Journal of Roman Studies

Research Article

Who was Vedius Pollio?

Ronald Syme

When Cilicia for a season was a province of consular rank, governed in succession by P. Lentulus Spinther, Ap. Claudius Pulcher and M. Tullius Cicero, what held it together was the high-road from Laodicea to the Syrian Gates. Those proconsuls never strayed very far from the road. Cicero, coming up from Tarsus early in February of 50 B.C., encountered an unexpected welcome. P. Vedius had journeyed out some way from Laodicea to meet him, that ‘magnus nebulo’, a friend of Pompeius Magnus. Vedius was escorted by a large and motley retinue. With him paraded a baboon in a chariot—no doubt congenial company, and perhaps a reminder of absent friends or a high dignitary like Ap. Pulcher, the recent proconsul, whom the outspoken Caelius Rufus likened to an ape. Vedius also had some wild asses (the bleak upland plains of Lycaonia and Cappadocia were their peculiar habitat). For what purpose no man can say, though the breeding of high-grade mules had become a lucrative pursuit in this age. The dubious credit of introducing the flesh of young onagri to Roman tables was reserved for the great Maecenas.