Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO RESPECTING THE ANSWERS OF THE SOOTHSAYERS. ADDRESSED TO THE SENATE. - Orations vol. 3: Containing the Orations for his House, Plancius, Sextius, Coelius, Milo, Ligarius, etc.
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THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO RESPECTING THE ANSWERS OF THE SOOTHSAYERS. ADDRESSED TO THE SENATE. - Marcus Tullius Cicero, Orations vol. 3: Containing the Orations for his House, Plancius, Sextius, Coelius, Milo, Ligarius, etc. 
The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, trans. C.D. Yonge (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1913-21). Vol. 3.
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THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO RESPECTING THE ANSWERS OF THE SOOTHSAYERS.
This speech was spoken towards the close of the year after the last speech, but it follows it in nearly all editions, as it relates in some degree to the same subject. In the early part of the summer many prodigies were reported to have happened in the neighbourhood of Rome. And the senate consulted the soothsayers as to the cause of them, and as to the means of averting their consequences. The soothsayers made answer, that the solemn shows and plays had been negligently exhibited; that sacred places had been treated as profane; that ambassadors had been illtreated and slain; that good faith and oaths had been disregarded, and ancient and secret sacrifices neglected and profaned. That these prodigies had been sent as warnings by the gods, lest the Romans should bring evil on themselves and on their country by continuing their disorderly conduct and dissensions. That therefore the evils must be amended, or removed as far as possible, and supplications made to Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and the other gods.
After this answer had been received, Clodius, who was now ædile, called the people together, and made them a speech to prove that the evils which had especially offended the gods were the tyrannical conduct of Cicero, and the restoration of his house, after it had been consecrated to the service of religion. Cicero replied to this harangue the next day in the senate, arguing that all the offences which could have excited the displeasure of the gods were much more fairly imputable to Clodius than to him; and after exculpating himself, and dwelling on the outrages of which Clodius had notoriously been guilty, he exhorted all citizens of all classes to lay aside their mutual animosities, as the only way of regaining the favour of the gods and their former prosperity.
I.Yesterday, O conscript fathers, when I was greatly moved by the thoughts of your dignity, and of the great attendance of the Roman knights to whom a senate was given, I thought myself bound to check the shameless impudence of Publius Clodius, when he was hindering the cause of the publicans from being proceeded with by the most foolish possible questions, and was studying to save Publius Tullio the Syrian, and was, even before your eyes, selling himself to him, to whom, indeed, he had already been entirely sold. Therefore I checked the man in his frenzy and exultation, the very moment that I gave him a hint of the danger of a public trial; and by two half-uttered words, I bridled all the violence and ferocity of that gladiator.
But he, ignorant what sort of men the consuls were, pale and fuming with rage, burst on a sudden out of the senatehouse, with some broken and empty threats, and with those denunciations with which he used to terrify us in the time of Piso and Gabinius. And when I began to press upon him, as he was departing, I received the greatest reward of my exertions by all of you rising up at the same time with me, and by all the publicans thronging round me to escort me. But that senseless man stopped on a sudden out of countenance, colourless, and voiceless; then he looked back; and, as soon as he beheld Cnæus Lentulus1 the consul, he fell down almost on the threshold of the senate-house; from the recollection, I imagine, of his dear friend Gabinius, and from regret for Piso. And why need I speak at all of his unbridled and headlong fury? He cannot be wounded by me with more severe language than he was on the instant, being crushed and overwhelmed at the very moment of his acting in that manner by Publius Servilius. And even if I were able to equal the extraordinary and almost divine energy and dignity of that man, still I cannot doubt that those weapons which our enemy hurled at him would appear less powerful and less sharp than those which the colleague of his father aimed at him.
II. But still I wish to explain the principles of my conduct to those men who thought that I was carried away yesterday by my indignation, and that, out of passion, I made a wider digression than the deliberate calmness of a philosopher allowed. I did nothing in anger, nothing from not being able to restrain my temper, nothing which I had not maturely considered and determined on a long time before. For I, O conscript fathers, have always professed myself an enemy to those two men who were bound to have defended, and were able to have preserved both me and the republic; and who, though they were called to the performance of their duty as consuls by the very ensigns of their office, and to the preservation of my safety, not only by your authority but even by your prayers, first of all deserted, then betrayed, and last of all opposed me; and, having received the rewards of their nefarious covenant, wished utterly to overwhelm and destroy me together with the republic; and who, during the time of their magistracy and command, bloody and fatal that it was, were neither able to defend the walls of our allies from chastisement, nor to inflict chastisement on the cities of the enemy; but who bore along into all my houses and lands, razing, and conflagration, and destruction, and depopulation, and devastation, to the great enriching of themselves with my plunder.
Against these furies and firebrands, with these destructive monsters and pests, which have been (I may almost say) desolating this empire, I do say that I have undertaken inexpiable war; and yet, even that is not as great as my sufferings and those of my relations require, though it may be enough to satisfy your indignation and that of all virtuous men.
III. But my hatred towards Clodius is not greater this day than it was then, when I knew that he was scorched, as it were, by those most holy fires, and that he had escaped in female attire from the house of the Pontifex Maximus, after attempting an act of most atrocious licentiousness. Then, I say, then I perceived, and foresaw long beforehand, how great a tempest was being raised, how great a storm was threatening the republic. I saw that that ill-omened wickedness, that that intolerable audacity of a young man, mad, nobly born, and disgraced as he was, could not be hindered from breaking through the bounds of tranquillity; that that evil would certainly break out some day or other to the destruction of the state, if it were allowed to remain unpunished. There has not been much since to add to my detestation of that man. For he has not done anything against me out of hatred to me, but out of hatred to strictness, out of hatred to dignity, out of hatred to the republic. He has not insulted me more than he has the senate, or the Roman knights, or all good men, or the whole of Italy. Lastly, he has not behaved more wickedly towards me than he has towards the immortal gods. In truth, he has polluted those gods with his impiety whom no one before ever did. Towards me his disposition has been the same as that of his dear friend Catiline would have been, if he had been victorious. Therefore, I never thought it necessary for me to prosecute him, any more than that blockhead, whose very nation we should be ignorant of, if he did not himself say that he was a Ligurian. For why should I pursue this animal, this beast, bribed by the food and acorns thrown him by my enemy? a fellow, who, if he had only sense to know to what wickedness he has bound himself, would be, I doubt not, most wretched; but if he is not aware of it, there is some danger lest he may save himself by the excuse of stupidity.
There is also this consideration which weighs with me; that, according to universal expectation, that man seems devoted and marked out as the victim of that most gallant and most illustrious man Titus Annius; from whom it would be a scandalous thing for me to snatch the credit which is destined for, and already openly promised to him, when it is owing to his exertions that I myself have recovered my own dignity and safety.
IV. In truth, as that great man, Publius Scipio, appears to me to have been born for the overthrow and destruction of Carthage, he being the only man who, at last, as it were by a special decree of destiny, did overthrow it after it had been besieged, attacked, undermined, and almost taken by many generals; so Titus Annius appears to have been born, and to have been given to the republic, by a sort of divine munificence as it were, for the express purpose of repressing, and extinguishing, and utterly destroying that pest of the state. He alone has discovered the way not only of defeating but also of fettering an armed citizen who was driving the citizens away, some by the sword, some by stones, was confining others to their houses, and alarming the whole city, the senate-house, the forum, and all the temples with bloodshed and conflagration. I will never, with my own free will, take out of the hands of this man, being so good a man as he is, and one who has deserved so well of me and of his country, that criminal of all men in the world, whose enmity he has not only encountered, but has even sought for, out of a regard for my safety. But if, even now that he is entangled in all the dangers of the laws, surrounded by the hatred of all virtuous men, and hemmed in on all sides by the expectation of punishment which cannot be long delayed, still, hesitating and hampered as he is, he persists in rushing on, and making attacks upon me, I will resist him, and gaining the consent, or, perhaps, the assistance of Milo, I will frustrate his endeavours; as I did yesterday, when, while he was threatening me in dumb show, as I was standing near him, I just said one word about the beginning of legal proceedings and a trial. He sat down. He did not say a word. Suppose he had brought a charge against me, as he had threatened, I should have instantly taken steps to have him summoned to appear before the prætor in three days. And let him restrain himself with the idea that, if he is content with those acts of wickedness which he has already committed, he is already dedicated to Milo; but if he aims any dart against me, that then I shall immediately employ all the weapons of the courts of justice and of the laws.
