7. The first clause in this agrarian law is one by which, as they think, you are a little proved, to see with what feelings you can bear a diminution of your liberty. For it orders “the tribune of the people who has passed this law to create ten decemvirs by the votes of seventeen tribes, so that whomsoever a majority consisting of nine tribes elects, shall be a decemvir.”  On this I ask, on what account the framer of this law has commenced his law and his measures in such a manner, as to deprive the Roman people of its right of voting? As often as agrarian laws have been passed, commissioners, and triumvirs, and quinquevirs, and decemvirs have been appointed. I ask this tribune of the people, who is so attached to the people, whether they were ever created except by the whole thirty-five tribes? In truth, as it is proper for every power, and every command, and every charge which is committed to any one, to proceed from the entire Roman people, so especially ought those to do so, which are established for any use and advantage of the Roman people; as that is a case in which they all together choose the man who they think will most study the advantage of the Roman people, and in which also each individual among them by his own zeal and his own vote assists to make a road by which he may obtain some individual benefit for himself. This is the tribune to whom it has occurred above all others to deprive the Roman people of their suffrages, and to invite a few tribes not by any fixed condition of law, but by the kindness of lots drawn, and by chance, to usurp the liberties belonging to all.  “Also in the same manner,” it says in the second clause, “as in the comitia for the election of a Pontifex Maximus.” He did not perceive even this, that our ancestors did really study the good of the people so much, that, though it was not lawful for that office to be conferred by the people, on account of the religious ceremonies then used, still, they chose, in order to do additional honour to the priesthood, that the sanction of the people should be asked for it. And Cnaeus Domitius, a tribune of the people, and a most eminent man, passed the same law with respect to the other priesthoods; enacting, because the people, on account of the requirements of religion, could not confer the priesthoods, that a small half of the people should be invited; and that whoever was selected by that half should be chosen into their body by the sacred college.  See now how great a difference there is between Cnaeus Domitius, a tribune of the people, a man of the highest rank, and Publius Rullus, who tried your patience, as I imagine, when he said that he was a noble. Domitius contrived a way by which, as far as he was able, as far as was consistent with the laws of men and of gods, he might confer on a portion of the people what could not be done by any regular proceeding on the part of the entire people. But this man, when there was a thing which had always belonged to the people, which no one had ever impaired, and which no one had ever altered,—the principle, namely, that those who were to assign lands to the people, should receive a kindness from the Roman people before they conferred one on it; that this man has endeavoured entirely to take away from you, and to wrest out of your hands. The one contrived somehow or other to give that which could not really be given formally to the people; the other endeavours somehow or other to take away from them by manoeuvre, what could not possibly be taken from them by direct power.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
THE THIRD SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO IN OPPOSITION TO PUBLIUS SERVILIUS RULLUS, A TRIBUNE OF THE PEOPLE, CONCERNING THE AGRARIAN LAW. DELIVERED TO THE PEOPLE.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.