7. M. Aemilius
Lepidus, M. F. M. N., the son of No. 3, was perhaps the Lepidus who is said to have served in the army while still a boy (puer
), and to have killed an enemy, and saved the life of a citizen. (V. Max. 3.1.1
This event is referred to in the accompanying coin of the Aemilia gens: it bears on the obverse a woman's head, and on the reverse a horseman, with the legend M. LEPIDUS AN. XV. PR. H. O. C. S., that is, M. Lepidus annorum xv. praetextatus hostem occidit, civem servavit.
He was one of three ambassadors sent by the Romans in B. C. 201 to the Egyptian court, which was then a firm ally of the republic, and had solicited them to send some one to administer the affairs of the kingdom for their infant sovereign Ptolemy V. Although Lepidus was the youngest of the three ambassadors, he seems to have enjoyed the most power and influence, and accordingly we find writers speaking of him alone as the tutor
of the Egyptian king (Tac. Ann. 2.67
; Just. 30.2
; V. Max. 6.6.1
); and it is not improbable that he remained in Egypt in that capacity when his colleagues returned to Rome. His superior importance is also shown by his colleagues sending him alone to Philip III. of Macedonia, who had exhibited signs of hostility towards the Romans by the siege of Abydos, and who was not a little astonished at the haughty bearing of the young Roman noble on this occasion. How long Lepidus remained in Egypt is uncertain, but as he was chosen one of the pontiffs in B. C. 199, we must conclude that he was in Rome at that time, though he may have returned again to Egypt.
He was elected aedile B. C. 192, praetor 191 with Sicily as his province, and consul 187, after two unsuccessful attempts to obtain the latter dignity.
In his consulship he was engaged, with his colleague C. Flaminius, in the conquest of the Ligurians; and after the reduction of this people, he continued the Via Flaminia from Ariminum by way of Bononia to Placentia, and from thence to Aquileia. (Comp. Strab. v. p.217
He was elected pontifex maximus B. C. 180, censor 179, with M. Fulvius Nobilior, and consul a second time 175.
He was six times chosen by the censors princeps senatus, and he died in B. C. 152, full of years and honours. Judging fron the strict orders which he gave to his sons to bury him in a plain and simple manner (Liv. Epit. 48
), we may conclude that he belonged to that party of the Roman nobles who set their faces against the refined but extravagant habits which the Scipios and their friends were introducing into the state. Lepidus the triumvir is called by Cicero (Cic. Phil. 13.7
) the pronepos
of this Lepidus; but he would seem more probably to have been his abnepos,
or great-great-grandson. This Lepidus left several sons; but we can hardly suppose that either the M. Lepidus Porcina, who was consul B. C. 137, or the M. Lepidus who was consul B. C. 126, were his sons, more especially as Livy mentions one of his sons, M. Lepidus (37.43), as tribune of the soldiers in B. C. 190: the other two we may therefore look upon as his grandsons. (Plb. 16.34
; Liv. 31.2
; Plb. 23.1
; V. Max. 6.3.3
; Liv. 40.42
; V. Max. 4.2.1
; Cic. de Prov. Cons.
9; Liv. Epit. 48
, comp. 40.51, 41.27, 43.15, Epit.
46, 47; Plb. 32.22
The following coin of Lepidus refers to his embassy to Egypt mentioned above, and to his acting as guardian of Ptolemy V.
The obverse contains a female head, intended to represent the city of Alexandria, with the legend ALEXANDREA, and the reverse Lepidus placing the diadem on the head of the king, with the legend M. LEPIDVS PONT. MAX. TVTOR REG. S. C. From the fact that Lepidus is here described as pontifex maximus, and that Valerius Maximus (6.6.1), in relating his guardianship, speaks of him as pontifex maximus and twice consul, Pighius has supposed (Annal.
vol. ii. p. 403) that Lepidus must have been guardian of the Ptolemies VI. and VII.; but Eckhel (vol. v. pp. 123-126) has very ably refuted this opinion, and has shown that this coin was struck by one of the descendants of Lepidus, who would naturally introduce in the legend of the coin one of the distinguished offices of his ancestor, though held at a period subsequent to the event commemorated on the coin.