And a little time ago, O conscript fathers, he held an assembly, and made a speech which was directed wholly against me. And I will tell you the argument and sentiment which ran through the whole of his speech. And when you have been sufficiently amused at the fellow’s impudence, I will give you the details of everything that then took place.
V. Publius Clodius, O conscript fathers, made a long speech about religious observances, and sacrifices, and ceremonies. Publius Clodius, I say, complained that the sacrifices and religious rites were neglected, profaned, and polluted. It is no wonder if this seems to you an absurdity. Indeed the very assembly which he himself had convened laughed at the idea of a man, who has been pierced, as he himself is in the habit of boasting, with two hundred resolutions of the senate against him, every one of which was passed against him because of matters connected with religion,—of that fellow who carried his adulteries to the shrine of the Good Goddess herself, and who profaned those sacred rites which may not be seen without impiety by the eyes of a man even unintentionally, not only by the view of a man, but by lust and wickedness, complaining in a public assembly about the neglect of religion. Therefore they are now expecting another speech from him on the subject of chastity. For what difference does it make whether, when just driven from the most holy of altars, he makes complaints of the state of the sacrifices and religious observances; or whether, having just left his sister’s bed-chamber, he speaks in defence of modesty and chastity? In his harangue he recited the lately received answer of the soothsayers about the noises which have been heard; in which among many other things it is stated, (as you have heard yourselves,) that holy and sacred places had been treated as common. Under that head he said that my house was intended, which had been consecrated by that holiest of pontiffs, Publius Clodius. I am delighted at not only having a reasonable pretext for, but being even under an absolute necessity of speaking about this prodigy, which I am not sure that I may not call the most important one that has for many years been reported to this body. For you find that, by every part of this prodigy and of this answer, we have been warned, I may almost say by the voice of the all-good and all-powerful Jupiter himself, of the wickedness and frenzy of that man, and of the immense dangers which are impending over the state. But first of all I will clear up the objections made on the score of religion in the case of my own house, if I am able to do so truly, and without leaving the least doubt in any one’s mind; but if the very slightest scruple on the subject exists in any one’s mind, I will obey the prodigies sent by the immortal gods, and comply with what is required by the reverence due to them, not only with a patient but even with a willing mind.
VI. But what house is there in the whole city so clear and free from all suspicion of being a consecrated building as this? Although your houses, O conscript fathers, and those of all the other citizens, are, for much the greater part of them, free from all religious obligation, yet my house is the only one in the whole city which has been pronounced to be so by the decision of all the tribunals. For I appeal to you, O Lentulus, and to you, O Philippus. After this reply was received from the soothsayers, the senate decreed that you should refer the question of hallowed and consecrated spots to this order of the senate. Can you put any question to them concerning my house? which (as I have said) is the only one in the whole of the city which has been pronounced by every tribunal in it to be free from every sort of religious obligation; which at first my enemy himself, even in the time of that storm and nocturnal darkness which was overwhelming the republic, when he had set down all his other wicked actions with that foul pen of his dipped in the mouth of Sextus Clodius, did not mark with one single letter indicating any religious liability. And in the second place, the Roman people, whose power is supreme in all matters in the comitia centuriata, and by the suffrage of every age and every rank of men, ordered it to remain in the same condition in which it had previously been.
Afterwards, O conscript fathers, not because the matter was doubtful, but in order to cut off every argument from this furious man, if he chose to remain any longer in this city which he was anxious to destroy, you passed a decree that a reference should be made to the college of pontiffs as to the religious liability of my house. What obligation can there possibly be from our greatest doubts and most serious religious apprehensions, as to which we may not be relieved by the answer and dictum of Publius Servilius or Marcus Lucullus alone? In all matters concerning the public sacrifices, or the great games, or the ceremonies of the household gods, and of Vesta, the mother of the city, or even concerning that great sacrifice itself which is performed for the safety of the Roman people, and which since the first foundation of Rome has never been profaned except by the wickedness of this single holy guardian of religion, whatever three pontiffs have decided, has at all times appeared to the Roman people, and to the senate, and to the immortal gods themselves, sufficiently holy, sufficiently august, sufficiently religious. But Publius Lentulus being both consul and pontiff, and Publius Servilius, and Marcus Lucullus, and Quintus Metellus, and Marcus Glabrio, and Marcus Messala, and Lucius Lentulus, the priest of Mars, and Publius Galba, and Quintus Metellus Scipio, and Caius Fannius, and Marcus Lepidus, and Lucius Claudius, the king of the sacrifices, and Marcus Scaurus, and Marcus Crassus, and Caius Curio, and Sextus Cæsar, the priest of Jupiter, and Quintus Cornelius, and Publius Albinovanus, and Quintus Terentius, the lesser1 pontiffs, having investigated the case after it had been argued before them on two separate occasions, in the presence of a great number of the noblest and wisest of the citizens, all unanimously pronounced my house free from all religious obligation.
VII. I say that so numerous a meeting of the college has never decided on any subject, not even concerning the rights or life of a vestal virgin, ever since the establishment of sacred ceremonies, though their antiquity is the same as that of the city itself; although when an investigation into any crime is taking place it is of consequence that as many as possible should be present. For the interpretation of a law given by the priests is on such a footing that it has the same force as a decision of the judges. An explanation of what is required by religion can be properly given by one single experienced priest; but in a case of a trial for life, such a proceeding would be harsh and unjust. Nevertheless, you will find this to be the case, that a greater number of pontiffs were assembled when they decided on the question concerning my house, than had ever met on any question concerning the ceremonies of the vestal virgins. The next day the senate in a very full house, when you, O Lentulus, being the consul elect, made the motion, and Publius Lentulus and Quintus Metellus, the consuls, put it to the senate, when all the pontiffs who belonged to this order were present, and when those who had precedence, from the distinctions which had been conferred on them by the Roman people, had made many speeches concerning the decision of the college, and when all of them had assisted in drawing up the decree,—the senate, I say, voted that my house appeared, according to the decision of the pontiffs, to be free from all religious liability. Is this then the place which of all others the soothsayers appear to intend to speak of as sacred, which is the only one of all private buildings in the whole city which has this argument to advance in support of its rights, that it has been adjudged not to be sacred by those very men who preside over all sacred things?
However, refer the matter to them, as you are bound to do according to the resolution of the senate. Either the investigation will be allotted to you who were the first to pronounce an opinion respecting this house, and who have pronounced it free from all religious liability; or the senate itself will decide, which has already decided in the fullest possible house, that one single priest alone dissenting; or else, what will certainly be done, it will be referred back to the pontiffs, to whose authority, integrity, and prudence our ancestors entrusted all sacred and religious observances, whether private or public. What then can these men decide different from what they have already decided? There are many houses in this city, O conscript fathers; I do not know whether they are not nearly all held by thoroughly good titles, but still they are only private titles,—titles derived from inheritance, from prescription, from purchase, or from mortgage. But I assert that there is no other house whatever equally fenced round by private title and incontestable rights, and at the same time by every sort of public law of the highest authority, both human and divine. For in the first place it was built by the authority of the senate, with the public money; and in the second place it has been fenced round and fortified against the impious violence of this gladiator by numerous resolutions of the senate.
