previous next

38. Is this of itself a proof of violence not to be able to die? Or this, that a tribune of the people profaned a temple with blood? Or this, that when he had been carried away and had begun to come to himself, he did not order himself to he carried back again? Where is the crime for which you blame him? [81] Or this I ask, O judges, if on that day that family of Clodius had done what it wished,—if Publius Sestius, who was left for dead had really been slain, would you have had recourse to arms? Would you have roused yourselves up to the courage of your fathers and to the valour of your ancestors? Would you at last have endeavoured to wrest the republic out of the hands of that deadly robber? Or would you even then have remained quiet and dawdled, and been afraid, when you saw the republic overwhelmed and taken possession of by the most impious assassins and by slaves? If then you would have avenged his death, if you had any idea of continuing free men, and of retaining the constitution, do you think that you ought to hesitate as to what you ought to say, and feel, and think, and decide as to his virtue now that he is alive? [82]

But even those very parricides, whose unbridled frenzy is nourished by long impunity, were thrown into such consternation by the violence of their deed, that if the belief of the death of Sestius had lasted a little longer, they would have done as they were thinking of, and have slain their own friend Gracchus, for the sake of attributing the crime to us. That clown, however, being rather wary, (for those wicked men could not conceal their design,) perceived that his own blood was sought for for the purpose of extinguishing the unpopularity of this atrocity of Clodius, and got hold of a cloak belonging to a mule-driver, in which he had originally come to Rome to the comitia, and put a mower's basket on his head, and when some were asking for Numerius, and some for Quintius, he was saved by the mistake of the double name.1 And you are all aware that he was in danger until it was ascertained that Sestius was alive; and if that had not been discovered a little sooner than I could have wished, they would not, indeed, have been able to transfer the odium of the death of their hired tool to those on whom they expected to shift it; but they would have diminished the infamy of their abominable wickedness by one crime which every one would have been glad of. [83] And if Publius Sestius had then yielded up, in the temple of Castor, that life which he hardly retained, I have no doubt that if only the senate had continued to exist and if the majesty of the Roman people had ever recovered, a statue would at some future time have been erected to him in the forum, as to a man who had been slain in the cause of the republic.

Nor, indeed, would any one of those men to whom you see that statues after their death have been erected by our ancestors in that place in the rostra, deserve to be thought more of than Publius Sestius, either as respects the cruelty of their death, or their attachment to the republic: if, when he had undertaken the cause of a citizen oppressed by undeserved misfortune,—the cause of a friend,—the cause of a man who had done great services to the republic,—the cause of the senate, the cause of Italy, the cause of the republic; and when, in obedience to the requirements of religion and to the auspices, he had given notice to the magistrates of what omens he had observed, he had been slain by those impious pests of their country in the light of day, openly, within the sight of gods and men, in a most holy temple, in a most holy cause, and while invested with a most holy magistracy. Will any one, then, say that the life of that man ought to be stripped of its proper dignity and honour, when you would have thought his death entitled to the honour of an everlasting monument?

1 The man's real name was Numerius Quinctius, who had assumed the name of Gracchus, to which he had no right, in order to make himself popular with the multitude; who, perhaps, on that account elected him tribune.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Albert Clark, 1909)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Rome (Italy) (1)
Italy (Italy) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: