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GAIUS AURELIUS COTTA (c. 124—73 B.c.)

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Originally appearing in Volume V07, Page 252 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GAIUS AURELIUS COTTA (c. 124—73 B.c.), Roman states-man and orator. In 92 he defended his uncle P. Rutilius Rufus, who had been unjustly accused of extortion in Asia. He was on intimate terms with the tribune M. Livius Drusus, who was murdered in 91, and in the same year was an unsuccessful candidate for the tribunate. Shortly afterwards he was prosecuted under the lex Varia, directed against all who had in any way supported the Italians against Rome, and, in order to avoid condemnation, went into voluntary exile. He did not return till 82, during the dictatorship of Sulla. In 75 he was consul, and excited the hostility of the optimates by carrying a law that abolished the Sullan disqualification of the tribunes from holding higher magistracies; another law de judiciis privatis, of which nothing is known, was abrogated by his brother. In 74 Cotta obtained the province of Gaul, and was granted a triumph for some victory of which we possess no details; but on the very day before its celebration an old wound broke out, and he died suddenly. According to Cicero, P. Sulpicius Rufus and Cotta were the best speakers of the young men of their time. Physically incapable of rising to passionate heights of oratory, Cotta's most cases) a small bronze figure called s&vrls. The discovery (by Professor Helbig in 1886) of two sets of actual apparatus near Perugia and various representations on vases help to elucidate the somewhat obscure accounts of the method of playing the game contained in the scholia and certain ancient authors who, it must not be forgotten, wrote at a time when the game itself had become obsolete, and cannot therefore be looked to for a trustworthy description of it. The first specimen of the apparatus found at Perugia resembles a candelabrum on a base, tapering towards the top, with a blunt end, on which the small disk (found near the rod), which has a hole near the edge and is slightly hollow in the middle, could be balanced. At about a third of the height of the rod is a large disk with a hole in the centre through which the rod runs; in a socket at the top is a small bronze figure, with right arm and right leg uplifted. In the second specimen there is no large disk, and the figure is holding up what is apparently a rhyton or drinking-horn. According to Prof. Helbig in Mittheilungen des deutschen archaologischen Instituts (Romische Abtheilung i., 1886) three games were played with this apparatus: In the first the smaller disk was placed on the top of the rod, and the object of the player was to dislodge it with a cast of the wine, so that it would fall with a clatter on the larger disk below. In the second (as in the third) the bronze figure was used; the smaller disk was placed above the figure, upon which it fell when hit, and thence on to the larger disk below. In the third, there was no smaller disk; the wine was thrown at the figure, and fell on to the larger disk underneath. Another supposed variety, in which two scales were balanced in such a manner that the weight of the liquid cast into either scale caused it to dip down and touch the top of an image placed under each, probably had no real existence, but is due to a confusion of the irX &ara'y with a scale-pan by reason of its shape. The game appears to have been of Sicilian origin, but it spread through Greece from Thessaly to Rhodes, and was especially fashionable at Athens. Dionysius, Alcaeus, Anacreon, Pindar, Bacchylides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Antiphanes, make frequent and familiar allusion to the KOTra(3os; but in the writers of the Roman and Alexandrian period such reference as occurs shows that the fashion had died out. In Latin literature it is almost entirely unknown. The most complete treatise on the subject is C. Sartori's Des Kottabos-Spiel der alten Griechen (1893), in which a full bibliography of ancient and modern authorities is given. English readers may be referred to an article by A. Higgins on " Recent Discoveries of the Apparatus used in playing the Game of Kottabos " (Archaeologia, li. 1888); see also " Kottabos " in Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiguites, and L. Becq de Fouquieres,Les Jeux des anciens (1873). 252 successes were chiefly due to his searching investigation of facts; he kept strictly to the essentials of the case and avoided all irrelevant digressions. His style was pure and simple. He is introduced by Cicero as an interlocutor in the De oratore and De nature deorum (iii.), as a supporter of the principles of the New Academy. The fragments of Sallust contain the substance of a speech delivered by Cotta in order to calm the popular anger at a deficient corn-supply. See Cicero, De oratore, iii. 3, Brutus, 49, 55, 90, 92; Sallust, Hist. Brag. ; Appian, Bell. Civ. i. 37. His brother, Lucius AURELIUS COTTA, when praetor in 70 B.C. brought in a law for the reform of the jury lists, by which the judices were to be eligible, not from the senators exclusively as limited by Sulla, but from senators, equites and tribuni aerarii. One-third were to be senators, and two-thirds men of equestrian census, one-half of whom must have been tribuni aerarii, a body as to whose functions there is no certain evidence, although in Cicero's time they were reckoned by courtesy amongst the equites. In 66 Cotta and L. Manlius Torquatus accused the consuls-elect for the following year of bribery in connexion with the elections; they were condemned, and Cotta and Torquatus chosen in their places. After the suppression of the Catilinarian conspiracy, Cotta proposed a public thanksgiving for Cicero's services, and after the latter had gone into exile, supported the view that there was no need of a law for his recall, since the law of Clodius was legally worthless. He subsequently attached himself to Caesar, and it was currently reported that Cotta (who was then quindecimvir) intended to propose that Caesar should receive the title of king, it being written in the books of fate that the Parthians could only be defeated by a king. Cotta's intention was not carried out in consequence of the murder of Caesar, after which he retired from public life. See Cicero, Orelli's Onomasticon; Sallust, Catiline, 18; Suetonius, Caesar, 79; Livy, Epit. 97; Veil. Pat. ii. 32; Dio Cassius xxxvi. 44, xxxvii. 1.
End of Article: GAIUS AURELIUS COTTA (c. 124—73 B.c.)
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COTTABUS (Gr. Kb-rra(3os)

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