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Marcus Favonius

Marcus Favonius

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Marcus Favonius was a Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 politician during the period of the fall of the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

. He is noted for his imitation of Cato the Younger
Cato the Younger
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis , commonly known as Cato the Younger to distinguish him from his great-grandfather , was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy...

, his espousal of the Cynic philosophy, and for his appearance as the Poet in William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's play Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar (play)
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...



Favonius was born in around 90 BC in Tarracina
Terracina is a town and comune of the province of Latina - , Italy, 76 km SE of Rome by rail .-Ancient times:...

 (the modern Terracina), a Roman colony on the Appian Way
Appian Way
The Appian Way was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. It connected Rome to Brindisi, Apulia, in southeast Italy...

 at the edge of the Volscian Hills
The Volsci were an ancient Italic people, well known in the history of the first century of the Roman Republic. They then inhabited the partly hilly, partly marshy district of the south of Latium, bounded by the Aurunci and Samnites on the south, the Hernici on the east, and stretching roughly from...


Political career

Favonius, with the support of Cato, was chosen aedile at some time between 53 and 52 BC. According to Plutarch,
As well as being chosen aedile, he was also chosen quaestor
A Quaestor was a type of public official in the "Cursus honorum" system who supervised financial affairs. In the Roman Republic a quaestor was an elected official whereas, with the autocratic government of the Roman Empire, quaestors were simply appointed....

 and served as legatus
A legatus was a general in the Roman army, equivalent to a modern general officer. Being of senatorial rank, his immediate superior was the dux, and he outranked all military tribunes...

 in Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, "probably after his quaestorship". Although many classical reference works list Favonius as having been a praetor
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, usually in the field, or the named commander before mustering the army; and an elected magistratus assigned varied duties...

 in 49 BC, it is a matter of some controversy whether or not he was a praetor at any time between 52–48 BC. According to F. X. Ryan, in his 1994 article 'The Praetorship of Favonius', the matter hinges on the meeting at the senate at which he bade Pompey "stamp on the ground". "When we are forced to decide whether a man who spoke at a meeting summoned by consuls was a praetor or a senator, all we can say is that probability greatly favors the latter alternative."

Imitation of Cato

Cassius Dio wrote of Favonius' relation to Cato that Favonius "imitated him in everything", while Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 wrote that Favonius was "a fair character ... who supposed his own petulance and abusive talking a copy of Cato's straightforwardness". An instance of his imitation of Cato's plainspeaking that was ruder and more vehement than the behaviour of his model might have allowed came in 49 BC; in a dispute in the senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

, Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

, challenged as to the paucity of his forces when Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 was approaching Rome from Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, answered that he not only could call upon the two legions that he had lent to Caesar but could make up an army of 30,000 men. At which Favonius "bade Pompey stamp upon the ground, and call forth the forces he had promised".

According to Plutarch, Favonius was known amongst his fellow Roman aristocrats as a Cynic because of his outspokenness, but a modern writer on Greek philosophy labels him as an "early representative of [the] pseudo-Cynic type" who fell short of the (possibly unattainable) ideal cynicism of the earliest Greek proponents of the doctrine (a slightly later example of the type was Dio Chrysostom
Dio Chrysostom
Dio Chrysostom , Dion of Prusa or Dio Cocceianus was a Greek orator, writer, philosopher and historian of the Roman Empire in the 1st century. Eighty of his Discourses are extant, as well as a few Letters and a funny mock essay In Praise of Hair, as well as a few other fragments...


Despite his "wild, vehement manner", Favonius was capable of acts of humility, such as he performed to Pompey when he entertained Deiotarus I of Galatia
Deiotarus of Galatia was a Chief Tetrarch of the Tolistobogii at Western Galatia, Asia Minor, and a King of Galatia at Anatolia, Asia Minor. He was considered one of the most adept of Celtic kings, ruling the three tribes of Celtic Galatia from his fortress in Blucium...

 aboard ship.

Against the triumvirate

Favonius was a member of the patrician class of the Roman aristocracy; in a letter to Caesar on ruling a state (Ad Caesarem senem de re publica oratio), traditionally attributed to Sallust
Gaius Sallustius Crispus, generally known simply as Sallust , a Roman historian, belonged to a well-known plebeian family, and was born at Amiternum in the country of the Sabines...

 but probably by the rhetorician Marcus Porcius Latro
Marcus Porcius Latro
Marcus Porcius Latro was during the reign of Augustus a celebrated Roman rhetorician considered one of the founders of scholastic rhetoric. He was a Spaniard by birth, and a friend and contemporary of Seneca the Elder, with whom he studied under Marillius, and by whom he is frequently...

