5. A. Gabinius
, of uncertain parentage, was addicted in youth to expensive pleasures, and gave way to the seductions of dice, wine, and women. His carefully curled hair was fragrant with unguents, and his checks were coloured with rouge.
He was a proficient in the dance, and his house resounded with music and song. If we may trust the angry invective of Cicero (pro Sext. 8, 9, post Red. in Sen. 4-8, in Pison. 11, pro Domo.
24, 48), he kept the most vicious company, and led the most impure and profligate life. having dissipated his fortune by such a course of conduct, he looked to official station as the means of repairing his shattered finances. In B. C. 66 he was made tribune of the plebs, and moved that the command of the war against the pirates should be given to Pompey.
The proposed law did not name Pompey, but it plainly pointed to him, and was calculated to make him almost an absolute monarch. Among other provisions, it directed that the people should elect a commander whose imperium should extend over the whole of the Mediterranean, and to a distance of fifty miles inland from its coasts,--who should take such sums of money as he might think fit out of the public treasures, and should have a fleet of 200 sail, with unlimited powers of raising soldiers and seamen.
This proposition was very pleasing to the people, on account of the scarcity of provisions, which the interruption of commerce by the pirates had occasioned; but it was equally displeasing to the senators, who distrusted the ambition of Pompey. Party-spirit was carried to such a height that serious riots ensued. Gabinius was in danger of his life from an attack of the senators.
The senators, in turn, were assailed by the populace, who would perhaps have sacrificed the consul, Calpurnius Piso, to their fury, had not Gabinius effected his rescue, dreading the odium and severe re-action which such a catastrophe would have occasioned. When the day of the comitia for putting the rogatio to the vote arrived, Gabinius made himself remarkable by his answers to the affected reasons of Pompey for declining the proposed command : " You were not born for yourself alone," he told Pompey, " but for your country." Trebellius attempted to stop the proceedings by his veto, whereupon Gabinius proposed that he should be deprived of his tribuneship.
It was not until seventeen out of the thirty-five tribes had voted against his continuance in office, that Trebellius withdrew his opposition to the measure of his colleague. (Ascon. in Cic. pro Cornel.
) If Gabinius had not carried his law, says Cicero (post Red. in Sen.
51), such were his embarrassments, that he must have turned pirate himself.
He may have been privately rewarded by Pompey for his useful services, but the senate baffled him in his favourite project, by successfully opposing, or, at least, delaying, his election as one of the legates of Pompey, whom he hoped to follow into Asia. As Pompey expected to supersede L. Lucullus in the war against Mithridates, Gabinius endeavoured to excite obloquy against the pride and grandeur of Lucullus, by exhibiting in public a plan of his magnificent villa at Tusculum. Yet Gabinius himself afterwards, out of the profits of his office, built in the same neighbourhood so splendid and costly a mansion, that the villa of Lucullus was a mere hut in comparison.
Gabinius was the proposer of a law regulating loans of money made at Rome to the provincials. If more than twelve per cent. were agreed to be paid as annual interest, the law of Gabinius prevented any action at all
from being brought on such an agreement. When M. Brutus lent the Salaminii a sum of money, at interest of four per cent. monthly, or forty-eight per cent. yearly, and obtained a decree of the senate, dispensing with the law of Gabinius in his case, and directing " ut jus diceretur ex ista syngrapha," Cicero held that the decree of the senate did not give such force to the agreement as to render valid the excess of interest above the legal rate. (Ad Att.
We read of another Lex Gabinia, by which the senate was directed to give audience to ambassadors from the 1st of February to the 1st of March.
By a previous Lex Pupia the senate was prohibited in general terms from assembling on comitial days. Under these laws arose the question whether the senate might be legally assembled on a comitial day, occurring in February, or whether such days were not tacitly excepted from the Lex Gabinia. (Ad Qu. Fr.
In B. C. 61 Gabinius was praetor, and in B. C. 59 he and L. Piso were chosen consuls for the ensuing year.
In the interval between his tribunate and his praetorship he appears to have been engaged in military service in the East, and to have accompanied M. Scaurus to Judea, where, in the contest between the Maccabees, he received a bribe of 300 talents from Aristobulus. (J. AJ 14.2
The consuls, Gabinius and Piso, had previously been gained over to the party of Clodius, who promised to use his influence in procuring for them lucrative governments. Piso was to get Macedonia, with Greece and Thessaly, and Gabinius was to get Cilicia; but, upon the remonstrance of Gabinius, Cilicia was exchanged for the richer government of Syria, which was erected into a proconsular province, on the ground of the incursions of the Arabs.
I was during the consulship of Gabinius that the exile of Cicero occurred; aid the conduct of Gabinius in promoting the views of Clodius produced that extreme resentment in the mind of Cicero, which afterwards found vent on many occasions.
