This was how consul of 96 Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus was described by his colleague as censor L. Licinius Crassus, himself consul of 95.
Noble and base metals, greed and violence: end of Allobroges and Arverni
Metals of noble and base nature are pretty much how we could describe the Rome of their era also. After the Punic Wars Rome became the sole great power of the middle Mediterranean: Iron of Rome won the gold of Carthage. Great cities of Carthage and Corinth are destroyed while Africa and Macedonia are made provinces of Rome at 146.
The rise of Rome has brought undreamt riches into Rome and the most noble families are getting ever more rich and powerful. There is a growing sense of injustice amongst both poorer Romans and non-Roman Italians. Some 10 years after the end of the last Punic War the elder brother of Gracchi, Tiberius, rises into brief spotlight of fame by his campaign for land distribution to the poor, but he is murdered.
This is an era characterised by personal greed – one could say an era during which the traditional petty fights over privileges of families of a ruling elite in a small or medium city grow into larger scale of empires.
One amongst many determined to grab his share of this oyster of a Mediterranean world was Q. Fabius Maximus Allobrogicus. He was governor of Hispania in 123 and recieved reprimands of the Senate, by the initiative of C. Gracchus, brother of a murdered tribune Ti. Gracchus. Maximus had been extorting Hispanic cities of gifts, not so uncommon practice of Roman governors.
Father of the consul of 96 Ahenobarbus, also named as Cn. Domitius Aheneobarbus, was consul at next year 122. He went to war against the Gauls to secure land route into Roman areas in Hispania and got his command prolonged after his consulship as proconsul to continue the war. His successor as consul was above mentioned Maximus, who had a big personal interest in Hispania, and who also succeed elder Ahenobarbus as proconsul of Gallia Transalpina. They won the war against Gallian tribes of Allobroges and Arverni and held a spectacular triumph and secured financial base for their families for a long period from the loot.
Enter Crassus, securing of Gallia Transalpina
Alongside father Ahenobarbus and Maximus in the arrangements of the conquered province was a rising politician Crassus, who had been training Roman law under the most famous Roman lawyers of this era, the brothers Mucii Scaevolae (consuls of 133 and 117). He was involved in the establishing of the city of Narbo (modern Narbonne) at 118 with elder Ahenobarbus. Ahenobarbus also constructed the first Roman road in Gaul, the Via Domitia. By these arrangements the Romans made clear that the Mediterranean coast of Gallia beyond the Alps was theirs to keep.
Interlude: Making of Marius, a tale of bribery
During the years of 112-106 there was an episode of Roman history that is often described as disgraceful or embarrassing, namely the Jugurthan War. Events began at 118 when king of Numidia Micipsa died. He left his kingdom into his two sons Adherbal and Hiempsal and an adopted nephew Jugurtha. Hiempsal was assassinated by Jugurtha and Adherbal fled to Rome. The Senate divided Numidian territory half, but Jugurtha bribed the Roman embassy and got himself the best parts of Numidia. At 113 Jugurtha attacked against Adherbal and after bribing Romans again got permission to kill him and take his territory. However, when sacking Adherbals capital Cirta and Jugurtha got several Romans or Italians living there killed as well. Senate declared war at 112 against Numidia of Jugurtha.
This was followed by an invasion by L. Calpurnius Bestia (consul 111), upon which Jugurtha surrendered and was given so blatantly favourable terms, that bribery was evident. Jugurtha was called to Roman to stand and testify in the court. Jugurtha bribed Roman tribunes to prevent him testifying and tried to get his cousin killed while in Rome. Jugurtha was expelled. At 110 Jugurtha defeated the army of a praetor A. Postumius Albinus Magnus, whose brother Sp. Postumius Albinus was consul that year. Behind defeat was again bribery. Consul of 109 Q. Caecilius Metellus followed into Numidia and won Jugurtha on the field, but waited to deliver final blow against him in order to win a triumph for himself.
His waiting proved to be a mistake because his sub-commander C. Marius was eyeing his position. Marius promised to end the war within a year if he would be elected as consul. After years of bribery and failure this homo novus outside the ruling nobility was able to gather massive support and was elected as consul and arranged a voting at comitia tributa to grant command in Numidia for himself. This was actually a breach in the custom where the Senate should have been the one deciding about military commands.
Marius won the war eventually with the aid of his sub-commander L. Cornelius Sulla Felix. Sulla and Marius were not finished with each other at that point: after having six consulships, victories over several enemies and Sulla being appointed as consul to end the Social War, Marius and Sulla fought a civil war against each other, but let’s look that at some another time in more detail.
