Bestia is the name of a family in ancient Rome, of which the following were the most distinguished.
1. Lucius Calpurnius Bestia, tribune of the people in 121 BC, consul in 111. Having been appointed to the command of the operations against Jugurtha, he at first carried on the campaign energetically, but soon, having been heavily bribed, concluded a disgraceful peace. On his return to Rome he was brought to trial for his conduct and condemned, in spite of the efforts of Marcus Aemilius Scaurus who, though formerly his legate and alleged to be equally guilty himself, was one of the judges - apparently Scaurus defended him extremely eloquently during the proceedings, but then turned round and voted to condemn him.
He may be the same man as, or the father of, the Bestia who encouraged the Italians in their revolt, and went into exile (90) to avoid punishment under the law of Q. Varius, whereby those who had secretly or openly aided the Italian allies against Rome were to be brought to trial. Both Cicero and Sallust express a high opinion of Bestia's abilities, but his love of money demoralized him. He is mentioned in a Carthaginian inscription as one of a board of three, perhaps an agricultural commission.
2. Lucius Calpurnius Bestia, one of the Catilinarian conspirators, possibly a grandson of the above. He was tribune elect in 63 BC, and it had been arranged that, after entering upon his office, he should publicly accuse Cicero of responsibility for the impending war. This was to be the signal for the outbreak of revolution. The conspiracy, however, was put down and Bestia had to content himself with delivering a violent attack upon the consul on the expiration of his office. In modern literature, he is used as a secondary character in two of the SPQR series of mysteries by John Maddox Roberts; The Catiline Conspiracy and Saturnalia. This Bestia is probably not the Lucius Calpurnius Bestia, aedile, and a candidate for the praetorship in 57. He was accused of bribery during his candidature, and, in spite of Cicero's defence, was condemned. In 43 he attached himself to the party of Antony, apparently in the hope of obtaining the consulship.
- Appian, Bell. Civ. i. 37; Valerius Maximus viii. 6. 4.
- See Sallust, Jugurtha; Cicero, Brutus, xxxiv. 128; for the general history, A. H. J. Greenidge, History of Rome, vol. i. (1904), pp. 346 foll.
- Sallust, Catiline, xvii. 43; Appian, Bell. Civ. ii. 3; Cicero, Ad Q. Fr. ii. 3, 6.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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