Gaius Scribonius Curio

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Gaius Scribonius Curio was the name of a father and son who lived in the late Roman Republic: both played significant roles in its political development.


Gaius Scribonius Curio Burbulieus (d. 53 BC) was a Roman statesman, soldier and orator. He was nicknamed Burbulieus (after an actor) for the way he moved his body while speaking. Curio was noted as a public orator and for the purity of his Latin language.

Curio was a tribune of the plebs in 90 BC. He later served as a legate under Lucius Cornelius Sulla in Greece and Asia during the campaign against Mithridates. He laid siege to the tyrant Aristion, who had taken position on the Acropolis, during the Siege of Athens. Several years later, in 76 BC, he was elected consul,[1] along with Gnaeus Octavius. After his consulship he was allocated Macedonia as his proconsular command. He successfully fought the Dardani and the Moesians, for which he won a military triumph. He was the first Roman general to penetrate to the Danube.

A friend of Cicero, he supported him during the Catiline Conspiracy. Curio spoke in favor of Publius Clodius Pulcher when he was on trial for violating the rites of Bona Dea,[2] while Cicero spoke out against Clodius and Curio, though this did not interfere with their friendship. He became an opponent to Julius Caesar and wrote a political dialogue against him. Curio was a member of the College of Pontiffs. He died in 53 BC.[3]


Gaius Scribonius Curio (d. 49 BC) was the son of Gaius Scribonius Curio. He was a friend to Pompey, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Clodius and Cicero. He was known as a distinguished orator. Curio's character was very conspicuous and profligate.[4] Despite his faults, Cicero assisted him in every way and evidently wrote several letters to him.

There was a rumor that Curio and Mark Anthony had an affair when they were young. When the two men had been banned from seeing each other by Curio's father, Curio had smuggled Mark Anthony in through his father's roof.[5]

In the year of Caesar's consulship (59) Curio is noted for his defiance of Caesar. This led him to be seen as a patriot and brought him much prestige.[6]

In the same year Curio was apparently asked to join an assassination attempt on Pompey. The notorious professional spy Lucius Vettius had been hired by several junior and senior senators to set up the assassination. His father informed Pompey and the plot fell through. Cicero refused to believe in the existence of the plot and dismissed the whole episode as an attempt by Caesar to cast suspicion on young Curio and several other senatores. Before a full judicial enquiry could be set up Vettius was found strangled in prison.[7]

Curio built Rome's first permanent amphitheatre, in his father's memory and celebrated funeral games there with seating built on a pivot that could move the entire audience.[8]

In about 52 BC, he married Fulvia, the widow of Publius Clodius and a granddaughter of Gaius Gracchus. Through her he got a stepdaughter, Clodia Pulchra, a stepson, Publius Clodius Pulcher (junior), and the support of Clodius' gangs. She would also give him a son.[9]

He began in politics as a supporter of Clodius, but shortly after came out as a Conservative in fierce opposition to Caesar.[10] Known universally as unpredictable, by standing for the Tribuneship in 51 he placed himself (as Cicero told him) in a pivotal position at the Republic's crisis point,[11] when at the end of 51 BC Curio got himself elected as a Tribune of the Plebs for 50 BC. As Tribune he suddenly did a volte-face and became a supporter of Caesar (probably because in return for his support, Caesar paid off his debts).[12] According to Tacitus, Caesar bribed him for his oratory. Curio vetoed every effort by Caesar's opponents to prise his provinces from him.[13] Before the Civil War, Curio was one of the last politicians to call on Pompey and Caesar to make peace.[14] At the end of his year as tribune Curio travelled to Ravenna to inform Caesar about developments in Rome.[15] Caesar gave Curio instructions and sent him back to Rome with an ultimatum.[15]

On 1 January of 49 BC Mark Antony entered office as one of the Tribunes of the Plebs, he took over from Curio, he summoned a meeting of the Senate and read out Caesar's letter.[15] The meeting ended with the consul Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus expelling Antony from the Senate building by force. Antony fled Rome, fearing for his life, and returned to Caesar's camp on the banks of the Rubicon River. On his flight Anthony was accompanied by Marcus Caelius and Curio.[16]

Caesar made Curio a praetor and sent him with four legions and a 1,000 Gallic cavalry to Sicily and Africa to take both provinces and secure the grain supply.[17] Curiu drove Cato from Sicily and secured the island for Caesar.[17] After receiving word that Caesar had defeated the Pompeians in Spain he embarked with two of his legions and half the cavalry and sailed to Africa.[17] In Africa he faced Attius Varus and King Juba I of Numidia (a supporter of Pompey). Although he won the Battle of Utica (49 BC), he was eventually defeated by Juba at the Second Battle of the Bagradas River and fought to his death, along with his army, rather than attempting to flee to his camp.[18]

Under the Empire, both Lucan and Seneca would be inspired to write of his character and about his varying roles.[19]


  1. ^ D R Shackleton Bailey trans., Cicero’s Letters to his Friends (Atlanta 1988) p. 824
  2. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, pp 215-216.
  3. ^ D R Shackleton Bailey trans., Cicero’s Letters to his Friends (Atlanta 1988) p. 205 and p. 824
  4. ^ F Abbott, The Common People of Ancient Rome (1965) p. 235
  5. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, pp 235-236 and 251.
  6. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 236.
  7. ^ John Leach, Pompey the Great, p. 127; McDermott, The Vettius Affair, 1949.
  8. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 295; cf. Plin. nat. hist. 36, 117.
  9. ^ C.L. Babcock, The Early Career of Fulvia, American Journal of Philology 86 (1965), pp. 1–32.
  10. ^ F Abbott, The Common People of Ancient Rome (1965) p. 244-6
  11. ^ D R Shackleton Bailey trans., Cicero’s Letters to his Friends (Atlanta 1988) p. 154-5 and p. 204
  12. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 301; Cicero, To Friends, 8.7.
  13. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 302.
  14. ^ "Crossing the Rubicon". Retrieved 2013-10-01.
  15. ^ a b c Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 305; John Leach, Pompey the Great, p. 170.
  16. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 305.
  17. ^ a b c T.R.E. Holmes, The Roman Republic and the Founder of the Empire, Vol III, p. 95.
  18. ^ Gardner (translator), Jane F (1967). Julius Caesar – The Civil War. Penguin Books. p. 104.
  19. ^ F Abbott, The Common People of Ancient Rome (1965) p. 235-

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Political offices
Preceded by
Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus Livianus and Decimus Junius Brutus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Gnaeus Octavius
76 BC
Succeeded by
Gaius Aurelius Cotta and Lucius Octavius