Publius Cornelius Dolabella (Consul 44 BC)

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Publius Cornelius Dolabella (* probably 70/69 BC; † July 43 BC in Laodikeia, today Latakia ) was a Roman politician and general. He was the most important representative of the Cornelii Dolabellae family and son-in-law of the speaker Cicero .


The most important primary source for the life of Publius Cornelius Dolabella are the surviving letters of Cicero and his Philippine speeches . Additional information is provided above all by Cassius Dio , Appian and Plutarch in his Vitae of Caesar, Marcus Antonius and Cicero.

Lineage and Early Career

Mostly it is assumed that Dolabella was a son of the praetor of the same name in 69 BC. Was. However, the historian Ronald Syme suspects in his essay No son for Caesar? that Caesar stood up for Dolabella (see below) because Dolabella was his illegitimate son.

Before 51 BC Dolabella was accused twice and Cicero defended her in both trials. He took over the priesthood of Quindecimvir sacris faciundis around the middle of the year 51 BC. He maintained a lifestyle that exceeded his financial means and, for financial reasons, married a Fabia , who was a lot older than him, at an unknown time . From this relationship he might have had a son.

Dolabella began his political career in the beginning of 50 BC. BC with the indictment of Appius Claudius Pulcher , who was a follower of Pompey and also had good relations with Cicero. At that time, Dolabella, who had meanwhile been divorced from his first wife Fabia, tried to enter into a second marriage with Cicero's daughter Tullia . This was extremely unpleasant for Cicero because at the same time he learned of the accusation against Pulcher from his future son-in-law and yet wanted to maintain the good understanding with Pompey and Pulcher. Without the consent of the speaker, who was the governor in Cilicia , in May 50 BC The marriage of Dolabella and Tullia. Around the same time, Dolabella failed his indictment against Pulcher. His marriage to Tullia was also unhappy. He had probably closed it to his financial restructuring and to promote his political career. Cicero found himself faced with constant demands from his son-in-law to transfer the installments of the dowry. In May 49 BC Tullia gave birth to a son, who died early. After her divorce (see below), she gave birth in January 45 BC. A second boy, but soon passed away as a result of childbirth; and this second son must not have lived long either.

Career under Caesar

In the beginning of the year 49 BC The civil war that broke out between Pompey and Caesar in the 3rd century BC , Dolabella took sides with Caesar - regardless of the political convictions of his father-in-law - because he hoped it would give him great personal advantages in relation to his large debts. He looked for the later dictator in January 49 BC. The advance into Italy took place immediately in the 2nd century BC and tried to persuade Cicero to convert to Caesar's side. But in Rome his expectations of Caesar's generosity were disappointed and he was also persecuted by his creditors.

Caesar did not immediately pursue his adversary Pompey, but first tried to bring Spain under his control. Meanwhile, Dolabella was to patrol the Adriatic with about 40 ships , but had to retreat to the Dalmatian coast before an enemy fleet under the command of Marcus Octavius and Lucius Scribonius Libo . Even a joint approach with Caesar's legate Gaius Antonius could not prevent Dolabella from losing its fleet. Gaius Antonius eventually had to surrender, while Dolabella probably managed to escape.

48 BC As an ally of Caesar, Dolabella took part in his decisive military conflict with Pompey in the Balkans. During the long positional war at Dyrrhachion , he once again wrote to Cicero asking him to join Caesar; this letter has been preserved. He also fought in the battle of Pharsalus , which ended with Caesar's final victory over Pompey .

While Caesar pursued his defeated opponent to Egypt , Dolabella set off on the journey home to Italy. He now wanted to become a tribune of the people and bypassed his patrician descent, which stood in the way , by becoming himself late 48 BC. Adrogated by a plebeian , probably a lentulus .

