Publius Cornelius Dolabella

This article is about the politician of the Caesarian period. For his son, see Publius Cornelius Dolabella (suffect consul 35 BC). For his grandson, see Publius Cornelius Dolabella (consul 10).

Publius Cornelius Dolabella (c. 85–80 BC – 43 BC) was a Roman general, by far the most important of the Dolabellae. He arranged for himself to be adopted by a plebeian so that he could become a Tribune.[1] He married Cicero's daughter Tullia Ciceronis. Throughout his life he was an extreme profligate, something that Plutarch wrote reflected ill upon his patron Julius Caesar.


In the Civil Wars (49–45 BC) Dolabella at first took the side of Pompey, but afterwards went over to Julius Caesar, and was present when Caesar prevailed at the Battle of Pharsalus (48 BC).

As a Tribune for 47 BC, Dolabella had tried to bring about constitutional changes, one of which (to escape the urgent demands of his creditors) was a bill proposing that all debts should be canceled. He tried to enlist the support of Mark Antony, but his fellow tribunes Gaius Asinius Pollio (consul 40 BC) and Lucius Trebellius Fides advised Antony not to support the measure. Antony, who also suspected he had been cuckolded by Dolabella, took up arms against him when Dolabella occupied the Forum in an attempt to use force to pass the bill. The Senate voted to support this, and a clash ensued in which both sides took losses.[2] Caesar, on his return from Alexandria, seeing the expediency of removing Dolabella from Rome, pardoned him[3] and took him as one of his generals in the expedition to Africa and Spain.

After Caesar had returned to Rome and been elected consul for the fifth time, he proposed to the Senate that his consulship be transferred to Dolabella. Antony protested, causing a huge disruption that made Caesar withdraw the motion out of shame. Later, Caesar exercised his role as dictator and directly proclaimed Dolabella consul.[4] This time Antony called out that the omens were unfavorable and Caesar again backed down and abandoned Dolabella.[5]

On Caesar's death (44 BC), Dolabella seized the insignia of the consulship (which had already been conditionally promised him), and, by making friends with Marcus Junius Brutus and the other assassins, was confirmed in his office. When, however, Mark Antony offered him the command of the expedition against the Parthians and the province of Syria, he changed sides at once. His journey to the province was marked by plundering, extortion, and the murder of Gaius Trebonius, proconsul of Asia, who refused to allow him to enter Smyrna.

Dolabella was thereupon declared a public enemy and superseded by Cassius (the murderer of Caesar), who attacked him in Laodicea. When Cassius's troops captured the place (43 BC), Dolabella ordered one of his soldiers to kill him.


  1. Oxford Classical Dictionary. (3rd ed., 1996) p. 394; Cassius Dio. Roman History. bk. xlii.29.1.
  2. Plutarch: Antony, c. 9, in Plutarch, Roman Lives ISBN 978-0-19-282502-5
  3. Antony, c. 10, ibid.
  4. Dio 43.51.8.
  5. Antony, 11.3, less clear from Dio.
Political offices
Preceded by
Gaius Julius Caesar
Suffect Consul of the Roman Republic
with Marcus Antonius
44 BC
Succeeded by
Aulus Hirtius and Gaius Vibius Pansa Caetronianus
(Suffect: Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus)
(Suffect: Quintus Pedius)
(Suffect: Gaius Carrinas)
(Suffect: Publius Ventidius Bassus)
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