chapter  2
25 Pages

Family and Early Years

THE gens Annia, INTO WHICH Marcus was born, was not particularly celebrated in the annals of Rome. It had produced two consuls in the second century BC; but the only Annius to have achieved fame – or notoriety – was Milo, the unscrupulous politician whose use of violence helped to destroy the free republic. In fact, Annii were widespread, in the provinces as well as in Italy, and Marcus’ family, when it first emerges in the mid-first century AD, was settled in the southern Spanish province of Baetica. Their home was the small town of Ucubi, a few miles southeast of Córdoba. The earliest record of an Annius in this region derives from the period of the civil war between Caesar and the Pompeians. A man called Annius Scapula, ‘of the highest rank and influence in the province’, was involved in a plot to murder Caesar’s governor, the hated Q. Cassius Longinus, and was put to death. About a century later Marcus’ greatgrandfather, Annius Verus, became a senator. During the reigns of Claudius and Nero the colonial élites of the west, especially from the provinces of Baetica, Tarraconensis and Narbonensis, began to achieve prominence. The influence of Seneca, a native of Córdoba, and Burrus, from Vaison, undoubtedly assisted in their rise. The first Annius Verus may have been a beneficiary. He may be assumed to have been a wealthy man; and the likely source of his wealth would be olive oil. In the Augustan History he is said to have been ‘made a praetorian senator’, that is, to have been given the rank of ex-praetor. Presumably this was a reward for services rendered in the civil war of 68-70. The second Annius Verus, grandfather of Marcus, was made a patrician by Vespasian and Titus in their censorship, 73-74. Both promotions may have come at the same time.1