Cicero : In Pisonem

Sections 1-50

This speech was delivered against L. Piso, in 55 B.C.

The translation is by N.H. Watts (1931). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section. Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.

FRAGMENTS   { The beginning is missing in the manuscripts. }

1   Ye immortal gods! What a day is this that has dawned !

2   What slightest proof do you give of genius ? Of genius, do I say ? Nay, of gentility and gentlemanly character - you, who by your very complexion bring your country into contempt, by your speech your family, by your conduct your name. **

3   The effect of this is not to make us think meanly of Placentia, which he boasts of as his native town ; it is not that way my nature tends ; and the eminence of that municipality, as well as the great service it has rendered to me, ** put such feelings out of question.

4   There was a certain Insubrian, ** a merchant and auctioneer ; he came to Rome with his daughter, and ventured to describe a young man of good birth, Caesoninus by name, as the son of a thorough knave ; he gave his daughter in marriage to a shallow and headstrong fellow.

5   . . . She who was delivered of you, a beast and no man.

6   He happened to settle at Placentia, and a few years later hoisted himself into the freedom of that city ; for it was a city at that time. At the outset he had been a Gaul, later he became "of Gallic extraction," finally he began to be considered a half Placentian.

7   The elder was adopted by his Insubrian grandfather.

8   In his distress your father looked for a rather more polished son-in-law than Gaius Piso. . . . I did not betroth my daughter to a man whom I, when I had all the world to choose from, should have selected in preference to any other.

9   All your kith and kin drive up on a wagon. . .

10   I was sitting close to Pompeius. . . .

[1.] L   [1] . . . Do ** you begin to see, monster, do you begin to realise how men loathe your impudence ? No one complains that some Syrian or other, some member of a crew of newly-made slaves, has become consul. We were not deceived by your slavish complexion, your hairy cheeks, and your discoloured teeth; it was your eyes, eyebrows, forehead, in a word your whole countenance, which is a kind of dumb interpreter of the mind, which pushed your fellow-men into delusion ; this it was which tricked, betrayed, inveigled those who were unacquainted with you. There were but few of us who knew of your filthy vices, few the crassness of your intelligence and the sluggish ineptitude of your tongue. Your voice had never been heard in the forum ; never had your wisdom in council been put to the test ; not a single deed had you achieved either in peace or war that was, I will not say famous, but even known. You crept into office by mistake, by the recommendation of your dingy family busts, ** with which you have no resemblance save colour.

[2] Does he even pride himself before me on having obtained all the magistracies without a rebuff? I can take a true pride in making that assertion of myself ; for upon myself and for myself the Roman people bestowed all its offices. But when you were made quaestor, even men who had never seen you conferred that honour upon - your name. You were made aedile ; it was a Piso - not you who bear that name - who was elected by the Roman people. So also it was upon your ancestors that the praetorship was bestowed. They were dead, but all men knew of them ; you were alive, but as yet not a single man knew you. But when the Roman people by their general suffrages returned me high on the poll as quaestor, and successively as first aedile and first praetor, it was to a man that they paid that distinction, not to a family, to my character, not to my ancestors, to approved merit, not to reputed nobility. [3] What need for me to speak of my consulship, how I won it or how I wielded it ? Alas ! do I compare myself with this pest and plague-spot ? No, I will say nothing with the view of drawing comparisons ; yet I will set one beside the other pictures which present a striking contrast. You were declared consul - I shall say nothing worse than what everyone acknowledges - at a time when the commonwealth was deeply embarrassed, when the consuls were at odds, and when you did not object to those by whom you were nominated consul counting you unfit to live, should you not prove yourself a greater rascal than Gabinius. I was returned consul at the head of the poll by all Italy, all orders in the state, and the entire community - and that by general acclamation before a single voting-tablet was handed in.

[2.] L   But as to how each of us was elected I prefer to say nothing. Let Chance, if it please you, be mistress of the hustings. It is a loftier theme to tell how we wielded our consulships than after what fashion we won them. [4] I on the first of January freed the senate and all good patriots from apprehension of an agrarian law ** and a vast system of doles. I preserved the Campanian territories, in cases where its allotment was inadvisable ; in cases where such was advisable I reserved the allotment for more reputable authorities. I, when Gaius Rabirius ** was standing his trial for treason, upheld and defended against detraction the authority of the senate which had been interposed forty years before my consulship. I, at the cost of enmity to myself, but of no odium to the senate, deprived of the privilege of candidature at the elections young men ** who, though brave and patriotic, had passed through experiences which would probably have led them to shatter the constitution, had they obtained office. [5] I, by my forbearance and complaisance, propitiated my colleague Antonius ** who was eager for a province, and deep in political intrigues. I, in spite of the protests of the Roman people, renounced at a public meeting my claim to the province of Gaul, which I exchanged with Antonius, well equipped as it was and appointed with forces and funds by the senate's authority, because I thought that political exigencies called for such renunciation. I, when Lucius Catilina was not obscurely but openly plotting the massacre of the senate and the destruction of the city, bade him go forth from the city, that we might be protected by our walls from one from whom the laws could not protect us. I, in the last month of my consulship, wrenched from the abominable hands of conspirators the weapons which were levelled at the throats of our citizens. The torches which were already lit for the conflagration of this city were by me seized, displayed, extinguished.

