Vale'ria Gens or Vale'ria Publicola
patrician and afterwards plebeian also. The Valeria gens was one of the most ancient and most celebrated at Rome; and no other Roman gens was distinguished for so long a period, although a few others, such as the Cornelia gens, produced a greater number of illustrious men. The Valerii are universally admitted to have been of Sabine origin, and their ancestor Volesus or Volusus is said to have settled at Rome with Titus Tatius. (Dionys. A. R. 2.46
; Plut. Num. 5
, Publ. 1.
) One of the descendants of this Volesus, P. Valerius, afterwards surnamed Publicola, plays a distinguished part in the story of the expulsion of the kings, and was elected consul in the first year of the republic, B. C. 509. From this time forward down to the latest period of the empire, for nearly a thousand years, the name occurs more or less frequently in the Fasti, and it was borne by the emperors Maximinus, Maximianus, Maxentius, Diocletian, Constantius, Constantine the Great and others. The Valeria gens enjoyed extraordinary honours and privileges at Rome. Their house at the bottom of the Velia was the only one in Rome of which the doors were allowed to open back into the street. (Dionys. A. R. 5.39
; Plut. Publ. 20.
) In the Circus a conspicuous place was set apart for them, where a small throne was erected, an honour of which there was no other example among the Romans. (Liv. 2.31
.) They were also allowed to bury their dead within the walls, a privilege which was also granted to some other gentes; and when they had exchanged the older custom of interment for that of burning the corpse, although they did not light the funeral pile on their burying-ground, the bier was set down there, as a symbolical way of preserving their right. (Cic. de Leg.
2.23; Plut. Publ. 23.
) Niebuhr, who mentions these distinctions, conjectures that among the gradual changes of the constitution from a monarchy to an aristocracy, the Valeria gens for a time possessed the right that one of its members should exercise the kingly power for the Tities, to which tribe the Valerii must have belonged, as their Sabine origin indicates (Hist. of Rome,
vol. i. p. 538); but on this point, as on many others in early Roman history, it is impossible to come to any certainty. The Valerii in early times were always foremost in advocating the rights of the plebeians, and the laws which they proposed at various times were the great charters of the liberties of the second order. (See Dict. of Antiq. s. v. Leges Valeriae.
The Valeria gens was divided into various families under the republic, the names of which are : -- CORVUS or CORVINUS, FALTO, FLACCUS, LAEVINUS, MAXIMUS, MESSALLA, POTITUS, PUBLICOLA, TAPPO, TRIARIUS, VOLUSUS. Besides these we meet with other cognomens of the Valerii under the republic, which are mostly the names of freedmen or clients of the Valeria gens. They are given below in alphabetical order, together with the surnames borne by the Valerii in the imperial period. [VALERIUS.] The few Valerii, who occur without any surname, are not of sufficient importance to require any notice. On the coins of the gens we find the cognomens Acisculus, Catullus, Flacccs, Barbatus.