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

4. C.ScriboniusCurio, the son of the former, and, like his father, a friend of Cicero, and an orator of great natural talents, which however he left uncultivated from carelessness and want of industry. Cicero knew him from his childhood, and did all he could to direct his great talents into a proper channel, to suppress his love of pleasure and of wealth, and to create in him a desire for true fame and virtue, but without any success, and Curio was and remained a person of most profligate character. He was married to Fulvia, who afterwards became the wife of Antony, and by whom Curio had a daughter who was as dissolute as her mother. Owing to his family connexions and several other outward circumstances, he belonged to the party of Pompey, although in his heart he was favourably disposed towards Caesar. After having been quaestor in Asia, where he had discharged the duties of his office in a praiseworthy manner, he sued for and obtained the tribuneship for the eventful year B. C. 50. Curio, who was as reckless in squandering money as he was insatiable in acquiring it, had by this time contracted enormous debts, and he saw no way of getting out of his difficulties except by an utter confusion of the affairs of the republic. It was believed that he would direct his power and influence as tribune against Caesar, and at first he did so; but Caesar, who was anxious to gain over some of the influential men of the city, paid all Curio's debts on condition of his abandoning the Pompeian party. This scheme was perfectly successful; but Curio was too clever and adroit a person at once to turn his back upon his former friends. At first he continued to act against Caesar; by and by he assumed an appearance of neutrality; and in order to bring about a rupture between himself and the Pompeian party, he brought forward some laws which he knew could not be carried, but which would afford him a specious pretext for deserting his friends. When it was demanded that Caesar should lay down his imperium before coming to Rome, Curio proposed that Pompey should do the same. This demand itself was as fair as the source from which it originated was impure. Pompey shewed indeed a disposition to do anything that was fair, but it was evident that in reality he did not intend to do any such thing. Curio therefore now openly attacked Pompey, and described him as a person wanting to set himself up as tyrant; but, in order not to lose every appearance of neutrality even now, he declared, that if Caesar and Pompey would not consent to lay down their imperium, both must be declared public ememies, and war must be forthwith made against them. This excited Pompey's indignation so much, that he withdrew to a suburban villa. Curio, however, continued to act his part in the senate; and it was decreed that Pompey and Caesar should each dismiss one of their legions, which were to be sent to Syria. Pompey cunningly evaded obeying the command by demanding back from Caesar a legion which he had lent him in B. C. 53; and Caesar sent the two legions required, which, however, instead of going to Syria, took up their winterquarters at Capua.

Soon after, the consul Claudius Marcellus proposed to the senate the question, whether a successor of Caesar should be sent out, and whether Pompey was to be deprived of his imperium ? The senate consented to the former, but refused to do the latter. Curio repeated his former proposal, that both the proconsuls should lay down their power, and when it was put to the vote, a large majority of the senators voted for Curio. Claudius Marcellus, who had always pretended to be a champion of the senate, now refused obedience to its decree; and as there was a report that Caesar was advancing with his army towards Rome, he proposed that the two legions stationed at Capua should be got ready at once to march against Caesar. Curio, however, denied the truth of the report, and prevented the consul's command being obeyed. Claudius Marcellus and his colleague, Ser. Sulpicius Rufus now rushed out of the city to Pompey, and solemnly called upon him to undertake the command of all the troops in Italy, and save the republic. Curio now could not interfere, as he could not quit the city in the character of tribune; he therefore addressed the people, and called upon them to demand of the consuls not to permit Pompey to levy an army. But he was not

listened to. Amid these disputes the year of Curio's tribuneship was coming to its close, and as he had good leason to fear for his own safety, he was induced by despair to quit the city and go to Caesar, who was at Ravenna and consulted him as to what was to be done. Curio urged the necessity of immediately collecting his troops and marching them against Rome. Caesar, however, was still inclined to settle the question in a peaceful manner, and despatched Curio with a message to the senate. But when Domitius Ahenobarbus was actually appointed Caesar's successor, and when the new tribunes, Antony and Q. Cassius, who followed in Curio's footsteps, were commanded by the consuls to quit the senate, and when even their lives were threatened by the partizans of Pompey, the tribunes together with Curio fled in the night following, and went to Caesar at Ravenna. He and his army received them as men persecuted, and treated as enemies for their zeal in upholding the freedom of the republic.

The breaking out of the civil war could now be avoided no longer. Curio collected the troops stationed in Umbria and Etruria, and led them to Caesar, who rewarded him with the province of Sicily and the title of propraetor, B. C. 49. Curio was successful in crushing the party of Pompey in Sicily, and compelled Cato to quit the island. After having effected this, he crossed over to Africa to attack king Juba and the Pompeian general, P. Attius Varus. Curio was at first successful, but desertion gradually became general in his army, which consisted of only two legions, and when he began to lay siege to Utica, he was attacked by Juba, and fell in the ensuing battle. His troops were dispersed, killed, and taken prisoners, and only a few of them were able to return to Sicily. Africa was thus again in the hands of the Pompeian party.

C. Scribonius Curio had been one of the main instruments in kindling the civil war between Caesar and Pompey. He was a bold man and profligate to the last degree; he squandered his own property as unscrupulously as that of others, and no means were ample enough to satisfy his demands. llis want of modesty knew no bounds, and he is a fair specimen of a depraved and profligate Roman of that time. But he was nevertheless a man of eminent talent, especially as an orator. This Cicero saw and appreciated, and he never lost the hope of being able to turn the talent of Curio into a proper direction. This circumstance and the esteem which Cicero had entertained for Curio's father, are the only things that can account for his tender attachment to Curio ; and this is one of the many instances of Cicero's amiable character. The first seven letters of the second book of Cicero's " Epistolae ad Familiares" are addressed to him. (Orelli, Onom. Tull. ii. p. 526, &c.; comp. Caes. Civ. 2.23, &c.; Vell. 2.48, 55; Appian, App. BC 2.23, &c.; Suet. Jul. 29, 36, de Clar. Rhet. 1; Tacit. de Clar. Orat. 37; Liv. Epit. 109, 110; Plut. Caes. 29, &c., Pomp. 58; D. C. 40.60, &c.; Quint. Inst. 1.3.76 ; Schol. Bob. in Argum. ad Cic. Orat. in Clod. ct Cur.)