Cicero : Pro Plancio

Sections 58-104

This speech was delivered for Cn. Plancius, in 54 B.C.

The translation is by N.H. Watts (1928). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section. Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.

    ← Previous sections (1-57)

[24.] L   [58] But I now come to my friend Lucius Cassius, ** and I have not yet called you ** to account as regards the Juventius whom that excellent and cultivated young man mentioned in his speech as being the first plebeian to be elected curule aedile. As to that, Cassius, if, in replying to this statement of yours, I were to assert that the Roman people were not aware of this fact, and that there has been no one to tell us of it, especially now that Congus ** is dead, you would not, I take it, be surprised ; for indeed, though I am somewhat of an antiquarian myself, I must confess that I never heard of the fact until I heard it from you. Your speech was a model of grace and adroitness; it was characterised by that energy and self-restraint which we associate with the Roman knighthood, and was listened to with an attention which is a high recommendation to your culture and intelligence; consequently, I will reply to your remarks, which dealt very largely with myself; even your sarcastic strictures gave me matter for self-satisfaction. [59] You asked whether I thought that official dignity had been more accessible to myself, the son of a Roman knight, than it was likely to be to my son, who was of consular family; and my answer is, that though I always give him the first and myself the second place in my wishes, I have never hoped that the avenues to honour would be easier for him than they were to myself. Lest he should think that rather than showing him the way to win honours in the future I have already won his honours for him, I am accustomed to give him the advice (though advice is somewhat beyond him ** at his present years) which that king ** who was himself sprung from Jupiter gave to his sons :
  Be wakeful aye; with snares the good are hemmed ;
  For jealous hearts are rife . . .

No doubt you recall the rest of the passage. These lines were written by an earnest and gifted poet, whose object in writing them was to kindle the spirit of industry and ambition, not in those young princes who were merely the figments of his imagination, but in us and in our children.

[60] What more, you ask, could Plancius have gained if he had been the son of Gnaeus Scipio? ** He could not have been made aedile more easily, but he would have the advantage of being less an object of envy ; for the steps of office are equal for the greatest and meanest of men, but in the glory they bring wholly unequal [25.] L   Which of us claims to be the equal of Manius Curius, of Gaius Fabricius, of Gaius Duilius, of Aulus Atilius Calatinus, ** of Gnaeus and Publius Scipio, of Africanus, of Marcellus, or of Fabius Maximus? Yet we have climbed the steps of office just as they did. For indeed in virtue there are many grades, and it follows that the highest glory is won by the highest virtue. Of offices, on the other hand, such as the people bestows, the crown is the consulate, which has been now gained by nearly eight hundred; and a diligent search will discover that scarce a tithe of these were worthy of glory. Yet no-one ever adopts your line of reasoning and asks, '' Why has that fellow been made consul ? What more could he have attained if he had been Lucius Brutus, who freed the state from the despotism of a tyrant? " Nothing more in rank, I grant you, but much in glory. So in the same way Plancius has been elected quaestor, tribune of the plebs, and aedile, just as much as if his birth had been of the highest; but these offices have been won by countless others of no higher social grade than he. [61] You quote the triumphs won by Titus Didius and Gaius Marius, and ask what Plancius can show to match them; as though, forsooth, those whose names you mention had received offices because they had won triumphs, and had not rather won triumphs as a result of military successes, because the offices entrusted to them gave them opportunities of winning those triumphs. You ask what active service he has seen. Well, he served in Crete under a general ** who is in the court to-day, and he was military tribune and quaestor in Macedonia, allowing himself distraction from his military duties only for such periods as he preferred to devote to my protection. [62] Has he eloquence, you ask? So far from that, he does not even possess the quality which is next in value to eloquence, of thinking that he is eloquent. You ask whether he is a competent lawyer, as though complaints had been made of my client's inefficiency as a legal adviser. The absence of proficiency in such directions as these is only considered blameworthy when those who profess competence fail to substantiate their own professions, and not when men admit that they have never applied themselves in those directions ; what we look for in a candidate is uprightness, honesty, incorruptibility, not a glib tongue, professional skill, a deep knowledge. In purchasing slaves, however honest a man may be, if we have bought him as a carpenter or a plasterer, we are annoyed if he turns out to be ignorant of the business we had in view when we bought him. But if we buy a slave to occupy the post of steward or shepherd, the only qualities we care about in him are frugality, industry, and vigilance. This is how the Roman people selects its magistrates, for they are, as it were, stewards of the republic. If, in addition to the necessary moral qualities, they are experts in any direction, the people is well pleased ; if not, then uprightness and integrity are quite enough for it. For how small a fraction of mankind is eloquent or proficient in the law, even if we - include those who are ambitious to be so! And if no one apart from these is worthy of honour, what shall we do with all our best and most admirable citizens ?

