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47. [122]

But, even if I were to allow that everything had been done with the regularities of expression, according to ancient and established usages, I should still defend myself by the common law of the republic. When, after the departure of that citizen, to whose single exertions the senate and all good men had so often decided that the safety of the state was owing, you, with the aid of two most wicked consuls, were keeping down the republic which was groaning under the oppression of your most shameful robberies; when you had dedicated, with the countenance of some obscure priest, the house of that man who was unwilling that the country which had been preserved by him should perish on any pretence connected with him; could the republic when it had recovered itself endure that? [123] Once, O priests, give an opening for such religious acts as this, and you will very soon find no escape at all for any one's property. If a priest has laid his hand on a door-post, and has transferred expressions intended for the honour of the immortal gods to the injury of the citizens, will the holy name of religion avail to procure the ratification of such an injury, and yet will it not avail if a tribune of the people consecrates the goods of any citizen with a form of words no less ancient and almost equally solemn? But Caius Atinius, within the recollection of our fathers, consecrated the property of Quintus Metellus, who, as censor, had expelled him from the senate (your grandfather, O Quintus Metellus, and yours, O Publius Servilius, and your great-grandfather, O Publius Scipio;) placing a little brazier on the rostra and summoning a flute-player to assist him. What then? Did that frenzy of a tribune of the people, derived from some precedents of extreme antiquity, do any injury to Quintus Metellus, that great and most illustrious man? [124] Certainly not. We have seen a tribune of the people do the same thing to Cnaeus Lentulus the censor. Did he then at all bind the property of Lentulus to any peculiar sanctity?

But why should I speak of other men? You yourself; I say, with your head veiled, having summoned an assembly, having placed a brazier on the spot, consecrated the property of your dear friend Gabinius, to whom you had given all the kingdoms of the Syrians, and Arabians, and Persians. But if nothing was really effected at that time, why should my property be affected by the same measures? if, on the other hand, that consecration was valid, why did that abyss of a man, who had swallowed up with you all the blood of the republic, raise a villa as high as the heavens on my Tusculan estate, out of the funds of the public treasury? And why have I not been allowed to look upon the ruins of my property,—I, who am the only person who prevented the whole city from being in a similar condition?

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