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Metellus Scipio

22. Q. CAECIIIUS METELLUS PIUS SCIPIO, Q. F., the adopted son of Metellus Pius [No. 19]. He was the son of P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica, praetor B. C. 94, and Licinia, a daughter of the orator L. Crassus, and was a grandson of P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica, consul B. C. 111, and Caecilia, a daughter of Metellus Macedonicus. Through his grandmother he was therefore descended from the family of the Metelli, into which he was subsequently adopted. Before his adoption he bore the names of P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica, and hence his name is given in various forms. Sometimes he is called P. Scipio Nasica, sometimes Q. Metellus Scipio, and sometimes simply Scipio or Metellus. His full legal name, as it appears in a senatus consultum (Cic. Fam. 8.8), is the one given at the commencement of this notice. Appian erroneously gives him the praenomen Lucius. (B. C. 2.24.)

Metellus is first mentioned in B. C. 63, when he is said to have come to Cicero by night, along with M. Crassus and Marcellus, bringing with them letters relating to the conspiracy of Catiline. In B. C. 60 he was elected tribune of the plebs, but was accused of bribery by M. Favonius, who had failed in his election, and was defended by Cicero. He was tribune in B. C. 59, and was one of the college of pontiffs before whom Cicero spoke respecting his house in B. C. 57. In the latter year he exhibited gladiatorial games in honour of his deceased father, Metellus Pius. In B. C. 53 Scipio was a candidate for the consulship along with Plautius Hypsaeus and Milo, and was supported by the Clodian mob, since he was opposed to Milo. The candidates had recourse to the most unblushing bribery, and to open violence and force. The most frightful scenes were daily occurring in the streets of Rome; and these disturbances were secretly fomented by Pompey, who was anxious to be named dictator, for the purpose of restoring order to the city, and thereby possessing the power which might enable him to crush Caesar, of whom he had now become jealous. The comitia could not be held for the election of consuls; and when the murder of Clodius at the beginning of the following year, B. C. 52, threw the state almost into anarchy, the senate consented that Pompey should be elected sole consul. This took place at the end of February; and shortly afterwards he married Cornelia, the daughter of Scipio, to whom he showed particular favour. Hypsaeus and Scipio were both accused of bribery; but though both were equally guilty, the former only was condemned. On the 1st of August Pompey made Scipio his colleague in the consulship; and Scipio showed his gratitude by using every effort to destroy the power of Caesar and strengthen that of Pompey. He was all the more ready to exert himself in Pompey's favour, since the latter was now obliged to enter into a close connection with the aristocratical party, to which Scipio belonged, for the purpose of crushing his rival. One of the first acts of Metellus after his appointment to the consulship was to bring forward a law restoring to the censors the powers of which they had been deprived by Clodius, intending thereby to expel Caesar's friends from the senate; for that he was actuated by no desire to preserve the purity and morality of the body, the scandalous tale related by Valerius Maximus (9.1.8) is a sufficient proof. In the following year (B. C. 51) Scipio proposed in the senate on the 1st of September that the senate should take into consideration the Gallic provinces on the 1st of March in the following year; but as this proposition was considered rather too open a declaration of hostility against Caesar, it was decreed that the consular provinces in general should be brought before the senate on that day. When stronger measures were resolved upon by the aristocracy, Scipio again appeared foremost in urging their adoption. He warmly seconded the consul Lentulus when he proposed in the senate at the beginning of January, B. C. 49, that Caesar should dismiss his army by a certain day, or else be regarded as an enemy of the state; and when the tribunes, M. Antonius and Q. Cassius, placed their veto upon the decree, Scipio urged on matters to an open rupture, and refused to listen to any overtures of peace. The consequence was that the two tribunes fled from the city, and Caesar took up arms against the senate. In the division of the provinces, which was made a few days afterwards, Syria fell to the lot of Scipio, who hastened thither without delay. His conduct in the province is drawn by Caesar in the blackest colours (B. C. 3.31, 32). Although he suffered some loss in an engagement with the inhabitants of Mount Amanus, he assumed the title of imperator, and had it struck upon his coins. His exactions and extortions were almost unparalleled: new taxes of all kinds were imposed upon the inhabitants; Roman officers were sent into every part of the province to collect them; and there was scarcely a village which escaped their marauding visits: they plundered on their own account as well as on account of their general; and they had the fullest licence given them for every kind of oppression. After collecting large sums of money and a considerable body of troops, he took up his winter-quarters at Pergamum, leaving his province quite unprotected and exposed to a fresh attack of the Parthians. At the beginning of the following year, B. C. 48, he was preparing to plunder the temple of Diana in Ephesus, when he received a summons from Pompey to join him with his troops, as Caesar had already crossed over to Greece. Caesar sent Domitius Calvinus into Macedonia, and L. Cassius Longinus into Thessaly to oppose Scipio, but no battle took place between them, according to the statement of Caesar (Caes. Civ. 3.36-38), although a different account is given by other writers. (D. C. 41.51; Appian, App. BC 2.60.) At all events Scipio was unable to join Pompey till Caesar's repulse at Dyrrhachium obliged Calvinus to unite his forces with those of Caesar. Scipio thereupon took possession of Larissa, and shortly after joined Pompey, who divided the command of the army with him. Confident of success, the nobles in Pompey's camp began to quarrel with one another respecting the division of the spoil; and Scipio had a violent altercation, which descended to personal abuse, with Domitius Ahenobarbus and Lentulus Spinther, respecting the office of pontifex maximus, which Caesar then held. The battle of Pharsalia annihilated these prospects. In this battle Scipio commanded the centre of the Pompeian troops, and was opposed by his old adversary, Domitius Calvinus.

