A Roman Politician
(Gaius Scribonius Curio)
The life of Gaius Scribonius Curio has so many points of interest for the student of Roman politics and society, that one is bewildered by the variety of situations and experiences which it covers. His private character is made up of a melange of contradictory qualities, of generosity, and profligacy, of sincerity and unscrupulousness. In his public life there is the same facile change of guiding principles. He is alternately a follower of Cicero and a supporter of his bitterest enemy, a Tory and a Democrat, a recognized opponent of Caesar and his trusted agent and adviser. His dramatic career stirs Lucan to one of his finest passages, gives a touch of vigor to the prosaic narrative of Velleius, and even leads the sedate Pliny to drop into satire. Friend and foe have helped to paint the picture. Cicero, the counsellor of his youth, writes of him and to him; Caelius, his bosom friend, analyzes his character; Caesar leaves us a record of his military campaigns and death, while Velleius and Appian recount his public and private sins. His story has this peculiar charm, that many of the incidents which make it up are related from day to day, as they occurred, by his contemporaries, Cicero and Caelius, in the confidential letters which they wrote to their intimate friends. With all the strange elements which entered into it, however, his career is not an unusual one for the time in which he lived. Indeed it is almost typical for the class to which he belonged, and in studying it we shall come to know something more of that group of brilliant young men, made up of Caelius, Antony, Dolabella, and others, who were drawn to Caesar’s cause and played so large a part in bringing him success. The life of Curio not only illuminates social conditions in the first century before our era, but it epitomizes and personifies the political history of his time and the last struggles of the Republic. It brings within its compass the Catilinarian conspiracy, the agitation of Clodius, the formation of the first triumvirate, the rivalry of Caesar and Pompey, and the civil war, for in all these episodes Curio took an active part.