Pro L. Flacco

Cicero, Marcus Tullius

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

And thus this young man, full of ability, worked on the wealthy by fear, on the poor by bribes, on the stupid by leading them into mistakes; and by these means he extorted those beautiful decrees which have been read to you,—decrees which were not passed by any formal vote or regular authority, nor under the sanction of an oath, but carried by holding up the hand, and by the loud shouts of an excited multitude. O for the admirable customs and principles which we received from our ancestors, if we could but keep them! but somehow or other they have slipped through our fingers. For our ancestors, those wise and upright men, would not permit the public assembly to have any authority to make laws; they chose that whatever the common people decided, or whatever the burgesses wished to enact should be ordered or forbidden, after the assembly was adjourned, and after all the parts had been properly arranged, by the different ranks, classes, and ages, distributed in their tribes and centuries, after having listened to the advocates of the proposal on which the vote was to be taken, and after the proposal itself had been for many days before the people, and had had its merits inquired into.

But all the republics of the Greeks are governed by the rashness of the assembly while sitting. Therefore, to say no more of this Greece, which has long since been overthrown and crushed through the folly of its own counsels; that ancient country, which once flourished with riches, and rower, and glory, fell owing to that one evil, the immoderate liberty and licentiousness of the popular assemblies. When inexperienced men, ignorant and uninstructed in any description of business whatever, took their seats in the theatre, then they undertook inexpedient wars; then they appointed seditious men to the government of the republic; then they banished from the city the citizens who had deserved best of the state.

But if these things were constantly taking place at Athens, when that was the first city, not only in Greece, but in almost all the world, what moderation do you suppose there was in the assemblies in Phrygia and Mysia? It is usually men of those nations who throw our own assemblies into confusion; what do you suppose is the case when they are by themselves? Athenagoras, that celebrated man of Cyme, was beaten with rods, because, at a time of famine, he had ventured to export corn. An assembly was summoned at the request of Laelius. Athenagoras came forward, and, being a Greek among Greeks, he said a good deal, not about his fault, but in the way of complaining of his punishment. They voted by holding up their hands. A decree was passed. Is this evidence? The men of Pergamus, having been lately feasted, having been a little while before glutted with every sort of present,—I mean, all the cobblers and girdle-makers in Pergamus,—cried out whatever Mithridates (who governed that multitude, not by his authority, but by fattening them up) chose. Is this the testimony of that city? I brought witnesses from Sicily in pursuance of the public resolution of the island. But the evidence that I brought was the evidence not of an excited assembly, but of a senate on its oath.

So that I am not now arguing against the reception of evidence; but you are to decide whether these statements are to be considered evidence. A virtuous young man, born in an honourable rank, and eloquent, comes with a most numerous and splendidly appointed train into a town of the Greeks. He demands an assembly. He frightens wealthy men and men of authority from opposing him by summoning them to give evidence; he tempts the needy and worthless by the hope of being employed on the commission, and by a public grant for the expenses of their journey, and also by his own private liberality. What trouble is it to excite artisans, and shopkeepers, and all such dregs of a city, against any man, and especially against one who has lately had the supreme authority there, and could not possibly be very popular, on account of the odium attached to the very name of supreme power?

And is it strange that those men who abominate the sight of our faces, who detest our name, who hate our tax on pastures, and our tenths, and our harbour dues, more than death itself, should gladly seize on every opportunity of injuring us that presents itself? Remember, therefore, that when you hear decrees you are not hearing evidence; that you are listening to the rashness of the common people; that you are listening to the assertions of all the most worthless men; that you are listening to the murmurs of the ignorant, to the voice of an inflamed assembly of a most worthless nation. Therefore examine closely into the nature and motive of all their accusations, and you will find no reason for them except the hopes by which they have been led on, or the terrors and threats by which they have been driven ---

The cities have nothing in the treasury, nothing in their revenues. There are two ways of raising money,—by tribute, or by loan. No lists of creditors are brought forward; no exaction of tribute is accounted for. But I pray you to remark how cheerfully they are in the habit of producing false accounts, and of entering in their accounts whatever suits them, forming your opinions by the letters of Cnaeus Pompeius to Hypsaeus, and of Hypsaeus to Pompeius. [The letters of Pompeius and of Hypsaeus are read.] Do not we appear to prove to you clearly enough, by the authority of these men, the profligate habits and impudent licentiousness of the Greeks? Unless, perchance, we suppose that those men who deceived Cnaeus Pompeius, and that too, when he was on the spot and when there was no one tempting them to do so, were likely now to be either timid or scrupulous, when Laelius urged them to bear witness against Lucius Flaccus in his absence.