The consuls, by an edict, prohibited the senate from wearing mourning for the banished orator, and some of the spoils of Cicero's Tusculan villa were transferred to the neighbouring mansion of Gabinius. However, when Clodius quarrelled with Pompey, Gabinius remained true to his original patron, and thus exposed himself to the violence of Clodius, who broke his fasces, and, by a lex sacrata,
dedicated his property to the gods.
It is not easy to trace with chronological accuracy the proceedings of Gabinius in his proconsular government of Syria. When he arrived in Judea, he found the country in a state of agitation.
The dispute between the two brothers, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, had been decided in favour of the former. Pompey had given to Hyrcanus the office of high-priest, and had carried away as prisoners Aristobulus, with two of his daughters, and his two sons, Alexander and Antigonus; but Alexander, on his way to Italy, escaped from custody, returned to Judea, and dispossessed Hyrcanus. Gabinius soon compelled Alexander to sue for favour, and effected the restoration of Hyrcanus to the high priesthood.
He next made an important change in the constitution of the government of Judea, by dividing the country into five districts, in each of which he created a supreme council. (J. AJ 4.10
, de Bell. Jud.
It was perhaps on account of some of his successes in Judea that Gabinius made application to the senate to be honoured with a supplicatio ;
but the senate, in order to evince their hostility to him and his patron Pompey, slighted his letter, and rejected his suit--an affront which had never before been offered, under similar circumstances, to any proconsul. (Ad Qu. Fr.
As the refusal of the senate occurred in the early part of the year B. C. 56, Drumann (Gesch. Roms.
vol. iii. p. 47, n. 35) thinks that it referred to some successes of Gabinius over the Arabs, previous to his campaigns in Judea.
Gabinius now sought for other enemies, against whom he might profitably turn his arms. Phraates, king of Parthia, had been murdered by his two sons, Orodes and Mithridates, who afterwards contended between themselves for the crown. Mithridates, feeling himself the weaker of the two, by presents and promises engaged Gabinius to undertake his cause, and the Roman general had already crossed the Euphrates with his army, when he was invited to return by the prospect of a richer and an easier prey.
Ptolemy the Piper (Auletes), having offended the Alexandrians by his exactions and pusillanimity, had been driven from his kingdom. While he was absent, soliciting the senate of Rome to assist in his restoration, the Alexandrians made his daughter Berenice queen, and invited Seleucus Cibiosactes to marry her, and share her throne.
He accepted the proposal, notwithstanding the opposition of Gabinius, but was shortly afterwards strangled by order of his wife, who thought him a mean-spirited man, and soon grew tired of his society.
After the death of Cibiosactes, Archelaus (the son of that Archelaus who had commanded the army of Pontus against Sulla in the Mithridatic war) became ambitious to supply His place. Archelaus pretended to be a son of Mithridates the Great, and had joined the Roman army with the intention of accompanying Gabinius into Parthia. Gabinius opposed the ambitious design of Archelaus, who, nevertheless, made his escape from the Roman army, reached Alexandria, married Berenice, and was declared king. Dio Cassius thinks (39.57) that Gabinius, wishing to enhance the value of his own services by having a general of some ability to contend against, connived at the escape of Archelaus.
Such was the state of affairs in Egypt when Ptolemy came to Gabinius with recommendatory letters from Pompey. Moreover, he promised to pay Gabinius a large sum of money (10,000 talets) if he were restored to his kingdom by the assistance of the proconsul.
The enterprise was displeasing to the greater part of the Roman officers, since it was forbidden by a decree of the senate, and by an oracle of the Sibyl; but Gabinius was encouraged in his plan of assisting Auletes by M. Antony, the future triumvir, who commanded the Roman cavalry; and he was supplied with money, arms, and provisions, by Antipater of Idumea, who required the friendship of the Romans to assist him in the subjugation of the Maccabees. M. Antony, who was sent forward with the cavalry to seize the passes of Egypt, was put in possession of Pelusium, the key of the kingdom. Archelaus was killed in action, and Gabinius remailed master of Alexandria.
He now found the whole of Egypt at his disposal, and resigned the kingdom to Ptolemy, who not only put his daughter Berenice to death, but ordered the execution of the richest of the Alexandrians, that with their spoils he might the better satisfy the engagements he had entered into with Gabinius.
Upon the return of Gabinius to Judea, he found Alexander, the son of Aristobulus, again in arms, land, after defeating him at Tabor, administered the government of the country, in conformity with the counsels of Antipater. (J. AJ 14.6
Meanwhile a storm had been brewing at Rome, where Gabinius knew that he would have to encounter not only the hostility of the optimates, but all the unpopularity which his personal enemies could excite against him.
