified with him, or by other gods.

Publius Sallustius Blaesus

Publius Sallustius Blaesus was a Roman senator active during the last half of the first century AD. He was suffect consul for the nundinium May–August 89 with Marcus Peducaeus Saenianus as his colleague. Despite his social rank, Blaesus is a shadowy figure about whom scholars have made numerous sumises.

The only fact of Blaesus' life that is certain is that he was a member of the Arval Brethren from at least as early as the year 78 to 91, when a gap in the records begins; when the records of the Arval Brethren resume in the year 101, he is no longer present. This has led some experts to conclude Blaesus died between the years 91 and 101.Ronald Syme, noting the difficulty of polyonymous names, proposed identifying Blaesus with another consular senator, Sallustius Lucullus, the date of whose consulate is not known. According to Suetonius, Lucullus was executed by the emperor Domitian for allowing a new type of lance to be named after him. Syme further suggests that Sallustius Blaesus had a second gentilicum, "Velleius", allowing him to be identified with one Velleius Blaesus, the subject of a letter Pliny the Younger wrote to his friend Calvisius: Pliny's letter tells how Blaesus, a rich but dying ex-consul, was targeted by a legacy hunter, another senator named Marcus Aquilius Regulus. Both Statius and Martial also refer to a recently deceased Blaesus, the friend of their wealthy patron Atedius Melior. Edward Champlin supports Syme's identification by pointing to an inscription from Ephesus that mentions a "[.] Velleius P.? f. Tro.[...] L. Sertorius [... Ped]anius Fuscus Sa[linat]or Sallus[ti]us Bla[esus .] Julius Agricola [...] Caesonius", leading Champlin to suggest that "a new figure can emerge, the composite of three shadowy consulars who died in the latter years of the reign of Domitian, viz. P. Velleius P.f. Tro. Lucullus Sallustius Blaesus, cos. suff. 89."However, P. Conole and Brian Jones point out since the records of the Arval Brethren "record his [Blaesus'] presence in Rome during every year of the first half of Domitian's reign for which complete minutes have survived, it is difficult to see how he could have managed to gain sufficient provincial experience in praetorian posts to merit appointment to Britain, an Imperial consular province." So while it is still possible Sallustius Blaesus is identical with the Velleius Blaesus of Pliny's anecdote, his identity with the poorly-documented governor of Britain is less likely.

Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Peticus

Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Peticus (died AD 67) was a Roman senator during the reign of Nero. Peticus served as suffect consul in 46 with Marcus Junius Silanus as his colleague, and as Proconsul of Africa from 56 to 57.Peticus was a member of the gens Sulpicia. He was also a member of the Arval Brethren, and served as president of the Board of Sacrifice in 60. He was charged with extortion but was acquitted by the Emperor Nero. In 67, he was killed with his son Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Pythicus by Helius while Nero was in Achaea, on the grounds that he refused to give up his cognomen which "allegedly constituted a slight against Nero's victories at the Pythian games." Peticus also had a daughter called Sulpicia Praetextata who married the consul of 64, Marcus Licinius Crassus Frugi.

Tiberius Claudius Sacerdos Julianus

Tiberius Claudius Sacerdos Julianus was a Roman senator of the second century. He was suffect consul in the nundinium of November-December AD 100 with Lucius Roscius Aelianus Maecius Celer as his colleague. Julianus is primarily known from inscriptions.

Originally a member of the equestrian class, Julianus held a series of appointments in the imperial service. We only know of his last, as procurator, or governor, in Thracia; Nicolay Sharankov estimates his tenure was between the years 85 and 95. In return for his service, Julianus was adlected into the Senate inter praetorios. Shortly after this he was co-opted into the Arval Brethren. Later he was admitted into the College of Pontiffs between the years 98 and 100, one of the four most prestigious ancient Roman priesthoods.Our knowledge of his life after his consulate is sketchy. Julianus is mentioned in the Acta Arvalia, the records of the Arval Brethren, in 101 when he served as a magister, but when the Acta Arvalia resume in 105 after a lacun, his name is missing; it is likely Julianus had died by that year.

Tiberius Julius Candidus Marius Celsus

Tiberius Julius Candidus Marius Celsus was a Roman senator who lived during the Flavian dynasty. Contemporary sources, such as the Fasti Ostienses, the Acta Arvalia and a letter of Pliny the Younger (Ep. V.20.5), refer to him as Tiberius Julius Candidus. He was twice consul.

Ronald Syme argues that Candidus, although said to be from Narbonensis, was in fact from Asia Minor, and the "Tiberius Julius" portion of his name suggests that an ancestor acquired Roman citizenship between AD 4 and 37. "Thus a co-eval of Candidus: Ti. Julius Celsus Polemnus of Sardis, consul suffect in 92." The remainder of Candidus' name, "Marius Celsus", Syme explains as evidence that either he was born as Marius Celsus and adopted by a Julius Candidus, or born a Julius Candidus whose father married into the family of the Marii Celsi; Syme appears to favor the latter explanation. Olli Salomies sets forth the evidence in his monograph on Roman naming practices, but provides no interpretation beyond stating that "it is obvious that Iulius Candidus had something to do with A. Marius Celsus, cos. suff. in 69".The first record of Candidus is as a member of the Arval Brethren, which he may have been made a member in AD 72, or as late as 75, and appears at each ceremony until 81. From his absence from the activities of the Arval Brethren starting in January and May 86, Syme speculates Candidus was in the company of the Emperor Domitian during his military campaigns. Later that year, in the nundinium of May-August he served as suffect consul as the colleague of Sextus Octavius Fronto. Three years later, Candidus was selected to be governor of the important province of Cappadocia-Galatia and completed his term in 92. More recently Peter Weiß has published a military diploma which attests to Candidus' appointment as governor of an undetermined province (most likely one of the Germanies or Dacias) at some point between July 96 and the beginning of January 97. He was appointed consul a second time in 105, as ordinary consul with Gaius Antius Aulus Julius Quadratus, who also enjoyed a second consulship.Candidus lived many years after his second consulship. He is mentioned as present in the Acta Arvalia in AD 110 and 111; another inscription attests he was a flamen for the Brethren in 118.


Lucius Salvius Otho Titianus was the elder brother of the Roman Emperor Otho (reigned 69). As a Roman senator, he was consul in the year 52 as the colleague of Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix, and appointed consul as his brother's colleague for the period from Galba's murder to the end of February. Titianus was present at the First Battle of Bedriacum.

Titianus was a member of the Arval Brethren, serving as promagistrate at least five times beginning in the year 57 into the year 69. The sortition awarded him the proconsular governorship of Asia for the term 63/64.

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