Cornelia Metella (c. 73 BC – after 48 BC) was the daughter of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica (consul 52 BC). She appears in numerous literary sources, including an official dedicatory inscription at Pergamon.
Plutarch describes her as a beautiful woman of good character, well read and a skilled player of the lyre. She was also very well educated in geometry and philosophy.
Cornelia was first married to Publius Licinius Crassus, son of Marcus Licinius Crassus, in 55 or 54 BC, when he returned to Rome after serving under Julius Caesar in Gaul. After her first husband's death at the Battle of Carrhae, Cornelia became the fifth wife of Pompey in 52 BC. She was a faithful follower of Pompey and met him in Mytilene with his son Sextus Pompeius, after the battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC. Together, they fled to Egypt where Pompey was murdered. On his arrival, Caesar punished the murderers of Pompey and gave Cornelia his ashes and signet ring. She returned to Rome and spent the rest of her life in Pompey's estates in Italy.
Cornelia appears in George Frideric Handel's 1724 opera Giulio Cesare in Egitto ("Julius Caesar in Egypt"), where she pleads with Caesar to spare her husband; he is about to grant her plea, but Pompey was already killed by the Egyptians.
- Ronald Syme points out that in 74 BC, Cornelia's father was the romantic rival of Cato for Aemilia, Cornelia's mother; their marriage followed soon after and provides the earliest possible date for their daughter's birth. The latest date for Cornelia's marriage to young Crassus would be 54 BC, before he left to join his father for the ill-fated Parthian campaign; Cornelia is unlikely to have been younger than 15 at the time, and so her latest year of birth would be 69 BC. See Syme, “The Sons of Crassus,” Latomus 39 (1980) 403-408, reprinted in Roman Papers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), vol. 3, p. 1225.
- Greek inscription translated into Latin as Cornelia Q. Metelli Pii Scipionis filia. Despite her father's testamentary "adoption" by Metellus Pius, Cornelia is never called Caecilia Metella in any extant sources. Münzer supposed that she retained the gens Cornelia name because she was born before her father's adoption, which was a legal formality. Discussed by Jerzy Linderski, "Q. Scipio Imperator," in Imperium sine fine: T. Robert S. Broughton and the Roman Republic (Franz Steiner, 1996), p. 150 online.
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