2. P. Vatinius
, grandson of the preceding, played a leading part in the party strifes of the last days of the republic. Cicero, in his oration against Vatinius, which has come down to us, describes him as one of the greatest scamps and villains that ever lived; and without believing all that Cicero says against him, it appears pretty certain that he was, like most other public men of his age, possessed of little or no principle, and ready to sell his services to the highest bidder. His personal appearance was unprepossessing; his face and neck were covered with swellings, to which Cicero alludes more than once, calling him the struma civitatis.
(Cic. pro Sest.
65; comp. Plut. Cic. 9
; " struma Vatinii," ad Att.
2.9 ; " fuit strumosa facie et maculoso corpore," Schol. Bob. pro Sest.
p. 310, ed. Orelli.) Vatinius commenced public life as quaestor in B. C. 63.
According to Cicero he owed his election simply to the influence of one of the consuls of the preceding year. and was returned last on the list. Cicero, who was consul, sent him to Puteoli to prevent the gold and silver from being carried away from that place; but his extortions were so oppressive that the inhabitants were obliged to complain of his conduct to the consul.
After his quaestorship he went to Spain as legatus of C. Cosconius, the proconsul, where, according to Cicero, he was again guilty of robbery and extortion. In B. C. 59 he was tribune of the plebs and sold his services to Caesar, who was then consul along with Bibulus.
He took an active part in all the measures which were brought forward in this year, many of which he proposed himself. [CAESAR, p. 543.] Cicero accuses him of setting the auspices at defiance, of offering violence to the consul Bibulus, of filling the forum with soldiers, and of crushing the veto of his colleagues in the tribunate by force of arms ; all of which accusations we can readily believe, as he was the most active partizan of Caesar among the magistrates of the year.
It was Vatinius who proposed the bill to the people, by which Caesar received the provinces of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum for five years, to which the senate afterwards added the province of Transalpine Gaul.
It was during his tribunate that Vatinius brought forward the iuformer L. Vettius, who accused many of the most distinguished men in the state, and among others Cicero, of a plot against the life of Pompey. [VETTIUS.]
In return for these services Vatinius was appointed by Caesar one of his legates, but he did not remain long in Gaul, as he was for the present intent upon gaining the higher honours of the state. Notwithstanding the patronage of Caesar, he was unsuccessful in his first application for the praetorship, and he did not even obtain the votes of his own tribe, the Sergia, which had never previously failed to vote in favour of their own tribesman. In B. C. 56 he appeared as a witness against Milo and Sestius, two of Cicero's friends, who had taken a leading part in obtaining his recal from banishment. Cicero had long had a grudge against Vatinius, because he had induced Vettius to accuse him of being privy to the plot against Pompey's life; and his resentment was now increased by the testimony Vatinius had given against Milo and Sestius.
The trial of Milo occurred earlier in the year than that of Sestius. Cicero took no notice of the conduct of Vatinius in the former case, but when he came forward against Sextius also, on whose acquittal Cicero had set his heart, the orator made a vehement attack upon the character of Vatinius in the speech which has come down to us. Nevertheless, he carefully avoids saying a word against Caesar, of whom Vatinius had been only the instrument.
The elections at Rome this year were attended with the most serious riots.
The aristocracy strained every nerve to prevent the election of Pompey and Crassus to the consulship ; and so great were the tumults that it was not till the beginning of the following year (B. C. 55) that the elections took place, and Pompey and Crassus were declared consuls. [Vol. III. p. 486a.] Not succeeding in securing the consulship for their own party, the aristocracy brought forward M. Cato as a candidate for the praetorship; but Pompey and Crassus, aware that the election of so formidable an opponent to so high a dignity would prove a serious obstacle to their projects, used all their influence to secure the praetorship for Vatinius. To make the matter more certain, they obtained a decree of the senate, in virtue of which those who might be elected praetors were to enter on their office forthwith, without letting the time fixed by law intervene, during which the magistrates elect might be prosecuted for bribery. Having thus removed one obstacle, they employed their money most freely, and by bribery as well as by force defeated Cato and carried the election of Vatinius. (Plut. Cat.
