1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ahenobarbus

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AHENOBARBUS (“brazen-bearded”), the name of a plebeian Roman family of the gens Domitia. The name was derived from the red beard and hair by which many of the family were distinguished. Amongst its members the following may be mentioned:—

Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, tribune of the people 104 B.C., brought forward a law (lex Domitia de Sacerdotiis) by which the priests of the superior colleges were to be elected by the people in the comitia tributa (seventeen of the tribes voting) instead of by co-optation; the law was repealed by Sulla, revived by Julius Caesar and (perhaps) again repealed by Marcus Antonius, the triumvir (Cicero, De Lege Agraria, ii. 7; Suetonius, Nero, 2). Ahenobarbus was elected pontifex maximus in 103, consul in 96 and censor in 92 with Lucius Licinius Crassus the orator, with whom he was frequently at variance. They took joint action, however, in suppressing the recently established Latin rhetorical schools, which they regarded as injurious to public morality (Aulus Gellius xv. 11).

Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, son of the above, husband of Porcia the sister of Cato Uticensis, friend of Cicero and enemy of Caesar, and a strong supporter of the aristocratical party. At first strongly opposed to Pompey, he afterwards sided with him against Caesar. He was consul in 54 B.C., and in 49 he was appointed by the senate to succeed Caesar as governor of Gaul. After the outbreak of the civil war he commanded the Pompeian troops at Corfinium, but was obliged to surrender. Although treated with great generosity by Caesar, he stirred up Massilia (Marseilles) to an unsuccessful resistance against him. After its surrender, he joined Pompey in Greece and was slain in the flight after the battle of Pharsalus, in which he commanded the right wing against Antony (Caesar, Bellum Civile, i., ii., iii.; Dio Cassius xxxix., xli.; Appian, B.C. ii. 82).

Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, son of the above, accompanied his father at Corfinium and Pharsalus, and, having been pardoned by Caesar, returned to Rome in 46. After Caesar’s assassination he attached himself to Brutus and Cassius, and in 43 was condemned by the lex Pedia as having been implicated in the plot. He obtained considerable naval successes in the Ionian Sea against the triumvirate, but finally, through the mediation of Asinius Pollio, became reconciled to Antony, who made him governor of Bithynia. He took part in Antony’s Parthian campaigns, and was consul in 32. When war broke out between Antony and Octavian, he at first supported Antony, but, disgusted with his intrigue with Cleopatra, went over to Octavian shortly before the battle of Actium (31). He died soon afterwards (Dio Cassius xlviii.-l; Appian, Bell. Civ. iv., v.). His son was married to Antonia, daughter of Antony, and became the grandfather of the emperor Nero.

See Drumann, Geschichte Rom., 2nd ed. by Groebe,vol. iii. pp.14 ff.