25. Here I will not discuss what is sufficiently notorious, O Romans, or argue that it is not a custom handed down to you from your ancestors, that lands may be bought from private individuals for the purpose of settling portions of the common people in them by the public authority; or that there are not many laws by which private individuals have been established in the public domains. I will admit that I expected something of this sort from this illiterate and ill-mannered tribune of the people; but this most profitable and at the same time most discreditable traffic in buying and selling, I have always thought wholly inconsistent with the duty of a tribune, wholly inconsistent with the dignity of the Roman people.  He orders that lands be sold. First of all I ask, What lands? in what situations? I do not wish the Roman people to be kept in suspense and uncertainty with obscure hopes and ignorant expectation. There is the Alban, and the Setino, and the Privernate, and the Fundan, and the Vescine, and the Falernian district; there is the district of Linternum, and Cuma, and Casinum. I hear. Going out at the other gate there is the Capenate, and Faliscan, and Sabine territory; there are the lands of Reati, and Venafrum, and Allifae, and Trebula. You have money enough to be able not only to buy all these lands and others like them, but even to surround them with a ring fence.  Why do you not define them, nor name them, so that at least the Roman people may be able to consider what its own interests are-what is desirable for it—how much trust it thinks it desirable to repose in you in the matter of buying and selling things ? I do define Italy, says he. It is a district sufficiently marked out. Indeed, how little difference does it make whether you are led down to the roots of the Massic Hill, or into some other part of Italy, or somewhere else! Come, you do not define the exact spot. What do you mean? Do you mean the nature of the land? But, says he, the law does say, “which can be ploughed or cultivated.” Which can be ploughed or cultivated, he says; not, which has been ploughed or cultivated. Is this now a law, or is it an advertisement of some sale of Neratius 1; in whose descriptions people used to find such sentences as these:—“Two hundred acres in which an olive garden may be made. Three hundred acres where vines can be planted.” Is this what you are going to buy with all your countless sums of money,—something which can be ploughed up or cultivated? Why, what soil is there so thin and miserable that it cannot be broken up by a plough? or what is there which is such a complete bed of stones that the skill of an agriculturist cannot get something out of it? Oh but, says he, I cannot name any lands positively, because I touch none against the will of the owner. This also is much more profitable than if one took land from a man against his will. For a calculation of gain will be entered into with reference to your money, and then only will land be sold when the sale is advantageous to both buyer and seller.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
THE THIRD SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO IN OPPOSITION TO PUBLIUS SERVILIUS RULLUS, A TRIBUNE OF THE PEOPLE, CONCERNING THE AGRARIAN LAW. DELIVERED TO THE PEOPLE.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.