Pro A. Caecina

Cicero, Marcus Tullius

Cicero. The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, Volume 2. Yonge, Charles Duke, translator. London: Bell, 1856.

We may complain then, he says. Still Aebutius is not touched by this interdict. How so? Because violence was not offered to Caecina. Can it be said in this cause, where there were arms, where there was a multitude of men collected, where there were men carefully equipped and placed in appointed places with swords, where there were threats, dangers, and terrors of death, that there was no violence? “No one,” says he, “was slain, or even wounded.” What are you saying? When we are speaking of a dispute about a right of possession, and about an action at law between private individuals, will you say that no violence was done, if actual murder and slaughter did not take place? I say that mighty armies have often been put to flight and routed by the mere terror and charge of the enemy, not only without the death of any one, but even without one single person being wounded.

In truth, O judges, that is not the only violence which reaches our persons and our lives, but that is even a much greater one, which, by threatening us with the danger of death, often drives our minds, agitated by fear as they are, from their steady position and condition. Therefore, wounded men often, when they are enfeebled in body, still do not succumb as to their courage, and do not leave the place which they have determined to defend; but others, though unwounded, are driven away: so that there is no doubt but that the violence which is done to a man whose mind is frightened, is much greater than that which is done to him whose body is wounded.

And if we say that those armies have been routed by force, which have fled through fear, and often from only some slight suspicion of danger; and if we have both seen and heard of troops being put to flight, not only by the dash of shield against shield, nor by bodily conflict, nor by blows interchanged hand to hand, nor by the showering of missile weapons from a distance, but often by the mere shout of the soldiers, by their warlike array, and the sight of the hostile standards; shall that, which is called violence in war, not be called violence in peace? And shall that which is thought vigorous conduct in military affairs, be considered gentle in transactions of civil law? And shall that which has its influence on armed battalions, not appear to move a body of men in the garb of peace? And shall a wound of the body be a greater proof of that violence which we complain of, than alarm of mind? And shall we inquire strictly what wounds were inflicted, when it is notorious that people were put to the rout?

For your own witness stated this, that when our party were flying through fear, he had pointed them out the way by which they might escape. Does no violence appear to have been offered to men who not only fled, but who even asked of a stranger which way they could flee with safety? Why, then, did they flee? Out of fear. What did they fear? Violence, of course. Can you then deny the first facts when you admit the last? You confess, that they fled because they were frightened; you say the cause of their flight was that which we all understand,—namely, arms, a multitude of men, an attack and onset of armed men. When all this is admitted to have taken place, shall violence be denied to have been offered?

But all this is common enough, and there is plenty of precedent for it in transactions of our ancestors' time; that, when people came to assert their rights by force, if either party beheld armed men ever so far off, they should at once depart, having called on their companions to bear witness to the fact; and then they had a right to proceed to trial, and to require the securities to be given according to the following formula:—“If no violence had been offered contrary to the edict of the praetor.” Is it so? Is it enough for proving violence to have been offered, to know that there are armed men; but not enough for proof, to fall into their hands? Shall the sight of armed men avail to prove violence, and shall their onset and attack not avail? Shall a man who departs quietly find it more easy to prove that violence has been offered to him, than a man who has fled from it?

But I say this. If, when first Aebutius told Caecina, when in the castle, that he had collected men and armed them, and that, if he came thither, he would never go away again, Caecina had at once departed, you ought not to have doubted whether violence had been offered to Caecina. But if, as soon as he had beheld the armed men, he had then departed, you would have doubted still less. For everything is violence, which, by means of danger, either compels us to depart from any place, or prevents our approaching any place. But if you determine otherwise, take care lest what you determine amounts to this, that no violence has been offered to a man who goes away alive,—take care lest you prescribe this to all men, in all disputes about possession, to think that they have a right to do battle, and to engage in actual combat, lest, just as in battle punishments are appointed for cowards by the generals, so, in courts of justice, the cause of those men who have fled may have a worse appearance than that of those men who have striven on to the last.

As we are speaking of law and of legal disputes between men, when in these matters we speak of violence, a very little violence must be considered enough. I have seen armed men—as few as you please—that is great violence. I departed, being alarmed at the weapon of one individual; I was driven away and put to flight. If you establish this rule, there will not only be no instance here after of any one wishing to have a battle for the sake of possession, but there will be no instance even of any one resisting. But if you refuse to think anything violence where there has been no slaughter, no wounding, no bloodshed, then it will follow that men ought to be more anxious about establishing their ownership, than about saving their lives.

Come now, in the matter of violence I will make you yourself the judge, O Aebutius. Answer, if you please. Was Caecina unwilling to come on his farm, or was he unable? As you say that you opposed and repelled him, surely you will admit that he wished to do so. Can you then say that it was not violence which hindered him, when, by reason of armed men, he was unable to come to a place, when he wished to come there, and had gone out with that intention? For, if he was by no means able to do what he was exceedingly desirous to do, beyond all question some violence or other hindered him, or else tell me why, when he wished to come on the land, he did not come.

