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Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo (c. 7 - 67 A.D.) was a Roman general.



Corbulo was born in Italy into a senatorial family. His father (who entered the senate as a formal praetor under Tiberius) had the same name and his mother was named Vistilia, who came from a family who held the praetorship.

Under Caligula

The early career of Corbulo is unknown but he was consul in 40 during the reign of Roman Emperor Caligula, who was his brother-in-law through Caligula's marriage with his maternal elder half sister Milonia Caesonia.

In Germania Inferior

After Caligula's assassination, Corbulo's career went into a halt until, in 47, Emperor Claudius made him commander of the Germania Inferior armies, with base camp in modern Cologne.

The new assignment was a difficult one and Corbulo had to deal with major rebellions and violence outbreaks coming from Cherusci and Chauci Germanic tribes. During his stay in Germania, the general ordered the construction of a canal between the rivers Rhinemarker and Meusemarker . Parts of this engineering work, known as Fossa Corbulonis or Corbulo's Canal, have been found at archeological digs. Its course is about identical to the Vlietmarker, which connects the modern towns of Leidenmarker (ancient Matilo) and Voorburgmarker (Forum Hadriani).

In the east

Corbulo returned to Rome, where he stayed until 52, when he was named governor of the province of Asia. Following Claudius' death in 54, the new emperor Nero sent him to the eastern province to deal with the Armenia question. After some delay, he took the offensive in 58, and, reinforced by troops from Germany, attacked Tiridates, king of Armenia and brother of Vologases I of Parthia. Artaxatamarker and Tigranocerta were captured by his legions (III Gallica, VI Ferrata, and X Fretensis), and Tigranes, who had been brought up in Rome and was the obedient servant of the government, was installed king of Armenia.

In 61 Tigranes invaded Adiabene, an integral portion of the Parthian kingdom, and a conflict between Rome and Parthia seemed unavoidable. Vologases, however, thought it better to come to terms. It was agreed that both the Roman and Parthian troops should evacuate Armenia, that Tigranes should be dethroned, and the position of Tiridates recognized. The Roman government declined to accede to these arrangements, and Lucius Caesennius Paetus, governor of Cappadociamarker, was ordered to settle the question by bringing Armenia under direct Roman administration.

The protection of Syria in the meantime claimed all of Corbulo's attention. Lucius Caesannius Paetus, a weak and incapable commander, who "despised the fame acquired by Corbulo (2), suffered a severe defeat at Rhandeia (62), where he was surrounded and forced to capitulate to the Parthians and evacuated to Armenia. The command of the troops was again entrusted to Corbulo. In 63 CE, with a strong army, he crossed the Euphrates, but Tiridates declined to give battle and arranged a peace. At Rhandea he laid down his diadem at the foot of the emperor's statue, promising not to resume it until he received it from the hand of Nero himself in Rome.

Fall and death

After two failed plots by noblemen and senators, including Corbulo's son-in-law Roman Senator Lucius Annius Vinicianus, to overthrow Nero in 65 CE, he became suspicious of Corbulo and his support among the Roman masses. In 67CE disturbances broke out in Iudaea provincemarker, but Nero, ordered Vespasian to take command of the Roman forces. Nero summoned Corbulo, as well as two brothers who were the governors of Upper and Lower Germany, to Greece. On his arrival at Cenchreae, the port of Corinth, messengers from Nero met Corbulo, and ordered him to commit suicide, which he loyally obeyed by falling on his own sword, saying, "axios".


Corbulo wrote an account of his Asiatic experiences, which is now lost.

Marriage and issue

Corbulo married Cassia Longina, a Roman woman from a senatorial family, daughter of Gaius Cassius Longinus and wife Junia Lepida. Cassia bore Corbulo two daughters. The elder daughter Domitia Corbula married the senator Lucius Annius Vinicianus and their second daughter Domitia Longina became a Roman Empress and married the future Roman Emperor Domitian. Through Junia Lepida, a great-great granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, both of Cassia's daughters by Corbulo were direct descendants of the first Roman emperor and thus, the surviving members of the Imperial Julio-Claudian family.


  1. Tacitus Annales XI 20.
  2. "The game of death in ancient Rome: arena sport and political suicide"

External links


  • Military History, Vol. 23, Number 5, p. 47-53
  • Christian Settipani, Continuite Gentilice et Continuite Familiale Dans Les Familles Senatoriales Romaines, A L'Epoque Imperiale, Mythe et Realite. Linacre, UK: Prosopographica et Genealogica, 2000. ILL. NYPL ASY (Rome) 03-983.

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