VIII. At first a commission was given to those same magistrates in the preceding year, to whom at times of the greatest peril the whole republic is usually recommended, to take care that I was to be allowed to proceed in building without any hindrance from violence. Afterwards, when that fellow had brought devastation on my estate with stones, and fire, and sword, the senate voted that those who had acted in that manner were liable to be proceeded against by the laws concerning violence which are in force against those who have attacked the whole republic. But when you put the question, O you best and bravest of consuls within the memory of man, the same senate in a very full house decreed, that whoever injured my house would be acting against the interests of the republic. I say that there never were so many resolutions of the senate passed about any public work, monument, or temple, as about my house, the only house since the first foundation of the city which the senate has thought ought to be built at the public expense, released from all religious obligation by the pontiffs, defended by the magistrates, and put under the protection of the judges, who were to punish all who injured it. On account of his immense services to the republic, a house at Velia was given by a public vote to Publius Valerius. But my house was restored to me on the Palatine Hill. He had a spot of ground given him. I had walls also and a roof. He had a house given to him which he was to defend by his rights as a private citizen; but I had one which all the magistrates were ordered to protect with the public force of the city. And if I had all this owing to my own exertions, or if I had received it from any other persons except you, I would not mention it before you, lest I might appear to be boasting too much. But as all these things have been given me by you, and as they are now being attacked by the tongue of that man by whose hand they were formerly overthrown, when you restored them with your own hands to me and to my children, I am not speaking of my own actions but of yours; nor am I afraid lest this public mention of all your kindness to me should appear to be not so much grateful as arrogant.
Although, if indeed a certain indignation which I cannot help feeling were to lead me, who have exerted myself so much in the cause of the public safety, at times to speaking somewhat boastfully when refuting the aspersions of wicked men, who would not excuse me for so doing? For I did see yesterday some one murmuring: and people said that he declared that he could not endure me, because, when I was asked by that foul traitor to his country to what city I belonged, I answered, with the approval of you and of the Roman knights also, that I belonged to a city which could not do without me. He, I imagine, groaned at this. What, then, was I to answer? (I ask that very man who cannot endure me.) That I was a Roman citizen? It would have been a truly learned answer. Should I have held my tongue? That would have been a betrayal of my own cause. Can any man when it is attempted to excite odium against him with respect to important affairs, reply with sufficient dignity to the abuse of his enemy without some praise of himself? But, no doubt, he himself, when he is attacked, not only answers as well as he can, but is even glad to be prompted by his friends and to have an answer suggested to him.
IX. But since I have now said enough respecting my own case, let us see now what it is that the soothsayers say. For I confess that I have been greatly moved both by the magnitude of the prodigies, and by the solemnity of the answer, and by the unanimous and consistent language of the soothsayers. Nor am I a man who—though I may perhaps appear to some men to be more addicted to the study of literature than the rest of those are who are occupied about state affairs as much as myself—at all incline to derive delight from or to pursue those branches of learning which have a tendency to divert and deter our minds from the study of religion. But in the first place, I have our ancestors as my leaders and tutors in paying proper respect to religion,—men whose wisdom appears to me to have been so great, that those men are sufficiently, and more than sufficiently prudent, who are able—I will not say to equal their prudence, but to be thoroughly aware how great it was; who thought that the stated and regular ceremonies were provided for by the establishment of the Pontificate, that due authority for the performance of all actions was to be derived from the auspices, that the ancient prophecies of our destinies were contained in the books of the prophets of Apollo, and the explanations of prodigies in the system of the Etrurians; and this last is of such weight, that within our own recollection they have predicted to us in no obscure language, first of all those fatal beginnings of the Italian war, and after that the imminent danger and almost destruction of the time of Sylla and Cinna, and very lately this recent conspiracy for burning the city and destroying the empire. In the next place, I knew that the most learned and the wisest men have both said many things and have left behind them many written books concerning the divine power of the immortal gods. And although I see that those books are written with a godlike eloquence, still they are such that our ancestors appear to have taught those things to the writers, and not to have learnt of them. In truth, who is there so senseless as either, when he looks up to heaven, not to feel that there are gods, or to think that those things are done by chance which are done with such wisdom, that scarcely any one by any amount of skill can comprehend their order and necessary dependence on each other? or, when he has arrived at the knowledge that there are gods, not to understand that all this mighty empire has been originated, and increased, and preserved by their divine authority? Let us, O conscript fathers, think as highly of ourselves as we please; and yet it is not in numbers that we are superior to the Spaniards, nor in personal strength to the Gauls, nor in cunning to the Carthaginians, nor in arts to the Greeks, nor in the natural acuteness which seems to be implanted in the people of this land and country, to the Italian and Latin tribes; but it is in and by means of piety and religion, and this especial wisdom of perceiving that all things are governed and managed by the divine power of the immortal gods, that we have been and are superior to all other countries and nations.
X. Wherefore, not to say any more about a doubtful matter, give, I pray you, your thoughts and attention, and do not lend your ears alone to the language of the soothsayers: “Because a noise and roaring has been heard in the Latin district.” I say nothing of the soothsayers, I say nothing of that ancient system, given, as men report, to Etruria by the immortal gods themselves; but cannot we ourselves be soothsayers here? “A certain obscure noise, and a horrible rattling of arms, has been heard in a neighbouring and suburban district.” Who is there of all those giants, whom the poets relate to have waged war against the immortal gods, so impious as not to confess that by this novel and mighty commotion the gods are foreshowing and predicting something important to the Roman people? Concerning that matter it is written down that entreaties are to be addressed to Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Tellus, and the gods of heaven. Well, I hear what gods have been offended and to whom atonement is due; but I want to know on account of what offences committed by men they have been offended. “On account of the games having been carelessly exhibited and polluted.” What games? I appeal to you, O Lentulus; for the sacred cars and chariots, the singing, the sports, the libations, and feasts of the public games belong to your priesthood; and I appeal to you, O pontiffs, to whom those who prepare the banquet for the all-good and all-powerful Jupiter report it if anything has been neglected or done improperly, and if you give sentence that it shall be so, those ceremonies are celebrated anew and repeated over again. What games are they which have been exhibited without due diligence? By what wickedness, by what sort of crime have they been polluted? You will answer on behalf of yourself, and of your colleagues, and of the college of pontiffs, that none of these things have been treated contemptuously through the carelessness of any one, or polluted by any wickedness, but that all the solemnities and practices of the games have been attended to with a proper observance of all necessary things, and with the strictest performance of all the usual ceremonies.
XI. What games, then, are they which the soothsayers say have not been performed with due diligence, and have been polluted? Those of which the immortal gods themselves and the blessed mother Cybele chose you—you, O Cnæus Lentulus, by the hands of whose ancestor she was originally received—to be a spectator. And unless you had chosen to be a spectator of the Megalesia on that day, I do not know whether we should have been allowed to be alive and to complain of these things. For an enormous multitude of slaves in a state of great excitement, collected out of all the streets by this religious ædile, burst in on a sudden upon the stage from all the archways and doors at a given signal. Your virtue,—yours, I say, O Cnæus Lentulus,—was at that crisis shown to be equal to that formerly displayed by your ancestor as a private individual. The senate standing up, and the Roman knights and all virtuous men, followed you, and your name, and your command, and your voice, aspect, and authority, when he had handed over the senate and people of Rome, hampered by the dense body in which they were sitting, chained as it were to the spectacle, and hindered by the crowd and narrow space, to a multitude of slaves and buffoons.
