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55. [117]

And at that time it was shown plainly enough with reference to both parties what were the real feelings of the Roman people in the first place when, after having heard the resolution of the senate universal applause was given to the proposer of the law and to the senate as a body, though it was not present and secondly, when every individual senator, as he returned from the senate to see the games, was received with loud clapping of hands. But, when the consul himself, who was exhibiting the games, took his seat, then the people stood undertaking him with extended hands, and with tears of joy declared their good will towards and pity for me. But when that furious enemy of mine with his senseless and frantic mind, arrived the Roman people could hardly restrain itself; the men could hardly abstain from wreaking their hatred on his foul and wicked person. Words indeed, and menacing gestures of the hands and loud outcries in the war of abuse and of curses on him were universal [118]

But why need I speak of the disposition and courage of the Roman people, looking back on their liberty after their long slavery, as shown by their conduct towards that man, whom, though he was at that time standing for the aedileship, even the actors did not spare to his face. For as the play being exhibited was one of Roman life,—“The Pretender,”1 I believe,—the whole troop of actors, speaking in most splendid concert, and looking in the face of this profligate man, laid the greatest emphasis on the words, “To such a life as yours,” and, “The continued course and end of your wicked life.” He sat frightened out of his wits; and he, who formerly used to pack the assemblies which he summoned with bands of noisy buffoons, was now driven away by the voices of these same players.

And since I have mentioned the games, I will not omit that circumstance, that amid the great variety of sentences and apophthegms which occur in that play, there was not one passage in which any expression of the poet had any bearing on our times, which either escaped the notice of the main body of the people, or on which particular emphasis was not laid by the actor. [119] And I entreat you, while speaking on this topic, O judges, not to think that I am led by any levity of disposition to an unusual description of oratory, if in a court of justice I speak of poets, and actors, and games.

1 This was a play of Afranius, on the subject of the pretended madness of Junius Brutus, the expeller of the Tarquins.

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