Now, then, you cannot deny that violence was offered. The question now is, how he was driven away who was prevented from approaching. For a man who is driven away must manifestly be removed and thrust down from the place which he is occupying. And how can that happen to a man who absolutely never was in the place at all from which he says that he was driven? What shall we say? If he had been there, and if under the influence of fear, he had fled from the place when he saw the armed men, would you then say that he had been driven away? I think so. Will you then, who decide disputes with such care and such subtlety, by expressions and not by equity,—you who interpret laws, not by the common advantage of the citizen, but by their letter,—will you be able to say that a man has been driven away who has never been touched? What! Will you say that he has been thrust down from his place? For that was the word which the praetors used formerly to use in their interdicts. What do you say? Can any one be thrust down who is not touched? Must we not, if we will stick to the strict letter, understand that that man only is thrust down on whom hands are laid? It is quite inevitable, I say, if we wish to make words and facts tally exactly with each other, that no one should be decided to have been thrust down, unless he be understood to have had hands laid on him, and so to have been removed and pushed headlong down by personal violence. But how can any one have been treated so, unless he has been removed from a higher place to a lower one?

A man may have been driven away, he may have been put to flight, he may have been cast out; but it is absolutely impossible for any one to have been pushed down, not only who has never been touched, but who, if he has been touched, has been touched on even and level ground. What then? Are we to think that this interdict was framed for the sake of those men alone, who could say that they had been precipitated from high ground? for those are the only people who can properly be said to have been driven down. [*](The whole of this is quite untranslatable so as to give in English the sense which the Latin bears. The truth is, that it is a sort of play on the word dejicio, which is the Latin word used, and which not only means to drive away, its technical and proper meaning here, but also to throw down, which is the meaning which Cicero harps upon.) Shall we not, when the intention, and design, and meaning of the interdict is thoroughly understood, think it the most excessive impudence, or the most extraordinary folly, to haggle about a verbal mistake? and not only to pass over, but even to desert and betray the real merits of the case, and the common advantage of all the citizens?

Is this doubtful, that there is not such an abundance of words,—I will not say in our language, which is confessedly poor, but not in any other language either,—as to enable every imaginable thing and circumstance to be expressed by its own fixed end appropriate name? Is it doubtful that we have no need of words when the matter, for the sake of which words were first invented, is thoroughly understood? What law, what resolution of the senate, what edict of a magistrate, what treaty, or covenant, (to return to men's private affairs,) what will, what judicial decision, what bond, what formula of bargain or agreement cannot be invalidated and torn to pieces, if we choose to bend facts to words, and leave out of the question the intention, and design, and authority of those who wrote them?

In truth, even our familiar and daily discourse will cease to have any coherence, if we are to spend all our time in word catching. Lastly, there will be no such thing at all as any domestic rule, if we grant this to our slaves, that they are to obey the letter of our commands, and not attend to what may be gathered from the spirit of our expressions. Must I produce instances of all these things? Do not different examples in each separate glass occur to every one of you, which may be a proof that right does not depend only on the strict words of the law, but that words are meant to be subservient to the intentions and purposes of men?

In a most elegant and fluent manner did Lucius Crassus, by far the most eloquent of all men, a little before we came into the forum, defend this opinion in a trial before the centumviri; [*](The origin, constitution, and powers of the centumviri are exceedingly obscure; they were judges, but they differed from other judges in being a definite body or collegium. According to Festus three centumviri were chosen out of each tribe, so that their actual number must have been a hundred and five. Their powers were probably limited to Rome, and at all events to Italy. It appears that they had cognisance of both civil and criminal matters. It was the practice to set up a spear in the place where the centumviri were sitting, and accordingly the word hasta or hasta centumviralis, is sometimes used as equivalent to judicium centumvirale. Vide Smith, Dict. Ant. p. 212, v. Centumviri.)and with great ease, too, though that very sagacious man, Quintus Mucius, was arguing against him, did he prove to every one that Marcus Curius, who had been left a certain person's heir in the case of the death of a posthumous son who was expected, ought to be the heir, though the son was not dead, never, in fact, having been born. What? was this case sufficiently provided for by the terms of the will? Certainly not. What was the thing, then, that influenced the judges? The intention; and if it could be understood though we were silent, we should not employ words at all: because it could not, words have been invented, not to hinder people's intentions, but to point them out.

The law commands the property in land to be determined by two years' possession. But we adopt the same principle also in the case of houses, which are not mentioned at all in the law. If a road is not properly made, the law allows a man to drive a beast of burden wherever he likes. Can it be understood from this, that if a road in the Bruttii be out of repair, a man may, if he pleases, drive his beast through the Tusculan farm of Marcus Scaurus? There is a right of action against a vendor who is present, according to this formula, “Since I behold you before the court.” . . . Now the blind Appius could never have availed himself of this form of action, if men adhered to words with such strictness as not to consider the matter for the sake of which the words are used. If a person's heir had been stated in his will to be the minor Cornelius, and if Cornelius were twenty years old, according to your interpretation he would lose his inheritance.

