Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus


Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus

Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus (ca 160 BC – 91 BC) was the leader of the conservative faction of the Roman Senate and a bitter enemy of Gaius Marius.

Still young, he was sent to Athens, where he studied under Carneades, celebrated philosopher and great master of oratory. He returned remarkably cultured and with brilliant oratorical skills. As said by D. Guéranger, his integrity and his moral principles never allowed him to use his eloquence or ancestry except in favor of justice and good right, refusing even to defend the cause of his brother in law Lucius Licinius Lucullus when accused of excesses and greed while Governor of Asia.

He was a Quaestor in 126 BC, a Tribune in 121 BC, an Aedile in 118 BC, a Praetor in 115 BC, Governor of Sicily in 114 BC and elected Consul in 109 BC, being then sent to Numidia to wage war against Jugurtha. He proved to be great strategist, obtaining successive victories against Jugurtha, forcing him to negotiate his surrender. This was never completed because his lieutenant Marius, elected Consul, managed to replace Metellus in command. After winning the Battle of the Muthul, when he returned to Rome, displeased, Metellus was surprised by the demonstrations of enthusiasm and recognition which he received from the people and the Senate, which regretted acquiescence to the ambitious Marius. The Senate minted coins in Metellus' honor and he celebrated a triumph, acquiring the cognomen Numidicus, all of which cause great irritation to Marius.

He was elected censor in 102 BC in partnership with his cousin Gaius Caecilius Metellus Caprarius. During the censorship, he tried to expel Lucius Appuleius Saturninus from the Senate, but without success. Afterwards, Saturninus had his revenge and forced him to swear the acceptance of the agrarian law that entitled Marius' veterans to farmlands. Numidicus refused and was sent into exile. Numidicus was the main leader of the aristocratic faction, opposing the rapid political ascencion of the demagogue Marius, who was favoured by the final success of the imprisonment and killing of Jugurta thanks to a stratagem of Sulla.

Numidicus was exiled from Rome after refusing to swear an allegiance to Marius. Along with his follower Tribune Lucius Appuleius Saturninus, Marius proposed an agrarian law which, once approved by the Plebians, obliged every Senator to swear him allegiance, under penalty of banishment and a heavy fine. Believing the Senators would vote for it with mental reservations, Marius inserted a clause in the law that would annul that swearing, subterfuge to which Numidicus did not submit. Numidicus didn't hesitate. He refused to swear obedience to a law to which he opposed, paid the corresponding fine and left to exile. After leaving the Forum, he said to his friends: "To do harm is proper of the evil spirits; to do good without taking risks is proper of the ordinary spirits; the man of heart never ever deflects from what is fair and honest, never looking to rewards or to threats." [Plutarch, in "Gaius Marius"] A year later, in 99 BC, he was returned to Rome, thanks to the tireless struggle of his son, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius whose cognomen "Pius" reflected his reverence for his father. Metellus returned to Rome and to his houses at the Palatine Hill and the Via Tiburtina and lived there the rest of his days, intervening little in public affairs.

Notes

References

* [http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Families/Family/1023 Ancientworlds.net]

Further reading

* Manuel Dejante Pinto de Magalhães Arnao Metello and João Carlos Metello de Nápoles, "Metellos de Portugal, Brasil e Roma", Torres Novas, 1998


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