Cicero : De Lege Agraria, 2

Sections 1-46

This speech was delivered against P. Servilius Rullus in 63 B.C.

The translation is by J.H. Freese (1930). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section. Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.

[1.] L   [1] It is a custom, O Romans, established by our ancestors, that those who by your favour have obtained the right to have images in their family ** should, when delivering their first oration before the people, combine with an expression of gratitude for your favour some praise of their ancestors. And in such speeches some men are sometimes found to be worthy of the rank which their ancestors obtained, but the majority only make it seem that the debt due to their ancestors is so great that something is still left over to be paid to their posterity. As for myself, Romans, I have no opportunity of speaking of my ancestors before you ; not that they were not such men as you see us ** to be, sprung from their blood and brought up in their principles, but because they never enjoyed popular favour or were rendered illustrious by the honour you bestowed. ** [2] But to speak about myself before you I am afraid would show conceit, to remain silent ingratitude. For it is a very difficult matter to mention in regard to myself by what efforts I obtained this dignity, and yet I cannot possibly keep silence about the great favours you have bestowed upon me. For this reason I shall employ a careful reserve and moderation in my language so that, while recalling all the kindness I have received from you, when it comes to considering why I have been judged worthy of the highest honour you can bestow and such remarkable evidence of your esteem, I may myself state the reason, should it be necessary, in moderate terms, thinking that you who so judged me worthy will still hold the same opinion.

[3] I am the first "new" man, ** after a very long interval, almost more remote than our times can remember, ** whom you have made consul ; that position, which the nobility held secured by guards and fortified in every way, you have broken open, and have shown your desire that it should in future be open to merit, allowing me to take the lead. And you not only elected me consul, which in itself is a very high honour, but you did so in a way in which few nobles in this city have been made consuls, and no "new" man before me.

[2.] L   For certainly, if you will be good enough to consult your memory in regard to "new" men, you will find that those who were elected without rejection only obtained office after long labours and seizing a favourable opportunity, having become candidates many years after they had been praetors and somewhat later than their age and the laws allowed them **; but that those who became candidates in their own year ** were not elected without rejection first ; that I am the only one of all the "new" men that we can remember who became a candidate for the consulship when the law allowed and obtained it the first time I applied, so that this honour which I have received from you, which I stood for as soon as I was allowed to do so, appears not to have been seized when opportunity offered in the person of another inferior candidate, nor to have been urgently demanded with continued importunity, but to have been obtained by merit. [4] And it is indeed an eminent distinction that I have just mentioned - that I was the first of the "new" men upon whom after so many years you have bestowed this honour; that it was at the first time of asking, that it was in my regular year; and yet nothing can be more glorious and more illustrious than the fact that at the comitia at which I was elected you did not hand in your voting-tablet, whose secrecy guarantees the freedom of your vote, but showed by universal acclamation your goodwill and attachment to me. Thus it was not the last sorting of the voting-tablets, ** but those first hastening to the polling-booths, not the individual voices of the criers, but the unanimous voice of the Roman people that proclaimed me consul. [5] This remarkable, extraordinary favour on your part, Romans, I consider a great source of mental enjoyment and delight, but it causes me still more anxiety and solicitude. For my mind is occupied with many serious thoughts, which leave me no share of rest day or night - above all, as regards maintaining the dignity of the consulate, a great and difficult task for anyone, but above all for myself, since no mistake of mine will meet with indulgence ; if I am successful, little praise and that forced from unwilling people is in prospect; if I am in doubt, I can see no trustworthy counsel, if I am in difficulties, no loyal support.

[3.] L   [6] But if I alone were brought into danger, I could endure it, Romans, with greater equanimity ; but there appear to me to be certain men who, if they think that I have made some slight mistake concerning any matter not only intentionally but even by accident, will be ready to reproach you all for having preferred me to my noble competitors. But it is my opinion, Romans, that to suffer anything is better than failing to carry on my consulship in such a manner that in everything I do, in everything I advise, what you have done for me and advised may obtain its meed of praise. In addition to this I have a most laborious and difficult task before me in the manner of carrying on my consulship ; for I have made up my mind that I ought to follow a different system and principle from those of my predecessors, some of whom have specially avoided the approach to this place and the sight of you, while others have not shown much enthusiasm in presenting themselves. But I intend not only to declare from this place, ** where it is very easy to do so, but in the senate itself, which did not seem to be the place for such language, I declared in that first speech of mine on the 1st of January, that I would be a consul of the people. [7] Nor, since I am aware that I have been elected consul, not by the efforts of men of influence, not by the distinguished favours of a few, but by the unanimous approval of the Roman people, in such a way that I was by a large majority preferred to men of the highest rank, how, I ask, could I help acting as the people's friend while I hold this office and throughout my life? But I have urgent need of your wisdom to help me to explain the force and interpretation of this word. ** For a great error is being spread abroad through the hypocritical pretences of certain individuals, who, while attacking and hindering not only the interests but even the safety of the people, are striving by their speeches to obtain the reputation of being supporters of the people. [8] I am aware, Romans, what the condition of the republic was when it was handed over to me on the 1st of January ; it was full of anxiety, full of fear; in it there was no evil, no calamity which good citizens did not dread, which the bad were not hoping for. All kinds of seditious plots against the present form of government and against your quiet were reported, some to be already in progress, some to have been entered on the moment we were elected consuls. All confidence was banished from the forum, not by the stroke of some fresh calamity, but owing to suspicion and the disorganisation of the law-courts, the invalidation of decisions already made; new tyrannies, extraordinary powers, not merely military, but regal ** powers, were, it was supposed, being aimed at.