But even suppose those documents were not tampered with in their own city, still what authority or what credit can they now have here? The law orders them to be brought to the praetor within three days, and to be sealed up with the seals of the judges; they are scarcely brought within thirty days. In order that the writings may not be easily tampered with, therefore the law orders that after they have been sealed up they shall be kept in a public office; but these are sealed up after they have been tampered with. What difference, then, does it make, whether they are brought to the judges so long after the proper time, or whether they are not brought at all? What shall we say if the zeal of the witnesses is in partnership, as it were, with the prosecutor? shall they still be considered witnesses? What then, is become of that expectation which ought to have a place in courts of justice? For formerly, when a prosecutor had said anything with bitterness and vehemence, and when the counsel for the defence had made a supplicatory and submissive reply, the third step expected was the appearance of the witnesses who either spoke without any partisanship at all, or else they in some degree concealed their desires. But what is the case here?

They are sitting with the prosecutor; they rise up from the prosecutor's bench; they use no concealment; they feel no apprehension. Do I complain of where they sit? They come with him from his house, if they trip at one word, they will have no place to return to. Can any one be a witness, when the prosecutor can examine him without any anxiety and have not the slightest fear of his giving him any answer which he is unwilling to hear? Where, then, is the oratorical skill, which formerly used to be looked for either in the prosecutor or in the counsel for the defence? “He examined the witness cleverly; he came up to him cunningly; he scolded him; he led him where he pleased; he convicted him and made him dumb.”

Why need you ask a man questions, Laelius, who, even before you have pronounced the words “I ask you,” will pour out more assertions than you enjoined him before you left home? And why should I, the counsel for the defence, ask him questions, since the course to be taken with respect to witnesses is either to invalidate their testimony or to impeach their characters? But by what discussion can I refute the evidence of men who say “We gave,” and no more? Am I then to make a speech against the man, when my speech can find no room for argument? What can I say against an utter stranger? I must then be content with complaining and lamenting, as I have been some time doing, the general iniquity of the whole prosecution, and, in the first place, the whole class of witnesses; for that nation is the witness which is the least scrupulous of all in giving evidence. I come nearer;—I say that that is not evidence which you yourself call decrees; but that it is only the grumbling of needy men, and a sort of random movement of a miserable Greek

assembly. I will come in still further,—he who has done it is not present; he who is said to have paid the money is not brought hither; no private letters are produced; the public documents have been retained in the power of the prosecutors. The main point of my argument concerns the witnesses. These men are living with our enemies, they come into court with our adversaries, they are dwelling in the same house with our prosecutors.

Do you think that this is an examination and an inquiry into the truth, or an endeavour to fix a stain, and bring ruin upon innocence? for there are many things of such a sort, O judges, that even if they deserve to be neglected, as far as the individual whom they more immediately affect is concerned, are still to be dreaded, because of the state of facts of which they betoken the existence, and because of the precedents which they afford. If I were defending a man of the lowest rank, of no splendour of reputation, and recommended by no innocence of character, still, relying on the rights of common humanity and mercy, I should beg from citizens, on behalf of another citizen, that you would not give up your fellow-citizen and your suppliant to witnesses who are strangers to you; who are urged on to give their evidence; who are the companions, and messmates, and comrades of the prosecutor; to men who from their fickleness are Greeks, but who, as far as cruelty goes, are barbarians: I should entreat you not to leave posterity so dangerous a precedent for their imitation.

