That the Aemilii were one of the ancient and patrician houses at Rome, most writers agree. And that the first of them, and the one who gave his surname to the family, was Mamercus, a son of Pythagoras the philosopher, who received the surname of Aemilius for the grace
and charm of his discourse, is the statement of some of those writers who hold that Pythagoras was the educator of Numa the king.
Now, most of this family who rose to distinction by their cultivation of virtue, were blessed with good fortune; and in the case of Lucius Paulus, his misfortune at Cannae gave testimony alike to his wisdom and valour. For when he could not dissuade his colleague from giving battle, he took part with him in the struggle, though reluctantly, but would not be a partner in his flight; nay, though the one who had brought on the peril left him in the lurch, he himself kept his post and died fighting the enemy.
This Paulus had a daughter, Aemilia, who was the wife of Scipio the Great, and a son, Aemilius Paulus, whose Life I now write. He came of age at a time which abounded in men of the greatest reputation and most illustrious virtue, and yet he was a conspicuous figure, although he did not pursue the same studies as the young nobles of the time, nor set out on his career by the same path.
For he did not practise pleading private cases in the courts, and refrained altogether from the salutations and greetings and friendly attentions to which most men cunningly resorted when they tried to win the favour of the people by becoming their zealous servants; not that he was naturally incapable of either, but he sought to acquire for himself what was better than both, namely, a reputation arising from valour, justice, and trustworthiness. In these virtues he at once surpassed his contemporaries.