One of the most ancient patrician gentes at Rome, the members of which attained the highest dignities of the state in the earliest times of the republic.
It was without doubt of Alban origin, and it is mentioned as one of the leading Alban houses, which Tullus Hostilius removed to Rome upon the destruction of Alba Longa, and enrolled among the Roman patres. (Dionys. A. R. 3.29
; Tac. Ann. 11.24
; in Liv. 1.30
, the reading should probably be Tullios,
and not Julios.
) The Julii also existed at an early period at Bovillae, as we learn from a very ancient inscription on an altar in the theatre of that town, which speaks of their offering sacrifices according to Alban rites --lege Albana
(Niebuhr, Rom. Hist.
vol. i. note 1240, vol. ii. note 421), and their connection with Bovillae is also implied by the chapel (sacrarium
) which the emperor Tiberius dedicated to the Gens Julia in the town, and in which he placed the statue of Augustus. (Tac. Ann. 2.41
It is not impossible that some of the Julii may have settled at Bovillae after the fall of Alba.
As it became the fashion in the later times of the republic to claim a divine origin for the most distinguished of the Roman gentes, it was contended that lulus, the mythical ancestor of the race, was the same as Ascanius, the son of Venus and Anchises, and that he was the founder of Alba Longa.
In order to prove the identity of Ascanius and Iulus, recourse was had to etymology, some specimens of which the render curious in such matters will find in Servius (ad Virg. Aen.
1.267; comp. Liv. 1.3
The dictator Caesar frequently alluded to the divine origin of his race, as, for instance, in the funeral oration which he pronounced when quaestor over his aunt Julia (Suet. Jul. 6
), and in giving " Venus Genetrix" as the word to his soldiers at the battles of Pharsalus and Munda, and subsequent writers and poets were ready enough to fall in with a belief which flattered the pride and exalted the origin of the imperial family.
Though it would seem that the Julii first came to Rome in the reign of Tullus Hostilius, the name occurs in Roman legend as early as the time of Romulus.
It was Proculus Julius who was said to have informed the sorrowing Roman people, after the strange departure of Romulus from the world, that their king had descended from heaven and appeared to him, bidding him tell the people to honour him in future as a god, under the name of Quirinus. (Liv. 1.6
; Ov. Fast.
2.499, &c.) Sonic modern critics have inferred from this, that a few of the Julii might have settled in Rome in the reign of the first king; but considering the entirely fabulous nature of the tale, and the circumstance that the celebrity of the Julia Gens in later times would easily lead to its connection with the earliest times of Roman story, no historical argument can be drawn from the mere name occurring in this legend.
The family names of this gens in the time of the republic are CAESAR, IULUS, MENTO, and LIBO, of which the first three were undoubtedly patrician; but the only two families which obtained any celebrity are those of Iulus and Caesar, the former in the first and the latter in the last century of the republic. On coins the only names which we find are CAESAR and BURSIO, the latter of which does not occur in ancient writers.
In the times of the empire we find an immense number of persons of the name of Julius; but it must not be supposed that they were connected by descent in any way with the Julia Gens; for, in consequence of the imperial family belonging to this gens, it became the name of their numerous freedmen, and may have been assumed by many other persons out of vanity and ostentation.
An alphabetical list of the principal persons of the name, with their cognomens, is given below. [JULIUS.] (On the Julia Gens in general, see Klausen Aeneas und die Penaten,
vol. ii. p. 1059, &c.; Drumann's Rom,
vol. iii. p. 114, &c.)