Shall we say that, if a morris-dancer stops, or a flute-player has on a sudden ceased to play, or if a boy1 with both father and mother alive has ceased to touch the ground, or has lost his hold of the sacred car, or of the reins, or if an ædile has used a wrong word or made the slightest mistake, then the games have not been duly celebrated, and those mistakes are forced to be expiated and the minds of the immortal gods are appeased by their repetition; and yet if the games are suddenly changed from a scene of joy to one of terror,—if they have been, not interrupted, but broken up and put an end to,—if those days of festival turned out nearly fatal to the whole city, through the wickedness of that man who wished to turn the games into a time of grief,—shall we doubt what games that noise warns us have been polluted? And if we wish to recollect those things which have been handed down to us traditionally about each of the gods, we have heard that this mighty Mother, whose games were thus violated and polluted, and turned almost to a massacre and to the destruction of the city, does roam over the fields and through the groves with a certain degree of noise and roaring.
XII. She, then, she it is, who has displayed to the Roman people these tokens of wickedness, and revealed to them these indications of danger. For why should I speak of those games which our ancestors ordered to be performed and celebrated on the Palatine Hill, in front of the temple, in the very sight of the mighty Mother, on the day of the Megalesia?1 which are in their institution and in the manner in which they are celebrated, above all other games chaste, solemn, and holy; in which games that great man Publius Africanus the elder, in his second consulship, gave for the first time the senate a place in front of the seats belonging to the people. Why need I tell how that foul pestilence polluted these games; when if any freeman came near them, either as a spectator or from some motive of religion, he was driven back by force; and no matron approached them, because of the number and violence of the slaves? And so these games,—the reverence paid to which is so great that the goddess did not come to this city without having been sent for from the most distant countries,—which are the only games which have not even a Latin name, so that by their very name the religion is declared to have been a foreign one, and imported hither, and to have been undertaken in the name of the mighty Mother,—these games, I say, were celebrated by slaves, and had slaves alone for the spectators, and in every part, in this man’s ædileship, were the Megalesia of slaves. O ye immortal gods! How could you speak more plainly to us if you were living among and associating with us? You show us and plainly tell us that those games were profaned. What can be mentioned more deformed, polluted, altered and perverted, than for the whole body of slaves, as if they had been liberated by the permission of the magistrates, to be turned loose into one theatre, and set as guards over another, so that one body of spectators might be exposed to the power of slaves, and that the other might consist entirely of slaves? If during the games a swarm of bees had come on the stage, we should think it necessary to send for the soothsayers out of Etruria; and shall we all see on a sudden such vast swarms of slaves let loose upon the Roman people, blocked up and shut in, and not be moved by that? And perhaps, in the case of a swarm of bees, the soothsayers would warn us from the written books of the Etruscans to guard against the slaves. That then which we should guard against, if indicated by some disjointed prodigy admitting of divers interpretations, shall we not be afraid of when it is its own prodigy, and when the danger is in that very thing from which danger is dreaded? Were such the Megalesia which your father celebrated? Did your uncle celebrate them in such a manner as this? And then he makes mention to me of his family, when he would rather celebrate the games after the fashion of Athenio or Spartacus, than like Caius or Appius Claudius. When these great men were celebrating games, they ordered all the slaves to depart from the theatre. But you turned slaves into one, and turned free men out of the other. Therefore they, who formerly used to be separated from free men by the voice of the herald, now, at your games, separated free men from themselves not by their voice, but by force.
XIII. Did not even this occur to you, being a priest so well acquainted with the Sibylline oracles, that our ancestors derived these games from the Sibylline books? if those books are yours, which you consult with imperious intentions, and read with profane eyes, and handle with polluted hands. Formerly, then, by the advice of this prophetess, when Italy was wearied by the Punic war and harassed by Hannibal, our ancestors imported that sacred image and those sacred rites from Phrygia, and established them at Rome, where they were received by that man who was adjudged to be the most virtuous of all the Roman people, Publius Scipio Nasica, and by the woman who was considered the chastest of the matrons, Quinta Claudia; the old-fashioned strictness of whose sacrifice on that occasion your sister is considered to have imitated in a wonderful manner. Did, then, neither your ancestors, connected as they were with these religious ceremonies, nor the priesthood itself, by which all these religious observances were established, nor the curule ædileship, which above all things is accustomed to uphold this worship, influence you to abstain from polluting those most holy games with every sort of crime, and polluting them with infamy, and involving them in guilt?
But why do I wonder? when, having taken a bribe, you ravaged Pessinus itself, the habitation and home of the mother of the gods, and sold to Brogitarus—a fellow half Gaul, half Greek, a profligate and impious man, whose agents, while you were tribune, used to pay you the money for your share of the work in the temple of Castor—the whole of that place and the temple; when you dragged the priest from the very altar and cushion of the goddess; when you perverted those omens which all antiquity, which Persians, and Syrians, and all kings who have ever reigned in Europe and Asia have always venerated with the greatest piety; which, last of all, our own ancestors considered so sacred, that though we had the city and all Italy crowded with temples, still our generals in our most important and most perilous wars used to offer their vows to this goddess, and to pay them in Pessinus itself, at that identical principal altar, and on that spot and in that temple.
And when Deiotarus was protecting this temple in the most holy manner, with the deepest feelings of religion—Deiotarus, of all allies the most faithful to this empire, and the most devoted to our name,—you gave it to Brogitarus, as I have said before, having sold it to him for a sum of money. And yet you order this Deiotarus, who has been repeatedly declared by the senate worthy of the name of king, and adorned with the testimony of many most illustrious generals in his favour, to be styled king together with Brogitarus. But one of them has been called king by the decision of the senate through my instrumentality; Brogitarus has been called king by you for money. And I will think him a king, indeed, if he has any means of paying you what you have trusted him with on his note of hand. For there are many royal qualities in Deiotarus; this was the most royal of all, that he gave you no money; that he did not repudiate that portion of your law which agreed with the decision of the senate, namely that he was a king; that he recovered Pessinus, which had been impiously violated by you and stripped of its priest and its sacrifices, in order to maintain it in its accustomed religion; that he does not suffer the ceremonies which have been received as handed down from the most remote antiquity, to be polluted by Brogitarus; and that he prefers to let his son-in-law be deprived of your liberality, rather than to allow that temple to lose the ancient reverence due to its religious character.
But to return to these answers of the soothsayers, the first of which is that respecting these games; who is there who does not confess that the whole of that answer and prophecy was delivered with reference to that fellow’s games?
XIV. The answer about sacred and holy places comes next. Oh, the marvellous impudence of the man! do you dare to make mention of my house? Entrust your own to the consuls, or the senate, or the college of pontiffs; and mine, as I have said before, has been declared by all these three decisions to be free from all religious liability. But in that house which you keep possession of, after having slain Quintus Seius, a Roman knight and most excellent man, in the most open manner, I say that there was a shrine and altars. I will prove and establish this fact by the registers of the censors, and by the recollection of many individuals. Only let this question be discussed, (and it must be referred to you by virtue of that resolution of the senate which has lately been passed,) and I have plenty to say on the subject of religious places. When I have spoken of your house,—in which, however, a chapel has been built up in such a way that another built it, and you have only got to pull it down,—then I will see whether it is necessary for me to speak also of other places. For some people think that it belongs to me to open the armoury of the temple of Tellus. They say that it is not long ago that it was open, and I recollect it myself. Now they say that the most holy part of it, and the place entitled to the greatest reverence, is occupied by a private vestibule. There are many considerations which influence me,—namely, this, that the temple of Tellus is put particularly under my care; and that he who took away that armoury said that my house, which was declared free by the decision of the pontiffs, had been adjudged to his brother. I am influenced also at this time of dearness of provisions, of barrenness of the lands, and of scarcity of the crops, by the reverence due to Tellus; and all the more, because, on account of this same prodigy, an atonement is said to be due to Tellus. Perhaps we are speaking of old stones; although, if this is not laid down in the civil law, still by the law of nature and the common rights of nations the principle has been established, that mortals cannot acquire a prescriptive right to anything as against the immortal gods.
