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4. M. LIVIUS C. F. M. AEMILIANI N. DRUSUS, son of No. 3, was tribune of the plebs in the year B. C. 122, when C. Gracchus was tribune for the second time. The senate, alarmed at the progress of Gracchus in the favour of the people, employed his colleague Drusus, who was noble, well educated, wealthy, eloquent, and popular, to oppose his measures and undermine his influence. Against some of the laws proposed by Gracchus, Drusus interposed his veto without assigning any reason. (Appian, App. BC 1.23.) He then adopted the unfair and crooked policy of proposing measures like those which he had thwarted. He steered by the side of Gracchus, merely in order to take the wind out of his sails. Drusus gave to the senate the credit of every popular law which he proposed, and gradually impressed the populace with the belief that the optimates were their best friends. The success of this system earned for him the designation patronus senatus. (Suet. Tib. 3.) Drusus was able to do with applause that which Gracchus could not attempt without censure. Gracchus was blamed for proposing that the Latins should have full rights of citizenship. Drusus was lauded for proposing that no Latin should be dishonoured by rods even in time of actual military service. Gracchus, in his agrarian laws, reserved a rent payable into the public treasury, and was traduced. Drusus relieved the grants of public land from all payment, and was held up as a patriot. Gracchus proposed a law for sending out two colonies, and named among the founders some of the most respectable citizens. He was abused as a popularity-hunter. Drusus introduced a law for establishing no fewer than twelve colonies, and for settling 3000 poor citizens in each. He was applauded, and was assisted in carrying the measure. These twelve colonies are supposed by Niebuhr (Hist. of Rome, iv. p. 349) to be the same with those mentioned by Cicero (pro Caocina, 35). In all these measures, the conduct of Drusus was seen to be exempt from sordid motives of gain. He took no part in the foundation of colonies, reserved no portions of land to himself, and left to others the management of business in which the disbursement of money was concerned. Gracchus, on the other hand, was anxious to have the handling of money, and got himself appointed one of the founders of an intended colony at Carthage. The populace, ever suspicious in pecuniary matters, when they saw this, thought that all his fine professions were pretexts for private jobs. Besides, Drusus cleverly took advantage of his absence to wound him through the side of Fulvius Flaccus. Flaccus was hot-headed and indiscreet, and Drusus contrived to throw the obloquy of his indiscretion and misconduct upon Gracchus. Thus was the policy of the senate and Drusus completely successful. Gracchus was outbidden and discredited, and his power was for ever gone. (Plut. C. Gracchus, 8-11; Cic. Brut. 28, de Fin. 4.24.)

The policy and legislation of Drusus in his tribunate bear some resemblance to those of his son, who was killed in his tribunate 31 years afterwards. Hence it is sometimes difficult to determine whether passages in the classical authors relate to the father or the son, and in some cases it is probable that the father and the son have been confounded by ancient writers. In a case of doubt the presumption is that the son [No. 6] is intended, since his tragical death, followed close by the Marsic war, has rendered the year of his tribunate a conspicuous era in Roman history.

We read nothing more of Drusus, until he obtained the consulship in B. C. 112. He probably passed through the regular gradations of office as aedile and praetor. He may be the praetor urbanus, whose decision, that an action of mandatum lay against an heir as such, is mentioned ad Heren. 2.13, and he may be the Drusus praetor, an instance of whose legal astuteness is recorded in a letter of Cicero to Atticus (vetus illud Drusi praetoris, &c., 7.2); but we should rather be disposed to refer these passages to some member of the family (perhaps No. 2 or No. 1), who attained the praetorship, but did not reach the higher office of consul.

Drusus obtained Macedonia as his province, and proceeded to make war upon the Scordisci. He was so successful in his military operations, that he not only repelled the incursions of this cruel and formidable enemy upon the Roman territory in Macedonia, but drove them out of part of their own country, and even forced them to retire from Thrace to the further or Dacian side of the Danube. (Florus, 3.4.) Upon his return, he was welcomed with high honours (Liv. Epit. lxiii.), and his victory was received with the warmer satisfaction from its following close upon the severe defeat of C. Cato in the same quarter. (Dio Cass. Frag. Peiresc. 93, ed. Reimar, i. p. 40.) It is very likely that he obtained a triumph, for Suetonius (Suet. Tib. 3) mentions three triumphs of the Livia gens, and only two (of Livius Salinator) are positively recorded. There is, however, no proof that Dusus triumphed. The Fasti Triumphales of this year are wanting, and Vaillant (Num. Ant. Fam. Rom. ii. p. 52) has been misled into the quotation of a conjectural supplement as an authority. In a passage in Pliny (Plin. Nat. 33.50), which has been relied upon as proving that Drusus triumphed, the words triumphalem senem do not refer to the Drusus mentioned immediately before.

Plutarch (Quaest. Rom. vii. p. 119, ed. Reiske) mentions a Drusus who died in his office of censor, upon which his colleague, Aemilius Scaurus, refused to abdicate, until the tribunes of the plebs ordered him to be taken to prison. It is highly probable that our Drusus is intended, and that his censorship fell in the year B. C. 109, when the remains of the Capitoline marbles shew that one of the censors died during his magistracy. (Fasti, p. 237, Basil. 1559.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.3.23
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 3
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 33.50
    • Cicero, Brutus, 28
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