AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Though Willems deemed M. Favonius a praetor of 50, and Sumner maintained that his praetorship "is not assured,"(1) Favonius has been assigned a praetorship in 49 by a consensus so overwhelming that his service in that post in that year is no longer considered controversial.(2) Yet Bonnefond--Coudry includes Favonius in her list of senators who spoke in debate in 49.(3) Since magistrates were not allowed to deliver a sententia in the interrogatio during their year of office,(4) Favonius could not have fulfilled both the functions which historians attribute to him. He might have taken the floor as a senator, or he might have held the praetorship; he might have done neither, but he could not have done both.(5)
We may begin by setting out the evidence for the praetorship of Favonius. Only two texts have been thought to bear on the question. In a letter to Cicero composed on 2 September 51, M. Caelius Rufus (ap. Cic. Fam. 8.9.5) mentioned a few details about the recent electroal comitia: nolo te putare Favonium a columnariis praeteritum; optimus quisque eum non fecit. The second piece of evidence comes from Velleius Paterculus' (2.53.1) narrative of the year 48: Pompeius profugiens cum duobus Lentulis consularibus Sextoque filio et Favonio praetorio. The interpretation offered by Wehrmann is now the received view: since Caelius shows that Favonius was defeated for a praetorship of 50 in 51, and Velleius calls him a praetorius in 48, Favonius must have been elected to a praetorship of 49 in 50.(6)
The case in favor of a praetorship in 49 is not as strong as it seems. The campaign in 51 has long been considered a campaign for the praetorship,(7) though Caelius does not tell us this. It is just possible that Favonius was a candidate at the comitia sacerdotum in 51, but probability strongly favors a campaign for the praetorship.(8) That Favonius actually held the post, as Sumner realized, depends solely on the accuracy of Velleius in calling him a praetorius: "Favonius may have been only pro praetore 49--48."(9)
The weakness of the case for his praetorship is disturbing in view of the evidence suggesting that Favonius was called upon for his sententia in January 49. Bonnefond--Coudry cites two sources for the participation of Favonius. Plutarch (Pomp. 60.7) and Appian (BC 2.37) both record that Favonius told Pompey that it was now time for him to stamp on the ground;(10) Pompey had boasted that he had only to stamp on the ground to raise up armies to defend the city against Caesar (Plu. Pomp. 57.9). There can be no doubt that these words of Favonius were spoken at a meeting of the Senate.(11) It does not necessarily follow that Favonius spoke in the capacity of a senator. If we had a Latin source with Favonius as the grammatical subject of sententiam dicere, we could be certain that he spoke as a senator and not as a magistrate.(12) Unfortunately, the sources which mention Favonius are Greek; Plutarch and Appian tell us that Favonius "bade" Pompey to stamp on the ground.(13) Even if we saw Favonius proposing a course of action, we could not be certain that this recommendation constituted the motion of a senator rather than the opinion of a magistrate. As his bon mot was the only memorable remark Favonius made that day, it alone is recorded.
The names of the other men who took part in this debate will not help us much. Plutarch places Favonius' witticism between a speech of L. Volcacius Tullus (cos. 66) and one of Cato (pr. 54).(14) We would expect Favonius to speak after Cato, and Plutarch might have confused the order of speakers to this extent.(15) But the order given by Plutarch, even if correct, does not constitute proof that Favonius was not a senator; in the course of senatorial debates, senior men sometimes spoke after colleagues of lesser rank.(16)
More significant than the apparent order of speakers is the mere fact that Favonius spoke, for this is enough to suggest that he was not praetor in 49. Our sources are agreed that the consuls were present at the meeting (Plu. Pomp. 61.6, App. BC 2.37). For the sake of argument, we may assume that the praetors were present, though this assumption is supported only by a vague reference in Plutarch.(17) Since the consuls were present, it is unlikely that any of the men who spoke at the meeting were praetors. While Mommsen was wrong in believing that praetors could not make a relatio in a meeting summoned by consuls, the fact that he could maintain such a view underscores the rarity of praetorian relationes.(18) When we are forced to decide whether a man who spoke at a meeting summoned by consuls was a praetor or a senator, all we can say is that probability greatly favors the latter alternative.
To this point we have found no very good reason to believe that Favonius was praetor in 49, and no very good reason to believe that he was a privatus; Velleius indicates that he was praetor, but Appian and Plutarch imply that he was a senator. We may bring four further texts to bear on our problem, arranged from the least to the most decisive. The first of these is the second Sallustian Epistula ad Caesarem Senem (2.9.4). Here we cannot discuss in detail the authorship of the pamphlet, nor the date of its publication. It is enough to note that the years 51, 50, and 49 have been offered as the date of composition (or as the dramatic date).(19) Five names are found in a catalogue of Caesar's opponents: M. Bibulus (cos. 59), L. Domitius (cos. 54), M. Cato (pr. 54), L. Postumius, and M. Favonius. None of the first three held ordinary magistracies in the years 51--49. According to Pseudo--Sallust, all five men belonged to a powerful factio in the Senate. It is only natural to suppose that all five were privati when the letter was composed.(20) We know that the first four men were privati at the beginning of 49, but all might have been privati at the end of 50, as Favonius was. We therefore cannot say that the letter must date to early 49. But we can be more certain that Favonius was a privatus at the time the letter was composed. A conditional conclusion follows: if the letter dates to 49, Favonius was a senator in that year.
The second text describes events in Capua on 25 January 49. Cicero wrote a letter to Atticus (7.15.2) on the following day: Consules conveni multosque nostri ordinis. omnes cupiebant Caesarem abductis …