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49. [127]

Does not Numa Pompilius appear to be speaking to you? Learn his speech by heart, O priests, and flamens. Do you too, O king of the sacrifices, learn of the man of your own family; although, indeed, he has quitted that family; but still learn from a man entirely devoted to religious observances, and just, and deeply skilled in all questions of religion. What? in the case of a dedication do not people inquire who says such and such a thing, and what he says, and how? Do you so confuse and mix up these matters, that whoever chooses can dedicate whatever he chooses, and in whatever manner he chooses? Who were you who performed the dedication? By what right did you do so? By what law? According to what precedent? By what power? When and where had the Roman people appointed you to manage that business? For I see that there is an old tribunitian law, which forbids any one to consecrate any house, land, or altar, without the order of the Roman people. Quintus Papirius, who proposed this law, did not perceive nor suspect that there would be danger lest hereafter the houses or possessions of citizens who had not been condemned might be consecrated. For that could not lawfully be done; nor had any one ever done such a thing; nor was there any reason why a prohibition should be issued, the effect of which appeared likely to be not so much to deter people from an action as to remind them of it. [128] But because buildings were consecrated,—I do not mean the licenses of private persons, but those which are called sacred buildings,—and because lands were consecrated, not in such a way that any one who chose might consecrate our farms, but that a general might consecrate lands taken from the enemy; and because altars were erected, which carried with them a degree of sanctity to the place in which they were consecrated; he forbade all these things to be done unless the people ordered them. And if your interpretation of these edicts be that they were framed with reference to our houses and lands, I make no objection. But I ask, what law was passed that you should consecrate my house? where this power was given to you? and by what right you did it? And I am not now arguing about religion, but about the property of all of us; nor about the sacerdotal law, but about the common law.

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