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.
THE ARGUMENT.The tribunes had declined debating the subject of the Agrarian law with Cicero before the people, but attacked him with calumnies behind his back; saying that his opposition to the law proceeded from his affection to Sulla's party, and from a desire to secure to the members of it the properties which Sulla had granted to them, and that he was only making this opposition to this law out of a desire to pay court to those whom they called the seven tyrants, the two Luculli, Crassus, Catulus, Hortensius, Metellus, and Philippus, who were known to be the greatest favourers of Sulla's cause, and to have been the chief gainers by it. And as these insinuations were making a great impression on the city, he thought it necessary to make this third speech to defend himself against them. And after this speech the tribunes let the whole matter drop.
1. The tribunes of the people, O Romans, would have pursued a more convenient course, if they had said to my face, in my presence, the things which they allege to you concerning me. For then, they would have given you an opportunity for a more just decision in the matter, and they would have followed the usages of their predecessors, and have maintained their own privileges and power. But, since they have shunned any open contest and debate with me at present, now, if they please, let them come forth into the assembly which I have convened, and though they would not come forward willingly when challenged by me, let them at least return to it now that I openly invite them back.  I see, O Romans, that some men are making a noise to imply something or other, and that they no longer show me the same countenance in this present assembly which they showed me at the last assembly in which I addressed you. Wherefore, I entreat you, who have believed none of my enemies' stories about me, to retain the same favourable disposition towards me that you always had; but from you, whom I perceive to be a little changed towards me, I beg the loan of your good opinion of me for a short time, on condition of your retaining it forever, if I prove to you what I am going to say, but abandoning it and trampling it under foot in this very place if I fail to establish it.  Your minds and ears, O Romans, are blocked up with the assertion that I am opposing the agrarian law and your interest, out of a desire to gratify the seven tyrants, and the other possessors of Sulla's allotments. If there be any men who have believed these things, they must inevitably first have believed this, that by this agrarian law which has been proposed, the lands allotted by Sulla are taken away from their present possessors and divided among you, or else, that the possessions of private individuals are diminished, in order that you may be settled on their lands. If I show you, not only that not an atom of laud of Sulla's allotments is taken from any one, but even that that description of property is ensured to its possessors, and confirmed in a most impudent manner; if I prove, that Rullus, by his law, provides so carefully for the case of those lands which have been allotted by Sulla, that it is perfectly plain that that law was drawn up, not by any protector of your interests, but by the twin law of Valgius; is there then any reason at all, why he should disparage not only my diligence and prudence, but yours also, by the accusations which he has employed against me in my absence? 2.  The fortieth clause of the law is one, O Romans, the mention of which I have hitherto purposely avoided, lest I should seem to be reopening a wound of the republic which was now scarred over, or to be renewing, at a most unseasonable time, some of our old dissensions. And now too I will argue that point, not because I do not think that this present condition of the republic deserving of being most zealously maintained, especially after I have professed myself to be for this year at least the patron of all tranquillity and unanimity in the republic; but in order to teach Rullus for the future to be silent at least in those matters with respect to which he wishes silence to be observed as to himself and his actions.  Of all laws I think that one is the most unjust and the most unlike a law, which Lucius Flaccus, the interrex, passed respecting Sulla—“That everything which he has done should be ratified.” For, as in other states, when tyrants are established, all laws are extinguished and destroyed this man established a tyrant of the republic by law. It is an invidious law, as I said before; but still it has some excuse. For it appears to be a law not urged by the man but by the time. What shall we say if this law is a far more impudent one?  For by the Valerian and Cornelian law this power is taken away at the same time that it is given. 1 An impudent courting of the people is joined with a bitter injury done to them. But still a man from whom any property is taken always has some hope arising from those laws; and he, to whom any is given, has some scruples. The provision in Rullus's law is, “Whatever has been done since the consulship of Caius Marius and Cnaeus Papirius.” How carefully does he avoid suspicion, when he names those consuls most especially who were the greatest adversaries of Sulla. For, if he had named Sulla, he thought that that would have been a palpable and also an invidious measure. And yet, which of you did he expect to be so stupid, as not to be able to recollect that immediately after the consulship of those men Sulla became dictator?  What then does this Marian tribune of the people say, when he is trying to make us, who are Sulla's friends, unpopular? “Whatever has been given, or assigned, or sold, or granted by public authority, whether lands, or houses, or lakes, or marshes, or sites, or properties,” (he has omitted to mention the sky and sea, but he has omitted nothing else,) “since the consulship of Marius and Carbo.” By whom, O Rullus? Who has allotted anything whatever since the Consulship of Marius and Carbo? Who has given anything, who has granted anything, except Sulla? “Let all those things remain in the same condition.” In what condition? He is undermining something or other. This over active and too energetic tribune of the people is rescinding the acts of Sulla. “As those things which have become private property according to the most regular possible course of law.” Are they then to be held on a surer tenure than a man's paternal and hereditary property?  