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51. [109]

I come now to the comitia, whether those for electing magistrates or for enacting laws. We often see many laws passed. I say nothing of those which are passed in such a manner that scarcely five men, and those only of the lowest class, can be found to give a vote for them. He says that at the time of that ruin of the republic he carried a law respecting me, whom he called a tyrant and the destroyer of liberty. Who is there who will confess that he gave a vote when this law was passed against me? But when, in compliance with the same resolution of the senate, a law was passed about me in the comitia centuriata who is there who does not profess that then he was present, and that he gave a vote in favour of my safety? Which cause then, is the one which only to appear popular? that in which everything that is honourable in the city, and every age, and every rank of men agree? or that to the carrying of which some excited enemies fly as if hastening to banquet on the funeral of the republic?

[110] Suppose Gellius is present anywhere, a man unworthy of his brother, who is a most illustrious citizen and has been a most excellent consul and of the equestrian order of which he retains the name, though he has squandered the fortune which entitled him to it;1 will his presence make an assembly a popular one? For, to be sure, he is a man quite devoted to the Roman people. I never saw one more so. Why, even when, in his youth, he might have shared to some extent in the credit arising from the ample honours of that most admirable man, Lucius Philippus, his step-father, he was so far from being fond of the people, that he devoured the whole of his property by himself. Afterwards, from having been a profligate and licentious young man, after he had brought down his paternal property from the easy circumstances in which stupid people take delight, to the strict rule of philosophers, he wished to be considered a man of Greek learning, and a quiet scholar, and on a sudden devoted himself to the study of literature. But his old Greeks did not do him much good; his slaves who read to him, and his books, were often pledged for wine; his appetite was as insatiable as ever; but his resources fell short enough. Therefore he was perpetually occupied with thoughts of revolution; he was growing old and weary of the peace and tranquillity of the republic.


1 It is not quite certain what was the amount of property requisite as the qualification for a knight; most probably, it was 400,000 ases, or, pounds weight, of copper. But whatever it was, a knight who had squandered his property, so as not to have the requisite qualifications, was liable to be struck out of the body by the censors.

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