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Publius Suillius Rufus was a Roman senator who was active during the Principate. He was notorious for his prosecutions during the reign of Claudius; and he was the husband of the step-daughter of Ovid. Rufus was suffect consul in the nundinium of November-December 41 as the colleague of Quintus Ostorius Scapula.[1]

Rufus was the son of Vistilia; the name of his father has not been recorded. His half-brothers include Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, consul of 39, and his half-sister was Milonia Caesonia.[2]



His first known office was quaestor and was assigned to Germanicus.[3] However, for Germanicus to have a quaestor, he needed to hold imperium, which he would as consul (Germanicus was consul in the years 12 and 18), or if granted that by the Senate (which he was as proconsul 17 September 14); Ronald Syme has argued the date of Rufus' quaestorship was AD 15. Syme further argued that Rufus was praetor four years afterwards.[4]

In the year 24 Rufus was prosecuted and convicted of taking bribes for his judicial decisions. Although at first the proposed punishment was exile from Italy, he was instead relegated to an island. After the death of Tiberius, Rufus returned from exile to Rome.[3] During the reign of Claudius, Rufus prosecuted a number of people on behalf of the emperor. His targets included several of the clients of Gaius Silius. In an attempt to bring down Suillius Rufus, Silius demanded that the Senate enforce the Lex Cincia[5][6], which forbade lawyers from being compensated after pleading a case. In the end, the emperor Claudius intervened, and allowed Rufus to collect a maximum of ten thousand sesterces as his fee for successful prosecution.[7] Another target was Julia Livia, who had stirred the animosity of the empress Valeria Messalina; Rufus accused her of immoral conduct, and the prosecution resulted in her death in AD 43.[8] Tacitus provides a list of his further victims: Decimus Valerius Asiaticus, Quintus Futius Lusius Saturninus (consul 41), Cornelius Lupus (consul 42) as well as "troops of Roman equites."[9] This was followed by his proconsular governorship of Asia, which Steven Rutledge dates to the term 52/53.[10]

Eventually, Suilius Rufus met his fate: during the reign of Nero, Seneca successfully prosecuted him. According to Tacitus, "with the loss of half his property, his son and granddaughter being allowed to retain the other half, and what they had inherited under their mother's or grandmother's will being exempted from confiscation, Suilius was banished to the Balearic isles. ... Rumor said that he supported that lonely exile by a life of ease and plenty."[9][6]


Suillius married Ovid's stepdaughter.[11] Due to a scandal involving Messalina, their son Suillius Caesoninus was banished.[6] His other son, Marcus Suillius Nerullinus, was consul ordinarius in 50.


  1. ^ Paul Gallivan, "The Fasti for the Reign of Claudius", Classical Quarterly, 28 (1978), pp. 419, 424
  2. ^ Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, VII.39
  3. ^ a b Tactius, Annales, IV.31.1
  4. ^ Syme, "Domitius Corbulo", Journal of Roman Studies, 60 (1970), pp. 27f
  5. ^ Tacitus, Annals, XI.5-6
  6. ^ a b c Barrett, Anthony A. (1999). Agrippina: sex, power, and politics in the early empire. London: Routledge. p. 75. ISBN 041520867X.
  7. ^ Tacitus, Annals, XI.7
  8. ^ Syme, The Augustan Aristocracy (Oxford: Clarnedon Press, 1986), p. 182
  9. ^ a b Tacitus, Annales, XIII.42
  10. ^ Rutledge, Imperial Inquisitions: Prosecutors and informants from Tiberius to Domitian (London: Routledge, 2001), p. 271
  11. ^ McKeown, JC (2010). Classical Latin: an introductory course. Indianapolis: Hackett. p. 161. ISBN 9780872208513.

Further readingEdit

  • Steven H. Rutledge (2001), Imperial inquisitions. Prosecutors and informants from Tiberius to Domitian, London: Routledge, pp. 270–271, ISBN 0-415-23700-9
Political offices
Preceded by
Quintus Futius Lusius Saturninus,
and Marcus Seius Varanus

as Suffect consul
Suffect consul of the Roman Empire
with Quintus Ostorius Scapula
Succeeded by
Claudius IV,
and Gaius Caecina Largus

as Ordinary consuls