Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus

Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus (c. 135 BC late 50s BC) was a politically active member of the Roman upper class. He was praetor in 74 BC and pontifex from 73 BC until his death. He was consul in 69 BC along with Quintus Hortensius Hortalus.


The Caecilii Metelli were extremely prominent, conservative members of the Roman nobility in the Republican period, though they were members of the plebeian gens Caecilia. Their greatest influence was from the second century BC onwards.[1] The name Metellus possibly means 'mercenary'.[1] A saying attributed to Naevius stated that "it is fated for the Metelli to become consuls at Rome,"[2] and it seems to be true: Creticus' brother, father, grandfather, three uncles, great grandfather, and great great grandfather were all consuls.

Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus was Creticus' grandfather. He was praetor in 148 BC, and he received the command in Macedonia. There he defeated Andriscus, a pretender to the throne, for which he received a triumph and the cognomen 'Macedonicus'. He was censor in 131 BC, and consul in 143 BC. Macedonicus, as a conservative aristocrat, opposed Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus. Each of his four sons became consul.

Creticus' father was Gaius Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, the youngest son of Macedonicus. In 133 BC he served under Scipio Aemilianus in Numantia. Caprarius was praetor in 117 BC, consul in 113 BC, and fought as proconsul in Thrace in 112 BC. He triumphed for his victory in Thrace in 111 BC. He was censor in 102 BC.

Creticus had two brothers. One was Lucius Caecilius Metellus. He was praetor in 71 BC and governor of Sicily in 70 BC. He died in office as consul in 68 BC. The other was Marcus Caecilius Metellus, praetor and president of the extortion court in 69 BC.

Creticus' sister, Caecilia Metella, was the wife of Gaius Verres, who was governor of Sicily from 73-71 BC.

Creticus' daughter was also named Caecilia Metella. She married the Marcus Licinius Crassus who was a son of the famous Marcus Crassus, the so-called "triumvir". Caecilia Metella's tomb still survives on the Via Appia.

Creticus' son Quintus Caecilius Metellus was a Tribune of the Plebs.


The conflict with Crete

According to Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, Crete was aiding Mithridates, king of Pontus, by supplying him with mercenaries in the first century BC. Mithridates was at war with the Romans at the time, and Rome was having a difficult time with him. The Cretans also contributed to and were in alliance with the pirates of the Mediterranean.[3] Pirates were a terrible problem in the Mediterranean at that time; they added the risk of kidnapping to sailing, they pilfered grain from shipments to Rome, and they attacked ports. Marcus Antonius Creticus, father of the famous Marc Antony, sent legates to Crete concerning their involvement with Mithridates and the pirates; the Cretans dismissed the matter, and a war began.[3] In an attempt at a peace treaty, the Romans demanded the surrender of Lasthenes, Crete's commander against the Romans, along with all of the Romans the Cretans held prisoner, all of their pirate ships, three hundred hostages, and four thousand talents of silver.[3] The island of Crete refused to meet these terms.

During his consulship, Quintus Caecilius Metellus was given the proconsular command against the pirate-infested Crete; his co-consul, Quintus Hortensius Hortalus. had refused it.[1] Metellus captured several cities and made great progress before the island appealed to Pompey the Great. They did this in 67 BC, when Pompey had control over the Mediterranean to eliminate piracy under the proposal of Gabinius. The Cretans offered to surrender to Pompey, perhaps believing he would be less harsh than Metellus. Pompey ignored Metellus' command over the island and accepted the Cretan's surrender. Pompey ordered Metellus to leave the island with his troops,[3] but Metellus persisted. Metellus then defeated the island of Crete and made it a province of Rome.

Because of Metellus' refusal to leave Crete when Pompey ordered it, Pompey and his allies prevented his triumph until 62 BC.[4] Upon celebrating his triumph, Metellus received the cognomen 'Creticus', the Latin word for 'Cretan'. In return for the opposition to his triumph, Metellus used his influence to prevent the ratification in the senate of Pompey's reorganization of the east until 60 BC.[1] Metellus remained a prominent member of Pompey's opposition until his death in the late 50s BC.[4]


According to Cicero in his letters to Atticus, Creticus was an ambassador sent to Gaul in the hopes of preventing the Gallic states from joining the Aedui in 60 BC. He was sent along with Lucius Flaccus and Lentulus.

Role in Verres' trial

In Cicero's speech Against Verres, delivered in late 70 BC, Cicero, the attorney prosecuting on behalf of the province of Sicily, denounces Verres, the defendant on trial, in the extortion court. Verres was the governor of Sicily from 73-71 BC, and the Sicilians charged him with being morally corrupt and flagrant with bribery as well as having stolen 40 million sesterces worth of money and items from Sicily. They also charged him with having killed Roman citizens without trial, something forbidden by Roman law. Creticus and Quintus Hortensius Hortalus were to be the two consuls in the coming year. They were both friends with Verres, and they supported him; Hortalus was his defense lawyer. Marcus Caecilius Metellus, one of Creticus' brothers, was to be president of the extortion court in the coming year. The defense planned to put the trial off until the coming year, when Quintus Caecilius Metellus, Quintus Hortensius Hortalus, and Marcus Caecilius Metellus would be able to influence the court's decision. Quintus Caecilius Metellus sent for the Sicilians and told them that Verres would come to no harm due to the power invested in himself, his family, and other supporters of Verres in the coming year. Because of this, Cicero reviles Quintus Caecilius Metellus as corrupt to the point that he would "throw duty and dignity to the winds"[5] without even having a real connection to Verres. Cicero goes on to suggest twice that Quintus Caecilius Metellus won his office due to Verres' bribery rather than his own merit, and tries to turn Quintus Caecilius Metellus against Verres by stating that Verres proclaimed it to be so.

In a later speech, Post Reditum in Senatu ('in the senate after his return'), Cicero, having been exiled for executing Roman citizens without a trial during the Catilinarian Conspiracy, returns to Rome. He is aided in this by the consul, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer, a relative of Creticus. Cicero praises Celer for being truly noble and naturally excellent in disposition,[6] although he claims them to be enemies. Cicero goes on to praise the Metelli as a group for being exemplary citizens.

Other references

In Juvenal's eighth satire, he speaks about virtue alone making one truly noble, rather than an inherited name. He uses a few cognomens to illustrate his point, including that of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus.

Preceded by
Marcus Licinius Crassus Dives and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Quintus Hortensius
69 BCE
Succeeded by
Lucius Caecilius Metellus and Quintus Marcius Rex

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Salazar, Christine F. Brill's New Pauly: Encyclopedia of the Ancient World Vol. 2. Boston: Brill Leiden. 2003. 874-879.
  2. Grant, Michael. Cicero: Selected Works. London: Penguin Books. 1960. 45.
  3. 1 2 3 4 livius.org
  4. 1 2 Hornblower, Simon and Antony Spawforth. The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd Edition New York: Oxford University Press. 1966. 269.
  5. Grant, Michael. Cicero: Selected Works. London: Penguin Books. 1960. 47.
  6. Yonge, C.D. Post Reditum in Senatu London: Henry G. Bohn. 1856.
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