Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus (consul 48 BC)

Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus was a Roman consul elected in 48 BC along with Gaius Julius Caesar. He is generally regarded as a puppet of Caesar, having a long friendship with the Dictator. He was the son of Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus.

In 54 BC Vatia was praetor. As praetor he opposed Gaius Pomptinus in his endeavour to obtain a triumph. At the start of the civil war, Vatia defected from the optimates to Caesar. Caesar made him his colleague as consul for 48 BC. Caesar soon left Rome to fight Pompey in Greece and left Vatia in command of the city.

Vatia Isauricus became a very controversial figure after Caesar left him in Rome as the sole head of state while Caesar went to do battle with Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Along with Gaius Trebonius, Vatia Isauricus was seen as the perpetrator of the complete destruction of the Roman economy in the 1st Century BC, and was the target of the populist leader and magistrate Marcus Caelius Rufus who led a mob against the regime in 48 BC.

In March, Caelius began talking of abolishing all debt in the city, as even the upper classes had begun to feel the pressure of money, Marcus Tullius Cicero's wife Terentia was forced to sell most of her jewelry. Caelius had no jurisdiction on the standing of debts, his only magistracy being in the administration of foreigners in Rome. Trebonius was to handle debts.

After setting up a tribunal within earshot of Trebonius's in the Forum for the second time, Vatia Isauricus himself went to the Forum to confront the rogue magistrate, followed by a retinue of fasces-wielding guards. After a heated argument on the tribunal, Vatia Isauricus famously pulled an axe out of one of the fasces and destroyed Caelius's wooden magistrate's chair. Caelius and Vatia Isauricus nearly came to blows, and the mob became so confrontational with the Consul that the guards actually needed to unsheathe their axes to ward off the mobbing crowd.

Vatia Isauricus was further insulted by Caelius in May of the same year, when he returned to the Forum to demand an abolishment of all debts, no matter what size or to whom, in Rome. Some believe that Caelius's demands were in reaction to Vatia Isauricus's whispered threats of arresting Caelius. No matter who made the first wrong move, Vatia Isauricus had troops that were passing through Rome on their way to the war between Caesar and Pompey, and used them. They fought their way through the Forum to try and reach Caelius, but were attacked by the Roman mob, the first time Roman citizens had attacked their own troops within the city.

Caelius made fun of Vatia Isauricus by holding up his repaired magistrate's chair, which was held together with leather straps. Famously, Vatia Isauricus was beaten by his father with a strap of leather, which was shameful for the family name, though Vatia Isauricus himself claimed it had toughened him up. Caelius repeatedly escaped Vatia Isauricus, and was not arrested but went to join Titus Annius Milo in an insurrection against Caesar, and were both captured and executed.

After Caesar's murder, Vatia took the side of the Senate against Mark Antony. When Octavian, to whom Vatia's daughter Servilia was engaged to be married, deserted the cause of the Senate and made peace with Mark Anthony, Vatia deserted the cause of the Senate as well. On the formation of the Triumvirate, Octavian broke his engagement with Servilia in order to marry Claudia, the daughter of Fulvia, the wife of Antonius. As a compensation for this injury Vatia was made consul in 41 BC with Lucius Antonius as his colleague. Servilia seems to have married Lepidus the Younger, the son of the triumvir.[1]


  1. Weigel, Richard D., Lepidus:The Tarnished Triumvir, Routledge, New York, 1992, p.96/

See also

Political offices
Preceded by
Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus and Gaius Claudius Marcellus Maior
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Gaius Julius Caesar
48 BC
Succeeded by
Quintus Fufius Calenus and Publius Vatinius
Preceded by
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Lucius Munatius Plancus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Antonius
41 BC
Succeeded by
Gaius Asinius Pollio and Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus
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