I wonder if Marcus Scaptius and Publius Matinius were Kikes.

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities:

"Marcus Iunius Brutus, son of the preceding, was by the mother's side nephew of M. Cato (Uticensis). He accompanied his uncle to Cyprus, a.u.c. 695, where the latter was sent by Clodius to annex that island to the Roman Empire. It appears, however, that he did not copy the example of Cato 's integrity; for, having become the creditor of the citizens of Salamis to a large amount, he employed one Scaptius, a man of infamous character, to enforce the payment of the debt, together with an interest four times exceeding the rate allowed by law (Ad Att. v. 21)."

Cicero to Atticus:

"Your friend [Marcus Iunius] Brutus [the Younger] is on good terms with certain creditors of the town of Salamis in Cyprus, M. [Marcus] Scaptius] and P. [Publius] Matinius. ... Scaptius demanded forty-eight per cent. I was afraid that if he got his way I should have been responsible for the ruin of the State. Besides, throughout my province I have recognized only twelve per cent and have fixed this rate in my edict, with the approval of the most grasping usurers."

* * *

Aloysius Roche, "The Classics and Usury: A Social Question in Antiquity" (The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly, 30th October 1937, pp. 7-8):


"Money-lending, although hardly ever molested by the authorities, was regarded by the Greeks and Romans as a more or less disgraceful profession. Thus, in the De Officiis, a book which he wrote for his son's benefit and guidance, Cicero insists that all means of livelihood which incur odium are to be shunned, and the two examples which he gives are tax-collecting and moneylending. In this, as in much else, Cicero was of course under the influence of his Greek masters.

"Among the Gauls, money-lending was placed under the patronage of Mercury or Hermes, no doubt because Mercury was a thief from his very cradle. ("Born in the morning, by evening he had stolen fifty head of cattle.")

"Modern economists have suggested that the origin of the prejudice against usury amongst the ancients was due to the utter ignorance of the laws that regulate the increase of wealth. It has even been maintained that the denunciation of the philosophers and orators can be explained by their desire to curry favour with the masses. But the character of men like Socrates and Aristotle and Plato make such a charge ridiculous.

"Aristotle, in fact, insists that the unpopularity of usury represents a sound instinct in the people. "Usury," he says in his Politics, "is very reasonably hated, because its gain comes from money itself, and not from that for the sake of which money was invented. For money was brought into existence for the purpose of exchange, but interest increases the amount of the money itself (and this is the actual origin of the Greek word : offspring resembles parent, and interest is money born of money) ; consequently this way of acquiring wealth is of all ways the most unnatural."

"This aversion was shared by Dio Chrysostom, and in his Seventh Discourse he says that the State ought to take steps to secure for the poor a standard of living not inferior to that led by usurers.

"Plato had no room and no use in his Ideal State for usury or the usurer : "No one shall lend out money at interest since it is permissible for the borrower to refuse altogether to pay back either interest or principal. . . . We say that in the State there must be neither gold nor silver, nor yet a great deal of money-making by vulgar trading or usury, but only such profit as will not induce a man by his money-making to neglect the objects for which money exists." Elsewhere in the same book he says : "The legislator of our State is more or less rid of shipping and commerce and peddling and inn-keeping and customs and mines and loans and usury, and innumerable matters of this kind ; he can say good-bye to all such, and legislate for farmers and shepherds and bee-keepers."


Cato the Censor, in his treatise On Agriculture, seems to suggest that in the earlier and better Roman times, all usury was forbidden by law. "It is true that to obtain money by trade is sometimes more profitable, were it not so risky ; and likewise money-making if it were as honourable. Our ancestors held this view and embodied it in theft.: laws, which insisted that the thief be fined double and the usurer four-fold ; how much less desirable a citizen they considered the usurer than the thief, can be judged from this." This same Cato, like Seneca in his essay be Beneficiis, regarded usury as equivalent to homicide. At any rate, Cicero, in the De Officiis, gives the following as a sample of his powers of repartee : "When Cato was asked what was the most profitable feature of a landed estate, he replied : 'Successful cattle-raising.' But when his questioner asked : 'How about money-lending ? 'Cato answered : 'How about murder ?'" St. Ambrose who, like most of the early Fathers, reprobated usury, quotes this remark of Cato with great approval. "The borrower asks of you medicine and you give him poison ; bread, and you proffer the sword ; liberty, and you condemn him to slavery."

"Seneca's opinion, which we have cited above, may be taken with a grain of salt, because his own record in this respect was not very clean. Besides, in his Epistles he definitely ranges himself on the side of the moneylenders. "Ungrateful men who have to pay their creditors both capital and interest imagine benefits of this sort are a kind of currency which they can use without interest. So the debts grow through delay, and the longer the settlement is postponed the more has to be paid. A man is ungrateful if he repays a favour and gives no interest." Seneca was the contemporary and tutor of Nero, and in his time usury was the order of the day. Petronius, who belongs to this period, makes Eumolpus one of the characters in his Satyricon say : "The people are corrupt, and so is the House of Senators. Dirty usury and the handling of money has caught the people in a double whirlpool and destroyed them. . . . There is no house that is safe and no man that is not mortgaged. In despair they resort to violence ; and bloodshed restores the goods squandered by luxury. "

"In Rome, although usury was authorized by law and individual legislators were constantly striving to regulate its terms, it was denounced by the philosophers and the poets as the chief cause of the decline of the empire. The constant uprisings of the plebian debtors against their creditors made the position of the moneylender insecure and so tended to raise the rate of interest. This was one of the chief causes of the disastrous Social War, as Cicero notices in his De Officiis : "It is less than a century since Lucius Piso's Bill to punish extortion. There had been no such laws before. But later laws multiplied each stiffer than the other ; great numbers were accused and found guilty ; a terrible war was waged on account of the fear the guilty were in ; the allies were pillaged and plundered to a frightful extent. The result is that today we find ourselves strong not in our own strength, but by reason of the weakness of others.""


Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 5.21:


Next, let me enlighten you about Brutus. Your friend Brutus has among his intimates certain creditors of the people of Salamis in Cyprus, Marcus Scaptius and Publius Matinius, whom he has recommended to me with more than common earnestness. I have not made the acquaintance of Matinius: Scaptius came to the camp to see me. I promised for the sake of Brutus to see that Salamis paid him the money. He thanked me, and asked for a prefecture. I said that I never granted one to a man engaged in business, a rule of which I have already informed you. When Gnaius Pompeius asked me he accepted the propriety of this rule – I need not mention Torquatus when he asked for your friend Marcus Laenius, and many others. But (I said) if he wanted to be a praefectus on account of the bond, I would see to his recovering the money. He thanked me and went away. Our friend Appius had granted certain squadrons of cavalry to this Scaptius to coerce the Salaminians, and had also given him rank as praefectus. He was harrying the Salaminians. I ordered the cavalry squadrons to quit Cyprus. Scaptius felt aggrieved. In short, to keep faith with him I commanded the Salaminians, when they came to see me at Tarsus and Scaptius with them, to pay the money.

They had a great deal to say about the bond, a great deal about the wrongs inflicted upon them by Scaptius. I declined to hear it. I urged them, I even asked them as a favour, in consideration of my good services to their state, to settle the business: finally I said that I would use compulsion. The men not only did not refuse, but even said that they would be paying out of my pocket: for that, since I had declined the money they had been accustomed to pay the praetor, they would in a sense be paying out of my pocket, and indeed the debt to Scaptius amounted to considerably less than the praetorian contribution. I warmly commended them:

"All right," said Scaptius, "but let us reckon the total."

Then there arose this question: One of the clauses in my customary edict was a declaration that I would not recognize more than 12% interest, besides the yearly addition to the capital of interest accrued, whereas he demanded in virtue of the deed 48%.

"What do you mean?" said I. "Can I go against my own edict?"

He then produced a decree of the senate made in the consulship of Lentulus and Philippus. The governor of Cilicia shall recognize that bond in giving judgment. I was at first horrified, for it meant the ruin of the town. I find there are two decrees of the senate in the same year about this bond. When the citizens of Salamis wished to raise money at Rome to pay off a debt, they were prevented from doing so by the Gabinian law [which forbade loans to provincial towns]. Then it was that Brutus's friends, relying on his influence, offered to advance the money if they were secured by a senatorial decree. A decree is passed by Brutus's influence That the people of Salamis and those who lent the money should be indemnified. They paid the money. Afterwards it occurred to the lenders that this senatorial decree would not secure them, because the Gabinian law forbade a legal decision being based on the bond. So the other senatorial decree (that this bond be recognized in giving judgment) is passed: not giving that particular bond more legal validity than others, but the same.

When I had expounded this view, Scaptius took me aside and said that he had nothing to say against it, but that those men were under the impression that their debt was 200 talents, and he was willing to accept that sum, whereas it really amounted to somewhat less; he begs me to induce them to agree on the 200.

"Very well," said I. I summon them without the presence of Scaptius.

"What do you say," said I, "how much is your debt?" They answered, "One hundred and six." I refer back to Scaptius. He exclaimed loudly.

"What is the use of this?" said I. "Check each other's additions."

They sit down, they make their calculations: they agree to a penny. They declare themselves willing to pay: and beg him to accept the money. Scaptius again takes me aside: asks me to leave the matter as it is, undecided. I gave in to the fellow's shameless request. When the Greeks grumbled, and demanded that they might deposit the money in a temple, I did not assent. Everybody in court, exclaimed that Scaptius was the greatest crook in the world for not being content with 12% plus the compound interest: others said that he was the greatest fool. In my opinion he was more crook than fool. For either he was content with 12% on a good security, or he hoped for 48% with a bad one.

That is my case; and if Brutus is not satisfied with it, I cannot see why I should regard him as a friend: I am sure that his uncle at any rate will accept it, especially as a senatorial decree has just been passed - I think since you left town - in the matter of bankers, that 12% simple interest was to be the rate. What a wide difference this implies you will certainly be able to reckon, if I know your fingers. And in this regard, by the way, Lucius Lucceius, son of Marcus, writes me a ,grumbling letter asserting that – thanks to the senate – there is the utmost danger of these decrees leading to a general repudiation. He recalls what mischief Gaius Julius once did by slightly enlarging the time for payment: “public credit never received such a blow.” But to return to the matter in hand: turn over my case in your mind as against Brutus, if it may be called a case, against which nothing can be decently urged: especially as I have left it and its merits undecided.


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