Marcus Aemilius Scaurus (consul 115 BC)

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Marcus Aemilius Scaurus (born ca. 163 BC – died 89 BC) was a Roman consul in 115 BC and considered one of the most talented and influential politicians of the Republic.


Scaurus was born in a patrician family, although impoverished. In order to maintain the family lifestyle, his father became a coal-dealer. However, Scaurus himself declined any commercial activities (forbidden for senators) and embarked on a political life.

Scaurus’ cursus honorum started when he became a military tribune in the Hispania provinces. Then he became curule aedile in charge of the public games, and afterwards praetor in 120 BC. He was elected consul in 115 BC with Marcus Caecilius Metellus as his junior colleague.In the same year he was nominated princeps senatus and confirmed by the Senate, an office which he held until his death.

During the run-up to the Jugurthine War the historian Sallust wrote of the extensive bribery of Jugurtha in his attempts to persuade the Senate not to intervene on his brother's behalf. In describing the profligacy he commented on Scaurus' character: "A few, on the other hand, to whom right and justice were more precious than riches, recommended that aid be given to Adherbal and that the death of Hiempsal be severely punished. Conspicuous among these was Aemilius Scaurus, a noble full of energy, a partisan, greedy for power, fame, and riches, but clever in concealing his faults. As soon as this man saw the king's bribery, so notorious and so brazen, fearing the usual result in such cases, namely, that such gross corruption would arouse popular resentment, he curbed his habitual cupidity." (Bellum Jugurthinum, I. 15)

As leader of the Roman senate he was often sent abroad to settle disputes amongst foreign kings. In 109 BC, he was elected censor in partnership with Marcus Livius Drusus, who died in the next year putting an end to the censorship. As censor, he ordered the construction of the Via Aemilia Scaura and restored several bridges. In 104 BC, he became responsible for Rome's grain supply. This was a very important office, given only to the most trustworthy persons, because the happiness of the population (and absence of mutinies) depended on it. Scaurus was throughout his political career the leader of the aristocratic conservative faction of the senate.

In 92 BC, Scaurus was brought to trial by Q. Servilius Caepio the Younger for provincial extortion and, it seems, for taking bribes from Mithridates VI of Pontus.[1][2] However, Scaurus managed to issue a counter-prosecution against Caepio, thereby bringing the process to a legal standstill.

The experience of this affair apparently motivated Scaurus to support the legislative reforms of M. Livius Drusus the Younger,[3] tribune in 91 BC and the son of Scaurus' former colleague as censor. Alongside Lucius Licinius Crassus, Scaurus was Drusus' main conservative champion and helped pass his extensive legislative programme. However, after the sudden death of Crassus in September 91 BC, Drusus rapidly lost his support in the Senate, and the consul L. Marcius Philippus succeeded in having Drusus' laws abrogated on religious technicalities.

After Drusus' assassination and the subsequent outbreak of the Social War (91-88 BC), Scaurus was prosecuted in 90 BC under the special court of the tribune Quintus Varius Severus, which had been set up to prosecute anyone suspected of rousing the Italians to revolt. However, Scaurus was able to achieve his own acquittal on the basis of his auctoritas, asking the audience whether they would believe the word of a provincial Spaniard (Varius was from Spain) or of Scaurus himself, the princeps senatus.

Marriage and children[edit]

His second wife was Caecilia Metella Dalmatica who was later the third wife of Lucius Cornelius Sulla. From this marriage, he had two children:


  • The Chronicles of the Roman Republic - Philip Matyszak
Preceded by
Quintus Fabius Maximus Eburnus and Gaius Licinius Geta
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Marcus Caecilius Metellus
115 BC
Succeeded by
Manius Acilius Balbus and Gaius Porcius Cato
  1. ^ Asconius 21 C, 26 C
  2. ^ Valerius Maximus 3. 7. 8.
  3. ^ Asconius 21 C