According to Suetonius, Pinarius was a great nephew of dictator Gaius Julius Caesar through one his sisters (sororum nepotes). His cousins were consul Quintus Pedius, Octavia Minor (the fourth wife of Triumvir Mark Antony) and Octavian (future first Roman Emperor Augustus).
His father was a member of the gens Pinaria, an ancient, distinguished family of patrician status. The family can be traced to the foundations of Rome. Various members of the gens served as priests and were among the first to serve as consuls in the republic.
Little is known on Scarpus' early life. He is first mentioned in the ancient sources when Caesar was assassinated in Rome in March 44 BC. In the will of Caesar, Scarpus received one eighth of the property of the dictator, the same amount as Pedius. The main heir of Caesar was Octavian, who received three quarters of the property of his great uncle. But Scarpus and Pedius also assigned their inheritance to Octavian.
Scarpus became an ally to Mark Antony and commanded for him in the war against the murderers of Caesar, Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus. In the years leading up to the Final War of the Roman Republic, in Actium, Greece 31 BC, Antony appointed Scarpus to the military command of Cyrenaica. Scarpus had with him four legions to command. During his time in Cyrenaica, Scarpus had control of the currency mint in Cyrene, as he became a moneyer. Scarpus had issued various coins bearing Antony’s name and Scarpus’ name was inscribed as an issuer of those coins.
After Antony and his lover, the Ptolemaic Greek Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, were defeated by Octavian at Actium (September 2, 31 BC), they sailed back to North Africa. Antony sent messengers to Scarpus for help. But Scarpus refused to see Antony’s messengers and put them to death. Instead, he changed sides. He gave his legions to Gaius Cornelius Gallus, Octavian’s lieutenant, to command. While Octavian marched from the East through Asia, Syria and Judea against Egypt, Cornelius Gallus advanced with Scarpus’ legions from the west against Alexandria.
When Antony and Cleopatra died, Octavian became the new Roman master and then emperor. Augustus had appointed his cousin as the Roman governor of Cyrenaica. Scarpus, as he did for Antony, became a moneyer and had issued various coins bearing Augustus’ name. On these coins, Scarpus had his name inscribed as an issuer of the coins. Beyond that, nothing is known of Scarpus.
- Divus Julius 83.2.
- In contrast, the German classical scholar Friedrich Münzer assumes that Scarpus was not the grandson but the son of Caesar's eldest sister, Julia Caesaris Major, and therefore a nephew of the dictator (Friedrich Münzer, Aus dem Verwandtenkreise Caesars und Octavians (About the relatives of Caesar and Octavian), in: Hermes 71 (1936), p. 226–230).
- Sueton, Divus Julius 83.2; Appian, Civil Wars 3.86 and 3.388
- Appian, Civil Wars 4.447
- Cassius Dio, Roman History 51.5.6; without mention of Scarpus Plutarch, Antony 69.1-3
- Cassius Dio, Roman History 51.9.1