Summer eternal: Ahenobarbus, Crassus and Scaevola
The story of younger Ahenobarbus and Crassus continued during the Jugurthan war and Marius’ consulships between years 104 and 100. Elder Ahenobarbus died at 104 after serving also as a censor and pontifex. As Censor he is remembered from expelling over thirty senators from the Senate.
The rise of his son into highest offices was obviously helped by his contacts inside the ruling elite and by the immense wealth gathered from the wars by him and his father. Younger Ahenobarbus still showed his gifts also by prosecuting his political enemies in the courts of law, including the leading Roman statesman M. Aemilius Scaurus, who had been protesting against Jugurtha and his bribery. Younger Ahenobarbus was also dismayed by not being selected as pontifex after his father died. As consequence he intiated a law that pontifices would be elected by people in the future, not by the collegium pontificium. He was elected as Pontifex Maximus at 103.
Crassus and younger Ahenobarbus were probably close in age and it might be that they had served together under elder Ahenobarbus back in the war against Gallic tribes. Crassus excelled in his public career through his skills in public speaking and in law courts. He is also known because he trained young M. Tullius Cicero when he arrived into Rome from his home town Arpinum (from which also his relative C. Marius was from originally). Crassus was politically allied with Marius and his daughter married Marius’ son. Crassus himself married with daughter of Q. Mucius Scaevola Augur, consul of 117, whom we remember being a tutor of Crassus also. It is telling that the uncle of consul 117 Scaevola was married with Licinia, a sister of consul 171 P. Licinius Crassus. Their grandson was consul of 95 Q. Mucius Scaevola, who also married a Licinia.
So both Crassus and Scaevola followed younger Ahenobarbus as consuls at 95.
As Consuls Crassus and Scaevola enacted the Lex Licinia Mucia which decreed all but the citizens to leave the city of Rome. This law sparked events that woke up the long dormant crises between Rome and other Italian cities thus eventually erupting into the Social War some five years after their consulship.
Before that, at 92, three years after their consulships, both younger Ahenobarbus and Crassus were elected as censors. Both Ahenobarbus and Crassus were public figures with high profile and there are numerous anecdotes about their joint office and quarrels. Ahenobarbus had a violent temper and he favoured simple ways of life whereas Crassus was much more polished and enjoyed luxuries. They did agree one thing however: they enacted a statement that forbid the Latin rhetorical schools, and thus effectively preventing men of lower social status from rising into prominence – education was also back in those days an issue of power politics.
Crassus died the next year 91, consequently the same year his pupil Cicero got his toga of manhood. His other daughter married P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio (consul of 111).
Ahenobarbus died few years later at year 88 during the consulship of Sulla. Into his position as Pontifex Maximus Scaevola (consul of 95) was elected, thus rising him into the highest elite of Roman republic. Between his consulship and election as Pontifex Maximus Scaevola served as a governor in the province of Asia. He was a model of just Roman governor and his edict of administration became a model for future Roman provincial governors. He also prosecuted harshly the unjust tax collectors. As Pontifex Maximus he also proved to be a model one by making sure that the traditional rituals were followed. He was also a celebrated writer of 18 volumes of treatise on civil law.
Scaevola was actually married twice with Licinia. First Licinia was famed for her beauty, but unfaithful. Their daughter became the wife of Cn. Pompeius Magnus. This first Licinia married later on Q. Caecilius Metellus Nepos, consul of 98. The second Licinia of Scaevola is of unknown relation.
Scaevola died at 82 in the commotion of the struggle between Sulla and Marius. Scaevola refused to join the Marian party and finally chased by mob into the temple of Vesta, killed and thrown into Tiber.
Period between the end of Punic Wars and the start of Social War
The period of 146 – 90 is about 50 years full of wars small and big and very profilic Roman senators, unimaginable suffering of victims of wars, unimaginable riches flowing into Rome, stories of pride, heritage, adultery, greed, valor, enlightment, science, arts and acts of individual courage and skills – one might get a feeling of ever faster spnning spiral of grand historical events. The period is one most admired and most condemned in the history of Roman republic.
Through these three figures: Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus (cos 96), L. Licinius Crassus (cos 95) and Q. Mucius Scaevola (cos 95), a many sided and rich glimpse into this fascinating period be can be casted. Their deeds, their connections and actions, the events they were part of, all tell the tale of true Roman history and how Roman society worked, what drove the individuals on and how they eventually met their fate.