Agrippa Menenius Lanatus (died 493 BC) was a consul of the Roman Republic in 503 BC, with Publius Postumius Tubertus. He was victorious over the Sabines and was awarded a triumph which he celebrated on 4 April, 503 BC. According to Livy, he also led Roman troops against the Latin town of Pometia. In some traditions he and his colleague also completed a census during their consulship.
Agrippa Menenius Lanatus
|Consul of the Roman Republic|
1 September 503 BC  – 29 August 502 BC
Serving with Publius Postumius Tubertus
|Preceded by||Publius Valerius Publicola, Titus Lucretius Tricipitinus|
|Succeeded by||Opiter Verginius Tricostus (consul 502 BC), Spurius Cassius Vecellinus|
|Children||Titus Menenius Lanatus, Agrippa Menenius T. f. Agrippae n. Lanatus|
According to Livy, Menenius was chosen by the patricians during the secession of the plebs in 494 BC to persuade the plebs to end their secession. Livy says that Menenius told the soldiers a fable about the parts of the human body and how each has its own purpose in the greater function of the body. The rest of the body thought the stomach was getting a free ride so the body decided to stop nourishing the stomach. Soon, the other parts became fatigued and unable to function. So, they realized that the stomach did serve a purpose and they were nothing without it. In the story, the stomach represents the patrician class and the other body parts represent the plebs. Eventually, Livy says, an accord was reached between the patricians and the plebs, which included creating the office of tribune of the plebs.
It is not improbable that Saint Paul, an educated Roman citizen, knew this story (not necessarily through Livy) and was prompted by it in his use of the same parable when he admonished the Christians of Corinth that, for all their "diversity of gifts", they were all members of one body (I Cor. 12:13 ff.). However, the imagery was not new even for Livy. It appears in Xenophon's Memorabilia (2. iii. 18), and in Cicero's De Officiis (III. v. 22).
One puzzle about Menenius concerns his social status: Was he patrician or plebeian? Livy asserts that he was "an eloquent man and dear to the plebeians as being one of themselves by birth." On the other hand, he was sent to the plebs as a representative of the Senate, and furthermore he had held the office of consul. The consulship, according to the traditional historiography, was at this time reserved strictly for patricians. Ancient accounts of early Roman history are compromised by uneven use of sources, the author's bias toward either senatorial or popular interests, and sheer uncertainty. The existence of the "plebeian" and "patrician" social division in the earliest period of Rome's history has been questioned by modern scholars.
Menenius died in 493 BC. Livy records that during his life he had been beloved of both the senate and the plebs (particularly the latter since his involvement in ending their secession). As his estate lacked funds to pay for his funeral, the people contributed to his funeral expenses by way of a levy.
Menenius was also a character in William Shakespeare's Coriolanus. He is portrayed by Brian Cox in the 2011 film adaptation of the same name, in which director Ralph Fiennes plays the titular character.
See also edit
- Robert Maxwell Ogilvie, Commentary on Livy, books 1–5, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1965, pp. 404, 405.
- Livy, History of Rome, ii. 16.
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
- Fasti Triumphales
- Broughton, vol I, p. 8. Jerome, Chronicon, ad ann. 504.
- Livy, History of Rome, ii. 32, 33.
- Daniel Lynwood Smith, "Why Paul’s Fabulous Body is Missing its Belly: The Rhetorical Subversion of Menenius Agrippa’s Fable in 1 Corinthians 12–30" (October 2018).
- Survey by A. Drummond, "Rome in the fifth century II," ch. 5, The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 7.2, The Rise of Rome.
- Livy. History of Rome.
- Walbank, F. W., A. E. Astin, M. W. Frederiksen, and R. M. Ogilvie, The Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge University Press (1990), ISBN 0-521-23446-8.
- Fiennes, Ralph. "Coriolanus (2011)". IMDb. Retrieved 4 October 2023.