Pro A. Caecina

Cicero, Marcus Tullius

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

Yes, and when there is a trial about arms, then urge all these arguments; but when there is a trial about law and justice, do not take shelter in such tame and meager evasions. For you will not find any judge or recuperator who will decide on a man's being armed as if it were his duty to inspect the arms of a trooper; but it will have just the same weight in his mind as if they were most completely armed, if they are found to have been equipped in such a manner as to be able to do violence to life or limb.

And, that you may more clearly understand of how small value words are,—if you by yourself, or if any one person had made an onset on me with shield and sword, and I had been driven away by these means, would you venture to say that the interdict spoke of armed men, but that in this case there had only been one armed man? I do not believe you would be so impudent. And yet see if you are not far more impudent now. For then, indeed, you might implore the assistance of all men, because men, in deciding on your case, were forgetting the native language; because unarmed men were being decided to be armed; because though an interdict had been framed expressly about many men, the deed had been done by one man only—one man was being decided to be many men.

But in causes like this words are not brought before the court, but that fact on account of which these words have been introduced into the interdict. Our legislators intended that restitution should be made, without exception, in every case in which violence had been offered, threatening life or limb. That generally takes place by the agency of men collected together and armed; but though the operation be different, still, if the danger is the same, the case is the same; and then they intended that the law should be the same. For the injury is not greater if inflicted by your household than if inflicted by your steward; nor if it was your own slaves who wrought it, is it greater than if the slaves of others, or people hired on purpose, had done so. It is no worse if your agent did it, than if your neighbor or your freedman was the person; nor if it was the work of men collected together on purpose, than if it was the deed of men who offered themselves voluntarily, or of your regular day-labourers. It is not a more serious injury if inflicted by armed men, than by unarmed men who had as much power to injure as if they had been armed; nor if it were caused by many, than if it were the work of one single armed man. For the facts are in an interdict expressed by the circumstances under which violence usually takes place. If the same violence has been committed under other circumstances, although it may not be comprehended in the strict language of the interdict, it still comes under the meaning and intention, and authority of the law.

I now come to that argument of yours, “I did not drive him away, if I never allowed him to approach.” I think that you yourself, O Piso, perceive how much narrower and how much more unreasonable that defence is, than if you were even to employ that other one, “They were not armed,— they had only bludgeons and stones.” If, in truth, the option were given to me, who do not profess to be a very fluent speaker, which argument I would prefer advancing in defence, either that a man had not been driven away who had been met on his entrance with violence and arms, or, that those men were not armed, who had neither swords nor shields; as far as proving my case goes, I should consider both the positions equally trifling and worthless; but as for making a speech about them, I think that I might find some arguments to make it appear that those men were not armed who had no shield nor any description of iron weapon; but I should be wholly at a loss if I had to maintain that a man who had been repulsed and put to flight had not been driven away.

And in the whole of your defence, that appeared to me the most marvellous thing, that you said there was no necessity for being guided by the authority of lawyers. And although this is not the first time that, nor this the only cause in which, I have heard it, still, I did wonder exceedingly why it was said by you. For other men have recourse to this sort of exhortation when they think they have in their case some reasonable and good point which they are defending. If people are arguing against them relying on the letter and exact words, and (as people say) on the strict law, they are in the habit of opposing to injustice of that sort the name and dignity of virtue and justice. Then they laugh at that expression,—“if, or if not.” Then they seek to bring all word-catching, all traps and snares made up of the strict letter of the law, into odium. Then they say loudly that the case ought to be decided by considerations of what is honest and just, and not of cunning and tricky law; that to adhere to the mere text is the part of a false accuser, but that it is the duty of a good judge to uphold the intention and authority of him who framed the law.

But in this cause, when you are defending yourself by the wording and letter of the law,— when this is your argument, “Where were you driven from? Do you mean to say that you were driven from a place which you were prevented from approaching? You were kept off, not driven away;”—when this is what you say, “I confess that I collected men,—I confess that I armed them,—I confess that I threatened you with death,—I confess that this conduct is punishable by the praetor's interdict, if his intention and if equity is to prevail; but I find in the interdict one word under which I can shelter myself. I did not drive you from that place when I only prevented you from coming to it.”

