The Plebeian Tribune P. Sulpicius Rufus Against the Consul Q. Pompeius Rufus in 88 BC (Plut. Sull. 8. 8)

Frolov Roman M.

In 88 BC, the plebeian tribune P. Sulpicius Rufus forced the consul Q. Pompeius Rufus to leave Rome. According to some scholars, Pompeius’ consulate was abrogated. This conclusion is based on a single passage of Plutarch (Sull. 8. 8) in which the expulsion from office is an emendation in the transmitted text. This paper attempts to show the lack of evidence to support these conjectures. The author analyzes alternative interpretations of the passage and argues that Plutarch probably implied that Pompeius Rufus had been prevented from using his consular powers in the city of Rome (the Greek author may also have thought of the consul’s deprivation of his provincia). But since this, too, cannot be proved securely, another alternative remains possible: the passage cannot be understood as is, but it is beyond repair. In either case, there is no evidence that Pompeius Rufus was deprived of his magistracy, while our ancient sources indicate that outside of Rome he acted as incumbent consul even after he had been forced to leave the city. Although Pompeius Rufus retained the office, he temporarily lost his political initiative and the ability to exercise magisterial power in the city of Rome.

Keywords: ancient Rome, Roman republic, deprivation of office, abrogatio, P. Sulpicius Rufus, Q. Pompeius Rufus, Plutarch, consulate, plebeian tribunate, political initiative

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