In Defense of Caius Rabirius


The orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero Vol 2 Three orations on the Agrarian law, the four against Catiline, the orations for Rabirius, Murena, Sulla, Archias, Flaccus, Scaurus, etc, Cicero, Marcus Tullius, creator; Yonge, Charles Duke, 1812-1891, translator

I ask you yourself; I say, O Labienus,—when the consuls, in pursuance of the resolution of the senate, had summoned the citizens to arms; when Marcus Aemilius, the chief of the senate, stood in arms in the assembly; who, though he could scarcely walk, thought the lameness of his feet not an impediment to his pursuit of enemies, but only to his flight from them; when, lastly, Quintus Scaevola, worn out as he was with old age, enfeebled by disease, lame, and crippled, and powerless in all his limbs, leaning on his spear, displayed at the same time the vigour of his mind and the weakness of his body; when Lucius Metellus, Sergius Galba, Caius Serranus, Publius Rutilius, Caius Fimbria, Quintus Catulus, and all the men of consular rank who were then in existence, had taken arms in defence of the common safety; when all the praetors, all the nobles and youth of the city, united together, Cnaeus and Lucius Domitius, Lucius Crassus, Quintus Mucius, Caius Claudius, Marcus Drusus; when all the Octavii, Metelli, Julii, Cassii, Catos and Pompeii; when Lucius Philippus, Lucius Scipio, when Marcus Lepidus, when Decimus Brutus, when this very man himself; Servilius, under whom you, O Labienus, have served as your general; when this Quintus Catulus, whom we see here, then a very young man; when this Caius Curio; when, in short, every illustrious man in the city was with the consuls;—what then did it become Caius Rabirius to do? Was he to lie hid, shut up, and concealed in some dark place, and to hide his cowardice under the protection of darkness and walls? Or was he to go into the Capitol, and there join himself to your uncle, and with the rest of those who were fleeing to death, on account of the infamy of their lives? Or was he to unite with Marius, Scarius, Catulus, Metellus, Scaevola,—in short, with all virtuous men, in a community not only of safety, but also of danger?

Even you yourself; O Labienus, what would you do in such a crisis? When your general system of indolence was compelling you to flight and lurking-places, while the villainy and frenzy of Lucius Saturninus was inviting you to the Capitol, while the consuls were summoning you to uphold the safety and liberty of your country; which authority, which invitation, which party would you prefer to follow, whose command would you select to obey? My uncle says he was with Saturninus. What if he was? Whom was your father with?—What if he was? Where were your relations, Roman knights?—What if he was? What was the conduct of all your prefecture, and district, and neighbourhood?—What if he was? What was the conduct of the whole Picene district; did they follow the frenzy of the tribune, or the authority of the consul?

In truth, I affirm this; that that which you confess of your uncle, no man has ever yet confessed with respect to himself. No one, I say, has been found so profligate, so abandoned, so entirely destitute, not only of all honesty, but of every resemblance of and pretence to honesty, as to confess that he was in the Capitol with Saturninus. But your uncle was. Let him have been; and let him have been, though not compelled by the desperate condition of his own affairs, or by airy domestic distresses and embarrassments. Suppose it was his intimacy with Lucius Saturninus that induced him to prefer his friendship to his country,—was that a reason for Caius Rabirius also deserting the republic? for his not appearing in that armed multitude of good men? for his refusing obedience to the invitation and command of the consul?

But we see that in the nature of things he must have adopted one of these three lines of conduct: he must either have been with Saturninus, or with the good men, or he must have been lying in bed—to lie hid was a state equal to the most infamous death; to be with Saturninus was the act of insanity and wickedness. Virtue, and honour, and shame, compelled him to range himself on the side of the consuls. Do you, therefore, accuse Caius Rabirius on this account, that he was with those men whom he would have been utterly mad to have opposed, utterly infamous if he had deserted them? But Caius Decianus, whom you often mention, was condemned, because, when he was accusing, with the earnest approval of all good men, a man notorious for every description of infamy, Publius Furius, he dared to complain in the assembly of the death of Saturninus. And Sextus Titius was condemned for having an image of Lucius Saturninus in his house. The Roman knights laid it down by that decision that that man was a worthless citizen, and one who ought not to be allowed to remain in the state, who either by keeping his image sought, to do credit to the death of a man who was seditious to such a degree as to become an enemy to the republic, or who sought by pity to excite the regrets of ignorant men, or who showed his own inclination to imitate such villainy.

