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26. [68]

That most prudent man, Lucius Cotta, a man most deeply attached to the republic and to me, and above all to truth, saw this when he delivered his opinion on the first of January. He then considered it unnecessary that any law should be passed for my return. He said that I had consulted the interests of the republic; that I had yielded to the tempest; that I had been more friendly to you and to the rest of the citizens than to myself and to my own relations; that I had been driven away by the disturbances of a body of men banded together for purposes of bloodshed, and by an unprecedented exercise of power; that no law could possibly have been passed affecting my status as a citizen; that no law had been drawn up in writing, that none could have any validity; that everything had been done in disregard of the laws and of the usages of our ancestors, in a rash and turbulent manner, by violence and frenzy. But if that were a law, then it was not lawful for the consuls to refer the matter to the senate,1 nor for him himself to express his opinion upon it in the senate. And as both these things were being done, it was not right that it should be decreed that a law should be passed concerning me, lest that which was no law at all, should be in consequence decided to be a law. No opinion could be truer, sounder, more expedient, or better for the republic. For the wickedness and frenzy of the man being stigmatized by it, all danger of similar disgrace to the republic for the future was removed. [69] Nor did Cnaeus Pompeius, who delivered a most elaborate opinion and most honourable to me, nor did you, O priests, who defended me by your decision and authority, fail to see that that was no law at all, and that it was rather the heat of the times, an interdict of wickedness, a voice of frenzy. But you were anxious to guard against any popular odium being excited against you; if we appeared to have been restored without any decision of the people. And with the same idea the senate adopted the opinion of Marcus Bibulus, a most fearless man, that you should decide the question relating to my house: not that he doubted that nothing had been done by Clodius with due regard either to the laws, or to the requirements of religion, or to the rights of the citizens; but that, as wicked men were so numerous, no one should at any time arise and say that there was anything holy about my house. For as often as the senate has expressed any opinion at all in my case, so often has it decided that that was no law at all, since indeed, according to that writing which that fellow drew up, it was forbidden to express any opinion at all. [70] And that kindred pair, Piso and Gabinius, saw this. Those men, so obedient to the laws and courts of justice, when the senate in very full houses kept constantly entreating them to make a motion respecting me,—said that they did not disapprove of the object, but that they were hindered by that fellow's law. And this was true; but it was law which he had passed about giving them Macedonia and Syria.

1 Because a lex, properly so called, was only passed in the comitia centuriata, not in the senate. Vide Smith, Dict. Ant. v. Lex.

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