[26.] L   [63] You challenge Plancius to adduce flaws in the life of Laterensis. There are no flaws to adduce, unless perhaps that he has shown too bitter a resentment against my client. At the same time you speak of Laterensis in terms of fulsome praise. I have not the least objection to your dwelling at considerable length on a theme which is irrelevant to the question before the court, or that you in your prosecution should enlarge upon a fact which I in my defence can concede without damaging my case. Yet not merely do I grant that the highest endowments are to be found in Laterensis, but I would even find fault with you for being at pains to gather instances of specious and trivial qualities, instead of enumerating the solid endowments he possesses. You say that he exhibited games at Praeneste. ** What! have other quaestors never done so? You say that at Cyrene he was generous to the tax-farmers and just to the companies. ** Who denies the fact? But in the bustle of life at Rome it is almost impossible to attend to what goes on in the provinces. [64] I have no fear, gentlemen, of appearing to have too good a conceit of myself, if I say a word about my own quaestorship. My tenure of that office was successful enough, but I think that the achievements of my later tenure of the highest offices have led me to look for but a modest distinction from the credit I gained in the quaestorship ; still, I am not afraid that anyone should venture to assert that any Sicilian quaestor has won greater renown or popularity. ** At that time I can say with most assured confidence that I thought that my quaestorship was the sole topic of conversation at Rome. I had dispatched an enormous quantity of corn at a time of very high prices; the universal opinion was that I was civil to the financiers, just to the merchants, liberal to the corn-contractors, never enriching myself at the expense of the allies, and that I spared no pains in all my official duties; the Sicilians had contemplated the bestowal upon me of unparalleled honours ; [65] so I retired from the province filled with the notion that the Roman people would spontaneously lay all their distinctions at my feet. It happened that on my way back from the province I had arrived at Puteoli, intending to make the journey thence by land, just at the season when the place was thronged with fashionable people; and I nearly swooned, gentlemen, when someone asked me on what day I had left Rome, and whether there was any news. When I replied that I was on my way back from my province, he said, "Why, of course, you come from Africa, do you not?" [27.] L   "No," I answered, somewhat coolly, for I was now in high dudgeon, "from Sicily." Hereupon another of the party interposed, with an omniscient air, "What! don't you know that our friend has been quaestor at Syracuse ** ?" To cut my story short, I dropped the dudgeon, and made myself just one of those who had come for the waters.

[66] This experience, gentlemen, I am inclined to think was more valuable to me than if I had been hailed with salvoes of applause; for having once realised that the ears of the Roman people were somewhat obtuse, but their eyes keen and alert, I ceased henceforth from considering what the world was likely to hear about me; from that day I took care that I should be seen personally every day. I lived in the public eye; I frequented the forum ; neither my door-keeper nor sleep prevented anyone from having audience of me. Not even when I had nothing to do did I do nothing, and how do you think I fared when my time was fully occupied? Those speeches, Cassius, which you tell us it is your custom to read in your hours of leisure, I have spent festivals and holidays in writing, and consequently absolute leisure was a thing I never knew. I have always thought that a sublime and noble sentiment which Marcus Cato expresses in the opening passage of his Origins, ** where he says that great and eminent men should attach as much importance to their hours of relaxation as to their hours of toil. In this way, any reputation I possess, and for all I know it is but small, has been won at Rome, and earned in the forum ; my private plans have been justified by public events, so that in my home I have had to direct even the vital issues of state policy, and in the city the city has had to be preserved. ** [67] The same road lies open to Laterensis, Cassius; virtue shows him the same avenue to fame as she showed to myself; but for him perhaps in one respect the path is easier. Self-started and self-supported, I have worked my way to my present position, but his shining virtues will be reinforced by the recommendation of illustrious ancestors.

But to return to Plancius. My client never left the city, save when his absence was enforced by the lot, ** the law, ** or the imperious calls of business ; he had not the same qualifications as others may have had; but qualifications he nevertheless had, the qualifications of steady application, of attentive service to his friends, of a generous heart. He lived in the public view, he stood for office, and his life generally was guided by those principles which have enabled very many, like himself without antecedents, to rise uncensured, as far as may be, to the same honours to which he has attained.

[28.] L   [68] For with regard to your assertion, Cassius, that I am under no deeper obligation to Plancius than to all good patriots, because they all had my safety equally at heart, I do admit that all patriots have me in their debt; but those very patriots and honest citizens, whose debtor I am, affirmed that on my account they owed to Plancius a debt which the election of the aediles enabled them to discharge. Let us grant, then, that I am in debt to many, and to Plancius among them; ought I then to declare myself to be a bankrupt? Ought I not rather to discharge to all the rest their several debts as each falls due, and settle the account that presses at once, when it is demanded ? And yet a pecuniary obligation is a very different thing from a moral obligation. ** He who discharges a debt in money, ceases forthwith to possess that which he has paid ; while he who remains a debtor keeps what does not belong to him. But in a moral debt, when I pay I keep, and when I keep, I pay by the very act of keeping. If I discharge this debt to Plancius, I shall not thereby cease to be his debtor, and I should be repaying my debt to him none the less by my good wishes, if the present unfortunate situation had not occurred. [69] You ask me, Cassius, what I could do for my brother, whom I love deeply, or for my children, the sweetest things that life holds for me, more than I am doing for Plancius, and you show by your question that you fail to realise that it is the affection I feel for them which more than anything else stirs and impels me to champion my client in his hour of peril. For not only do they hold his safety dear above all things, since they know that by him my own was guarded, but I myself can never look upon them without recalling the obligation I am under to him, remembering, as I do, that it was his efforts that preserved me for them.

