It is said that the majority of names are a corruption of older ones. Changed in one form or another to fit the society which the family had moved. Often we find lengthy or strange sounding European names being Americanized to fit our country. This process has occurred throughout the history of our world. It is said that only a small handful of names have retained their original spelling regardless of the circumstances of time. One of these names is found within the Roman Cornelii families which are considered one of the oldest and most prominent documented genealogical families on record, dating as it does to at least 500 years before the birth of Christ. The Cornelii families are designated by either male or female gender known as Cornelius and Cornelia. The Cornelii clan contained within itself a number of other famous Roman families, all of common origin; like the Scipiones, Dolabellae, Sulla and Cinnae.
Abit of history might be in order before we continue. According to legend, Rome was founded in 753BC by Romulus & Remus. According to Roman mythology it was a man named Faustulus, a shepherd, who found the twins on the Palentine Hill where they had been reared by a she-wolf. He took the children with him and gave them to his wife Acca Larentia to raise. Years later Romulus became the first of seven powerful Kings, many of whom were Etruscan. They ruled until 509BC. This is when the Roman people rose up and expelled these foreign monarchs. Rome then established a more representative form of government known as the Republic. In place of a King, the newly founded Republic relied upon its Senate, or its aristocratic family classes, to oversee the government and the election of various officials; like the Consuls, who were the most important executives of the Republic. The Consuls were often military leaders who could represent Rome in foreign matters, and who would lead the Senate. The limits on their authority were few, but important: there were always two consuls per year, each acting as a 'watch' on the other. They were elected by popular assembly, and they served for a period of one year (although they could be re-elected)
One of the earliest recorded Cornelius Consuls was Serviu Cornelius Maluginensis. He was elected in 485BC. However, it is the Cornelii clans of Scipones, or Scipio which are most documented and one of the earliest recorded members of this family was Cornelius Lucius Scipio Barbatus who had been a Roman Consul in 298BC. He led the Roman army in victory against the Etruscans near Voltaterrae.
SEXTUS POMPEIUS FOSTLUS
Roman Republic denarius, circa 137 B.C. It depicts a she wolf standing facing right, suckling the twins Romulus and Remus. There is a fig-tree in background with three birds. The shepherd Faustulus of Amulius is standing on the left side of the coin, facing right Behind him are the leters FOSTLVS. the letters SEX POM are on right and ROMA is in exergue.
[The coin is from the collection of J.Edward Cornelius]
Barbatus' son was named Lucius Cornelius Scipio. He was a great commander in the First Punic Wars which was fought between 264 BC to 241 BC. It was the first of three major wars fought between Carthage in North Africa and the Roman Republic. It was Luicius, who in 259, led the Roman fleet in the capture of Aleria and then Corsica, but he failed against Olbia in Sardinia. He became a Roman Consul in 259BC. He later dedicated a temple to the Tempestates, locating it near the Porta Capena.
Lucius Cornelius Scipio had two sons; Publius Cornelius Scipio who became a Roman Consul in 218 and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, who became a Roman Consul in 222BC. Josephus the Jewish historian and soldier mentions Publius Cornelius Scipio in his two books, The Wars of The Jews and Antiquities of The Jews. Publius was second in command of the Roman Army under Marcus Turius Camillus. It was Camillus who fought against Hannibal in Italy, while Publius Cornelius was sent to Spain in 212BC to assist another army to fight Hannibal's brother Hasdrubel, in order to destroy Hannibal's the supply lines. The other army which was already in Spain was that of Publius' brother Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus. History records that while in Spain both Gnaeus and Publius Cornelius died in battle in the Baetis River valley in 211BC, in different engagements. Their children would inevitable become prominent figures in Roman history.
As for Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, he had a son named Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica. He was a Roman Consul in 191. His son, named Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum, was a Roman Consul in 162.
As for his brother Publius Cornelius Scipio, he had two sons. Although Rome knew that reinforcements were needed to be sent to Spain, no senior general would undertake the task. This was during the period of the Second Punic War, which was fought between Carthage and Rome from 218 to 204 BC. During this period Publius' son, who was also called Publius Cornelius Scipio, offered his services to revenge his father's death. In 208BC he engaged Haninibal's brother Hadsrubal in the vicinity of Baecula on the upper Guadalquivir River in southern Spain which inevitably lead to one engagement after another until Scipio conquered all of Spain. In 205BC he was elected as a Consul. Shortly afterwards he went to Africa where he finally conquered Hannibal. From that point on he becomes known as Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major, or the Elder. He died in 184BC.
