He studied rhetoric with Cicero, and accompanied him to Rhodes in 78 BC. Finding that he would never be able to rival his teacher he gave up rhetoric for law (Cic. Brut. 41). In 63 he was a candidate for the consulship, but was defeated by L. Licinius Murena, whom he subsequently accused of bribery; in 51 he was successful. In the Civil War, after considerable hesitation, he threw in his lot with Caesar, who made him proconsul of Achaea in 46. He died in 43 while on a mission from the senate to Antony at Mutina. He was accorded a public funeral, and a statue was erected to his memory in front of the Rostra.
Two excellent specimens of Sulpicius's style are preserved in Cicero (Ad. Fam. iv. 5 and 12). Quintilian (Instit. x. 1, 1,6) speaks of three orations by Sulpicius as still in existence; one of these was the speech against Muréna, another Pro or Contra Aufidium, of whom nothing is known. He is also said to have been a writer of erotic poems.
It is as a jurist, however, that Sulpicius was chiefly distinguished. He left behind him a large number of treatises, and he is often quoted in the Digest, although direct extracts are not found (for titles see Teuffel-Schwabe, Hist. of Roman Lit. 174, 4). His chief characteristics were lucidity, an intimate acquaintance with the principles of civil and natural law, and an unrivalled power of expression.
See R Schneider, De Servio Sulpicio Rufo (Leipzig, 1834); O Karlowa, Römische Rechtsgeschichte, vol. i. (Leipzig, 1885); the chief ancient authority is Cicero.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.