[4.] L   [9] Since I not only suspected what was going on, but saw it plainly (for everything was done quite openly) I declared in the senate that, as long as I held this office, I would be the people's consul. For what is so welcome to the people as peace, the delights of which not only those animals whom nature has endowed with sense, but even the houses and fields appear to me to enjoy ? What is so welcome to the people as liberty, which you see is longed for and preferred to everything else not only by men but also by beasts? What is so welcome to the people as repose, which is so pleasant that both you and your ancestors and the bravest of men think that the greatest labours ought to be undertaken in order to enjoy repose some day, especially when accompanied by authority and dignity ? Surely the very reason we owe especial praise and heartiest thanks to our ancestors is because it is thanks to their labours that we are able to enjoy repose free from danger. How then can I help being on the side of the people, Romans, when I see that all these things - peace outside, liberty the characteristic of your name and race, tranquillity at home, in short, everything that is nearest and dearest to you, were entrusted to my keeping and, in a way, to the protection of my consulship? [10] For neither, O Romans, ought it to seem to you a pleasantry or one in the interest of the people - this proclaiming of some largesse which can be promised in words but cannot possibly in reality be given without draining the treasury ; nor are the disturbances of the courts, the invalidation of decisions already made, the reinstating of the condemned, ** which are usually the final acts of the destruction of cities which are in a desperate condition and on the brink of ruin, to be regarded as acts for the benefit of the people. Nor, supposing some people promise lands to the Roman people, and supposing that, while with hopes and specious pretences they are holding out all this before your eyes, they are darkly engineering something different, do they deserve to be considered friends of the people. . [5.] L   For, to speak frankly, Romans, I do not disapprove of every kind of agrarian law in itself. For I remember that two of the most illustrious citizens, the most able and the most devoted friends of the Roman people, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, settled plebeians in public lands, formerly occupied by private persons. I am not one of those consuls who, like the majority, think it a crime to praise the Gracchi, by whose advice, wisdom, and laws I see that many departments of the administration were set in order. ** [11] Accordingly, when I was informed at the outset, when I was consul-elect, that the tribunes-elect were drawing up an agrarian law, I felt a desire to learn their intentions ; for I thought that, since we should have to fulfil magisterial functions in the same year, there ought to be some bond of union between us, for carrying on the affairs of the State wisely. [12] But when I attempted to get on such terms with them that we could converse without reserve, I was kept in the dark, I was shut out ; and when I gave them to understand that, if the law seemed to me likely to be useful to the Roman plebeians, I would support and help to pass it, they scorned my generous offer, and declared that I could never be brought to approve of any kind of largesse. I accordingly withdrew my offers of assistance, for fear that persistency might perhaps appear treacherous or insolent. In the meantime they continued to assemble privately, to invite certain private individuals to join them, to summon darkness and solitude to their aid in their secret meetings. You can easily imagine my great apprehension from your own anxiety during those times. [13] At last the tribunes enter upon office ; the speech of Rullus in particular is expected, because he was both the chief promoter of the agrarian law and was more truculent than any of his colleagues. As soon as he was elected, he practised putting on a different expression, a different tone of voice, and a different gait; his clothes were in rags, his person was terribly neglected, more hair about him now and more beard, ** so that eyes and aspect seemed to protest to the world the tribunician power and to threaten the republic. I waited for the man's expected law and speech. At first no law is proposed. He orders an assembly to be summoned for the 12th of December. A crowd gathers round on tiptoe of expectation. He unrolls a very long speech in very fine language. The only fault I had to find was that, among all the throng, not one could be found who was able to understand what he said. Whether he did this with some insidious purpose or takes pleasure in this type of eloquence, I cannot say ; although the more intelligent persons standing in the assembly suspected that he meant to say something or other about an agrarian law. At last, however, as soon as I was elected, the law was publicly proposed. ** By my instructions a number of copyists come running up all together, and bring an exact transcript of it to me.

[6.] L   [14] I earnestly assure you, Romans, that I brought to bear upon the reading and examination of this law the desire of advocating and promoting it, if I found that it was suitable for you and likely to advance your interests. For it is neither owing to natural dislike nor open disagreement nor inborn hatred that the consulship is engaged in a kind of war with the tribunate, although factious and ill-intentioned tribunes have frequently compelled good and fearless consuls to withstand them, and in like manner the power of the tribunes has sometimes been obliged to resist ** the inordinate desires of the consuls. It is not the incompatibility of their powers, but mental disagreement that causes dissension. [15] Accordingly, I took this law into my hands with the feeling that I wanted to find it advantageous to you and such that a consul, who was a friend of the people in reality, not in words, might honourably and gladly support it. And from the first article to the last, Romans, I find that the only idea of the tribunes, their only scheme, their only aim in what they do is that ten kings of the treasury, the revenues, all the provinces and the entire republic, of friendly kingdoms, of free nations - in fact, ten lords of the whole world, should be set up under the pretended name of an agrarian law.

