Publius Vatinius was a Roman statesman during the last decades of the Republic.
Early political life
Vatinius was quaestor in 63 BC, the same year Marcus Tullius Cicero was consul. Cicero believed that Vatinius was elected on account of the influence of another of the consuls. Cicero sent him to Puteoli to prevent the gold and silver from being carried away from the city, but his extortions were so oppressive that the inhabitants were obliged to complain of his conduct to Cicero. He later served as a legatus under Gaius Cosconius. Again Cicero claims that while there he carried out robbery and extortion.
In the service of Caesar
In 59 BC he was tribune of the plebs and sold his services to Gaius Julius Caesar, who was then consul along with Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. Vatinius was a most zealous partisan for Caesar. He brought forward several proposals before the people, including the bill by which Caesar received the provinces of Cisalpine Gaul and IIlyricum for five years, to which the senate afterwards added the province of Transalpine Gaul. Cicero accuses him of setting the auspices at defiance, of offering violence to the consul Bibulus, of filling the forum with soldiers, and of crushing the veto of his colleagues in the tribunate by force of arms. It was during his tribunate that Vatinius brought forward the informer Lucius Vettius, who accused many of the most distinguished men in the state, and among others Cicero, of a plot against the life of Pompey.
Vatinius left Rome with Caesar to serve as a legatus in Gaul. But soon he returned to Rome to run for further political offices; but he failed in standing for the praetorship. His animosity towards Cicero continued and he appeared as a witness against Milo and Sestius, two of Cicero's friends. Cicero spoke on behalf of Sestius with a scathing speech against the character of Vatinius.
After a fair amount of turmoil, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus were elected to the consulship for 55 BC. Marcus Porcius Cato was put forward by the optimates for the praetorship. Pompeius and Crassus successfully defeated Cato, securing the election for Vatinius. After his year in office, Vatinius was accused of bribery by Licinius Calvus. Calvus had previously accused Vatinius, but this was his most eloquent speech. Vatinius even interrupted him to exclaim, "I ask you, judges, if I am to be condemned because the accuser is eloquent." Cicero, despite his previous attacks against Vatinius, defended him because he was afraid of offending the triumvirs and wanted their protection from Publius Clodius. Despite Cicero's speech, Vatinius' acquittal was more likely due to bribery by his patrons.
Service during the civil wars
Vatinius returned to Gaul in 51 BC where he was again a legatus for Julius Caesar. He stayed with Caesar during the start of the civil war. While in Greece, Caesar sent him with peace proposals to Pompeius. But instead of serving at the battle of Pharsalus, he defended Brundisium from Decimus Laelius, who led an attack on the city with part of Pompeius's fleet.
In return for his success, Vatinius was rewarded with the consulship in 47 BC. In 46 BC he was sent to Illyricum with three legions and defeated Marcus Octavius, a Pompeian partisan with a large fleet, for which he received an ovatio. As Vatinius's troops had declared in favor of Marcus Junius Brutus, he was forced to turn over command of his army to the latter in 44 BCE, after the death of Caesar, when Brutus went to Macedonia to take command of his province.
The latest known event in Vatinius' life is found in the Capitoline Fasti, which states that he triumphed in December, 43 BC.