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20 But still there are some points which I can argue with them; but still, how great is your impudence, when you dare to say that nothing ought to be given to any one out of the regular routine! You who, when, by an iniquitous law, for some unknown cause you had confiscated the property of Ptolemy, King of Cyprus, the brother of the King of Alexandria, who was reigning by the same right as he was, and had involved the Roman people in the crime,—when you had sent a band of robbers from this empire to ravage his kingdom, and goods, and property, though there had been a long alliance and friendship between us and his father, and grandfather, and still more remote ancestors,—appointed Marcus Cato to superintend the carrying away of his money, and the managing the war if any individual was found hardy enough to defend his own property.
21 Will you say, “Yes, but what a man Cato was! A most religious, most prudent, most gallant man; the firmest friend to the republic, a citizen of a most marvellous and almost unique virtue, and wisdom, and purity of life.” Very fine, but what is all that to you, when you say that it is untrue that any one ought to be appointed to any public duty out of the regular course?
And in this matter I am only convicting you of inconsistency; who in the case of this very Cato, whom you did not so much promote out of regard for his dignity, as get out of the way lest he might hinder your wickedness,—whom you had exposed to your Sergii, and Lollii, and Titii, and your other leaders in massacre and conflagration, whom you yourself had called the executioner of the citizens, the chief murderer of men who had never been condemned, the very fountain of cruelty,—you still by your motion conferred this honour and command on him out of the regular course, and behaved with such violence, that you were wholly unable to disguise your object and, the system of wickedness which you had laid down for yourself.
You read letters in the assembly which you said had been sent to you by Caius Caesar. “Caesar to Pulcher.” And when you proceeded to argue that this was a proof of intimacy, because he only used the names of himself and you, and did not add “proconsul,” or “tribune of the people,” and then began to congratulate you that you had got Marcus Cato out of the way of your tribuneship for the remainder of the time, and that you had also taken away for the future the power of giving extraordinary commissions;—letters which he never sent to you at all, or which, if he did send them, he certainly never meant to be read in the public assembly;—at all events, whether he sent them or whether you forged them, your intention with respect to the honours conferred upon Cato was revealed by the reading of those letters.
23 But, however, I will say no more about Cato, whose eminent virtue, and dignity, and integrity, and moderation in that business which he executed, appear like a screen to veil the iniquity of your law and of your argument. What more need I say? Who was it who gave to the most infamous man that has ever existed, to the most wicked and polluted of all men, that rich and fertile Syria? Who gave him a war to carry on against nations who were in a state of profound peace? Who gave him the money which was destined for the purchase of lands and which had been taken by violence out of the fruits of the achievements of Caesar? Who gave him an unlimited command? [Note] And, indeed, when you had given him Cilicia, you altered the terms of your bargain with him, and you transferred Cilicia to the praetor, again quite out of the regular course. And then, when the bribe had been increased, you gave Syria to Gabinius—expressly naming him. What more? Did you not, naming him expressly, deliver over, bound and fettered, to Lucius Piso, the foulest, the most cruel, the most treacherous of men, the most infamous of all men, as stigmatised for every sort of wickedness and lust, free nations, who had been declared free by numerous resolutions of the senate, and even by a recent law of your own son-in-law? Did not you, after the recompense for your service and the bribe of a province had been paid by him at my expense, still divide the treasury with him?
24 Is it so? Did you annul the arrangement of the consular provinces, which Caius Gracchus, than whom there hardly ever lived a man more devoted to the people, not only abstained from taking from the senate, but even passed a solemn law to establish the principle that they were to be settled every year by the senate;—did you, I say, disturb that arrangement, and that too after it had been formally settled according to the Sempronian law? You gave the provinces, in an irregular manner, without casting lots, not to the consuls, but to the pests of the republic, expressly naming them. And shall we be found fault with, because we have appointed a most illustrious man, who has often been selected before on occasions of the greatest danger to the republic, (expressly naming him,) to superintend a matter of the most urgent importance, and which was previously in an almost desperate condition?
What more shall I say? If, then, amid the darkness and impenetrable clouds and storms which were then lowering above the republic, when you had driven the senate from the helm and turned the people out of the ship, and while you yourself, like a captain of pirates, were hastening on with all your sails set, with your most infamous band of robbers; if at that time you had been able to carry the resolutions which you proposed, and punished, and brought forward, and sold, what place in the whole world would have been free from the extraordinary magistrates and commanders invested with their power by the great Clodius?