Thus I maintain, O Romans, that this admirable and popular agrarian law gives you nothing, but makes a present of everything to certain individuals ; it holds lands before the eyes of the Roman people and robs them even of liberty ; it increases the wealth of private persons and exhausts the fortunes of the State ; lastly, the most disgraceful thing of all, a tribune of the plebs, a magistrate whom our ancestors intended to be the protector and guardian of liberty, is to set up kings in the republic. [16] After I have put all these facts before you, if they appear to you to be untrue, I will follow your authority and change my opinion. But if you recognise that, under the pretence of a largesse, a plot is being laid against your liberty, do not hesitate, with a consul to help you, to defend that liberty which was won by your ancestors with so much sweat and blood and handed on to you without any effort on your part.

[7.] L   In the first article of this agrarian law a slight attempt is made to see, as they think, in what sort of temper you can put up with an attack upon your liberty. For it orders the tribune of the plebs, who has carried that law, to create decemvirs by the votes of seventeen tribes, so that everyone who shall have been elected by nine tribes shall be decemvir. [17] Here I ask for what reason Rullus has made this the beginning of his proposals and laws - that the Roman people shall be deprived of their right of voting. Several times, in agrarian laws, provision has been made for the appointment of triumvirs, quinquevirs, and decemvirs as curators ; I ask this tribune, the friend of the people, if they have ever been elected except by the thirty-five tribes. For, as it is fitting that all powers, commands, and commissions ** should proceed from the whole Roman people, this is especially the case in regard to those which are established for any advantage and interest of this people. For it is then that the whole body of citizens have to elect the man who they think will do his best to assist the people, while each individual by his zeal and vote is able to pave the way for acquiring some benefit for himself. It was left to a tribune before anyone else to think how to deprive the entire Roman people of their votes, and to invite only a few tribes, not according to established legal rules but by accidental favour of the lot, to exercise their liberty. ** [18] "Also and in the same manner," it says in the second article, "as at the election of the pontifex maximus." ** He did not even see that our ancestors had such regard for the people that, because on religious grounds it was considered unlawful for it to confer such an office, they nevertheless decided in his case, considering the importance of the priesthood, that candidates should humbly beg the people to grant them the office. And Gnaeus Domitius, tribune of the plebs, a man of distinguished family, passed a similar law with regard to the other priesthoods, which provided that, because the people, on religious grounds, could not confer the priesthoods, the smaller half of them should be invited to attend, and that the candidate chosen by that half should be co-opted by the college. [19] See the difference between Gnaeus Domitius, ** tribune of the plebs, a noble of the nobles, and Publius Rullus, who in my opinion wanted to test your patience, by calling himself noble. Domitius secured what was forbidden, owing to religious obstacles, to be done by the whole people by the device of assigning it to part of the people as far as he could, as far as it was permitted, as far as it was lawful ** ; Rullus, on the other hand, has endeavoured to snatch from you entirely and wrest from your hands what has always been a privilege of the people, what no one has ever violated, what no one has ever altered - namely, that all those who were to assign lands to the people should receive a benefit from the Roman people before bestowing one upon it. What could in no way be given to the people, the one has notwithstanding in a certain way given it; of what could by no means be taken away, the other is endeavouring to deprive it by a certain method.

[8.] L   [20] Someone will ask what his object was in behaving with such injustice and impudence. He did not act without design ; but he was absolutely without good faith towards the Roman people, Quirites, without fairness towards you and your liberty. For he orders that the comitia for creating the decemvirs shall be held by the man who proposed the law. To put it more plainly : Rullus, a man who is neither avaricious nor grasping, orders that the comitia should be held - by Rullus. I do not blame him as yet; I see that others have done the same. But consider what his object is in summoning to the election only the smaller part of the people, a thing which no one has ever done. He will hold the comitia, he will want to declare those elected for whom royal authority is sought by this law. He himself neither entrusts it to the whole people, nor do those who were the instigators of these plans think that it can be rightly entrusted to it. [21] Lots will be drawn for the tribes - by the same Rullus. Lucky man! he will only draw those he wishes. The decemvirs chosen by the nine tribes drawn by the same Rullus will become, as I shall presently show, our absolute masters. And, to show themselves grateful and not forgetful of a favour, they will allow that they do owe something to the notorious ** men of these nine tribes, but as for the remaining twenty-six there will be nothing that they do not hold themselves justified in refusing them. Whom then, I ask, does he wish to be elected decemvirs? Himself first. But how is that lawful? For old laws are in existence - not consular laws, if you think this of any importance - but laws made by tribunes, which were very acceptable and agreeable to you and your ancestors. These are the Licinian and the second Aebutian ** laws, which not only prohibit anyone who has proposed a law concerning any commission or power from being appointed to any such commission or power, but even excludes his colleagues, kinsfolk, and relatives by marriage. [22] Indeed, if you have the interest of the people at heart, avoid all suspicion of personal gain ; show that you seek nothing but the general usefulness and advantage, leave authority to others, let your reward be gratitude for your favour. For anything else is hardly worthy of a free people, of your spirit and high-mindedness.

