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21.

But if Induciomarus himself, the leader of the Allobroges, and of all the rest of the Gauls, despise such powerful aid as this which we have, shall he still tear and drag away this man from the embrace of his mother, a most admirable and most miserable woman, and that, too, while you are looking on? especially when a vestal virgin on the other side is folding her own brother in her embraces, and imploring, O judges, your good faith, and that of the Roman people; she who has been, on behalf of you and of your children, occupied for so many years in propitiating the immortal gods, in order now to be able to propitiate you when supplicating for her own safety and that of her brother. [47] What protection, what comfort, will that unhappy maiden have left, if she loses this her brother? For other women can bring forth protectors for themselves—can have in their homes a companion and a partner in all their fortunes; but to this maiden, what is there that can be agreeable or dear, except her brother? Do not, O judges, allow the altars of the immortal gods, and of our mother Vesta, to be reminded of your tribunal by the daily lamentations of a holy virgin. Beware lest that eternal flame, which is now preserved by the nightly toils and vigils of Fonteia, should be said to have been extinguished by the tears of your priestess. [48] A vestal virgin is stretching out towards you her suppliant hands, those same hands which she is accustomed to stretch out, on your behalf, to the immortal gods. Consider how dangerous, how arrogant a deed it would be for you to reject her entreaties, when, if the immortal gods were to despise her prayers, all these things which we see around us could not be preserved. Do not you see, O judges, that all of a sudden, Marcus Fonteius himself, brave as he is, is moved to shed tears at the mention of his parent and his sister?—he who never has known fear in battle, he who in arms has often thrown himself on the ranks and numbers of the enemy, thinking, while he was facing such dangers, that he left behind him the same consolation to his relatives that his own father had left to him; yet now, for all that, is agitated and alarmed, lest he should not only cease to be an ornament and an assistant to his family, but lest he should even leave them eternal disgrace and ignominy, together with the bitterest grief. [49] Oh how unequal is thy fortune, O Marcus Fonteius! If you could have chosen, how much would you have preferred perishing by the weapons of the Gauls rather than by their perjuries! For then virtue would have been the companion of your life, glory your comrade in death; but now, what agony is it for you to endure the sufferings caused by their power and victory over you, at their pleasure, who have before now been either conquered by your arms, or forced to submit against their will to your authority. From this danger, O judges, defend a brave and innocent citizen: take care to be seen to place more confidence in our own witnesses than in foreigners; to have more regard for the: safety of our citizens than for the pleasure of our enemies; to think the entreaties of her who presides over your sacrifices of more importance than the audacity of those men who have waged war against the sacrifices and temples of all nations. Lastly, take care, O judges, (the dignity of the Roman people is especially concerned in this,) to show that the prayers of a vestal virgin have more influence over you than the threats of Gaul.


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