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41. [107]

I indeed, O priests, have always understood that in undertaking religious obligations the main thing is to interpret what the intention of the immortal gods appears to be. Nor is piety towards the gods anything but an honourable opinion of their divine power and intentions, while you suppose that nothing is required by them which is unjust or dishonourable. That disgrace to the city could not find one single man, not even when he had everything in his power, to whom he could adjudge, or deliver, or make a present of my house; though he himself was inflamed with a great desire for that spot and for the house, and though, on that account alone, that excellent man had brought in that exceedingly just bill of his to make himself master of my property, yet even in the height of his madness he did not dare to take possession of my house, with the desire of which he had been so excited. Do you think that the immortal gods were willing to remove into the house of that man to whose labour and prudence it was owing that they still retained possession of their own temples, dismantled and ruined as it was by the nefarious robbery of a most worthless man? [108] There is not one citizen in this numerous people, out of that polluted and blood-thirsty band of Publius Clodius, who laid hands on a single article of my property, or who did not in that storm defend it as if it had been his own. But they who caught the infection and polluted themselves with any partnership in the plunder, or in the purchase of anything, were not able to escape every sort of condemnation, whether public or private. Of this property then, of which no one touched a single thing without being accounted in every one's opinion one of the wickedest of men, did the immortal gods covet my house? Did that beautiful Liberty of yours turn out my household gods and the eternal divinities of my hearth, in order to be established there herself by you, as if in a conquered country? [109] What is there more holy, what is there more carefully fenced round with every description of religious respect, than the house of every individual citizen? here are his altars, here are his hearths, here are his household gods: here all his sacred rites, all his religious ceremonies are preserved. This is the asylum of every one, so holy a spot that it is impious to drag any one from it.

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