a distinguished Roman pontiff and jurist, was descended from a father and a grandfather of the same name, but none of his ancestors had ever obtained the honours of the Roman magistracy.
According to a speech of the emperor Claudius in Tacitus, the Coruncanii came from Camerium (Ann.
11.24); but Cicero makes the jurist a townsman of Tusculum (pro Planc.
8). Notwithstanding his provincial extraction, this novus homo was promoted to all the highest offices at Rome. (Vell. 2.128
.) In B. C. 280, he was consul with P. Valerius Laevinus, and while his colleague was engaged in the commencement of the war against Pyrrhus, the province of Etruria fell to Coruncanius, who was successful in quelling the remains of disaffection, and entirely defeated the Vulsinienses and Vulcientes. For these victories he was honoured with a triumph early in the following year.
After subduig Etruria, he returned towards Rome to aid Laevinus in checking the advance of Pyrrhus. (Appian, Samn.
10.3.) In B. C. 270, he seems to have been censor with C. Claudius Canina. Modern writers appear to be ignorant of any ancient historical account of this censorship. In l'Art de vérifier les Dates,
i. p. 605, Coruncanius is inferred to have been censor in the 34th lustrum, from the expressions of Velleius Paterculus (2.128), and a Claudius is wanting to complete the seven censors in that family mentioned by Suetonius. (Tiber.
1.) Seneca (de Vit. Beat.
21) says, that Cato of Utica was wont to praise the age of M'. Curius and Coruncanius, when it was a censorian crime to possess a few thin plates of silver. Niebuhr (iii. p. 555) speaks of this censorship as missing; but, though it is not mentioned by the epitomizer of Livy, we suspect that there is some classical auand thority extant concerning it, known to less modern scholars, for Panciroli (de Clar. Interp.
p. 21) says, that Coruncanius was censor with C. Claudius; and Val. Forsterus (Historia Juris,
fol. 41, b.) states, that in his censorship the population ineluded in the census amounted to 277,222.
About B. C. 254, Coruncanius was created pontifex maximus, and was the first plebeian who ever filled that office (Liv. Epist.
xviii.), although, before that time, his brother jurist, P. Sempronius Sophus, and other plebeians, had been pontifices. (Liv. 10.9
.) In B. C. 246, he was appointed dictator for the purpose of holding the comitia, in order to prevent the necessity of recalling either of the consuls from Sicily; and he must have died shortly afterwards, at a very advanced age (Cic. de Senect.
6), for, in Liv. Epit.
xix., Caecilius Metellus is named as pontifex maximus.
Coruncanius was a remarkable man.
He lived on terms of strict friendship with M'. Curius and other eminent statesmen of his day.
He was a Roman sage (Sapiens), a character more practical than that of a Grecian philosopher, but he was sufficiently versed in the learning of the times.
That philosophy which placed the highest good in pleasure he rejected, and, with M'. Curius, wished that the enemies of Rome, Pyrrhus and the Samnites, could be taught to believe its precepts.
He was a manly orator; his advice and opinion were respected in war as well as in peace, and he had great influence in the senate as well as in the public assembly. (Cic. de Orat. 3.33
.) Cicero, who often sounds his praises, speaks of him as one of those extraordinary persons whose greatness was owing to a special Providence. (De Nat. Deor.
2.66.) To the highest acquirements of a politician he united profound knowledge of pontifical and civil law. Pomponius (Dig. 1
. tit. 2. s. 2.38) says, that he left behind no writings, but that he gave many cral opinions, which were handed down to remembrance by legal tradition. Cicero says, that the Pontificum Commentarii afforded proof of his surpassing abilities (Brut.
14); and, in the treatise de Legibus
(2.21), he cites one of his memorabilia. Another of his legal fragments is preserved by Pliny. (H. N.
8.51. s. 77.)
It might be supposed from a passage in Seneca (Ep.
114), that writings of Coruncanius were extant in his time, for he there ridicules the affectation of orators, who, thinking Gracchus and Crassus and Curio too modern, went back to the language of the 12 Tables, of Appius, and of Coruncanius.
There is a passage relating to Coruncanius in Pomponius (Dig. 1
. tit. 2. s. 8.35). which has given occasion to much controversy.
He says that Coruncanius was the first who publicly professed law, since, before his time, jurists endeavoured to conceal the jus civile, and gave their time, not to students, but to those who wanted their advice.
The statement as to the early concealment of the law has been supposed to be fabulous (Puchta, Institutionen,
i. p. 301); but here it is proper to distinguish between the rules applicable to ordinary dealings on the one hand, and the technical regulations of the calendar, of procedure and of religious rites, on the other. Schrader(in Hugo's Civil. Mag.
v. p. 187) assumes that it was usual for jurists before Coruncanius to admit patrician students--those at least who were destined for the college of pontiffs--to learn law by being present at their consultations with their clients.
He further thinks that Coruncanius did not profess to give any systematic or peculiar instruction in the theory of law, and certainly there are passages which prove that such theoretic instruction was not common in the time of Cicero. (Cic. Brut. 89
, de Amic.
1, de Leg.
1.4, de Off.
2.13.) Schrader therefore comes to the conclusion, that Coruncanius first publicly
professed law only in this sense, that he was the first to allow plebeians
and patricians indiscriminately to learn law by attending his consultations.
This interpretation, though it is ingenious, and has found favour with Hugo (R. R. G.
p. 460) and Zimmern (R. R. G.
1.53), appears to us to be very strained, and we think Pomponius must have meant to convey, whether rightly or wrongly, first, that before Coruncanius, it was not usual for jurists to take pupils; and, secondly, that the pupils of Coruncanius were not left to gain knowledge merely by seeing business transacted and hearing or reading the opinions given by their master to those who consulted him, but that they received special instruction in the general doctrines of law.
The two Coruncanii who were sent B. C. 228 as ambassadors front Rome to Teuta, queen of Illyricum, to complain of the maritime depredations of her subjects, and one of whom at least was put to death by her orders, were probably the sons of the jurist. (Appian, de Rebus Illyr.
7; Plb. 2.8
; Plin.H. N.
34.6.) By Polybius they are called Caius and Lucius; by Pliny, P. Junius and Tiberius.
Titus for Tiberius, and Coruncanus for Coruncanius, are ordinary corruptions of the jurist's name.
(Rutilius, Vitae JCtorum,
100.5; Heineccius, Hist. Jur. Civ.
§ 118; Schweppe, R. R. G.
§ 127; L. A. Würffel, Epist. de Ti. Coruincanio,