Gaius Scribonius Curio (tribune 50 BC)

Gaius Scribonius Curio (d. 49 BC) was the son of Gaius Scribonius Curio, consul in 76 BC. He was a friend to Pompey, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Clodius and Cicero. Like his father he was a distinguished orator. Curio's character was very conspicuous and profligate.[1] Despite his faults, Cicero assisted him in every way and evidently wrote several letters to him.

Gaius Scribonius Curio
ChildrenGaius Scribonius Curio Major
Gaius Scribonius Curio Minor


Early lifeEdit

There was a rumor that Curio and Mark Antony had an affair when they were young. When the two men had been banned from seeing each other by Curio's father, Curio had smuggled Mark Antony in through his father's roof.[2]

Political careerEdit

He began in politics as a supporter of Clodius, but shortly after came out as a conservative in fierce opposition to Caesar.[3] In the year of 59 BC of Caesar's consulship Curio is noted for his defiance of Caesar. This led him to be seen as a patriot and brought him much prestige among Caesar's opponents.[4] In the same year Curio was apparently asked to join an assassination attempt on Pompey. The notorious professional spy Lucius Vettius had been hired by several junior and senior senators to set up the assassination. His father informed Pompey and the plot fell through. Cicero refused to believe in the existence of the plot and dismissed the whole episode as an attempt by Caesar to cast suspicion on young Curio and several other senators. Before a full judicial enquiry could be set up Vettius was found strangled in prison.[5]

In about 52 BC, he married Fulvia, the widow of his close friend Publius Clodius, which helped his public image among Clodius supporters and gave him the support of Clodius' gangs. His and Fulvia's son Scribonius Curio was born soon after.[6]

Known universally as unpredictable, by standing for the Tribuneship in 51 he placed himself (as Cicero told him) in a pivotal position at the Republic's crisis point,[7] when at the end of 51 BC Curio got himself elected as a tribune of the Plebs for 50 BC. As Tribune he suddenly did a volte-face and became a supporter of Caesar (probably because in return for his support, Caesar paid off his debts).[8] According to Tacitus, Caesar bribed him for his oratory. Curio vetoed every effort by Caesar's opponents to prise his provinces from him.[9] Before the Civil War, Curio was one of the last politicians to call on Pompey and Caesar to make peace.[10] At the end of his year as tribune Curio travelled to Ravenna to inform Caesar about developments in Rome.[11] Caesar gave Curio instructions and sent him back to Rome with an ultimatum.[11]

On 1 January of 49 BC Mark Antony entered office as one of the tribunes of the Plebs, he took over from Curio, he summoned a meeting of the Senate and read out Caesar's letter.[11] The meeting ended with the consul Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus expelling Antony from the Senate building by force. Antony fled Rome, fearing for his life, and returned to Caesar's camp on the banks of the Rubicon River. On his flight Anthony was accompanied by Marcus Caelius and Curio.[12]

On the tenth of January the Civil War between Caesar and his opponents started when Caesar crossed the Rubicon and invaded Italy proper.[13] The cities and communities of northern Italy quickly fell or surrendered to Caesar and he ordered the recruitment of additional soldiers. Curio was put in charge of the recruiting operation. When Caesar reached Corfinium Curio brought twenty-two cohorts of recruits to assist in the siege.[14]

Caesar gave Curio a military command and sent him with four legions and 1,000 Gallic cavalry to Sicily and Africa to take possession of both provinces and secure the grain supply.[15] Curio drove Cato from Sicily and secured the island for Caesar.[15] After receiving word that Caesar had defeated the Pompeians in Spain he embarked with two of his legions and half the cavalry and sailed to Africa.[15] In Africa he faced Attius Varus and King Juba I of Numidia (a supporter of Pompey). Although he won the Battle of Utica (49 BC), he was eventually defeated by Saburra (Juba's general) at the Second Battle of the Bagradas River and fought to his death, along with his army, rather than attempting to flee to his camp.[16]


It is likely that before Curio married Fulvia, he had another wife named Memmia by whom he also had a son named Gaius Scribonius Curio.[17][18][19][20] This son might have died young as his name was reused for Curio's son with Fulvia.

By his marriage to Fulvia, the widow of Publius Clodius and a granddaughter of Gaius Gracchus, he got a stepdaughter; Claudia, a stepson; Publius Clodius Pulcher and an eponymous son. The latter was later executed by Octavian after the Battle of Actium for having supported Mark Antony.[6]


Curio built Rome's first permanent amphitheatre, in his father's memory and celebrated funeral games there with seating built on a pivot that could move the entire audience.[21]

Under the Empire, both Lucan and Seneca would be inspired to write of his character and about his varying roles.[1]


  1. ^ a b F. Abbott, The Common People of Ancient Rome (1965) p. 235
  2. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, pp 235-236 and 251.
  3. ^ F. Abbott, The Common People of Ancient Rome (1965) p. 244-6
  4. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 236.
  5. ^ John Leach, Pompey the Great, p. 127; McDermott, The Vettius Affair, 1949.
  6. ^ a b C.L. Babcock, The Early Career of Fulvia, American Journal of Philology 86 (1965), pp. 1–32.
  7. ^ D. R. Shackleton Bailey trans., Cicero’s Letters to his Friends (Atlanta 1988) p. 154-5 and p. 204
  8. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 301; Cicero, To Friends, 8.7.
  9. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 302.
  10. ^ "Crossing the Rubicon". Retrieved 2013-10-01.
  11. ^ a b c Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 305; John Leach, Pompey the Great, p. 170.
  12. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 305.
  13. ^ Back then northern Italy was part of Gallia Cisalpina not Italy.
  14. ^ John, Leach, Pompey the Great, p. 182.
  15. ^ a b c T.R.E. Holmes, The Roman Republic and the Founder of the Empire, Vol III, p. 95.
  16. ^ Gardner (translator), Jane F (1967). Julius Caesar – The Civil War. Penguin Books. p. 104.
  17. ^ "The Journal of Hellenic Studies". 1953.
  18. ^ Solin, Heikki; Kajava, Mika (1990). Roman Eastern Policy and Other Studies in Roman History: Proceedings of a Colloquium at Tvärminne, 2-3 October 1987. ISBN 9789516532083.
  19. ^ Solin, Heikki; Kajava, Mika (1990). Roman Eastern Policy and Other Studies in Roman History: Proceedings of a Colloquium at Tvärminne, 2-3 October 1987. ISBN 9789516532083.
  20. ^ "%22not identical with the boy honoured at Caunus%2C but rather his step-brother%22 - Sök på Google".
  21. ^ Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 295; cf. Plin. nat. hist. 36, 117.