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Gaius Popillius Laenas

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Gaius Popillius Laenas

Gaius Popillius Laenas (the alternatative spellings Popilius and Laena are fairly common) twice served as one of the two consuls of the Roman Republic, in 172 and 158 BC. His name indicates he was of the gens Popilia; the Latin plural of Laenas is Laenates.

He was sent as an envoy to prevent a war between Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire and Ptolemaic Egypt. On being confronted with the Roman demands that he abort his attack on Alexandria, Antiochus played for time; Popillius Laenas is supposed to have drawn a circle around the king in the sand with his cane, and ordered him not to move out of it until a firm answer had been given. The Syrians withdrew. According to Livy,
"After receiving the submission of the inhabitants of Memphis and of the rest of the Egyptian people, some submitting voluntarily, others under threats, [Antiochus] marched by easy stages towards Alexandria. After crossing the river at Eleusis, about four miles from Alexandria, he was met by the Roman commissioners, to whom he gave a friendly greeting and held out his hand to Popilius. Popilius, however, placed in his hand the tablets on which was written the decree of the senate and told him first of all to read
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