10. M. Aemilius
Lepidus Porcina, M. F. M. N., son probably of No. 9, and grandson of No. 7, was consul B. C. 137.
He was sent into Spain in his consulship to succeed his colleague C. Hostilius Mancinus, who had been defeated by the Numantines [MANCINUS]; and while he was waiting for reinforcements from home, as he was not yet in a condition to attack the Numantines, he resolved to make war upon the Vaccaei, under the pretence of their having assisted the Numantines.
This he did merely from the desire of distinguishing himself; and the senate, immediately his intention became known, sent deputies to command him to desist from his design, as they deprecated a new war in Spain, after experiencing so many disasters. Lepidus, however, had commenced the war before the deputies arrived, and had summoned to his assistance his relation, D. Brutus, who commanded in Further Spain, and was a general of considerable experience and skill. [BRUTUS, No. 15, p. 509b.] Notwithstanding his aid, Lepidus was unsuccessful.
After laying waste the open country, the two generals laid siege to Pallantia, the capital of the Vaccaei (the modern Palencia), but they suffered so dreadfully from want of provisions, that they were obliged to raise the siege; and a considerable part of their army was destroyed by the enemy in their retreat.
This happened in the proconsulship of Lepidus, B. C. 136; and when the news reached Rome, Lepidus was deprived of his command, and condemned to pay a fine. (Appian, App. Hisp. 80
, who says that Lepidus was deprived of his consulship, by which we must understand proconsulship; Liv. Epit. 56
; Oros. 5.5
.) Lepidus was augur in B. C. 125, when he was summoned by the censors, Cn. Servilius Caepio and L. Cassius Longinus, to account for having built a house in too magnificent a style. (Vell. 2.10
; V. Max. 8.1
Lepidus was a man of education and refined taste. Cicero, who had read his speeches, speaks of him as the greatest orator of his age, and says that he was the first who introduced into Latin oratory the smooth and even flow of words and the artificial construction of sentences which distinguished the Greek.
He helped to form the style of Tib. Gracchus and C. Carbo, who were accustomed to listen to him with great care.
He was, however, very deficient in a knowledge of law and Roman institutions. (Cic. Brut. 25
, de Orat.
1.3; Auctor, ad Herenn.
In politics Lepidus seems to have belonged to the aristocratical party.
He opposed in his consulship (B. C. 137) the law for introducing the ballot (lex tabillaria
) proposed by L. Cassius Longinus (Cic. Brut. 25
); and it appears from a fragment of Priscian (vol. i. p. 456), that Lepidus spoke in favour of a repeal of the lex Aemilia, which was probably the sumptuary law proposed by the consul, M. Aemilius Scaurus in B. C. 115. (Meyer, Orator. Rom. Fragm.
p. 193, &100.2d. ed.)