Pro L. Flacco

Cicero, Marcus Tullius

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

Be it so. He had some particular misdeeds of his own to bear up against. And yet even he (I say this on my own responsibility) would never have been condemned if you had been his judges, he, a man by whose condemnation the tomb of Catiline was decked with flowers and the sepulchres of all those most audacious men and domestic enemies were honoured with assemblies and banquets, and by which the shade of Catiline was appeased. Now an expiation for the death of Lentulus is sought to be obtained at Flaccus's expense, and by your instrumentality. What victim can you offer more acceptable to the manes of Publius Lentulus,—who intended, after you had been all murdered amid the embraces of your children and your wives, to bury you beneath the burning ruins of your country,—than you will offer, if you satiate his impious hatred towards all of us in the blood of Lucius Flaccus?

Let us then offer a sacrifice to Lentulus, let us make atonement to Cethegus, let us recall the exiles, let us in our turn, if you, O judges, think fit, suffer the punishment due to too great piety, and to the greatest possible affection towards our country. At this moment we are being mentioned by name by the informers; accusations are being invented against us; dangers are being prepared for us. And if they did these things by the instrumentality of others,—if, in short, by using the name of the people, they had excited a mob of ignorant citizens, we could bear it with more equanimity. But this can never be borne, that they should think that, by means of senators and knights of Rome, who have done all these things with a view to the safety of all the citizens, by their common decision, animated with one idea, and inspired with one and the same virtue, the prime movers, and leaders, and chief actors in these transactions, can be deprived of all their fortunes, and be expelled from the city. In truth, they are acquainted with the feelings and inclinations of the Roman people; by every means which it is master of, the Roman people indicates what are its opinions and feelings; there is no diversity of opinion, or of inclination, or of language.

Wherefore, if any one summons me, I come. I not only do not object to the Roman people as arbitrators in my cause, but I even demand them. Let there be no violence; let weapons and stones be kept at a distance let the artisans depart; let the slaves be silent. No one who hears me will be so unjust, if he be only a free man and a citizen, as not to think that he ought rather to think of rewards for me than of punishment. O ye immortal got! what can be more miserable than this? We who wrested fire and sword out of the hands of Publius Lentulus, are trusting now to the judgment of an ignorant multitude, and are in dread of the sentence of chosen men and most honourable citizens.

Our fathers by their decision delivered Marcus Aquillius, who had been convicted of many charges of avarice, proved by abundant evidence, because he had behaved gallantly in the Servile war. I, when consul, lately defended Cnaeus Piso; who, because he had been a gallant and fearless consul, was preserved to the republic uninjured. I, when consul, defended also Lucius Murena, the consul elect. Not one of the judges in that case—though they were most eminent men who were the prosecutors—thought that they ought to entertain for one moment the accusation of bribery, because, while Catiline was still waging war against the republic, they agreed with me that it was necessary for them to have two consuls on the first of January. Aulus Thermius, an innocent and virtuous man, and one adorned with every sort of distinction, has been twice acquitted this year, when I have defended him. How great was the joy, how great were the congratulations of the Roman people at that event, for the sake of the republic! Wise and grave judges have always, when deciding in criminal trials, considered what the interests of the state, and the general safety, and the present necessities of the republic required.

When the voting tablets are given to you, O judges, it will not be Flaccus alone who will be interested in their verdict; the generals and all those who are leaders in the preservation of the city will all be interested; all good men will be interested; you yourselves will be interested; your children, your own lives, your country, the general safety, will all be interested in your vote. In this cause you are not determining about foreign nations, or about the allies; you are deciding on the welfare of your own selves and your own republic.

And if the consideration of the provinces has more weight with you than that of your own interests, I not only do not object, but I even demand that you should be influenced by the authority of the provinces. In truth, we will oppose to the province of Asia first of all a great part of the same province, which has sent deputies and panegyrists to stand up and defend this man from danger; in the next place we will set against it the province of Gaul, the province of Cilicia, the province of Spain, and the province of Crete; and against Greeks, whether they be Lydians, Mysians, or Phrygians, shall be set the men of Massilia, the Rhodians, the Lacedaemonians, the Athenians, and all Achaia, Thessaly, and Boeotia. Septimius and Caelius, the witnesses for them, shall be balanced by Publius Servilius and Quintus Metellus, as witnesses of this man's moderation and integrity. The Asiatic jurisdiction shall be replied to by the jurisdiction of the city; and the whole conduct and entire life of Lucius Flaccus shall defend him from accusations brought against him, all relying on the transactions of a single year.

