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67. [140]

And let no one on account of what has happened to me, or perhaps to one or two others besides, fear to adopt this plan of life. One man in this state whom I can mention, a man who had done great services to the republic, Lucius Opimius, did fall in a most shameful manner. And if his grave is a deserted one on the shore of Dyrrachium, he has a most superb monument in our forum. And the Roman people itself at all times delivered him from danger, though he was exceedingly unpopular with the mob on account of the death of Caius Gracchus; and it was a storm coming from another quarter—from an iniquitous judicial derision which crushed that illustrious citizen. But the other men who have done good service to the state have either if for a while they have been stricken by any sudden violence or tempest of popular odium, been restored again and recalled by the people of its own accord, or else they have passed their whole lives without any such injuries or attacks. But they who have disregarded the wisdom of the senate, and the authority of good men, and the established rules of our ancestors, and have sought to become agreeable to an ignorant and excited multitude, have nearly all suffered just retribution and made atonement to the republic either by instant death, or shameful exile. [141]

But it even among the Athenians, a nation of Greeks, far removed from the serious wisdom of our ancestors, there were not wanting men to defend the republic against the rashness of the people;—though every one who ever did so was sure to be banished from the city;—if the great Themistocles, the preserver of his country, was not deterred from defending the republic, either by the calamity of Miltiades, who had saved that state only a little before, or by the banishment of Aristides, who is said to have been the greatest of all men: and if, after his time, many illustrious men of the same state, whom it is unnecessary for me to mention by name, in spite of the numerous instances of the popular ill-temper and fickleness which they had before them, still defended that republic of theirs; what ought we to do who, in the first place, have been born in that city which appears to me to be the very birth-place of wisdom and dignity and magnanimity; and who, in the second place, are raised on such a pinnacle of glory that all human things may well appear insignificant by the side of it; and who, lastly, have undertaken to uphold that republic, which is one of such dignity, that to slay a man who is defending it is no less a crime than to attack it and to endeavour to seize the supreme power?

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