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Dolabella

8. P. Cornelius Dolabella, perhaps a son of No. 7, was one of the most profligate men of his time. He was born about B. C. 70, and is said to have been guilty, even in early youth, of some capital offences, which might have cost him his life, had not Cicero defended and saved him with great exertions. In B. C. 51, he was appointed a member of the college of the quindecimviri, and the year following he accused Appius Claudius of having violated the sovereign rights of the people. While this trial was going on, Fabia, the wife of Dolabella, left her husband. She had been compelled to take this step by the conduct of her husband, who hoped by a marriage with Tullia, the daughter of Cicero, to prevent Cicero from assisting App. Claudius in his trial by favourable testimonies from Cilicia. Cicero himself, on the other hand, was anxious to oblige App. Claudius, and was therefore by no means inclined to give his own daughter in marriage to the accuser of Claudius; he had, besides, been contemplating to bring about a marriage between Tullia and Tib. Claudius Nero. But Cicero's wife was gained over by Dolabella, and, before Cicero could interfere, the engagement was made, and the marriage soon followed. Cicero seems to have been grieved by the affair, for he knew the vicious character of his son-in-law; but Cloelius endeavoured to console him by saying, that the vices of Dolabella were mere youthful ebullitions, the time of which was now gone by, and that if there remained any traces of them, they would soon be corrected by Cicero's influence, and the virtuous conduct of Tullia. App. Claudius was acquitted in the mean time, and as thus the great outward obstacle was removed, Cicero tried to make the best of what he had been unable to prevent. In his letters written about that time, and afterwards, Cicero speaks of Dolabella with admiration and affection, and he may have really hoped that his son-in-law would improve; but the consequences of his former recklessness and licentiousness, even if he had wished to mend, drove him to new acts of the same kind. The great amount of debts which he had contracted, and the urgent demands of his creditors, compelled him in B. C. 49 to seek refuge in the camp of Caesar. This was a severe blow to Cicero, who speaks of the step with great sorrow. When Caesar marched into Spain against Pompey's legates, Dolabella had the command of Caesar's fleet in the Adriatic, but was unable to effect anything of consequence. After the battle of Pharsalus, in which he had taken a part, Dolabella returned to Rome. He had hoped that Caesar would liberally reward his services, or that proscriptions, like those of Sulla, would afford him the means of obtaining money ; but in vain. His creditors were as loud and troublesome in their demands as before, and he at last had recourse to a new expedient. He caused himself to be adopted into the plebeian family of Cn. Lentulus--whence he is afterwards sometimes called Lentulus--in order to be able to obtain the tribuneship. He was accordingly made tribune in it. 100.48; and, in spite of the decree of the senate, that everything at Rome should remain unchanged till Caesar's return from Alexandria, Dolabella came forward with a rogation, that all debts should be cancelled, and with some other measures of a similar character. His colleagues, Asinius and L. Trebellius, opposed the scheme, and vehement and bloody struggles ensued between the two parties which were thus formed at Rome. Antony, who had been left behind by Caesar as his vicegerent, and bore no hostility towards Dolabella, did not take any strong measures against him till he was informed of an amour existing between his wife Antonia and Dolabella. The day on which Dolabella's rogations were to be put to the vote, a fresh tumult broke out in the city, in which the party of Dolabella was defeated; but peace was nevertheless not quite restored till the autumn, when Caesar returned to Rome. Caesar of course greatly disapproved of Dolabella's conduct, but he did not think it prudent to bring him to account, or to punish him for it. However, he got him away from Rome by taking him with him to Africa about the close of the year, and afterwards also in his Spanish campaign against the two sons of Pompey. In the course of the latter of these expeditions Dolabella was wounded. Caesar promised him the consulship for the year B. C. 44, although Dolabella was then only twenty-five years old, and had not yet held the praetorship; but Caesar afterwards altered his mind, and entered himself upon the consulship for that year; however, as he had resolved upon his campaign against the Parthians, he promised Dolabella the consulship, in his absence, on the 1st of January, B. C. 44. Antony, who was then augur, threatened to prevent such an appointment, and when the comitia were held, he carried his threat into effect. On the 15th of March the senate was to have decided upon the opposition of Antony; but the murder of Caesar on that day changed the aspect of everything. Dolabella immediately took possession of the consular fasces, and not only approved of the murder, but joined the assassins, and thus obtained the office of which he had already usurped the insignia. In order to make a still greater display of his hatred of Caesar, he caused the altar which had been erected to his honour and the column in the forum to be pulled down; and many persons who went thither with the intention of offering sacrifices to Caesar, and of paying him divine honours, were thrown from the Tarpeian rock, or nailed on the cross. These apparent republican sentiments and actions gave great delight to Cicero and the republican party; but no sooner did Antony open the treasury to Dolabella, and give him Syria for his province, with the command against the Parthians, than all his republican enthusiasm disappeared at once. As Cassius had likewise a claim to the province of Syria, Dolabella left Rome before the year of his consulship had come to its close. But he did not proceed straightway to Syria; for, being greatly in want of money, he marched through Greece, Macedonia, Thrace, and Asia Minor, collecting and extorting as much as he could on his way. C. Trebonius, one of Caesar's murderers, who had then arrived at Smyrna as proconsul of Asia, did not admit Dolabella into the city, but sent him provisions outside the place. Dolabella pretended to go to Ephesus, and Trebonius gave him an escort to conduct him thither; but when the escort returned to Smyrna, Dolabella too went back, and entered Smyrna by night. Trebonius was murdered in his bed, in February, B. C. 43; or, according to Cicero, he was tortured for two days before he was put to death. Dolabella now began extorting money and troops from the towns of Asia Minor with a recklessness which knew no scruples whatever in regard to the means for securing his end. When his proceedings became known at Rome, he was outlawed and declared a public enemy. Cassius, who had in the mean time arrived in Asia, made war upon him, and took Laodiceia, which Dolabella had occupied. The latter, in order not to fall into the hands of his enemies, ordered one of his soldiers to kill him, B. C. 43.

