- Apr 14, 2005
Lucius Aemilius Barbula
A man of moderate capability, the 51-year-old Barbula found himself Consul of Rome at the beginning of war against the Greek city-states of Magna Graecia. Although a member of the mercantile faction in the senate, Barbula had aspirations to become a Legate, and so he welcomed the opportunity to lead an army in the field. Declaring that it was the civic duty of Roman citizens to defend their homeland, he took command of the Legio I Italia and prepared to march on Tarentum. Prior to leaving Rome, Barbula made a few important decisions to maintain his authority during his absence. First, he ensured the election of a key ally, former consul Gaius Junius Bubulcus, to the position of Censor. To the other Censor position, he arranged the election of his cousin, Quintus Aemilius Papus. Urged by the senate to conquer the Greek cities in the south once and for all, Barbula departed Rome.
The battle went well for Barbula. After routing the ill-prepared Greeks, he seized Tarentum on 12 March 474 AVC, and rested his army for only a few weeks before advancing on Ager Bruttius. His disciplined siege of the city continued to demonstrate his military prowess. In the meantime, Barbula received word concerning developments in the senate. His mercantile faction continued to face stiff opposition from the other factions, and political adversary Gaius Fabius Licinus was preventing any pro-mercantile senator from gaining enough support to succeed Barbula as Consul. Unable to back his closest allies, Barbula instead chose to favor the career of Papus. He instructed the senate to create Legio II Roma with Papus as the Legate, and to dispatch Papus to the northern borders of Italia, where it was hoped he would gain enough acclaim against the barbarians there to improve his prospects of becoming the next Consul.
When Ager Bruttius was secured in 7 October 474 AVC, the city fathers of Tarentum agreed to turn the province over to Barbula and pay tribute to Rome. Barbula, acclaimed by his soldiers as a conquerer, declined a triumph, but there were still concerns that the popular and successful Consul might seek dictatorship powers from the senate. Barbula ignored these political developments and instead focused on the need to force a peace upon King Pyrrhus of Epirus. Unable to cross into Sicilia while Pyrrhus's fleet of triremes was patrolling the straits, Barbula began a vigorous project of ship-building, putting him into direct rivalry with faction ally Publius Sempronius Sophus, who as Navy Quaestor favored a smaller fleet. This decision may have weakened Barbula's position in the senate, but it also opened up opportunities for others. When Barbula's term as Consul ended on 2 May 474 AVC, Papus had not improved his standing enough to win the support of the senate, but Licinus was unable as civic faction leader to win the Consulship for himself. After a difficult debate, a compromise candidate emerged: Quintus Fabius Gurges, a middle-aged, civic-minded senator who was allied to Licinus but offended no-one. The senate swiftly confirmed Gurges as Consul, and sent word to Barbula concerning the new state of affairs in Rome.
Just prior to the end of his term as Consul, Barbula married a very young Greek girl, no doubt someone he met while on campaign, named Artemisia Proctid. After becoming proconsul, Barbula remained with his wife and army in Ager Bruttius, awaiting the instructions of the new Consul. He was still in command of the powerful Legio I Italia, which was becoming increasingly loyal to him personally, and he remained eager to cross into Sicilia on behalf of Rome.