[9.] L   Who proposed the law? Rullus. Who deprived the greater part of the people of the right of voting ? Rullus. Who presided over the comitia ? who summoned the tribes he wanted, who drew lots for them, without any custodian ** being present ? Who declared the election of the decemvirs whom he wanted? The same Rullus. Whom did he declare chief of the decemvirs? Rullus. By Hercules! I hardly think that he would be able to persuade even his slaves to approve of this, still less you, the masters of the world.

Therefore the best laws without exception ** will be abolished by this law; and yet by virtue of his own law, he will seek a commission for himself; he will hold the comitia, after the greater part of the people has been deprived of the right of voting ; he will declare those whom he pleases elected, amongst them himself; and I do not suppose he will reject the backers of the agrarian law as his colleagues, who have granted him the first place in the title ** and heading of the law ; all the other advantages, which the people hope to obtain through this law, are reserved in equal shares for themselves and by a mutual guarantee.

[23] But consider the carefulness of the man, if you think either that Rullus thought of it or that the idea could ever have occurred to Rullus. The contrivers of this plot foresaw that, if you had the power of choosing from among all the citizens, whenever any crisis arose, in which loyalty, integrity, courage, and authority were required, you would without hesitation entrust it to Gnaeus Pompeius to manage it. In fact, after you had chosen that one man out of all the citizens, that you might appoint him commander in all your wars with all nations both on land and sea, they certainly understood that, in creating decemvirs, whether it was to be considered a position of trust or an honour, the business could be most confidently put into his hands and that he most justly deserved the distinction. [24] Accordingly, no being under age, no legal impediment, no authority, no magistracy, encumbered with other affairs and the laws, not even any legal accusation, is a bar to a man being elected a decemvir; Gnaeus Pompeius is barred so that he may not be associated with Publius Rullus (I say nothing of the rest) as a decemvir. For he must be there in person as a candidate - so the law bids him, a thing which no other law has ever required, not even for the regular magistrates. ** He was no doubt afraid that, if his law were adopted, you might attach him to himself as a colleague to watch over and punish his desires.

[10.] L   Here, since I see that your hearts are moved by the dignity of the man and the insult offered by the law, 1 will repeat what I said at the outset, that it is Kings who are being set up, that your liberty is entirely abolished by this law. [25] Or did you think otherwise ? did you not think that, when a few men had cast greedy eyes upon all your possessions, the first thing they would do would be to drive out Pompeius from the guardianship of your liberty, from all authority and office, and from the protection of your interests? They saw and still see that, if through lack of foresight on your part or inattention on my own you adopt a law about which you know nothing, the result will be that, as soon as you perceive the snare, when electing the decemvirs, you will think it your duty to oppose the protecting influence of Gnaeus Pompeius to all the defects and criminal provisions of the law. And will it not be a sufficient proof that certain persons are seeking absolute power and authority over everything, when you see the man whom they understand would be the guardian of your liberty excluded from this magistracy ?

[26] Learn now what authority is conferred upon the decemvirs, and how far it extends. In the first place he bestows the honour of a lex curiata upon them. To begin with, this is unheard of and entirely unprecedented, that a magistracy should be conferred by a lex curiata without having been previously conferred at some comitia. He orders the law to be proposed by that praetor who is first appointed. But in what manner? "In order that those men may hold the decemvirate who have been elected by the plebs." He has forgotten that none of them has been elected by the plebs. And is such a man to fetter the world with new laws, a man who in the third article forgets what has been laid down in the second? And here we clearly see what rights you have received from your ancestors, and what is left you by this tribune of the plebs.

[11.] L   Our ancestors willed that you should give your votes twice for the election of each magistrate. For when a lex centuriata was proposed for the censors, and a lex curiata for the other patrician magistrates, a second decision was arrived at in regard to the same men, so that, if the people repented of the favour they had bestowed, they might have the power of taking it back. [27] Now, Romans, while you have kept those comitia as the chief, the centuriata and tributa, the comitia curiata has been retained only for the sake of examining the auspices. But this tribune of the plebs, seeing that no one can exercise authority except at the bidding of the people or the plebs, has confirmed that authority by the the comitia curiata, which you do not enter, and suppressed the comitia tributa, which was yours. Thus, while your ancestors desired that you should give a decision at two comitia in the election of each magistrate, this friend of the people has not left the authority of even one comitia to the people. [28] But mark the scrupulous punctiliousness of the man! He saw and perceived that the decemvirs could not have authority without a lex curiata, since they had been appointed by nine tribes only. He therefore orders that a lex curiata should be passed about them : he issues his commands to the praetor. ** The absurdity of this arrangement has nothing to do with me. For he orders that the praetor who has been elected first shall propose the lex curiata ; but if he is unable to do so, then the last, so that it appears that he was either joking in matters of such importance or that he had some object or other in view. But let us leave this arrangement, which is either as absurd as it is wicked or as difficult to understand as it is malicious ; let us return to the man's punctiliousness. He sees that nothing can be done by the decemvirs without a lex curiata. What then, if the law is not passed? Mark his ingenuity. [29] "In this case these decemvirs shall have the same rights as magistrates elected in the strictest accordance with law." If it is possible that in a state like this, which is far before all other states in the rights accorded to liberty, anyone should be able to obtain civil or military power without the approval of any of the comitia, what is the use of ordering, in the third article, a lex curiata to be proposed, when by the fourth you allow that, without a lex curiata, they should have the same rights as they would have if they had been appointed in the strictest accordance with the law ? ** It is Kings that are being set up over us, not decemvirs, O Romans; such are the beginnings and foundations on which their power is based, that even from the moment of their appointment, not only when the begin to exercise their functions, all your rights, all your powers, and all your liberty are swept away.

