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[13]

I say that so numerous a meeting of the college has never decided on any subject, not even concerning the rights or life of a vestal virgin, ever since the establishment of sacred ceremonies, though their antiquity is the same as that of the city itself; although when an investigation into any crime is taking place it is of consequence that as many as possible should be present. For the interpretation of a law given by the priests is on such a footing that it has the same force as a decision of the judges. An explanation of what is required by religion can be properly given by one single experienced priest; but in a case of a trial for life, such a proceeding would be harsh and unjust. Nevertheless, you will find this to be the case, that a greater number of pontiffs were assembled when they decided on the question concerning my house, than had ever met on any question concerning the ceremonies of the vestal virgins. The next day the senate in a very full house, when you, O Lentulus, being the consul elect, made the motion, and Publius Lentulus and Quintus Metellus, the consuls, put it to the senate, when all the pontiffs who belonged to this order were present and when those who had precedence, from the distinctions which had been conferred on them by the Roman people, had made many speeches concerning the decision of the college, and when all of them had assisted in drawing up the decree,—the senate, I say, voted that my house appeared, according to the decision of the pontiffs, to be free from all religious liability.


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