For Publius Quinctius


Cicero, Marcus Tullius, creator; Yonge, Charles Duke, 1812-1891, translator

Did you, before you made the demand to be allowed to take possession of his goods, send any one to take care that the master should be driven by force off the estate by his own slaves? Choose whichever you like; the one is incredible; the other abominable; and both are unheard-of before this time. Do you mean that any one ran over seven hundred miles in two days? Tell me. Do you deny it? Then you sent some one beforehand. I had rather you did. For if you were to say that, you would be seen to tell an impudent lie: when you confess this, you admit that you did a thing which you cannot conceal even by a lies. Will such a design, so covetous, so audacious, so precipitate, be approved of by Aquillius and by such men as he is?

What does this madness, what does this baste, what does this precipitation intimate? Does it not prove violence? does it not prove wickedness? does it not prove robbery? does it not, in short, prove everything rather than right, than duty, or than modesty? You send some one without the command of the praetor. With what intention? You knew he would order it. What then? When he had ordered it, could you not have sent then? You were about to ask him. When? Thirty days after. Yes, if nothing hindered you; if the same intention existed; if you were well; in short, if you were alive. The praetor would have made the order, I suppose, if he chose, if he was well, if he was in court, if no one objected, by giving security according to his decree, and by being willing to stand a trial.

For, by the immortal gods, if Alphenus, the agent of Publius Quinctius, were then willing to give security and to stand a trial, and in short to do everything which you chose, what would you do? Would you recall him whom you had sent into Gaul? But this man would have been already expelled from his farm, already driven headlong from his home, already (the most unworthy thing of all) assaulted by the hands of his own slaves, in obedience to your messenger and command. You would, forsooth, make amends for these things afterwards. Do you dare to speak of the life of any man, you who must admit this,—that you were so blinded by covetousness and avarice, that, though you did not know what would happen afterwards, but many things might happen, you placed your hope from a present crime in the uncertain event of the future? And I say this, just as if, at that very time when the praetor had ordered you to take possession according to his edict, you had sent any one to take possession, you either ought to, or could have ejected Publius Quinctius from possession.

Everything, O Caius Aquillius, is of such a nature that any one may be able to perceive that in this cause dishonesty and interest are contending with poverty and truth. How did the praetor order you to take possession? I suppose, in accordance with his edict. In what words was the recognizance drawn up? “If the goods of Publius Quinctius have been taken possession of in accordance with the praetor's edict.” Let us return to the edict. How does that enjoin you to take possession? Is there any pretence, O Caius Aquillius, if he took possession in quite a different way from that which the praetor enjoined, for denying that then he did not take possession according to the edict, but that I have beaten him in the trial? None, I imagine. Let us refer to the edict.—“They who in accordance with my edict have come into possession.” He is speaking of you, Naevius, as you think; for you say that you came into possession according to the edict. He defines for you what you are to do; he instructs you; he gives you precepts. “It seems that those ought to be in possession.” How? “That which they can rightly secure in the place where they now are, let them secure there; that which they cannot, they may carry or lead away.” What then? “It is not right,” says he, “to drive away the owner against his will.” The very man who with the object of cheating is keeping out of the way, the very man who deals dishonestly with all his creditors, he forbids to be driven off his farm against his will.

As you are on your way to take possession, O Sextus Naevius, the praetor himself openly says to you—“Take possession in such manner that Naevius may have possession at the same time with you; take possession in such a manner that no violence may be offered to Quinctius.” What? how do you observe that? I say nothing of his not having been a man who was keeping out of the way, of his being a man who had a house, a wife, children, and an agent at Rome; I say nothing of all this: I say this, that the owner was expelled from his farm; that hands were laid on their master by his own slaves, before his own household gods; I say --- I say too that Naevius never even asked Quinctius for the money, when he was with him, and might have sued him every day; because he preferred that all the most perplexing modes of legal proceedings should take place, to his own great discredit, and to the greatest danger of Publius Quinctius, rather than allow of the simple trial about money matters which could have been got through in one day; from which one trial he admits that all these arose and proceeded. On which occasion I offered a condition, if he was determined to demand the money, that Publius Quinctius should give security to submit to the decision, if he also, if Quinctius had any demands upon him, would submit to the like conditions.

