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Consul Titus Manlius Torquatus Orders the Beheading of his Son Consul Titus Manlius Torquatus Beheading his Son By Ferdinand Bol. (Image Courtesy of Rijks Museum).

The O’Toole Chronicles: Manlian Discipline

By Kevin O'Toole, July 12 2022 12:01 am

I recently had this amazing opportunity to visit the City of Amsterdam. I could write forever about this enduring and important city, but I will limit my comments to a couple of events that I was able to experience that hold some value to pass along.

Among the many things we were able to do, before the Rolling Stones arrived and took over the hotel we were staying in, included visiting two museums.

The first museum was the Van Gogh Museum, and it was just as remarkable as you would expect. We can all agree that Vincent Van Gogh died so tragically young and left a lifetime of paintings for the world to admire following his untimely self-imposed death. Sadly, mental health was not a top priority at this point in history.

The other museum that we visited was the Rijksmuseum, which was showcasing some work from Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, more commonly known as Rembrandt. The most talked about piece, and the major draw, was the famed painting “The Night Watch.” This painting was on full display to a huge adoring crowd as it was being studied and partially restored.

As I wandered the floors of the museum away from the international crowd, I found a fascinating painting by a lesser-known artist, Ferdinand Bol. On display from Bol was the rather graphic aftermath of a beheading in Rome. I curiously took in the painting and the story within the picture.

The central focus of the painting appeared to be seated at the chair of power and giving directions. That individual in charge was Titus Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus. As legend has it, Titus was a famous politician and general of the Roman Republic. Titus was renowned for his moral virtues, bravery and strict adherence to a code. Earlier in his life, he took on a tribunal who was set on persecuting his father. Titus hid a knife as he met the head of the tribune and said he would kill him unless Titus’s father was saved — safe passage was quickly granted to the father. Impressively bold move.

Back to the painting.

The depiction is of Manlius ordering the beheading of one of his own soldiers. The reason being that the soldier in question was told to stand down and not attack the enemy Latins. This ambitious warrior forgot the order and took his friends to destroy the opponents in several fights, returning with some of the winnings.

When Titus heard about the breach of his directive, he ordered the public beheading of the soldier. He needed to teach everyone that even though this solider was fighting their sworn enemy, he had been given an order and that orders need to be followed.

The one last, and very important, fact — the offending soldier in question was the son of Titus Manlius himself! He ordered the execution of his own son! In a very public forum. To prove a point and send a message.


This one act would forever be known as the Manlius Discipline. During the French Revolution, sacrifice to the state was a prominent theme with the Manlius Discipline often used to prove that point.

Who among us would ever invoke this type of order or discipline on a son or daughter? (The late-great Big Steve Adubato for sure). And I’m not talking in the literal sense (although if you ask Steve Jr., there might have been days where he would rather have been beheaded).

Order and discipline are needed for any organization (family, corporate or political) to survive and thrive; so you have to ask yourself “100 years from now, will there be a painting of a ‘participation trophy’ hanging in an art gallery?”


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