You remind us that even that saviour of the state, Opimius, ** was condemned; you mention Calidius, too, on whose motion it was that Quintus Metellus ** was restored to civil rights ; and you blame my intercession on behalf of Plancius, pointing out that his own credit did not secure acquittal for Opimius, nor that of Metellus for Calidius. [29.] L   In the matter of Calidius I must confine myself in my reply to incidents of which I was a witness ; when Quintus Calidius was a candidate at the election of praetors, Quintus Metellus Pius, ** who was then consul, interceded with the Roman people on his behalf, not hesitating, consul and great noble though he was, to assert that Calidius was the protector of himself and his noble family. [70] And in this connexion I put it to you, do you think that Metellus Pius, if he could have been at Rome at the time, or his father, if he had been alive, would not have done for Calidius at his trial what I am doing for Plancius in his? As regards Opimius, would that his sad story could be erased from the memory of men! His fall must be looked upon as a death-blow to the state, a disgrace to our empire, a stain upon the name of the Roman people, rather than the verdict of a court of law. For what deadlier blow could those jurymen, if jurymen they are to be called, and not rather unnatural children of their fatherland, have inflicted upon the state, than to eject from his citizen rights the man who had liberated the state, as praetor, from war with a neighbouring people and, as consul, from civil war? [71] You say that I exaggerate the great kindness which Plancius did me, and that I apply to it terms which it does not deserve; as though it behoved me to submit my gratitude to your discretion rather than my own. "What is the great service he has done you ? " asks my opponent. "Was it that he did not strangle you?" No, I reply, it was that he did not suffer me to be strangled. Incidentally, Cassius, you even whitewashed my enemies, and denied that they laid any plot against my life. Laterensis also positively asserted as much. I will deal with your partner at greater length later. All I ask of you now is this. Can you think that the hatred my enemies bore me was an ordinary hatred? Why, what barbarians have ever displayed such inhumanity and ruthlessness to their declared foes? Or can you think that fear of disgrace or retribution had any weight with men whose weapons, as you saw, were paraded throughout that year ** in the forum, whose flames licked our temples, and whose lawlessness stalked abroad through the city ? Unless, indeed, you would have us believe that the reason why those men spared my life was because they had no apprehensions that I should ever return. Was there any man, think you, so undiscerning as to think that while these gentlemen who occupy the bench still lived, and while the city and the senate-house still stood, I should not return, if there was life yet in me? There was not; and a person of your understanding as a man and a citizen has no business to declare that my life, which was preserved by the loyalty of my friends, was not the object of the mischievous endeavours of my foes.

[30.] L   [72] I now proceed to reply to you, Laterensis, using less vehemence, perhaps, than you prompt me to use, but in a spirit, I dare avow, of no less consideration and friendship. It was, in the first place, somewhat unkind of you to suggest that my remarks about Plancius were falsehoods and inventions of opportunism. Your idea was that, from motives of policy, I devised reasons for appearing to be bound to my client by ties of the deepest obligation, whereas I was in reality under no engagement whatever. What! Were the claims arising from intimacy, from neighbourhood, and from friendship with his father, not many enough or not urgent enough to warrant my undertaking Plancius' defence ? Without these claims upon me, I should, I suppose, have reason to fear that I might be guilty of reprehensible conduct in defending so illustrious and so influential a man. I was, forsooth, driven to invent a subtle motive for alleging that I owed everything to the man who might naturally be expected to be in debt to me. But even common soldiers show reluctance in making, by their bestowal of the civic crown, ** an admission that they owe their life to some one ; not that it is humiliating to have been shielded in the battle and rescued from the enemy's hands, for this can only happen to a brave man who fights in the thick of the foe, but they shrink from the overpowering burden of being under the same obligation to a stranger that they owe to a parent.

[73] The world in general is anxious to disclaim real obligations, even when they are trifling, because they would not seem to be beholden to anyone ; and is it likely that I am feigning myself to be bound by an obligation which seems quite impossible of repayment? Are you blind to this truth, Laterensis? When you were on terms of close friendship with me, when you were ready even to risk your life at my side, when in the bitter heartrending hour of my departure you had put, not merely your tears, but your powers, mental, bodily, and material, at my service, when you had protected my wife and children in my absence with your succour and your substance, in all your dealings with me you gave me to believe that you readily granted me full permission to devote all my efforts to promoting Plancius' advancement, because, as you alleged, you yourself viewed with gratitude his services to me. [74] And as a proof that I do but say what I have always said, and have not changed my tune to suit the time, have you not the speech ** which I delivered before the senate immediately upon my return? In that speech I alluded gratefully, though only cursorily, to a small selection of my benefactors, for it would have been impossible to mention every one, though it would have been criminal to make any omissions, and I had determined to name those only who had been leaders and standard-bearers in my cause. Among those whom I thanked on that occasion was Plancius. Let this speech be read to the court, for, in view of the importance of the occasion, it was delivered from manuscript. In it I, like the artful fellow you would have me to be, declared my devotion to one to whom I was in no particular debt, and so cemented by an undying testimony the fetters of obligation which his signal service had laid upon me. I forbear to read to you my other literary compositions ** bearing upon my subject; I waive them, lest, in bringing them to your notice, I should lay myself open to the charge of opportunism, or of reliance upon a type of literature, which may seem to accord better with my own pursuits than with the conventional usage of these courts.

[31.] L   [75] Again, you hurl at me, Laterensis, this question: "For how much longer are you going to talk in this strain? Your reference to Cispius ** brought you no advantage ; your style of appeal is out of date." What! will you cast my defence of Cispius in my teeth, when it was your information that brought his services to me to my notice, and at your instigation also that I championed his cause ? And, in view of the part I played, will you ask me "for how much longer" - me, whose efforts on Cispius' behalf you now say were fruitless? The malignity of your question "for how much longer" may be brought out in plain speech as follows: "For your sake one culprit has been surrendered, another pardoned ; you are incorrigible ; we cannot stand it." That the question "for how much longer" should be put to one who, after toiling hard for one particular client, has then failed to win the object of his toil, savours rather of ridicule than of rebuke; or is it that you would have us believe that the peculiar nature of my behaviour in the courts, of my daily life and social dealings with these gentlemen, and of my conduct as a civil advocate, warrant that you should pick me out for your special designation as one who deserved never to obtain from a jury what he asks? [76] You reproach me with the "one poor tear"** I shed at the trial of Cispius. "I marked your one poor tear," say you. Mark now how short of the truth your expression seems to me to fall; you could have seen on that occasion not merely "one poor tear," but floods of them, sighs and weeping commingled. What! would you have me exhibit no symptoms of grief when danger threatened one who had been so affected by the tears of my dear ones, when I myself was far away, that he had waived his old differences with me, and, so far from standing forth, as my enemies had anticipated, as the assailant of my well being, had actually become its champion? [77] And you, Laterensis, who then expressed yourself as touched by my tears, now turn round and try to cast infamy upon them.

