three pairs of lovers with space



Gaius Lusius was a nephew of Gaius Marius (157-86 BC), a victorious Roman general and military reformer who was seven times consul. All that is known about him is the story of his death, which captured the imagination of several writers as well as the Roman public of the time, with whom Marius’s reputation was much enhanced by his reaction to what was seen as a justifiably violent response to an attempt to make a Roman male accept the passive homosexual role. It happened during Marius’s second consulship in 104 BC, while he was preparing to fight a massive invasion of Germanic tribes.

The fullest account by the Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch in his biography of Marius, written at the beginning of the second century AD as one of his Parallel Lives, is given first followed by three shorter but earlier versions of the story presented in chronological order.


Plutarch, Life of Gaius Marius 14 iii-v

This was written at the beginning of the second century AD, as one of his Parallel Lives. Lusius’s killing is the only passage in it relating to pederasty. The translation is by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb Classical Library volume CI (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1920).

Caius Lusius, a nephew of his, had a command under him in the army. In other respects he was a man of good reputation, but he had a weakness for beautiful youths. This officer was enamoured of one of the young men[1] who served under him, by name Trebonius, and had often made unsuccessful attempts to seduce him.

But finally, at night, he sent a servant with a summons for Trebonius. The young man came, since he could not refuse to obey a summons, but when he had been introduced into the tent and Caius attempted violence upon him, he drew his sword and slew him. Marius was not with the army when this happened; but on his return he brought Trebonius to trial.

Here there were many accusers, but not a single advocate, wherefore Trebonius himself courageously took the stand and told all about the matter, bringing witnesses to show that he had often refused the solicitations of Lusius and that in spite of large offers he had never prostituted himself to anyone. Then Marius, filled with delight and admiration, ordered the customary crown for brave exploits to be brought, and with his own hands placed it on the head of Trebonius, declaring that at a time which called for noble examples he had displayed most noble conduct.

[iii] Γάϊος Λούσιος ἀδελφιδοῦς αὐτοῦ τεταγμένος ἐφ᾿ ἡγεμονίας ἐστρατεύετο, τἆλλα μὲν ἀνὴρ οὐ δοκῶν εἶναι πονηρός, ἥττων δὲ μειρακίων καλῶν. οὗτος ἤρα νεανίσκου τῶν ὑφ᾿ αὑτῷ στρατευομένων, ὄνομα Τρεβωνίου, καὶ πολλάκις πειρῶν οὐκ ἐτύγχανε·

[iv] τέλος δὲ νύκτωρ ὑπηρέτην ἀποστείλας μετεπέμπετο τὸν Τρεβώνιον· ὁ δὲ νεανίας ἧκε μέν, ἀντειπεῖν γὰρ οὐκ ἐξῆν καλούμενον, εἰσαχθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ τὴν σκηνὴν πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐπιχειροῦντα βιάζεσθαι σπασάμενος τὸ ξίφος ἀπέκτεινε. ταῦτα ἐπράχθη τοῦ Μαρίου μὴ παρόντος· ἐπανελθὼν δὲ προὔθηκε τῷ Τρεβωνίῳ κρίσιν.

[v] ἐπεὶ δὲ πολλῶν κατηγορούντων, οὐδενὸς δὲ συνηγοροῦντος, αὐτὸς εὐθαρσῶς καταστὰς διηγήσατο τὸ πρᾶγμα καὶ μάρτυρας ἔσχεν ὅτι πειρῶντι πολλάκις ἀντεῖπε τῷ Λουσίῳ καὶ μεγάλων διδομένων ἐπ᾿ οὐδενὶ προήκατο τὸ σῶμα, θαυμάσας ὁ Μάριος καὶ ἡσθεὶς ἐκέλευσε τὸν πάτριον ἐπὶ ταῖς ἀριστείαις στέφανον κομισθῆναι, καὶ λαβὼν αὐτὸς ἐστεφάνωσε τὸν Τρεβώνιον ὡς κάλλιστον ἔργον ἐν καιρῷ παραδειγμάτων δεομένῳ καλῶν ἀποδεδειγμένον.

The battle of Vercellae, 101 BC, at which Marius and his new professional Roman army defeated the Germanic invaders, by Francesco Saverio Altamura,, 1863

 Cicero, For Milo 4 ix

For Milo was the version rewritten by himself of the Roman orator, lawyer and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero’s speech delivered in 52 BC for the defence of Titus Annius Milo against a charge of having recently murdered P. Clodius Pulcher in a brawl.  Here Cicero is citing a precedent to show that homicide can be justified legally:

The translation is by N. H. Watts in the Loeb Classical Library volume CCLII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1931) with one amendment explained in a footnote.

