The Quaestor and his General

So I was reading about Tiberius Gracchus and came across the account of his dealings with the Numantines in Plutarch’s Life:

After this campaign he was elected quaestor, and had the fortune to serve in a war against Numantia under the consul Caius Mancinus, who was not bad as a man, but most unfortunate of the Romans as a general. Therefore in the midst of unexpected misfortunes and adverse circumstances not only did the sagacity and bravery of Tiberius shine forth all the more, but also — and this was astonishing — the great respect and honour in which he held his commander, who, under the pressure of disasters, forgot even that he was a general. For after he had been defeated in great battles, he attempted to abandon his camp and withdraw his forces by night; but the Numantines became aware of his attempt and promptly seized his camp. Then they fell upon his men as they fled, slew those who were in the rear, encompassed his whole army, and crowded them into regions that were full of difficulties and afforded no escape. Mancinus, despairing of forcing his way to safety, sent heralds to the enemy proposing a truce and terms of peace; 3 but the enemy declared that they had confidence in no Roman save only Tiberius, and ordered that he should be sent to them. They had this feeling towards the young man not only on his own account (for he was held in very high esteem by the Numantine soldiery), but also because they remembered his father Tiberius, who waged war against the Spaniards, and subdued many of them, but made a peace with the Numantines, to the observance of which with integrity and justice he always held the Roman people.  So Tiberius was sent and held conference with the enemy, and after getting them to accept some conditions, and himself accepting others, effected a truce, and thereby manifestly saved the lives of twenty thousand Roman citizens, besides attendants and camp followers.

This outstripping of one’s commander in diplomacy seems so oddly reminiscent of Sulla receiving Jugurtha’s surrender while Marius’ Quaestor.  Then there is also Scaurus’ claim to have defeated Aretas of Nabatea while Pompey’s proquaestor.  How odd is all this behavior? We could throw into the mix testimony of the decree of Lampsacus honoring their ambassador Hegesias.  Hegesias travels nearly the breadth of the Mediterranean in his efforts to secure Roman favors for his city.  He leave no stone unturned and is usually quoted for his use of kinship diplomacy mythical and otherwise.  For our purposes though we should note that he takes very seriously his diplomatic engagement with a quaestor, even after having dealt with higher ranking officials.

Update 28/11/2013: Or maybe it is a literary topos?  Consider the same characterization by Plutarch of Gaius Gracchus‘ actions in Sardinia as Orestes quaestor.  I owe the reference to the discussion by Garnsey and Rathbone in JRS 1985.  They emphasize how Gaius may have borrowed from his experience as quaestor in his grain legislation.

Update 5/7/2014: Here’s another instance of possible interest.  Snippet from Brennan, Praetorship (2000) 226:


43 out of 410 Days: I’m liking my numbers

So first, I averaged 8.28 minutes per mile for 3 miles.  Yes, I did I fist pump at the end.  And, Yes, that’s even stopping at traffic lights.  In six weeks that’s a 50% increase in speed and my recovery time felt good too.   The other more important number was 750 words.  I put it in easily and then some.  It felt good to writing in linear fashion knowing that if I didn’t have exactly the right word for a concept I could fix it later.   I also was able to start seeing the huge number of cross references the book is going to contain.  Something I already new from my image lists and notes on what chapters they needed to be mentioned, but I really I found myself writing about a type that might end up being mentioned in every chapter.  I am opening chapter 6 on Imperators (Marius, Sulla, Pompey and co) with a contrast between M. Aemilius Scaurus cos. 115 and his son of the same name.  The former has no coins and his deeds are not commemorated on coins, even thought Cicero tells us he ruled the world with a nod of his head, by contrast his son as just an aedile brags about his own accomplishments!  The type is illustrated above.  Notice the big REX ARETAS legend on the obverse.  This is Scaurus claiming to have brought the king of the Nabataeans to his knees during his side excursion while under Pompey’s command in 62.   According to Josephus his ill advised trip to Petra left his army suffering famine and resulted in Aretas simply bribing him with some 300 silver talents to go back from whence he came. Not a very glorious deed all in all. This morning I was struck by the contrast between Aretas III’s self presentation and Scaurus’ desire to show Aretas as an outlandish foreigner (Camel, trousers, long scruffy hair):

Obverse Image

This of course plays on some Roman stereotypes and may have even created a new typology.  Compare this type of three years later (55 BC):

Reverse Image

[Who exactly Bacchius Judeaus is is a problem for another day.  Maybe Dionysius of Tripolis? Or maybe the High Priest himself?]

And yet this same monarch went farther than any other Nabataean ruler to craft a self image in line with Hellenistic standards:


It’s not just the diadem or the tyche its the actual inscription labeling himself as a Philhellene! His successor kept Hellenistic imagery and even used a Greek regnal year, but he returns to Nabataean Aramaic to name himself and identity.  I wonder how they’ve resolved his successor’s regnal years. Is it circular? did they decide he must have taken the throne shortly after Scaurus’ campaign and thus year 26 must equal 35 BC?  Or is there an outside confirmation of this and thus we know Aretas III lost his throne shortly after Scaurus’ campaign.  I must find out…

But that’s a little off topic for the book. So back to where else does this type fit in:

First it an issue by two aediles, not regular moneyers.  Why?  Does it have to do with their games?  Scaurus lived long in the mind of Romans for the extravagance of these ludi.  Or, is it because aediles might also over see the grain supply?   Then there is sheer volume of this issue.  It would need to be part of a discussion of estimating mint outputs and possibility of correlating that with state expenditures.  And then there is the reverse with the capture of Privernum.  The should get a mention in the conquest of Italy section but the moneyer’s family connection is fanciful at best so that goes nicely with my discussion of familial legends.  Oh and it’s one of the rock solid coin types for dating as we have independent testimony regarding the issuers aedileship, meaning lots of other types are dated by relation to this one.  It’s like a book in one damn coin.

Okay.  Now that I’ve got that out of my system I’m going to go write 750 words or more for the actual book.