[32.] L   You say that when Plancius was tribune he contributed nothing to the strength of my position, and in this connexion you urge, and are most justified in urging, the superhuman services conferred upon me by the gallant and resolute Lucius Racilius. ** I have never concealed my deep sense of obligation to Racilius, as well as to Plancius, and I shall never cease to proclaim it ; for he always held it to be his duty to shirk no struggles or enmities or personal perils in the service of the state and of myself. Would that the Roman people had not been prevented by the lawless violence of the times from expressing to him a gratitude commensurate with my own! You must impute the fact that Plancius did not perhaps go to the same lengths in his tribunate, not to any deficiency of goodwill on his part, but to the fact that, being already under such great obligations to Plancius, I was amply satisfied with the services of Racilius. [78] Or do you think that the jury will be less inclined to sympathise with me because of that gratitude which you make into a charge against me? The conscript fathers, in that decree which they passed in the temple which is the memorial to Marius, ** and in which the cause of my restoration was recommended to the whole world, expressed their thanks to Plancius alone, for he alone of the magistrates had espoused my cause; and shall I not think it my duty to show my gratitude to him, whom the senate thought it their duty to thank on my behalf? Bearing all this in mind, Laterensis, what feelings do you think I cherish towards you? Do you think that there is any peril, any hardship, any struggle so great that I should shrink from meeting it, if I could so further, not your welfare only, but even your mere worldly position? For this reason I am the more - not "unhappy" - for that is a word which is not found in the dictionary of the virtuous man ** - but at any rate perplexed, not because I have many creditors, for the obligation which a kindness imposes is but a light burden, but because the several claims upon me of my various benefactors are often mutually conflicting, and the result, I fear, is that it is impossible for me to seem grateful, at one and the same time, to all.

[79] I shall now, however, proceed to weigh in the scales of my own discretion not merely my obligation to each individual, but also the interests that each has at stake, and the demands which the emergency of each makes upon me. [33.] L   Your stake lies in the achievement of your ambitions, or, if you prefer to put it on a higher ground, your reputation, and the credit you gain by becoming aedile; my client, on the other hand, stakes his citizenship, his country, and his fortunes. Your wish was for my safety ; he put into my hands the power of gaining that safety. But I am torn by a painful dilemma, and in such a disparity of interests it goes to my heart to offer you an affront ; but, upon my honour, I will far more readily sacrifice my existence as a citizen in your behalf, than surrender that of Plancius to your claims. [80] For indeed, gentlemen, while I would fain have some tincture of all the virtues, there is no quality I would sooner have, and be thought to have, than gratitude. For gratitude not merely stands alone at the head of all the virtues, but is even mother of all the rest. What is filial affection, if not a benevolent gratitude to one's parents? What is patriotism, what is service to one's country in war and peace, if it is not a recollection of benefits received from that country ? What is piety and religion, save a due reverence and remembrance in paying to the immortal gods the thanks that we owe? Take friendship away, and what joy can life continue to hold? More, how can friendship exist at all between those who are devoid of gratitude ? [81] Who is there of us that has received an enlightened upbringing who does not constantly ponder with grateful recollection upon those who had the care of him, upon his tutors and teachers, and even upon the inanimate scenes of his rearing and schooling ? Who is there, who has there ever been, so rich in material wealth as to be independent of the good offices of many friends? And assuredly these good offices themselves cannot exist independently of memory and gratitude. For my part, I consider no faculty to be so essentially human as the power of recognising the obligation not merely of a kindly act, but even of anything which betrays a kindly thought; and there is nothing which so violates our humanity, or so much lowers us to the level of the brute beasts, as to allow ourselves to give the impression of being, I will not say unworthy of, but overcome by, a favour. ** [82] Since this is so, Laterensis, I will at once capitulate to your charge and, since you will have it so, plead guilty to excess in that wherein excess is impossible, and I will ask you, gentlemen, to bring within the scope of your kindness one whose critic only criticises him because he has been inordinately grateful. For it ought to have no influence in inducing you to be indifferent to my gratitude, if that same critic says that you are neither criminals nor lovers of litigation, so that I ought not to have any influence with you. ** As if, in the case of my friends, I would not prefer that such protection as I can afford - if I can afford any - should not rather be ready for their use than required by them. For indeed I venture to say this much about myself, that my friendship has been a source of pleasure in more cases than it has been a source of protection ; and I should indeed have cause to think my life ill spent if there were room in my intimacy for none save lovers of litigation and criminals.