Are you, in making this defence, accusing those who are sitting on the bench, because they think it right to regard justice rather than the letter of the law? And, while speaking on this point, you mid that Scaevola had not succeeded in his case before the centumviri, whom I mentioned before on the occasion of his doing the same thing which you are doing now, (though he had some reason for what he was doing, while you have none,) still he did not succeed in any one's opinion in proving the point that be was maintaining, because he appeared by his language to be opposing justice. I marvel that you should have made this statement in this case, at an unfavourable time, and having an effect exactly contrary to what your cause required; and it also appears strange to me that a statement should often be advanced in courts of justice, and should be sometimes even defended by able men, that one ought not to be always guided by lawyers, and that the civil law ought not always to prevail in the decision of causes.

For those who argue in this way, if they mean that those who sit on the bench have given some wrong decisions, should not say that we ought not to be guided by the civil law, but by stupid men. If they admit that the lawyers give proper answers, and still say that different decisions ought to be given, that is saying that wrong decisions ought to be given; for it is quite impossible that a decision of the judge on a point of law should be correct when given one way, and an answer of a counsel should be right too when given the other way. It is quite clear that no one has any right to be accounted learned in the law, who decides that an incorrect decision is conformable to law. But sometimes contrary decisions have been given.

In the first place, have they been given rightly, or wrongly? If they were given rightly, that was the law which was decided to be so. If they were wrong, then it cannot be doubtful which are to be blamed, the judges or the lawyers. Besides, if any decision has been given on a disputed point, they are not deciding against the opinion of the lawyers, if they give sentence contrary to the decision of Mucius, any more than they would be deciding in compliance with their authority, if sentence were given according to the precedent of Manilius. Forsooth, Crassus himself did not plead his cause before the centumviri in such a way as to speak against the lawyers; but he urged that the arguments which Scaevola brought forward in his defence were not law; and he not only brought forward good arguments to that point, but he also quoted Quintus Mucius, his father-in-law, and many other most learned men, as precedents.

For he who thinks the civil law is to be despised, he is tearing asunder the bonds, not only of all courts of justice, but of all usefulness and of our common life; but he who finds fault with the interpreters of the law, if he says that they are ignorant of the law, is only disparaging the men, and not the civil law itself. If he thinks we ought not to be guided by learned men, then he is not injuring the men, but he is undermining the laws and justice. So that you must feel that nothing is to be maintained in a state with such care as the civil law. In truth, if this is taken away, there is no possibility of any one feeling certain what is his own property or what belongs to another; there is nothing which can be equal to all men, or is the same in every case.

Therefore in other disputes and trials, when the question at issue is, whether a thing has been done or not, whether what is alleged be true or false; and when false witnesses are sometimes suborned, and false documents foisted in; it is possible that sometimes a virtuous judge may be led into error by a seemingly honourable and probable pretence; or that an opportunity may be given to a dishonest judge, of appearing to be guided by the witnesses, or by the documents produced, though in reality he has knowingly given a wrong decision. For questions of law there is nothing of this sort, O judges: there are no forged documents, no dishonest witnesses; even that overgrown power, which has sway in this state, is dormant with respect to cases of this sort; it has no means of attacking the judge, or of moving a finger.

For this can be said to a judge by some man who is not so scrupulous as he is influential; “Decide, I pray you, that this has been done or planned; give credit to this witness; establish the genuineness of these documents;”— but this cannot be said, “Decide that if a man has a posthumous son born to him, his will is not thereby invalidated; decide that a thing is due which a woman had promised without the sanction of her trustee.” There is no opening for transactions of this sort, nor for any one's power or influence; in fact,—and this gives questions of law a more important and a more holy character,—a judge cannot be corrupted even by a bribe in cases of this sort.

That very witness of yours who dared to say “that he had been seen to do . . .” in a case where he could by no possibility know even of what the man was accused—even he would not venture to decide that a dowry was due to a husband which the woman had promised without the consent of her trustee. Oh admirable principle, and worthy of being maintained by you on this account, O judges! For, indeed, what is the civil law? A thing which can neither be bent by influence, nor broken down by power, nor adulterated by corruption; which, if it be, I will not say overwhelmed, but even neglected or carelessly upheld, there will then be no ground for any one feeling sure either that he possesses anything, or that he shall leave anything to his children.

For what is the advantage of having a house or a farm left one by one's father, or in any way legitimately acquired, if it be uncertain whether you will be able to retain those things which are yours by every right of property? if law be but little fortified? if nothing can be upheld by public and civil law, in opposition to the influence of any powerful man? What is the advantage, I say, of having a farm, if all the laws which have been most properly laid down by our ancestors about boundaries, about possession, and water, and roads, may all be disturbed and changed in any manner? Believe me, every one of you has received a greater inheritance in respect of his property, from justice and from the laws than from those from whom he received the property itself. For it can happen, in consequence of anybody's will, that a farm may come to me; but it cannot be ensured to me, except by the civil law, that I shall be able to retain what has become my own. A farm can be left me by my father, but the enjoyment of the farm—that is to say, freedom from all anxiety and danger of law-suits—is not left to me by my father, but by the laws. Aqueducts, supply of water, roads, a right of way, comes from my father, but the ratified possession of all these things is derived from the civil law.