It is extraordinary to see the forbearance with which Cicero treated Dolabella, who, after his marriage with Tullia, B. C. 49, improved so littie in his conduct, that two years after, Tullia left him when she was expecting to become mother of a second child by him. Cicero, who certainly loved his daughter most tenderly, and was aware of the unworthy and contemptible conduct of Dolabella, yet kept up his connexion with him after the divorce, and repeatedly assures him of his great attachment. It is difficult to account for this mode of acting on the part of Cicero, unless we suppose that his desire to keep upon good terms with a man who possessed influence with Caesar outweighed all other considerations. Cicero's fondness for him continued for a short time after Caesar's murder, that is, so long as Dolabella played the part of a republican; but a change took place in Cicero's feelings as soon as Dolahella allied himself with Antony, and at the time when his crimes in Asia became known, Cicero spoke of him with the utmost bitterness and contempt. (See the numerous passages of Cicero relating to Dolabella in Orelli, Onom. ii. p. 175,&c.; comp. Fabric. Vit. Cic. p. 91, with Orelli's note; D. C. 41.40, 42.29, &c., 43.51, 44.22, 51, 45.15, 47.29 ; Suet. Jul. 36, 85; Appian, App. BC 2.41, 122, 129, 3.3, 7, &c., 24, 26; Liv. Epit. 113, 119; Vell. 2.58, 60, 69; Plut. Ant. 9, 10, 11; Caes. Bell. Alex. 65; Oros. 6.18.)

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49 BC (2)
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  • Cross-references from this page (10):
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.17.122
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.18.129
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.6.41
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 3.1.3
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 3.1.7
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 85
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 36
    • Plutarch, Antonius, 11
    • Plutarch, Antonius, 10
    • Plutarch, Antonius, 9
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