Servius Sulpicius Rufus

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Servius Sulpicius Rufus (c. 106 BC – 43 BC), surnamed Lemonia from the tribe to which he belonged, was a Roman orator and jurist.

He studied rhetoric with Cicero, and accompanied him to Rhodes in 78 BC. Finding that he would never be able to rival his teacher he gave up rhetoric for law.[1] Cicero on the other hand considered Servius Sulpicius Rufus as his superior in matters pertaining to the law.[2] In 63 BC he was a candidate for the consulship, but was defeated by Lucius Licinius Murena, whom he subsequently accused of bribery. In 52 BC he successfully stood election to be consul in 51 BC. In the Civil War, he was a supporter of Pompey while his son joined Caesar.[3] Caesar made him proconsul of Achaea in 46 BC. He died in 43 BC while on a mission from the senate to Marcus Antonius at Mutina. He was accorded a public funeral, and a statue was erected to his memory in front of the Rostra.

Two excellent specimens of Sulpicius's style are preserved in Cicero's letters.[4] One of these is a letter of condolence to Cicero after the death of his daughter, Tullia. It is a letter that posterity has much admired, full of subtle, melancholy reflection on the transiency of all things. Byron has quoted this letter in his Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.[5] Quintilian[6] speaks of three orations by Sulpicius as still in existence; one of these was the speech against Murena, another Pro or Contra Aufidium, of whom nothing is known. He is also said to have been a writer of erotic poems.

It is as a jurist, however, that Sulpicius was chiefly distinguished. He left behind him a large number of treatises, and he is often quoted in the Pandects, although direct extracts are not found.[7] His chief characteristics were lucidity, an intimate acquaintance with the principles of civil and natural law, and an unrivaled power of expression.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cicero, Brutus 41.
  2. ^ Rawson, E.:"Cicero, a portrait" (1975) p.14.
  3. ^ LOEB Classics, Cicero in Twenty-Eight Volumes XXV, p246, footnote a.
  4. ^ Ad. Fam. iv. 5 and 12.
  5. ^ Haskell, H.J.: "This was Cicero" (1964) p.250-251.
  6. ^ Instit. x. 1, 1,6.
  7. ^ For titles see Teuffel-Schwabe, Hist. of Roman Lit. 174, 4).


  • R. Schneider, De Servio Sulpicio Rufo (Leipzig, 1834); O. Karlowa, Römische Rechtsgeschichte, vol. i. (Leipzig, 1885).
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Marcus Claudius Marcellus
51 BC
Succeeded by
Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Claudius Marcellus Minor