Open main menu

Marcus Aemilius Scaurus (consul 115 BC)

Marcus Aemilius Scaurus (born c. 163 BC – died 89 BC) was a Roman statesman who served as consul in 115 BC. He was also a long-standing princeps senatus, occupying the post from 115 until his death in 89, and as such was widely considered one of the most prestigious and influential politicians of the Late Republic.

Marcus Aemilius Scaurus
Consul of the Roman Republic
In office
1 January 115 BC – 31 December 115 BC
Preceded byQuintus Fabius Maximus Eburnus
and Gaius Licinius Geta
Succeeded byGaius Porcius Cato
and Manius Acilius Balbus
Personal details
Bornc. 163 BC
Diedc. 89 BC
Political partyOptimates
Spouse(s)Caecilia Metella Dalmatica



Early careerEdit

Scaurus was born into a prestigious but impoverished patrician family: Cicero, for instance, comments that Scaurus was so poor as to be effectively a novus homo.[1] In order to maintain the family lifestyle, his father became a coal-dealer. However, Scaurus himself declined any commercial activities (forbidden for senators) and embarked on a political life.

Scaurus’ cursus honorum started when he became a military tribune in the Hispania provinces. Then he became curule aedile in charge of the public games, and afterwards praetor in 120.


Scaurus was elected consul in 115 with Marcus Caecilius Metellus as his junior colleague.

In the same year Scaurus was nominated and confirmed as princeps senatus by the Senate, an office which he held until his death. This was the foremost honour during this period, and usually went to the most senior patrician. However, since Scaurus was only just of consular rank in 115, his appointment was considered somewhat of a coup.[2]

Scaurus was not without controversy during these years. Sallust, for instance, writes in his Bellum Jugurthinum that some accused Scaurus of being the most corrupt of all nobles during the infamous period of the Jugurthine War (112–106 BC).[3]

'Father of the Senate'Edit

As leader of the Roman senate, Scaurus was often sent abroad to settle disputes amongst foreign kings. In 109, he was elected censor in partnership with Marcus Livius Drusus, who died in the next year putting an end to the censorship. As censor, he ordered the construction of the Via Aemilia Scaura and restored several bridges.[4]

In 104, he became responsible for Rome's grain supply, the cura annonae. This was a very important office, given only to the most trustworthy persons because the happiness of the population (and absence of mutinies) depended on it. However, Scaurus' appointment was at the expense of Lucius Appuleius Saturninus, at the time a quaestor, who had previously been in charge of the supply. Cicero judges that the loss of the cura annonae was the spark that drove Saturninus towards popularis demagoguery.[5]

Scaurus was throughout his political career the leader of the conservative elements of the Senate. He helped, for instance, lead the opposition against the tribune Gaius Norbanus in 103. Norbanus was prosecuting Quintus Servilius Caepio, the consul of 106, after the latter's catastrophic loss at the Battle of Arausio (and, more specifically, for stealing the Gold of Tolosa). Alongside the tribune Titus Didius, Scaurus attempted to rally the conservative elements of the Senate against Norbanus, but was driven back through violence: Scaurus was even struck in the head by a stone (Norbanus was eventually tried in around 95 for this act of violence).[6]

In 100, during the height of the violence brought about by Saturninus and Gaius Servilius Glaucia, it was Scaurus who proposed the so-called 'final decree' (senatus consultum ultimum) in the Senate.[7] This decree ordered the consul Gaius Marius to put down Saturninus and Glaucia, and they were soon lynched along with their followers in the Curia Hostilia.[8]

Late 90sEdit

In 92, Scaurus was brought to trial by Quintus Servilius Caepio the Younger for provincial extortion and, it seems, for taking bribes from Mithridates VI of Pontus.[9][10] However, Scaurus managed to issue a counter-prosecution against Caepio, thereby bringing the process to a legal standstill.

The experience of this affair apparently motivated Scaurus to support the legislative reforms of Marcus Livius Drusus the Younger,[11] tribune in 91 and the son of Scaurus' former colleague as censor. Alongside Lucius Licinius Crassus, Scaurus was Drusus' main conservative champion and helped pass his extensive legislative programme. However, after the sudden death of Crassus in September 91, Drusus rapidly lost his support in the Senate, and the consul Lucius Marcius Philippus succeeded in abrogating Drusus' laws on religious technicalities.

After Drusus' assassination and the subsequent outbreak of the Social War (91-88 BC), Scaurus was prosecuted in 90 under the special court of the tribune Quintus Varius Severus, which had been set up to prosecute anyone suspected of rousing the Italians to revolt. However, Scaurus was able to achieve his own acquittal on the basis of his auctoritas, asking the audience whether they would believe the word of a provincial Spaniard (Varius was from Spain) or of Scaurus himself, the princeps senatus.

The exact date of Scaurus' death is unknown. However, he must have been dead by late 89, when his wife Caecilia Metella Dalmatica married Sulla.


Scaurus' prestige outlived his death, and he was remembered by subsequent generations of Romans as a figure of great importance. It was said, for instance, that:

Almost the whole world was ruled by his nod' (cuius nutu prope terrarum orbis regebatur).[12]

However, Scaurus was also remembered negatively by some, most notably the historian Sallust, as an unscrupulous politician. For instance, when writing of the extensive bribery of Jugurtha in his attempts to persuade the Senate not to intervene on his brother's behalf, Sallust comments the following on Scaurus' character:

A few, on the other hand, to whom right and justice were more precious than riches, recommended that aid be given to Adherbal and that the death of Hiempsal be severely punished. Conspicuous among these was Aemilius Scaurus, a noble full of energy, a partisan, greedy for power, fame, and riches, but clever in concealing his faults. As soon as this man saw the king's bribery, so notorious and so brazen, fearing the usual result in such cases, namely, that such gross corruption would arouse popular resentment, he curbed his habitual cupidity.[13]

Marriage and childrenEdit

Scaurus' second wife was Caecilia Metella Dalmatica who was later the third wife of Lucius Cornelius Sulla. From this marriage, he had two children:


  1. ^ Ernst Badian, entry for 'Aemilius Scaurus, Marcus (1)', in Oxford Classical Dictionary
  2. ^ Ernst Badian, entry for 'Aemilius Scaurus, Marcus (1)', in Oxford Classical Dictionary
  3. ^ Sallust, Jug. 1.15
  4. ^ Ernst Badian, entry for 'Aemilius Scaurus, Marcus (1)', in Oxford Classical Dictionary
  5. ^ Cicero, pro Sestio 39
  6. ^ Andrew Lintott, 'Political History, 146–95 B.C.', in The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume IX, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: 1994), p. 93
  7. ^ Ernst Badian, entry for 'Aemilius Scaurus, Marcus (1)', in Oxford Classical Dictionary
  8. ^ Cicero, Rab. perd. 7, 20; Cat. I, 2, 4; Valerius Maximus, iii.2.18; App. B. civ., i.31.
  9. ^ Asconius 21 C, 26 C
  10. ^ Valerius Maximus 3. 7. 8.
  11. ^ Asconius 21 C
  12. ^ Cicero, pro Fonteio 24
  13. ^ Sallust, Jug. 1. 15


  • The Chronicles of the Roman Republic — Philip Matyszak
Preceded by
Quintus Fabius Maximus Eburnus and Gaius Licinius Geta
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Marcus Caecilius Metellus
115 BC
Succeeded by
Manius Acilius Balbus and Gaius Porcius Cato