[12.] L   [30] But notice how carefully he maintains the prerogatives of the tribunate. The consuls, when proposing a lex curiata, have often been obstructed by the veto of the tribunes. We do not complain of the tribunes having the power to do this ; only, if anyone abuses the power, we have our opinion. But this tribune of the plebs in regard to a lex curiata, which a praetor is proposing, takes away the power of intercession. And while he must be blamed because the tribunician power is lessened by a tribune of the plebs, one cannot help laughing at him because, while a consul is not allowed to have anything to do with military matters unless he is authorised to do so by a lex curiata, to the man (the praetor) against whom he forbids intercession, he gives the same power, even though there has been intercession, as if the law had been carried, so that I fail to understand why he either forbids intercession or thinks that anyone will intercede, since intercession will only show the folly of the interceder, and will be no hindrance to anything. **

[31] So then let there be decemvirs appointed neither by the genuine comitia, that is, by the votes of the people, nor by that comitia, which in form and to keep up the ancient practice is imperfectly represented by the thirty lictors, for the purpose of taking the auspices. See now how much greater honours have been bestowed upon those who have received no authority from you than upon all of us, whom you have invested with the fullest authority. He orders the decemvirs to take the auspices for the settlement of colonies; "let them have," he says, "keepers of the sacred chickens enjoying the same right as the triumvirs by the Sempronian law."** Do you dare to mention the Sempronian law, Rullus? does not that law itself remind you that those triumvirs were elected by the suffrages of the thirty-five tribes? Further, since you are far behind Tiberius Gracchus in justice and modesty, do you think that laws made in a spirit so different ought to have the same authority ?

[13.] L   [32] Besides this, he gives the decemvirs an authority which is nominally that of the praetors but is in reality that of a King. He limits it to five years ; in reality he makes it perpetual, for it is strengthened with such privileges and forces that they cannot possibly be deprived of it against their will. Then he provides them with apparitors, ** clerks, secretaries, criers, and architects and in addition with mules, tents, provisions, furniture; he draws money for their expenses from the treasury and supplies them with more from the allies; two hundred surveyors ** from the equestrian order, and twenty attendants for each are appointed as the servants and henchmen of their power.

Up to now, O Romans, you have only the form and appearance of tyrants ; you see the insignia of power, but not yet the power itself. Perhaps someone will say: " What harm can I get from a clerk, lictor, crier, or chicken-keeper?" All these things are of such a kind that one who possesses them without your authorisation seems to be either a King and intolerable or a private individual and insane. [33] Just observe what immense power is conferred upon them ; you will recognise that it is not the madness of private individuals, but the intolerable insolence of kings. In the first place, they are allowed unlimited power of procuring enormous sums of money, not by gathering in your revenues, but by alienating them; in the second place, throughout the whole world and every people in it they are granted the power of examination without judges, penalty without appeal, punishment without redress, of punishing without the intercession of the tribune. [34] For a period of five years the consuls and even the tribunes themselves will be amenable to them, while they will be amenable to none ; they will be allowed to claim magisterial offices, but they cannot be brought to trial ; they will be able to buy any lands which they choose from whom they like, at whatever price they like. They are allowed to establish fresh colonies, to restore old ones, to fill all Italy with their own ; they have absolute authority to visit all the provinces, to confiscate the lands of free people, to sell kingdoms ; when they like, they are allowed to remain at Rome, when it is convenient, to wander about wherever they please with absolute authority, military or judicial, in everything. Meanwhile, they can set aside the sentences in criminal trials, remove from the bench of judges anyone they choose, decide individually upon most important affairs, delegate their power to a quaestor, send a surveyor and ratify whatever the surveyor has reported to one man by whom he has been sent. [14.] L   [35] I fail to find the proper word, Romans, when I call such power kingly, but assuredly it is something far greater. For there has never been an instance of royal power which was not restrained, if not by some law, at least by certain limits. But in this case there are no limits ; all the kingdoms, all your dominion in its widest extent, all the countries some of which are free from your rule and others with which you are not even yet acquainted, are included by permission of the law.

