A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

3. L.CorneliusBalbus, P. F., son of the preceding [No. 2], and frequently called Minor, to distinguish him from his uncle [No. 1], was born at Gades, and received the Roman franchise along with his father and uncle. On the breaking out of the civil war (B. C. 49) he served under Caesar, and was sent by him to the consul L. Cornelius Lentulus, who was an old friend of his uncle's, to persuade him to return to Rome. Balbus undertook the same dangerous commission in the following year, and paid Lentulus a visit in the Pompeian camp at Dyrrhachium, but he was not successful either time. Balbus served under Caesar in the Alexandrian and Spanish wars, during which time he kept up a correspondence with Cicero, with whom he had become acquainted through his uncle. In return for his services in these wars, Caesar made him pontiff; and it is therefore probably this Cornelius Balbus who wrote a work on the Roman sacra, of which the eighteenth book is quoted by Macrobius. (Saturn. 3.6.)

In B. C. 44 and 43, Balbus was quaestor of the propraetor Asinius Pollio in Further Spain; and while there, he added to his native town Gades a suburb, which was called the new city, and built a dock-yard; and the place received in consequence the name of Didyma or double-city. (Strab. iii. p.169.) But his general conduct in Spain was of a most arbitrary and tyrannical kind; and at length, after plundering the provincials and amassing large treasures, he left Spain in B. C. 43, without even paying the soldiers, and crossed over to Bogud in Africa.

From that time, we hear nothing of Balbus for upwards of twenty years. We then find him governor of Africa, with the title of proconsul, although he had been neither praetor nor consul. While in Africa, he obtained a victory over the Garamantes, and enjoyed a triumph in consequence in March, B. C. 19, the first instance of this honour having been conferred upon one who was not born a Roman citizen. (Plin. Nat. 5.5; Vell. 2.51; Strab. iii. p.169.) Balbus, like his uncle, had amassed a large fortune; and, as Augustus was anxious to adorn Rome with public buildings, Balbus erected at his own expense a theatre in the city, which was remarkable on account of its containing four pillars of onyx. It was dedicated in B. C. 13, with festive games, on the return of Augustus to Rome; and as a compliment to Balbus for having built it, his opinion was asked first in the senate by Tiberius, who was consul in that year. (D. C. 54.25; Plin. Nat. 36.7. ε. 12.) After this we hear nothing further of Balbus. He may have been the Cornelius Balbus whom L. Valerius made his heir, although he had involved Valerius in many law-suits, and had at last brought a capital charge against him. (V. Max. 7.8.7.)

(For further information respecting the Cornelii Balbi, see Orelli's Onomasticon Tullianum and Drumann's Rom, vol. ii. p. 594, &c.)