Many such cases occur to me at present, and still more to you, I am quite sure. But not to dwell on too many such points, and not to wander too far from where we set out, let us consider this very interdict which is now before the court; for by that very document you will understand, that if we determine that the law depends on its precise words, we shall lose all the advantage of this interdict, while we wish to be very acute and clever. “Whence you, or your household, or your agent . . . ” Suppose your steward by himself had driven me away, your household would not, as I suppose, have driven me away, but only a member of your household. Would you then have a right to say that you had made the necessary restitution? No doubt; for what can be more easy than to prove to all those who understood the Latin language, that the name of a household does not apply to one single slave? But suppose you have not even one slave besides the one who drove me away; then you would cry out, “If I have a household, I will admit that you were driven away by my household.” Nor is there any doubt, that, if we are influenced in our decisions by the mere letter of the law, and not by the facts, we must understand a household to consist of many slaves, and we must admit that one slave is not a household.

The expression certainly does not only require this, but even compels it. But let all consideration of law, and the effect of the interdict, and the intention of the praetor, and the wisdom and authority of prudent men, reject this defence and treat it as worthless. What, then, are we to think? Cannot those men speak Latin? Yes, they speak it sufficiently to make their intentions understood. As their object was that you should replace me in my property, whether it was you yourself who drove me away, or any one of your relations, or of your servants, or of your friends, they did not specify the number of servants, but classed them all under one name as your household.

But if it were any one of your children who did it, he is called your agent; not that every one is, or is called our agent, who is employed in the transaction of some of our business, but because in this matter, where the intention of the interdict was clearly ascertained, they did not think it worth while to examine too curiously into the exact applicability of every word. For the principles of equity are not different in the case of one servant from what they are in the case of many; there is no different law for this single case, according to whether it was your agent who drove me away,—such a man as is legitimately considered the agent of one who is not in Italy, who is absent on business of the state, being for the time a sort of matter, that is, a deputy possessing the rights of another, or whether it was one of your labourers, or neighbours, or clients, or freedmen,—or any one else who committed that violence and wrought that expulsion at your request, or in your name.

Wherefore, if the same principles of law prevail with respect to replacing a man in his property who has been driven from it by violence, when that is once understood, it certainly has nothing to do with the matter, what is the exact force of each word and name. You must replace me just as much if your freedman drove me away, though he was not appointed to manage any of your business, as if your agent did it; not that every one is an agent who transacts any of our business, but because it is of no importance to the matter to inquire into that point. You must replace me just as much if one slave of yours drove me away, as if your whole household did it; not that one slave is the same as a household, but because the question is, what action has been done, not, in what language every point is expressed. Even (to depart still further from the exact wording of the law, though there is not the least atom of departure from equity,) if it was no slave of yours at all who did it, but if they were all strangers or hired people, still they will be comprehended under the description and name of your household.

Continue, now, to follow up the examination of this interdict. “With men collected together.” Suppose you collected none, but they all came together of their own accord. Certainly he does collect men together who assembles men and invites them. Those men are collected who are brought together by any one into one place; if they not only were never invited, but if they did not even assemble on purpose at all; if there was no one there who was not there previously, not for the purpose of committing violence? but because they were used to be there for the sake of tilling the ground or tending the flocks. You will urge in your defence that men were not collected; and, as far as mere words go, you will gain your cause, even if I myself am the judge; but as to facts, you will have no ground to stand on before any judge whatever. For the intention of our legislators was, that restitution should he made in cases where violence had been committed by a multitude, and not by a multitude only if expressly collected for the purpose; but because generally, if there is need of a multitude, men are used to be collected, therefore, the interdict has been framed so as expressly to mention men when collected. And even if there does seem to be any verbal difference, the fact is the same, and the same rule will apply in all cases in which the principle of justice is seen to be one and the same. “Or armed.”

What shall we say? Whom, if we wish to speak good Latin, can we properly call armed? Those, I imagine, who are prepared and equipped with shields and swords. What then? Suppose you drive any one headlong from his farm with clods of earth, and stones, and sticks; and if you are ordered to replace a man whom you have driven away with armed men, will you say that you have complied with the terms of the interdict? If words are to govern everything, —if causes are to be settled not by reason but by accidental expressions, then you may say that you have done so, and I will agree. You will establish the point, no doubt, that those were not armed men who only threw stones which they took up from the ground; that lumps of turf and clods of earth were not arms; that those men were not armed, who, as they passed by, had broken off a bough of a tree; that arms have their appropriate classification, some for defending, others for wounding; and all who have not those arms, you will prove to have been unarmed.