In the first place, they are permitted to sell everything the sale of which was authorised by resolutions of the senate during the consulship of Marcus Tullius and Gnaeus Cornelius or afterwards. ** Why is this expressed with such vagueness and obscurity ? [36] What is the reason? Could not all those objects, in regard to which the senate passed resolutions, have been set down expressly in the law ? There are two reasons for this obscurity, Romans : the one shame, if there can be any shame in such outrageous shamelessness, the other criminal intent. For it does not dare to name those objects which the senate resolved should be sold and mentioned one by one ; for they are the public places of the city, sanctuaries which no one has laid hands upon since the restoration of the tribunician power, ** some of which our ancestors desired to be refuges from danger in the midst of the city. All these things and places will be sold by the decemvirs by this tribunician law. Besides these there will be mount Gaurus, ** the osier-beds of Minturnae ** ; add to these the road to Herculaneum, very valuable by reason of the surrounding delightful and fertile country and a number of other places which the senate was of opinion should be sold owing to the poverty of the treasury, but which the consuls did not sell for fear of unpopularity. [37] However, it is perhaps owing to shame that these lands have not been mentioned in the law. But what is more credible and more to be feared is that the audacity of the decemvirs is allowed considerable licence of tampering with the public registers and forging resolutions of the senate which have never been passed, since many of those who were consuls during those years are dead. Unless, perhaps, it may be said that it is wrong for us to suspect the audacity of men for whose cupidity the whole world does not seem wide enough.

[15.] L   [38] This is one kind of sale, which I am aware seems important to you; but listen to those which follow, and you will understand that this is only a sort of step and first approach to other results. "Whatever lands, places, buildings." What else can there be? There is much property in slaves, cattle, gold, silver, ivory, robes, furniture, and other things. What am I to say ? that he thought it would cause unpopularity, if he had specified everything ? No, he had no fear of unpopularity. What then was the reason? He thought it was a lengthy list and was afraid of passing over anything ; and so he added, "or anything else," that is, as you see, saying briefly that nothing is excepted. Thus, he orders the decemvirs to sell everything outside Italy which has become the public property of the Roman people during the consulship of Lucius Sulla and Quintus Pompeius or afterwards. [39] By this article, Romans, I assert that all nations, peoples, provinces, and kingdoms are handed over and made a free gift of to the sway, jurisdiction, and authority of the decemvirs. In the first place, I ask where is there a place on earth of which the decemvirs will not be able to say that it has become the public property of the Roman people ? For when he who has said this can himself be the judge of his assertion, what is there that the same person may not be allowed to say, since he is also allowed to give a decision on the matter? It will be to their interest to say that Pergamum, Smyrna, Tralles, Ephesus, Miletus, Cyzicus, in fact all Asia, which was recovered after the consulship of Lucius Sulla and Quintus Pompeius, has become the property of the Roman people. [40] Will he lack words to argue the matter, or, since the same man will both argue and decide, will it not be possible that he may be induced to give a wrong decision? or, if he is unwilling to condemn Asia, will he not demand any price he thinks fit for releasing it from the dread of the threatened condemnation? What is to be said about what cannot possibly be disputed, because the matter has been judged and decided by ourselves - the heritage ** which we have entered upon, the kingdom of Bithynia, which certainly has become the public property of the Roman people ? What is to prevent the decemvirs selling all the land, cities, still waters, ** harbours, in fact the whole of Bithynia ?

[16.] L   What about Mytilenae, ** which certainly became yours, O Romans, by the laws of war and the right of victory? This city, specially famous by nature and position, and the arrangement and beauty of its buildings, with its pleasant and fertile lands, is included in the same article of the law. [41] What about Alexandria and the whole of Egypt? How secretly it is concealed! how it is kept out of the way ! how stealthily it is handed over entirely to the decemvirs ! Who of you is ignorant that it is said that, by virtue of the will of King Alexas, ** his kingdom became the property of the Roman people ? Here I, the consul of the Roman people, not only pronounce no judgement on this point, but I do not even say what I think ; for the matter seems to me not only important to decide, but even difficult to discuss. I see someone who asserts that the will was made ; I am aware that a decree of the senate exists stating that it entered upon the inheritance at the time when, after the death of Alexas, we sent commissioners to Tyre to recover for our people a sum of money deposited there by him. [42] I remember that Lucius Philippus ** frequently attested these facts in the senate, adding, I see, that nearly everyone agrees that he who occupies the throne to-day neither by birth nor in spirit is like a king. On the other hand it is said that there is no will, that the Roman people ought not to show itself so eager to seize all the kingdoms upon earth ; that our citizens are likely to leave Rome and emigrate to that country, attracted by the fertility of the land and its abundant supplies of everything. [43] Shall this important affair be decided by Rullus with his colleagues the decemvirs, and which way will he decide ? For each alternative is of such importance that you must by no means give way to him nor put up with his decision. If Rullus desires to be the friend of the people, he will award the kingdom to the Roman people. And so too, by virtue of his law, he will sell Alexandria, he will sell Egypt, and we shall discover that he is the judge, the arbiter, the owner of a most wealthy city and of the most beautiful country - in fine, the king of a most flourishing kingdom. Oh but he will not take so much for himself, he will not be greedy: he will decide that Alexandria is the king's, he will decide that it is not the Roman people's.

