Quintus Servilius Caepio (praetor 91 BC)

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Quintus Servilius Caepio was a Roman patrician, statesman and soldier. He was the son of Quintus Servilius Caepio who was consul in 106 BC and who lost his army during the Battle of Arausio (Caepio the Younger served under his father at Arausio). He was elected praetor in 91 BC, and fought for Rome during the Social War (the war between Rome and some of their Italian allies). He was killed in the second year of the war while fighting the Marsi (it is said he was killed by the Marsi leader Quintus Poppaedius Silo, who hated him for his 'involvement' in the murder of Marcus Livius Drusus).

Caepio served as quaestor urbanus in 100 BC. In this role he had oversight of the Roman treasury. Three years previously, in 103 BC, his father had been tried before the people by the tribune Gaius Norbanus for his catastrophic loss at the Battle of Arausio; he was convinced and banished. In his quaestorship the younger Caepio used violence to oppose Lucius Appuleius Saturninus, a tribune of the plebs and a political ally of Norbanus, in his attempt to pass a bill to sell grain at a deeply discounted price to the Roman people. Caepio was later brought to trial in 95 BC, but, defended by Lucius Licinius Crassus, he was acquitted. In his role as quaestor urbanus he issued coins with the unusual legend AD FRV EMV EX SC, standing for ad frumentum emundum ex senatus consulto, ‘for the purchase of grain by order of the senate’ (RRC 330/1).

In 92 BC, Caepio prosecuted Marcus Aemilius Scaurus, the eminent princeps senatus, for alleged provincial extortion and, it seems, for taking bribes from Mithridates VI of Pontus. Scaurus managed to issue a counter-accusation against Caepio, and the two accusations collapsed. Scaurus was apparently driven by the experience of the affair to side with Caepio's former brother-in-law, Livius Drusus, who was to be tribune in 91 BCE.

Alongside the consul Lucius Marcius Philippus, Caepio became the chief opponent of Marcus Livius Drusus' legislative programme, including the laws aimed at giving full citizenship to the Italians. Pliny (NH 33.20) said that the dispute between the two started many years earlier because of a golden ring. Caepio, it was rumoured, was even involved in the assassination of Drusus, an event commonly seen by ancient sources as the start of the Social War.[1]

During the Social War Caepio served as a legate under the consul Publius Rutilius Lupus fighting the northern group of rebels. He defeated the Paeligni, a rebel tribe related to the Marruncini.[2] After the death of Lupus he was made joint-commander of Rome's northern army with Gaius Marius.[3] Marius had expected sole command and he did not get along with Caepio with disastrous results.[3] After having dealt with a raiding legion of Marsi at Varnia, Caepio attempted to give Marius instructions, but Marius ignored them.[4] Caepio left on his own was then obliged to move his legions back towards Caeoli. Once they reached the Arno at Sublaqueum they were tricked into leaving a secure position and attacked by the Marsi.

The opposing general, Q. Poppaedius [Silo] deserted to Caepio (though this was only pretence). As a pledge he brought with him his own sons (or so he pretended. They were in fact slave babies dressed with the purple-bordered garments of free-born children.) As further cofirmation of his good faith he brought masses of gold and silver (which were actually lead, plated with precious metal). Poppaedius pointed out that with his 'defection' his own army was currently leaderless. If Caepio made haste he could capture the entire force. Completely decieved, Caepio followed to where Poppaedius said the army would be. This army was in fact hidden in ambush, and when Poppaedius ran up a hill as though to look for his men, this was the signal for them to spring from concealment. Caepio was cut to pieces, and so were his men.[5]

Caepio's army was massacred, he himself is said to have been killed by the Marsi leader, Quintus Poppaedius Silo, himself.[3]


Caepio married Livia, sister of Marcus Livius Drusus the Younger, sometime around 100 BC. Caepio and Livia had three children: Servilia, the mistress of Julius Caesar, mother of Brutus, and mother-in-law of Gaius Cassius Longinus; another daughter, also called Servilia; and a son, Quintus Servilius Caepio.

Caepio divorced Livia in c.97 BCE after falling out with her brother. Livia subsequently remarried in c.96 BCE to Marcus Porcius Cato: their children were Marcus (the famous Cato the Younger) and Porcia. However, Livia and Porcius Cato both died in c.95-92 BCE: as a result, all of Livia's children (including those by Caepio) grew up in the household of Livius Drusus, until the latter's assassination in 91 BC (Plutarch, Cato the Younger 1.1).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pseudo-Aurelius Victor, De Viris Illustribus 66.13.
  2. ^ Philip Matyszak, Cataclysm 90 BC, p. 94; Livy, Periochae, 73.5.
  3. ^ a b c Philip Matyszak, Cataclysm 90 BC, p. 94; Lynda Telford, Sulla, p. 88.
  4. ^ Lynda Telford, Sulla, p. 89.
  5. ^ Philip Matyszak, Cataclysm 90 BC, pp 94-95; Appian, Civil Wars, 1.44.