XV. But we will pass over all things of old date. Shall we also pass over those things which are done at the present time; which we see ourselves? Who knows not that Lucius Piso at this very time has been removing a great and most holy chapel of Diana on the Cœliculan hill? Men who live close to that spot are in court. There are many even belonging to this body, who once a-year have regularly performed the sacrifices of their family in that very chapel, in their appointed place. And do we ask what places the immortal gods are regretting; what it is they are meaning, of what it is that they are speaking? Are we ignorant that some most holy chapels were undermined, blocked up, knocked down, and defiled in the most unseemly possible manner? Were you able to render my house the property of the gods? With what feelings? You have lost all feeling. With what hand? With that with which you pulled it down. With what voice? With that with which you ordered it to be set on fire. By what law? By one which you did not venture to propose even at the time when you were doing everything with impunity. With what cushion? That which you polluted with your adulteries. With what image? That which you took off from a harlot’s tomb and placed on the monument of a general. What has my house which is connected with anything religious, except that it touches the wall of an impious and sacrilegious man? Therefore that none of my people may be able unintentionally to look into your house, I will raise the roof higher; not in order that I may look down upon you, but that you may not be able to see that city which you were desirous to destroy.
XVI. But let us now examine the rest of the clauses of the answers of the soothsayers.—“That ambassadors have been slain contrary to all divine and human law.” What is this? I see here a mention of the deputies from Alexandria; and I cannot refute it. For my feelings are, that the privileges of ambassadors are not only fenced round by human protection, but are also guarded by divine laws. But I ask of that man, who, as tribune, filled the forum with judges whom he took out of the prisons,—by whose will every dagger is now guided and every cup of poison dispensed,—who has made a regular bargain with Hermarchus of Chios,—whether he is at all aware that one most active adversary of Hermarchus, of the name of Theodosius, having been sent as ambassador to the senate from a free city, was assassinated with a dagger? and I know to a certainty that that cannot have appeared less scandalous to the immortal gods than the case of the Alexandrians. Nor am I now attributing every action of this sort to you alone. There would be greater hope of safety if there were no other wicked man but you; but there are more, and on this account you feel more confidence, and we almost distrust the protection of the law. Who is there who is not aware that Plato, a man of high character and high rank in his own country, came from Orestis, which is a free part of Macedonia, to Thessalonica, as an ambassador to our general, as he called himself? and this great general of ours, being angry at not being able to extort money from him, threw him into prison, and sent his own physician to him, who in a most infamous and barbarous manner cut the veins of an ambassador, an ally, a friend, and a freeman. He did not wish his own forces to be made bloody by crime; but he polluted the name of the Roman people with such guilt that it cannot be expiated by any means but his own punishment. What sort of executioner must we think that this man has in his train, when he uses even his physicians not to procure health but to inflict death?
XVII. But let us read what follows. “That good faith and oaths have been disregarded.” What this means by itself, I cannot easily explain; but from that which follows I suspect that it refers to the manifest perjury of your judges, from whom, some time ago, the money which they had received would have been taken away, if they had not entreated the protection of the senate. And this is the reason why I imagine that they are the persons alluded to, because I lay it down as a fact, that that is the most remarkable and notorious perjury ever committed in this city, and yet that you yourself are not threatened with the punishment of perjury by those men with whom you conspired.
And I see that in the answers of the soothsayers this is added: “That the ancient and secret sacrifices have been performed with less than due diligence, and have been polluted.” Are they the soothsayers who say this, or the gods of our country and our household gods? I suppose there are many persons to whom a suspicion of this guilt attaches;—who but this one man? Is it mentioned obscurely what sacrifices have been polluted? What can be expressed in a plainer, more dignified, or more solemn manner? “Ancient and secret.” I say that Lentulus, a dignified and eloquent orator, did not, when he was accusing you, make use of any expressions more frequently than these, which now are extracted from the Etruscan books, and turned against and applied to you. In truth, what sacrifice is there so ancient as this, which we have received from the kings, and which is contemporary with the city itself? But what is so secret as that which excludes not only all curious eyes, but even all accidental ones? which not only no wickedness, but which even no unintentional chance can penetrate? That sacrifice no one, ever since the world began, has ever profaned, no one has ever approached, no one has ever disregarded, no man has ever thought of beholding without horror, before Publius Clodius. It is performed by the vestal virgins; it is performed on behalf of the Roman people; it is performed in the house of a supreme magistrate; it is performed with incredible solemnity; it is performed to that goddess whose very name it is not lawful for men to know, and whom that fellow calls Good, because she has pardoned him such enormous wickedness.
XVIII. She has not pardoned you, believe me. No; unless, perchance, you think yourself pardoned because the judges dismissed you, after they had squeezed and drained everything out of you, acquitted by their decision, condemned by all the rest of the citizens; or because you have not been deprived of your eyes, as is, according to the common belief, the consequence of such impiety. For what man ever intentionally beheld those sacred rites before you, so as to enable any one to know what punishment followed that guilt? Could the blindness of your eyes be a greater injury to you than that blindness of your lust? Do not even you feel that those winking eyes of your ancestor1 were more desirable for you than these glowing eyes of your sister? But, if you observe carefully, you will see that though you have as yet escaped the punishment of men, you have not escaped that of the gods. Men have defended you in a most shameful affair; men have praised you though most infamous and most guilty; men, for a bribe, have acquitted you by their decision, though you all but confessed your guilt; men have felt no indignation at the injuries inflicted on themselves by your lust; men have supplied you with arms, some wishing them to be used against me, and others afterwards intending them to be employed against that invincible citizen. I will quite admit all the kindnesses which men have shown you, and that you need not wish for greater. But what greater punishment can be inflicted on man by the immortal gods than frenzy and madness? unless, perhaps, you think that those persons, whom in tragedies you see tortured and destroyed by wounds and agony of body, are enduring a more terrible form of the wrath of the immortal gods than those who are brought on the stage in a state of insanity. Those howlings and groans of Philoctetes are not so pitiable (sad though they be) as that exultation of Athamas, or that dream of those who have slain their mother. You, when you are uttering your frantic speeches to the assembly—when you are destroying the houses of the citizens—when you are driving virtuous men from the forum with stones—when you are hurling burning firebrands at your neighbours’ houses—when you are setting fire to holy temples—when you are stirring up the slaves—when you are throwing the sacred rites and games into confusion—when you see no difference between your wife and your sister—when you do not perceive whose bed it is that you enter—when you go ramping and raging about—you are then suffering that punishment which is the only one appointed by the immortal gods for the wickedness of men. For the infirmity of our bodies is of itself liable to many accidents; moreover, the body itself is often destroyed by some very trivial cause; and the darts of the gods are fixed in the minds of impious men. Wherefore you are more miserable while you are hurried into every sort of wickedness by your eyes, than you would be if you had no eyes at all.