After the loss of the battle of Pharsalia, Metellus fled, first to Corcyra and then to Africa, where it was hoped that the army of Attius Varus and the assistance of Juba, king of Numidia, might restore the fallen fortunes of the Pompeian party. Through the influence of Cato, Scipio obtained the supreme command, as being of consular rank, much to the chagrin of Varus, who laid claim to it. As soon as Scipio had received the command, he attempted to destroy the important town of Utica, in order to gratify Juba, and it was with difficulty that Cato prevented him from doing it. His conduct in Africa seems to have been as oppressive as it had been in Syria; in every direction he plundered the inhabitants and laid waste the country. At length Caesar landed in Africa, at the end of December, B. C. 47, and in the month of April in the following year, B. C. 46, he defeated Scipio and Juba at the decisive battle of Thapsus. Scipio immediately fled to the sea, and with a small squadron of ships steered first for Utica; but, learning from Cato that there would be no security for him there, he put out to sea, intending to sail over to Spain. Contrary winds, however, obliged him to put back to Hippo Regius, where he fell in with the fleet of P. Sittius, who fought on Caesar's side. His small squadron was overpowered; and, as he saw that escape was impossible, he stabbed himself and leaped into the sea.

Scipio never exhibited any proofs of striking abilities either in war or in peace; and the prominent part which he played in these stormy times was chiefly owing to his high connections, being a Scipio by birth, a Metellus by adoption, and, by the marriage of his daughter, the father-in-law of Pompey. The love of country and the freedom of the republic (the watchwords with which he fought against Caesar) were a mere sham; he was only anxious to obtain for himself and his party the exclusive possession of the offices of the state and of the provinces, that they might realise fortunes to gratify their love of luxury and pomp. In public, Scipio showed himself cruel, vindictive, and oppressive; in private, he was mean, avaricious, and licentious, even beyond most of his contemporaries. A striking instance of his profligacy is given in the tale related by Valerius Maximus, which has already been referred to. (Plut. Cic. 15; D. C. 40.51, 43.9; Appian, App. BC 2.24,25, 60, 76, 87, 95-100; Caes. Civ. 1.1-4, 3.31-33, 36, 57, 82, 83, B. Afric. passim; Plut. Pomp. 55, Caes. 30, Cat. Min. 60; Liv. Epit. 113, 114; V. Max. 9.5.3; the passages of Cicero in Orelli's Onom. Tull. vol. ii. p. 105, &c.)

The two coins annexed were struck by Metellus Scipio. On the obverse of the former is the legend Q. METEL. PIVS, but the head is uncertain; on the reverse is SCIPIO IMP., with an elephant, which refers evidently to his command in Africa. The head on the obverse of the latter is also uncertain; beneath it is an eagle's head, and the legend is METEL. PIVS SCIP. IMP.: the reverse represents a pair of scales hanging from a cornucopia, with a sella curulis beneath, on one side of which is an ear of corn, and on the other side a hand grasping something. The legend CRASS. IVN. LEG. PRO(PR). refers to Crassus Junianus, one of Scipio's legates, who served with the title legatus propraetore. [CRASSUS, No. 29, p. 882a.]

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hide References (15 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (15):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 8.8
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.4.24
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.9.60
    • Caesar, Civil War, 1.4
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.31
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.57
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.82
    • Caesar, Civil War, 1.1
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.33
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.36
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.38
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.83
    • Plutarch, Pompey, 55
    • Plutarch, Cicero, 15
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 9.5.3
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