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In the time of Suetonius it was disputed whether the origin of the Vitellii was ancient and noble, or recent and obscure, and even mean. The adulators of the emperor Vitellius and his enemies were the partizans of the two several opinions. The name of the Vitellii at least was ancient, and they were said to derive their descent from Faunus, king of the Aborigines, and Vitellia, as the name is in the text of Suetonius. (Vitell. c. l.) The family, according to tradition, went from the country of the Sabini to Rome, and was received among the Patricians. As evidence of the existence of this family (stirps), a Via Vitellia, extending from the Janiculum to the sea, is mentioned, and a Roman colonia of the same name, Vitellia, in the country of the Aequi. (Liv. 5.29, 2.39.) The name of the Vitellii occurs among the Romans who conspired to restore the last Tarquinius, and the sister of the Vitellii was the wife of the consul Brutus. (Liv. 2.4.)

Cassius Severus and others assigned the meanest origin to the Vitellii : the founder of the stock, according to them, was a freedman. Suetonius leaves the question undecided.

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