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Lucius Licinius Murena

Lucius Licinius Murena was the name of a father and son who lived in the late Roman Republic. The elder Lucius Murena was notable for having played an important role in the Roman victory against the forces of Mithridates VI of Pontus at the Battle of Chaeronea in 86 BC during the First Mithridatic War and for engaging in another war, the Second Mithridatic War (83–81 BC), against Mithridates in Asia Minor without the authorisation of the Roman senate. The younger Lucius Murena was an officer in the Third Mithridatic War, a governor of Gallia Transalpina in 64-63 BC and a consul in 62 BC. He stood trial because of charges of electoral bribery.

The cognomen 'Murena' is supposedly derived from the fondness of a familial ancestor for lampreys (murenae). The family gens was the Licinii.

The elder Lucius Murena

The elder Murena was a lieutenant of Lucius Cornelius Sulla during the First Mithridatic War ((89–85 BC) with Mithridates VI of Pontus. He participated in the Battle of Chaeronea of 86 BC. Sulla encamped near Chaeronea, close to the camp of Archelaüs, the commander of the enemy. He left Murena behind with one legion and two cohorts to face the enemy, should they prepare for battle, and went to Chaeronea, where the Romans had a garrison. Some of the townsfolk offered to go and cut off the enemy at nearby Thurium. Sulla agreed, returned to his camp and prepared for battle, putting Murena in charge of the left wing. The Chaeroneans were routed and Murena received some of the fugitives. During the battle Murena was attacked and Sulla sent four cohorts to help him. Later in the battle he set out to help him himself. However, Murena had already gained the upper hand and Sulla joined him in the pursuit of the fugitives.[1]

In a note on Lucius Licinius Lucullus, Pseudo-Aurelius Victor wrote that he gained the fleet of Mithridates and king Ptolemy of Egypt for Sulla through Murena.[2] Presumably the Ptolemy in question was Ptolemy IX.

At the end of that war, Sulla left Murena in Asia Minor in charge of the two legions formerly controlled by Gaius Flavius Fimbria as a legatus to watch over the region. We can deduct from Appian's account of this war in his The Mithridatic Wars, that Murena had been given the command of Phrygia, which had been annexed to the Kingdom of Pergamon in 188 BC, Galatia, a client state of Rome, and the kingdom of Cappadocia, which was a Roman ally. Under the terms of the Treaty of Dardanos, Sulla had left Mithridates in control of his kingdom of Pontus. Murena undertook an unauthorised war against Mithridates, the Second Mithridatic War (83-81 BC).

In 83 BC Murena attacked Comana, a town which belonged to Mithridates, because of suspicions that the latter was preparing for war against the Romans. Mithridates was fitting a fleet and raising an army to deal with a rebellion by the Colchians and the tribes around the Cimmerian Bosphorus. It was the scale of these preparations and the fact that he had not restored the whole of Cappadocia to their king, Ariobarzanes I, who was a Roman ally, which led to this impression. Mithridates sent envoys to invoke the peace treaty. Murena replied that he did not see any treaties because Sulla had not written it down before he returned to Greece. He then began looting and then returned to Cappadocia to winter there.[3]

Mithridates sent envoys to Rome to complain. In 82 BC Murena seized 400 villages which belonged to Mithridates, who chose to wait for the return of the ambassadors, rather than retaliate. Murena returned to Phrygia and Galatia loaded with the plunder. He was reached by a messenger of the senate who ordered him to stop the hostilities because Mithridates had not broken the peace treaty. Murena ignored this and invaded Mithridates’ territory. The latter thought that this was done under the order of Rome and retaliated. Roman villages were attacked and loot was taken. Murena was then defeated by Mithridates in a tough battle and fled to Phrygia. Mithridates drove all the Roman garrisons out of Cappadocia. Aulus Gabinius was sent to reinforce the order to stop fighting and to meet Mithridates and Ariobarzanes I to reconcile them.[4] Murena was recalled to Rome.[5]

Murena was awarded a triumph for a victory over king Mithridates in 81 BC.[6] Presumably this was for his role in the victory at the Battle of Chaeronea.

The younger Lucius Murena

The younger Murena began his public career as quaestor in c.75 BC. When the Third Mithridatic War began in 73 BC, Murena was appointed legatus for the commander Lucius Licinius Lucullus, a fellow Licinius. Murena served for several years in the East under Lucullus and was in charge of a legion.

In 65 BC, Murena was urban praetor and made himself popular by the magnificence of the games he provided.

After his praetorship, Murena was the governor of Gallia Transalpina in 64 BC and part of 63 BC. On his way there he levied some troops in Umbria. Cicero said that "[t]he republic enabled him to display his liberality, which he did so effectually as to engage in his interest many tribes which are connected with the municipalities of that district [Umbria]."[7] He returned to Rome from Gaul before the end of his term to stand for the consulship for 62 BC and left his brother, Gaius Murena, in charge of the province as his deputy.[8] Cicero said that his "conduct in his province procured him the affection of many influential men, and a great accession of reputation" and that "he contrived by his equity and diligence to enable many of our citizens to recover debts which they had entirely despaired of."” [7]

In 63 BC Cicero managed to have Murena elected as one of the consuls for 62 BC instead of Lucius Sergius Catilina.[9] However, before entering office he was accused of electoral bribery by Servius Sulpicius Rufus, whom he had defeated in the election, even though he was a famous jurist (he attained the consulate ten years later).