His brother, Lucius Cornelius Scipio, who had been with him in Spain, Sicily and Africa, became a Roman Consul in 190BC. Lucius Cornelius Scipio later commanded the armies against Antiochus III of Syria and defeated him at the Battle of Magnesia. Upon his triumphant return to Rome he was given the name Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiagenes.
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major had one sons; Publius Cornelius Scipio who would inevitably infuriated Rome and be expelled from the Senate. Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major had one sons; Publius Cornelius Scipio who would inevitably infuriated Rome and be expelled from the Senate.
His son, who was an adopted child originally born in 185 BC as the second son of Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, was named Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Numantinus, or Africanus the Younger. He became a Roman consul in 147BC. While he was stationed in Spain grave issues were brewing in Rome dealing with a political revolt being led by his cousin and step-brother, Tiberius Gracchus. It is believed that Scipio convinced a mutual cousin of himself and Gracchus, named Scipio Nasica, to deal with the problem. Nasica dealt with it by having his followers met with Tiberius Gracchus on the steps of the Capitol one morning in 133BC where they clubbed him to death. Although Scipio Aemilianus publicly 'condoned' the murder, he was spared from complicity because he had not yet returned from Spain. He return in 129BC. Shortly afterwards he was found dead in his bed under mysterious circumstances. He was 45. Some claim that he was murdered by supporters of Gracchus.
Ancient Roman history indicates that there were many great leaders who carried the noble name of Cornelius. For instance, it was Lucius Cornelius Sylla Epaphroditus, who was better known as Sulla Cornelius, who was at the side of Julius Caesar when he invaded Britain. Sulla was given the special title of Felix, meaning “the Lucky.” He strongly believed in this, that the gods were always favorable to him.
Sulla would inevitably marry Caecilia Metella, his third of four wives, and she would inevitably give birth to twins. In the writing of Plutarch (circa 45-125AD), the Priest of the Delphic Oracle and historian who wrote about many of the lives of prominent Greeks and Romans, he has an interesting quote pertaining to Sulla Cornelius. He writes, “Moreover, when his wife had brought him forth twins, he named the male Faustus and the female Fausta, the Roman words for what is auspicious and of happy omen.” Their names are basically a male and female versions of “Lucky.”
The military exploits of Sulla’s son Faustus are quite impressive. Numerous Roman coins were minted in his honor. I was so pleased the day that I found one for sale that I bought it immediately. It is one of those silly little obsessions of mine; owning Roman coins and its history. Anyway, the Faustus coin was a small silver denarius circa 56BC. It has the head of Venus on one side, sceptar over the shoulder. On the obverse side are three military trophies between jugs and littus. Below is the FAVSTVS monogram which looks like a ‘W.’ It is said that “this coin honors Pompey the Great, Faustus’ father-in-law; three trophies were engraved on the signet ring of Pompey the Great symbolizing his victories on three continents.” It was Faustus Cornelius who later put to siege and conquered Jerusalem in 64BC. Josephus wrote that the Roman leader Faustus Cornelius was the first man over the wall when the Holy of Holies, or Temple in Jerusalem was finally stormed.
"... for it was in the third month of the siege before the Romans could even with great difficulty overthrow one of the towers, and get into the temple. Now he that first of all ventured to get over the wall, was Faustus Cornelius the son of Sylla; and next after him were two centurions, Furius and Fabius; and every one of these was followed by a cohort of his own, who encompassed the Jews on all sides, and slew them, some of them as they were running for shelter to the temple, and others as they, for a while, fought in their own defense.” - Josephus , Book 21, Chapter 7, Verse 4.
I have been unable to discover the wife of Faustus Cornelius’ but his son, who’s name was Faustus Cornelius Sulla, is the grandson of Sulla. In an ironic twist of fate, he married Domitia Lepida around 21AD. She was the daughter of Pompey and also the granddaughter of the legendary political leader and general Mark Antony, of Cleopatra fame.