I showed how many things ought to be done before a demand was made that the goods of a relation should be taken possession of; especially when he had at Rome his house, his wife, his children, and an agent who was equally an intimate friend of both. I proved that when he said the recognizances were forfeited, there were actually no recognizances at all; that on the day on which he says he gave him the promise, he was not even at Rome. I promised that I would make that plain by witnesses, who both must know the truth, and who had no reason for speaking falsely. I proved also that it was not possible that the goods should have been taken possession of according to the edict; because he was neither said to have kept out of the way for the purpose of fraud, nor to have left the country in banishment.

The charge remains, that no one defended him at the trial. In opposition to which I argued that he was most abundantly defended, and that not by a man unconnected with him, nor by any slanderous or worthless person, but by a Roman knight, his own relation and intimate friend, whom Sextus Naevius himself had been accustomed previously to leave as his own agent. And that even if he did appeal to the tribunes, he was not on that account the less prepared to submit to a trial; and that Naevius had not had his rights wrested from him by the powerful interest of the agent; that on the other hand he was so much superior to us in interest that he now scarcely gives us the liberty of breathing.

I asked what the reason was why the goods had not been sold, since they had been taken possession of according to the edict. Secondly, I asked this also, on what account not one of so many creditors either did the same thing then, why not one speaks against him now, but why they are all striving for Publius Quinctius? Especially when in such a trial the testimonies of creditors are thought exceedingly material. After that, I employed the testimony of the adversary, who lately entered as his partner the man who, according to the language of his present claim, [*](Intentio was the technical legal term for the claim made by the plaintiff.) he demonstrates was at that time not even in the number of living men. Then I mentioned that incredible rapidity, or rather audacity of his. I showed that it was inevitable, either that seven hundred miles had been run over in two days, or that Sextus Naevius had sent men to take possession many days before he demanded leave so to seize his goods.

After that I recited the edict, which expressly forbade the owner to be driven off his by which it was plain that Naevius had not taken possession according to the edict, as he confessed that Quinctius had been driven off his farm by force. But I thoroughly proved that the goods had actually not been taken possession of, because such a seizure of goods is looked at not as to part but with respect to everything which can be seized or taken possession of. I said that he had a house at Rome which that fellow never even made an attempt on; that he had many slaves, of which he neither took possession of any, and did not even touch any; that there was one whom he attempted to touch; that he was forbidden to, and that he remained quiet.

You know also that Sextus Naevius never came on to the private farms of Quinctius even in Gaul. Lastly I proved that the private servants of Quinctius were not all driven away from that very estate which he took possession of, having expelled his partner by force. From which, and from all the other sayings, and actions, and thoughts of Sextus Naevius, any one can understand that that fellow did nothing else, and is now doing nothing, but endeavouring by violence, by injustice, and by unfair means at this trial, to make the whole farm his own which belongs to both partners in common.

Now that I have summed up the whole cause the affair itself and the magnitude of the danger, O Caius Aquillius, seem to make it necessary for Publius Quinctius to solicit and entreat you and your colleagues, by his old age and his desolate condition, merely to follow the dictates or your own nature and goodness; so that as the truth is on his side, his necessitous state may move you to pity rather than the influence of the other party to cruelty.

From the self same day when we came before you as judges, we began to disregard all the threats of those men which before we were alarmed at. If cause was to contend with cause we are sure that we could easily prove ours to any one but as the course of life of the one was to be contested with the course of life of the other, we thought we had on that account even more need of you as our judge. For this is the very point now in question, whether the rustic and unpolished economy of my client can defend itself against the luxury and licentiousness of the other or whether, homely as it is, and stripped of all ornaments, it is to lie handed over naked to covetousness and wantonness.

