14. Q, CAECILIUS METELLUS NUMIDICUS, L. F. Q. N., younger brother of the preceding and son of No. 6, was one of the most distinguished members of his family.
The character of Metellus stood very high among his contemporaries; in an age of growing corruption his personal integrity remained unsullied; and he was distinguished for his abilities in war and peace.
He was one of the chief leaders of the aristocratical party at Rome, and displayed the usual arrogance and contempt for all those who did not belong to his order, which distinguished the Roman nobles of his time.
The year of his praetorship is not stated; but it was probably after his return from his praetorian province that he was accused of extortion, on which occasion it is related that the judges had such confidence in his integrity that they refused to look at his accounts when they were produced in court. Some modern writers, however, suppose that this trial took place after his return from Numidia (Cic. pro Balb.
5, ad Att.
1, 16; V. Max. 2.10.1
). Metellus obtained the consulship in B. C. 109, with M. Junius Silanus, and received Numidia as his province, with the conduct of the war against Jugurtha, who had in the year before inflicted great disgrace upon the Roman arms. Their honour, however, was fully retrieved by Metellus, who gained a great victory over Jugurtha near the river Muthul.
It is unnecessary to enter here into the details of the war, as they are given in the life of JUGURTHA. Metellus remained in Numidia during the following year as proconsul, but as he was chiefly occupied in the siege of towns, and was unable to bring the war to a conclusion, his legate C. Marius, whom he had grossly affronted [see above p. 954a.], industriously circulated reports in the camp and the city that Metellus designedly protracted the war, for the purpose of continuing in the command.
These rumours had the desired effect. Marius was raised to the consulship, Numidia was assigned to him as his province, and Metellus saw the honour of finishing the war snatched from his grasp.
The blow was all the heavier, since his successor had sprung from the lower classes, and had at the commencement of his political career been assisted by Metellus himself [see p. 952a.]. So bitter were his feelings that he could not brook the sight of Marius, and accordingly left the army in charge of his legate P. Rutilius, who was to hand it over to Marius. On his arrival at Rome, Metellus was, contrary to his expectation, received with the utmost respect and applause.
The people probably felt that injustice had been done him: he celebrated a splendid triumph in B. C. 107, received the honorary surname of Numidicus, and retired into private life, full of glory and honour.
In B. C. 102 Metellus was censor with his cousin Metellus Caprarius.
He attempted to expel from the senate L. Appuleius Saturninus and Servilius Glaucia, two of the greatest enemies of the aristocracy, but was prevented by the interposition of his colleague from carrying his design into effect.
He refused to allow the name of L. Equitius, who pretended to be a son of Gracchus, to stand upon the list of citizens, notwithstanding the popular tumult which this refusal occasioned. Saturninus and his party resolved in revenge to ruin Metellus, and were supported in their design by Marius, who hated Metellus both on personal and political grounds.
By the murder of A. Nonius, who was likewise a candidate for the tribunate, Saturninus obtained this dignity in B. C. 100, the same year in which Glaucia was praetor and Marius consul for the sixth time. Saturninus forthwith proposed an agrarian law, to which he added the clause, that the senate should swear obedience to it within five days after its enactment, and that whosoever should refuse to do so should be expelled from the senate, and pay a fine of twenty talents.
In order to entrap his enemy, Marius got up in the senate and asserted that he would never take the oath; and Metellus made the same declaration; but when the senators were summoned to the rostra to comply with the law, Marius was the first to swear obedience, and Metellus was the only one in the senate who refused to do so.
He was therefore expelled from the senate; and, not contented with this, the tribune brought forward a bill to punish him with exile.
The friends of Metellus were ready to take up arms, if necessary, to resist the law; but Metellus would not avail himself of their assistance, and, in order to avoid a civil commotion, he departed from the city, and retired to Rhodes, where he bore his loss with great calmness, without troubling himself about his return.
In the course of the same year, however, the mad schemes of Saturninus occasioned his own ruin and that of his friends; and the popular party received such a severe blow in consequence of their death, that very little opposition was offered to the recall of Metellus, which was proposed in the following year (B. C. 99) by the tribune Q. Calidius.
The son of Metellus exerted himself so strongly in support of the rogation of Calidius, that he obtained from his contemporaries the surname of Pius.
According to a tale preserved by Cicero (de Nat. Deor.
3.33), Q. Varius, who was tribune of the plebs B. C. 91, and a violent enemy of the aristocracy, poisoned a Metellus, and as Cicero mentions him without any surname, he probably means the great Metellus Numidicus.
The tale, however, may have been invented by the hatred of party.
The general character of Metellus has been already pourtrayed.
He was certainly one of the best specimens of his class, and probably one of the most virtuous citizens of his time.
He was not ignorant of literature and art, and was a generous patron of both.
In his youth he had heard Carneades in Rome; he was a friend and patron of the poet Archias; and when he went into exile he took with him the rhetorician L. Aelius Praeconinus or Stilo, and occupied his time in reading the works and hearing the lectures of the philosophers. His powers of oratory are spoken of with praise by Cicero, and his orations continued to be read with admiration in the time of Fronto. (Sal. Jug. 43
; Plut. Marius; Liv. Epit. 65
; Vell. 2.11
; Aurel. Vie. de Vir. Ill.
62; Flor. 3.1
; Eutrop. 4.27
; Oros. 5.15
; Appian, App. BC 1.28
; V. Max. 2.10.1
§ 2; Gel. 1.6
; Fronto, p. 15; the passages of Cicero in Orelli's Onom. Tull.
vol. ii. p. 103, &c.; Meyer, Orator. Roman. Fragm.
p. 272, &100.2nd ed.)