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Torqua'tus, Ma'nlius

1. T. Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus, L. F. A. N., the son of L. Manlius Capitolinus Imperiosus, dictator in B. C. 363, was a favourite hero of Roman story. He possessed the characteristic virtues of the old Romans, being a brave man, an obedient son, and a severe father; and he never allowed the feelings of nature or friendship to interfere with what he deemed his duty to his country. Manlius is said to have been dull of mind in his youth, and was brought up by his father in the closest retirement in the country. The tribune M. Pomponius availed himself of the latter circumstance, when he accused the elder Manlius in B. C. 362, on account of the cruelties he had practised in his dictatorship in the preceding year, to excite an odium against him, by representing him at the same time as a cruel and tyrannical father. As soon as the younger Manlius heard of this, he hurried to Rome, obtained admission to Pomponius early in the morning, and compelled the tribune, by threatening him with instant death if he did not take the oath, to swear that he would drop the accusation against his father. Although the elder Manlius was no favourite with the people, and had received the surname Imperiosus on account of his haughtiness, yet they were so delighted with the filial affection of the younger Manlius, that they not only forgave his violence to the tribune but elected him one of the tribunes of the soldiers in the course of the same year. In the following year, B. C. 361, according to Livy, though other accounts give different years, Manlius served under the dictator T. Quintius Pennus in the war against the Gauls, and in this campaign earned immortal glory by slaying in single combat a gigantic Gaul, who had stepped out of the ranks and challenged a Roman to fight him. From the dead body of the barbarian he took the chain (torques) which had adorned him, and placed it around his own neck ; his comrades in their rude songs gave him the surname of Torquatus, which he continued ever afterwards to bear, and which he handed down to his descendants. His fame became so great that he was appointed dictator in B. C. 353, before he had held the consulship, in order to carry on the war against the Caerites and the Etruscans. In B. C. 349 he was again raised to the dictatorship for the purpose of holding the comitia. Two years afterwards, B. C. 347, he was consul for the first time with C. Plautius Venno Hypsaeus; during which year nothing of importance occurred, except the enactment of a law de fenore. He was consul a second time in B. C. 344 with C. Marcius Rutilus, and a third time in B. C. 340 with P. Decius Mus. In his third consulship Torquatus and his colleague gained the great victory over the Latins at the foot of Vesuvius, which established for ever the supremacy of Rome over Latium. An account of this battle, which was mainly won by the self-sacrifice of Decius Mus, has been given elsewhere. [MUS, No. 1.] The name of Torquatus has become chiefly memorable in connection with this war on account of the execution of his son. Shortly before the battle, when the two armies were encamped opposite to one another, the consuls published a proclamation that no Roman should engage in single combat with a Latin on pain of death. Notwithstanding this proclamation, the young Manlius, the son of the consul, provoked by the insults of a Tusculan noble of the name of Mettius Geminus, accepted his challenge, slew his adversary, and bore the bloody spoils in triumph to his father. Death was his reward. The consul would not overlook this breach of discipline : and the unhappy youth was executed by the lictor in presence of the assembled army. This severe sentence rendered Torquatus an object of detestation among the Roman youths as long as he lived; and the recollection of his severity was preserved in after ages by the expression Manliana imperia. Two writers relate that the young Manlius was executed by his father's orders in a war with the Gauls (Sall. Cat. 52 ; Dionys. A. R. 8.79); but as we do not read of Torquatus having the command in any war against the Gauls, it is probable that he is confounded by these writers with No. 6, as Zonaras has done, who says (9.8), that No. 6 caused his son to be executed. Torquatus is not mentioned again by Livy; but according to the Fasti he was dictator for the third time in B. C. 320.


Further Information

Liv. 7.4, 5, 10, 19, 26-28, 8.3-12 ; Cic. de Off. 3.31, de Fin. 1.7, 2.19, 22, Tusc. 4.22; V. Max. 6.9.1, 1.7.3, 2.7.6; Gel. 1.13; Dio Cass. Fragm. 34, p. 16, Reim.; Aurel. Vict. de Vir. Ill. 28.

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