, Caesar is told of the qualities of some of these nobles. Bibulus
Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus
Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus was a politician of the late Roman Republic.Bibulus was the son in law of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticencis. In 59 BC he was elected consul, supported by the optimates, conservative republicans in the Senate and opponents of Julius Caesar's triumvirate...

 and Lucius Domitius
Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 54 BC)
Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, consul 54 BC, was an enemy of Julius Caesar and a strong supporter of the aristocratic party in the late Roman Republic.He is first mentioned in 70 BC by Cicero as a witness against Verres...

 are dismissed as wicked and dishonourable while Cato is someone "whose versatile, eloquent and clever talents I do not despise." The writer continues,
Like Cato, Favonius opposed the corruption of many of Rome's leading politicians in general and the rise of the First Triumvirate
First Triumvirate
The First Triumvirate was the political alliance of Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Unlike the Second Triumvirate, the First Triumvirate had no official status whatsoever; its overwhelming power in the Roman Republic was strictly unofficial influence, and...

 in particular. When Caesar returned from his praetorship in Spain in 59 BC and successfully stood for consul
Roman consul
A consul served in the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic.Each year, two consuls were elected together, to serve for a one-year term. Each consul was given veto power over his colleague and the officials would alternate each month...

, he allied himself with Pompey (to whom he gave his daughter Julia
Julia (daughter of Julius Caesar)
Julia Caesaris , 83 or 82 BC-54 BC, was the daughter of Gaius Julius Caesar the Roman dictator, by his first wife, Cornelia Cinna, and his only child in marriage. Julia became the fourth wife of Pompey the Great and was renowned for her beauty and virtue.-Life:Julia was born around 83 BC–82 BC...

 in marriage) and Clodius
Publius Clodius Pulcher
Publius Clodius Pulcher was a Roman politician known for his popularist tactics...

. Following an incident in which Cato prevented Caesar from both having a triumph
Roman triumph
The Roman triumph was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievement of an army commander who had won great military successes, or originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war. In Republican...

 and standing for consulship by a filibuster
A filibuster is a type of parliamentary procedure. Specifically, it is the right of an individual to extend debate, allowing a lone member to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal...

ing tactic, after which Cato and Bibulus were physically attacked by Caesar's supporters, Caesar's party demanded two things of the senate: first, that it sign a law concerning the distribution of land; second, that all senators swear an oath promising that they would uphold the law.

According to Plutarch, "heavy penalties were pronounced against such as would not take the oath", which in this case meant exile. A party led by Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

, Lucullus
Lucius Licinius Lucullus , was an optimate politician of the late Roman Republic, closely connected with Sulla Felix...

 and Bibulus, to which Cato and Favonius allied themselves, opposed these measures, but eventually either swore the oath or abstained. Cato, however, feared these laws and the oath as not being for the common good but as extensions of the power of Caesar and Pompey; Plutarch writes of Cato that "he was afraid, not of the distribution of land, but of the reward which would be paid for this to those who were enticing the people with such favours." Eventually all senators except Cato and Favonius agreed to Caesar and Pompeys's measures, whereupon Cicero made an oration urging Cato to soften his attitude. According to Plutarch,
Finally Cato was persuaded to give up his opposition, followed by Favonius, the last to submit.

Plutarch writes, "By these and similar arguments and entreaties, we are told, both at home and in the forum, Cato was softened and at last prevailed upon. He came forward to take the oath last of all, except Favonius, one of his friends and intimates."

Upon hearing the news that of the members of the Triumvirate, Caesar was to be given a fresh supply of money, and Pompey and Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician who commanded the right wing of Sulla's army at the Battle of the Colline Gate, suppressed the slave revolt led by Spartacus, provided political and financial support to Julius Caesar and entered into the political alliance known as the...

 were to be consuls again the following year, Favonius, "when he found he could do no good by opposing it, broke out of the house, and loudly declaimed against these proceedings to the people, but none gave him any hearing; some slighting him out of respect to Crassus and Pompey, and the greater part to gratify Caesar, on whom depended their hopes".

Assassination of Caesar

Despite the fact that he opposed Caesar, Favonius, like Cicero, was not invited by Brutus and Cassius to participate in the plot to assassinate Caesar
Assassination of Julius Caesar
The assassination of Julius Caesar was the result of a conspiracy by approximately forty Roman senators who called themselves Liberators. Led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus, they stabbed Julius Caesar to death in the Theatre of Pompey on the Ides of March 44 BC...

 in 44 BC. In his Life of Brutus, Plutarch wrote,

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

Favonius is the character known as the Poet who appears in Act IV Scene III of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's play Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar (play)
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

. Shakespeare took the details of this scene from Plutarch's Parallel Lives
Parallel Lives
Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings, written in the late 1st century...

, in which, on Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

' journey to Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

, Plutarch writes that Brutus and Cassius
Gaius Cassius Longinus
Gaius Cassius Longinus was a Roman senator, a leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus.-Early life:...

 fell into a dispute in an apartment (Shakespeare assigns this scene to Brutus' tent), which ultimately led to their sharing angry words and both of them bursting in tears. Their friends attempted to break into the room to see what the dispute was about and forestall any mischief, but were prevented from doing so by a number of attendants. Favonius, however, was not to be stopped. According to Plutarch,

In Shakespeare's version of this encounter in Julius Caesar, Favonius' opening lines in his role as Poet are:

POET. [Within] Let me go in to see the generals; There is some grudge between 'em, 'tis not meet they be alone.