Although Caesar in December 49 BC In order to stabilize the money market, among other things, the praetor Marcus Caelius Rufus had ordered the numerous debtors to have to satisfy their creditors after an estimate of their property . BC took advantage of Caesar's absence in order to enforce a debt and rent waiver with all means, for which, however, he paid with his life. Nevertheless, at the beginning of 47 BC, Dolabella brought As a tribune of the people based on Caelius' model, he submitted a motion for a law to cancel all debts and reduce apartment rents, the main aim of which was to escape the demands of his creditors and to create a broader political platform for himself. The motion was vehemently opposed by his counterparts Gaius Asinius Pollio and especially Lucius Trebellius and led to serious turmoil in the capital. Followers of Dolabella and Trebellius regularly fought street battles. At that time Caesar was involved in the extremely dangerous and protracted Alexandrian War . The Magister equitum Marcus Antonius acted as his deputy in Italy, but he did not immediately intervene in the fighting of the rival tribunes and first had to deal with mutinous legionnaires in Campania. When he was back in Rome, he slowly approached Trebellius. The Senate finally declared a state of emergency by passing a senatus consultum ultimum , on the basis of which Antonius and his soldiers, in extremely brutal arguments, prevented Dolabella from having his motion voted on the forum. About a thousand Romans are said to have died in the fighting. The fact that the tribune had a relationship with Antonia , Antonius' first wife , allegedly contributed to the final action of the Magister equitum against Dolabella . This bloody intervention made Antony hateful among the plebs . It was not until Caesar, in early October 47 BC BC returned to Rome, the situation calmed down completely. He pardoned Dolabella and was rather dissatisfied with Antonius.

For Cicero, who stayed in Brundisium during the unrest described above , Dolabella was still an unloved son-in-law. That this was the 52 BC When the notorious tribunes Publius Clodius Pulcher was murdered in the 3rd century BC , the speaker was indignant because he had been deeply enemies with the honored deceased. Cicero was also annoyed that Dollabella apparently had several extramarital affairs and that Tullia's marriage was so unhappy. He wished that this marriage would separate, but did not dare to have a public rift with his son-in-law.

Caesar apparently thought it necessary to remove Dolabella from Rome in order to avoid future unrest and took him as one of his generals on his further military expeditions. Dolabella first accompanied the dictator at the end of 47 BC. To North Africa. When he returned to Italy in the summer of the following year, he paid a visit to his father-in-law on his property, the Tusculanum. On this occasion he took rhetoric lessons from Cicero, as well as later in Rome. He agreed to a consensual divorce from Tullia, which took place on November 10, 46 BC. Took place, but was in default of repayment of the dowry.

As Dolabella since the end of 46 BC BC on Caesar's side in the fight against the last resistance of the Pompeians on the Iberian Peninsula (where he suffered an injury), he maintained a lively correspondence with his former father-in-law. He sent him news, for example about his nephew, as well as a letter of condolence on Tullia's death. After his in the summer of 45 BC After his return home he was again Cicero's guest at the Tusculanum. From his statements in some of his letters, Dolabella was now wealthier, apparently because of his reward from Caesar, and could afford some land.

Role in the power struggle after Caesar's assassination

Early 44 BC Caesar and Marcus Antonius took up the consulate, but Caesar promised to make Dolabella the suffect consul in his place after he set out for the planned Parthian campaign . Antonius saw in Dolabella a competitor to be eliminated and tried to obtain an invalidation of his choice.

On March 15, 44 BC Caesar wanted to decide on Antony's objection to Dolabella's suffect consulate, but his assassination that day completely changed the situation. Immediately after the assassination attempt on the dictator, Dolabella confiscated the insignia of the consulate, went to the Caesar murderers entrenched on the Capitol and allied with them. They confirmed him as consul for this, although he - if the year of birth 70/69 BC. True - was still far too young to hold this office and was also not yet praetor. The motto of the Senate meeting of March 17th was the reconciliation of Caesarians and Caesar murderers; One of the decisions made was that Antonius Dolabella was also accepted as an official colleague.

In the weeks that followed, the two consuls performed their office largely in harmony. In April 44 BC BC Antony had his colleague assigned the rich province of Syria for the time of his proconsulate . He wanted to commit himself to Dollabella. It is quite likely that Antony implemented a decree made by Caesar, as Cicero never doubted Dolabella's claim to Syria. In the same month, both consuls jointly applied for an agricultural law by which Caesar's veterans were to be settled on the site of the Pontine Marshes , which the dictator had partially drained (along the Via Appia ) . At the end of April Antonius went to Campania to contact the veterans there.

Now Dolabella approached the party of the Caesar murderers again, had the memorial built for Caesar on the site of his cremation demolished and the cult of the dictator raised there to be forbidden, and protests by the plebs that had arisen as a result were put down. The Caesar killers were satisfied, and Cicero flattered himself that his influence had caused Dolabella's actions. Beginning of May 44 BC The speaker wrote a letter to his former son-in-law in which he thanked him very much for his behavior. But when Antonius returned to Rome, Dolabella soon took his side again. At the beginning of June Dolabella even received an imperium proconsulare for five years. He maintained a moderate tone with regard to the Caesar murderers, remained in friendly contact with Cicero and chaired the Senate meeting on September 2, in which Cicero gave his first Philippian speech.

