Cicero, pro Flacco (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Flac.].
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8 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.

ch. 4


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.

10 Where does that

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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.

11 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.

ch. 5

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.

12 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.

ch. 6

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.

Cicero, pro Flacco (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Flac.].
<<Cic. Flac. frBob5 Cic. Flac. 10 (Latin) >>Cic. Flac. 16

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