[3.] L   [6] Quintus Catulus, leader of this order and a guiding voice in state policy, before a crowded meeting of the senate named me Father of my Country. The illustrious Lucius Gellius, who sits at your side, asserted in the hearing of my audience that a civic crown ** was due to me from the commonwealth. Though I wore but the gown of civil life the senate threw open in my honour the temples of the immortal gods in an unprecedented form of thanksgiving, distinguishing me not, like so many, for the good government of the state, but, like no one else, for its preservation. At a public meeting, when upon laying down my office I was debarred by a tribune of the plebs ** from saying what I had intended, and when I was by him permitted to do no more than take the usual oath, I swore without flinching that this commonwealth and this city had been saved by my sole efforts. [7] At that meeting the entire people of Rome accorded to me, not a vote of thanks which would pass with the day, but eternity and immortality, when, themselves upon oath, with one voice and one heart, they acclaimed an oath so proud and so memorable. And on that day my return home from the forum was such that there seemed to be no one in the whole catalogue of citizens who was not in my train. Indeed my consulship was so conducted from its beginning to its end, that I did nothing without the advice of the senate, nothing without the approval of the Roman people ; upon the rostra I constantly defended the senate, in the senate-house the people ; I welded the populace with its leaders, and the equestrian order with the senate. This is a brief description of my consulship.

[4.] L   [8] Dare now, you fiend, to describe your own ; it began with the Compitalician Games, ** then for the first time celebrated since the consulship of Lucius Julius and Gaius Marcius, against the authority of this order; games which Quintus Metellus - I do wrong to the gallant dead, in comparing him, whose like this state has rarely borne, to this savage monster - Quintus Metellus, I say, being consul-elect, when a certain tribune of the plebs had in virtue of his prerogative ordered the masters of the games to celebrate them in defiance of a senatorial decree, forbade the celebration though a private citizen, and achieved by his personality what he could not yet achieve as a magistrate. You, when the date of the Compitalician Games had fallen on the first of January, suffered Sextus Clodius, though he had never before worn the bordered toga, to hold the games and in that bordered ** toga to strut abroad - vile fellow that he was, in whom not only your face but your eye ** found their fitting match. [9] On such foundation was your consulship built; and three days after, while you looked on unprotesting, the law of Aelius and Fufius, ** that bulwark and rampart of security and repose, was overturned by that predestinate portent ** and prodigy of our state; while not only were those guilds restored which the senate had abolished, but countless new ones were called into being from the slave-dregs of the city. He too it was who, wallowing in unparalleled and abominable debaucheries, abolished the censorship, that ancient guardian of honour and chastity ; and all this while you, the funeral-pyre of the commonwealth, who assert that at that time you were consul at Rome, never by so much as a whisper declared your mind in that dire shipwreck of society.

[5.] L   [10] I speak not yet of what you did, but of what you permitted to be done. But indeed it makes little difference, above all in a consul, whether he himself harry the commonwealth with ruinous laws and unscrupulous harangues, or allow others so to harry it. Or can an excuse be found for a consul who I will not say means mischief, but for a consul who sits with his hands before him, who dallies, who sleeps, while his country topples about his ears? For nigh a century we had maintained the law of Aelius and Fufius, ** and for four hundred the censor's prerogative of criticism and stigmatisation ** - institutions which now and then a scoundrel has had the audacity, but none the power, to uproot ; powers which none has with such wanton profligacy endeavoured to curtail, in order to prevent judgement being passed upon our morals once in every five years.

[11] These are the things for which, butcher, your consulship provided sepulture in its beginning. Trace with me the days that followed upon these obsequies. Before the tribunal of Aurelius, while you, I will not say shut your eyes, though that in itself would have been criminal enough, but gazed with eyes that shone with even more than their wonted glee, a levy of slaves was held by one ** who never thought himself degraded by any act or any treatment. Arms, O betrayer of all temples, were set up under your eyes in the temple of Castor by that robber who, when you were consul, treated that temple as the sanctuary of abandoned citizens, the rendezvous of Catiline's veteran soldiers, a stronghold of public brigandage, and a pyre for the destruction of all laws and all sanctities. My house, and not alone my house, but the whole Palatine was crowded with the senate, Roman knights, the entire citizen body, and the whole of Italy ; while you not only never came near that Cicero - I say nothing of private relations, which you might disclaim ; I mention only what is notorious - not only, I say, never came near that Cicero to whom at your election you had handed the first voting-tablet of the prerogative century, whom in the senate you used to ask for his opinion third, ** but actually gave not merely your presence, but even your heartless presidency to all those deliberations which aimed at my overthrow.

[6.] L   [12] And to myself in the presence of my son-in-law, your kinsman, ** what words were those you dared to utter? That Gabinius was a beggar, cast out from house and home ; that he could not exist without a province; that he had hopes in a tribune of the plebs, should you make common cause with him ; that from the senate he looked for nothing; that you were humouring his ambitions, as I had humoured those of my colleague ; that there was no reason for me to appeal to the consuls for protection ; that everyone should take measures in his own interest. And this I hardly dare mention - I fear there may be someone who as yet fails to discern the monstrous villainy that yonder solemn brow envelopes in its folds, yet mention it I will - he himself at least will recognise its truth, and it will be with a pang that he recalls his enormities. [13] Do you remember, you filth, when I visited you at about the fifth hour with Gaius Piso, how you were emerging from some mean hovel with a hood upon your head and slippers upon your feet ? and how, when from your malodorous lips you had exhaled upon us the fumes of that disgusting tavern, you pleaded your enfeebled health, and alleged that you were in the habit of taking some sort of vinous remedies to support it? and how, when we had accepted your explanation - for what else could we do ? - we stood for a while in the reek and fume of your stew-houses, until at length you drove us thence by your impudent replies and your disgusting eructations ? [14] About two days after this you were introduced to a public meeting by the man ** at whose disposal you were placing a consulship so fairly divided **; and when asked for your views as to my consulship you, with a sage sententious air - another Calatinus, one would have thought, an Africanus or a Maximus, instead of a Caesoninus Semiplacentinus ** Calventius - you made answer, with one eyebrow soaring into your forehead and the other tucked down to the level of your chin, to the effect that you "disapproved of cruelty." ** [7.] L   Whereupon that noble fellow, than whom you could find no more appropriate panegyrist, applauded you.

