24. P. CORNELIUS SCIPIO NASICA SERAPIO, the son of No. 23, was a fierce and stiff-necked aristocrat, and is chiefly known by the repeated mention of him in Cicero's writings, as the leader of the senate in the murder of Tib. Gracchus.
He is first mentioned in B. C. 149, when he was sent along with Cn. Scipio Hispallus [No. 28], to demand from the Carthaginians the surrender of their arms (Appian, Pun. 80
He was unsuccessful in his application for the aedileship, but was consul in B. C. 138, with D. Junius Brutus.
In consequence of the severity with which he and his colleague conducted the levy of troops, they were thrown into prison by C. Curiatius, the tribune of the plebs.
It was this Curiatius who gave Nasica the nick-name of Serapio, from his resemblance to a dealer in sacrificial animals, or some other person of low rank, who was called by this name; but though given him in derision, it afterwards became his distinguishing surname (Liv. Epit. 55 ; V. Max. 9.14.3
; Plin. Nat. 7.10
). In B. C. 133, when the tribes met to re-elect Tib. Gracchus to the tribunate, and the utmost confusion prevailed in the forum, Nasica called upon the consuls to save the republic; but as they refused to have recourse to violence, he exclaimed, " As the consul betrays the state, do you who wish to obey the laws follow me," and so saying rushed forth from the temple of Fides, where the senate was sitting, followed by the greater number of the senators.
The people gave way before them, and Gracchus was assassinated as he attempted to escape (Appian, App. BC 1.16
; Plut. Tib. Gracch. 19 ;
for further particulars see Vol. II. p. 293).
In consequence of his conduct on this occasion Nasica became an object of such detestation to the people, that the senate found it advisable to send him on a pretended mission to Asia, although he was pontifex maximus, and ought not, therefore, to have quitted Italy.
He did not venture to return to Rome, and after wandering about from place to place, died soon afterwards at Pergamum. (Plut. Tib. Gracch. 21 ;
Cic. pro Flacc. 21 ;
and the other passages of Cicero in Orelli's Onomast. Tull.
vol. ii. p. 191.)