[34.] L   [83] But some inscrutable impulse has led you to ply me incessantly with this form of argument, and you have also harped persistently upon the statement that your motive in endeavouring to prevent this trial from synchronising with the games was that I might not introduce some pathetic reference to the sacred cars, ** as you said that I had done on previous occasions, when I was defending aediles. ** On this occasion your efforts have certainly not been fruitless, for you have robbed me of what was to have been the leading embellishment of my speech. Now that you have predicted my use of the sacred cars, I shall have but to breathe a word of them to arouse a smile; and, if I cannot mention the sacred cars, how shall I be able to make a speech at all? You also asserted that my motive in attaching the penalty of exile to the offence of bribery in the terms of my law ** was that in my perorations I might be able to make more harrowing appeals to pity. You would imagine, gentlemen, would you not, that his opponent was a professional ranter, instead of one who had undergone a laborious apprenticeship to the bar? [84] "For I," he says, "never went to Rhodes," ** implying that I did. "But," he adds, "I have been" - I thought he was going to say "among the Vaccaei ** " - "twice in Bithynia." ** If localities give any handle for censure, I cannot understand why you should think that Nicaea is a place of stricter morals than Rhodes ; if we are to consider our respective motives, the business that took me to Rhodes was just as highly respectable as the business that took you to Bithynia. And as regards the fault you find with me for being too fond of appearing as counsel for the defence, I should be only too glad if you who have the ability, and others who shirk the responsibility, would relieve me of this arduous task. It is the punctilious ness of men like you that is to blame; you scrupulously weigh the merits of all the briefs submitted to you and reject nearly all, and the result is that most of them are crowded upon me, who have not the heart to say "no" to the unhappy victims of embarrassment. [85] You reminded me also that the fact that you had been in Crete gave me an opportunity, which I let slip, of making a pun ** upon your candidature. Which of us, pray, is the more alert for the pun? I, who let slip the offered chance of punning, or you, who took it and turned it against yourself? Again, you said that you had sent no dispatch dealing with your achievements, because the dispatch ** which I sent to a certain person had done me more harm than good. I cannot see that the dispatch in question did me any harm, but I am well aware that it was calculated to do good to the state.

[35.] L   [86] But these are comparatively trivial points ; I pass now to one of greater weight and moment, I mean the fact that although in the past you constantly expressed deep sympathy with me in my retirement, you now evince a desire to cast something like censure and aspersion upon me because of it. You have done this by alleging that it was not helpers who failed me, but I who failed my helpers. I, on my side, frankly admit that I made no use of proffered assistance, but it was because I saw that I did not need it. For who can be unaware of the critical and stormy nature of the period through which the state was at that time passing? Was it dread of the tribunes or the madness of the consuls which determined my course? Would it have been a difficult matter for me finally to crush with the sword the remnant of those whom without the sword I had conquered in the heyday of their unimpaired might? Of the consuls of that year ** the vilest and most degraded in human memory, as is proved not only by their earliest acts, but also by subsequent events of which we have been witnesses, one lost his army, ** the other sold it, ** and by purchasing their provinces ** they had proved traitors to the senate, to the state, and to all good patriots. When nothing could be known concerning the public sentiments of those ** whose possession of troops, arms, and money made them the chief forces in the state, there was one ** who, having doffed his manhood in unhallowed debaucheries at hallowed altars, raised his frenzied voice to din into our ears the mortifying announcement that his designs were supported not only by them, but by the two consuls ; the poor were being armed against the rich, traitors against patriots, slaves against their masters. [87] You say the senate was on my side. It was; the senate in the garb of mourning, too, which had been officially assumed by it for no one save myself in the memory of man. But remember what enemies moved among us then in the guise of consuls, enemies who, alone in the city's history, would not permit the senate to obey the senate, and who by their edict forbade to the conscript fathers not merely the sentiment, but the very manifestation of grief. You say the whole equestrian order was on my side. Yes, but it was an order whom threats of proscription publicly uttered by Catiline's pet dancer, ** the consul, were cowing into submission. All Italy, you say, was solid for me. Yes, but it was an Italy that shuddered at the prospect of civil war and its attendant desolation.

[36.] L   Of these helpers, Laterensis, so zealous and so enthusiastic, I admit that I might have availed myself. But the struggle was to be decided, not by equity, not by law, not by argument; otherwise there is no doubt that, especially in so good a cause, my own resources, by which others have so often and so amply profited, would never have failed me. No; arms and arms alone were to be the umpires, and it would have been calamitous to the commonwealth that they should have been used by slaves and the leaders of slaves for the massacre of the senate and good patriots. [88] I grant you that it would have been a grand thing for traitors to be conquered by patriots, if only I could have made an end of conquest there; but of this I saw no prospect. For where could I have found at hand to help me consuls as brave as Lucius Opimius, Gaius Marius, or Lucius Flaccus, ** under whose armed leadership the republic quelled her traitorous citizens, or, if brave men were lacking, consuls so upright as Publius Mucius, ** who proved that Publius Scipio, though a private citizen, was amply justified in his resort to arms by his destruction of Tiberius Gracchus? We should have had, then, to contend with the consuls. I will say but one thing more on this matter: I realised that, if we won, formidable adversaries would be set in array against us; but that, if we fell, there would be none to avenge us. [89] If I say that my motive in refusing to avail myself of the help of those who were ready to strike for my safety was a reluctance to fight, I shall make the confession you desire, that it was not my helpers who failed me, but I my helpers. But if I say that the more earnest good patriots showed themselves in my cause, the more careful of their interests and sparing of their efforts I thought it my duty to be, can you impute blame to me for that which in the case of Quintus Metellus ** has been counted to his credit, and to-day is, and ever will be, the fairest jewel in his reputation? It is a generally known fact, the truth of which you can ascertain from many eyewitnesses, that his retirement was attended by the deep regrets of men of sound views, and yet that he could indubitably have prevailed had he resorted to the arbitrament of arms. He was acting in defence of his own conduct, not that of the senate; it was the tenor of his own convictions, not the welfare of the state, that he had refused to abandon; and yet merely for the reason that the blow he sustained was one that he might have avoided, his fame and renown has outshone the triumphs of the most eminent men who have borne his name, inasmuch as he not only opposed the execution of those villainous traitors, but also took measures to prevent that any good patriot should be involved in the doom they suffered ; and, in face of such grave peril, and the prospect of the downfall of the state should I fail, and an endless series of struggles should I prevail, was I, who had once been the saviour of the republic, now to gain for myself the name of its destroyer ?

