Metellus (mētĕlˈəs) [key], ancient Roman family of the plebeian gens Caecilia. Lucius Caecilius Metellus, d. c.221 B.C., consul (251 B.C.), fought in the First Punic War. He was pontifex maximus (from 243) and was said to have been blinded (241) in rescuing the Palladium from the burning temple of Vesta.
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus, d. 115 B.C., the grandson of Lucius Caecilius Metellus, was an important general in the final conquest of Greece (146). He was consul in 143 and defeated the Celtiberians in N Spain. As censor (131) he proposed that marriage be made compulsory for Roman men, to increase the birthrate.
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus, d. 91? B.C., nephew of Macedonicus, was a leader of the senatorial party. As consul (109 B.C.) he conducted the Numidian War against Jugurtha. He antagonized his legate, Marius, who later received his command. While serving as censor (102), Numidicus tried to remove Lucius Appuleius Saturninus, of the popular party, from the senate. In 100 B.C., Saturninus and Marius took revenge by passing a law requiring senators to swear acceptance of an agrarian law; they tricked Numidicus into refusing to swear and succeeded in having him exiled for it.
Numidicus's son, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, d. c.63 B.C., named Pius because of his filial devotion during his father's exile, continued his father's opposition to Marius. As praetor (89 B.C.) he fought in the Social War; in the civil war that followed he was called to Rome by the senate to defend the city against Marius and Lucius Cornelius Cinna. Foreseeing its capitulation, he fled to Africa, but he returned (83 B.C.) to join Sulla. He defeated the Marians in Umbria and Cisalpine Gaul and became (80 B.C.) consul with Sulla. In his proconsulship in Spain (79 B.C.) he began an eight-year war with Sertorius, in which he was continually unsuccessful, in spite of aid provided by Pompey. After the murder of Sertorius (72 B.C.), Metellus won battles at Italica and Segovia. For his adopted son, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio, see under Scipio.
A great-grandson of Metellus Macedonicus was Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer, d. 59 B.C. He fought in Asia under Pompey and was praetor (63 B.C.) in Cicero's consulship. He was consul in 60 B.C. Celer was a leader in the stubborn defense of every senatorial prerogative. This policy led him to oppose Pompey in every detail, thus driving Pompey into the fateful alliance with Julius Caesar. Celer's wife, Clodia, was said to have poisoned him.
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos, d. c.55 B.C., brother of Celer, served with Pompey (67–64 B.C.). He supported Pompey against the senatorial party and was (63 B.C.) his candidate for the tribunate. He was elected with Cato but had to flee Rome temporarily to escape senatorial hatred. During his consulship (57 B.C.), chiefly to curry favor with Julius Caesar, he allowed his sworn enemy, Cicero, to return from exile. His proconsulship (56 B.C.) was in Hither Spain.
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus, d. c.55 B.C., grandson of Macedonicus, was consul with Quintus Hortensius (69 B.C.). Crete was his proconsular assignment, and he set out to subjugate the pirate-infested island. When he had conquered most of the island, the pirates sent a message to Pompey (Creticus' superior officer) offering to surrender to him, hoping for easy terms. Creticus disregarded the surrender offer and captured the rest of Crete.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient History, Rome: Biographies