The praenomen of Manilius is generally given as Manius in the printed books, but Mai asserts that in the MS. of Cicero, De Re Publica,
the name is clearly written M., which means Marcus, and not M'., which would mean Manius.
Marcus Manilius is one of the speakers in the De Re Publica
(i. ]2), and consequently a contemporary of C. Fannius, Q. Scaevola, Laelius, and Scipio Africanus the younger.
He was a jurist (De Rep.
iii. ]0) and he is mentioned by Pomponius (Dig. 1
. tit. 2. s. 1.39) with P. Mucius, Pontifex Maximus, and Brutus; he calls these three the founders of jus civile. Pomponius says that Manilius wrote three treatises, which were extant in his time, and was a consular. Manilius, therefore, appears to be the consul of B. C. 149, with L. Marcius Censorinus. In B. C. 149 the third Punic war commenced, and Manilius and his colleague were appointed to conduct it. They made an attack on Carthage, and burnt the Carthaginian fleet in sight of the city (Liv. Epit. 49
; Florus, 2.15
The campaign of Manilius is described at length by Appian (Punic.
75-109). Carthage was taken by P. Scipio Africanus the younger, B. C. 146. During his consulship Manilius wrote to the Achaeans to send Polybius to Lilybaeum, as he wanted his services.
But on arriving at Corcyra, Polybius found a letter from the consuls, which informed him that the Carthaginians had given all the hostages, and were ready to obey their orders, and that they considered that the war was ended, and the services of Polybius were not wanted, upon which Polybius returned to the Peloponnesus. (Polyb. lib. xxxvii. ed. Bekker.)
The fact of Manilius the jurist having been consul is stated by Pomponius, and he must therefore have been the consul of B. C. 149, for there is no other to whom all the facts will apply. Cicero (Brutus,
]6) remarks that the elder Cato died in the consulship of L. Marcius and M. Manilius, eighty-six years before his own consulship, which was B. C. 63. Cicero, in another passage in the Brutus
(100.28), speaks of M. Manilius as possessing some oratorical power, and makes him the contemporary of various orators of the period of the Gracchi.
The propriety of Manilius and Scipio being introduced in the De Re Publica
appears from the fact that Scipio served under Manilius and his colleague in the campaign of B. C. 149, and Manilius bore testimony to the great services of Scipio (Appian, Punic.
105), who was afterwards appointed to conduct the war.
The reputation of Manilius was not founded on his military services. Cicero (Cic. de Orat. 1.48
) mentions M. Manilius as a real jurisconsult, in connection with Sextus Aelius and P. Scaevola. L. Crassus (Cic. de Orat. 3.33
) says of M. Manilius, " I have seen him walking backwards and forwards across the forum, which was a token that a man who was doing this was ready to give his advice to all the citizens; and to such persons in olden time, both when they were walking about, and when seated at home in their chair, it was the practice to go and to consult them, not only about the jus civile, but about marrying a daughter, buying a piece of land, cultivating ground, and in fine, on every thing that a man had to do, and on every business transaction."
Among the legal writings of Manilius was a treatise on the conditions applicable to sales (“venalium vendendorum leges
”, Cic. de Orat.
1.58), which was apparently a book of forms. Probably he may have written on other subjects besides law. (Cic. Brut. 28
, ed. H. Meyer.)
The time of the birth and death of Manilius is not known.
He is mentioned by Cicero (de Rep.
3.10) as having been accustomed to give legal opinions before the Lex Voconia was enacted, which law was enacted B. C. 169.
The time which Cicero fixes as the date of the supposed dialogue Do Re Publica
(" Tuditano Cons. et Aquilio," de Rep.
1.9) is B. C. 129, or forty years after the enactment of the Lex Voconia. If Manilius was giving legal opinions before the date of the Lex Voconia, we cannot suppose that he was under fifty years of age when he was consul, and seventy at the date given to the supposed dialogue.