Marcus Manlius Capitolinus

Marcus Manlius Capitolinus (died 384 BC; sometimes spelled Manilius[1][2]) was consul of the Roman Republic in 392 BC.[3] He was the brother of Aulus Manlius Capitolinus.[4] The Manlii were a patrician gens.

Marcus Manlius shown attacking Gauls


During the Gallic siege of Rome in 390 (or 387) BC, the account of which became partly mythologized, Marcus Manlius held out for months with a small garrison on the citadel (arx), while the rest of Rome was abandoned. When Gauls under the command of Brennus were attempting to scale the Capitoline, Manlius was roused by the cackling of the sacred geese, rushed to the spot, and threw down the foremost assailants.[5] Capitolinus was remembered as one of the greatest soldiers in the history of Rome.

The military honours of Manlius Capitolinus would have been no less splendid than his, if they had not been all effaced at the close of his life. Before his seventeenth year, he had gained two spoils, and was the first of equestrian rank who received a mural crown; he also gained six civic crowns, thirty seven donations, and had twenty-three scars on the fore-part of his body. He saved the life of P. Servilius, the master of the horse, receiving wounds on the same occasion in the shoulders and the thigh. Besides all this, unaided, he saved the Capitol, when it was attacked by the Gauls, and through that, the state itself; a thing that would have been the most glorious act of all, if he had not so saved it, in order that he might, as its king, become its master. But in all matters of this nature, although valour may effect much, fortune does still more.[6]
fresco of Manlius tossed from the Tarpeian Rock by Beccafumi in Palazzo Pubblico of Siena

After the sack of Rome left the plebeians in pitiful condition, they were forced to borrow large sums of money from the patricians, and once again became the poor debtor class of Rome. Manlius, the hero of Rome, fought for them. Livy says, with some inaccuracy, that he was the first patrician to act as a populist (popularis). Seeing a centurion led to prison for debt, he freed him with his own money, and even sold his estate to relieve other poor debtors, while he accused the Senate of embezzling public money. He was charged with aspiring to kingly power, and condemned by the comitia, but not until the assembly had adjourned to a place outside the walls, where they could no longer see the Capitol which he had saved. The Senate condemned him to death in 385 BC, and he was thrown from the Tarpeian Rock one year later.[7] He is considered the second martyr in the cause of social reform at Rome.[8]

His house on the Capitoline Hill was razed, and the Senate decreed that no patrician should live there henceforth. The Manlii themselves resolved that no patrician Manlius should bear the name of Marcus. According to Mommsen, the story of the saving of the Capitol was a later invention to justify his cognomen, which may be better explained by his domicile.


  1. ^ Schneider, Norbert (18 June 2019). Die antiklassische Kunst: Malerei des Manierismus in Italien. LIT Verlag Münster. ISBN 9783643116024 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Warburg Institute Iconographic Database. "WI-ID Subject Tree". Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  3. ^ T.R.S. Broughton: The Magistrates Of The Roman Republic. Vol. 1: 509 B.C. - 100 B.C.. Cleveland / Ohio: Case Western Reserve University Press, 1951. Reprint 1968. (Philological Monographs. Hrsg. von der American Philological Association. Vol. 15, 1), p. 92.
  4. ^ Livy vi. 20.
  5. ^ Livy v. 47; Plutarch, Camillus, 27.
  6. ^ Pliny the Elder (trans. John Bostock and H T Riley) (1855). The Natural History vii. 29: instances of extreme courage. London.
  7. ^ Livy vi. 14-20.
  8. ^ For a summary of these events, see Finley Hooper, Roman Realities (Wayne State University Press, 1979), p. 53ff.
Political offices
Preceded by Consul of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Valerius Potitus Poplicola II
392 BC
Succeeded by