And if, O judges, it ought to avail Lucius Flaccus that, as tribune of the soldiers, as quaestor, as lieutenant to the most illustrious generals, he has behaved among the most distinguished armies, and in the most important provinces, in a manner worthy of his ancestors; let it also avail him, that before your own eyes, at a time of general danger to you all, he united his fate to mine, and shared my danger; let the panegyrics of most honourable municipalities and colonies avail him; let the most glorious and genuine praise of the Roman senate and Roman people avail him.

Oh that night, that night which nearly brought eternal darkness on this city, when the Gauls were invited to war, when Catiline was invited into the city, when the conspirators were invited to bring fire and sword upon us all; when I, O Flaccus, invoking heaven and night, was with tears entreating your aid, and you in tears were listening to me; when I commended to your honest and well-proved loyalty the safety of the city and of the citizens. You, O Flaccus, being at that time praetor, took the messengers of the general destruction; it was you who arrested that plague [*](He refers to the ambassadors of the Allobroges, and to the letters from Lentulus, etc., which were found in their possession. See the Arguments to the Catilinarian orations.) of the republic which was contained in letters; you brought the proofs of our danger, you brought the aid that was to secure our safety to me and to the senate. What thanks were then given you by me! how did the senate, how did all good men thank you! Who would then have thought that any good man would ever refuse to Caius Pomptinus, that bravest of men, or to you, I will not say safety, but any imaginable honour? Oh those nones of December; what a time was that when I was consul! a day that I may fairly call the birthday of this city, or at all events its day of salvation.

Oh that night which that day followed! happy was it for this city; but, wretched man that I am, I fear it may still prove disastrous to me myself. What spirit was then shown by Lucius Flaccus! (for I will say nothing about myself,) what devotion to his country, what virtue, what firmness! But why do I speak of those things which then, at the time that they happened, were extolled to the skies by the cordial agreement of all men, by the unanimous voice of the Roman people, by the testimony in their favour of the whole world? Now I fear, not only that they may be no advantage to my client, but that they may even be some injury to him. Indeed, I sometimes fancy that the memory of bad men is much more lively than that of good men. It is I, if any disaster happens to you, O Flaccus, it is I who shall have betrayed you; it is that pledge of mine which will be in fault, that promise of mine, that undertaking of mine, when I promised, that if we by our joint efforts could preserve the republic, you, as long as you lived, should not only be defended, but also honoured by the espousal of your cause by all virtuous men. I did think, O judges, I did hope that, even if our honour appeared to you a consideration of no importance at all events you would take care of our safety.

But if, O judges, this terrible injury should overwhelm Lucius Flaccus (may the immortal gods avert the omen!) still he will never repent of having provided for your safety, of having consulted the interests of you, and of your wives, and of your children, and your entire welfare. It will always be his feeling that he owed such sentiments to the nobleness of his race, and to his religion, and to his country; you, O judges, take care that you have no cause to repent of not having spared such a citizen. For how few are they who adopt these principles in the republic; who desire only to please you and men like you; who think the authority of every virtuous and honourable man and body of men of the greatest weight, seeing that that path is both the one which leads most easily to honours and everything which they desire. But let everything else belong to our adversaries: let them keep to themselves power, and honours, and all the best opportunities of attaining all other advantages let it be allowed to those men who have striven to preserve all these things, to be at least safe themselves.

Do not think, O judges, that they, who are now starting fresh who have not as yet arrived at honours, are not looking anxiously for the result of this trial. If the exceeding affection of Lucius Flaccus for all good men, and his great devotion to the republic turns out an injury to him, who do you expect will in future be so insane, as not to think that path of life which he has hitherto been accustomed to consider slippery and dangerous preferable to this level and steady one? But if you, O judges, are tired of such citizens declare it; those who can will change their opinions, those who have their path still to choose will soon make up their minds what to do we who have advanced as far as we have must bear this result of our rashness. If you wish as many as possible to be of this opinion, you will declare by this decision what your sentiments are.

By your decision in this case, O judges, you will give this unhappy suppliant to you and to your children—precepts by which to regulate his life. If you preserve his father to him, you will prescribe to him what sort of citizen he himself ought to be. If you take his father from him, you will show that there is no reward held out by you to virtuous and wise and consistent conduct. And he now, (since he is of that age that he is able to feel for his father's agony, but not yet to be any assistance to his father in his dangers,) he, I say, entreats you not to add his father's tears to his sorrow, or his weeping to his father's misery. He fixes his eyes on me also, he implores me by his looks, he, as I may say, appeals to my good faith, and claims of me that honour for his father which I once promised him in return for the safety of his country. Pity his family, O judges; pity that most gallant father; pity the son: preserve to the republic that most noble and glorious name, either for the sake of the blood, or of the antiquity of the family, or else for the sake of the individual.