[37.] L   [90] You say that I was afraid of death. But the truth is, that I could not look upon even immortality as desirable, if it was to be achieved at my country's cost ; far less could I choose to die, and carry my country with me to perdition. For I have always thought - call me a fool if you will - that those who have sacrificed their lives for the state have not died so much as achieved immortality. In my own case, had I fallen by the armed violence of those enemies of their country, the country would have lost for ever the guardian of her civil well-being ; nay more, even had the assaults of disease or the processes of nature carried me off, the welfare of posterity would even then have been impaired, inasmuch as by my death the world would have been deprived of the spectacle of the efforts of the senate and the Roman people for my restoration. Had I ever been in love with my life, should I, in the December of the year of my consulship, ** have roused into activity the weapons of all who had forsworn their country ? Had I remained quiet for twenty days, it would have fallen to other consuls to keep guard against them. If, then, it is disgraceful to cling to life against the interests of the state, much more would it have been disgraceful for me to seek death, when by so doing I should have wrought the ruin of the community.

[91] You have boasted of the perfect freedom of action which you enjoy in politics ; I am delighted to grant you your boast, and would even go so far as to congratulate you on your possession of it; but when you deny the possession of it to me, I can no longer allow either you or anyone else to remain under a delusion in the matter. [38.] L   For if anyone thinks that my liberty of action has been curtailed because I am no longer at variance with all those with whom I was once at variance, I would remind him in the first place that if I display gratitude for benefits received, I ought not therefore to incur the charge of having too retentive a memory or cherishing an excessive gratitude. ** But if on occasions my consideration for the safety of myself and those who belong to me involves no harm to the state, I am sure that, so far from being blameworthy for entertaining those considerations, men of sound views would ask me to desist, if they saw me inclined to run upon destruction. [92] Nay, the state herself, could she speak, would plead with me thus: "Since," she would say, "you have always served me, and never yourself, and since the wage you have won from that service has been, not joy and wealth, as it should have been, but a cup of bitter grief, serve yourself now for once, and think of your dear ones ; my fear is, not that your services to me have been insufficient, but rather that the return I have made to you has been scanty and out of all measure with the extent of your service." [93] Furthermore, if none of these considerations moves me, and if my politics are the same as they have always been, will you even then affirm that I enjoy no liberty of action ? - a liberty which you assume to consist in the maintenance of a relentless hostility towards those with whom one has been once at variance. But this is very far from the truth; for we should look upon political life as a wheel, and since that wheel is always turning, we should make choice of that party to which we are directed by the interest and well-being of the state.

[39.] L   But with regard to my relations with Pompeius - whom I will not describe as the author, promoter, and champion of my restoration, for these are personal terms, and imply a grateful remembrance of benefits received ; I prefer to describe him in respect of his relation to the welfare of the state at large, - would you have me pay no regard to one who is universally admitted to be the chief man in the state? Would you have me fail in due appreciation of the merits of Gaius Caesar, seeing, as I do, that those merits have received repeated recognition in the form of laudatory resolutions of the Roman people, ** in the first instance, and latterly of the senate also, ** whose adherent I have always been? Were I to fail in this, I should certainly admit thereby that my standard was not the public interest, but rather my own personal predilections and dislikes.

[94] Or, supposing that I am a passenger on a ship wafted on its course before a favouring breeze, and supposing that, instead of making for the harbour which I at some time or other may have chosen, she bears for another just as safe and calm as that, shall I fight with the elements to my own hazard, or shall I not rather yield myself submissively to their leading, especially when they point the way to safety? All my knowledge, all my experience, all my reading, all the testimony that the records of literature give us concerning men of wisdom and eminence in this and in other states, goes to prove, not that men have held the same unvarying convictions till their death, but rather that they have adapted them to political circumstances, to the tendency of the times, and to considerations of public tranquillity. This is, and this will continue to be, Laterensis, my principle of action, and I shall always believe that that liberty of action, which you fail to find in me, but upon which I have never lost my hold, nor ever will, consists, not in an immovable tenacity of opinion, but in a sweet reasonableness.

[40.] L   [95] I come now to the closing passage in your speech, wherein you said that, by bestowing fulsome phrases upon Plancius' services to myself, I was making a triumphal arch out of a sewer, ** and giving divine honours to a piece of sepulchral masonry; for, as you allege, I had no reason to apprehend either conspiracy or murder. I shall now proceed to give a brief outline of the course of events in question, and I shall do so without reluctance; for there is no aspect of that critical period of my life which has had less publicity accorded to it, to which I have made less reference, and which is less a subject of popular rumour or knowledge. When, ** Laterensis, I turned from the holocaust wherein law, equity, senate, and all who loved their country were consumed, and left the scene of action, and when the blazing ruins of my home threatened to involve in their flames the city and the whole of Italy, unless I submitted tamely, my thoughts turned to Sicily, which, besides the fact that from old associations it was a second home to me, was then governed by Gaius Vergilius, with whom I had peculiarly close connexions, not only from our ancient and intimate friendship, but also because he had been my brother's colleague, and because we shared the same political views. [96] Judge now of the gloom that enveloped us in those days; just when the island itself seemed to be stretching out its arms in welcome to me, my friend the praetor, who, from his adherence to the same political tenets as myself, had so often been assailed by the harangues of the same tribune of the plebs, refused (I state the fact without further comment) to permit me to set foot in Sicily. What construction am I to put upon this? Am I to think that a citizen and a gentleman like Gaius Vergilius was deficient in kindly feeling towards myself, in a recollection of our association in those critical times, in a sense of duty, humanity, and honour? Far from it, gentlemen, but he doubted his ability to hold out, alone and unaided, against the storm which I had failed to weather with you at my side. Then, forced suddenly to change my plans, I started on the overland journey to Brundisium ; for the severity of the weather put a sea-voyage out of the question.

