Pro L. Flacco

Cicero, Marcus Tullius

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

When in the greatest perils of this city and empire, in the most important and terrible disasters of the republic, I was repelling slaughter from you, your wives, and your children, devastation from your temples, your altars, from the city and from Italy, with Lucius Flaccus, the companion and assistant of my counsels and my dangers, I used to hope, O judges, that I should some time or other be an assistant of Lucius Flaccus towards obtaining honour, rather than an advocate to defend him from calamity. For what reward of dignity could there be which the Roman people would deny to him, when it had always given them to his ancestors; when Lucius Flaccus had imitated the ancient glory of the Valerian family in delivering his country, nearly five hundred years after the existence of the republic?

But if by chance there had existed at any time any detractor from this service, any enemy of this virtue, and envier of this renown, still I thought that Lucius Flaccus would have to encounter the judgment of an ignorant mob, (with no real danger, indeed,) rather than that of most wise and carefully chosen men. I never, indeed, imagined that any one would bring danger upon, or devise plots against, his fortunes, by means of those very men, by whose influence, and under whose protection, the safety, not only of all the citizens, but even of all nations, was at that time defended and preserved. And if it was fated ever to happen that any one should devise mischief to Lucius Flaccus, still I never thought, O judges, that Decimus Laelius, the son of a most virtuous man, himself a man of the fairest expectations and of the highest dignity, would adopt an accusation which is more suitable to the hatred and madness of wicked citizens than to his virtue and to the training of his early years. Indeed, as I had often seen well-founded enmities with citizens who had deserved well of their country, laid aside by the most illustrious men, I did not think that any friend of the republic, after the affection of Lucius Flaccus had been thoroughly tried, would take up a fresh quarrel against him without having received any injury.

But since, O judges, many things have deceived us, both in our own affairs and in those of the republic, those things which must be borne, we bear. This only we ask of you,—that you will consider that the whole strength of the republic,—the whole constitution of the state,—all the memory of past, and the safety of present and the hope of future time, hangs and depends upon your power, upon your votes, upon this single trial. If ever the republic has had need to

implore the wisdom, the gravity, the prudence and the foresight of her judges, she implores it now,—she implores it, I say, at this present time. You are not now about to decide on the constitution of Lydians, or Mysians, or Phrygians, who, under the influence of some compulsion or excitement have come before you; but on your own republic,—on the constitution of your own state,—on the common safety,—on the hope of all good men, if there is any such still remaining to support the minds and thoughts of brave citizens. Every other refuge of good men,—every other protection of innocent men,—every bulwark of the republic, wisdom, assistance, and laws, has failed.

For whom else can I appeal to? whom can I cite? whom can I entreat? The senate? Nay; the senate itself implores assistance from you, and feels that the confirmation of its authority is submitted to your decision. The Roman knights? You yourselves, the fifty chief men of that body, will declare how far your sentiments are in unison with those of the rest. Shall I appeal to the Roman people? That body has delivered over to you all its power over us in our case. Wherefore, unless we can maintain in this place, and before you, and by your means, O judges, I will not say our authority, for that is lost but our safety, which hangs on a slender hope, and that hope our last, we have no place of refuge beyond to which we can betake ourselves. Unless perchance, O judges, you fail to see, as yet, what is the real object of this proceeding, what is really at stake, and what is the cause, the foundations of which are being now laid.

The man has been condemned who slew Catiline when he was bearing his hostile standards against his country. What reason is there why he who drove Catiline from the city should be exempt from fear? That man is demanded for punishment who discovered the proofs of the common destruction of all which was then being planned. Why should he feel safe who took care to produce and divulge those proofs? The partners of his counsels, his ministers and comrades are harassed. What are the leaders, and chiefs, and principal men of his party to expect? We should then see whether at that time all good men were my guides or my companions in preserving the common safety of ---

He preferred saying they were strangled. [*](These fragments are from a Vatican MS. first inserted in the text by Nobbe.)

What did my friend Caetra wish?

And what did Decianus?

And I wish that my enemies, and those of all good men, would rather attack me; I wish it really was mine. The senate to a great extent ---

