1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Laelius
LAELIUS, the name of a Roman plebeian family, probably settled at Tibur (Tivoli). The chief members were:—
Gaius Laelius, general and statesman, was a friend of the elder Scipio, whom he accompanied on his Spanish campaign (210–206 B.C.). In Scipio’s consulship (205), Laelius went with him to Sicily, whence he conducted an expedition to Africa. In 203 he defeated the Massaesylian prince Syphax, who, breaking his alliance with Scipio, had joined the Carthaginians, and at Zama (202) rendered considerable service in command of the cavalry. In 197 he was plebeian aedile and in 196 praetor of Sicily. As consul in 190 he was employed in organizing the recently conquered territory in Cisalpine Gaul. Placentia and Cremona were repeopled, and a new colony founded at Bononia. He is last heard of in 170 as ambassador to Transalpine Gaul. Though little is known of his personal qualities, his intimacy with Scipio is proof that he must have been a man of some importance. Silius Italicus (Punica, xv. 450) describes him as a man of great endowments, an eloquent orator and a brave soldier.
See Index to Livy; Polybius x. 3. 9, 39, xi. 32, xiv. 4. 8, xv. 9. 12, 14; Appian, Hisp. 25-29; Cicero, Philippica, xi. 7.
His son, Gaius Laelius, is known chiefly as the friend of the younger Scipio, and as one of the speakers in Cicero’s De senectute, De amicitia (or Laelius) and De Republica. He was surnamed Sapiens (“the wise”), either from his scholarly tastes or because, when tribune, he “prudently” withdrew his proposal (151 B.C.) for the relief of the farmers by distributions of land, when he saw that it was likely to bring about disturbances. In the third Punic War (147) he accompanied Scipio to Africa, and distinguished himself at the capture of the Cothon, the military harbour of Carthage. In 145 he carried on operations with moderate success against Viriathus in Spain; in 140 he was elected consul. During the Gracchan period, as a staunch supporter of Scipio and the aristocracy, Laelius became obnoxious to the democrats. He was associated with P. Popillius Laenas in the prosecution of those who had supported Tiberius Gracchus, and in 131 opposed the bill brought forward by C. Papirius Carbo to render legal the election of a tribune to a second year of office. The attempts of his enemies, however, failed to shake his reputation. He was a highly accomplished man and belonged to the so-called “Scipionic circle.” He studied philosophy under the Stoics Diogenes Babylonius and Panaetius of Rhodes; he was a poet, and the plays of Terence, by reason of their elegance of diction, were sometimes attributed to him. With Scipio he was mainly instrumental in introducing the study of the Greek language and literature into Rome. He was a gifted orator, though his refined eloquence was perhaps less suited to the forum than to the senate. He delivered speeches De Collegiis (145) against the proposal of the tribune C. Licinius Crassus to deprive the priestly colleges of their right of co-optation and to transfer the power of election to the people; Pro Publicanis (139), on behalf of the farmers of the revenue; against the proposal of Carbo noticed above; Pro Se, a speech in his own defence, delivered in answer to Carbo and Gracchus; funeral orations, amongst them two on his friend Scipio. Much information is given concerning him in Cicero, who compares him to Socrates.
See Index to Cicero; Plutarch, Tib. Gracchus, 8; Appian, Punica, 126; Horace, Sat. ii. 1. 72; Quintilian, Instit. xii. 10. 10; Suetonius, Vita Terentii; Terence, Adelphi, Prol. 15, with the commentators.