And if there is any occasion (and there are many such) when homicide is justifiable, it is surely not merely justifiable but even inevitable when the offer of violence is repelled by violence. Once a soldier in the army of Gaius Marius suffered an indecent assault at the hands of a military tribune, a relative of the commander; and the assailant was slain by his intended victim, who, being an upright youth,[2]  preferred to act at his peril rather than to endure to his dishonour. What is more, the great general absolved the offence and acquitted the offender.  Atqui si tempus est ullum iure hominis necandi, quae multa sunt, certe illud est non modo iustum, verum etiam necessarium, cum vi vis inlata defenditur. Pudicitiam cum eriperet militi tribunes militaris in exercitu C. Marii, propinquus eius imperatoris, interfectus ab eo est, cui vim adferebat; facere enim probus adulescens periculose quam perpeti turpiter maluit; atque hunc ille summus vir scelere solutum periculo liberavit.


Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings VI 1 xii

The following reference to the story comes in a   list of stupra,  attempted or successful seductions or rapes of freeborn Roman boys, maidens or wives that make up a section entitled “Of Chastity”. Valerius compiled his books of anecdotes during the reign of Tiberius (AD 14-37). The translation is by D. R. Shackleton Bailey in the Loeb Classical Library volume CCCCXCIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2000).

This counselled general C. Marius when he pronounced Military Tribune C. Lusius, his sister’s son, justifiably killed by C. Plotius, a private soldier, because the Tribune had dared to force a sexual outrage on him[3]. Hoc movit C. Marium imperatorem, tum cum Lusium sororis suae filium, tribunum militum, a C. Plotio manipulari milite iure caesum pronuntiavit, quia eum de stupro compellare ausus fuerat.


Plutarch, Sayings of Romans  Moralia 202 b-c

Plutarch’s Sayings of Romans was the final section (194e-208a) of his Sayings of Kings and Commanders, one of the essays in his eclectic Moralia, written around AD 100, earlier than his Parallel Lives, quoted from above.  The translation is by Frank Cole Babbitt in the Loeb Classical Library volume CCXLV (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1931).

On Gaius Marius:

In his second consulship Lusius, his nephew, attempted to force himself[4] on one of the youths in the army, by the name of Trebonius, and the youth killed Lusius. When many accused him of the crime, he did not deny that he had killed the officer, and disclosed the circumstances; whereupon Marius ordered the crown which is given for deeds of supreme valour to be brought, and this he placed upon Trebonius.  Ἐπεὶ δὲ Λούσιος ὁ ἀδελφιδοῦς, αὐτοῦ τὸ δεύτερον ὑπατεύοντος, ἐβιάζετο τῶν ἐν ὥρᾳ στρατευομένων τινὰ ὀνόματι Τρεβώνιον, ὁ δὲ ἀπέκτεινεν αὐτόν, καὶ πολλῶν κατηγορούντων οὐκ ἠρνήσατο Cκτεῖναι τὸν ἄρχοντα, τὴν δὲ αἰτίαν εἶπε καὶ ἀπέδειξε· κελεύσας οὖν ὁ Μάριος τὸν ἐπὶ ταῖς ἀριστείαις διδόμενον στέφανον κομισθῆναι τῷ Τρεβωνίῳ περιέθηκε. 


[1] Perrin’s translation of νεανίσκου both and νεανίας as “young men/man” have been allowed to stand here, though they suggest Trebonius was older than strict translation makes likely.  νεανίας does indeed mean “young man”, but νεανίσκου is its diminutive form, suggesting someone younger, whilst the beautiful μειρακίων whom Lusius had a weakness for were “adolescent boys” (translated by Perrin as “youths”, but see Herodian’s History of the Empire V 3 vii for an example of a boy of 14 so described).  Confirmation that an adolescent rather than a true young man was meant is provided by Cicero, who calls the same boy an “adulescens” in For Milo 4 ix, the next text on this webpage.  Roman legionaries were supposed to begin service at sixteen, so one can most reasonably guess that he was between sixteen and twenty.

[2] Note that the Latin word used here is “adulescens”.

[3] Shackleton Bailey‘s translation of “stupro compellare”as “solicit him sexually” has been amended “force a sexual outrage on him”. There is no good reason to omit the attempt at force implied by “compellare”, and “solicit” is too vague for “stuprum” which meant an attack on someone’s sexual integrity.  The wrong-doing that Valerius Maximus is speaking of was the outrage of attempting to make a freeborn Roman male accept the passive sexual role.

[4] Babbitt’s mistranslation of ἐβιάζετο as “an indecent assault” has been amended to “to force himself”, as the Greek word does not convey this moral judgement.