previous next


2. T. Labienus was tribune of the plebs in B. C. 63, the year of Cicero's consulship; and, under pretence of avenging his uncle's death, as is mentioned above, he accused Rabirius of perduellio. The real reason, however, of his undertaking this accusation was to please Julius Caesar, whose motives for bringing the aged Rabirius to trial have been mentioned elsewhere. [CAESAR, p. 541.] Rabirius was defended by Cicero, who was then exerting himself to please the senatorial party, and who consequently speaks of the tribune with great contempt, and heaps upon him no measured terms of abuse. Being entirely devoted to Caesar's interests, Labienus introduced and carried a plebiscitum, repealing the enactment of Sulla, which gave the college of pontiffs the power of electing its members by co-optation, and restoring to the people the right of electing them. It was in consequence of this new law that Caesar obtained the dignity of pontifex maximus this year. (D. C. 37.26, 27, 37; Suet. Jul. 12, 13; Cic. pro Rabir. passim.) It was likewise no doubt at Caesar's suggestion, who was anxious to gratify Pompey, that Labienus and his colleague T. Ampins Balbus proposed those honours to Pompey, which have been detailed elsewhere. [Vol. I. p. 455a.] (Comp. Veil. Pat. 2.40.)

All these services did not go unrewarded. When Caesar, after his consulship, went into his province of Transalpine Gaul in B. C. 58, he took Labienus with him as his legatus, and treated him with distinguished favour. We find that Labienus had the title of pro praetore (Caes. Gal. 1.21), which title had doubtless been conferred upon him by Caesar's influence, that he might in the absence of the proconsul take his place, and discharge his duties. Labienus continued with Caesar during a great part of his campaigns in Gaul, and showed himself an able and active officer. He was with Caesar throughout the whole of his first campaign (B. C. 58). According to Appian (Celt. 3, 15) and Plutarch (Plut. Caes. 18), it was Labienus who cut to pieces the Tigurini; but Caesar ascribes the merit of this to himself (B. G. 1.12); and as he never manifests a disposition to appropriate to himself the exploits of his officers, his authority ought to be preferred to that of the former writers. He speaks, moreover, of the services of Labienus in this campaign; and after the conquest of the Helvetii and the Germans we find him leaving Labienus in command of the troops in their winter-quarters, while he himself went into Cisalpine Gaul to discharge his civil duties in this province. (Caes. Gal. 1.10, 22, 54.)

As we have no further mention of Labienus in Gaul for the next three years, it is probable that he quitted the army when Caesar returned to it, after the winter of B. C. 58. His absence was supplied by P. Crassus, the son of the triumvir; but when the latter left Gaul, in B. C. 54, in order to join his father in the fatal expedition against the Parthians, Caesar may perhaps have sent for Labienus, or the prospect of honour and rewards may have again attracted him to the camp of his patron. However this may be, we find Labienus again in Gaul in B. C. 54, in the winter of which year he was stationed with a legion among the Remi, on the confines of the Treviri. Here he defeated the latter people, who had come under the command of Induciomarus, to attack his camp, and their leader fell in the battle. Still later in the winter Labienus gained another great battle over the Treviri, and reduced the people to submission. (Caes. Gal. 5.24, 53-58, 6.7, 8; D. C. 40.11, 31.)

In the great campaign against Vercingetorix in B. C. 52, which was the most arduous but at the same time the most brilliant of all Caesar's campaigns in Gaul, Labienus played a distinguished part. He was sent by Caesar with four legions against the Senones and Parisii, and took up his head-quarters at Agendicum. From this place he marched against Lutetia, which was burnt at his approach; and in his subsequent retreat to Agendicum, which was rendered necessary by the revolt of the Aedui and the rising of the Bellovaci, his conduct is greatly praised by Caesar. He subsequently reached Agendicum in safety after gaining a complete victory over Camulogenus, who commanded the enemy. During the winter of this year he was left in command of the troops, while Caesar repaired, according to his usual custom, to Cisalpine Gaul; and finding that Commius, the Atrebatian, was endeavouring to excite a new revolt in Gaul, he made an ineffectual attempt to remove him by assassination. During the two following years, which preceded the breaking out of the civil war, Labienus continued to hold the chief command in the army, next to Caesar himself. In B. C. 51 Caesar sent him into Gallia Togata, or Cisalpine Gaul, to defend the Roman colonies, lest the barbarians should make any sudden attack upon them; and on his return into Transalpine Gaul, he was again despatched against the Treviri, whom he had conquered three years before, and whom he again subdued without any difficulty. So much confidence did Caesar place in Labienus, that when he returned into Transalpine Gaul in B. C. 50, he left Labienus in command of Cisalpine Gaul, that the latter might in his absence still further win over the Roman citizens in his province to support Caesar in his attempts to gain the consulship for the year following. (Caes. Gal. 7.57-62, 8.23, 24, 25, 45, 52; D. C. 40.38, 43.)