Wherefore you ought to maintain and preserve that public inheritance of law which you have received from your ancestors with no less care than your private patrimony and property, not only because this last is fenced round and protected by the civil law, but also because if a man loses his patrimony, it is only an individual who suffers, but if the law be lost, the disaster affects the whole state. In this very cause, O judges, if we do not succeed in establishing this point, that a man is driven away,—if it is evident that he has been repelled and put to flight with violence by armed Caecina will not lose his property, which, however, he would bear the loss of with a brave spirit, if the occasion required it; he will only not be restored to the possession of it immediately; nothing more.

But the cause of the Roman people, the laws of the state, all the property, fortune, and possessions of every one will again become uncertain and doubtful. This will be established, this will be settled by your authority; that, if you hereafter have a dispute with any one about ownership, if you drive him away when he has once entered on his property, you must make restitution; but if, as he is coming to enter, you meet him with an armed multitude and repel him, put him to flight, and heat him off while still only on his road, then you shall not make restitution. Then you will establish this principle as law and justice, that violence can only exist where there is murder, that it has nothing to do with the intention or the will; that, unless blood be spilt, there has been no violence offered; that it is wrong to say that a man has been driven away, who has been prevented from entering; that no man can be driven away except from a place where he has planted his footsteps.

Decide therefore now, whether it is of the greatest importance for the spirit of the law to be adhered to, and for equity to prevail, or for all laws to be twisted according to their literal expressions. Do you, I say, O judges, now decide which of these things appears to you the most desirable. While speaking of this, it happens very conveniently that Caius Aquillius, that most accomplished man, is not here now, who was here a little while ago, and who has frequently been present during this trial; (for if he were present, I should be more afraid to speak of his virtue and prudence; because he himself would feel a degree of modesty at hearing his own praises, and a similar kind of modesty would cramp me while praising a man to his face;) and whose authority, it has been said, ought not to be too much deferred to in this cause. I am not afraid of saying more in praise of such a man than you yourselves either feel, or are willing to hear expressed before you.

Wherefore I will say this, that too much weight cannot be given to the authority of that man whose prudence the Roman people has seen proved in taking precautions, not in deceiving men; who has never made a distinction between the principles of civil law and equity; who for so many years has given the Roman people the benefit of his abilities, his industry, and his good faith, which have been always ready and at their service; who is so just and virtuous a man, that he appears to be a lawyer by nature, not by education; so skillful and prudent a man, that not only some learning, but that even goodness appears to be the offspring of civil law; whose abilities are so great, whose good faith is so pure, that, whatever you draw from thence, you feel you are drawing in a pure and clear state.

So that you are entitled to great gratitude from us when you say that that man is the author of our defence. But I marvel why you, when you say that any one has formed an opinion unfavourable to me, produce the man who is my authority for my arguments, but say nothing of him who is yours. But, however, what does the man on whom you rely say? “In whatever terms a law is framed and drawn up ---” I met a man of that body of lawyers; as I believe, the very same man by whose advice you say that you are conducting this cause, and arranging your arguments in defence. And when he began that discussion with me, saying that it could not be admitted that a man had been driven from any place unless he had previously been in it, he confessed that the facts and the intention of the interdict were on my side; but he said that I was cut off by its terms, and he did not think it possible to depart from its precise language.

When I produced many instances, and alleged even the very grounds of all justice, to prove that in many cases all right and the principles of justice and reason were at variance with the words of the written law; and that that had always prevailed most, which had most authority and justice in it; he comforted me, and showed me that in this cause I had no reason for anxiety, for that the actual words in which the securities were drawn up were on my side, if I considered them carefully. “How so?” said I.—“Because,” said he, “undoubtedly Caecina was driven away by armed men with violence from some place or other; if not from the place to which he desired to come, at all events from that place from which he fled.” What then?—“The praetor,” says he, “has enjoined in his interdict that he shall be replaced in that place from which he was driven away, whatever that place may be from which he was driven away. But Aebutius, who confesses that Caecina was driven away from some place or other, must clearly have forfeited his security, since he falsely says that he has replaced him.”