And do you, scoundrel, in addressing the people as consul, condemn the senate for cruelty ? For it is not I you condemn, who did but carry out the senate's orders; for though that beneficent and conscientious proposal was indeed the work of the consul, the punishment and the sentence were the work of the senate. And in blaming these, you do but demonstrate what sort of a consul you, had it so happened, would have been at that crisis ; it is with pay, God help us, and with provisions that you would have thought Catiline should be assisted ! [15] For what difference was there between Catiline and the man to whom you sold the authority of the senate, the welfare of the community, and the whole constitution, for the price of a province? Yes, the consuls assisted Clodius in the execution of what Catiline was but attempting when I as consul defeated him. He would fain have massacred the senate, you ** abolished it; have destroyed the laws, you rescinded them ; have worked the downfall of his country, you assisted him. In your consulship what was achieved without recourse to arms? That crew of conspirators wished to burn the city, you to burn the house of him to whom it was due that the city was not burned. And yet even those scoundrels would not have wished to fire Rome if they had had a consul like one of you two; for they did not want to have no roof over their heads, but thought that while this order stood they would find no shelter for their villainy. ** They desired the slaughter of their fellow-citizens, you their enslavement; and herein you showed yourselves the crueller, for before your consulship the spirit of freedom was so deeply engrained in this people, that they held death preferable to servitude. [16] Yet in this one respect the policies of yourselves and of Catiline and Lentulus are counterparts one of another ; you drove me from my house, and Gnaeus Pompeius into his **; for they held that, while I stood firm at my post as sentinel over the city, and while Pompeius, the vanquisher of all nations, withstood them, they could never hope to destroy the commonwealth. From me you even sought to exact a penalty; that you might thereby appease the shades of the dead conspirators; you discharged upon my head all the wrath that fermented in the abominable hearts of traitors ; and had I not given place before their fury, I should by your directing hands have been sacrificed upon Catiline's pyre. What greater proof do you look for of the essential similarity between yourselves and Catiline than the fact that it was from the expiring remnant of Catiline's followers that you gathered to your standard a troop like his own, that you collected all the renegades of all the earth, that you unleashed the inmates of the jail against me, that you armed conspirators, and that you were ready to expose my person and the lives of all true men to their infuriated onslaught ?

[8.] L   [17] I return to the point of your egregious harangue. You, it appears, are the man who "disapproves of cruelty" ! you, who, when the senate thought fit to signify its grief and indignation by a change of attire, when you saw the whole commonwealth mourning to see the grief of its most eminent order, what do we find you doing, O paragon of pity ? Why, what no despot of heathendom ever did. I say nothing of a consul issuing an edict that a decree of the senate should be disobeyed, than which no more shameful act can be done or dreamed of; I return to the compassionate heart of the man who thinks the senate to have been too cruel in the preservation of their fatherland. [18] Along with that mate of his, whom, mate though he was, he aimed at surpassing in every vice, he made bold to decree that the senate should go back upon its own resolution and return to its normal attire. What despot in Scythia ever acted thus [17] to forbid the signs of mourning to those whom he had forced to mourn? Their grief you leave with them; of the emblems of their grief you rob them. You force them to forgo their tears not by consolation but by threats. Even had the conscript fathers changed their attire not by official resolution but as a mark of private respect or compassion, it would have been an intolerable act of cruelty that your magisterial edict should forbid them; but when a crowded senate had passed a motion to that effect, and when all the other orders had already done what that motion was to enact, you the consul were dragged from your dingy cook-shop with your shaven dancing-girl ** to forbid the senate of the Roman people to mourn the downfall and destruction of their state.

[9.] L   Furthermore a short while ago he actually inquired of me what need I had of his assistance, and why I had not used my own resources to resist my own enemies, ** - as if forsooth not myself alone, who have often been of assistance to many, but any man alive were ever in so desperate a plight as to dream not only that he would be safer with such a champion but better equipped by having him as advocate or seconder. [19] Was I anxious forsooth to depend upon the advice or protection of a brute, a lump of carrion? Did I look for any advantage of utility or ornament from that abandoned carcass? It was a consul for whom I was looking at that time - a consul, I say - not indeed one (for that I could not possibly find in this gelded hog) who by his dignity and wisdom could maintain a cause of such importance to the state, but at least one who, like a trunk or a stock, if he did but stand upright, could still carry his label of consul. For since my whole cause was the cause of a consul and a senator, it was a consul and a senate whose help I needed; and of these two resources the former was by you two consuls even turned to my destruction, and the other torn root and branch from the constitution. And yet, if you ask what determined my conduct, I should not have retired, and my country would herself have retained me in her embrace, if I had had to contend merely with that funeral-gladiator ** and with you and your colleague. [20] For wholly different was the case of the heroic Quintus Metellus, ** a citizen who in my judgement was equal with the immortal gods in glory ; who thought fit to retire and so avoid an armed conflict with the gallant Gaius Marius - consul, nay, six times consul - and his invincible legions. No such glorious contest lay before me. Was it with a Gaius Marius or some peer of his that I should have contended ? Was it not rather with, on the one hand, a bearded Epicurean, and, on the other hand, with a consul who was a mere link-boy ** of Catiline's ? God knows it was not from your eyebrow ** or your colleague's castanets that I fled, nor was I so craven, after guiding the ship of state through dread wave and whirlwind and anchoring her safe in port, as to flinch before the cloudlet of your frown or your colleague's tainted breath. [21] Other gales I saw upon the horizon; other squalls I anticipated; other tempests threatened before which I did not retire, but made myself a solitary sacrifice to ensure the safety of all. **

This was the reason why at my departure all those unholy swords fell from the hands of their pitiless wielders, while you, infatuated lunatic that you are, when all true men shut themselves away with their grief, when the very temples and buildings of the city groaned and lamented, took to your heart that pestilential monster compounded of unspeakable lust, civil bloodshed, and every outrageous wickedness ; and in the same temple, at precisely the same point of place and time, you pocketed the expenses ** not of my funeral alone, but of that of your country.