But Caesar's confidence was misplaced. The great success which Labienus had gained under Caesar, and which was rather due to Caesar's genius than to his own abilities, had greatly elated his little mind, and made him fancy himself the equal of his great general, whom he was no longer disposed to obey as heretofore. (Comp. D. C. 41.4.) Such conduct naturally caused Caesar to treat him with coolness; and the Pompeian party eagerly availed themselves of this opportunity to gain him over to their side. They entered into negotiations with him in this year, while he was in Cisalpine Gaul, and their efforts were successful, notwithstanding the large fortune which had been bestowed upon him by Caesar (comp. Cic. Att. 7.7), and the other numerous marks of favour which he had received at his hands. Accordingly, on the breaking out of the civil war in B. C. 49, Labienus took an early opportunity to desert his old friend and captain. The news of his defection was received at Rome with transport; and Cicero speaks of it again and again in terms of the greatest exultation. " I look upon Labienus as a hero," he writes to Atticus; " that great man Labienus," he calls him in another letter, and speaks of " the tremendous blow " (maxima plaga) which Caesar had received from the desertion of his chief officer. But this " hero " was destined to disappoint. grievously his new friends. He brought no accession of strength to their cause; he had not sufficient influence with Caesar's veterans to induce them to forsake the general whom they idolised ; even the town of Cingulum, on which he had spent so much money, was one of the first to open its gates to Caesar (Caes. Civ. 1.15); and in war his talents seem to have been rather those of an officer than of a commander; he was more fitted to execute the orders of another than to devise a plan of action for himself. In a few weeks' time we find Cicero speaking of him in very altered language, and expressing a desire for the arrival of Afranius and Petreius, as little was to be expected from Labienus. (In Labieno parum est dignitatis, Cic. Att. 8.2.3; comp. Cic. Att. 7.11, 12, 13, a, b. 15, 16, ad Fam. 14.14, 16.12.)

In the following year (B. C. 48) Labienus took an active part as one of Pompey's legates in the campaign in Greece. Here he distinguished himself, like many others of Pompey's officers, by his cruelty and overweening confidence; though we ought perhaps to make some deduction from the unfavourable terms in which he is spoken of by Caesar. Appian, however, relates (B. C. 2.62), that it was through the advice of Labienus that Pompey did not follow up the success which he had gained at Dyrrhachium, by forcing Caesar's camp, which he might easily have done, and thus have brought the war to a close. And the act of cruelty committed by Labienus after this battle was of so public a nature, that Caesar would not have ventured to record it unless it had been actually committed. He is related to have obtained from Pompey all Caesar's soldiers who had been taken prisoners in the battle, to have paraded them before the Pompeian army, and, after taunting them as his " fellow-soldiers," and upbraiding them by asking " whether veteran soldiers were accustomed to fly," to have put them to death in the presence of the assembled troops. In the council of war held before the fatal battle of Pharsalia, he expressed the utmost contempt for Caesar's army, and thus contributed his share to increase that false confidence, which was one of the main causes of the disastrous issue of the battle. (Caes. Civ. 3.13, 19, 71, 87.)

After the defeat at Pharsalia Labienus fled to Dyrrhachium, where he found Cicero, and informed him of the news (Cic. de Div. 1.32), but at the same time, to give some courage to his party, pretended that Caesar had received a severe wound in the engagement. (Frontin. Strat. 2.7.13.) From Dyrrhachium Labienusrepaired with Afranius to Corcyra, in order to join Cato; and from thence he proceeded to Cyrene (Plut. Cat. Mi. 56), which refused to receive him, and finally he joined the scattered remnants of the Pompeian party in Africa. Here Scipio and Cato, two of the most celebrated leaders of the Pompeians, collected a considerable army. Labienus had at first the command of an army near Ruspina, where he fought against Caesar, in B. C. 46, at first with some success, but was at length repulsed. Soon after this battle Labienus united his forces with those of Scipio, under whom he served as legate during the rest of the campaign. (D. C. 42.10, 43.2; Appian, App. BC 2.95; Hirt. B. Afr. 15-19, &c.)

When the battle of Thapsus placed the whole of Africa in Caesar's power, Labienus fled into Spain with the surviving relics of his party, in order to continue the war there in conjunction with Cn. Pompey. At the battle of Munda, which was fought in the following year, B. C. 45, Labienus was destined once more to oppose his old commander, and by a strange fatality to give the death-blow to the very party that had welcomed him with so much joy. The battle was undecided, and would probably have remained so, had not Labienus quitted his ranks, to prevent Bogud, king of Mauritania, from capturing the Pompeian camp. The Pompeian troops, thinking that Labienus had taken to flight, lost their courage, wavered, and fled. Labienus himself fell in the battle, and his head was brought to Caesar. The general character of Labienus has been sufficiently shown by the above sketch : he seems to have been a vain, haughty, headstrong man; nothing is recorded of him which exhibits him in a favourable light; and with the exception of his military abilities, which were not, however, of the highest order, he possessed nothing to distinguish him from the general mass of the Roman nobles of his time. (D. C. 43.30, 38; Flor. 4.2 ; Appian, App. BC 2.105; Auctor, B. Hisp. 18, 31.)

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
58 BC (3)
54 BC (2)
63 BC (1)
52 BC (1)
51 BC (1)
50 BC (1)
49 BC (1)
48 BC (1)
46 BC (1)
45 BC (1)
hide References (32 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (32):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 7.11
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 7.12
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 7.13
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 7.7
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 8.2.3
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.14.95
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.15.105
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 1.10
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 1.22
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 1.54
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 6.7
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 8.25
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 8.45
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 1.21
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 5.24
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 5.53
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 5.58
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 6.8
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 7.57
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 7.62
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 8.23
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 8.24
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 8.52
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 12
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.19
    • Caesar, Civil War, 1.15
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.13
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.71
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.87
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 13
    • Plutarch, Cato Minor, 56
    • Plutarch, Caesar, 18
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: