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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Piso

PISO, the name of a distinguished Roman plebeian family of the Calpurnian gens which continued in existence till the end of the 2nd century A.D. Nearly fifty of its members were prominent in Roman history, but the following deserve particular mention.

1. Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, Roman statesman, was the father-in-law of Julius Caesar. In 58 B.C., when consul, he and his colleague Aulus Gabinius entered into a compact with P. Clodius, with the object of getting Cicero out of the way. Psio's reward was the province of Macedonia, which he administered from 57 to the beginning of 55, when he was recalled, perhaps in consequence of the violent attack made upon him by Cicero in the senate in his speech De provinciis consularibus. On his return Piso addressed the senate in his defence, and Cicero replied with the coarse and exaggerated invective known as In Pisonem. Piso issued a pamphlet by way of rejoinder, and there the matter dropped, Cicero being afraid to bring the father-in-law of Caesar to trial. At the outbreak of the civil war Piso offered his services as mediator, but when Caesar marched upon Rome he left the city by way of protest. He did not, however, definitely declare for Pompey, but remained neutral, without forfeiting the respect of Caesar. After the murder of the dictator he insisted on the provisions of his will being strictly carried out, and for a time opposed Antony. Subsequently, however, he became one of his supporters, and is mentioned as taking part in an embassy to Antony's camp at Mutina with the object of bringing about a reconciliation.

2. Lucius Calpurnius Piso, surnamed Frugi (the worthy), Roman statesman and historian, was tribune in 149 B.C. He is known chiefly for his lex Calpurnia repetundarum, which brought about the system of quaestiones perpetuae and a new phase of criminal procedure. As praetor (136) and consul (133) Piso fought against the slaves in Sicily. He energetically opposed Gaius Gracchus, especially in connexion with his corn law.

See Annalists; C. Cichorius in Pauly-Wissowa's Real encyclopädie (1897), vol. iii., pt. 1; H. Peter, Historicorum romanorum reliquiae (1870), vol. i.; Teuffel-Schwabe, Hist. of Roman Lit. (Eng. trans.), § 132, 4. On the lex Calpurnia, Corpus inscr. latinarum, i., No. 198, with Mommsen’s commentary; A. H. J. Greenidge, Hist. of Rome, 133–104 B.C. (1904).

3. Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Roman statesman, was consul in 7 B.C., and subsequently governor of Spain and proconsul of Africa. In A.D. 17 Tiberius appointed him governor of Syria, with secret instructions to thwart Germanicus, to whom the eastern provinces had been assigned. The indignation of the people at the death of Germanicus, and the suspicion that Piso had poisoned him, forced Tiberius to order an investigation. Piso committed suicide, though it was rumoured that Tiberius, fearing incriminating disclosures, had put him to death. See H. Schiller, Geschichte der römischen Kaiserzeit (1883), vol. i.

4. Gaius Calpurnius Piso, Roman statesman, orator and patron of literature in the first century A.D., is known chiefly for his share in the conspiracy of A.D. 65 against Nero (q.v.). He was one of the most popular men in Rome, partly for his skill in poetry and music, partly for his love of luxury and generosity. It is probably the last-named who is referred to by Calpurnius Siculus under the name of Meliboeus, and he is the subject of the panegyric De laude Pisonis.