O ye immortal gods! that Lentulus ---

[What [*](This passage is an addition of Beier from a Milan MS. inserted in the same way by Orellius.) was the use of bringing forward foreign evidence,] when his domestic life and his natural disposition was notorious? Therefore, I will not, O Decimus Laelius, allow you to assume this law and this condition as applicable to yourself and to the rest for the future, and to us at present; [so as to lay down a rule that we are to accommodate our defences to the will of the prosecutors, and not come to those assertions to which our cause of itself leads us.] When you have branded his youth, when you have stigmatized the rest of his life with stains of infamy, when you have brought forward the ruin of his private affairs and his disgrace in the city, and his vices and crimes in Spain and Gaul and Cilicia, and Crete, in which provinces he lived in no great obscurity, then we shall hear what the people of Tmolus and the Lorymeni think of Lucius Flaccus. But the man whom so many and such influential provinces wish to be saved,—whom many citizens from all parts of Italy defended, being bound to him by intimate connection and old friendship,—whom this the common country of us all holds fast in her embrace, on account of her fresh recollection of his great services,—him, even if all Asia demands him for punishment, I will defend,—his enemies I will resist. What if it is not all Asia that demands him, nor the best part of it nor even any part without bribery, nor of its own accord, nor rightly, nor in a manner according to custom, nor with truth, nor with any conscientious regard to justice or honesty? If it duly demands him because it has been persuaded, and tampered with, and excited, and compelled to do so,—if it has backed this prosecution with its name impiously, and rashly, and covetously, and with great inconsistency, speaking only by the mouth of the most needy witnesses, and if the province itself has no grounds to complain with truth of any injuries done by him; still, O judges, will these statements,

heard with reference to a very brief epoch diminish the credit due to actions which we really know, extending over a long period of time? I, therefore, as his defender, will preserve this order which his enemy avoids; and I will pursue and follow up the prosecutor, and of my own accord I will demand the accusation from our adversary. What is it, O Laelius? Have you at any time been able to stigmatize the youth of Lucius Flaccus, who has passed his time, not in the shade, nor in the common pursuits and training of those his age? In truth, even as a boy he went with his father, the consul, to the wars; and yet, even as to this very fact you accused him of something because [something [*](This passage is an addition of Beier from a Milan MS. inserted in the same way by Orellius.) appeared able to be said so as to excite suspicion.]

With what charges, then, O Laelius, do you attack my client being such a man as he is? He was in Cilicia a military tribune when Publius Servilius was the general; not a word is said about that. He was quaestor to Marcus Piso in Spain; not a word has been uttered about his quaestorship. He was present at the greater part of the Cretan war, and went through all its hardships in the company of that consummate general. The accusation is dumb with regard to this period. His discharge of his duties as judge during his praetorship,—a business of great intricacy, and affording numberless causes for suspicion and enmities, is not touched. Nay more, though it fell in a most critical and perilous time of the republic, it is praised even by his enemies. “Oh, but damaging evidence has been given against him.” Before I say by whom it was given, by what hopes, by what violence, by what means the witnesses were urged on, and what insignificant, needy, treacherous, audacious men they were, I will speak of their whole class, and of the condition in which all of us are placed. In the name of the immortal gods, O judges, will you ask of unknown witnesses in what way the man decided trials in Asia, who the year before had sat as judge at Rome? And will you yourselves form no conjectures on the subject? In a jurisdiction so various, many decrees were issued,—many desires of influential men were set at nought; and yet, what words, (I will not say of suspicion, for that is often false, but) of anger or indignation were ever once uttered against him?

And is that man to be put on his trial for covetousness, who, when employed on a business affording numerous opportunities for such conduct, shunned all base gain,—who, in a city much given to evil speaking, and in an office surrounded with suspicion avoided, not only all accusation, but even a single hard name? I pass over points which I ought not to pass over that in his private affairs no covetous action, no eagerness about money matters, no sordid conduct in the management of his estate can be alleged against him. By what witnesses, then, can I refute these men except by you?

Shall that villager from near Tmolus,—a man not only a stranger to us, but not even known among his own neighbours,—teach you what sort of a man Lucius Flaccus is, whom you yourselves have known to be most modest as a youth, whom our most extensive provinces have found to be a most conscientious man and whom our armies know by experience to be a thoroughly brave soldier and vigilant general, and of a lieutenant and quaestor most moderate; whom you yourselves, being witnesses on the spot of his conduct, have judged to be a thoroughly wise and consistent senator, a most upright praetor, and a citizen wholly devoted to the republic.

Will you then listen to others as witnesses on those points, respecting which you yourselves ought rather to bear witness to others? And what witnesses are they? In the first place, I will say that they are Greeks, (that is the case of them all.) Not that I, for my own part, would be more inclined than others to refuse credit to that nation; for if ever there was any one of our countrymen not averse to that race of men, and proving himself so by zeal and good-will, I think that I am that man, and that I was so even more when I had more leisure; but there are in that body many virtuous, many learned, many modest men, and they have not been brought hither to this trial. There are also many impudent, illiterate, worthless persons, and those I see here, impelled by various motives. But I say this of the whole race of Greeks; I allow them learning, I allow them a knowledge of many arts; I do not deny them wit in conversation, acuteness of talents, and fluency in speaking; even if they claim praise for other sorts of ability, I will not make any objection; but a scrupulous regard to truth in giving their evidence is not a virtue that that nation has ever cultivated; they are utterly ignorant what is the meaning of that quality, they know nothing of its authority or of its weight.

