‘Their aim is not to sue for honours but to extort them from you, and they will get the greatest favours from you without showing the gratitude due even for the smallest. They prefer seeking posts of honour by trusting to accident rather than by personal merit.
There is many a man, too proud to submit his merits and claims to inspection and examination, who would think it quite fair that he alone among his competitors should be quite certain of attaining a post of honour, who would withdraw himself from your judgment and transfer your free votes into compulsory and servile ones.
Not to mention Licinius and Sextius, whose years of uninterrupted power you number up as though they were kings in the Capitol1
, who is there in the State to-day in such humble circumstances as not to find the path to the consulship made easier by the opportunities offered in that measure for him than it is for us and our children? Even when you sometimes wish to elect us you will not have the power; those people you will be compelled to elect, even if you do not wish to do so.’
‘Enough has been said about the indignity of the
thing. Questions of dignity, however, only concern men; what shall I say about the duties of religion and the auspices, the contempt and profanation of which specially concern the gods? Who is there who knows not that it was under auspices that this City was founded, that only after auspices have been taken is anything done in war or peace, at home or in the
field? Who have the right to take the auspices in accordance with the usage of our fathers? The patricians, surely, for not a single plebeian magistrate is elected under
auspices. So exclusively do the auspices belong to us that not only do the people when electing patrician magistrates elect them only when the auspices are favourable, but even we, when, independently of the people, we are choosing an interrex, only do so after the auspices have been taken: we as private citizens have the auspices which your order does not possess even as
magistrates. What else is the man doing who by the creation of plebeian consuls takes away the auspices from the patricians who alone can possess them —what else, I ask, is he doing but depriving the State of the auspices? Now, men are at liberty to mock at our religious
fears. ‘What does it matter if the sacred chickens do not feed, if they hesitate to come out of their coop, if a bird has shrieked ominously?’ These are small matters, but it was by not despising these small matters that our ancestors have achieved the supreme greatness of this State. Now, as though there were no need of securing peace with the gods, we are polluting all ceremonial
acts. Are pontiffs, augurs, kings for sacrifice to be appointed indiscriminately? Are we to place the mitre of the Flamen of Jupiter upon any one's head provided only he be a man? Are we to hand over the sacred shields, the shrines, the gods, and the care of their worship to men to whom it would be impious to entrust
them? Are laws no longer to be passed, or magistrates elected in accordance with the auspices? Are the senate no longer to authorise the Assembly of centuries, or the Assembly of curies? Are Sextius and Licinius to reign in this City of Rome as though they were a second Romulus, a second Tatius, because they give away other people's money and other people's
lands? So great a charm is felt in preying upon other people's fortunes, that it has not occurred to them that by expelling the occupiers from their lands under the one law vast solitudes will be created, whilst by the action of the other all credit will be destroyed and with it all human society
abolished. For every reason I consider that these proposals ought to be rejected, and may heaven guide you to a right decision!’