[41.] L   [97] All the municipia lying between Vibo ** and Brundisium, gentlemen, were loyal to my cause, and, in spite of many threats from without and great fears from within, they guaranteed the security of my passage. I came to Brundisium, or rather approached the walls; it was deeply attached to me, but I turned aside from it, though it declared that it would rather be razed to the ground than acquiesce in my being torn from its embrace. I made my way to the gardens of Laenius Flaccus, who, though denounced with every kind of threat, with the confiscation of his property, with exile, and with death, said that he would endure all these, if they should come upon him, rather than forgo the office of protecting my person. He, with his aged father, the wisest and the best of men, with his brother and both his sons, personally set me on board a safe and trustworthy vessel, and, with the murmur of their prayers and vows for my return in my ears, I made for Dyrrachium, ** because I had reason to hope for protection there. [98] Having arrived, I ascertained, what had already been rumoured, that Greece teemed with vile and impious criminals, from whose hands I, in that year when I was consul, had wrested their traitorous swords and incendiary torches; although they were several days' journey distant, I set out at once to join Plancius in Macedonia, not allowing them time to learn of my arrival. He, as soon as he learnt that I had made the passage (hear me, Laterensis, hear and mark what I say, that you may know what I owe to Plancius, and may at length confess that what I am doing I do from a grateful and a dutiful heart, and that what he did for my protection, though it may not help, should assuredly at least not harm him), - as I was saying, as soon as he heard that I had touched at Dyrrachium, he immediately dismissed his lictors, discarded his official insignia, doffed his official robes, and set out to meet me. [99] How bitter to me, gentlemen, is the memory of that time and that place, when he fell upon my neck, embraced me, bedewed me with his tears, and was dumb for very grief! It is a pitiful story, but the reality was heart-breaking. Figure to yourselves all the days and nights that followed, when my client, never letting me out of his sight, saw me safely to Thessalonica, where he lodged me in the quaestor's official residence. I shall not allude here to the praetor of Macedonia, save to remark that he had always been an unimpeachable patriot, and on good terms with myself, but the universal fears were also his; Gnaeus Plancius alone, though he feared no less than did the rest, was ready to face at my side and endure to the bitter end the realisation of those fears. [100] When my friend Lucius Tubero, who had been legate to my brother, visited us on his return from Asia, and reported to me in a spirit of true friendliness the plots which he heard had been laid against my life by exiled conspirators, I was just preparing to cross into Asia, whither I had been prompted to go by the close intimacy that bound that province to my brother ** and myself; but Plancius would not suffer me to go. Yes, it was by the sheer physical restraint of his embrace that he kept me back, and for many months afterwards, doffing the character of a quaestor and assuming that of a comrade, he accompanied me wherever I went.

[42.] L   [101] O the misery of your lonely watches, Plancius! O the dreariness and the torment of those sleepless nights! My death might perchance have stood you in good stead, and now, what pitiful irony is it that the life you so vigilantly preserved should be helpless to aid you! Never, never, while I live, shall I forget that night! You took no rest ; you never left my side ; and all I could do in return for your sympathetic grief was to make you a few promises, promises that were false and fantastic as my own miserable fool's paradise. I swore that if ever I should be restored to my country, my gratitude should be deputed to none for expression ; but, should fate deprive me of life, or any force beyond my control make my return impossible, I engaged that these gentlemen - for who else at that time had any place in my thoughts ? - should repay you to the full for your efforts in my behalf. Why do you gaze upon me so? Why do you appeal to me to be true to my word, and to fulfil my promises ? I had no warrant for the promises I then made to you; I did but draw upon the credit of the good feelings of these gentlemen towards me. Their tears, their sighs were for me, as I knew; they were ready to fight to the bitter end for my life, even at the peril of their own. When I was with you, not a day passed but word came of their yearning, their sorrow, their indignation; and now my heart misgives me that the tears you shed so plentifully for me in my dark hours are all I have wherewith to pay your account. [102] For what can I do save weep and lament, and link my fortunes with your own? Only those who gave life back to me can give life to you. Come what may, - stand up, I beg, that all may look on you, - my arms shall hold you to me, and I shall avow myself to be not merely the interceder for your fortunes, but your partner and your comrade; and none, I trust, will be so heartless or so insensible, so forgetful, I will not say of my services to the patriotic party, but of their services to me, as to tear from my side the saviour of my person, and bid me live henceforth without him. I cry your mercy for him, gentlemen, not as for one whom my services have advanced, but as for one who has watched over my welfare; the ground of my appeal is not wealth, not prestige, not social influence, but prayers, tears, and your own compassionate hearts. With my own adjuration is united that of his excellent but unhappy parent; yes, two fathers appeal to you for a single son. [103] I conjure you by your fortunes and by your children, gentlemen, do not vouchsafe to my foes, those above all whose hostility I incurred by my championship of you, the pleasure of being able to boast that, so soon forgetful of my claims upon you, you are the declared enemies of the life of him to whom I owe the preservation of my own. Forbear to shatter my spirit not with grief alone, but with the apprehension that your goodwill has been alienated from me; and permit me to discharge by a draft upon you those repeated promises to my client which my reliance upon you induced me to make to him. [104] And I do most earnestly, Gaius Flavus, beg and implore you, who were associated with my policy when I was consul, who have shared my dangers and furthered my achievements, and who have ever been solicitous not merely for my personal safety, but for my honour and success, to do me the favour of using this jury as an instrument in saving one by whose instrumentality I, as you well know, was saved to serve you and them. I am prevented from adding more by your tears, and by yours, gentlemen, besides my own - tears which, in the midst of my grave apprehensions, awake in me a sudden hope that you will exhibit the same qualities in the rescue of my client from ignominy as you exhibited towards myself in a similar situation; for those tears which you are shedding now recall to my mind those which so often and so copiously you have outpoured for me.


