The Trials of Sempronius and Postumia

The Partial Historians

The Trials of Sempronius and Postumia

The Partial Historians are back in the 420s BCE and we are wrapping up the decade with some first-class DRAMA! At the centre of it all are the trials of Sempronius and Postumia. The only question is, can you handle it?

Episode 139 – The Trials of Sempronius and Postumia

Fake Elections

The year began with some classic conflict between the patricians and the plebeians. The tribunes of the plebs were FURIOUS when their relatives did not get elected as quaestors. There was only one possible explanation – election fraud!

There was clearly one man to blame: Aulus Sempronius Atratinus. He had been in charge of overseeing the elections and he had rigged the results. Unfortunately, he was also a military tribune and therefore immune from prosecution. But that didn’t mean that his relatives were…

The Trial of Sempronius

The tribunes set their sights on Atratinus’ cousin, Gaius Sempronius. Sempronius was the perfect target. He had been in charge of a DISASTROUS military campaign in 423 BCE. Time for vengeance!

Jean Lemaire c. 1645-1655. Roman Senators and Legates.
The picture shows senators walking though a square attended by lictors. Maybe they’re on their way to a trial!

Poor Postumia

Sempronius was not the only person to find themselves on trial in 420 BCE. A Vestal Virgin named Postumia was accused of incestum. Apparently, her clothing was a bit too sexy, and she had a sense of humour. What a horrible combination! Think of the children!

However, incestum was a very serious charge as it put the Romans’ relationship with the gods in jeopardy. It was no joke for Postumia either. Charges like this could lead to live burial for a Vestal.

Tune in to find out whether Sempronius and Postumia manage to emerge victorious from their respective trials.

A modern imagining of Vestal Virgin by sculptor Joseph-Charles Marin 1791-95.
Courtesy of Mary Harrsch on Flickr.

Things to Look Out For:

  • Clear signs of our Partiality
  • Lengthy digressions on work apparel
  • Red lipstick and mini skirts
  • Patrician morality par excellence  
  • Family rivalry
  • Immense excitement to find a woman in our story – at last!
  • Dr G’s immense expertise on Vestal Virgins

Need a recap on Sempronius? Check out our previous episodes on 423 BCE and 422-21 BCE.

Our Players 420 BCE

Military Tribunes with Consular Power

  • L. Quinctius L. f. L. n. Cincinnatus (Pat) Mil. Tr. c. p. 438, 425
  • T. Quinctius L. f. L. n. Poenus Cincinnatus (Pat) Cos. 431, 428a, Mil. Tr. c. p. 426
  • L. Furius Sp. f. -n. Medullinus (Pat) Mil. Tr. c. p. 432, 425
  • M. Manlius – f. – n. Vulso (Pat)
  • A. Sempronius L. f. A. n. Atratinus (Pat) Cos. 428b, Mil. Tr. c. p. 428, 416  

Tribunes of the Plebs

  • A. Antistius
  • Sex. Pompilius
  • M. Canuleius


  • L. Papirius Mugillanus (Pat) Cos. 427, Mil. Tr. c. p. 422


  • Sp. Minucius

Vestal Virgin

  • Postumia

Our Sources

Sound Credits

Our music was composed by Bettina Joy de Guzman

Sound effects thanks to Pixabay, Fesliyan Studios and BBC Sounds.

A statue of a Vestal Virgin in the atrium Vestae (house of the Vestals) in Rome.
Courtesy of Carole Raddato via Wikimedia Commons.

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