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20. [56]

It is a useful thing for there to be many accusers in the city, in order that audacity may be kept in check by fear; but it is only useful with this limitation, that we are not to be manifestly mocked by accusers. A man is innocent. But although he is free from guilt he is not free from suspicion. Although it is a lamentable thing, still I can, to some extent, pardon a man who accuses him. For when be has anything which he can say, imputing a crime, or fixing a suspicion, he does not appear knowingly to be openly mocking and calumniating. On which account we all easily allow that there should be as many accusers as possible; because an innocent man, if he be accused, can be acquitted; a guilty man, unless or he be accused cannot be convicted. But it is more desirable that an innocent man should be acquitted, than that a guilty man should not be brought to trial. Food for the geese is contracted for at the public expense, and dogs are maintained in the Capitol, to give notice if thieves come. But they cannot distinguish thieves. Accordingly they give notice if any one comes by night to the Capitol; and because that is a suspicious thing, although they are but beasts, yet they oftenest err on that side which is the more prudent one. But if the dogs barked by day also, when any one came to pay honour to the gods, I imagine their legs would be broken for being active then also, when there was no suspicion. The notion of accusers is very much the same. [57] Some of you are geese, who only cry out, and have no power to hurt, some are dogs who can both bark and bite. We see that food is provided for you; but you ought chiefly to attack those who deserve it. This is most pleasing to the people; then if you will, then you may bark on suspicion when it seems probable that some one has committed a crime. That may be allowed. But if you act in such a way as to accuse a man of having murdered his father, without being able to say why or how; and if you are only barking without any ground for suspicion, no one, indeed, will break your legs; but if I know these judges well, they will so firmly affix to your heads that letter 1 to which you are so hostile that you hate all the Calends too, that you shall hereafter be able to accuse no one but your own fortunes.


1 The letter was K, which was branded on the forehead of those who were convicted of bringing false accusations, being the first letter of the word kalumnia as it was originally spelt. It was also the first letter of the word kalendae and on the calends of each month debts were accustomed to be got in and bonds were liable to be paid.

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load focus Notes (J. B. Greenough, G. L. Kittredge)
load focus Latin (Albert Clark, Albert Curtis Clark, 1908)
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