The prosecution case was presented by Marcus Porcius Cato the younger. According to Plutarch, Cato heard that there had been electoral bribery and swore that he would prosecute the briber. He did not pursue Decimus Junius Silanus, Murena's consular colleague, because he was the husband of his sister Servilia. He persecuted Lucius Murena. Murena appointed a man to keep Cato under observation as there was a law according to which the defendant could do this so that there could be no secret about the evidence gathered by the prosecutor. However, this man saw Cato’s probity and told Cato that if on a given day he told him that he was not pursuing the case, he would take his word for it and go away. Cicero, the consul and Murena's advocate, took advantage of Cato's like of stoic philosophers to joke about their paradoxes. Cato said that he was amusing.[10] Cicero, too, mentioned this episode.[11]

Murena was defended by Marcus Licinius Crassus (who three years later became one of the men of the first triumvirate), Quintus Hortensius, and Sulpicius' friend Cicero (in the extant speech For Murena) and was acquitted. It possible, however, that Murena was in fact guilty. Much of our information about Murena's life and career comes from the contents of Cicero's speech.

In the trial Murena was reproached for having adorned the triumph of his father with military gifts and sharing his triumph with him and was accused to have lived in luxury while he was on the military campaign. With regard to the triumph, Cicero argued that this was legitimate because he had served in the war under the command of his father. He added that the fact that he served in a war left no room for speaking ill of him.[12] Murena was also accused of being a dancer, which characterised him as a person less dignity. Cicero dismissed the relevance of this.[13] He also dismissed the suggestion that the dignity of Sulpicius’ status was higher than that of Murena and made favourable points in regard to Murena’s. He also argued that Murena’s electoral success was also due to the return of the soldiers from the war, who remembered his largesse when he was serving with them.[14]

During his consulship, Murena and Decimus Junius Silanus, his consular colleague, passed a law (the lex Junia Licinia) which enforced more strictly, with greater punishment for not complying, the provisions of the lex Caecilia Didia of 98 BC, which provided that: 1) laws should be promulgated (notified publicly) a trinundium (either three Roman eight-day weeks or tertiae nundinae, on the third market-day, 17 days) before they were proposed to the comitia (the popular assembly); 2) leges saturae ("stuffed" laws), that is, statutes dealing with heterogeneous subject matter, were forbidden. Thus, a single statute could not be a collection of unrelated measures.[15] It further enacted that, in order to prevent forgery, a copy of every proposed statute should be deposited before witnesses in the aerarium before it was put to the vote of the popular assembly.[16]


  1. ^ Plutarch, The life of Sulla, 17.3-19.4 [1]
  2. ^ Pseudo-Aurelius Victor, Victor, De Viris Illustribus, 74
  3. ^ Appian, The Mithridaric Wars, 64-65
  4. ^ Appian, The Mithridaric Wars, 65-66
  5. ^ Cicero, On Pompey's Command, 8
  6. ^ Fasti Triumphales (Degrassi, 1954)
  7. ^ a b Cicero, For Murena, 42 [2]
  8. ^ Badian, E. “Notes on Provincia Gallia in the Late Republic.” In Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire offerts à André Piganiol, vol. 2, p.106
  9. ^ Plutarch, The life of Cicero, 14.7-8; Cicero, For Murena, 26.52
  10. ^ Plutarch, the Life of Cato, 21
  11. ^ Cicero, De Finibus, 27.74
  12. ^ Cicero, For Murena, 11-12
  13. ^ Cicero, For Murena, 13
  14. ^ Cicero, For Murena, 37
  15. ^ Cicero, Speech concerning His House, 41; 53
  16. ^ Cicero, The correspondence of M. Tullius Cicero, Note V p. 429..


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Murena". Encyclopædia Britannica. 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 34.

  • Appian, The Roman History, Vol. 1, The Foreign Wars,, 2011; ISBN 978-1420940374
  • Cicero, The correspondence of M. Tullius Cicero : arranged according to its chronological order, with a revision of the text, a commentary and introductory essays, 1885; scanned by FQ Legacy Publishing, 2013; ASIN: B00B3KKY20
  • Cicero: Pro Murena, Bloomsbury 3PL; reprint edition, 2013; ISBN 978-0862920104
  • Fatham, E., Cicero’s Pro L. Murena Oratio. American Philological Association texts and commentaries series (Society for Classical Studies Texts & Commentaries), Oxford University Press USA, 2013; ISBN 978-0199974535
  • Plutarch, Lives, vol. 7, Demosthenes and Cicero. Alexander and Caesar (Loeb Classical Library) Loeb, 1919; ASIN: B00E6TGP8C
  • Plutarch, Lives, vol. 8, Sertorious and Eumenes, Phocion and Cato and Younger(Loeb Classical Library). Loeb, 1989: ISBN 978-0674991118
  • Plutarch, Lives, Vol. 4, Alcibiades and Coriolanus Lysander and Sulla v. 4 (Loeb Classical Library) Loeb, 1989; ISBN 978-0674990890

External links

  • Wikisource-logo.svg Latin Wikisource has original text related to this article: Pro Lucio Murena
  • Perseus Digital Library has an English translation of Cicero's Pro Murena [3]
Political offices
Preceded by
Gaius Antonius Hybrida and Marcus Tullius Cicero
Consul of the Roman Republic together with Decimus Junius Silanus
62 BC
Succeeded by
Marcus Valerius Messalla Niger and Marcus Pupius Piso Frugi Calpurnianus