XIX. But since enough has been said of all these offences which the soothsayers say have been committed, let us see now what these same soothsayers say that we are being warned of at this time by the immortal gods. They warn us “to take care that bloodshed and danger be not brought upon the senators and chief men of the state, through the discord and dissension of the nobles; and that our senators do not become disheartened from being deprived of support, by which the provinces may fall under the power of a single master, and our armies be defeated, and a great loss of power ensue.” All these are the words of the soothsayers; I am not adding anything of my own. Who, then, of the nobles is it who is causing this discord? The same man: and that not by any force of his own genius or wisdom, but by some blundering of ours; which he—for it was not very much concealed—easily perceived. For this consideration makes the present distress of the republic the more shameful, that even by him it is not afflicted in such a way that it may seem to fall like a brave man in battle, having received honourable wounds in front from a gallant foe.
Tiberius Gracchus overturned the constitution of the state; a man of such great force of character, and eloquence, and dignity, that he fell short in no respect of the surpassing and eminent virtue of his father, and of his grandfather, Africanus, except in the fact of his revolting from the senate. Caius Gracchus followed in his steps. How great was his genius! how great his energy! how impetuous his eloquence! so that all men grieved that all those good qualities and accomplishments were not joined to a better disposition and to better intentions. Lucius Saturninus himself was so furious and almost insane a man, that he was an admirable leader,—perfect in exciting and inflaming the minds of the ignorant. For why should I speak of Publius Sulpicius? whose dignity, and sweetness, and emphatic conciseness in speaking was so great that he was able by his oratory to lead even wise men into error, and virtuous men into pernicious sentiments. To be battling with these men, and to be daily struggling with them for the safety of the country, was a very annoying thing to those men who were at that time the governors of the republic, but still that annoyance had a certain sort of dignity in it.
XX. But as for this man, about whom I am now saying so much, O ye immortal gods! what is he? what is his influence? what is there about him to give so great a city, if it does fall, (may the gods avert the omen!) the comfort of at least seeming to have been overthrown by a man? a fellow who, from the moment of his father’s death, made his tender age subservient to the lusts of wealthy buffoons; when he had satiated their licentiousness, then he turned to the domestic seduction of his own sister; then, when he had become a man, he devoted himself to the concerns of a province, and to military affairs, and suffered insults from the pirates; he satisfied the lusts even of Cilicians and barbarians; afterwards, having in a most wicked manner tampered with the army of Lucius Lucullus, he fled from thence, and at Rome, the moment of his arrival there, he began to compound with his own relations not to prosecute them, and received money from Catiline to prevaricate in the most shameless manner. From thence he went into Gaul with Murena; in which province he forged wills of dead people, murdered wards, and made bargains and partnerships of wickedness with many. When he returned from Gaul, he appropriated to himself all that most fruitful and abundant source of gain which is derived from the Campus Martius, in such a manner that he (a man wholly devoted to the people!) cheated the people in a most scandalous manner, and also (merciful man that he is!) put the canvassers of the different tribes to death at his own house in the most cruel manner. Then came his quæstorship, so fatal to the republic, to our sacrifices, to our religious observances, to your authority, and to the public courts of justice; in which he insulted gods and men, virtue, modesty, the authority of the senate, every right both human and divine, and the laws and the tribunals of the country. And this was his first step; this (alas for the miserable times and for our senseless discords!) was the first step of Publius Clodius towards the conduct of the affairs of the republic; this was the path by which he first began to approach and mount up to his present boast of being a friend of the people. For the unpopularity arising from the treaty at Numantia, at the making of which he had been present as quæstor to Caius Mancinus the consul, and the severity displayed by the senate in repudiating that treaty, were a constant source of grief and fear to Tiberius Gracchus; and that circumstance alienated him, a brave and illustrious man, from the wisdom of the senators. And Caius Gracchus was excited by the death of his brother, by affection for him, by indignation, and by the greatness of his own mind, to seek to exact vengeance for the slaughter of a member of his family. We know that Saturninus was led to confess himself a friend of the people out of indignation, because at a time of great dearness of provisions, the senate removed him while he was quæstor from the superintendence of the corn market, which belonged to him by virtue of his office, and appointed Marcus Scaurus to manage that business. And it was the breeze of popularity which carried Sulpicius further than he intended, after he had set out in a good cause, and had resisted Caius Julius when seeking to obtain the consulship contrary to the laws.
XXI. All these men had a reason,—not an adequate one, indeed, (for no one can have an adequate reason for proving a bad citizen to the republic,) but still they had a serious reason, and one connected with some indignation of mind not unbecoming to a man. Publius Clodius came out as a popular character from saffron gowns, and turbans, and woman’s slippers, and purple bands, and stomachers, and singing, and iniquity, and adultery. If the women had not caught him in this dress, if he had not been allowed to escape by the indulgence of the maid servants, from a place which it was impious for him to enter, the Roman people would have lost their devoted friend, the republic would have been deprived of so energetic a citizen. It is in consequence of this insane conduct, amid our dissensions, for which we are by these recent prodigies admonished by the immortal gods, that one of the patricians has been taken from their number to be made a tribune of the people, in direct violation of the laws. That which, the year before, his brother Metellus and the senate, which even then was unanimous, had refused, and in the most rigorous manner rejected with one voice and one mind, Cnæus Pompeius being the first to declare his opinion; (so greatly, after the dissensions of the nobles of which we are now reminded, were circumstances disturbed and altered;) that which his brother when consul opposed being done,—which his kinsman and companion, a most illustrious man, who had refused to speak in his favour when he was accused, had utterly prevented,—was now effected for him, owing to the dissensions of the nobles, by that man as consul, who, of all others, was bound to be his greatest enemy; and he said that he had done it by the advice of that man whose authority no one could repent having followed. A most shameful and grievous firebrand was thrown into the republic. Your authority was aimed at; and the dignity of the most honourable orders in the city, and the unanimity of all virtuous men, and in short, the entire constitution of the state. For these things were certainly attacked when that flame kindled at that time was directed against me, who had been the principal investigator of these matters. I bore the brunt of the attack, and I alone suffered on behalf of my country; but still I bore it so that you, while you were surrounded by the same flames, saw me wounded first, and burning, as it were, in your defence.
XXII. The dissensions were not appeased; but the unpopularity of those men, by whom we thought that our cause was espoused, even increased. So, after a time, the very same men being the movers, and Pompeius the chief man, who roused Italy willing to be roused, and the Roman people which regretted me, and you who demanded me back, to take measures for my safety, employing not only his authority but even his prayers, I was restored. Let there be an end of discord, let us at last find rest from our long dissensions. No, that pest will not allow it; he summons these assemblies, he throws everything into confusion and disorder, selling himself sometimes to one party, sometimes to another; and yet not in such a manner that any one thinks himself the more praiseworthy for being praised by him; though at the same time they are glad that those whom they do not like, are abused by him. And I do not marvel at this fellow; for what else can he do? I do marvel at those wise and respectable men; in the first place, that they so easily allow any illustrious man who has deserved well of the republic to be attacked by the voice of a most profligate man; in the second place, that they think, (it would be a most disastrous thing for themselves if the fact were so,) that the real glory and dignity of any one can be impaired by the abuse of an abandoned and worthless man; and lastly, that they do not see, what, however, they do seem to me to have some suspicion of, that those frantic and desultory attacks of his may some day or other be turned against themselves. And it is owing to this undue alienation of some persons from others that those arrows now stick in the republic which, as long as they stuck in me alone, I bore,—with pain, indeed, but still not as thinking them of any great importance. Could that fellow, if he had not first given himself up to those men whose minds he thought were alienated from your authority,—if he had not, admirable authority that he is! extolled them to the skies with his panegyric,—if he had not threatened that he would let loose the army of Caius Cæsar, (though in that he spoke falsely, but no one contradicted him,) that he would, I say, set on that army with hostile standards against the senate-house,—if he had not cried out that he was doing what he was by the assistance of Cnæus Pompeius, and at the instigation of Marcus Crassus,—if he had not declared (the only word of truth that he spoke) that the consuls had united their cause with him;—could he, I say, ever have been so cruel an enemy to me or so wicked a disturber of the republic?