He had given umbrage to the Romans in Syria, especially to the publicani of the equestrian order, whose profits were dimi nished by the depredations of the pirates along the Syrian coast, which Gabinius had left unguarded during his expedition to Egypt.
The recall of Gabinius from his province had been decreed in B. C. 55, but he did not depart until his successor, M. Crassus, had actually made his appearance, in B. C. 54.
He lingered on the road, and his gold travelled before him, to purchase favour or silence. To cover his disgrace, lie gave out that he intended to demand a triumph, and lie remained some time without the city gates, but, finding delay useless, on the 28th of September, B. C. 54, he stole into the city by night, to avoid the insults of the populace. For tell days he did not dare to present himself before the senate. When at length he came, and had made the usual report as to the state of the Roman forces, and as to the troops of the enemy, he was about to go away, when he was detained by the consuls, L. Domitius Ahenobarbus and App. Claudius, to answer the accusation of the publicani, who had been in attendance at the doors, and were called in to sustain their charge.
He was now attacked on all sides. Cicero, especially, goaded him so sharply, that he was unable to contain himself, and, with a voice almost choked with passion, called Cicero an exile.
The senate to a man rose from their seats, pressed round Gabinius, and manifested their indignation as clamorously as the warmest friend of Cicero could desire. (Ad Qu. Fr.
Three accusations were brought against Gabi nius.
The first of these was for majestas,
in leaving his province, and making war in favour of Ptolemy Auletes, in defiance of the Sibyl, and the authority of the senate.
In this accusation Cicero gave evidence, but, at the instance of Pompey, did not press severely upon Gabinius. Pompey prevailed upon him not to be the prosecutor, but could not, with the most urgent solicitation, induce him to undertake the defence.
The prosecutor was L. Lentulus, who was slow and backward.
The judges, by a majority of 38 to 32, acquitted Gabinius, on the ground that the words of the Sibyl applied to other times and another king. (D. C. 39.55
The majority who voted for his acquittal were suspected of corruption, as was Lentulus of prevarication.
An inundation of the Tiber, which occurred about this time, was attri buted to the anger of the gods at the escape of Gabinius. (Ad Qu. Fr.
The second prosecution was de repetundis ex lege Julia,
for the illegal receipt of 10,000 talents from Ptolemy Auletes. Out of several candidates for the honour of conducting the accusation, M. Cato, the praetor, selected C. Memmius. Cicero now could no longer resist the importunity of Pom pey, and undertook the defence, though he felt that the part was sorely derogatory to his self-respect, and to his reputation for consistency; for no one had laboured with greater assiduity than he had, ever since his return from exile, to blacken the character of Gabinius.
A fragment from the notes of Cicero's speech for Gabinius has been preserved by Hieronymus (Adv. Rufin.,
ed. Paris, vol. iv. p. 351), but his advocacy was unsuccess ful, notwithstanding the favourable testimony of the Alexandrine deputies and of Pompey, backed by a letter from Caesar. Dio Cassius indeed (46.8) makes Q. Fufius Calenus hint that the success of the prosecution was due to the mode of coniiducting the defence. G(abinius went into exile, and his goods were sold, to discharge the amount at which the damages were estimated.
As the produce of the sale was not sufficient to cover the estimated sum, a suit was instituted, under the same Lex Julia de repetundis,
against C. Rabirius Postumus, who was liable to make up the deficiency, if it could be proved that the money illegally received by Gabinius had come to his hands. Thus the cause of C. Rabirius Postumus (who was also defended by Cicero) was a supplementary ap pendage to the cause of Gabinius. [POSTUMUS, C. RABIRIUS]
Upon the exile of Gabinius the third accusation dropped, which charged him with ambitus,
or illegal canvassing, and was entrusted to P. Sulla, as as prosecutor, with the assistance of Caecilius and Memmius.
In B. C. 49 he returned from exile, upon the call of Caesar, but he took no part in direct hostilities against Pompey.
After the battle of Pharsalia, he was despatched to Illyricum with the newly levied troops, in order to reinforce Q. Cornificius. Fearing the fleet of the Pompeiani, he went by land, and, on his march, was much harassed by the Dalmatians.
In the neighbourhood of Salonae, after having lost more than 2000 men in an engagement with the natives, he threw himself into the town with the remainder of his forces, and for some time defended himself bravely against M. Octavius, but, in a few months, he was seized with a mortal illness, and died about the end of the year B. C. 48, or the beginning of the following year. (Appian, App. Ill. 12
and 27, Bell. Civ.
2.59; D. C. 42.11
(A. Rachenstein, Ueber A. Gabinius ein Programm.
8vo. Aarau. 1826; Drumann, Gesch. Roms.
vol. iv. pp. 40-62, where all the authorities are collected.)