Tiberius Coruncanius

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Tiberius Coruncanius (died 241 BC) was a consul of the Roman Republic in 280 BC. As a military commander in that year and the following, he was known for the battles against Pyrrhus of Epirus that led to the expression "Pyrrhic victory". He was the first plebeian Pontifex Maximus, and possibly the first teacher of Roman law to offer public instruction.

A consul held the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic, and ancient Romans considered the consulship the highest level of the cursus honorum.

Roman Republic Period of ancient Roman civilization (509–27 BC)

The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.

Pyrrhus of Epirus Epirot Illyrian military leader

Pyrrhus Ι was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic period. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians, of the royal Aeacid house, and later he became king of Epirus. He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome. Several of his victorious battles caused him unacceptably heavy losses, from which the term Pyrrhic victory was coined. He is the subject of one of Plutarch's Parallel Lives.



Coruncanius, of plebeian descent, is believed to have hailed from Tusculum. [1]

Tusculum ancient Roman city and archeological site in the Alban Hills of Latium, Italy

Tusculum is a ruined Roman city in the Alban Hills, in the Latium region of Italy.

He was first elected consul in 280 BC with Publius Valerius Laevinus, and led an expedition into Etruria against the Etruscan cities. When Pyrrhus of Epirus invaded Italia, and defeated the Roman legions of Laevinus at the Battle of Heraclea, Tiberius' legions were recalled to Rome to bolster the defense of Roman territory.

Publius Valerius Laevinus was commander of the Roman forces at the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC, in which he was defeated by Pyrrhus of Epirus. In his Life of Pyrrhus, Plutarch wrote that Gaius Fabricius Luscinus said of this battle that it was not the Epirots who had beaten the Romans, but only Pyrrhus who had beaten Laevinus.

Etruria region of Central Italy

Etruria was a region of Central Italy, located in an area that covered part of what are now Tuscany, Lazio, and Umbria.

Etruscan civilization Pre-Roman civilization of ancient Italy

The Etruscan civilization is the modern name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany, south of the Arno river, western Umbria, northern and central Lazio, with offshoots also to the north in the Po Valley, in the current Emilia-Romagna, south-eastern Lombardy and southern Veneto, and to the south, in some areas of Campania. As distinguished by its unique language, this civilization endured from before the time of the earliest Etruscan inscriptions until its assimilation into the Roman Republic, beginning in the late 4th century BC with the Roman–Etruscan Wars.

In 254 BC or 253 BC, he was the first plebeian elected Pontifex Maximus, or chief priest of the Roman Republic, which position had been previously monopolized by patricians. He died in 241 BC and was succeeded by Lucius Caecilius Metellus, another plebeian.

Lucius Caecilius Metellus was the son of Lucius Caecilius Metellus Denter. He was Consul in 251 BC and 247 BC, Pontifex Maximus in 243 BC and Dictator in 224 BC.


He was the first who publicly professed law (publice professus est), known to be both eloquent and full of knowledge. [2] Like Socrates, he left no writings.

Socrates classical Greek Athenian philosopher

Socrates was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher of the Western ethical tradition of thought. An enigmatic figure, he made no writings, and is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers writing after his lifetime, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. Other sources include the contemporaneous Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Aeschines of Sphettos. Aristophanes, a playwright, is the main contemporary author to have written plays mentioning Socrates during Socrates' lifetime, though a fragment of Ion of Chios' Travel Journal provides important information about Socrates' youth.

His public legal instruction had the effect of creating a class of legally skilled non-priests (jurisprudentes), a sort of consultancy. After Coruncanius' death, instruction gradually became more formal, with the introduction of books on law beyond the then scant official Roman legal texts. [3]

It is possible that as the first plebeian Pontifex Maximus, Coruncanius allowed members of the public and students of the law of Ancient Rome to attend his consultations tasked with giving legal advice to citizens. These consultations were probably held outside the College of Pontiffs, and thus accessible to all those interested. As such, he became the first teacher of Roman law (how students of law learned their material earlier is unknown). [4]

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Battle of Heraclea battle

The Battle of Heraclea took place in 280 BC between the Romans under the command of consul Publius Valerius Laevinus, and the combined forces of Greeks from Epirus, Tarentum, Thurii, Metapontum, and Heraclea under the command of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus. Although the battle was a victory for the Greeks, their casualties were so high that they were eventually compelled to withdraw from Italy. It is from this battle that the term "pyrrhic victory" is derived, meaning a victory at such high cost as to amount to a defeat.

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The lex Ogulnia was a Roman law passed in 300 BC. It was a milestone in the long struggle between the patricians and plebeians. The law was carried by the brothers Quintus and Gnaeus Ogulnius, tribunes of the plebs in 300 BC. For the first time, it opened the various priesthoods to the plebeians. It also increased the number of pontifices from five to nine, and led to the appointment of Tiberius Coruncanius, the first plebeian pontifex maximus, in 254 BC. The law further required that five of the augurs be plebeians.

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  1. George Long article, p. 655 of A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Anqiquities by William Smith. John Murray, London 1875.
  2. Unknown. "legal education." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 4 March 2007 <http://secure.britannica.com/eb/article-9106475>.

Political offices
Preceded by
Lucius Aemilius Barbula
and Quintus Marcius Philippus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Publius Valerius Laevinus
280 BC
Succeeded by
Publius Sulpicius Saverrio
and Publius Decius Mus
Religious titles
Preceded by
Pontifex Maximus of the Roman Republic
254 BC – 241 BC
Succeeded by
Lucius Caecilius Metellus