Publius Sextilius

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Publius Sextilius was a Roman praetor (92 BC?) and governor of Africa during the civil wars between Sulla and Marius. As propraetor in 88 B.C., he refused Marius and his followers asylum in Africa.[1]

Marius in Africa[edit]

Plutarch presents a highly colored version of how Sextilius rejected Marius and furnishes a moral:[2]

Gaius Marius Sitting in Exile among the Ruins of Carthage,” plate from The Story of Rome by Mary Macgregor

Little is known of this Sextilius. It is likely that he belonged to the senatorial family of Sextilii who used the praenomen Publius, among them a 2nd-century B.C. praetor from whom a letter fragment survives.[4] At one time, numismatic evidence was interpreted as referring to Sextilius as praetor and propraetor, but the coin has since been determined to belong to the Augustan period.[5]

Before the arrival of Marius in Africa, Sextilius had taken a neutral position in the civil war. He had allowed some of Marius's allies to join up with Hiempsal II, king of Numidia, who at that time was attempting to gain the confidence of the Marians while acting on behalf of Sulla. If Sextilius had been serious about carrying out his threat to treat Marius as a public enemy — a senatorial decree which sanctioned his execution at sight — he most likely would have allowed Marius to enter the country rather than warning him off. The difficulty of Sextilius's position is indicated by the consequences of his action: since no further public office for him is known, he evidently pleased neither side in the conflict.[6]

Date of praetorship[edit]

Cicero writes[7] of a P. Sextilius Rufus[8] who claimed he was bound by his oath of office to follow the Lex Voconia in depriving a young woman of her inheritance. E. Badian has argued that this was the P. Sextilius who became governor of Africa and dates his praetorship to 92.[9]

Literary interests[edit]

There is some indication that Publius Sextilius took an interest in or was a patron of literature. When Cassius Dionysius of Utica translated the great agricultural treatise of Mago the Carthaginian into Greek, he dedicated his translation to Sextilius.[10]


  1. ^ Plutarch, Marius 40.3–4; Appian, Bellum civile 1.62 as Σέξστιος; Varro, De re rustica 1.1.10 with the title praetor; T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 2 (New York 1952), pp. 41, 49, 620.
  2. ^ See T.F. Carney, "The Flight and Exile of Marius," Greece & Rome 8 (1961) 98–121: "It must occur to anyone who reads Plutarch's account of Marius' flight and exile to wonder how much of this thrilling and romantic tale is historically true."
  3. ^ Plutarch, Marius 40.3–4, Loeb Classical Library translation, Bill Thayer's edition at LacusCurtius
  4. ^ E. Badian, “A fundus at Fundi,” American Journal of Philology 101 (1980), p. 111; D.R. Shackleton Bailey, “The Roman Nobility in the Second Civil War,” Classical Quarterly 10 (1960), p. 263, note 1.
  5. ^ See discussion in T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 2 (New York 1952), p. 45, note 4.
  6. ^ T.F. Carney, "The Flight and Exile of Marius," Greece & Rome 8 (1961), pp. 113–114. Carney argues that both Hiempsal and Sextilius were attempting to maintain the appearance of complying with the senatorial decree while taking no direct action against Marius.
  7. ^ Cicero, De finibus 2.55
  8. ^ On the cognomen and voting tribe of P. Sextilius, see T.P. Wiseman, New Men in the Roman Senate (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 261.
  9. ^ Broughton had dated the praetorship to 89 or 88 in MRR2 (1952); in vol. 3 (1986), p. 198, he prefers Badian's argument from Journal of Roman Studies 55 (1965), p. 113.
  10. ^ Varro, De re rustica 1.1.10; Robert E.A. Palmer, Rome and Carthage at Peace (Franz Steiner Verlag, 1997) p. 46.