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Like other Roman families in the later times of the Republic, the Caecilii traced their origin to a mythical personage, Caeculus, the founder of Praeneste. He was said to be the son of Vulcan, and engendered by a spark; a similar story was told of Servius Tullius. He was exposed as an infant, but preserved by his divine father, and raised by maidens. He grew up amongst the shepherds, and became a highwayman. Coming of age, he called upon the people of the countryside to build a new town, convincing them with the aid of a miracle. An alternative tradition claimed that the Caecilii were descended from Caecas, one of the companions of Aeneas, who came with him to Italy after the sack of Troy.
The praenomina used by the Caecilii during the Republic are Lucius, Quintus, Gaius, and Marcus. Titus appears only towards the very end of the Republic, and is not known to have been used by the great house of the Caecilii Metelli.
Branches and cognomina
The cognomina of this gens under the Republic are Bassus, Denter, Cornutus, Metellus, Niger, and Rufus, of which the Metelli are the best known. From the consulship of Lucius Caecilius Metellus Denter, the family of the Metelli became one of the most distinguished at Rome. In the latter half of the second century BC, it obtained an extraordinary number of the highest offices of the state. Quintus Metellus, who was consul in 143 BC, had four sons, who were raised to the consulship in succession; and his brother, Lucius Metellus, who was consul in 142, had two sons, who were likewise elevated to the same dignity.
The Metelli were distinguished as a family for their unwavering support of the party of the Optimates. The etymology of their name is quite uncertain. Festus connects it, probably from mere similarity of sound, with mercenarii. The history of the family is very difficult to trace, and in many parts conjectural. It is treated at length by Drumann.
The victory of the consul L. Caecilius Metellus against Hasdrubal's elephants at Panormus in 251 seems to have left a durable impression on the Caecili Metelli, as many of them featured an elephant on the coins they minted. In fact, elephants are so often used on their coins that it might have become their emblem.
Marcus Caecilius Cornutus, praetor before 90 BC, then legate in 89 and 88 during the Marsic War. He escaped the purges of Marius in 87 through a ruse of his slaves, who passed him off for dead, before spiriting him off to Gaul.
Marcus Caecilius M. f. Cornutus, a member of the College of Arvales in 21-20 BC, but perhaps as early as 29, when Augustus re-established the college.
Marcus Caecilius M. f. M. n. Cornutus, succeeded his father as Arval. He was of praetorian rank in the reign of Tiberius but, unjustly accused in connection with a plot against the Emperor, put an end to his own life in AD 24.
Gaia Caecilia, the legendary personification of Roman domesticity, frequently equated with Tanaquil, the wife of Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth King of Rome.
Quintus Caecilius Niger, a Sicilian, and quaestor of Verres during his administration of Sicily. He contended with Cicero for the prosecution of Verres, pretending to be the enemy of his former master, but in reality desiring to deprive the Sicilians of Cicero's advocacy. Cicero's oration Divinatio in Caecilium was delivered against this Caecilius when the judices had to decide which should be given the prosecution.
Lucius Caecilius Rufus, half-brother of Publius Cornelius Sulla, was tribune of the plebs in 63 BC, and proposed that both Sulla and Publius Autronius Paetus, who had been elected consuls for 66, but been convicted of bribery and condemned, should again be allowed to stand for office; however, Sulla convinced him to withdraw the proposal. Rufus was a supporter of Cicero and the aristocratic party, and opposed agrarian reform. He was praetor in 57, and proposed the recall of Cicero from banishment, incurring the wrath of Publius Clodius Pulcher.
(Caecilius) Bucilianus, a friend of Brutus and Cassius, was, together with his brother, Caecilius, recruited to the conspiracy against Caesar. On the fateful day, Bucilianus wounded Caesar in the back. He was probably a Bucilius adopted by a Caecilius.
Caecilius, one of the conspirators against Caesar, along with his brother, Bucilianus.
Gaius Caecilius, grandfather of the writer and statesman "Pliny the Younger".
Lucius Caecilius Cilo, father of the writer and statesman "Pliny the Younger".
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus , or "Pliny the Younger", a writer and statesman during the late first and early second century. He was a member of gens Caecilia from birth, but was adopted by his maternal uncle, the scholar Gaius Plinius Secundus , or "Pliny the Elder", and changed his name accordingly.
^B. M. Levick in Cornell, Fragments, vol. I, pp. 426-428; vol. II, pp. 848-851; vol. III, p. 519. Levick writes that Marcus Caecilius Cornutus, the Arval of 21 BC is another, but less likely possibility.
Quintus Asconius Pedianus, Commentarius in Oratio Ciceronis In Toga Candida (Commentary on Cicero's Oration In Toga Candida), Commentarius in Oratio Ciceronis Pro Milone (Commentary on Cicero's Oration Pro Milone).
Michael Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage, Cambridge University Press (1974, 2001).
Géza Alföldy, Konsulat und Senatorenstand unter der Antonien (The Consulate and Senatorial State under the Antonines), Rudolf Habelt, Bonn (1977).
Robin Waterfield, Plutarch: Roman Lives, Oxford University Press (1999).
Jörg Rüpke, Anne Glock, David Richardson (translator), Fasti Sacerdotum: A Prosopography of Pagan, Jewish, and Christian Religious Officials in the City of Rome, 300 BC to AD 499, Oxford University Press, 2008.
Tim Cornell (editor), The Fragments of the Roman Historians, Oxford University Press, 2013.