1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mummius, Lucius

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MUMMIUS, LUCIUS (2nd century B.C.), surnamed Achaïcus, Roman statesman and general. Consul in 146 B.C. Mummius was appointed to take command of the Achaean War, and having obtained an easy victory over the incapable Diaeus, entered Corinth unopposed. All the men, women, and children were put to the sword, the statues, paintings and works of art were seized and shipped to Rome, and then the place was reduced to ashes. The apparently needless cruelty of Mummius in Corinth, by no means characteristic of him, is explained by Mommsen as due to the instructions of the senate, prompted by the mercantile party, which was eager to get rid of a dangerous commercial rival. According to Polybius, his inability to resist the pressure of those around him was responsible for it. In the subsequent settlement of affairs, Mummius exhibited considerable administrative powers and a high degree of justice and integrity, which gained him the respect of the inhabitants. He specially abstained from offending their religious susceptibilities. On his return to Rome he was honoured with a triumph. In 142 he was censor with the younger Scipio Africanus, whose severity frequently brought him into collision with his more lenient colleague. Mummius was the first novas homo of plebeian origin who received a distinctive cognomen for military services. His indifference to works of art and ignorance of their value is shown by his well-known remark to those who contracted for the shipment of the treasures of Corinth to Rome, that “if they lost or damaged them, they would have to replace them.” For the theatrical pageants exhibited by him he erected a theatre with improved acoustical conditions and seats after the Greek model, thus marking a distinct advance in the construction of places of entertainment.

His brother, Spurius Mummius, a man of greater refinement and intellectual powers, accompanied Lucius as his legate to Achaea, whence he sent letters to his friends at Rome, describing his experiences in humorous verse. These letters, which were still popular a hundred years later, were the first example of a distinct class of Roman poetry—the poetic epistle. Both he and his brother are alluded to by Cicero as mediocre orators, whose style was simple and old-fashioned, although Lucius, as a Stoic, was more concise.