Train to Syria and death

Around the end of October 44 BC. Dolabella set out for the province of Syria, which had been promised to him for the time after his consulate, but which the Caesar murderer Gaius Cassius Longinus, who had left there a little earlier , claimed for himself. Dolabella moved to Thrace via Greece and Macedonia, but Marcus Junius Brutus was able to steal the cavalry from him on the way.

In January 43 BC Dolabella went with only one legion to the province of Asia , where the Caesar murderer Gaius Trebonius acted as proconsul. Dolabella offered Dolabella free passage to Syria and provisions, but did not let him enter the city of Smyrna . Dolabella made arrangements with the proconsul, but at night he managed to capture Smyrna with a quick coup. The Caesar murderer, who was still in bed, was beheaded by the soldiers of his victorious opponent. According to Appian, it was now very cruel. Trebonius' head was posted on the tribunal and his body was desecrated. With this action Dolabella had taken a clear position against the Caesar murderers and was the undisputed master of the province of Asia.

At the request of Quintus Fufius Calenus , the indignant Senate declared Dolabella to be an enemy of the state for the murder of Trebonius. Cicero did not get through with the demand made in his eleventh Philippine speech, which was then given, that Cassius should be given military command against Dolabella. The Senate only complied with the speaker's request when the consuls Pansa and Hirtius in April 43 BC. BC as a result of the battle of Forum Gallorum and the battle of Mutina against Antonius.

The Caesar murderers Cassius and Brutus, as well as other leading supporters of the republican cause, who operated in the east of the Roman Empire, informed Cicero by letter about the armaments of Dolabella. He received support from most cities in Asia Minor , received envoys from Rhodes and Judea , but was only able to increase his armed forces to two legions, while Cassius already commanded eight legions in Syria. Dolabella therefore entered into an alliance with the Ptolemaic ruler Cleopatra VII , which was to be expected to support the Caesarians. He recognized her son Kaisarion as a co-regent of Egypt and received the four legions stationed in the Nile land as military reinforcement, which his legate Aulus Allienus was supposed to pick up. However, the historian Joachim Brambach does not believe that Cleopatra then had the power to issue orders to the Roman armies posted in her country and that their permission was therefore required to leave. When Allienus made his way back to Dolabella with the Egyptian legions, Cassius forced him to hand over the troops in Palestine - probably because of his superior strength. Cassius reported this in a March 7, 43 BC. Letter dated BC, which he addressed to Cicero. The Caesar murderer thus had 12 legions. The fleet set up by Dolabella, with which he wanted to sail back to Italy in the event of his failure, was also destroyed.

In May 43 BC Dolabella set out to fight against Cassius in Syria despite his military superiority. He marched through Cilicia , where he was supported by the city of Tarsus , in the direction of Syria, but could not conquer Antioch . Since he had to accept greater losses and the apostasy of soldiers and also knew that Cassius commanded much larger contingents, he withdrew to Laodikeia, which was sympathetic to the Caesarians. Cassius was able to completely cut off supplies to the city by land, but because it was located on a peninsula, Dolabella continued to receive provisions by sea. First he defeated the warships of Cassius in a naval battle , perhaps through his fleet commander Lucius Marcius Figulus . But at his request, he received further fleet units from some Asian countries, including Serapion , the strategist of Cyprus , who acted against the will of his mistress Cleopatra and later had to atone for it with his life. With the reinforcements on ships, Cassius was now able to decisively defeat the enemy fleet. Now Dolabella was cut off by sea too, so that he was slowly running out of food supplies. Attempts to break out were unsuccessful and in an untenable situation his soldiers granted Cassius entry to Laodikeia. Dolabella then ordered one of his soldiers to kill him (around the end of July 43 BC). Despite the hostility, Cassius had him buried with honor.

When the Caesar heir Octavian had forcibly gained access to Rome and had become consul, he rehabilitated on August 19, 43 BC. Chr. Dolabella, by having its outlaw annulled.