XXIII. After that, when he saw you recovering your breath after your fear of bloodshed, when he saw your authority rising again above the waves of that slavery, and the recollection of and regret for me getting more vivid, then he began on a sudden to sell himself to you, though with the most treacherous design. Then he began to say, both here in this house and in the assemblies of the people, that the Julian laws had been passed in opposition to the auspices; among which laws was that lex curiata on which the whole of his tribuneship depended, though he was too frantic to see that. He brought forward that most fearless man Marcus Bibulus. He asked him whether he had not always been observing the heavens when Caius Cæsar was carrying those laws? He replied, that he always had been observing them at that time. He asked the augurs whether laws which had been passed under these circumstances had been duly passed? They said, such a proceeding was irregular. Some people, virtuous men, and men who had done great service to me, began to extol him; utterly ignorant, I imagine, of the lengths to which his madness could carry him. He proceeded further. He begar to inveigh against Cnæus Pompeius, the originator, as he was accustomed to boast, of all his designs. He gained great popularity in same people’s eyes. But then, when he had become elated by the hope that he might be able—as he had by his abominable wickedness crushed, as he fancied, him who, though in the garb of peace, had proved the suppressor of domestic war—to put down also that great man who had been the conqueror of our foreign wars and foreign enemies, then was seized in the temple of Castor that wicked dagger which was nearly the destroyer of this empire. Then he, against whom no enemy’s city had ever long continued shut,—he, who had always broken through all straits, trampled on all heights, crushed, by his energy and valour, the opposing weapons of every foe, was himself besieged at home; and, by the counsels which he adopted, relieved me from the reproaches cast on my timidity by some ignorant people. For if it was miserable rather than disgraceful to Cnæus Pompeius, that bravest of all men who have ever been born, not to be able to go abroad in the sight of men, and to be secluded from all public places, as long as that fellow was tribune of the people, and to put up with his threats, when he said in the public assembly that he wished to build a second piazza in Carinæ,1 to correspond to the one on the Palatine Hill; certainly, for me to leave my house was grievous as far as my own private grief was concerned, but glorious if you look only at the interests of the republic.
XXIV. You see, then, that this fellow, when, as far as his own efforts went, he had been long since overthrown and crushed, was aroused again by the mischievous discords of the nobles; and the first beginnings of his fury were upheld by those who at that time appeared alienated from you. It is by these detractors and enemies that the remainder of the acts of his tribuneship have been defended, even since that tribuneship was over. They are the men who resisted that pest being removed from the republic; they prevented his being prosecuted; they resisted his being reduced to the condition of a private citizen. Is it possible, that any virtuous men could have cherished in their bosom, and have taken pleasure in, that poisonous and deadly viper? By what bribe were they cajoled? I wish, say they, that there should be some one in the assembly to disparage Pompeius. Can he disparage him by his abuse? I wish that that great man, who has contributed so greatly to my safety, may receive what I say in the same spirit as I say it. At all events, I will say what I feel. I declare to God, that there was no time that fellow appeared to be detracting so much from his exceeding dignity as when he was extolling him with the most extravagant praises. Was Caius Marius, I pray you, more illustrious when Caius Glaucia was praising him, or when he became angry afterwards and abused him? Or, was this madman, who has been so long rushing headlong on punishment and destruction, more foul-mouthed and shameless when accusing Pompeius than he had been when reviling the whole senate? But I do marvel, that, though the former conduct may have been pleasing to angry men, the other course should not have been odious to such good citizens. But, lest this should any longer please excellent men, let them just read this harangue of his, of which I speak: in which, shall I say, he extols, or rather debases Pompeius? Undoubtedly he extols him, and says, that he is the only man in the city worthy of the glory of this empire; and hints that he is an exceedingly great friend of his, and that they are entirely reconciled. And although I do not exactly know what he means, yet I am sure that, if he were a friend to Pompeius, he would not praise him. For, if he were his greatest enemy, what could he do more to diminish his credit? Let those, who were glad that he was an enemy to Cnæus Pompeius, and who, on that account, winked at his numerous and enormous crimes, and who sometimes even accompanied his unbridled and furious acts of frenzy with their applause, observe how quickly he has turned round. For now he is praising him; he is inveighing against those men to whom he previously sold himself. What do you suppose he will do if a door to reconciliation with him should become really open to him, when he is so eager to spread a belief in such a reconciliation?
XXV. What other dissensions among the nobles can I suppose are pointed out by the immortal gods? For by this expression Publius Clodius is surely not meant, nor any one of his gang or of his counsellors. The Etruscan books have certain names which may fit some of that class of citizens. “Worthless men, rejected candidates,” as you shall presently hear, they call them, whose minds and estates are ruined, and utterly alienated from the general welfare. Wherefore when the immortal gods warn us of the discords of the nobles, they speak of the dissensions between illustrious citizens who have deserved well of the republic. When they predict danger and slaughter to the chief men, they leave Clodius safe enough, a man who is as far from the chief men as he is from virtuous or holy men. It is for you and for your safety, O most illustrious and most virtuous citizens, that they see that it behoves them to consult and to provide. Slaughter of the chief men is indicated; that is added which must inevitably follow the death of the nobles. We are warned to take care that the republic does not fall under the absolute dominion of a single individual. And even if we were not led to this fear by the warning of the gods, still we ourselves, of our own accord, by our own senses and conjectures, should be forced to entertain it. For there is not usually any other termination to dissensions between eminent and powerful men, except either universal destruction, or the domination of the victorious party, or regal power. Lucius Sylla, a most noble and gallant consul, quarrelled with Caius Marius, a most illustrious citizen. Each of these men, when defeated, fell so completely that the conqueror became a king. Cinna quarrelled with his colleague Octavius. To each of these men prosperity gave kingly power, and adversity brought death. The same Sylla became victorious a second time. And that time, beyond all question, he exercised regal power, though he re-established the republic. There is at this moment a hatred not concealed but implanted deeply, and burnt as it were into their minds, subsisting between men of the very highest rank. The chief men of the state are at variance. Every occasion is eagerly caught at. That party which is not so powerful as the other is nevertheless waiting for some change of fortune and for some favourable opportunity. That party which without dispute is the more powerful, is still perhaps at time afraid of the designs and opinions of its enemies. Let this discord be banished from the state. In a moment all those dangers which are foreshown by these prodigies will be banished. In a moment that serpent which is at present lurking about here will emerge and be brought to light, and will be strangled, and crushed, and die.
XXVI. For the soothsayers warn us to take care that the republic is not injured by secret designs. What designs are more secret than those of that man who dared to say in the public assembly, that a suspension of the courts of justice ought to be proclaimed; that the jurisdiction of the judges ought to be interrupted, and the treasury shut, and all trials put an end to? Unless perhaps you think that all this confusion and overthrow of the constitution could occur to him all on a sudden, while in the rostrum, and that he was not speaking after mature deliberation. The man is full of wine, lust, and sleep,—full of the most inconsiderate and insane rashness; but still it was in his nocturnal vigils, and in a numerous company, that that suspension of justice was planned and concocted. Remember, O conscript fathers, that your ears were being experimented on by that expression, and that a most mischievous road was being made to them by accustoming you to hear it.