But when the interests of Lucius Flaccus are at stake, a man of whom I may say that the first man who was made consul of his family [*](This is not quite true, for Cicero is referring to Publius Valerius, surnamed Publicola, and he was not the first consul; but was elected as a substitute for Collatinus, who, with Brutus, was the first consul.) was the first man that was ever consul in this city; a man by whose valour the kings were banished, and liberty was established in this republic; a family which has endured to this time with a continued series of honours and commands, and of glorious achievements; and when Lucius Flaccus has not only not degenerated from this everlasting and well-attested virtue of his ancestors, but as praetor has especially devoted himself to the glory of asserting the liberty of his country, seeing that that was the especial glory and characteristic of his family,—can I fear lest any mischievous precedent be established in the case of this defendant when, even if he had committed any slight fault, all good men would think that they ought rather to connive at it?

That, however, I not only do not request, but I beg and entreat you, O judges, to scrutinise the whole case most vigilantly, with all your eyes, as they say. None of the charges will be found borne witness to with conscientiousness, or founded in truth, or extorted by indignation; but, on the contrary, you will see that it is all redolent of lust, passion, party spirit, bribery, and perjury.

Now that the universal cupidity of those men is ascertained, I will proceed to the separate complaints and charges of the Greeks. They complain that money was levied from the cities under the name of money for a fleet. And we admit, O judges, that that was done. But if this be a crime, the guilt must consist either in the fact that it was not lawful so to levy money; or in the fact that the ships were not wanted; or in the third alternative, that no fleet put to sea while he was praetor. That you may see that this levy was lawful, listen, I pray you, to what the senate decreed, when I was consul, in which it did not depart at all from the former decrees of many years running. [The resolution of the senate is read.] The next thing is for us to inquire whether there was need of the fleet or not. Is it then the Greeks or any foreign nations who are to be judges of this, or your praetors, your generals, your commanders-in-chief? I indeed think that in a district and province of that sort which is surrounded by the sea, dotted all over with harbours, and girt with islands, a fleet is requisite not only for the sake of protection, but as an ornament of the empire.

For there were these principles and there was this greatness of mind in our ancestors, that while in their private affairs, and as to their own personal expenses, they lived contented with a little, and without the smallest approach to luxury; where the empire and the dignity of the state was concerned, they brought everything up to a high pitch of splendour and magnificence. For in a man's private affairs he desires the credit of moderation, but in public affairs dignity is the object aimed at. But even if he had a fleet for the sake of protection, who will be so unjust as to blame it?—“There were no pirates.” What? who could certify beforehand that there would be none? “You are taking away,” said he, “from the glory of Pompeius.”

Say, rather, that you yourself are increasing his difficulties. For he destroyed the fleets of the pirates, their cities, and harbours, and places of refuge. By his surpassing valour and incredible rapidity of motion he established a maritime peace; but this he neither undertook nor ought to have undertaken,—namely, to submit to appear worthy of prosecution if a single pirate's boat was anywhere seen. Therefore he himself in Asia, when he had terminated every war, both by land and sea, nevertheless levied a fleet on those self-same cities. And if he then thought that step was necessary, when everything might have been safe and tranquil through fear of his name, while he was still in those countries, what do you think that Flaccus ought to have decided on and to have done after he had departed?

What? did not we decree, by the advice of Pompeius himself, in the consulship of Silanus and Murena, that a fleet should put to sea to sail round Italy? Did not we, at the very same time that Lucius Flaccus was levying sailors in Asia, exact four millions three hundred thousand sesterces for fleets to defend the Mediterranean and Adriatic? What did we do the year after? was not money exacted for the use of the fleet when Marcus Curius and Publius Sextilius were quaestors? What? were there not all this time cavalry on the sea-coast? for that is the surpassing glory of Pompeius,—first of all, that those pirates who, when the conduct of the maritime war was first entrusted to him, wandered about straggling over the whole sea, were soon reduced under our power; in the next place, that Syria is ours, that Cilicia is occupied by us, that Cyprus, through the instrumentality of king Ptolemaeus, is reduced to a state in which it can venture to do nothing; moreover, that Crete, owing to the valour of Metellus, is ours; that the pirates have now no ports from which they can set out none to which they can return; that all the bays, and promontories, and shores, and islands, and maritime cities, are now contained within the barriers of our empire.