Individual evidence

  1. According to Appian ( Civil Wars 2, 129), Dolabella was 44 BC. Chr. 25 years old; The ancient historian Friedrich Münzer (RE IV, 1, Sp. 1300) considers this information to be credible; however, some historians assume an earlier date of birth.
  2. ^ E.g. F. Münzer, RE IV, 1, Sp. 1300.
  3. Ronald Syme: No son for Caesar? In: Historia. 29, p. 422 ff.
  4. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 3, 10, 5.
  5. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 8, 4, 1.
  6. Cicero mocks that she was thirty for twenty years. ( Quintilian : Institutio Oratoria. 6, 3, 73)
  7. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 2, 13; 3, 10; 8, 6.
  8. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad Atticum. 6, 6, 1.
  9. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad Atticum. 11, 2, 2 and ö.
  10. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad Atticum. 10, 16, 5 and 10, 18, 1.
  11. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 6, 18, 5.
  12. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 14, 14, 1; Epistulae ad Atticum. 7, 13, 3, and 7, 21, 3.
  13. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 2, 16, 5 ff.
  14. Cassius Dio 41, 40, 1 f .; Suetonius : Caesar. 36; among others
  15. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 9, 9.
  16. ^ Cicero: Philippica. 2, 75.
  17. Cicero ( Epistulae ad Atticum 12, 28, 3 and 12, 30, 1) therefore names the son at whose birth Tullia at the beginning of 45 BC. Died, Lentulus. Occasionally Dolabella itself is referred to as Lentulus in the sources ( Plutarch : Cicero. 41, 7; among others).
  18. Main sources: Cassius Dio 42, 27-33; Plutarch: Antonius. 9, 1 f. and 10, 1; Livy : periochae. 113; on this Luciano Canfora : Caesar: the democratic dictator. 1999, German 2001, p. 190.
  19. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad Atticum. 11, 23, 3.
  20. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 14, 13.
  21. a b Cicero: Philippica. 2, 75.
  22. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 7, 33, 2; 9, 16, 2 and 7.
  23. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 9, 10; 9, 11; 9, 13; Epistulae ad Atticum 12, 38, 2.
  24. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad Atticum. 13, 9, 1 f.
  25. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad Atticum. 13, 52, 2 and 14, 13, 5.
  26. ^ Cicero: Philippica. 2. 79; Appian: Civil Wars. 2, 122; Cassius Dio 43, 51, 8; Plutarch: Antonius. 11, 2.
  27. ^ Cicero: Philippica. 2, 79-83 and ö .; Plutarch: Antonius. 11, 2.
  28. ^ Appian: Civil Wars. 2, 119 and 122; Cassius Dio 44, 22, 1; among others
  29. ^ Appian: Civil Wars. 2, 132; Cassius Dio 44, 53, 1; among others
  30. Jochen Bleicken : Augustus. Berlin 1998, p. 55 f .; F. Münzer, RE IV, 1, Sp. 1304 f.
  31. Cicero: e.g. B. Philippica. 1, 5 and 1, 30; Cassius Dio 44, 51, 2; among others
  32. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 9, 14.
  33. ^ Cicero: Philippica. 10, 13 and 11, 27; Plutarch: Brutus. 25, 1; Cassius Dio 47, 21, 3.
  34. ^ Appian: Civil Wars. 3, 26; 3, 64; 4, 58; Cassius Dio 47, 29, 2 f .; Cicero: Philippica. 11, 5-9 u. ö.
  35. ^ Cicero: Philippica. 11, 9; 11, 15 f .; 13, 36 ff .; Epistulae ad familiares. 12, 15, 2; Appian: Civil Wars. 3, 61 ff. And 4, 58; Cassius Dio 47, 28, 5 and 47, 29, 4-6; among others
  36. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 12, 7, 1 f.
  37. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 12, 12, 1; 12, 13, 3; 12, 14, 1 f .; 12, 15, 1-5; Epistulae ad Brutum. 1, 2, 1; see. furthermore Appian: civil wars. 3, 60 and Strabon 14, 646.
  38. ^ J. Brambach: Cleopatra. 1996, p. 176.
  39. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 12, 11, 1 f.
  40. Christoph Schäfer : Cleopatra . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2006, ISBN 3-534-15418-5 , pp. 116-117 . ; F. Münzer, RE IV, 1, Sp 1307.
  41. ^ Cicero: Epistulae ad familiares. 12, 12, 5; 12, 13, 4; 12, 14, 4; 12, 15, 7; Appian: Civil Wars. 4, 60-62; Cassius Dio 47, 30, 1-5; among others; on this Christoph Schäfer: Cleopatra. 2006, p. 117 f. and F. Münzer, RE IV, 1, Sp. 1307 f.
  42. ^ Appian: Civil Wars. 3, 95.