- This article is about consul in 331 BCE. For other people with the same name, see Marcus Claudius Marcellus.
Marcus Claudius Marcellus was one of the two consuls in the year 331 BCE, his partner being Gaius Valerius Potitus, and was dictator in 327 BCE. He was the first recorded person of the gens Claudia to have the cognomen Marcellus, and was probably the father of the Marcus Claudius Marcellus that was consul in 287 BCE and a direct ancestor of the Marcus Claudius Marcellus that was named by Livy, "the Sword of Rome".
According to Livy's Ab urbe condita, during his consulship, many senior officials in Rome where being taken ill and in in almost every case, died. One of the curule aediles, Quintus Fabius Maximus was approached by a maid, claiming she knew the cause of these deaths and promised to reveal it if the Senate would guarantee she wouldn't be punished for her involvement in the deaths. Fabius Maximus went straight to M. Cl. Marcellus and G. Vl. Potitus, who referred the matter to the Senate and she was given immunity by the State. She then revealed that the deaths were the being committed by several matrons using poison, and led them to catch them in the act. They followed her, and found the matrons poisoning the food and drink of officials in Rome. Twenty matrons were brought before the forum, and claimed that it was medicine, not poison, that was being put into the food. They were then told to drink the mixture, to prove the truth of their words, which they did, committing suicide. Their attendants were arrested and gave the names of many matrons, out of whom 170 were found guilty of murder and were executed.(1)
In 327 BCE, at the time of the Second Samnite War, the consul Quintus Publius Philo had been issued the command of an army to attack Palaeopolis, which was near the Greek/Samnite city of Neapolis and the two formed one community, so Publius took up a position between the two, to prevent them aiding each other. His term as consul however, was about to expire and the consular elections were soon, but it was in Roman interest to leave him in his position, as he was about to attack the cities, so a deal was made so that Publius should act as proconsul until the war with the Greeks had ended. The other consul, Lucius Cornelius Lentulus was commanding the army in the war against Samnium, so the same measures were taken with him. As both consuls were away, Cornelius received instructions to nominate a Dictator, to hold the elections, and Cornelius nominated Marcus Claudius Marcellus as dictator and Marcellus appointed Spurius Postumius as his Magister Equitum (Master of the Horse), to serve as his main lieutenant. Marcellus didn't hold the elections however, as doubts were raised whether he had been he had been appointed using the proper formalities. The augurs were asked and declared the formalities had not been followed, and his nomination was set aside, and the tribunes at the time said that the augurs's actions were dishonest and that the only reason that they gave that answer was that Marcus Claudius Marcellus was a plebian, and they didn't want a plebian ruler. The elections were held by an interregnum, and due to the repeated adjournment of the elections on one pretext after another, Gaius Poetelius Libo Visolus and Lucius Papirus Cursor (some sources say Lucius Papirus Magilanus) were chosen as consuls, by the fourteenth interrex Lucius Aemilius.(2)