Gaius Popillius Laenas


Gaius Popillius Laenas

:"See also Popilius for other Romans with the same name. For more information on the Laenas family, see: Laenas.

Gaius Popillius Laenas (alt. "Popilius") twice served as one of the two consuls of the Roman Republic, in 172 and 158 BC. His name indicates he was of the "gens" of the "Popilii", a name of Etruscan origin. The classical plural of "Laenas" was "Laenates", which translations sometimes render as Lenate.

He was sent as an envoy to prevent a war between Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire and Ptolemaic Egypt. On being confronted with the Roman demands that he abort his attack on Alexandria, Antiochus played for time; Popillius Laenas is supposed to have drawn a circle around the king in the sand with his cane, and ordered him not to move out of it until a firm answer had been given. The Syrians withdrew. According to Livy,

"After receiving the submission of the inhabitants of Memphis and of the rest of the Egyptian people, some submitting voluntarily, others under threats, [Antiochus] marched by easy stages towards Alexandria. After crossing the river at Eleusis, about four miles from Alexandria, he was met by the Roman commissioners, to whom he gave a friendly greeting and held out his hand to Popilius. Popilius, however, placed in his hand the tablets on which was written the decree of the senate and told him first of all to read that. After reading it through he said he would call his friends into council and consider what he ought to do. Popilius, stern and imperious as ever, drew a circle round the king with the stick he was carrying and said, "Before you step out of that circle give me a reply to lay before the senate." For a few moments he hesitated, astounded at such a peremptory order, and at last replied, "I will do what the senate thinks right." Not till then did Popilius extend his hand to the king as to a friend and ally. Antiochus evacuated Egypt at the appointed date, and the commissioners exerted their authority to establish a lasting concord between the brothers, as they had as yet hardly made peace with each other." "Ab Urbe Condita", [http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Livy/Livy45.html xlv.12.]

References

*Cicero, "Philippics", [http://perseus.uchicago.edu/hopper/text.jsp?doc=Perseus:text:1999.02.0021:speech=8:chapter=8 viii.8.]
*Livy, "Ab Urbe Condita", [http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Livy/Livy45.html xlv.12.]
*Polybius, "Histories", [http://perseus.uchicago.edu/hopper/text.jsp?doc=Plb.+29.27 xxix.27.]


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