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

14 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

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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.

15 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.

ch. 7

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.

16 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.

17 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.

Cicero, pro Flacco (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Flac.].
<<Cic. Flac. 8 Cic. Flac. 14 (Latin) >>Cic. Flac. 21

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