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17. [35]

“But in the standing for the praetorship, Servius was elected first.” Are you going (as if you were arguing on some written bond) to contend with the people that whatever place of honour they have once given any one, that same rank they are bound to give him in all other honours? For what sea, what Euripus do you think exists, which is liable to such commotions,—to such great and various agitations of waves, as the storms and tides by which the comitia are influenced? The interval of one day,—the lapse of one night—often throws everything into confusion. The slightest breeze of rumour sometimes changes the entire opinions of people. Often, even, everything is done without any apparent cause, in a manner entirely at variance with the opinions that have been expressed, or that indeed, are really entertained; so that sometimes the people marvels that that has been done which has been done, as if it were not itself that has done it. [36] Nothing is more uncertain than the common people,—nothing more obscure than men's wishes,—nothing more treacherous than the whole nature of the comitia. Who expected that Lucius Philippus, a man of the greatest abilities, and industry, and popularity, and nobleness of birth, could be beaten by Marcus Herennius? who dreamt of Quintus Catulus, a man eminent for all the politer virtues, for wisdom and for integrity, being beaten by Cnaeus Mallius? or Marcus Scaurus, a man of the highest character, an illustrious citizen, a most intrepid senator, by Quintus Maximus? Not only none of all these things were expected to happen, but not even when they had happened could anyone possibly make out why they had happened. For as storms arise, often being heralded by some well-known token in the heavens, but often also quite unexpectedly from no imaginable reason, but from some unintelligible cause; so in the popular tempests of the comitia you may often understand by what signs a storm was first raised, but often, too, the cause is so obscure, that the tempest appears to have been raised by chance.

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