Gaius Asinius Gallus Saloninus

Gaius Asinius Gallus Saloninus was an ambitious Roman Senator with family connections to the Julio-Claudian house. Asinius Gallus was consul in 8 BC, and proconsul of Asia in 6 BC/5 BC. He was a friend of Emperor Augustus and opposed Emperor Tiberius. He introduced measures to the senate to increase Tiberius's power to try to shame the ruler. These embarrassed Tiberius publicly, and Tiberius had him arrested in 30. Tiberius alleged that Asinius had committed adultery with Agrippina the Elder, the opponent of Sejanus whom Tiberius had banished in 29, and had his name erased from all public monuments. Gaius died in 33 of starvation after three years in custody.

He was the son of Gaius Asinius Pollio, a Roman Senator and consul 40 BC. In 11 BC he married Vipsania Agrippina, daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and his first wife Caecilia Attica, and the former wife of Tiberius. They had the following children:

  • Gaius Asinius Pollio - Consul in 23; exiled as an accuser of a conspiracy and later was put to death on orders from Empress Valeria Messalina.
  • Marcus Asinius Agrippa - Consul in 25 and died in 26
  • Asinius Saloninus or (Gnaeus Asinius Saloninus) (sometimes wrongly called Salonius), died in 22. Tacitus describes him as an ‘eminent’ person. Saloninus was intended to marry one of the granddaughters of Emperor Tiberius (Tacitus, Annals 3.75).
  • Servius Asinius Celer. He was consul suffectus in 38. From Emperor Caligula he purchased a fish at an enormous price. He is mentioned in the satire, by Seneca, The Pumpkinification of Claudius, where he is listed among the many people killed by that emperor. His death probably occurred sometime before mid-47. Asinius Celer seems to have had a daughter by the name of Asinia Agrippina, though her existence is obscure.
  • Asinius Gallus or (Lucius Asinius Gallus) (sometimes wrongly called Gallo). In 46 he conspired against Claudius and was forced to go into exile. Cassius Dio (60.27.5) describes him as being "very small and ugly". Later rehabilitated, he became Consul in 62.
  • Gnaeus Asinius. His existence is recorded by the townsfolk of Puteoli, whose patron he was. Nothing else is known about him. He may have been identical with Asinius Saloninus or the foregoing Asinius Gallus. Since the Asinius Gallus seems to have been the Lucius Asinius Gallus who became a Consul in 60, by exclusion of parts the Gnaeus Asinius must be the Asinius Saloninus.

A descendant of Vipsania and Gallus, Pomponia Graecina, became a distinguished lady. Pomponia might have been a Christian and lived an unhappy long life. Pomponia married Aulus Plautius. Plautius was a general in the conquest of Britain, which he received as a military ovation. Nero murdered their son, reportedly because Agrippina the Younger, mother of Nero, was in love with him and encouraged him to bid for the throne.

Another descendant or otherwise relative, Gaius Asinius Lepidus Praetextatus (210 – after 242), became a Consul in 242, being the son of Gaius Asinius Lepidus, Suffect Consul of Rome in 222 and wife (Vettia) (b. 190 or 195).

Asinius Gallus never denied his paternity of the son of Tiberius and Vipsania, Julius Caesar Drusus, heir from 19 AD to 23 AD, which means that he might also have been the father of the child Vipsania was expecting on her divorce. After his wife Vipsania died, he courted the widow of Germanicus, Agrippina. This, and his sharp wit, combined with the fact that he had been married to Vipsania, earned Tiberius' enmity.

In 30 AD, at Tiberius' instigation, the Senate declared Gallus a public enemy, and he was held in conditions of solitary confinement (Cassius Dio 58.3): "He had no companion or servant with him, spoke to no one, and saw no one, except when he was compelled to take food. And the food was of such quality and amount as neither to afford him any satisfaction or strength nor yet to allow him to die."

He died in prison in 33 (others mistakenly say 30) of starvation (Tacitus, Annals 6.23). When Agrippina died in October of that same year, Tiberius accused her of "having had Asinius Gallus as a paramour and being driven by his death to loathe existence" (Annals 6.25). His name was erased from public monuments (a practice known as damnatio memoriae), though they were restored after Tiberius' death.