Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE FRAGMENTS OF THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO IN DEFENCE OF CAIUS CORNELIUS. - Orations vol. 2: Three Orations on the Agrarian Law, the four against Cataline, the Orations for Rabirius Murena, Sylla, Archias, Flaccus, Scaurus, etc
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THE FRAGMENTS OF THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO IN DEFENCE OF CAIUS CORNELIUS. - Marcus Tullius Cicero, Orations vol. 2: Three Orations on the Agrarian Law, the four against Cataline, the Orations for Rabirius Murena, Sylla, Archias, Flaccus, Scaurus, etc 
The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, trans. C.D. Yonge (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1913-21). Vol. 2.
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THE FRAGMENTS OF THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO IN DEFENCE OF CAIUS CORNELIUS.
Caius Cornelius had been quæstor to Cnæus Pompeius, and afterwards had been tribune of the people in the consulship of Piso. He had been alienated from the senate by their rejection of some severe laws which he had proposed to check the system of usury by which he said that the provinces were drained of their treasures. Out of revenge he proposed other laws, having for their object the curtailment of the power of the senate. And in retaliation now, many of the most influential senators encouraged the institution of a prosecution of him for practices against the state in his late tribunate, and especially for some acts of peculation, which they said brought him under the provisions of the Lex Majestatis.1 Some of the most influential of the senators, such as Quintus Hortensius, Quintus Catulus, Quintus Metellus Pius, Lucius Lucullus, and Marcus Lepidus, gave evidence against him. The cause was tried before Gallius, the prætor. The trial lasted four days, and Cicero spoke two speeches in it, of which nothing has come down to us but a few fragments of the first, and a very few lines indeed of the second.
NA* * * He was first presented before me as prætor, on a charge of extortion. Cominius, forsooth, has a clear foresight of what the real object in view is; that men of straw, forsooth, are pushed forward in front to make experiment with.NA* * * * * *
What? when Metellus, a man of the highest rank and the purest virtue, had twice given his evidence on oath,—once with reference to some private affairs of his own, on behalf of his father, and a second time in his public capacity; was it because he was compelled by the law that he desisted from his accusation, or did the power of truth constrain him? It is a case in which the virtue and dignity of Caius Curio takes away all suspicion; and so does the youth of Quintus Metellus, embellished as it is with every quality calculated to attract the highest and most universal praise.
Cornelius, says he, gave a law in conjunction with Manilius, about the votes of freedmen. What does this word gave mean? Did he pass such a law, or propose it, or speak in favour of it? For it is ridiculous to say that he passed it; as if it were a law difficult to draw up, or very subtle to imagine; a law, too, which was not only framed a few years ago, but actually passed at that time.NA* * *
And in this many things were found fault with, and especially the rapidity of the legal proceedings.NA* * *
But he begged of me while I was prætor, with the greatest earnestness, to defend the cause of Manilius.NA* * *
[He is speaking now of the tribuneship of Manilius.]
For he, when, as tribune of the people, he had passed two laws in his year of office, one a mischievous law, the other an admirable one, the one which was injurious to the main interests of the republic was discarded by the tribune himself, but the good one, which is still in existence to the great advantage of the republic, was passed very irregularly.
* * * * * *
He was instigated to that mad course by other prompters of great eminence, who wished a most mischievous precedent for disturbing judicial decisions to be established, one very well suited to their necessities, but utterly foreign to all my ideas of governments.NA* * * * *
I am able to affirm that that man, so eminent for the highest wisdom, Caius Cotta, himself made a motion in the senate for the abrogation of his own laws.NA* * *
I can also produce a law of that same Cotta about decisions in civil cases, abrogated by his own brother the year after it had been passed.NA* * * * *
I see that it is agreed on all hands that the Licinius and Mutian Law, about the regulation of the citizens, which the two wisest consuls that we have seen in our time passed, was not only useless, but even mischievous to the republic.
There are in all four kinds of resolutions, O judges, by which any determination is expressed by the senate with respect to the laws, according to the principles of our ancestors. One is in this form,—that it seems fit that the law should be repealed, as in the consulship of Quintus Cæcilius and Marcus Junius it was voted that the laws which were a hindrance to the military service of the state should be repealed.
Another, when a law is passed, that the people shall not be bound by that law, as happened in the consulship of Lucius Marcius and Sextus Julius with reference to the Livian laws.
* * * * * *
There is a third way of proceeding about the repeal of laws, in which there are often formal decrees of the senate passed, as was lately done in the case of the Calpurnian Law itself, which was repealed.
Publius Africanus the elder, as it is said, was often blamed, not only by the wisest men of that day, but by himself also, because, when he was consul with Titus Longus, he had permitted the seats of the senators to be for the first time separated from the place where the people sat.1
* * * * * *
There is especially the law giving the power of veto, when a law is being proposed, as long as it is not passed; while those who have met for the purpose of voting are tossed about here and there—while private individuals are speaking, while the voting tablets are being distributed, while the ballot-box is being carried round, while the votes are being counted, while the voting is taking place, and other things of this kind.NA* * * * * *
But one thing which was done, while this man himself was tribune, ought not to be passed over. For it is not a stronger measure to read a document, when the veto is interposed, than to carry down the ballot-box with the tribune who interposes; nor is it a more serious thing to begin to propose a thing, than to propose and carry it; nor is it more violent conduct to show that he will pass a law against the will of his colleague, than to strip his colleague of his office; nor is it more like the conduct of an accuser to summon the tribes to adopt a law, than to summon them for the purpose of reducing his colleague to the station of a private individual; all which things that brave man Aulus Gabinius, this man’s colleague, did in a just cause;1 and when he was bringing safety to the Roman people, an end of slavery and of a long captivity and disgrace to all nations, he would not endure the voice and will of one of his colleagues to have more weight than that of the whole city.NA* * * * *
But they made a motion about correcting the law.NA*
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I also, if this very law, which Caius Cornelius passed, had not prevented me, should have proposed that which those defenders of the tribunals have been openly contending for,—namely, a resolution that the senate did not approve of that decision being come to respecting the property of Sylla, which cause I advocated in a very different manner in the public assembly when I was prætor; saying what those same judges decided afterwards, that the decision ought to be come to at a time when people could be more impartial.NA* * * But formerly, how many decisions were overturned I will not now say, both because you know, and in order that my speech may not seem to bring any one back before the court.
