Flavia (gens)

"Flavius" redirects here. For the modern given name, see Flavius (name).

The gens Flavia was a plebeian family at Rome. Its members are first mentioned during the last three centuries of the Republic. The first of the Flavii to achieve prominence was Marcus Flavius, Tribune of the plebs in 327 and 323 BC; however, no Flavius attained the consulship until Gaius Flavius Fimbria in 104 BC. The gens became illustrious during the first century AD, when the family of the Flavii Sabini claimed the imperial dignity.

Under the Empire, the number of persons bearing this nomen becomes very large, perhaps due to the great number of freedmen under the Flavian dynasty of emperors. It was a common practice for freedmen to assume the nomina of their patrons, and so countless persons who obtained the Roman franchise under the Flavian emperors adopted the name Flavius, which was then handed down to their descendants.[1]

During the later period of the Empire, the name Flavius frequently descended from one emperor to another, beginning with Constantius, the father of Constantine the Great. The name became so ubiquitous that it was sometimes treated as a praenomen, to the extent of being regularly abbreviated Fl., and it is even described as a praenomen in some sources, although it was never truly used as a personal name. The last emperor to take the name was eastern emperor Constantine IV.

After the name fell into disuse among the Byzantine emperors, it was used as a title of legitimacy among the barbarian rulers of former Roman provinces, such as Spain, where the Visigoths and their Spanish successors used the title ″Emperor of All Spain″, and the kings of the barbarian successor kingdoms of Italy, such as the Ostrogoths and the Lombards also used it, with a special meaning as the ″protector″ of the Italian peoples under Lombard rule.

The vast majority of persons named Flavius during the later Empire could not have been descended from the Flavia gens; and indeed, the distinction between nomina and cognomina was all but lost, so that in many cases one cannot even determine with certainty whether it is a nomen or a cognomen. However, because it is impossible to determine which of these persons used Flavius as a gentile name, they have been listed below.[1]


The Flavii seem to have been of Sabine origin, and may have been connected with the Flavii who lived at Reate during the first century AD, and to whom the emperor Vespasian belonged. But the name Flavius also occurs in other countries of Italy, as Etruria and Lucania. The name is derived from flavus, meaning "golden" or "golden-brown," and probably referred to the blond hair possessed by an early member of the family. Flavus was also a surname found in a number of gentes.[1][2][3]

In modern use, Flavius is a personal name, and widely used in romance languages, including Italian and Spanish Flavio (fem. Flavia), French Flavien (fem. Flavie), Portuguese Flávio (fem. Flávia), and Romanian Flavius or Flaviu (fem. Flavia).

Praenomina used

The early Flavii used the praenomina Marcus, Quintus, Gaius, and Lucius. Of these, Gaius is the only one known from the family of the Fimbriae. The name Gnaeus occurs once, but as the son of a freedman of the family, and thus does not seem to be representative of the gens. The Flavii Sabini appear to have restricted themselves to the praenomen Titus alone, and distinguished their sons by the use of different surnames, usually by giving the younger sons surnames derived from their maternal ancestors.[1]

Branches and cognomina

The cognomens that occur in the Flavia gens during the Republic are Fimbria, Gallus, Lucanus, and Pusio.[1] The only distinct branch of the Flavii during the Republic was that of the Fimbriae.

Under the empire, the family of the Flavii Sabini rose to prominence. Descended from Titus Flavius Petro, a soldier from Reate who fought under Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, within two generations they had attained such respectability that two of his grandsons held the consulship in consecutive years, AD 51 and 52; the younger of these marched to Rome at the head of an army in the year of the four emperors, AD 69, and claimed the imperial dignity as the emperor Vespasian. However, within less than thirty years, the family was largely destroyed through the workings of Vespasian's son, the emperor Domitian.

The Flavii Titiani may be descended from the Flavii Sabini through the consul Titus Flavius Clemens, a nephew of Vespasian; the first of this branch, Titus Flavius Titianus, who was governor of Egypt from AD 126 to 133, may have been his son.


This list includes abbreviated praenomina. For an explanation of this practice, see filiation.

Flavii Fimbriae

Flavii Sabini

Flavii Titiani

The Dynasty of Constantine


Later emperors

Emperors of the west

Emperors of the east

Flavian legions

Some Roman legions were called Flavia, since they had been levied by Flavian emperors:


Flavianus is the adjectival form of the name and was used as a cognomen. It is sometimes anglicized as Flavian.

Flavii in fiction

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith, Editor.
  2. D.P. Simpson, Cassell's Latin & English Dictionary (1963).
  3. George Davis Chase, "The Origin of Roman Praenomina", in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, vol. VIII (1897).
  4. Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita viii. 22, 27.
  5. Valerius Maximus, Factorum ac Dictorum Memorabilium libri IX ix. 10. § 1.
  6. Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita xxv. 16.
  7. Appianus, Bellum Hannibalicum 35.
  8. Valerius Maximus, Factorum ac Dictorum Memorabilium libri IX v. 1. Ext. § 6.
  9. Valerius Maximus, Factorum ac Dictorum Memorabilium libri IX viii. 1. § 7.
  10. Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita xxxi. 50, xxxii. 50.
  11. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Quinto Roscio Comoedo 11.
  12. Marcus Tullius Cicero, In Verrem i. 5, v. 7, 59.
  13. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares xiii. 31.
  14. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Cluentio 56.
  15. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum i. 18, 19, ii. 1, x. 1; Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem i. 2.
  16. Quintus Asconius Pedianus, in Cic. Milon. p. 47, ed. Orelli.
  17. Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Roman History xxxvii. 50, xxxviii. 50.
  18. Gaius Julius Caesar (attributed), De Bello Hispaniensis 26.
  19. Appianus, Bellum Civile v. 49.
  20. Cornelius Nepos, The Life of Atticus 8.
  21. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum xii. 17.
  22. Pseudo-Brutus, ad Cic. i. 6, 17.
  23. Plutarchus, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, Brutus 51.
  24. Plutarchus, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, Antonius 42, 43.
  25. Appianus, Bellum Civile i. 91.
  26. 1 2 Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, De Vita Caesarum, Vespasianus 1.
  27. Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Historiae i. 77, ii. 36, 51.
  28. Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Roman History lxv. 17.
  29. Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana vii. 3.
  30. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, De Vita Caesarum, Domitianus 10.
  31. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, De Vita Caesarum, Domitianus 15.
  32. Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Roman History lxvii. 14.
  33. Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annales xv. 49, 54, 55, 70.
  34. Schaff–Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Johann Jakob Herzog and Philip Schaff, eds.
  35. Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Roman History lxxi. 28.
  36. Dessau, Hermann (1897). Prosopographia Imperii Romani Saec I. II. III pars II. Berlin. p.68
  37. Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Roman History lxxx. 4.
  38. Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus, Roman History lxxviii. 4, 7, 15.
  39. Herodianus, History of the Roman Empire iv. 12.
  40. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, De Viris Illustribus praef.
  41. Latin Anthology iii. 34–37, iv. 86, ed. Burmann, or n. 291–295, ed. Meyer.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 

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