These words follow: “That more honour must not be given to worthless citizens and rejected candidates.” Let us see who are the rejected candidates; for I will show you afterwards who are the worthless citizens. But still all men must allow that this expression suits that man above all others who is beyond all question the most worthless of all mortals. Who, then, are the rejected candidates? Not, I imagine, they who some time or other have failed to attain some honour more by the fault of the city than by their own. For that is a thing which has frequently happened to many most excellent citizens and most honourable men. Those are the rejected candidates meant, whom, when they were proceeding to the most violent measures, when they were preparing exhibitions of gladiators contrary to the laws, when they were bribing in the most open manner, not only strangers, but even their own relations, their neighbours, the men of their own tribe, towns-people and countrymen, all rejected. We are warned not to confer any additional honours on these men. It ought to be a very acceptable admonition that they give us; but still the Roman people itself, of its own accord, without any warning on the part of the soothsayers, has provided against this evil. O you worthless men, beware; and there is a great multitude of you; but still this man is the leader and chief of the whole band. In truth, if any poet of splendid genius were to wish to bring on the stage one most worthless man, deformed with all sorts of imaginary vices collected from all quarters, he would not, I pledge myself, be able to discover one disgraceful quality which did not exist in this man, and he would pass over many which are deeply implanted and firmly rooted in him.
XXVII. In the first place nature attaches us to our parents, and to the immortal gods, and to our country. For at one and the same time we are brought forth to the light, and we are strengthened so as to grow by the breath of heaven which we feel around us, and we are established in a certain abode as citizens and free men. That fellow has jumbled in confusion the name of his parents, and his family sacrifices, and the memory of his family, and his family itself, by the assumption of the name of Fonteius. He has with unpardonable wickedness thrown into confusion the fires of the gods, their thrones, and tables, their secret hearths in the inmost recesses of the house, and sacrifices which were previously secret, and not only unseen by men, but even unheard-of by them; and besides all this he has set fire to the temple of those goddesses by whose aid people come to bring assistance in the case of other fires.
Why should I mention his country? when in the first place by violence and arms, and dread of personal danger, he drove away from the city and from all the protection afforded him by his country that citizen whom you had decided over and over again to have been the saviour of his country. In the second place, having overthrown the companion of the senate, as I have always said, but its leader as he used to call him, he by violence, bloodshed, and conflagration, threw into confusion the senate itself, the mainstay of the general safety and of the public good sense; he abolished two laws, the Ælian and Fufian laws, which were of especial advantage to the state; he extinguished the censorship; he took away the power of intercession; he abolished the auspices; he armed the consuls, the companions of his wickedness, with the treasury, and provinces, and an army; he sold the kings who were in existence, and he called men kings who were not so; he drove Cnæus Pompeius to his house with violence and arms; he overthrew the monuments of our generals; he threw down the houses of his enemies; he inscribed his own name on your monuments. The wicked deeds which have been done by him to the injury of his country are innumerable. Why need I tell what he has done to individual citizens, whom he has slain? Why need I count up the allies whom he has plundered? or the generals whom he has betrayed? or the armies with which he has tampered? Why need I mention what enormous wickednesses they are which he has been guilty of towards himself, and towards his own relations? Who ever showed less mercy to the camp of an enemy than he has shown to every part of his own person? What ship in a public river was ever so open to all men as his youth was? What spendthrifts ever lived in so unrestrained a manner with prostitutes as he did with his own sisters? In short, what enormous Charybdis could the poets ever describe or ever imagine, capable of swallowing down such whirlpools as the plunder of the Byzantines and Brogitari which that fellow has sucked down? or what Sylla with such conspicuous and hungry hounds as the Gellii, and Clodii, and Titii with which you see that fellow devouring the rostrum itself?
Wherefore, and that is the last sentence in the answers of the soothsayers, “Beware that the constitution of the republic be not changed.” In truth it is only with difficulty, even if we prop it up on all sides, that the constitution, already undermined and resting on all our shoulders, will be able to be kept together.
XXVIII. This state was once so firm and so vigorous that it could withstand the indifference of the senate, or even the assaults of the citizens. Now it cannot. There is no treasury. Those who have contracted for the revenues do not enjoy them; the authority of the chief men has fallen; the agreement between the different orders of the state is torn asunder; the courts of justice are destroyed; the votes are all arranged and divided so as to be under the power of a few; the courage of the virtuous citizens, formerly ready at a nod from our order, exists no longer. Henceforth in vain will you look for a citizen who will expose himself to unpopularity for the welfare of his country. We can then preserve even this state of things which now exists, such as it is, by no other means than by unanimity; for although we may become better off, that cannot even be hoped for as long as he is unpunished. And if we are to be worse off than we are, there is but one step slower, that of death or slavery. And the immortal gods themselves warn us against allowing ourselves to be thrust down into that abyss, since all human counsels have long since failed.
And I, O conscript fathers, should not have undertaken this speech, so melancholy and so serious; not but that owing to the honours conferred on me by the Roman people, and to the numberless distinctions which you have heaped upon me, I am both bound and able to support this character and to play this part; but still, when every one else was silent I should willingly have remained silent too. All this speech which I have made has not proceeded from my authority, but from my regard for the general religion. My words have, perhaps, been too many, but the whole sentiment has proceeded from the soothsayers. And either you ought never to have referred the prodigies which have been reported to you to them at all, or else you must be influenced by their answers.
But if other more ordinary and more trifling occurrences have often influenced us, shall not the express voice of the immortal gods influence every one’s mind? Do not think that really possible, which you often see in plays, that some god descending from heaven can approach the assemblies of men, and abide on earth, and converse with men. Consider the description of noise which the Latins have reported. Remember that prodigy also, which has not as yet been formally reported, that at almost the same time a terrible earthquake is said to have taken place in the Picenian district, at Potentia, with many other terrible circumstances;—these things which we foresee you will fear as impending over the city. In truth, this ought almost to be considered as the voice and speech of the immortal gods, when the world itself and the air and the earth tremble with a certain unusual agitation, and prophecy to us with an unprecedented and incredible sound.
On this emergency we must appoint atonements and prayers as we are ordered; but it is easy to address prayers to those beings who of their own accord point out to us the path of safety. Our own internal quarrels and dissensions must be terminated by ourselves.
[1 ]This is not the same Lentulus as had been consul the preceding year. This was Cnæus Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus; the former consul was Publius Cornelius Lentulus Spinther.
[1 ]Originally the number of pontiffs was four, or, including the Pontifex Maximus, five. In the year 300 the Ogulnian law raised the number from four to eight; in the year 81 Sylla increased the number to fifteen, including the Pontifex Maximus; and after him Julius Cæsar increased the number to sixteen. Besides these there were other pontiffs distinguished as minores, of whom three are mentioned here; the nature of whose office seems rather uncertain; but it appears probable that it was a name of late introduction, and applied to the secretaries of the pontiffs when the real pontiffs had begun to neglect their duties, and to leave the greater part of them to be performed by their secretaries. Vide Smith, Dict Ant. v Pontifix.
[1 ]It is inferred from this passage that the boys assisting at these games might not be orphans.
[1 ]The Megalesia were the great festivals in honour of Cybele, celebrated in April, on the anniversary of the day when her statue was brought from Pessenus. They lasted six days, and were among the most important of all the festivities of the sort which were held at Rome Vide Smith, Dict. Ant. v. Megalesia.
[1 ]Appius Claudius, surnamed Cæcus, or the Blind.
[1 ]Carinæ was the name of one of the finest streets in Rome. It is mentioned as such by Virgil, (Æn. viii. 361)—
And in that street was Pompey’s house.