52.) During his year of office (B. C. 55) Vatinius was safe from prosecution ; but in the following year (B. C. 54) he was accused of bribery by C. Licinius Calvus.
It appears, though the matter is involved in some obscurity, that Licinius had accused Vatinius twice before, once in B. C. 58 of Vis,
on account of his proceedings in his tribunate (comp. Cic. in Vatin.
14, with the Schol. Bob. in Vatin.
p. 323, ed. Orelli), and again in B. C. 56, about the same time that Cicero also attacked him. (Comp. Cic. in Vatin.
4, with the Schol. Bob. p. 316; Cic. ad Q. Fr.
The most celebrated prosecution of Licinius, however, was in B. C. 54, and the speech which he delivered on this occasion is mentioned in terms of the highest praise by Quintilian and others. His oratory produced such a powerful impression upon all who heard it, that Vatinius started up in the middle of the speech, and interrupted him with the exclamation, " I ask you, judges, if I am to be condemned because the accuser is eloquent." (Senec. Controv.
3.19.) On this occasion, to the surprise of all his friends, Cicero, who had only two years before attacked Vatinius in such unmeasured terms, came forward to defend him.
The protection of the triumvirs, rather than the eloquence of his advocate, secured the acquittal of Vatinius. Cicero's conduct in defending Vatinius is not difficult to explain, and he has himself given an elaborate justification of himself in an interesting letter to Lentulus Spinther, the proconsul of Cilicia, who had written to ask him his reasons for defending Vatinius (ad Fam.
The plain fact was, that Cicero had offended Caesar by his former attack upon Vatinius, and that, fearing to be again handed over by the triumvirs to the vengeance of Clodius, he now, in opposition to his conscience and sense of duty, asserted what he knew to be false in order to secure the powerful protection of Caesar and Pompey. (Respecting the accusations of Vatinius by Licinius Calvus, see Meyer, Orator. Roman. Fragm.
p. 474, foll., 2nd ed.)
From this time Vatinius aud Cicero appear on tolerably good terms, though probably neither of them forgot or forgave the injuries he had received from the other. Soon afterwards Vatinius went to Gaul, where we find him serving as one of Caesar's legates in B. C. 51.
He accompanied his patron in the civil war, and during the campaign in Greece, B. C. 48, was sent by Caesar with proposals of peace to the Pompeian army.
He was not present at the battle of Pharsalia, as he had shortly before returned to Brundusium by Caesar's orders; and about the same time as the battle of Pharsalia, he vigorously defended Brundusium against D. Laelius, who had attacked it with part of the Pompeian fleet.
In return for these services Caesar raised Vatinius to the consulship, which he held for a few days as consul suffectus at the end of December B. C. 47.
At the beginning of the following year he was sent into Illyricum to oppose M. Octavius, who held that country with a considerable force for the Pompeian party. Vatinius carried on the war with success in Illyricum, was saluted as imperator by his soldiers, and obtained the honour of a supplicatio from the senate in B. C. 45.
At this time some letters passed between him and Cicero, in which they wrote to one another with apparent cordiality. (Cic. Fam. 5.9
.) Vatinius was still in Illyricum at the time of Caesar's death, B. C. 44, and at the beginning of the following year was compelled to surrender Dyrrhachium and his army to Brutus who had obtained possession of Macedonia, because his troops declared in favour of Brutus (D. C. 47.21
; Liv. Epit. 118
; Vell. 2.69
); though Cicero (Cic. Phil. 10.6
) and Appian (App. BC 4.75
), probably with less truth, speak of it as a voluntary act on the part of Vatinius.
At any rate Vatinius did not forfeit the favour of the triumvirs ; for we learn from the Capitoline Fasti that he triumphed on the last day of December, B. C. 43.
This is the last time we hear of Vatinius. (Cic. in Vatinium,
passim, pro Sest.
53, 63, 65, ad Q. Fr.
2.4, 3.9.5, ad Att.
2.6, 7, Hirt. B. G.
8.46, Caes. Civ. 3.19
; Appian, App. Ill. 13
, B. C. 4.75; D. C. 42.55
; Liv. Epit. 118
; Vell. 2.69
; Cic. Phil. 10.5