[10.] L   [22] What need for me to publish abroad the banqueting that filled those days, your gleeful self-congratulation, and your unbridled drinking sessions with your crew of infamous associates? Who in those days ever saw you sober, or engaged in any activity befitting a free man? Who indeed ever saw you in public at all ? When the house of your colleague rang with song and cymbals, and when he himself danced naked at a feast at which, when executing those whirling gyrations of his, even then he felt no fear of Fortune and her wheel. Piso meanwhile, neither so elegant nor so artistic a debauchee, lolled amid his tipsy and malodorous Greeks, while, amidst all the miseries of his country, his colleague's feast was proclaimed a sort of banquet of Lapiths and Centaurs ; and in it none can say whether that wretch spent more time in drinking or in vomiting or in excreting his drink.

[23] And will you dare to allude to your consulship, or venture to assert that you were consul at Rome? Think you that the consulship consists in lictors and the bordered toga - emblems which you, when you were consul, wished to belong also to Sextus Clodius ** ? And do you think that the consulship is attested by a dog that whines at the heels of a Clodius? A consul should declare himself such in spirit, in discretion, in honour, in dignity, in vigilance, in devotion, in the careful performance of the functions and duties of his office, and above all - as the signification of his title indicates - in consulting the interests of the commonwealth. Or am I to count him a consul who thought that the senate had no place in the constitution? And am I to count him a consul without reference to that great Council without whom even kings could not have existed at Rome? I will say no more on this point ; but, when levies of slaves were being held in the forum, when arms in open daylight were being conveyed into the temple of Castor, and when that temple, its doors removed and its steps torn up, was occupied by the remnant of the conspirators and by him ** who had once been Catiline's collusive prosecutor but was now his avenger ; when knights of Rome were being banished, patriots pelted with stones from the forum, and when the senate was not permitted even to mourn the constitution, let alone defend it; when the citizen whom this order, with the assent of Italy and all nations, had pronounced the saviour of his country was being driven forth without trial, without law, without precedent, by the hands of armed slaves - I will not say with your assistance (though I might truly say that) but at least without protest from you - at such a time will anyone pronounce that consuls existed at Rome? Who, pray, are robbers, if you are consuls? [24] Who are to be called pirates, who enemies, who traitors, who tyrants?

[11.] L   Great is the name, great the dignity, great the honour, great the majesty of a consul. That greatness your narrow mind cannot comprehend nor your shallow nature recognise ; your spiritless heart and feeble understanding cannot grasp it; nor can you, with your inexperience of prosperity, appreciate a role so eminent, so dignified, so august. In truth I have heard it reported that no sooner had the Seplasia ** seen you than it scouted you as a Campanian consul. It had heard men like Decius Magius," it had learned something of the great Taurea Vibellius **; and if those men were not marked by all that self-restraint which ordinarily characterises our consuls, at least there was a presence about them, a magnificence, a lordly gait that was worthy of the Seplasia and of Capua. [25] In fact, if your perfume-sellers who do business in that locality had seen Gabinius as their duumvir, they would have been more ready to recognise him. He at least had braided hair, a curled and well-oiled fringe, cheeks moist with unguent and bright with rouge, that were worthy of Capua - the Capua, I mean, of the bad old days, for the Capua of to-day is crowded with any number of illustrious characters, gallant gentlemen, and excellent patriots who are devoted to myself; and not one of these ever saw you at Capua in your bordered toga without sighs of regret for me, remembering that it was by my counsels that the commonwealth in general and their own city in particular had been preserved. Upon me they had bestowed a gilded statue ; I had been chosen as their especial patron; they accounted their lives, their fortunes, and their children as a gift from me ; while I was with them they had defended me by their decrees and their delegates against your brigandage, and after I had left them they had recalled me, when our great statesman Gnaeus Pompeius brought in a motion to that effect and so wrenched from the vitals of our commonwealth the dagger which your wickedness had planted in it. [26] Consul were you - at that time when my house on the Palatine was ablaze, as a result not of any accident but of brands laid to it at your instigation? What important conflagration ever took place in this city without the consul coming to the rescue? But you at that very time were sitting close to my house in that of your mother-in-law, which you had thrown open to receive the contents of my own, not to quench but to create the flames, and you, yes, you our consul all but handed the blazing brands to Clodius and his band of Furies.

[12.] L   Or again did anyone throughout all the days remaining consider you, did any obey you, as consul ? Did any rise to you as you entered the senate-house? Did any deign to answer you when you asked his advice? In fact, can we count that year at all in the annals of our state, when the senate was sunk in dumbness and the courts in silence, when true men were downcast, when the violence of your banditti ranged over the whole city, and when not one citizen ** alone had retired from society, but society itself had retired before the insensate wickedness of yourself and Gabinius ?

[27] Nor did you at length, O filthy Caesoninus, ** struggle out of that miserable slough of degradation which is yourself, even when the courage of an illustrious gentleman, ** aroused at last, made haste to recall at once a true friend and a deserving citizen, and his own erstwhile principles ; nor would that great man any longer suffer the taint of your wickedness to abide in the commonwealth, whose glory and greatness he had himself enhanced ; even when in spite of all Gabinius, though such a man as he is, though surpassed by you alone in villainy, did pull himself together - with difficulty, I allow, yet he did so - and at first hypocritically, then reluctantly, and finally in truth and good earnest, fought in support of Gnaeus Pompeius against his own dear Clodius - a spectacle which the Roman people viewed with marvellous impartiality ; for it thought, like a trainer, that it stood to gain whichever of so vile a pair should perish, but that if both should fall, that indeed would be a godsend. But still Gabinius did achieve something. [28] He upheld the authority of a great man. He was a ruffian, he was a gladiator; yet he fought with a ruffian and a gladiator like himself. You, conscientious and upright gentleman that you were, were reluctant to break the covenant you had sealed with my blood in reference to the allotment of provinces. For that adulterer with his own sister had stipulated that, should he give you a province, an army, and funds torn from the vitals of the state, you should lend yourself to be the partner and assistant in all his wickednesses. So it came about that in the rioting that ensued the fasces were broken, you yourself were wounded, and weapons, stonings, and flights were of daily occurrence ; till at last arrest was made close to the senate-house of a man with a sword on his person, who was discovered to have been posted there to assassinate Gnaeus Pompeius.