Therefore it does seem a marvellous thing to me, where you, O Labienus, found thus image which you have. For after Sextus Titius was condemned, no one could be found who would dare to have it in his possession. But if you had heard of that, or if, from your age, you could have known it, you certainly would never have brought that image, which, even when concealed in his house, had brought ruin and exile on Sextus Titius, into the rostrum, and into the assembly of the people; nor would you ever have driven your designs on those rocks on which you had seen the ship of Sextus Titius dashed to pieces, and the fortunes of Caius Decianus hopelessly wrecked. But in all these matters you are erring out of ignorance. For you have undertaken the advocacy of a cause which is older than your own recollections; a cause which was dead before you were born; that cause in which you yourself would have been, if your age had allowed you to be so, you are bringing before this court.

Do you not understand, in the first place, what sort of men, what sort of citizens they were whom, now that they are dead, you are accusing of the greatest wickedness? Are you not aware, how many of those who are still alive, you, by the same accusation, are bringing into peril of their lives? For if Caius Rabirius committed a capital crime in having borne arms against Lucius Saturninus, yet the age which he was then of might furnish him with some excuse by which to secure himself from danger. But how are we to defend Quintus Catulus, the father of this Catulus, a man in whom the very highest wisdom, eminent virtue, and singular humanity were combined? and Marcus Scaurus, a man of great gravity, wisdom, and prudence? or the two Mucii, or Lucius Crassus, or Marcus Antonius, who was at that time outside the city with a guard? all men than whom there was no one of greater wisdom or ability in the whole city; or how are we to defend the other men of equal dignity, the guardians and counselors of the republic, who behaved in the same way, now that they are dead?

What are we to say about those most honourable men and most excellent citizens, the Roman knights, who then combined with the senate in defence of the safety of the republic? What are we to say of the aerarian tribunes, [*](“The tribuni aerarii, who constituted an order in the latter days of the republic, and who were, in fact, the representatives of the most respectable plebeians, were originally heads of tribes, who acted as; general inspectors and collectors of the aes militare for the payment of the troops.” “The charge of the treasury was originally entrusted to the quaestors and their assistants, the tribuni aerarii.” “Niebuhr supposes that the tribuni aerani, who occur down to the end of the republic, were only the successors of the tribunes of the tribes.” Vide Smith, Dict. Ant. pp. 19, 20, 987, vv. Aerarii, Aerarium, Tribunus.) and of the men of all the other orders in the state, who then took up arms in defence of the common liberties of all? But why do I speak of all those men who obeyed the command of the consuls? What is to become of the reputation of the consuls themselves? Are we to condemn Lucius Flaccus, a man always most diligent in the service of the republic, and in the discharge of his duty as a magistrate, and in his priesthood, and in the religious ceremonies over which he presided, as guilty of nefarious wickedness and parricide, now that he is dead? And are we to mute with hum in this stigma and infamy, after death, the name of even Caius Marius? Are we, I say, to condemn Caius Marius now that he is dead, as guilty of nefarious wickedness, and parricide, whom we may rightly entitle the father of his country, the parent of your liberties, and of this republic?

In truth, if Titus Labienus thought himself entitled to erect a gibbet in the Campus Martius for Caius Rabirius, because he took up arms, what punishment ought to be devised for the man who invited him to do so? And if a promise was given to Saturninus, as is constantly asserted by you, it was not Caius Rabirius, but Caius Marius who gave it; and it was he too who violated it, if indeed it was broken at all. But what promise, O Labienus, could be given except by a resolution of the senate? Are you so complete a stranger in this city, are you so ignorant of our constitution and of our customs, as to be ignorant of this? Are we to think that you are living as a foreigner in a strange town, not bearing office in your own native city?—

“Well,” says he, “but what harm can all this now do Caius Marius, since he has no longer any feeling or any life?” Is it so? Would Caius Marius have spent his life in such labours and such dangers, if he had no hopes and no ideas of any glory which was to extend beyond the limits of his own life? No doubt, when he had routed the countless armies of the enemy in Italy, and when he had delivered the city from siege, he thought that all his achievements would perish with himself.

