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Aulus Gabinius

Coin issued under Gabinius in Syria

Aulus Gabinius was a Roman statesman, general and supporter of Pompey. He was a prominent figure in the later days of the Roman Republic.[1]

In 67 BC, when tribune of the plebs, he brought forward the law (Lex Gabinia) which gave Pompey the command in the war against the Mediterranean pirates, with extensive powers that gave him absolute control over the sea and the coasts for 50 miles inland. By two other measures of Gabinius, loans of money to foreign ambassadors in Rome were made non-actionable (as a check on the corruption of the Senate) and the Senate was ordered to give audience to foreign envoys on certain fixed days (February 1 - March 1).

In 65 BC, then a legate to Pompey, he marched with two legions into Northern Mesopotamia. This pressured the Parthian king Phraates III into a treaty with Pompey. [2]

In 61 BC, Gabinius, then praetor, tried to win public favour by providing games on a scale of unusual splendour, and in 58 BC managed to secure the consulship, although not without suspicion of bribery. During his term of office he aided Publius Clodius Pulcher in bringing about the exile of Marcus Tullius Cicero. In 57 BC Gabinius went as proconsul to Syria. On his arrival he reinstated John Hyrcanus in the high-priesthood at Jerusalem, suppressed revolts, introduced important changes in the government of Judaea, and rebuilt several towns.[3]

In 55 BC, Gabinius was sent by Pompey to Egypt, without the consent of the Senate, to restore Ptolemy XII Auletes to his kingdom. He succeeded in fulfilling his task after a short successful campaign, in which he was supported by the young Mark Antony. He left a part of his troops, the so-called Gabiniani, in Egypt to protect Ptolemy XII. These Gabiniani fought against rebellious subjects of the king and later, after his death, against Gaius Julius Caesar.

During Gabinius' absence in Egypt, Syria had been devastated by robbers, and Alexander, son of Aristobulus, had again taken up arms with the object of depriving Hyrcanus II of the high-priesthood. With some difficulty Gabinius restored order, and in 54 BC handed over the province to his successor, Marcus Licinius Crassus. The Roman equites (knights), who as tax collectors had suffered heavy losses during the disturbances in Syria, were greatly embittered against Gabinius, and, when he appeared in the Senate to give an account of his governorship, he was brought to trial on three counts, all involving a capital offense.

On the charge of maiestas (high treason) incurred by having left his province for Egypt without the consent of the senate and in defiance of the Sibylline Books, he was acquitted; it is said that the judges were bribed, and even Cicero, an enemy of Gabinius, was persuaded by Pompey to say as little as he could. On the second charge, that of repetundae (extortion during the administration of his province), with special reference to the 10,000 talents paid by Ptolemy XII for his restoration, he was found guilty, in spite of evidence offered on his behalf by Pompey and witnesses from Alexandria and the eloquence of Cicero, who had been induced to plead his cause. Nothing but Cicero's wish to do a favour to Pompey could have induced him to take on the task; it is hinted that the half-heartedness of the defence contributed to Gabinius's condemnation. The third charge, that of ambitus (illegalities committed during his canvass for the consulship), was consequently dropped; Gabinius went into exile, and his property was confiscated.

After the outbreak of Caesar's Civil War, he was recalled by Gaius Julius Caesar in 49 BC and entered his service, but took no active part against his old patron Pompey. After the Battle of Pharsalus, he was commissioned to transport some recently levied troops to Illyricum. On his way by land, he was attacked by the Dalmatians and with difficulty made his way to Salona (Dalmatia). There he defended himself against the attacks of the Pompeian commander, Marcus Octavius, but a few months later died of illness (48 BC or the beginning of 47 BC). Gabinius married a Roman noblewoman called Lollia[4] from the Lollia (gens), perhaps a daughter of Marcus Lollius Palicanus, tribune of the plebs in 71 BC. Lollia bore him a son called Aulus Gabinius Sisenna.[5]

Gabinius in popular culture

Aulus Gabinius is referenced several times in John Maddox Roberts' SPQR series, notably in The Tribune's Curse, and appears as a character in The Princess and the Pirates (ISBN 0-312-33723-X), set in Cyprus in 50 BC during Gabinius's exile.


  1. ^  
  2. ^ Pompey the Great by John Leach
  3. ^ Josephus, The Jewish War 1:155-1:170, "Scythopolis, Samaria, Anthedon, Apollonia, Jamia, Raphia, Marisa, Dora, Gaza Azotus and many other towns were re-established, each attracting an influx of eager colonists."
  4. ^ Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, De Vita Caesarum, Caesar, 50.
  5. ^ Aulus Gabinius Sisenna article at ancient library


  • Cassius Dio xxxvi. 23-36, xxxviii. 13. 30, xxxix. 55-63
  • Plutarch, Pompey, 25. 48
  • Josephus, Antiq. xiv. 4-6
  • Appian, Illyrica, 12, Bell. Civ. ii. 24. 59
  • Cicero, ad Atti. vi. 2, ad Q. Fratrem, ii. 13, Post reditum in senatu, 4-8, Pro lege Manilia, 17, 18, 19
  • exhaustive article by Bähr in Ersch and Gruber's Allgemeine Encyclopädie
  • Giuseppe Stocchi, Aulo Gabinio e i suoi processi (1892)
Political offices
Preceded by
Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus
58 BC
Succeeded by
Publius Cornelius Lentulus Spinther and Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos Iunior
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