[13.] L   [29] And did anyone hear of any report, any motion made by you? Nay, did anyone hear a single syllable of protest from you? Was it a consul that you think you were at that time, when during your period of office the man who had preserved the constitution by the authority of the senate, and who had united all sections of all communities in three triumphs, had made up his mind that he could not safely appear in public or even in Italy ? Was it consuls you were when, on whatsoever matter you began to speak or to submit a motion in the senate, the whole body shouted you down, and made it clear that you would accomplish nothing until you had brought in a motion dealing with myself? and when you, though bound hand and foot by your engagement, alleged that you were willing to bring such a motion, but that you were hindered by the law? [30] This law =/44= was thought by private individuals to be no law at all; it had been forged by means of slaves, engraved by violence, forced upon the state by brigandage, when the senate had been abolished, all true men driven from the forum, and the constitution taken by storm. It was a law drawn up in contravention of all existing laws and in defiance of precedent, and can the men who asserted that they stood in dread of it be tolerated as consuls, I will not say by the feelings of men, but by any calendar ** ? For even though you did not deem that to be a law, which was in reality a tribune's proscription, contrary to all law, of an uncondemned citizen, of his unimpugned civic rights, and of his property, but were merely held bound to your agreement, who could deem you free men, let alone consuls, when your freedom of will was fettered by a bribe and your tongue silenced by a wage? But if, on the other hand, you, and none but you, did consider that to be a law, can anyone think that you were consuls then or that you are consulars to-day, seeing that you refuse to recognise the laws, the usages, the traditions, and the rights of the state among whose statesmen you would fain be counted ? [31] Or again, when you were going forth in your generals' cloaks to the provinces you had purchased or more truly stolen, did anyone consider you to be consuls? And so, methinks, even though men did fail to turn out in their thousands to cheer and grace your departure, at least their thoughts went with you with favouring omens as if you were consuls - not with sinister omens, as if you were enemies or traitors. **

[14.] L   And did you even, foul and inhuman monster that you are, dare to treat my departure - proof of your own wicked cruelty - as matter for slander and abuse? Nay, but in that very moment, Conscript Fathers, I was marvellously comforted by your intimation of affection and approval of me, when not by mere murmurs of support, but by loud vociferations, you crushed the headstrong and infatuated mood of a despicable fellow who was at his final gasp. [32] Are you to treat the mourning of the senate, you the yearning of the equestrian order, you the grief-stricken disarray of Italy, the year-long dumbness of the senate-house, the unbroken silence of the courts and of the forum as matter for abuse - as well as all the other wounds which my departure inflicted on the state? Even had that brought with it the most utter ruin, still it would have called for compassion rather than contumely, it would have been associated in men's thoughts with my reputation rather than my reprobation, and though the grief indeed would have been deemed my own, yours would have been held to be the crime and the dishonour. But since - what I am about to say may startle you, but at least I shall say what I think - since I have been the recipient at your hands, Conscript Fathers, of kindnesses so great and distinctions so proud, so far am I from deeming that incident to have spelt my ruin, that, could I have any thought unconnected with the state (which is hardly possible), I should consider that, for the enhancing of my own personal reputation, it was a chance most devoutly to be desired. [33] And, Piso - if I may compare your happiest with my most sorrowful of days - which do you think the more to be desired by a good and wise man ? that his departure from his country should be attended by the prayers of all his fellow-citizens for his welfare, his safety, his return, which was my own case ; or, as was the case with you as you left the city, that all should execrate you and invoke disaster upon you, praying that that journey should have no end and should be your last? ** For my part I swear that were I to find myself the object of hatred so universal, above all of a just and merited hatred, the foulest banishment would be more desirable in my eyes than the fairest province.

[15.] L   But to proceed. If the season of my roughest weather is better than your day of halcyon calm, what need for me to compare the sequel of each - for you so full of disgrace, for me so full of honour ? [34] I, on the first of January, the day which marked the first dawn for our constitution after your setting and downfall, by a crowded senate, amid the gathered throngs of Italy who spoke with a single voice from a single heart, was recalled on the motion of the gallant and illustrious Publius Lentulus. I, by that same senate, was officially and by letters of the consuls commended to foreign nations and to our legates and magistrates, not, as you the Insubrian ** have dared to assert, as one deprived of his country, but, as the senate at that very time styled me, as a citizen and the preserver of the constitution. For my restoration, and for mine alone, the senate thought fit by the consul's voice and by letters to entreat the co-operation of all citizens from all Italy who had the welfare of the state at heart. To preserve my rights the whole of Italy, as at a given signal, flocked on one day to Rome. My restoration was made the subject of harangues delivered to numerous and applauding throngs by our excellent and heroic consul Publius Lentulus, by the illustrious and invincible citizen Gnaeus Pompeius, and by the other leading men of the city. [35] Upon me, at the initiative and on the motion of Gnaeus Pompeius, the senate decreed that any who should hinder my return should be counted among his country's foes, and the official pronouncement of the senate was delivered upon me in such terms that none ever had a triumph decreed for him in more laudatory language than was my restoration and restitution for me. And when the measure concerning me had been promulgated by all the magistrates save a single praetor, ** from whom it was scarce to be expected since he was the brother of my enemy, and two tribunes of the plebs who had been bought like marketed slaves, then Publius Lentulus the consul brought a law before the Assembly of the Centuries, upon the proposal of his colleague Quintus Metellus, who, just as in his tribunate ** he had been alienated from me by political affairs, was by political affairs reunited to me in his consulship thanks to the courage and wisdom of one excellent and upright gentleman. **

