3. L. Appuleius
Saturninus, the celebrated demagogue, was probably a grandson of the preceding.
He possessed considerable powers of oratory, but was of a loose and dissolute character ; and he might probably have passed through life much like most other Roman nobles, had he not received an insult from the senate at the commencement of his public career, which rankled in his breast and made him a furious opponent of the aristocratical party.
In his quaestorship, B. C. 104, he was stationed at Ostia, and as Rome was suffering at that time from a scarcity of corn, and the senate thought that Saturninus did not make sufficient exertions to supply the city, they superseded him and entrusted the provisioning of the capital to M. Scaurus Diod. Exc.
xxxvi. p. 608, ed. Wess.; Cic. pro Sest. 17, de Harusp. Resp. 20
). Saturninus forthwith threw himself into the foremost ranks of the democratical party, and entered into a close alltance with Marius and his friends. He soon acquired great popularity, and was elected tribune of the plebs for the year B. C. 102. We have scarcely any accounts of his conduct in his first tribunate; but he did enough to earn the hatred of the aristocracy, and accordingly Metellus Numidicus, who was at that time censor, endeavored to expel him from the senate on the ground of immorality, but was prevented from carrying his purpose into execution by the opposition of his colleague. Saturninus vowed vengeance against Metellus, which he was soon able to gratify by the assistance of Marius, who was also a personal enemy of Metellus.
He resolved to become a candidate for the tribunate for the year B. C. 100.
At the same time Glaucia, who next to Saturninus was the greatest demagogue of the day, offered himself as a candidate for the praetorship, and Marius for the consulship. If they all three carried their elections, the power of the state, they thought, would be in their hands ; they might easily ruin Meteilus, and crush the aristocracy.
But in the midst of these projects Saturninus was nearly ruined by a skilful movement of his enemies.
In the course of B. C. 101, and before the comitia for the election of the magistrates for the ensuing year were held, the ambassadors of Mithridates appeared at Rome, bringing with them large sums of money for the purpose of bribing the leading senators.
As soon as this became known to Saturninus, lie not only attacked the senators with the utmost vehemence, but heaped the greatest insults upon the ambassadors. Upon the latter complaining of this violation of the law of nations, the senate eagerly availed themselves of the opportunity, and brought Saturninus to trial for the offence he had committed.
As the judices at that time consisted exclusively of senators, his condemnation appeared certain. Saturninus in the utmost alarm put on the dress of a suppliant, and endeavoured by his appearance, as well as by his words, to excite the commiseration of the people.
In this he completely succeeded the people regarded him as a martyr to their cause, and on the day of his trial assembled in such crowds around the court, that the judices were overawed, and contrary to general expectation pronounced a verdict of acquittal (Diod. Exc.
p. 631, ed. Wess).
In the comitia which soon followed, Marius was elected consul and Glaucia praetor, but Saturninus was not equally successful.
He lost his election chiefly through the exertions of A. Nonius, who distinguished himself by his vehement attacks upon Glaucia and Saturninus, and was chosen in his stead. But Nonius paid dearly for his honour, for in the same evening he was murdered by the emissaries of Glaucia and Saturninus ; and early the following morning before the forum was full, Saturninus was chosen to fill up the vacancy.
As soon as he had entered upon his tribunate (B. C. 100), he brought forward an agrarian law for dividing the lands in Gaul, which had been lately occupied by the Cimbri, and added to the law a clause, that, if it was enacted by the people, the senate should swear obedience to it within five days. and that whoever refused to do so should be expelled from the senate, and pay a line of twenty talents.
This clause was specially aimed at Metellus, who, it was well known, would refuse to obey the requisition.
But in order to make sure of a refusal on the part of Metellus, Marius rose in the senate and declared that he would never take the oath, and Metellus made the same declaration ; but when the law had been passed, and Saturninus summoned the senators to the rostra to comply with the demands of the law, Marius, to the astonishment of all, immediately took the oath, and advised the senate to follow his example. Metellus alone refused compliance; and on the following day Saturninus sent his viator to drag the ex-censor out of the senate-house. Not content with his victory, he brought forward a bill to punish him with exile.
The friends of Metellus were ready to take up arms in his defence; but Metellus declined their assistance, and withdrew privately from the city. Saturninus brought forward other popular measures, of which our information is very scanty.
He proposed a Lex Frumentaria, by which the state was to sell corn to the people at 5-6ths of an as for the modius (Auctor, ad Herenn.
1.12), and also a law for founding new colonies in Sicily, Achaia, and Macedonia (Aurel. Vict. de Vir. Ill. 73 ;
comp. Cic. pro Balb. 21
In the comitia for the election of the magistrates for the following year, Saturninus obtained the tribunate for the third time, and along with him there was chosen a certain Equitius, a runaway slave, who pretended to be a son of Tib. Gracchus. Glaucia was at the same time a candidate for the consulship; the two other candidates were M. Antonius and C. Memmius.
The election of Antonius was certain, and the struggle lay between Glaucia and Memmius.
As the latter seemed likely to carry his election, Saturninus and Glaucia hired some ruffians who murdered him openly in the comitia. All sensible people had previously become alarmed at the mad conduct of Saturninus and his associates; and this last act produced a complete reaction against him.
The senate felt themselves now sufficiently strong to declare them public enemies, and ordered the consuls to put them down by force. Marius was unwilling to act against his associates, but he had no alternative, and his backwardness was compensated by the zeal of others. Driven out of the forum, Saturninus, Glaucia, and the quaestor Saufeius took refuge in the Capitol, but the partisans of the senate cut off the pipes which supplied the Capitol with water, before Marius began to move against them. Unable to hold out any longer, they surrendered to Marius.
The latter did all he could to save their lives : as soon as they descended from the Capitol, he placed them for security in the Curia Hostilia, but the mob pulled off the tiles of the senate-house, and pelted them with the tiles till they died.
The senate gave their sanction to these proceedings by rewarding with the citizenship a slave of the name of Scaeva, who claimed the honour of having killed Saturninus. Nearly forty years after these events, the tribune T. Labienus, accused an aged senator Rabirius, of having been the murderer of Saturninus.
An account of this trial is given elsewhere. [POSTUMUS, C. RABIRIUS.] (Appian, App. BC 1.28
; Plut. Mar. 28-30 ;
Liv. Epit. 69 ; Oros. 5.17
; Flor. 3.16
; Veil. Pat. 2.12; V. Max. 9.7.3
; Cic. Brut. 62
, pro Sest. 47, pro C. Rabir.