XXVIII[28arg] That Cornelius Nepos was in error when he wrote that Cicero defended Sextus Roscius at the age of twenty-three.
CORNELIUS NEPOS was a careful student of records and one of Marcus Cicero's most intimate friends. Yet in the first book of his Life of Cicero he seems to have erred in writing 1 that Cicero made his first plea in a public trial at the age of twenty-three years, defending Sextus Roscius, who was charged with murder. For if we count the years from Quintus Caepio and Quintus Serranus, in whose consulship Cicero was born on the third day before the Nones of January, 2 to Marcus Tullius and Gnaeus Dolabella, in whose consulate he pleaded a private case In Defence of Quinctius before Aquilius Gallus as judge, the result is twenty-six years. And there is no doubt that he defended Sextus Roscius on a charge of murder the year after he spoke In Defence of Quinctius; that is, at the age of twenty-seven, in the consulship of Lucius Sulla Felix and Metellus Pius, the former for a second time. Asconius Pedianus has noted 3 that Fenestella also made a mistake in regard to this matter, in writing 4 that he pleaded for Sextus Roscius in the twenty-sixth year of his age. But the mistake of Nepos is greater than that of Fenestella, unless anyone is inclined to believe that Nepos, led by a [p. 123] feeling of friendship and regard, suppressed four years in order to increase our admiration of Cicero, by making it appear that he delivered his brilliant speech In Defence of Roscius when he was a very young man. This also has been noted and recorded by the admirers of both orators, that Demosthenes and Cicero delivered their first brilliant speeches in the courts at the same age, the former Against Androtion and Against Timocrates at the age of twenty-seven, the latter when a year younger In Defence of Quinctius and at twenty-seven In Defence of Sextus Roscius. Also, the number of years which they lived did not differ very greatly; Cicero died at sixty-three, Demosthenes at sixty. 5