Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus

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Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus (committed suicide 79 AD) was a prominent Roman senator, twice Consul, best known for his prosecution of the Stoic senator Thrasea Paetus and his bitter quarrel with Helvidius Priscus. Eprius was also notorious for his ability to ingratiate himself with the reigning Emperors – especially Nero and Vespasian – and his hostility to any senatorial opposition, but in the last year of Vespasian, in circumstances that remain obscure, he was accused of treason and committed suicide.

Career[edit]

Eprius was 'said to have been born in Capua' from a family of no social distinction.[1] He may have benefitted from the patronage of the Emperor Claudius's powerful minister Lucius Vitellius, who caused him to be made praetor for a day - the last day of the year 48.[2] According to an inscription recovered in Paphos,[3] in the earlier part of his career he commanded a legion, was legate of Lycia-Pamphylia (in the period 53-56) and proconsul of Cyprus. He was noted as a skilful but fierce and angry orator who 'blazed with his eyes, countenance and voice'.[4] He was one of the suffect consuls of the year 62. At the trial of Thrasea Paetus on a trumped-up charge of treason Eprius was the principal prosecutor, asserting that Thrasea was a traitor to Roman tradition and religion.[5] This was held against him by Thrasea’s son-in-law Helvidius Priscus, who in 68 impeached Eprius, but dropped the charge, as the condemnation of Eprius would have involved a number of other senators. In December 69, when Vespasian had just gained victory in the civil war of that year, Helvidius, as praetor-elect, attacked Eprius’s former conduct in the Senate; Eprius defended himself vigorously as one of those loyal servants 'who had striven to serve the State under bad Emperors'. It was, he said, 'all very well to emulate Brutus and Cato in fortitude: but one was only a senator, and they had all been slaves together.' [6]

In the sequel he rose to become one of Vespasian’s closest friends and advisers. In 70–73 he held the Proconsulate of Asia, anomalously extended to three years, then returned to Rome for his second suffect consulship in 74. At this time Helvidius Priscus was banished and later murdered, supposedly against Vespasian's wish, a process in which some saw the hand of Eprius. In 79 he was apparently involved in plotting with the former Vitellian general Aulus Caecina Alienus against the Flavian dynasty. Arraigned before the senate and condemned, Eprius cut his own throat with a razor.[7]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Tacitus, Dialogus, 8, 1
  2. ^ Tacitus, Annales, XII. 4, 3
  3. ^ AE 1956, 186.
  4. ^ Tacitus, Annales, XVI. 29, 1.
  5. ^ Tacitus, ibid.
  6. ^ Tacitus, Historiae, IV, 3-10.
  7. ^ Dio Cassius, LXVI. 16, 3.