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SCAEVOLA

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 279 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SCAEVOLA, the name of a famous family of ancient Rome, the most important members of which were: I. Gm us Mums SCAEVOLA, a legendary hero, who volunteered to assassinate Lars Porsena when he was besieging Rome. Making his way through the enemy's lines to the royal tent,but not knowing Porsena by sight, he slew his secretary by mistake. Before the royal tribunal Mucius declared that he was one of 300 noble youths who had sworn to take the king's life, and that he had been chosen by lot to make the attempt first. Threatened with death or torture, Mucius thrust his right hand into the fire blazing upon an altar, and held it there until it was consumed. The king, deeply impressed and dreading a further attempt upon his life, ordered Mucius to be liberated, made peace with the Romans and withdrew his forces. Mucius was rewarded with a grant of land beyond the Tiber, known as the "Mucia Prata " in the time of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and received the name of Scaevola (" left-handed "). Dionysius says nothing of the incident of the fire, and attributes Porsena's alarm partly to the loss of a band of marauders in an ambuscade. The story is presumably an attempt to explain the name Scaevola, coloured by national and family vanity (Livy ii. 12; Dion. Halic. v. 27-30). The Mucius of the legend is described as a patrician; the following were undoubtedly plebeians. 2. PUBLIUS MUCIUS SCAEVOLA, Roman orator and jurist, consul 133 B.C. during the time of the Gracchan disturbances. He was not opposed to moderate reforms, and refused to use violence against Tiberius Gracchus, although called upon in the senate " to protect the state and put down the tyrant." After the murder of Gracchus, however, he expressed his approval of the act. He was an opponent of the younger Scipio Africanus, for which he was attacked by the satirist Lucilius (Persius i. 115; Juvenal i. 154). In 130 he succeeded his brother Mucianus as pontifex maximus. During his tenure of office he published a digest in 8o books of the official annals kept by himself and his predecessors, which were afterwards discontinued as unnecessary, their place being taken by the works of private annalists. He was chiefly distinguished for his knowledge of law, which he held to be indispensable to a successful pontifex. Cicero frequently mentions him as a lawyer of repute, and he is cited several times by the jurists whose works were used in the compilation of the Digest. He was also a famous player at ball and the game called Duodecim Scripta; after he had lost a game, he was able to recall the moves and throws in their order). See A. H. J. Greenidge, History of Rome. 3. QUINTUS MUCIUS SCAEVOLA, son of (2), usually called " Pontifex Maximus," to distinguish him from (4),consul in 95 B.C. with his friend L. Licinius Crassus the orator. He and his colleague brought forward the lex Licinia Mucia de civibus regundis, whereby any non-burgess who was convicted of having usurped the rights of citizenship was to be expelled from Rome, and any non-burgess was forbidden under pain of a heavy penalty to apply for the citizenship. Its object was undoubtedly to purify the elections and to prevent the undue influence of the Italians in the comitia. The indignation aroused by it was one of the chief causes of the Social War (see Mommsen's Hist. of Rome). After his consulship Scaevola was governor of the province of Asia, in which capacity he distinguished himself by his just dealing and his severe measures against the unscrupulous farmers of taxes (publicani). The latter, finding themselves unable to touch Mucius, attacked him in the person of his legate, Publius Rutilius Rufus (q.v.). In honour of his memory the Greeks of Asia set aside a day for the celebration of festivities and games called Mucia. He was subsequently appointed Pontifex Maximus, and, in accordance with a custom that had prevailed since the first plebeian appointment to that office (about 150 years before), was always ready to give gratuitous legal advice. His antechamber was thronged, and even the chief men of the state and such distinguished orators as Servius Sulpicius consulted him. He kept a firm hand over the priestly colleges and insisted upon the strict observance of definite regulations, although he was by no means bigoted in his views. He held that there were two kinds of religion, philosophical and traditional. The second was to be preferred for the sake of the unreasoning multitude, who ought to be taught to set a higher 1 Some authorities hold that Quintilian(Inst. Orat. xi. 2, 38) refers to Scaevola (3). value upon the gods, while people of intellect had no need of religion at all. He was proscribed by the Marian party, and in 82, when the younger Marius, after his defeat by Sulla at Sacriportus, gave orders for the evacuation of Rome and the massacre of the chief men of the opposite party, Scaevola, while attempting to reconcile the opposing factions, was slain at the altar of Vesta and his body thrown into the Tiber. He had already escaped an attempt made upon his life by Gaius Fimbria at the funeral of the elder Marius in 86. Scaevola was the founder of the scientific study of Roman law and the author of a systematic treatise on the subject, in eighteen books, frequently quoted and followed by subsequent writers. It was a compilation of legislative enactments, judicial precedents and authorities, from older collections, partly also from oral tradition. A small handbook called "Opoc (Definitions) is the oldest work from which any excerpts are made in the Digest, and the first example of a special kind of judicial literature (libri definitionum or regularum). It consisted of short rules of law and explanations of legal terms and phrases. A number of speeches by him, praised by Cicero for their elegance of diction, were in existence in ancient times. 4. QUINTUS MUCIUS SCAEVOLA (C. 159—88 B.C.), uncle of (3), from whom he is distinguished by the appellation of " Augur." He was instructed in law by his father, and in philosophy by the famous Stoic Panaetius of Rhodes. In 121 he was governor of Asia. Accused of extortion on his return, he defended himself and, though no orator, secured his acquittal by his legal know-ledge and common sense. In 117 he was consul. He did not take a prominent part in the Senate, but his brief, unpolished remarks sometimes made a great impression. He was a great authority on law, and at an advanced age he gave instruction to Cicero and Atticus. He had a high appreciation of Marius, and when Sulla assembled the senate, to obtain from it a declaration that Marius was the enemy of his country, Scaevola refused his assent. He married Laelia (the daughter of Gaius Laelius, the friend of the younger Scipio), by whom he had a son and two daughters, one of whom became the wife of Licinius Crassus the orator. Scaevola is one of the interlocutors in Cicero's De oratore, De amicitia and De republica. For the legal importance of the Scaevolas, see A. Schneider, Die drei Scaevola Ciceros (Munich, 1879), with full references to ancient and modern authorities.
End of Article: SCAEVOLA
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