Just so. But the Valerian law does not say this; the Cornelian laws do not sanction this; Sulla himself does not demand this. If those lands have any connection with legal right, if they have any resemblance to private property, if they have the least hope of becoming permanent property, then there is not one of those men so impudent as not to think that he is excellently well treated. But you, O Rullus, what is your object? That they may retain what they have got? Who hinders them? That they may retain it as private property? But the law is framed in such a way that the farm of your father-in-law in the Hirpine district, or the whole Hirpine district, for he is in possession of all of it, is held by him on a surer tenure than my paternal hereditary estate at Arpinum. For that is the effect of the provision of your law.  For those farms in truth are held by the best right, which are held on the best conditions. Free tenures are held by a better tenure than servile ones. By this clause all tenures which have hitherto been servile 2 tenures will be so no longer. Enfranchised estates are in a better condition than those which are liable to no obligations; by the same clause all lands subject to the payment of any fine, if only they were assigned by Sulla, are released from such payments. Lands which are exempt from payment are in a better condition than those which pay a fine. I, in my Tusculan villa, must pay a tax for the Crabran 3 water, because I received my estate subject to this liability; but, if I had only had the land given me by Sulla, I should not pay it, according to the law of Rullus. 3.  I see you, O Romans, moved either by the impudence of the law or of the speech, as indeed you must be from the nature of the case; by the impudence of the law, which gives a better title to estates possessed by virtue of Sulla's donation than to hereditary property; by the impudence of the speech which, in such a cause is that, dares to accuse any one, and yet vehemently, too vehemently, to defend the principles of Sulla. But if the law only ratified all the allotments which had been given by Sulla, I should not say a word, provided he would confess himself to be a partisan of Sulla's. But he does not only protect their existing interests, but he even adds to their present possessions some sort of gift. And he, who accuses me, saying that the possessions resting on Sulla's title are defended by me, not only con firms them him sell, but even institutes fresh allotments, and rises up among us a new Sulla.  For just take notice what great grants of lands this reprover of ours endeavours to make by one single word. “Whatever has been given, or presented, or granted, or sold”—I can bear it; I hear it; what comes next?—“shall be held as absolute property.” has a tribune of the people ventured to propose that whatever any one has become possessed of' since the consulship of Marius and Carbo, he shall hold by the firmest right that any one can hold private property? Suppose he drove out the former proprietors by violence? Suppose he became possessed of it in some underhand manner, or only by some one's permission for a time? By this law then all civil rights, all legitimate titles, all interdicts of the praetors will be put an end to.  It is no unimportant case, it is no insignificant injury that is concealed under this expression, O Romans. For there were many estates confiscated by the Cornelian law, which were never assigned or sold to any one, but which are occupied in the most impudent manner by a few men, These are the men for whom he provides, these are the men whom he defends, whom he makes private proprietors. These lands, I say, which Sulla gave to no one, Rullus does not choose to assign to you, but to sacrifice to the men who are in occupation of them. I ask the reason why you should allow those lands in Italy, in Sicily, in the two Spains, in Macedonia, and Asia, which your ancestors acquired for you, to be sold, when you see those lands which are your own sacrificed by the same law to their existing occupiers?  Now you will understand the whole law, and perceive, that it is framed to secure the power of a few individuals, and admirably adapted to the circumstances of Sulla's allotments. For this man's father-in-law is a most excellent man, nor am I saying a word against his character; but I am discussing the impudence of his son-in-law. For he wishes to keep what he has got possession of, and does not conceal that he is one of Sulla's party. 4. He now, by your instrumentality, in order that he may himself have what be has not got wishes to establish those titles which at present are doubtful. And as he is more covetous than Sulla himself, I am accused of defending the actions of Sulla which I am resisting.  My father-in-law, says he, has some hitherto deserted and distant fields. By my law he will be able to sell them at his own price. He holds them at present by an uncertain title; in fact he has no right at all to them: they will be confirmed to him by the best possible title. He has them as public property; I will make them private property. Lastly, he shall possess, without having the slightest anxiety about them for the future, those farms which be has procured (by the proscription of their former owners) to be joined to the admirable and productive estate which be had in the district of Casinum, being contiguous to it before; so as to make all the different farms into one uninterrupted estate as far as the eye can reach; and respecting which at present he is not without apprehension.  And since I have shown for what reason and for whose sake be has proposed this, let him show whether I am defending any particular proprietor, while I resist this agrarian law. You are selling the Scantian wood. The Roman people is in possession of it. I am defending the Roman people. You are dividing the district of Campania It is you, O Romans, who are now its proprietors. I will not give it up. In the next place, I see possessions in Italy and in Sicily, and in the other provinces, put up for sale and advertised. The farms are yours, the possessions are yours, O Romans. I will resist and oppose such a measure; and I will not permit the Roman people to be ousted from its possessions by any one, while I am consul. Especially when no advantage is sought for you by the proceeding.  For you ought no longer to lie under this mistake. Is any one of you a man inclined to violence, or atrocity, or murder? Not one. And, believe me, it is for such a race of men as that that the district of Campania and that beautiful Capua is reserved. It is against you, against your liberty, against Cnaeus Pompeius that an army is being raised. Capua is being got ready in opposition to this city; bands of audacious men are being equipped against you; ten generals are being appointed to counterbalance Cnaeus Pompeius. Let them meet me face to face, and since they have summoned me to this assembly of yours, at your request let them here argue the case with me.