Forcing his way into Brutus' tent, he addresses Brutus and Cassius:

POET. For shame, you generals! what do you mean? Love, and be friends, as two such men should be; For I have seen more years, I'm sure, than ye.

To which, Cassius replies:

CASSIUS. Ha, ha! how vilely doth this cynic rhyme!

and Brutus drives him from his tent. Here Shakespeare departs from Plutarch's account of the scene, as Favonius does not feature in Brutus and Cassius' subsequent drinking bout.

Execution after Philippi

After Caesar's death in March 44 BC, Favonius became an opponent of his successors in the Second Triumvirate
Second Triumvirate
The Second Triumvirate is the name historians give to the official political alliance of Octavius , Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony, formed on 26 November 43 BC with the enactment of the Lex Titia, the adoption of which marked the end of the Roman Republic...

. According to Cicero's letter to Atticus
Titus Pomponius Atticus
Titus Pomponius Atticus, born Titus Pomponius , came from an old but not strictly noble Roman family of the equestrian class and the Gens Pomponia. He was a celebrated editor, banker, and patron of letters with residences in both Rome and Athens...

 of 8 June 44 BC, Favonius was present at a meeting of the Liberatores who opposed Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

's near-dictatorial regime. Also present at this meeting were Cicero, Brutus, Cassius, Porcia Catonis
Porcia Catonis
Porcia Catonis, also known simply as Porcia was a Roman woman who lived in the 1st century BC. She was the daughter of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticencis and his first wife Atilia...

, Servilia Caepionis
Servilia Caepionis
Servilia Caepionis was the mistress of Julius Caesar, mother of one of Caesar's assassins, Brutus, mother-in-law of another Caesar assassin, Cassius, and half-sister of Cato the Younger.-Life:...

 and Junia Tertia
Junia Tertia
Junia Tertia, or Tertulla, was the third daughter of Servilia Caepionis and her second husband Decimus Junius Silanus, half-sister of Marcus Junius Brutus, and wife of Gaius Cassius Longinus....

Along with Cicero, his brother Quintus Tullius Cicero
Quintus Tullius Cicero
Quintus Tullius Cicero was the younger brother of the celebrated orator, philosopher and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero. He was born into a family of the equestrian order, as the son of a wealthy landowner in Arpinum, some 100 kilometres south-east of Rome.- Biography :Cicero's well-to-do father...

, and Lucius Julius Caesar
Lucius Julius Caesar
In Ancient Rome, several men of the Julii Caesares family were named Lucius Julius Caesar. Distinct by their praenomen, "Lucius", none of these members of the Julii Caesares family can be confused with their distant relative and much more famous Gaius Julius Caesar, the Roman who conquered Gaul,...

, Favonius was proscribed
Proscription is a term used for the public identification and official condemnation of enemies of the state. It is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a "decree of condemnation to death or banishment" and is a heavily politically charged word, frequently used to refer to state-approved...

 by the triumvirate, and imprisoned after Antony and Octavian
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 (later Augustus) defeated the forces of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Philippi
Battle of Philippi
The Battle of Philippi was the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian and the forces of Julius Caesar's assassins Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus in 42 BC, at Philippi in Macedonia...

 (42 BC). His imprisonment did little to assuage his intemperate behaviour. According to Suetonius
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius , was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era....

, "Marcus Favonius, the well-known imitator of Cato, saluted Antonius respectfully as Imperator when they were led out in chains, but lashed Augustus to his face with the foulest abuse." Favonius' abuse was apparently as a result of Octavian's brutal treatment of the prisoners captured at Philippi.

Of his death Cassius Dio wrote,
Favonius' slave Sarmentus, who was bought after his master's death when his estate was sold, became a catamite
A catamite was a handsome youth kept as a sexual companion in ancient Rome, usually in a pederastic relationship. The word derives from the proper noun Catamitus, the Latinized form of Ganymede, the beautiful Trojan youth abducted by Zeus to be his companion and cupbearer...

 of the emperor Augustus. Sarmentus was the subject of Quintus Dellius
Quintus Dellius
Quintus Dellius was a Roman commander and politician in the second half of the 1st century BC.He was a political opportunist and was called desultor bellorum civilium by Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus...

' complaint to Cleopatra that while he and other dignitaries were served sour wine by Antony in Greece, Augustus' catamite was drinking Falernian
Falernian wine
Falernian wine was produced from Aglianico grapes on the slopes of Mt. Falernus near the border of Latium and Campania, where it became the most renowned wine produced in ancient Rome. Considered a "first growth" or "cult wine" for its time, it was often mentioned in Roman literature, but has...

 in Rome.

His nomen

Favonius in Latin means "favourable"; in Roman mythology
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

 Favonius was the west wind, whose counterpart in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 was Zephyros.