42.   Junior counsel (subscriptor) to Laterensis.

43.   i.e. Laterensis, whom Cicero rallies upon his "celebrated" ancestor.

44.   A celebrated antiquarian, spoken of as still living in De oratore, i. 256, which was written in 55.

45.   He was now in his 12th year.

46.   Atreus; the lines are from the tragedy of this name by Accius (170-94).

47.   C. here passes on to deal with an argument of Cassius that Plancius' birth and ability did not justify his promotion.

48.   More commonly known as Regulus.

49.   Quintus Metellus Creticus.

50.   25 miles east of Rome; now Palestrina.

51.   See note on Chap. IX.

52.   Cicero was quaestor in Sicily in 75.

53.   Cicero had been quaestor of the other administrative district of Sicily which had its centre at Lilybaeum.

54.   The earliest Latin history of Rome, written by Cato the Censor (234-149).

55.   i.e. the statesman must rely, not on showy achievements in the provinces, but on the steady grind of work at home.

56.   When quaestor in Macedonia.

57.   When on war service as tribunus militum.

58.   This passage is repeated almost word for word in Ad Quirites, Chap. IX. end.

59.   Consul 121, and leader of attack upon C. Gracchus. He was condemned to exile in 109 for having received bribes from Jugurtha.

60.   Refused to swear obedience to Saturninus' agrarian law, and went into voluntary exile, 100. Calidius, his restorer, was trib. plebis in 99.

61.   Son of Q. Metellus above, gained his surname from this incident.

62.   58, when Piso and Gabinius were consuls and Clodius trib. plebis.

63.   So called, because bestowed by one citizen upon another, in return for the saving of his life in battle.

64.   In senatu, Chap. XIV.

65.   e.g. the poem " De consulatu," for which see Ad fam. i. 9. 23, and Juv. x. 120-126.

66.   Trib. plebis 57, when he supported Cicero, who later defended him on a charge of corrupt practices.

67.   Note that the Latin is the contemptuous dim. lacrimula.

68.   Trib. plebis with Cispius above.

69.   The temple of "Honour and Virtue."

70.   It was a doctrine of the Stoics that the good man could never be unhappy.

71.   "So that one does not so much as attempt to requite it " (Holden).

72.   Lat. had urged that Cic. should have no influence with the jury, because they would not be likely to need his help as an advocate.

73.   At the Ludi Romani the statues of gods were carried in cars from the Forum to the Circus Maximus ; see De har. resp. Chap. XI.

74.   It would naturaly be advantageous to an aedile that his trial should coincide with games which he himself was providing ; "Cic, here meets irony with irony" (Reid).

75.   Lex Tullia de ambitu, 63.

76.   Where there was a celebrated school of oratory.

77.   A remote (and therefore unlettered) tribe in Spain.

78.   i.e. on military service,

79.   'Creta', chalk, used for whitening garments, hence 'cretatus' = 'candidatus'.

80.   The Scholiast says that this was a voluminous and arrogant letter sent by C. to Pompey in Asia, describing his achievements as consul. Pompey sent a cool reply, which mortified Cicero and afforded some merriment to his enemies. See Pro Sulla, § 64.

81.   See Chap. XXIX. n.

82.   Piso, in Macedonia.

83.   Gabinius lent his troops to Ptolemy to win back his throne.

84.   i.e. from Clodius, when they should have been allotted by the senate.

85.   The triumvirs, Pompey, Caesar, Crassus.

86.   Clodius, who took part in the mysteries of the Bona Dea.

87.   Gabinius, of whom Macrobius speaks as one of the most skilful dancers of his day.

88.   Consul 100, helped to quell Saturninus.

89.   P. Mucius Seaevola, the great jurist, consul in 133, when Tib. Gracchus was slain.

90.   Numidicus, one of C.'s stock parallels to his own case. He retired from the city (100) when Saturninus and Glaucia brought in their legislation, to which all senators were required to swear allegiance.

91.   63; the reference is, of course, to the conspiracy of Catiline.

92.   An allusion to C.'s "recantation" of opposition to the triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus after the conference at Luca in 56.

93.   e.g. by lex Vatinia (59) C. was given government of Gaul for five years.

94.   And in 57 the senate, on motion of Cic., decreed him a public thanksgiving.

95.   Proverb - "to make a mountain of a mole-hill"; the MSS. have 'arcem', "fortress."

96.   58.

97.   In Bruttium, now Bivona,

98.   Now Durazzo.

99.   Q. Cicero was propraetor in Asia 61.

Attalus' home page   |   15.01.24   |   Any comments?