1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Curio, Gaius Scribonius

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CURIO, GAIUS SCRIBONIUS, Roman statesman and orator, son of a distinguished orator of the same name, flourished during the 1st century B.C. He was tribune of the people in 90 B.C., and afterwards served in Sulla’s army in Greece against Archelaus, general of Mithradates, and as his legate in Asia, where he was commissioned to restore order in the kingdoms abandoned by Mithradates. In 76 he was consul, and as governor of Macedonia carried on war successfully against the Thracians and Dardanians, and was the first Roman general who penetrated as far as the Danube. On his return he was granted the honour of a triumph. During the discussion as to the punishment of the Catilinarian conspirators he supported Cicero, but he spoke in favour of P. Clodius (q.v.) when the latter was being tried for the Bona Dea affair. This led to a violent attack on the part of Cicero, but it does not appear to have interfered with their friendship. Curio was a vehement opponent of Caesar, against whom he wrote a political pamphlet in the form of a dialogue. He was pontifex maximus in 57, and died in 53. His reputation as an orator was considerable, but according to Cicero he was very illiterate, and his only qualifications were brilliancy of style and the purity of his Latin. He was nicknamed Burbuleius (after an actor) from the way in which he moved his body while speaking.

Orelli, Onomasticon to Cicero; Florus iii. 4; Eutropius vi. 2; Val. Max. ix. 14, 5; Quintilian, Instit., vi. 3, 76; Dio Cassius xxxviii. 16.

His son, Gaius Scribonius Curio, was first a supporter of Pompey, but after his tribuneship (50 B.C.) went over to Caesar, by whom he was said to have been bribed. But, while breaking off relations with Pompey, Curio desired to keep up the appearance of impartiality. When it was demanded that Caesar should lay down his imperium before entering Rome, Curio proposed that Pompey should do the same, adding that, if the rivals refused to do so, they ought both to be declared public enemies. His proposal was carried by a large majority, but a report having spread that Caesar was on the way to attack Rome, the consuls called upon Pompey to undertake the command of all the troops stationed in Italy. Curio’s appeal to the people to prevent the levying of an army by Pompey was disregarded; whereupon, feeling himself in danger, he fled to Ravenna to Caesar. He was commissioned by Caesar, who was still unwilling to proceed to extremities, to take a message to the senate. But Curio’s reception was so hostile that he hurriedly returned during the night to Caesar. It was now obvious that civil war would break out. Curio collected troops in Umbria and Etruria for Caesar, who sent him to Sicily as propraetor in 49. After having fought with considerable success there against the Pompeians, Curio crossed over to Africa, where he was defeated and slain by Juba, king of Numidia. Curio, although a man of profligate character, possessed conspicuous ability, and was a distinguished orator. In spite of his faults, Cicero, as an old friend of his father, took a great interest in him and did his utmost to reform him. Seven of Cicero’s letters (Ad. Fam. ii. 1-7) are addressed to him. There can be no doubt that Curio’s behaviour in regard to the laying down of the imperium by Caesar and Pompey in great measure contributed to the outbreak of civil war. The first amphitheatre in Rome was erected by him (50), for the celebration of the funeral games in honour of his father.

Orelli, Onomasticon to Cicero; Livy, Epit. 109, 110; Caesar, Bell. Civ., ii. 23, for Curio’s African campaign; Appian, Bell. Civ., ii. 26-44; Vell. Pat. ii. 48.