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3. L. OPIMIUS Q. F. Q. N., son of the preceding, was praetor B. C. 125, in which year he marched against Fregellae, which had risen in revolt, in order to obtain the Roman franchise. The town was betrayed to Opimius by one of its citizens, Q. Numitoritis Pullus, and severe vengeance was taken upon the inhabitants. (Liv. Epit. 60; Cic. De Invent. 2.34; Ascon. in Pison. p. 17, ed. Orelli ; Vell. 2.6; Plut. C. Gracch. 3.) Opimius belonged to the high aristocratical party, and possessed great influence in the senate. He was one of the most violent and, at the same time, one of the most formidable opponents of C. Gracchns; and accordingly when he first became a candidate for the consulship, C. Gracchus used all his influence with the people to induce them to prefer C. Fannius Strabo in his stead. (Plut. C. Gracch. 11.) Gracchus succeeded in his object, and Fannius was consul in B. C. 122; but he was unable to prevent the election of Opimius for the following year, and had only rendered the latter a still bitterer enemy by the affront he had put upon him. Opimnius's colleague was Q. Fabius Maximus Allobrogicus. The history of the consulship of Opimius, B. C. 121, is given at length in the life of C. Gracchus. It is only necessary to state here in general, that Opimius entered, with all the zeal of an unscrupulous partisan and the animosity of a personal enemy, into the measures which the senate adopted to crush Gracchus, and forced on matters to an open rupture. As soon as he was armed by the senate with the well-known decree, "That the consuls should take care that the republic suffered no injury," he resolved to make away with Gracchus, and succeeded, as is related in the life of the latter. Opimius and his party abused their victory most savagely, and are said to have killed more than three thousand persons. [For details see Vol. II. pp. 197, 198, and the authorities there quoted.]

In the following year, B. C. 120, Opimins was accused by Q. Decius, tribune of the plebs, of having put Roman citizens to death without a trial. He was defended by the consul, C. Papirius Carbo, who had formerly belonged to the party of Gracchus, but had gone over to that of the aristocracy. Although the judices now belonged to the equestrian order by one of the laws of Gracchus, they were too much terrified by the events of the preceding year to condemn the person who had been the prime mover in them, and accordingly acquitted the accused. (Liv. Epit. 61; Cic. de Orat. 2.25.) Opimius thus escaped for the present, but his venality and corruption brought him before the judices again a few years afterwards, when he met with a different fate. He had been at the head of the commission which was sent into Africa in B. C. II 2, in order to divide the dominions of Micipsa between Jugurtha and Adherbal, and had allowed himself to be bribed by Jugurtha, to assign to him the better part of the country. This scandalous conduct had passed unnoticed at the time but when the defeat of the Roman army, through the misconduct of Albinus, in B. C. 109, had roused the indignation of the Roman people, the tribune, C. Manilius Limetanus, brought forward a bill for inquiry into the conduct of all those who had received bribes from Jugurtha. By this law Opimius was condemned along with many others of the leading members of the aristocracy. He went into exile to Dyrrhachium in Epeirus, where he lived for some years, hated and insulted by the people, and where he eventually died in great poverty. He richly deserved his punishment, and met with a due recompense for his cruel and ferocious conduct towards C. Gracchus and his party. Cicero, on the contrary, who, after his consulship, had identified himself with the aristocratical party, frequently laments the fate of Opinmius, and complains of the cruelty shown towards a man who had conferred such signal services upon his country as the conquest of Fregellae and the destruction of Gracchus. He calls him the saviour of the commonwealth, and characterises his condemnation as a blot upon the Roman dominion, and a disgrace to the Roman people.

Further Information

Sal. Jug. 16, 40; Veil. Pat. ii 7; Plut. C. Gracch. 18; Cic. pro Planc. 28, Brut. 34, in Pison. 39, pro Sest. 67; Schol. Bob. pro Sest. p. 311, ed. Orelli.

Vinum Opimianum

The year in which Opimius was consul (B. C. 121) was remarkable for the extraordinary heat of the antumn, and thus the vintage of this year was of an unprecedented quality. This wine long remained celebrated as the Vinum Opimianum, and was preserved for an almost incredible space of time. Cicero speaks of it as in existence when he wrote his Brutus, eighty-five years after the consulship of Opimius (Brut. 83). Velleius Paterculus, who wrote in the reign of Tiberius, says (2.7) that none of the wine was then in existence ; but Pliny, who published his work in the reign of Vespasian, makes mention of its existence even in his day, two hundred years afterwards. It was reduced, he says, to the consistence of rough honey; and, like other very old wines, was so strong, and harsh, and bitter, as to be undrinkable until largely diluted with water. (Plin. Nat. 14.4. s. 6; Dict. of Ant. s. u. Vinum.

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  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 2.25
    • Sallust, Bellum Iugurthinum, 16
    • Sallust, Bellum Iugurthinum, 40
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 14.4
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