[17.] L   [44] In the first place, why are ten commissioners to decide about an inheritance of the Roman people, when you have appointed a hundred ** to decide disputes about the inheritances of private persons ? Next, who will plead the cause of the Roman people? where will it be pleaded? who are the decemvirs whom we can foresee as likely to award the kingdom of Alexandria to Ptolemy for nothing ? But if Alexandria was aimed at, why not follow the same course as that taken under the consulship of Lucius Cotta and Lucius Torquatus ** ? Why not openly as before ? why not make for that country, just as then, frankly and straightforwardly ? or did those men, Romans, who were unable to reach the kingdom by a straight course, ** now imagine that they could arrive at Alexandria by foul mists and darkness ?

[45] Next, consider this in the light of your thoughts and feelings. Foreign nations can hardly endure our ambassadors, men invested with little authority, who visit the provinces with "free embassies" ** for the sake of their own private affairs. For the mere name of imperium is hateful and greatly feared, however insignificant the possessor of it may be, because, when they have left the city, it is not their own name, but yours, that they abuse. How then will it be, do you think, when these decemvirs roam about the world with imperium, with the rods of office, with that picked band of young surveyors ? What do you think will be the feelings, the apprehension, the danger threatening the unhappy nations? [46] The imperium inspires terror; they will put up with it. The arrival of the "free ambassadors" entails expense; they will bear it. If a gift ** is commanded, they will not refuse it. But what a shock would it be, O Romans, if a decemvir who has arrived in some city either expected as a guest or suddenly as a master should declare that the very place where he has arrived, the hospitable dwelling to which he has been escorted, is the public property of the Roman people! What a calamity for the people, if he says so! What a great gain for him, if he does not say so! ** And yet the very same people who are greedy for all this are sometimes in the habit of complaining that all lands and all seas are at the disposal of Pompeius! ** It is the same thing, then, of course, to entrust large commissions and to make an all-comprehensive gift ** ; to be put at the head of a laborious task or to be appointed to look after booty and gain; to be sent to liberate our allies or to crush them! Lastly, if it is a case of some extraordinary honour, does it make no difference whether the Roman people bestows that honour upon anyone it chooses or whether it be impudently filched from the Roman people by a fraudulent law ?

Following sections (47-103)


1.(↑)   This right was obtained by those whose ancestors had held curule offices - those of praetor, aedile, or consul, who left their portrait to the family. They were usually made of wax, kept in the atria of the house and carried in funeral processions. The possessors of such images or busts were nobiles.

2.(↑)   Including his brother.

3.(↑)   He is thinking of his consulship.

4.(↑)   The first man of his family to obtain a curule office, being thereby ennobled.

5.(↑)   (C. Caelius Calvus was elected consul 94 B.C., T. Didius 98, Marius 107,

6.(↑)   A law which fixed the age at which a person might be elected to a public office was called a lex annalis. the lex Villia (180 B.C.) the age for quaestor was 31, for aedile 37, for praetor 40, for consul 43. Certain modifications and exceptions were introduced later.

7.(↑)   That is, as soon as they could legitimately become candidates.

8.(↑)   It was not necessary for him to wait for the votes of the last tribe, as he soon had a majority.

9.(↑)   The Rostra.

10.(↑)   The word 'popularis'.

11.(↑)   Rex, regnum are specially hateful words to a Roman ear.

12.(↑)   The children of those proscribed by Sulla.

13.(↑)   Cicero does not always speak so favourably of the Gracchi (see De officiis, iii. 12, where he says that they deserved their fate).

14.(↑)   The Romans did not shave until 300 B.C., when, according to Pliny, a certain Licinius Moenas introduced barbers from Sicily. After that time shaving became the fashion until the time of Hadrian. A long beard was considered slovenly.

15.(↑)   Or "promulgated." The law was published for the information of the public and set up to be read. Cicero would have a copy of it.

16.(↑)   A stronger word than obstare: "to offer active resistance to."

17.(↑)   A curator was an official charged with carrying out a particular duty ; his office was temporary at first, but was made permanent under the empire. He had no potestas nor imperium.

18.(↑)   That is, the right of voting.

19.(↑)   Originally he was elected by co-option: during the third century B.C. the election was transferred to seventeen tribes.

20.(↑)   Annoyed because the pontiffs had not elected him into their college in his father's place, in 104 B.C. he gave the people the right of election to the pontificate. Seventeen of the 35 tribes were drawn by lot, and the candidate for whom the larger number of tribes voted was declared elected. The college retained the power of admitting him. The law was repealed by Sulla but re-enacted in 63.

21.(↑)   This is a difficult passage, and there is probably some corruption. The meaning of populi ad partes is doubtful; according to Zumpt, it is a theatrical phrase.

22.(↑)   Men open to bribery and ready to do anything for money, who are known to everybody.

