“How they may extort, not how they may sue for honours, is what they seek: and they are anxious to attain the highest honour, so that they may not owe the obligations incurred even for the lowest; and they prefer to sue for honours [p. 444]
rather through favourable conjunctures than by merit.
Is there any one who can feel it an affront to have himself inspected and estimated; who thinks it reasonable that to himself alone, amidst struggling competitors, honours should be certain? who would withdraw himself from your judgment? who would make your suffrages necessary instead of voluntary; servile instead of free?
I omit mention of Licinius and Sextius, whose years of perpetuated power ye number, as that of the kings in the Capitol; who is there this day in the state so mean, to whom the road to the consulate is not rendered easier through the advantages of that law, than to us and to our children? inasmuch as you will sometimes not be able to elect us even though you may wish it; those persons you must elect, even though you were unwilling.
Of the insult offered to merit enough has been said (for merit appertains to human beings); what shall I say respecting religion and the auspices, which is contempt and injustice relating exclusively to the immortal gods? Who is there who does not know that this city was built by auspices, that all things are conducted by auspices during war and peace, at home and abroad?
In whom therefore are the auspices vested according to the usage of our forefathers? In the patricians, no doubt; for no plebeian magistrate is ever elected by auspices.
So peculiar to us are the auspices, that not only do the people elect in no other manner, save by auspices, the patrician magistrates whom they do elect, but even we ourselves, without the suffrages of the people, appoint the interrex by auspices, and in our private station we hold those auspices, which they do not hold even in office.
What else then does he do, than abolish auspices out of the state, who, by creating plebeian consuls, takes them away from the patricians who alone can hold them? They may now mock at religion. For what else is it, if the chickens do not feed?
if they come out too slowly from the coop? if a bird chaunt an unfavourable note? These are trifling: but by not despising these trifling matters, our ancestors have raised this state to the highest eminence. Now, as if we had no need of the favour of the gods, we violate all religious ceremonies.
Wherefore let pontiffs, augurs, kings of the sacrifices be appointed at random. Let us place the tiara of Jupiter's flamen on any person, provided he be a man. Let us hand over the ancilia, the shrines, the gods, and the charge of the worship of the gods, to those [p. 445]
to whom it is impious to commit them.
Let not la s be enacted, nor magistrates elected under auspices. Let not the senate give their approbation, either to the assemblies of the centuries or of the Curiae. Let Sextius and Licinius, like Romulus and Tatius, reign in the city of Rome, because they give away as donations other persons' money and lands.
So great is the charm of plundering the possessions of other persons: nor does it occur to you that by the one law vast wilds are produced throughout the lands by expelling the proprietors from their territories; by the other credit is destroyed, along with which all human society ceases to exist.
For every reason, I consider that those propositions ought to be rejected by you. Whatever ye may do, I pray the gods to render it successful.”