the name of a noble family of the plebeian Caecilia gens.
This family is first mentioned in the course of the first Punic war, when one of its members obtained the consulship; and if we are to believe the satirical verse of Naevius,-- Ftao Metelli Romae fiunt Consules,
--it was indebted for its elevation to chance rather than its own merits.
It subsequently became one of the most distinguished of the Roman families, and in the latter half of the second century before the Christian era it obtained an extraordinary number of the highest offices of the state. Q. Metellus, who was consul B. C. 143, had four sons, who were raised to the consulship in succession; and his brother L. Metellus, who was consul B. C. 142, had two sons, who were likewise elevated to the same dignity. The Metelli were distinguished as a family for their unwavering support of the party of the optimates.
The etymology of the name is quite uncertain. Festus connects it (p. 146, ed. Muller), probably from mere similarity of sound, with mercenarii.
It is very difficult to trace the genealogy of this family, and the following table is in many parts conjectural.
The history of the Metelli is given at length by Drumann (Geschichte Roms,
vol. ii. pp. 17-58.)