7. L. Calpurnius
Piso Caesoninus, C. F. L. N., the son of No. 6, and father-in-law of the dictator Caesar. Asconius says (in Cic. Pis.
p. 3, ed. Orelli) that this Piso belonged to the family of the Frugi; but this is a mistake, as Drumann has shown (Gesch. Roms,
vol. ii. p. 62). Our principal information respecting Piso is derived from several of the orations of Cicero, who paints him in the blackest colours; but as Piso was both a political and a personal enemy of the orator, we must make great deductions from his description which is evidently exaggerated. Still, after making every deduction, we know enough of his life to convince us that he was an unprincipled debauchee and a cruel and corrupt magistrate, a fair sample of his noble contemporaries, neither better nor worse than the majority of them.
He is first mentioned in B. C. 59, when he was brought to trial by P. Clodius for plundering a province, of which he had the administration after his praetorship, and he was only acquitted by throwing himself at the feet of the judges (V. Max. 8.1.6
In the same year Caesar married his daughter Calpurnia. Through his influence Piso obtained the consulship for the following year B. C. 58, having for his colleague A. Gabinius, who was indebted for the honour to Pompey.
The new consuls were the mere instruments of the triumvirs, and took care that the senate should do nothing in opposition to the wishes of their patrons. When the triumvirs had resolved to sacrifice Cicero, the consuls of course threw no obstacle in their way; but Clodius, to make sure of their support, promised Piso the province of Macedonia, and Gabinius that of Syria, and brought a bill before the people to that effect, although the senate was the constitutional body to dispose of the provinces.
The banishment of Cicero soon followed. Piso took an active part in the measures of Clodius, and joined him in celebrating their victory. Cicero accuses him of transferring to his own house the spoils of Cicero's dwellings.
The conduct of Piso in support of Clodius produced that extreme resentment in the mind of Cicero, which he displayed against Piso on many subsequent occasions.
At the expiration of his consulship Piso went to his province of Macedonia, where he remained during two years, B. C. 57 and 56, plundering the province in the most shameless manner.
In the latter of these years the senate resolved that a successor should be appointed, and accordingly, to his great mortification and rage, he had to resign the government in B. C. 55 to Q. Ancharius.
In the debate in the senate, which led to his recal and likewise to that of Gabinius, Cicero had an opportunity of giving vent to the wrath which had long been raging within him, and accordingly in the speech which he delivered on the occasion, and which has come down to us (De Provinciis Consularibus
), he poured forth a torrent of invective against Piso, accusing him of every possible crime in the government of his province. Piso on his return, B. C. 55, complained in the senate of the attack of Cicero, and justified the administration of his province, whereupon Cicero reiterated his charges in a speech (In Pisonem
), in which he portrays the whole public and private life of his enemy with the choicest words of virulence and abuse that the Latin language could supply. Cicero, however, did not venture to bring to trial the father-in-law of Caesar.
In B. C. 50 Piso was censor with Ap. Claudius Pulcher, and undertook this office at the request of Caesar.
At the beginning of the following year, B. C. 49, Piso, who had not yet laid down his censorship, offered to go to Caesar to act as mediator ; but the aristocratical party would not hear of any accommodation, and hostilities accordingly commenced. Piso accompanied Pompey in his flight from the city; and although he did not go with him across the sea, he still kept aloof from Caesar. Cicero accordingly praises him. and actually writes to Atticus. "I love Piso" (Cic. Att. 7.13
, a., ad Fam.
14.14). Piso subsequently returned to Rome, and though he took no part ill the civil war, was notwithstanding treated with respect by Caesar. On the murder of the latter, in B. C. 44, Piso exerted himself to obtain the preservation of the laws and institutions of his father-in-law, and was almost the only person that dared to oppose the arbitrary conduct of Antony.
Afterwards, however, he appeared as one of the most zealous adherents of Antony; and when the latter went to Cisalpine Gaul, at the end of the year, to prosecute the war against Decimus Brutus, Piso remained at Rome, to defend his cause and promote his views.
At the beginning of the following year, B. C. 43, he was one of the ambassadors sent to Antony at Mutina.
After this time his name does not occur. (Orelli, Onom. Tall.
vol. ii. p. 123, &c.; Caes. Civ. 1.3
; D. C. 40.63
; Appian, App. BC 2.14