Where does that

expression, “Give evidence for me, and I will give evidence for you,” come from? is it supposed to be a phrase of the Gauls, or of the Spaniards? It belongs wholly to the Greeks; so that even those who do not understand Greek know what form of expression is used by the Greeks for this. Therefore, when they give their evidence, remark with what a countenance, with what confidence they give it; and then you will become aware how scrupulous they are as to what evidence they give. They never reply precisely to a question. They always answer an accuser more than he asks them. They never feel any anxiety to make what they say seem probable to any one; but are solicitous only how to get out what they have got to say. Marcus Lurco gave evidence against Flaccus, being angry (as he said himself) because his freedman had been condemned by a decision of his involving infamy. He said nothing which could injure him, though he was eager to do so; for his conscientious regard to his oath prevented him. And yet with what modesty, with what trembling and paleness did he say what he did!

How ready to give evidence was Publius Septimius; how angry was he about some former trial, and about his steward: yet he hesitated; yet his scrupulousness was at times at variance with his anger. Marcus Caelius was an enemy to Flaccus, because, as Flaccus had thought it wrong for one publican to decide on the case of another publican, though the case was ever so evident he had been removed from the list of judges. And yet he restrained himself; and brought nothing into the court which could injure Flaccus except his own inclination to do so. If these men had been Greeks, and if our habits and principles had not had more influence than indignation and hostility, they all would have said that they had been plundered, and harassed, and stripped of their fortunes. When a Greek witness comes forward with a desire to injure a man, he does not think of the words of his oath, but of what he can say to injure him. He thinks it a most shameful thing to be defeated, to be detected, to allow his enemy's innocence to be proved. That is the contest for which he prepares himself; he cares for nothing beyond. Therefore, it is not the best men, nor the wisest, but the most impudent and talkative men who are selected as witnesses.

But you, even in private trials about the most trifling matters, carefully weigh the character of a witness; even if you know the person of the man, and his name and his tribe, still you think it right to inquire into his habits. And when a man of our citizens gives his evidence, how carefully does he restrain himself, how scrupulously does he regulate all his expressions, how fearful is he, and anxious not to say anything covetously or angrily,— not to say one word more or less than necessary! Do you think that those Greeks are so too? men to whom an oath is a joke, evidence a plaything, your opinion of them a shadow, men who place all their credit and profit and reputation, and triumph telling the most impudent lies. But I will not spin out what I have got to say. Indeed, my speech would be interminable if I were to take it into my head to unfold the faithlessness of the whole nation in giving evidence. But I will come nearer home; I will speak of these witnesses whom you have brought forward.

We have got a most zealous prosecutor, O judges, and an enemy in every respect violent and furious against us. I trust that he may be of great use to his friends and to the republic; but at all events, he has undertaken this case and this prosecution, as if he were impelled by some most extraordinary eagerness. What a company attended him while pursuing his investigations! company, do I say? rather, what an army! what profusion! what expense! what prodigality was there! And though these statements are of service to my case, still I do not make them without apprehension lest Laelius should think that I am seeking by my oration to make him talked about, or to excite odium against him, in a business which he has undertaken for the sole object of acquiring credit. Therefore, I will pass over all this part of the subject. I will only beg of you, O judges, if you have heard anything yourselves by common report and in ordinary conversation about force, and violence, and arms, and troops, to recollect it and to remember, because of the unpopularity of such conduct, that by this recent law, a certain number of companions has been fixed as the greatest number that ought to attend a man while prosecuting such an inquiry.

However, to say nothing of violence, what conduct is this? which, since it was adopted according to the privileges and customs of prosecutors we cannot impeach, but still we are compelled to complain if it. I mean, first of all, the making a statement which has been bruited abroad over all Asia, (different people having had regular districts assigned to them, in which they were to

spread the report,) that Cnaeus Pompeius, because he is a most zealous enemy to Lucius Flaccus, had begged of Decimus Laelius, his father's and his own most intimate friend, to prosecute him on this charge, and that he placed at his disposal for the furtherance of this business, all his own authority, and influence, and resources, and riches. And this appeared all the more probable to the Greeks, because a little before they had seen Laelius in the same province with Flaccus, and on terms of great intimacy with him. And as the authority of Pompeius is great with every one, as indeed it ought to be, so especially is it predominant in that province which he has lately delivered from the war which pirates and kings were waging against it. He did this besides: those who did not wish to leave their homes he terrified with a summons to give their evidence; those who could not remain at home, he provided with a large and liberal sum for travelling expenses.