[36] And what concern of mine is it to tell you how that law was received ? I hear from yourselves that no pretext for absence offered by any citizen was deemed admissible, and that no assembly was ever filled with a more numerous or distinguished gathering ; while I see indubitably for myself - what indeed the public records prove - that you were the collectors, you the tellers, and you the custodians of the voting-tablets ; while you of your own free will and at the solicitation of none did for me in my restoration what you make age or rank an excuse for not doing when the honours of even your own kith and kin are at stake. **

[16.] L   [37] Compare now, my worthy Epicurus, though product of the sty ** rather than the school - compare, if you dare, your absence with mine. You obtained a consular province under the limitations which the law of your own covetousness, not the law of your daughter's husband, ** had enjoined. For by that just and admirable law of Caesar free peoples were really and truly free; but by that law which none save you and your colleague deemed a law all Achaea, Thessaly, Athens - in fact the whole of Greece - was put in bondage to you. You had a great army, not assigned to you by the senate or the people of Rome, but raised by your own licentiousness; you had drained the treasury. [38] And what glorious exploits did you achieve in this command, with this army, in this consular province ! What did he achieve, do I ask? Why, no sooner had he arrived - I speak not yet of his acts of robbery, the money that he extorted, seized, or requisitioned, nor do I lay bare his slaughter of our allies, the murders of his guests, his perfidy, his barbarity, his heinous wickedness ; later, if occasion serves, I will deal with him as thief, as temple-robber, as assassin for the present, however, I am but comparing my own desolated fortunes with those of a commander in the day of his pride. Who ever held control of a province and its forces, and sent no single dispatch to the senate? above all, when that province was so important and equipped with forces so numerous as Macedonia, which has such formidable barbarian tribes upon its borders that our Macedonian commanders have always acted as if the limits of their province were only those of their swords and javelins ; a province too on their return from which some even of praetorian rank have held a triumph, while no one of consular rank who has returned safe and sound has been without his triumph. Here is one strange novelty ; but one more strange remains behind. This vulture of his province received the title (save the mark !) of imperator !

[17.] L   [39] And did you even then, O second Paulus, ** not deign to send laurelled ** dispatches to Rome ? "But I did," says he. Who ever read them? Who ever demanded that they should be read? For it makes no difference to my present argument whether it was that you were so conscience-stricken by your crimes that you could not bring yourself to write to the body which you despised, which you had outraged, and which you had nullified, or whether your friends concealed your dispatches and by their silence passed their condemnation upon your headstrong effrontery; and indeed I almost think I should prefer it to be supposed that you were sufficiently lost to shame to send dispatches, while your friends showed greater tact as well as sense of shame, than that it should appear either that you acted under a sense of shame unusual with you, or that your conduct failed to be visited with the disapproval of your friends.

[40] But even had you not by your unspeakable insults to this order shut its doors against yourself for evermore, what, pray, did you accomplish or achieve in that province about which you could fitly write to the senate with any words of congratulation? The harrying of Macedonia, perhaps, or the shameful surrender of towns, or the plundering of the allies, or the devastation of the farms, or the fortifying of Thessalonica, or the blocking of the military road, ** or the casualties which our army suffered from the sword, famine, frost, and pestilence ? You assuredly, in writing nothing to the senate, just as at Rome you showed yourself more worthless than Gabinius, so in the province have been none the less just a little more humble than he. [41] For that whirlpool, that wastrel born for his belly and not for virtue or renown, when he had deprived knights and tax-farmers of Rome in his province - men closely identified with ourselves in purpose and position - in all cases of their fortunes and in many cases of their honour and their lives ; when he had done nothing else with his army save plunder cities, lay waste fields, and denude houses of their contents, dared - for what will he not dare ? - to send a dispatch to the senate demanding a thanksgiving !

[18.] L   And do you, Heaven save us ! - or rather do the pair of you, gulfs and rocks for the wrecking of the state, decry my career, while you dilate upon your own? - when I in my absence was made the subject of such senatorial decrees, such public harangues, such agitations in all the municipal towns and colonies, and such resolutions of the tax-farmers, the guilds, and every section and order of society as I could never have imagined, let alone dared to dream of, while you and your colleague were marked with an indelible stigma of the deepest ignominy ? [42] Or if I were to see you and Gabinius affixed to a cross, should I feel a greater joy at the laceration of your bodies than I feel now at that of your reputations? For that is not to be reckoned a punishment at all which by some mischance good and brave men may find inflicted upon themselves ; and this at least is what your pleasure-advocating Greeks ** assert, to whom had you but listened in the right spirit, never would you have drowned yourself in such a vortex of enormity ; but you listen to them only in your taverns and your brothels, your gluttony and your tipsy revels - well, these same philosophers who define evil as pain and good as pleasure assert that the wise man, even were he to be shut up in the bull of Phalaris and roasted above a fire, would assert that he was happy and felt perfect calm of mind. What they meant was that the power of virtue is so great that the good man can never be otherwise than happy. What then is retribution? And what is punishment? [43] It is something which, in my opinion, can happen to none unless he be guilty - the burden of sin, the trouble and oppression of mind, the hatred of honest men, the brand of the senate's condemnation, the loss of dignity. [19.] L   To my mind the great Marcus Regulus, whose eyelids the Carthaginians cut off, whom they bound to a machine and did to death by sleeplessness, suffered no punishment ; no more did Gaius Marius, whom the Italy he had preserved saw sunk in the marshes of Minturnae, and the Africa he had vanquished saw banished and shipwrecked. Those were wounds dealt by the slings of fortune, not of misconduct; but punishment is the wages of sin, and of sin alone. Indeed were I ever to pray that disaster might light upon you - as I have often prayed, and the immortal gods have heard my prayers - I should not pray for disease or death or physical torture. That would be like the imprecation put into the mouth of Thyestes by the poet, who appeals to the sentiments of the uninstructed and not of the philosopher when he prays :
  That thou, a banished and a shipwrecked man,
  Far on some pitiless crag, all disembowell'd,
  May'st hang stretch'd out, sprinkling the rocks around
  With hideous pollution and dark gore. **