Such is not the truth, O Romans. Nor is there any one among us who exerts himself amid the dangers of the republic with virtue and glory, who is not induced to do so by the hope he entertains of receiving his reward from posterity—therefore, while there are many reasons why I think that the souls of good men are divine and undying, this is the greatest argument of all to my mind, that the more virtuous and wise each individual is, the more thoroughly does his mind look forward to the future, so as to seem, in fact, to regard nothing

except what is eternal. Wherefore, I call to witness the souls of Caius Marius and of the other wise men and gallant citizens which seem to me to have emigrated from life among men to the holy habitations and sacred character of the gods, that I think it my duty to contend for their fame, and glory, and memory, no less than for the shrines and temples of my native land; and that if I had to take up arms in defence of their credit, I should take them up no less zealously than they took them up in defence of the common safety. In truth, O Romans, nature has given us but a limited space to live in, but an endless period of glory. Wherefore, if we pay due honour to those who have already died, we shall leave to ourselves a more favourable condition after death. But it O Labienus, you neglect those whom we are unable any longer to behold, do not you think that at least you ought to consult the interests of these men whom you see before you?

I say that there is no one of all those men who were at Rome on that day, which day you are now bringing as it were before the court,—that there was no one of the youth of Rome, who did not take arms and follow the consuls; all those men, whose conduct you can form a conjecture about from their age, are now impeached by you of a capital crime, by your attack upon Caius Rabirius. But it was Rabirius who slew Saturninus. I wish that he had done so. I should not be deprecating punishment for him; I should demand a reward for him. In truth, if his freedom was given to Scaeva, a slave of Quintus Croto, who did slay Lucius Saturninus, what reward ought to have been given to a Roman knight in a similar case? And if Caius Marius, because he had caused drains to be cut, by which water was supplied to the temple of the excellent and mighty Jupiter, and because on the Capitoline Hill---

[*]( All the last chapter was discovered by Niebuhr in the Vatican, and edited by him; it was discovered in a very corrupt and mutilated state, but it is translated as he edited it with his own supplementary additions, and completion of the legible words.)---Therefore the senate, in its investigation into that cause, when I was pleading before it, was neither more diligent nor more severe than all of you were, when you by your dispositions, by your hands, and by your voices, declared your rejection of that distribution of the whole world, and of that very district of Campania.

I also proclaim, and assert, and denounce the same things which he does who is the originator of this trial. There is no king remaining, no nation, no people, whom you can fear. There is no foreign or external evil which can insinuate itself into this republic. If you wish this state to be immortal, if you wish your empire to be eternal, if you wish your glory to continue everlasting, then it is our own passions, it is the turbulence and desire of revolution engendered among our own citizens, it is intestine evil, it is domestic treason that must be guarded against.

And your ancestors have left you a great protection against these evils in these words of the consul, “Whoever wishes the republic to be safe.” Protect the legitimate use of these words, O Romans. Do not by your decision take the republic out of my hands; and do not take from the republic its hope of liberty, its hope of safety, its hope of dignity.

What should I do, if Titus Labienus were to make a slaughter of the citizens, like Lucius Saturninus? if he were to break open the prison? if he had occupied the Capitol with armed men? I should do what Caius Marius did. I should refer the matter to the senate; I should exhort you to defend the republic. I myself in arms should, with your aid, resist the armed enemy. Now, when there is no suspicion of arms, when I see no weapons, when there is no violence, or slaughter, or occupation of the Capitol and citadel, but only a mischievous prosecution, a cruel trial, a business undertaken by a tribune of the people contrary to the interests of the republic, I have not thought that I ought to summon you to arms, but that it was sufficient to exhort you to give your votes against those who are attacking your majesty. Therefore now I entreat, and beg, and implore all of you, not, as is the old custom, ---

is afraid.—He who has received on his front all these scars, marks of his valour, in the cause of the republic, fears to receive any wound on his reputation. He, whom no attack of an enemy could ever move from his post, now is frightened at this onset of his fellow-citizens, to which he must necessarily yield.

Nor does he now ask of you an opportunity of living happily, but only one of dying honourably. He is anxious now, not to enjoy his own home, but not to be deprived of his family tomb. He now begs and prays for nothing else at your hands, beyond your abstaining from depriving him of his legitimate funeral rites, and of the privilege of dying at home. He entreats you to allow him who has never feared any danger of death in his country's cause, in that country to die.

I have spoken now to the extent of the time allowed me by the tribune of the people. I beg and entreat of you to think this defence which I have made faithful as far as the danger of my friend is concerned, and as far as the safety of the republic is at stake, suited to the dignity, and to the duty of the consul.