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VERY different accounts are given of the origin of the Vitellian family. Some describe it as ancient and noble, others as recent and obscure, nay, extremely mean. I am inclined to think, that these several representations have been made by the flatterers and detractors of Vitellius, after he became emperor, unless the fortunes of the family varied before. There is extant a memoir addressed by Quintus Eulogius to Quintus Vitellius, quzestor to the Divine Augustus, in which it is said, that the Vitellii were descended from Faunus, king of the aborigines, and Vitellia,1 who was worshipped in many places as a goddess, and that they reigned formerly over the whole of Latium: that all who were left of the family removed out of the country of the Sabines to Rome, and were enrolled among the patricians: that some monuments of the family continued a long time; as the Vitellian Way, reaching from the Janiculum to the sea, and likewise a colony of that name, which, at a very remote period of time, they desired leave from the government to defend against the Aequicolae, 2 with a force raised by their own family only: also that, in the time of the war with the Samnites, some of the Vitellii who went with the troops levied for the security of Apulia, settled at Nuceria, 3 and their descendants, a long time afterwards, returned again to Rome, and were admitted into the patrician order. On the other hand, the generality of writers say that the founder of the family was a freedman. Cassius Severus 4 and some others relate that he was likewise a cobbler, whose son having made a considerable fortune by agencies and dealings in confiscated property, begot, by a common strumpet, daughter of one Antiochus, a baker, a child, who afterwards became a Roman knight. Of these different accounts the reader is left to take his choice.
1 Faunus was supposed to be the third king who reigned over the original inhabitants of the central parts of Italy, Saturn being the first. Virgil makes his wife's name Marica: “Hunc Fauna, et nympha genitum Laurente Marica Accipimus.” Aen. vii. 47. Her name may have been changed after her deification; but we have no other accounts than those preserved by Suetonius, of several of the traditions handed down from the fabulous ages respecting the Vitellian family.
4 Cassius Severus is mentioned before, in AUGUSTUS, c. lvi.; CALIGULA, c. xvi., c.
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