[44] Not that I should very greatly object, if such had been your fate ; but all the same it would be a fate to which any man is liable. Marcus Marcellus, ** who was thrice consul, perished in the sea, in spite of all his virtue, his piety, his renown as a soldier ; but his virtue keeps his fame and his glory alive. A death like his must be set down to chance, not to retribution. What then is retribution? What is punishment? What is stoning? What is the cross? This: that there should be two generals in the provinces of the people of Rome; that they should control armies and bear the title of imperator; and that one of these should be so utterly unmanned by the consciousness of his crimes and his atrocities, that from a province which was above all others the most prolific in triumphs he should dare to send no dispatch to the senate. It was from that province that Lucius Torquatus, distinguished by every merit, recently returned, to be addressed by the senate, upon my motion, as imperator in recognition of his great achievements ; it was there that during the last few years Gnaeus Dolabella, Gaius Curio, and Marcus Lucullus won well-deserved triumphs, of which we have been eye-witnesses ; and from this province, from you as imperator, there was brought to the senate no single message! From the other of the pair of you dispatches were, it is true, brought, were read before the senate, and were made the subject of a motion; [45] but, ye immortal gods! could I ever have dreamed that my enemy should be branded with such ignominy as was no man before ? - that a senate which has made such a habit of kindness that it rewards success in administration with honours unprecedented both in the length of their celebration and the language in which they are decreed, should in his case alone refuse to believe the letter in which he made his report, and should disallow the demands made therein !

[20.] L   This is a reflection upon which I gloat with ecstatic satisfaction: that this order thinks of you both not otherwise than of its bitterest foes; that the knights of Rome, all the other orders, and our entire society, loathe you ; that there is no honest man, aye, no citizen who but remembers that he is a citizen, who does not shun you with his eyes, shut his ears in horror from you, scorn you with his soul, and shudder at the bare recollection of your consulship. [46] That is the fulfilment of my desires, my vows, my prayers on your behalf ; more too has happened than I could wish ; for, Heaven knows, I never prayed that you should lose an army : this too has happened beyond my prayers, but absolutely in accordance with my wishes ; for it had never occurred to me to pray for the frenzied lunacy into which you have fallen.

And yet I might well have prayed for it ; but I had forgotten that such is the most inevitable of all the penalties ordained by the immortal gods against the wicked and the impious. For you must not imagine, Conscript Fathers, that, as you see happen upon the stage, impious men are hounded by the blazing brands of the Avengers sent against them by the gods. It is a man's own sin, his own guilt, his own effrontery which unseats his mind from its sanity. These are the Avengers, these the flames, these the brands that hound the wicked. [47] Must I not account you senseless, frantic, demented - madder than the Orestes or the Athamas ** tragedy - when you dared first to be guilty of the deed (and this is my main indictment), and then a short while ago, under pressure put upon you by the influential and blameless Torquatus, frankly to admit that you had left the province of Macedonia, whither you had conveyed so vast an army, without one single soldier? I say nothing of the loss of the greater part of that army ; let us impute that to your misfortune ; but the disbanding of your army - what excuse can you allege for that? What was your authority for this act? where is the law, the decree of the senate, the prerogative, the precedent which allowed you to do it? What is madness if it is not blindness to the claims of our fellow-men, of the laws, of the senate, of society ? To wound the body is a small thing ; but to lacerate one's life, one's reputation, one's welfare, like this, is a more serious matter. [48] Had you discharged your household, an act which would have concerned none but yourself, your friends would have thought it necessary to put you under restraint; would you, without orders from the people and senate of Rome, have discharged the bulwark of the commonwealth and the safeguard of the province, if you had been in possession of your senses ?

[21.] L   And now for your colleague! He, after squandering the vast plunder which he had squeezed from the wealth of the tax-farmers and the lands and cities of our allies, plunder which had been swallowed up either in the gulf of his licentiousness or in novel and unheard-of extravagances, or had been spent upon purchases in the very scenes of his depredations, in order to raise that mountain of a villa at Tusculum ; when he began to be in want, when work upon his intolerable structure had been suspended and finally had come to a full stop, he then sold to the king of Egypt ** his person, his fasces, the army of the Roman people, the name and the interdict of the immortal gods, the responses of the priests, the authority of the senate, the mandate of the Roman people, and the name and the dignity of this empire. [49] Though the limits of his province were such as he had wished, had hoped for, had purchased at the cost of my outlawry, yet great as they were he could not contain himself within them ; he led his army out of Syria. How could he legally have led them outside his province? He lent himself out as a hired assistant to the king of Alexandria.

What could be more degrading than that? He came into Egypt, and fought a pitched battle with the inhabitants of Alexandria. When had either this order or the people of Rome undertaken responsibility for this war? He captured Alexandria. What else do we look for from his mad mood but that he should send a dispatch to the senate to report so brave a venture? [50] If he had been in his senses, if he had not already, by his infatuation and madness, been paying the direst of all penalties to his country and to the immortal gods, would he have dared - I say nothing now of his leaving his province, of his leading his army out of it, of his waging war on his own account, of his entering a king's realm without the orders of the Roman people or senate, conduct expressly forbidden by numerous ancient statutes, and in particular by the law of Cornelius against treason and that of Julius against malpractices, but I say nothing of all this - would he have dared, I say, had he not been a raving madman, to appropriate to himself a province which Publius Lentulus, ** the devoted friend of this order, had unhesitatingly renounced because a religious scruple had presented itself, though he held that province by senatorial authority and by due allotment, would he have dared to do so, when, even though no religious scruple prevented him, he was none the less debarred by ancient usage and precedent and by the severest penalties of the law ?

