1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gabinius, Aulus

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14961531911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 11 — Gabinius, Aulus

GABINIUS, AULUS, Roman statesman and general, and supporter of Pompey, a prominent figure in the later days of the Roman republic. In 67 B.C., when tribune of the people, he brought forward the famous law (Lex Gabinia) conferring upon Pompey the command in the war against the Mediterranean pirates, with extensive powers which gave him absolute control over that sea and the coasts for 50 m. inland. By two other measures of Gabinius loans of money to foreign ambassadors in Rome were made non-actionable (as a check on the corruption of the senate) and the senate was ordered to give audience to foreign envoys on certain fixed days (1st of Feb.–1st of March). In 61 Gabinius, then praetor, endeavoured to win the public favour by providing games on a scale of unusual splendour, and in 58 managed to secure the consulship, not without suspicion of bribery. During his term of office he aided Publius Clodius in bringing about the exile of Cicero. In 57 Gabinius went as proconsul to Syria. On his arrival he reinstated Hyrcanus in the high-priesthood at Jerusalem, suppressed revolts, introduced important changes in the government of Judaea, and rebuilt several towns. During his absence in Egypt, whither he had been sent by Pompey, without the consent of the senate, to restore Ptolemy Auletes to his kingdom, Syria had been devastated by robbers, and Alexander, son of Aristobulus, had again taken up arms with the object of depriving Hyrcanus of the high-priesthood. With some difficulty Gabinius restored order and in 54 handed over the province to his successor, M. Licinius Crassus. The knights, who as farmers of the taxes had suffered heavy losses during the disturbances in Syria, were greatly embittered against Gabinius, and, when he appeared in the senate to give an account of his governorship, he was brought to trial on three counts, all involving a capital offence. On the charge of majestas (high treason) incurred by having left his province for Egypt without the consent of the senate and in defiance of the Sibylline books, he was acquitted; it is said that the judges were bribed, and even Cicero, who had recently attacked Gabinius with the utmost virulence, was persuaded by Pompey to say as little as he could in his evidence to damage his former enemy. On the second charge, that of repetundae (extortion during the administration of his province), with especial reference to the 10,000 talents paid by Ptolemy for his restoration, he was found guilty, in spite of evidence offered on his behalf by Pompey and witnesses from Alexandria and the eloquence of Cicero, who had been induced to plead his cause. Nothing but Cicero's wish to do a favour to Pompey could have induced him to take up what must have been a distasteful task; indeed, it is hinted that the half-heartedness of the defence materially contributed to Gabinius's condemnation. The third charge, that of ambitus (illegalities committed during his canvass for the consulship) was consequently dropped; Gabinius went into exile, and his property was confiscated. After the outbreak of the civil war, he was recalled by Caesar in 49, and entered his service, but took no active part against his old patron Pompey. After the battle of Pharsalus, he was commissioned to transport some recently levied troops to Illyricum. On his way thither by land, he was attacked by the Dalmatians and with difficulty made his way to Salonae (Dalmatia). Here he bravely defended himself against the attacks of the Pompeian commander, Marcus Octavius, but in a few months died of illness (48 or the beginning of 47).

See Dio Cassius xxxvi. 23-36, xxxvlii. 13. 3 O, xxxix. 55-63; Plutarch, Pompey, 25. 48; Josephus, Antiq. xiv. 4-6; Appian, Illyrica, 12, Bell. Civ. ii. 24. 59; Cicero, ad Att. vi. 5, ad Q. Fratrem, ii. 13, Post reditum in senatu, 4–8, Pro lege Manilia, 17, 18, 19; exhaustive article by Bähr in Ersch and Gruber's Allgemeine Encyclopdie; and monograph by G. Stòcchi, Aulo Gabinio e i suoi processi (1892).