Publius Naevius does not compare himself with you, O Sextus Naevius, he does not vie with you in riches or power. He gives up to you all the arts by which you are great; he confesses that he does not speak elegantly; that he is not able to say pleasant things to people; that he does not abandon a friendship when his friend is in distress, and fly off to another which is in flourishing circumstances; that he does not give magnificent and splendid banquets; that he has not a house closed against modesty and holiness, but open and as it were exposed to cupidity and debauchery; on the other hand he says that duty, good faith, industry and a life which has been always austere and void of pleasure has been his choice; he knows that the opposite course is more fashionable, and that by such habits people have more influence. What then shall be done?

They have not so much more influence, that those who, having abandoned the strict discipline of virtuous men, have chosen rather to follow the gains and extravagance of Gallonius,[*](Gallonius was a crier also, branded by Horace as notorious for extravagance and luxury. Galloni praeconis erat acipensere mensa Infamis. —Hor. Sat. 2.2.47.) and have even spent their liven in audacity and perfidy which were no part of his character, should have absolute dominion over the lives and fortunes of honourable men. If he may be allowed to live where Sextus Naevius does not wish to, if there is room in the city for an honest man against the will of Naevius; if Publius Quinctius may be allowed to breathe in opposition to the nod and sovereign power of Naevius; if under your protection, he can preserve in opposition to the insolence of his enemy the ornaments which he has acquired by virtue, there is hope that this unfortunate and wretched man may at last be able to rest in peace. But if Naevius is to have power to do everything he chooses, and if he chooses what is unlawful, what is to be done? What God is to be appealed to? The faith of what man can we invoke? What complaints, what lamentations can be devised adequate to so great a calamity.

It is a miserable thing to be despoiled of all one's fortunes; it is more miserable still to be so unjustly. It is a bitter thing to be circumvented by any one, more bitter still to be so by a relation. It is a calamitous thing to be stripped of one's goods, more calamitous still if accompanied by disgrace. It is an intolerable injury to be slain by a brave and honourable man, more intolerable still to be slain by one whose voice has been prostituted to the trade of a crier. It is an unworthy thing to be conquered by one's equal or one's superior, more unworthy still by one's inferior, by one lower than oneself. It is a grievous thing to be handed over with one's goods to another, more grievous still to be handed over to an enemy. It is a horrible thing to have to plead to a capital charge, more horrible still to have to speak in one's own defence before one's accuser speaks.

Quinctius has looked round on all sides, has encountered every danger. He was not only unable to find a praetor from whom he could obtain a trial, much less one from whom he could obtain one on his own terms, but he could not even move the friends of Sextus Naevius, at whose feet he often lay, and that for a long time, entreating them by the immortal Gods either to contest the point with him according to law, or at least, if they must do him injustice, to do it without ignominy.

Last of all he approached the haughty countenance of his very enemy; weeping he took the hand of Sextus Naevius, well practised in advertising the goods of his relations. He entreated him by the ashes of his dead brother by the name of their relationship, by his own wife and children to whom no one is a nearer relation than Publius Quinctius, at length to take pity on him, to have some regard, if not for their relationship, at least for his age, if not for a man, at least for humanity, to terminate the matter on any conditions as long as they were only endurable, leaving his character unimpeached.

Being rejected by him, getting no assistance from his friends being passed and frightened by every magistrate he has no one but you whom he can appeal to you he commends himself to you he commends all his property and fortunes to you he commends his character and his hopes for the remainder of his life. Harassed by much contumely suffered in under many injuries he flies to you not unworthy but unfortunate; driven out of a beautiful farm with his enemies attempting to fix every possible mark of ignominy on him, seeing his adversary the owner of his paternal property, while he himself is unable to make up a dowry for his marriageable daughter, he has still done nothing inconsistent with his former life.

Therefore be begs this of you, O Caius Aquillius, that he may be allowed to carry with him out of this place the character and the probity which, now that his life is nearly come to an end, he brought with him before your tribunal. That he, of whose virtue no one ever doubted, may not in his sixtieth year be branded with disgrace, with stigma, and with the most shameful ignominy; that Sextus Naevius may not array himself in all his ornaments as spoils of victory; that it may not be owing to you that the character, which has accompanied Publius Quinctius to his old age, does not attend him to the tomb.