- For others with a similar name, see Ateia (gens).
Ateius Capito worked with his fellow tribune Publius Aquillius Gallus in opposition to Crassus and Pompeius Magnus during their second joint consulship in 55 BC. In particular, the two tribunes supported Cato in attempting to block the Lex Trebonia, legislation brought by C. Trebonius to give Crassus and Pompeius each an extended five-year proconsularprovince. Their objections at the assembly, though strenuous, were unsuccessful: Trebonius had Cato arrested, and physical force was used to eject Ateius and Aquillius when they tried to assert their veto power. Ateius at an unspecified time returned to the assembly to show his wounds and gain sympathy, but was greeted by the consuls’ bodyguards.
The Lex Trebonia resulted from political arrangements among Crassus, Pompeius, and Julius Caesar — the so-called “First Triumvirate” — that had been negotiated in meetings held in March 56 BC at Ravenna and the next month at Luca, both in Caesar’s province of Gallia Cisalpina. Pompeius received the Spanish provinces, and Crassus the province of Syria, his eagerness for which was universally interpreted as an intention to wage war against Parthia. In separate legislation, Caesar received an extension of his proconsulship in Gaul. Ateius’s support of Cato indicates his optimate sympathies.
In November 55 BC, while Crassus was on the Capitoline performing the ritual vows that preceded an army’s departure, Ateius claimed to observe dirae, the worst sort of disastrous portents. Crassus ignored his report. When other attempts at dissuasion failed, Ateius first tried to arrest Crassus before he could set sail and:
Ateius then ran on ahead to the city gate where he set up a brazier with lighted fuel in it. When Crassus came to the gate, [Ateius] threw incense and libations on the brazier and called down on [Crassus] curses which were dreadful and frightening enough in themselves and made still more dreadful by the names of certain strange and terrible deities. … The Romans believe that these mysterious and ancient curses are so powerful that no one who has had them laid upon him can escape from their effect. … So on this occasion people blamed Ateius for what he had done; he had been angry with Crassus for the sake of Rome, yet he had involved Rome in these curses and in the terror which must be felt of supernatural intervention.