Gaius Flaminius

(d. 217 bc)

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Was the only politician before the Gracchi to mount a serious challenge to the senatorial establishment on behalf of the populares (see optimates). A novus homo, he was tribune of the plebs 232 bc, and, against opposition led by Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, carried a law distributing the ager Gallicus—land confiscated from the Senones 50 years earlier—in individual lots to needy Roman citizens. Polybius describes the law as the beginning of the perversion of the people, and claims that it caused the Gallic invasion of 225. Praetor in 227, Flaminius was the first annual governor of Sicily. As consul in 223 he led the first Roman army to cross the river Po (Padus), and won a victory over the Insubres. Later sources say that prodigies (see portents) caused the senate to annul the results of the elections, and they sent a letter to the consuls ordering them to abdicate, but Flaminius refused to open it until after the battle. It is said that his triumph was voted by the people. Acc. to Plutarch, the consuls were eventually forced to abdicate. As censor in 220 he built the via Flaminia and the Circus Flaminius. He is said to have been the only senator to support the law of the tribune Quintus Claudius providing that no senator or son of a senator might own a ship capable of carrying more than 300 amphorae (218). He was elected consul for the second time for 217, is said to have neglected to take the auspicia at Rome, to have entered office at Ariminum, and to have ignored unfavourable omens. He took up position at Arretium, but Hannibal marched past him towards the heart of Etruria. Flaminius followed, and because of morning fog was caught in ambush at Lake Trasimene. He was killed and 15,000 men with him. The defeat was ascribed to his neglect of religious observances.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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