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Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus (ca 160 BCE – 91 BCE) was the leader of the conservative faction of the Roman Senate and a bitter enemy of Gaius Marius.

In his youth he was sent to Athensmarker, where he studied under Carneades, celebrated philosopher and great master of oratory. He returned ostensibly cultured and with brilliant oratorical skills.

He was a Quaestor in 126 BCE, a Tribune in 121 BCE, an Aedile in 118 BCE, a Praetor in 115 BCE, Governor of Sicily in 114 BCE and elected Consul in 109 BCE, whereupon he led the war in Numidia against Jugurtha. The war dragged out into a long and seemingly endless campaign as the Romans tried to inflict a decisive defeat on Jugurtha. Frustrated at the apparent lack of action, Metellus' lieutenant Marius returned to Rome to seek election as Consul. Successfully elected, Marius returned to Numidia and to take control of the war. Metellus returned to Rome after the Battle of the Muthul, extremely unhappy at Marius' displacement of him. He was surprised by the demonstrations of enthusiasm and recognition which he received from a faction of Senators and the people who did not support Marius. The Senate minted coins in Metellus' honor and he celebrated a triumph, acquiring the cognomen Numidicus, all of which caused great irritation to Marius.

Numidicus became the main leader of the aristocratic faction, opposing the rapid political ascencion of the demagogue Marius, who was favoured by the final success of the imprisonment and killing of Jugurtha thanks to a stratagem of Sulla. Marius' reforms of the Roman Army where he recruited Romans without property and loyal to their general was a turning point in Roman history, and the reforms were bitterly opposed by Numidicus' conservative faction.

Numidicus was elected censor in 102 BCE in partnership with his cousin Gaius Caecilius Metellus Caprarius. During the censorship, he tried to expel Marius' ally Lucius Appuleius Saturninus from the Senate, but without success. Afterwards, Saturninus had his revenge when he and Marius proposed an agrarian law awarding land to Roman veterans, with an additional clause that obliged every Senator to swear allegiance to Marius, under penalty of banishment and a heavy fine. In an effort to have law passed, Marius inserted a clause in the law that would annul the swearing, so that any opponents of his could support the veteran land award publicly but annul the personal allegiance to Marius privately, allowing Marius the glory of universal support. Numidicus would not submit to this subterfuge. He refused to swear obedience to a law to which he opposed, paid the corresponding fine and left to exile. After leaving the Forummarker, he said to his friends: To do harm is proper of the evil spirits; to do good without taking risks is proper of the ordinary spirits; the man of heart never ever deflects from what is fair and honest, never looking to rewards or to threats. A year later, in 99 BC, he was returned to Rome, thanks to the tireless struggle of his son, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius whose cognomen Pius reflected his reverence for his father. Metellus returned to Rome and to his houses at the Palatine Hillmarker and the Via Tiburtina and lived there the rest of his days, intervening little in public affairs.

Notes

  1. Plutarch, in Gaius Marius


References



Further reading

  • Manuel Dejante Pinto de Magalhães Arnao Metello and João Carlos Metello de Nápoles, "Metellos de Portugal, Brasil e Roma", Torres Novas, 1998



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