Following sections (51-99)


1.   i.e., Frugi (honest).

2.   By supporting his recall by their votes.

3.   Calventius, Piso's maternal grandfather.

4.   Lack of context makes C.'s point here impossible to perceive.

5.   The imagines of the family, placed in the atrium, where the smoke of the fire would blacken them,

6.   i.e., Rullus's Lex Agraria.

7.   C. while consul had defended R. who was accused by Caesar of perduellio (acts hostile to the state), on the ground that he had murdered the tribune Saturninus in 100 B.C. thirty-six years previously. Caesar's accusation was an assault upon the Senate's authority, just as S.'s death had been an assertion of it.

8.   The sons of those proscribed by Sulla, who had been debarred, by a law of Sulla, from holding office.

9.   C. gave up to him the province of Macedonia, in order to win his support against Catiline.

10.   Given for saving the life of a citizen in battle.

11.   Q. Metellus Nepos ; see Ad fam. v. 2.

12.   These games were in the hands of guilds (collegia) and celebrated chiefly by slaves ; the risk of disorder which they involved led to their suspension in 64.

13.   At the Compitalicia the magistri collegiorum wore the praetexta.

14.   Some ocular defect must be referred to.

15.   Enacting the suspension of public business on the announcement of unfavourable signs.

16.   P. Clodius.

17.   See § 9 with note.

18.   The right of the censor to affix the nota, or mark of discredit, again a senator's name.

19.   i.e., P. Clodius, who while tribune enrolled slaves to help him to carry his laws by force.

20.   Two marks of special honour: (a) at the consular election presided over by P., C. was a member of the Century which drew the lot entitling it to vote first ( praerogativa), and P. handed C. the tablet, inviting him to start the voting ; (b) in the senate P., as presiding consul, had called upon C. to speak third. Such priority was normally accorded to ex-consuls, but on this occasion there may have been several present who were senior to C.

21.   C. Piso, husband of C.'s daughter Tullia.

22.   Gabinius.

23.   The best sense which can be made of a doubtful text; adopting Clark's emendation, we might render "to be used as a dagger" (i.e. to stab the State).

24.   The word means ''half-Gaul" but is here interposed among the other names with effect intended to be comic.

25.   Referring to the execution of Catiline's fellow-conspirators.

26.   'You' is plural here and throughout the rest of the paragraph, i.e. Piso and Gabinius as consuls.

27.   i.e., Catiline's conspirators would not have needed to burn Rome had Piso and Gabinius been consuls, for they would then have been secure without doing so. The whole of this comparison is ridiculously strained and turgid.

28.   Pompey shut himself up in his house while Clodius was terrorising Rome with his gangs.

29.   Gabinius, for whom saltatrix is C.'s constant epithet.

30.   C. refers to the time of his banishment.

31.   Gladiatorial games were primitively funeral rites; C. often refers to his exile as funus. The gladiator here is Clodius.

32.   i.e., Numidicus refused to swear obedience to Saturninus's agrarian law, and went into voluntary exile, 100.

33.   i.e., his associate in immorality.

34.   The ocular defect again; see § 9.

35.   C. endeavours to explain his 'retirement' as an act of patriotism, because he knew that Caesar and Pompey were supporting Clodius, and feared the outbreak of serious disturbances.

36.   Arbitria funeris, so called because fixed by assessors (arbitri) according to the rank and wealth of the deceased. C. here means that the expenses of the state's "funeral" were refunded to Piso in the form of plunder from his house.

37.   See note on Pro Milone 8 33 ; Sextus Clodius must have been magister collegii at the Compitalicia.

38.   Clodius had prosecuted Catiline for extortion and had, C. alleges, corruptly connived (praevaricare) at his acquittal.

39.   A square in Capua, where dealers in unguents did business. C. Piso was duumvir (one of the two chief magistrates) in the colony of Capua, The duumviri were analogous to the Roman consuls. The meaning is: even as a Campanian consul you were contemptible.

40.   Decius Magius and Taurea Vibellius were probably Capuans who had held high municipal rank.

41.   Pompey.

42.   C. contemptuously addresses Piso by the name of his Gallic maternal grandfather.

43.   Pompey, who is also referred to in the following sentence and in 29 below. Pompey was drawn from his retirement by Clodius's attacks upon himself.

44.   The Lex Clodia against C.

45.   In which the record of the year was headed by the consuls' names.

46.   This sentence is ironical, as credo usually marks a sentence to be.

47.   This is a regular curse; a form of it is quoted by Nonius: "egredere atque utinam istuc perpetum itiner sit tibi." Cf. Catullus v. 6.

48.   A reference to P.'s grandfather; see Frag. 4.

49.   Appius Claudius.

50.   In 62 he had attacked C. for his conduct in regard to Catiline's conspiracy.

51.   Pompey.

52.   Cf. Post Red. in Sen. 98 "quando illa dignitate rogatores, diribitores custodesque vidistis ? "

53.   Cf. Hor. Ep. i. 4. 16 "Epicuri de grege porcum."

54.   Caesar's Lex de Provinciis.

55.   The conqueror of Macedonia.

56.   i.e., announcing a victory.

57.   i.e., Thessalonica had to be fortified to protect it from barbarian inroads. The road is the Via Egnatia, which led from the Adriatic to the East.

58.   i.e., the Epicureans.

59.   From Ennius's tragedy Thyestes.

60.   Lost at sea off the African coast, 148.

61.   King of Thebes, was driven mad by Hera and slew his own children.

62.   Ptolemy Auletes; his restoration was forbidden by the Sibylline Books, but Gabinius restored him in return for a large sum of money.

63.   In 57 the Senate, acceding to Ptolemy's importunities, had commissioned Lentulus, then proconsul of Cilicia, to reinstate him on the throne of Egypt. Ptolemy's intrigues in Italy brought about a reaction against him, and Sibylline books were invoked to stop his restoration.

Following sections (51-99) →

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