Faustus and Domitia had a son, born a year after they were married in 22AD and Roman history records his name as Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix. He married the Roman Emperor Claudius’ daughter, or Claudia Antonia. Unfortunately, Faustus’ political career was not as popular as was that of his grandfather’s and history records that while Gaul, in 62AD, he committed suicide.
As for Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix’s great aunt, the twin of Faustus, or Fausta (Faustina) Cornelius, she would marry the famous Roman leader Titus Annius Milo. He was the dictator of Lanuvium, which was his native city just south of Rome in the Alban Hills near the Appian Way. It was no secret that Milo detested the Roman leader Publius Clodius and that they often quarreled in the streets. However, on one faithful day in January of 52BC as Clodius was riding a horse with approximately thirty mounted slaves all carrying swords, along with three traveling companions, he stumbled upon Milo coming in the opposite direction. Milo was being carried in a carriage along with his wife Fausta and his close friend Marcus Fufius. A large contingent of slaves also accompanied him, along with many gladiators; two of which were the famous gladiators Eudamus and Birria. What happened next was predicable - everyone started fighting. In the end Milo was victorious, Clodius was slain and some witnesses even pointed their finger at Milo himself as the assassin. When Milo was brought to trial he did not speak fearing the followers of Clodius would be incited to riot. Instead his defense was composed and read by the famous philosopher, and friend, Marcus Tillius Cicero. In the end Milo was convicted but his life was spared and he was banished to Marseilles. His wife Fausta followed him into exile.
Yes, the Roman Cornelius lineages are quite entertaining. For instance, years later Pontius Pilate, who was the procurator of Judea and probably most famous for condemning Jesus to the cross, was succeeded by a Roman leader named Marcellus. He was a man with whom it was no secret that the Emperor didn’t trust. To remedy this situation the Emperor picked another Roman centurion named Cneius Cornelius to act as a personal protégé under Marcellus. Cneius was to report directly to the Emperor regarding any actions that Marcellus might take in Judea that may or may not be deemed in Rome’s best interest. Cneius was an extremely important Roman leader. We can go on and on in regards to these early Corneliuses. For instance, it was Julius Caesar who named Caius Cornelius Treasurer of all Rome around 45BC and Claudius Caesar’s most trusted personal messenger was the son of Cereo Cornelius.
There is also a Roman centurion named Cornelius mentioned in The Holy Bible in The Book of Acts (Chapter 10 & 11) where it states, “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian Band.” The word centurion implies a Roman Officer, or captain in charge of a century, which in ancient Rome meant 100 men. One day, as Cornelius was praying, an angel of God was said to have appeared to him and he told Cornelius to send a messenger to Joppa. This messenger was to ask the prophet Peter to come and preach to Cornelius about Christ. When this occurred, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius, his family and friends as it had happened on the first Pentecost (Acts 2), and they began to speak in other tongues. Cornelius is considered historically the first gentile and high-ranking Roman officers ever converted to Christianity. He is often referred to traditionally as the first Bishop of Caesarea, or First Bishop under Caesar’s rule. His life is traditionally celebrated every fourth day of February. One of his known descendants was Cornelius the Fourth Bishop of Antioch who ruled in 167AD.
Also, in the apostolic succession of the old Catholic Church, the 21st Pope was named Cornelius. He was elected in March 251AD, "not through his own initiative, but because of his humility, prudence and goodness" (St. Ciprian). This was during a lull in the Christian persecutions due to an absence of the Roman Emperor Trajan Decius. However, this old Emperor was soon replaced by Emperor Trebonianus Gallus who detested Christians and exiled Cornelius to Centuricellae where he was reportedly martyred in June of 253AD, where some accounts have him being beheaded. A Feast in Pope Cornelius’ honor is celebrated every September 16th.
There are many other famous Cornelius’ throughout history and an entire volume can be written just listing brief biographical sketches. What I’ve briefly tried to portray is that the name of Cornelius itself is very well documented throughout the history of early Europe, usually centered around Roman or early Italian history; or where Rome colonized.
Part I...............The Name [which is this page]