Friday, July 08, 2005
Wm. Blake Tyrrell
Distinguished Professor of Classics
Michigan State University
The primary interest that scholars have in the life of Titus Labienus concerns his reasons for leaving Caesar after his service in Gaul to Caesar during the near-decade of the fifties. In January 49 B.C.E., Labienus crossed to Caesar?s enemies. Historians usually followed Dio Cassius (41.4.4) in attributing his departure to pride and frustrated ambition. Since the appearance in 1938 of Ronald Syme's "The Allegiance of T. Labienus" in the Journal of Roman Studies, scholars have generally accepted his view that Labienus thus made manifest an allegiance to Pompey that he had held from the outset. Syme's explanation has made Labienus the touchstone, as it were, upon whom rests the validity of prosopographical study of Roman politics. This assumption imparts to Labienus?s departure a significance for modern scholars apart from the act itself. Syme bases his interpretation upon Labienus's birth in Cingulum in Picenum where Pompey's family had extensive estates and a large following and upon Labienus's cooperation with agents of Pompey during his tribunate in 63 B.C.E. This biography of Labienus assumes that personal and hereditary ties served, not dictated, Labienus's policies and concludes that other motives than those proposed by Syme
caused Labienus to leave Caesar rather than go to Pompey.