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36.

I admit, O Laterensis, that I might have availed myself of these assistants, zealous in my behalf, and in a state of great excitement as they were. But the contest must have been decided not by right, nor by the laws, nor by argument; for, in truth, that assistance of my own, which has often been placed so readily at the disposal of others, would not especially in so good a cause have been wanting to me myself. We must have fought with arms—yes, with arms I say; and it would have been destruction to the republic for arms to have been employed by slaves and leaders of slaves for the slaughter of the senate and of the virtuous citizens. [88]

I confess that it would have been a fine thing for the wicked to have been conquered by the good, if I could have seen the end of the victory (which, in truth I could not). For where should I have found to stand by me so brave a consul as Lucius Opimius or as Caius Marius or as Lucius Flaccus? under whom, as her leaders, the republic did put down wicked men with armed citizens, or if I could not get men as fearless as those, yet where could I find men as just as Publius Mucius, who, after Tiberius Gracchus had been slain, defended Publius Scipio and asserted that the aims which he as a private individual had taken up, had been taken up in strict accordance with the law? We, then, should have had to fight with the consuls. I say no more, except this one thing; I saw that there were formidable adversaries ready to dispute the victory with us, and no one who would avenge us if we fell. [89] If, then, I was wanting to these aids to the cause of my safety, because I was unwilling to do battle for it, I will then confess, as you say, that assistance was not wanting to me, but that I myself was wanting to the assistance which I had. But if, the greater I saw the zeal of good men in my behalf, the more I thought it my duty to consult their interests and to spare them, do you find fault with me for the same conduct which was considered a credit to Quintus Metellus and which is to this day, and always will be, his greatest glory? for it is well known—as you may hear from many who were present at the time—that he departed greatly against the will of all good men; and there is not the slightest doubt that he would have had the best of it if they had come to a struggle and a trial of arms. Therefore, though he was defending his own actions, and not those of the senate, though it was his own opinion that he was resolutely upholding and not the welfare of the republic,—still when he endured that voluntary wound he surpassed in glory and credit the justest and most illustrious triumphs of all the Metelli; because he would not be the cause of even those wickedest of citizens being slain, and because he provided against the danger of any good man being involved in their slaughter. And should I,—seeing such great danger before us, as, if I were defeated, the total destruction of the republic must ensue, and if I got the better, an endless contest would follow, should I, I say, give any one reason to style me the destroyer of the republic, after having been its saviour?


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