METELLUS, the name of a distinguished family of the Caecilian (plebeian) gens in ancient Rome. The following are the most important:
1. Lucius CAECILIUS METELLUS, general during the first Punic War. Consul in 251 B.C., he was sent to Sicily, and gained a decisive victory over Hasdrubal, who, trusting to his numerically superior forces and the alarm inspired by his elephants, ventured to attack him. Metellus's victory was in great measure due to a panic caused amongst the elephants by his clever manoeuvring. A number of these animals were sent in specially constructed rafts to adorn his triumph, and from this time the elephant frequently occurs as a device on the coins of the Metelli. In 241, when the temple of Vesta was destroyed by fire, Metellus succeeded in bringing out the Palladium uninjured, but lost his eyesight. As a reward, he was granted permission to ride to the senate-house in a carriage, a privilege hitherto unheard of. But the story of his blindness is doubtful, since it is hardly consistent with his appointment as dictator in 224 " for the purpose of holding the comitia," nor is any mention made of it in the extract [Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. 43 (45)] from the funeral oration pronounced over him by his son.
2. QUINTUS CAECILIUS METELLUS, son of (i), became consul in 206 as a reward for his services at the Metaurus. In 205 he was dictator for holding the comitia; in 201 one of the commissioners for dividing the public land in Samnium and Apulia amongst the Roman veterans; in 186 he conducted an embassy to Macedonia, afterwards proceeding to Peloponnesus to investigate the quarrel between Sparta and the Achaeans. He is the Metellus who caused the poet Naevius (q.v.) to be imprisoned and exiled for having attacked him on the stage.
3. Lucius CAECILIUS METELLUS, possibly son of (i), when the disastrous news of the battle of Cannae (216) reached Rome, proposed to a number of young nobles that they should leave Italy and offer their services to some foreign ruler, but they were prevented by the threats of the younger Scipio from carrying out their purpose. For this offence, when quaestor two years later, he was degraded by the censors from his tribe to the class of aerarii. Nevertheless, he was elected one of the tribunes for the following year, but his attempt to call the censors to account for their action proved unsuccessful in the face of the opposition of his colleague.
4. QUINTUS CAECILIUS METELLUS MACEDONICUS (d. 115 B.C.), praetor 148 B.C., defeated the usurper Andriscus (q.v.) in Macedonia and forced him to surrender. Under his superintendence the country was made a Roman province. In 146, he attacked the Achaeans to avenge an insult offered to a Roman embassy at Corinth. He gained decided successes over them at Scarpheia and Chaeroneia, but was superseded by L. Mummius. On his return to Italy he received the honour of a triumph and the title of Macedonicus. Consul in 143, he reduced the Celtiberians in northern Spain to obedience. In 131, when censor with Q. Pompeius (they were the first two plebeian censors), he proposed that all citizens should be compelled to marry. He expelled a number of senators, one of whom, the tribune C. Atinius Labeo, proposed that he should be hurled from the Tarpeian rock; his life was only saved through the intervention of another tribune. He was an opponent of the Gracchi, although not averse from moderate reform. He was a strict disciplinarian, a good general, and a type of the ancient Roman both in public and private life. He erected a splendid colonnade in the Campus Martius, and two temples dedicated to Jupiter Stator and Juno.
5. QUINTUS CAECILIUS METELLUS NUMIDICUS, consul 109, and commander in the Jugurthine War. He defeated Jugurtha (q.v.) by the river Muthul, and after a difficult march through the desert took his stronghold, Thala. Marius, however, who had been intriguing for the command, accused Metellus of protracting the war, and received the consulship for 107 with the province of Numidia. Metellus received a splendid triumph and the title of Numidicus. Saturninus, whom as a censor he tried to remove from the senate, passed in looan agrarian law, inserting a provision that all senators should swear to it within Sve days. All complied but Metellus, who retired to Asia. After Satarninus was killed he returned, and died (probably in 91). He ,vas a man of the highest integrity, a strict and efficient general, and one of the chief leaders of the aristocratic party. He was a man of education and learning, and Cicero speaks highly of him as an orator.
6. QUINTUS CAECILIUS METELLUS Pius, so called from his efforts to bring about the recall of his father Numidicus from exile. He was one of the commanders in the Social War, and defeated Q. Pompaedius Silo, the Marsian leader (88). Sulla, on his departure for Asia, gave him proconsular command over south Italy. When Marius returned to Italy and joined Cinna, the soldiers, who had no confidence in the consul Gnaeus Octavius, wished Metellus to take command, but he refused. The soldiers deserted in large numbers, and considering it impossible to defend Rome, Metellus retired to Africa and afterwards to Liguria, resuming his former proconsular command on Sulla's return. In the war against Marius he gained several important successes, and after his victory over C. Norbanus at Faventia (82) he subdued the whole of upper Italy. Consul in So with Sulla, he went to Spain next year against Sertorius, who pressed him hard till the arrival of Pompey in 76. Next year Metellus defeated Sertorius's lieutenant Hirtuleius at Italica and Segovia, and joining Pompey rescued him from the consequences of a check at Sucro. From this time Sertorius grew weaker till his murder in 72. In 71 Metellus returned to Rome and triumphed. He became pontifex maximus, and died probably at the sud of 64. He was an upright man, of moderate ability.