But if, when Flaccus was praetor, there had been not one pirate at sea, still his diligence would not have deserved to be blamed. For I should think that the reason of there being no pirates at sea was, because he had a fleet. What will you say if I prove by the evidence of Lucius Oppius, of Lucius Agrius, of Caius Cestius, Roman knights, and also of this most industrious man here present, Cnaeus Domitius, who was an ambassador in Asia at the time, that at that very time in which you yourself affirm that there was no need of a fleet, numbers of men were taken prisoners by the pirates? Still, will the wisdom of Flaccus, as shown in raising crews for the fleet, be found fault with? What if a man of high rank, a citizen of Adramyttium, was even slain by the pirates,—a man whose name is known to nearly all of us, Atyanas the boxer, a victor at Olympia? and this victory is considered among the Greeks (since we are speaking of their wisdom) a greater and more glorious thing than to have had a triumph is reckoned at Rome. “But you took no prisoners.” How many most illustrious men have had the command of the sea-coast, who, though they had taken no pirate prisoner, still made the sea safe? For taking prisoners depends on chance, on place, on accident, on opportunity. And the caution which shows itself in defence has an easy task; being aided not only by lurking places in concealed spots, but by the sudden fall or change of winds and weather.

The last thing that we have to inquire into is, whether that fleet really sailed with oars and sails, or only on paper, and as far as the expense went. Can that then be denied, of which all Asia is witness, that the fleet was distributed into two divisions, so that one division should sail above Ephesus, the other below Ephesus? in the one fleet Marcus Crassus, that most noble man, sailed from Aenas to Asia, with the other division Flaccus sailed from Asia to Macedonia. In what then is it that we look in vain for the diligence of the praetor? Is it in the number of the ships or in the equal division of the expense? He demanded just one half the fleet which Pompeius required. Could he be more economical? And he divided the expense according to the proportions settled by Pompeius, which was adapted to the division made by Sulla, who, when he had arranged all the cities in Asia according to the proportion that they were to bear of the expense imposed on the whole provinces, adopted a rule which Pompeius and Flaccus followed in raising the necessary sums, and even to this day the whole sum is not collected. But he makes no return of it.

What does he gain by that? for when he takes on himself the burden of having levied the money, he avows what you wish to

have considered as a crime. How then can any one be induced to believe that by not returning an account of that money, he deserves to bring an accusation on himself, when there would be no crime at all in the business if he made the return? But you deny that my brother, who succeeded Lucius Flaccus, levied any money for the purpose of crews for the fleet. Indeed, I am delighted to hear this praise of my brother Quintus, but I am still more pleased at other and more important reasons for praise of him. He decided on a different course; he saw a different state of things. He thought that whenever any intelligence of pirates was received, he could get together a fleet as suddenly as he could wish. And lastly, my brother was the very first man in Asia who ventured to relieve the cities from this expense of furnishing crews. But it is usual to think that a crime, when any one establishes charges which had not been established before; not when a successor merely changes some of the charges established by his predecessors. Flaccus could not know what others would do after his time; he only saw what others had done.

But some mention has been made of charges brought by the common consent of all Asia; I will now touch on the cases of individual cities—and of them, the first that I will speak of shall be the city of Aemon. The crier with a loud voice calls for the deputies from Aemon; one comes forward, Asclepiades. Let them come forward. Have you compelled even the crier to proclaim a lie? I suppose this one deputy is a man who can support the dignity of his city by his sole authority;—a man condemned by decisions involving the greatest infamy in his own city; stigmatised in the public records; of whose disgraceful acts, and adulteries, and licentiousness there are letters of the people of Aemon in existence; which I think it better to pass over, not only on account of their length, but on account of the scandalous obscenity of the language. He said that two hundred and six thousand drachmas had been given to Flaccus at the public expense. He only said so—he produced no confirmation of his statement, no proof; but he added this,—which most certainly he ought to have proved, for it was a personal affair of his own,—that he, as a private individual, had paid two hundred and six thousand drachmas. The quantity that that most impudent man says was taken from him was a sum that he never even ventured to wish to be the possessor of.