2. M. Aemilius
Scaurus raised his family from obscurity to the highest rank among the Roman nobles.
He was born in B. C. 163. His father, notwithstanding his patrician descent, had been obliged, through poverty, to carry on the trade of a coal-merchant, and left his son a very slender patrimony.
The latter had thought at first of carrying on the trade of a money-lender ; but he finally resolved to devote himself to the study of eloquence, with the hope of rising to the honours of the state.
He likewise served in the army, where he appears to have gained some distinction. His first campaign was in Spain, probably in the war against Numantia.
He next served under the consul L. Aurelius Orestes, in Sardinia, B. C. 126.
He was curule aedile in B. C. 123, but was prevented by his poverty from giving the games with much splendour. Though we have only scanty accounts of his early career, it appears that he had already obtained great influence in the state; and he is mentioned by Sallust as one of the leading men at Rome, when Adherbal came to the city, about B. C. 117, to solicit assistance against Jugurtha.
He was one of the few Roman nobles who abstained on that occasion from receiving the bribes of Jugurtha, but more through fear of the odium that was likely to accrue from such an act, than from any abhorrence of the thing itself.
He was an unsuccessful candidate for the consulship for B. C. 116, but obtained it for the year B. C. 115, when he had M. Caecilius Metellus as his colleague.
In his consulship he brought forward a sumptuary law, and another respecting the manner in which the libertini were to vote in the comitia.
He likewise carried on war with success against several of the Alpine tribes, and obtained a triumph for his victories over them. Aurelius Victor says that he triumphed over the Ligures and Gantisci, the Capitoline Fasti make him triumph over the Galli and the Carni. In B. C. 112, he was sent at the head of an embassy to Jugurtha, who had forcibly deprived Adherbal of the dominions which the commissioners of the senate had assigned to him, and was now besieging him in Cirta. But Jugurtha, though he waited upon Scaurus with great respect, did not raise the siege of Cirta, and put Adherbal to death when he obtained possession of the town, towards the end of the year. [JUGURTHA.] Upon this the Romans declared war against Jugurtha, and intrusted the conduct of it to L. Calpurnius Bestia, one of the consuls of the following year (B. C. 111). Bestia chose Scaurus as one of his legates; and upon both of them receiving large sums of money from Jugurtha, the consul granted the king most favourable terms of peace.
This disgraceful transaction excited the greatest indignation at Rome; and such was the excitement of the people, that the senate dared not resist the bill of the tribune, C. Mamilius, B. C. 110, by which an inquiry was to be instituted against all those who had received bribes from Jugurtha, or had in any way favoured his designs. Although Scaurus had been one of the most guilty, such was his influence in the state that he contrived to be appointed one of the three quaesitores, who were elected under the bill, for the purpose of prosecuting the criminals.
But though he thus secured himself, he was unable to save any of his accomplices. Bestia and many others were condemned.
In B. C. 109, Scaurus was censor with M. Livius Drusus.
In his censorship he restored the Milvian bridge, and constructed the Aemilian road, which ran by Pisae and Luna as far as Dertona. His colleague Drusus having died, Scaurus ought, according to custom, to have resigned his office immediately; but he continued to retain it till the tribunes compelled him to abdicate by threat of imprisonment. In B. C. 107, he was elected consul a second time, in place of L. Cassius Longinus, who had fallen in battle against the Tigurini. P. Rutilius Rufus, who was a candidate for the office at the same time, accused Scaurus of having gained the election by bribery; but he was acquitted by the judices, and thereupon straightway accused Rutilius of the same offence.
In the struggles between the aristocratical and popular parties, he was always a warm supporter of the former.
He accordingly took up arms against Saturninus in B. C. 100, whose enmity he had previously incurred by having been appointed by the senate, in B. C. 104, to supersede him in the duty of supplying the city with corn. [SATURNINUS, APPULEIUS.] He was several times accused of different offences, chiefly by his private enemies; but such was his influence in the state, that he was always acquitted. Thus, in consequence of his having refused to elect Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus into the college of augurs, of which he was a member, Ahenobarbus accused him of majestas, in B. C. 104, on the ground that the sacra publica at Lavinium had, through his fault, not been properly observed ; but thirty-three tribes out of the thirty-five voted for his acquittal. In B. C. 91, he was accused of repetundae by Q. Servilius Caepio, who alleged that he had appropriated to his own use some public money, during an embassy to Asia; but he secured himself by bringing a counter-accusation against Caepio.
The latter, out of revenge, induced Q. Varius, the tribune of the people, to accuse Scaurus in the following year, B. C. 90, of having excited the Italian allies to revolt. Scaurus boldly met the charge; and going into the forum, put it to the people whether they would give credence to Q. Varius, the Spaniard, or M. Scaurus, the princeps senatus; whereupon there was such an unequivocal demonstration of popular feeling in his favour, that the tribune himself withdrew the accusation. Scaurus was then seventy-two years of age, and died soon afterwards; since, in B. C. 88, his widow Caecilia was married to Sulla. [CAECILIA, No. 5.] By his wife Caecilia Scaurus had three children, two sons [see below, Nos. 2 and 3], and a daughter Aemilia, first married to M'. Glabrio, and next to Cn. Pompeius, subsequently the triumvir.
Scaurus is frequently praised in the highest terms by Cicero and others, in consequence of his being such a strong supporter of the aristocratical party.
But though he distinguished himself throughout the whole of his public life by opposing the popular leaders from the Gracchi downwards, he appears to have been always regarded with some degree of favour by the people, as his frequent acquittals would show.
There was a gravity and earnestness in his character which commanded their respect; and he carefully concealed from public view his vices, especially his avarice and acts of rapine. Sallust characterizes him as " homo nobilis, impiger, factiosus, avidus potentiae, honoris, divitiarum; ceterum vitia sua callide occultans" (Jug. 15
). Some deductions ought, perhaps, to be made from this estimate of his character, in consequence of the well-known hatred of the historian to the aristocracy; but when it is recollected that Scaurus was a poor man when he commenced public life, it is evident that the immense wealth which he left to his son could not have been acquired by honest means; and the bribes which he received from Jugurtha, may fairly be regarded as only a specimen of the way in which his property was obtained.
The speeches of Scaurus were impressive and weighty, but were deficient in imagination and fire. " They were more adapted," says Cicero (Brut. 29
), " for the senate than the courts." Cicero accordingly classes him among the Stoic orators. Scaurus also wrote a work in three books on his own life, which is sometimes referred to by the grammarians, but which no one was accustomed to read in the time of Cicero. (Aurel. Vict. de Ill. Vir. 72 ; V. Max. 4.4.1
; Sall. Jug. 15, 25, 28, 29, 40 ;
Plut. Quaest. Rom.
100.50; Ascon. in Scaur.
pp. 21, 22 ; Cic. Brut. 29
, de Orat.
1.49, pro Mur. 17,
and the other passages quoted in Orelli's Onomasticon Tullianum ;
Meyer, Orator. Roman. Fragm.
pp. 253-261, 2nd ed.; Krause, Vitae et Fragm. Hist. Roman.