In the story of Decius Mundus, Josephus is not only making a word play with Decius Mus, a Roman hero who performed a self-sacrifice on behalf of the army, but also a word play with the Roman name of Jesus, the Jewish hero that was willing to lay down his life for the good of the many. The contemporary Roman name in question is Decimus, or more specifically Decimus Junius Silanus Torquatus from the elite Junius family. The name Decimus is obviously quite close to Decius and can also be seen as a contraction of Decius Mus. He was consul in 53 AD, but brought to trial for treason in 64 AD. Nero became jealous of the generosity that Decimus showed in giving his freedman titles equal to those of Nero's freeman, a seemingly petty charge. Nero later claimed (probably insincerely) that he would have pardoned Decimus if he had not taken his own life first.
"Described by Syme as 'abnormally prolific and prominent' under the Julio-Claudians, this family [the Junii Silani] was also excessively proud and its own distinctions, as well as its connections by marriage with the ruling family, gave its members a presumption that they had inherited a central role in Rome's governance. Tacitus refers to their claritudo ('splendid fame'), and observes that they had become so arrogant by 65 that a proposal was made that year in the senate that the month of June (Junius) be renamed because of the unfortunate associations of its current name."
Anthony Barrett, Agrippina, p 74.
Other prominent Junii include:
Decimus Junius Silanus, banned from public office in Rome after his affair with Julia the Younger (granddaughter of Augustus) in 8 AD.
Marcus Junius Silanus, (suffect) consul in 15 AD, father of Junia Claudia, first wife of Caligula. In 37 AD, Caligula divorced Junia Claudia and her father supposedly slit his own throat after being brought to trial on unknown charges (perhaps suspicion of conspiracy). This same Junia Claudia apparently later married Gaius Silius, who divorced her in order to have an affair with Messalina. Tacitus asserted that her family's standing matched that of Agrippina the Younger (who became wife of Claudius after the fall of Messalina due to the affair with Silius).
Gaius Silanus, father-in-law of Gemellus (grandson of Tiberius Caesar). Accused of treason and forced to kill himself shortly after Caligula supposedly tortured Gemellus to death by thrusting hot irons up his anus with the help of the Prefect of the Praetorian Guard, Macro.
Gaius Junius Silanus, governor of Asia, exiled in 22 AD for treason and accusation of extortion.
Gaius Appius Silanus (son of the above), accused of treason by Tiberius in 32 but survived. Recalled by Claudius to Rome in the 40's and married to the emperor's mother-in-law Domitia Lepida (mother of Messalina). However, he became the first political assassination in the reign of Claudius. He was executed by Claudius in 42 AD after being framed by Messalina and her steward Narcissus. Appius had supposedly spurned the sexual advances of Messalina. The fall of Appius is thought to have inspired the revolt of the legate (in Dalmatia) Pompey-Scribonianus later in that year.
Marcus Junius Silanus Torquatus, consul of 19 AD, governor of Africa, husband of Aemilia Lepida (Herodian Berenice the Elder) and probably father of at least some of her children. The date and cause of his death are not known, but perhaps he is the same as the Marcus Junius Silanus (consul 15 AD) noted above.
Lucius Junius Silanus, son of Marcus Junius Silanus (the one immediately above), son-in-law of Claudius (married to his daughter Octavia). Attained early questorship and praetorship by favor of Claudius, and awarded triumphal honors alongside Claudius after the expedition to Britain. After the fall of his mother-in-law Messalina, Lucius was accused of incest with his sister Junia Calvina and forced to commit suicide to clear the way for Octavia
to marry Nero the son of Agrippina the Younger, Claudius' new queen. Junia Calvina was exiled from Rome.
Marcus Junius Silanus, son of the consul of 19 AD by the same name, consul of 46 AD, then appointed governor of Asia. Upon the succession of Nero, Marcus was targetted for the first political assassination. Agents of the new Caesar were sent to Asia to poison him in 54 AD.
Lucius Junius Silanus Torquatus, son of Marcus Junius Silanus (consul of 46 AD). After his father's death he was raised by his aunt Junia Lepida and her husband Cassius Longinus. Tacitus makes this Lucius a rival candidate to C. Calpurnius Piso for replacing Nero as emperor. (Piso had married Claudia Antonia, the elder daughter of Claudius.) When the conspiracy of Piso failed in 65 AD, Nero ordered the deaths of both Piso and Lucius. Cassius Longinus was exiled for his support of Lucius and supposedly honoring the memory of his namesake Cassius (not to mention Longinus), conspirator and assassin of the first Caesar.
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