24.  Do you not see in the case of those whom the poets have handed down to us, as having, for the sake of avenging their father, inflicted punishment on their mother, especially when they were said to have done so at the command and in obedience to the oracles of the immortal gods, how the furies nevertheless haunt them, and never suffer them to rest, because they could not be pious without wickedness. And this is the truth, O judges. The blood of one's father and mother has great power, great obligation, is a most holy thing, and if any stain of that falls on one, it not only cannot be washed out, but it drips down into the very soul, so that extreme frenzy and madness follow it.  For do not believe, as you often see it written in fables, that they who have done anything impiously and wickedly are really driven about and frightened by the furies with burning torches. It is his own dishonesty and the terrors of his own conscience that especially harassed each individual; his own wickedness drives each criminal about and affects him with madness; his own evil thoughts, his own evil conscience terrifies him. These are to the wicked their incessant and domestic furies which night and day exact from wicked sons punishment for the crimes committed against their parents.  This enormity of the crime is the cause why, unless a parricide is proved in a manner almost visible, it is not credible, unless a man's youth has been base, unless his life has been stained with every sort of wickedness, unless his extravagance has been prodigal and accompanied with shame and disgrace, unless his audacity has been violent, unless his rashness has been such as to be not far removed from insanity. There must be, besides a hatred of his father, a fear of his father's reproof—worthless friends, slaves privy to the deed, a convenient opportunity, a place fitly selected for the business. I had almost said the judges must see his hands stained with his father's blood, if they are to believe so monstrous, so barbarous, so terrible a crime.  On which account, the less credible it is unless it be proved, the more terribly is it to be punished if it be proved.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
THE ORATION FOR SEXTUS ROSCIUS OF AMERIA.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.