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Cnæus Dolabella would not have deprived Caius Volcatius, a most honourable man, of the common every-day privileges which are the right of every one.
Lastly, Lucius Sisenna, a man very unlike to them in his course of life and his prudence, but still too free in straining the law to gratify some people, would not have given by his edict possession of the property of Cnæus Cornelius to Publius Scipio, a youth of the most illustrious family and the most eminent virtue.NA* * *
As, therefore, the Roman people both saw the bribery, and had it proved to them by the tribunes of the people, that, unless punishments were enacted against the agents of corruption, it could not possibly be put an end to, they demanded this law of Cornelius, and repudiated that one which was proposed in accordance with the resolution of the senate.
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that we might see that spectacle of two consuls elect, wholesome and necessary in our distress, under such circumstances, and at so critical a time, but miserable and fatal in its kind, and by the precedent which it established.
Why should I now reply to you by express arguments to prove that it is possible that there should be some other Cornelius who has a Phileros? It is notorious enough that Phileros is a common name, and that there are so many Cornelii that a college of them might be founded.
But you, O Caius Cornelius, in that extreme and difficult moment compelled the consul to utter these words, that whoever was anxious for the salvation of the republic, must be present to give his sanction to that law.
He says that the common people were defeated and subdued by their disappointment in the matter of Manilius NA* * * so that one could do nothing by himself against a multitude; and the other was far away.NA* * * * *
So much virtue then existed in those men, that, sixteen years after the expulsion of the kings, they seceded on account of the imperious conduct of the nobles, themselves restored their sacred laws, created two tribunes, and consecrated in the eternal memory of ages that mount on the other side of the Anio, which is called to this day the Sacred Mount, on which they had taken up a position in arms; and in the ensuing year ten tribunes of the people were created at the Comitia Curiata,1 after a solemn taking of the auspices.
Then, having exchanged reciprocal promises, through the intervention of three ambassadors,2 men of the highest character, they returned in arms to Rome. They took up a position on the Aventine Hill; from thence they came armed into the Capitol; and they elected ten tribunes of the people, the pontifex presiding at the Comitia, because there were no magistrates.
I pass over, also, these more recent things; I call the foundation of the most just liberty the Cassian law;1 by which law the force and power of the suffrages of the people obtained their proper authority, and the second Cassian law which ratified the decisions of the people.NA* * *
They who, not only in the time of Sylla, but also after he was dead, thought that they ought always to cling to this privilege with all their might, were the greatest enemies of Caius Cotta, because he, when he was consul, added not only some power, but also some dignity to the tribunes.NA* * *
As long, then, as the common people is disposed to us as it showed that it was, when it not only accepted the Aurelian and Roscian laws, but even demanded them, NA* * *
I recollect, when first the senators were united with the Roman knights as judges according to the Plotian law, that a man detested by the gods and by the nobles, Cnæus Pompeius, was tried for treason according to the provisions of the Cassian law.NA* * * * * *
[1 ]“Majestas is defined by Ulpian to be ‘crimen illud quod adversus populum Romanum vel adversus securitatem ejus committitur.’ . . . The word Majestas properly signifies the magnitude or greatness of a thing. ‘Majestas,’ says Cicero (Part. 30), ‘est quædam magnitudo populi Romani.’ Accordingly, the phrases ‘Majestas populi Romani,’ ‘Imperii majestas,’ signify the whole of that which constituted the Roman state; in other words, the sovereignty of the Roman state. The expression ‘minuere majestatem,’ consequently signifies any act by which this majestas is impaired; and is thus defined by Cicero. (De Invent. ii. 17.) ‘Majestatem minuere est de dignitate, aut amplitudine, aut potestate populi, aut eorum quibus populus potestatem dedit, aliquid derogare.’ In the republican period the term ‘majestas læsa,’ or ‘minuta,’ was most commonly applied to cases of a general betraying or surrendering his army to the enemy, exciting sedition, and generally by his bad conduct in administration impairing the majestas of the state. . . .
[1 ]This refers to the seats at the Ludi Romani, and this separation was made in the second consulship of Africanus, a. u. c. 560.
[1 ]Originally, when one member of the College of Tribunes opposed a resolution of his colleagues, nothing could be done, and the measure was dropped; but this useful check was removed by the example of Tiberius Gracchus, in which a precedent was given for proposing to the public, that a tribune obstinately persisting in his veto should be deprived of his office. Vide Cic. Leg. iii. 10. Smith, Dict. Ant. p. 990, voc. Tribunes.
[1 ]Vide Smith, Dict. Ant. p. 272, v. Comitia.
[2 ]Their names were Spurius Tarpeius, Caius Julius, and Publius Sulpicius, all three men of consular rank.
[1 ]The Cassian law was one of the tabellariæ leges; it was proposed by the tribune Lucius Cassius Longinus, b. c. 137, and introduced the ballot in the judicium populi in most cases. It was supported by Scipio Africanus the younger, for which he was censured by the aristocratical party.