7. QUINTUS CAECILIUS METELLUS CELER, legate of Pompey in Asia 65 B.C., praetor 63. He was despatched to cut off the retreat of Catiline to the north by blocking the passes, and in 62 went into the province of Cisalpine Gaul with the title of proconsul, although he did not become consul till 60. A strong supporter of the optimates and an enemy of Pompey, he strenuously opposed the agrarian law brought forward by the tribune Lucius Flavius, to provide for Pompey's veterans, and stood firm even though imprisoned; the law had to be given up. He also tried, though fruitlessly, to obstruct Caesar's agrarian law in 59. He died suddenly in the same year it was usually supposed from poison administered by his wife Clodia.
8. QUINTUS CAECILIUS METELLUS NEPOS, son of a Metellus of the same name, so called because he was the grandson of (4). He was legate to Pompey in the war against the Mediterranean pirates (67), and took part in the Syrian campaign. In 63 he returned to Rome, to assist Pompey in carrying out his plans. He violently attacked Cicero, and refused to allow him to deliver the customary speech on laying down office as consul; he even threatened to impeach him for having executed Roman citizens (referring to the Catilinarian conspirators) without a trial. In 62 his proposal that Pompey should be summoned to Italy to restore order was bitterly opposed by Cato, and on the day set down for the bill a fight took place in the forum. Metellus fled to Pompey, but soon returned with him to Rome. In 60, when praetor, he proposed a law for the abolition of the vecligalia in Italy. In 57 he was consul, but offered no opposition to the return of Cicero from exile. In 56 he was governor of Hither Spain, where he was engaged in hostilities against the Vaccaei with indifferent success. He appears to have died in Rome in the following year. He was a mere creature of Pompey.
9. QUINTUS CAECILIUS METELLUS Pius SCIPIO, son of P. Scipio Nasica, was adopted by (6). He was accused of bribery in 60 B.C., and defended by Cicero, to whom he had rendered valuable assistance during the Catilinarian conspiracy. In August 52, he became consul through the influence of Pompey, who had married his daughter Cornelia. In 49 he proposed that Caesar should disband his army within a definite time, under pain of being declared an enemy of the state. After the outbreak of the civil war, the province of Syria was assigned to him, and he was about to plunder the temple of Artemis at Ephesus when he was recalled by Pompey. He commanded the centre at Pharsalus, and afterwards went to Africa, where by Cato's influence he received the command. In 46 he was defeated at Thapsus; while endeavouring to escape to Spain he fell into the hands of P. Sittius, and put himself to death. His connexion with two great families gave him importance, but he was selfish and licentious, wanting in personal courage, and his violence drove many from his party.
10. QUINTUS CAECILIUS METELLUS, surnamed Creticus, Roman general. Consul in 69 B.C., he was appointed to the command of the war against Crete, the headquarters of the pirates of the Mediterranean. Its subjugation proceeded slowly but surely until 67, when Pompey claimed the control of affairs in virtue of the powers conferred upon him by the Gabinian law. Thereupon the Cretans, who had been treated with great harshness by Metellus, offered to surrender to Pompey, who enjoyed a reputation for leniency towards the conquered. Pompey accepted the offer and sent instructions to Metellus to suspend operations. Metellus refused and completed the conquest of the island, which was annexed to Cyrene and became a Roman province. On Metellus's return to Rome the partisans of Pompey succeeded in keeping him out of a triumph until after the Catilinarian conspiracy, when he made his entry into the city and received the name Creticus in honour of his achievements. Metellus naturally joined the senatorial party in their opposition to Pompey, and had the satisfaction of preventing the ratification of what he had done in Asia. He was one of a commission of three sent (60) to investigate the state of affairs in Gaul, where disturbances were apprehended. He appears to have been alive in 54, but nothing further is known of him.
On the family of the Metelli generally, see M. Wende, De Caeciliis Metellis, i. (Bonn, 1875), for its history up to the time of the Gracchi the new edition by P. Grobe of Drumann's Geschichte Roms, ii. ; and the article s.v. " Caecilius " by F. Miinzer in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopddie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, iii. pt. I (1897).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)