XII[12arg] A witty reply of Marcus Cicero, in which he strives to refute the charge of a direct falsehood.
THIS also is part of a rhetorical training, cunningly and cleverly to admit charges not attended with danger, so that if something base is thrown up to you which cannot be denied, you may turn it off by a jocular reply, making the thing seem deserving of laughter rather than censure. This we read that Cicero did, when by a witty and clever remark he [p. 397] put aside what could not be denied. For when he wished to buy a house on the Palatine, and did not have the ready money, he received a loan of 2,000,000 sesterces 1 privately from Publius Sulla, who was at the time under accusation. 2 But before he bought the house, the transaction became known and reached the ears of the people, and he was charged with having received money from an accused man for the purpose of buying a house. Then Cicero, disturbed by the unexpected reproach, said that he had not received the money and also declared that he had no intention of buying a house, adding: “Therefore, if I buy the house, let it be considered that I did receive the money.” But when later he had bought the house and was twitted in the senate with this falsehood by friends, he laughed heartily, saying as he did so: “You are men devoid of common sense, if you do not know that it is the part of a prudent and careful head of a family to get rid of rival purchasers by declaring that he does not intend to buy something that he wishes to purchase.”