23.(↑)   About 170 B.C. The Licinian law was proposed by the orator L. Licinius Crassus. Mommsen describes the two laws as of unknown date and suggests that they were due to the Gracchan Revolution (Staatsrecht, i. p. 501, notes 1, 2).

24.(↑)   Custos was a man who took charge of the vessel in which the voting-tablets were put, so as to prevent their being tampered with.

25.(↑)   This can hardly mean all the best laws without exception, since only two are spoken of. Zumpt prefers to read 'sine suspicione': no one would suspect they would abolished since they are not named ; if they were, and you suspected their abolition, you would disapprove of the bill.

26.(↑)   Another reading is 'invidiae' for 'in indice', This appears to mean that the first place in the unpopularity which might be caused, although the law was agreeable to the people, by the division of the public land and the drain upon the already depleted treasury which it would involve, had been conceded to Rullus, although it does not seem to be much of a concession.

27.(↑)   The quaestorship, aedileship, etc. Although a man could declare himself a candidate during absence through his friends, and might still appear in Rome on the day the election took place (if he could), the law of Rullus forbade this. Pompeius was at the time away engaged in military operations in Cappadocia, and could not therefore present himself as a candidate in person.

28.(↑)   A tribune was unable to do so, because he could not take the auspices, whereas a praetor could. The word is purposely chosen by Cicero, for a tribune could not order a praetor or any other magistrate, he could only oppose them by his veto.

29.(↑)   The comitia curiata, in which the whole people (patricians and plebians) voted by thirty curies (each consisting of several gentes associated by various regulations) was the earliest assembly of the Roman people. After the regal period its functions became purely formal, limited to confirming the appointment of magistrates (already chosen by the centuriata) in their authority and examining the auspices. This was called the lex curiata de imperio.     Cicero wants to show that the method of selecting the decemvirs is a farce. According to the old laws, officials had to submit twice - to the verdict of the centuriata or tributa and the curiata (except the censors, who were elected by one comitia only - the centuriata). But the tributa, by Rullus's law, has already been reduced to a farce by the method of election, not by the tributa as a whole, but only by a majority of seventeen tribes, and "you do not enter the curiata, and further, even if the law is not passed, if there is any intercession as to the curiata, the appointment is still to hold good."     Cicero's whole object is to bring the law into ridicule. The people were jockeyed as to the tributa and the curiata, with the semi-comic nature of which they were familiar. Purposely, he says nothing here to prove the exact accuracy of his statements.

30.(↑)   The tribune says there is to be no veto on the praetor's proceeding, and that, even if there is, it is not to count, so that Cicero says he cannot understood why he should forbid the veto or anyone in future using it, since it does not make the slightest difference.

31.(↑)   Reading 'pullariosque' with Clark, governed by 'habere'. These persons fed and looked after the sacred chickens, whose movements and way of eating their food were regarded as signs, Cicero is contrasting the powers of the decemvirs as compared with those conferred by Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus upon the triumviri appointed by him as a commission to carry out his agrarian law of 133 B.c.

32.(↑)   The public servants of a magistrate.

33.(↑)   To arrange the distribution of lands in a new colony.

34.(↑)   81 B.C.

35.(↑)   Pompey, when consul in 70, restored all the prerogatives of the tribunes, which had been greatly diminished by Sulla in 82.

36.(↑)   In Campania, near Puteoli, where there were good vineyards.

37.(↑)   In Latium on the borders of Campania, at the mouth of the Liris, in the marshes near which Marius hid himself.

38.(↑)   Nicomedes III. (d. 74 B.C.), king of Bithynia, bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman people.

39.(↑)   Stagna. Another reading is 'stativa', which may either mean the same (standing water) or military stations.

40.(↑)   Chief city of the island of Lesbos. After Sulla made peace with Mithridates, all Asia laid down its arms except Mytilene. It was stormed and destroyed.

41.(↑)   See i. 1.

42.(↑)   Consul 91 B.C. (see Pro Quinctio, xxii. 72).

43.(↑)   The centumviri (really 105) were a bench of judges, elected yearly to decide civil suits, especially those relating to inheritances.

44.(↑)   65 B.C.

45.(↑)   mss. 'quietis iis': "when those are quiet, who formerly were going to Egypt openly." The reference is probably to Crassus, who, when censor in 65, had a design to make Egypt tributary to the Romans, but was so vigorously opposed by his colleague Catulus that both resigned. Zumpt adopts the emendation of Manutius, 'an, Quirites, ii', which is printed in the text. The meaning seems to be: if the open attempt (by Crassus) on Alexandria failed, do the decemviri think that this attempt by dark methods will succeed? - Baiter's reading 'etesiis' (by favourable winds) hardly fits, because Crassus certainly was not assisted (figuratively) by favourable winds.

46.(↑)   See note on I. i. 8.

47.(↑)   Such as vehicles, corn, slaves.

48.(↑)   In consequence of his being bribed.

49.(↑)   By the Gabinian and Manilian laws.

50.(↑)   Things 'commissa' have to be accounted for; if 'condonata', they are given to the recipient to do as he pleases with them. Of course Cicero is here speaking ironically.

Following sections (47-103) →

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