Cicero, de Haruspicum Responso (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Har.].
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I say that so numerous a meeting of the college has never decided on any subject, not even concerning the rights or life of a vestal virgin, ever since the establishment of sacred ceremonies, though their antiquity is the same as that of the city itself; although when an investigation into any crime is taking place it is of consequence that as many as possible should be present. For the interpretation of a law given by the priests is on such a footing that it has the same force as a decision of the judges. An explanation of what is required by religion can be properly given by one single experienced priest; but in a case of a trial for life, such a proceeding would be harsh and unjust. Nevertheless, you will find this to be the case, that a greater number of pontiffs were assembled when they decided on the question concerning my house, than had ever met on any question concerning the ceremonies of the vestal virgins. The next day the senate in a very full house, when you, O Lentulus, being the consul elect, made the motion, and Publius Lentulus and Quintus Metellus, the consuls, put it to the senate, when all the pontiffs who belonged to this order were present and when those who had precedence, from the distinctions which had been conferred on them by the Roman people, had made many speeches concerning the decision of the college, and when all of them had assisted in drawing up the decree,—the senate, I say, voted that my house appeared, according to the decision of the pontiffs, to be free from all religious liability.

14 Is this then the place which of all others the soothsayers appear to intend to speak of as sacred, which is the only one of all private buildings in the whole city which has this argument to advance in support of its rights, that it has been adjudged not to be sacred by those very men who preside over all sacred things?

However, refer the matter to them, as you are bound to do

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according to the resolution of the senate. Either the investigation will be allotted to you who were the first to pronounce an opinion respecting this house, and who have pronounced it free from all religious liability; or the senate itself will decide, which has already decided in the fullest possible house, that one single priest alone dissenting; or else, what will certainly be done, it will be referred back to the pontiffs, to whose authority, integrity, and prudence our ancestors entrusted all sacred and religious observances, whether private or public. What then can these men decide different from what they have already decided? There are many houses in this city, O conscript fathers; I do not know whether they are not nearly all held by thoroughly good titles, but still they are only private titles, titles derived from inheritance, from prescription, from purchase, or from mortgage. But I assert that there is no other house whatever equally fenced round by private title and incontestable rights, and at the same time by every sort of public law of the highest authority, both human and divine.

15 For in the first place it was built by the authority of the senate, with the public money; and in the second place it has been fenced round and fortified against the impious violence of this gladiator by numerous resolutions of the senate.

ch. 8

At first a commission was given to those same magistrates in the preceding year, to whom at times of the greatest peril the whole republic is usually recommended, to take care that I was to be allowed to proceed in building without any hindrance from violence. Afterwards, when that fellow had brought devastation on my estate with stones, and fire, and sword, the senate voted that those who had acted in that manner were liable to be proceeded against by the laws concerning violence which are in force against those who have attacked the whole republic. But when you put the question, O you best and bravest of consuls within the memory of man, the same senate in a very full house decreed, that whoever injured my house would be acting against the interests of the republic.

16 I say that there never were so many resolutions of the senate passed about any public work, monument or temple, as about my house, the only house since the first foundation of the city which the senate has thought ought to be built at the public expense, released from all religious

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obligation by the pontiffs, defended by the magistrates, and put under the protection of the judges who were to punish all who injured it. On account of his immense services to the republic, a house at Velia was given by a public vote to Publius Valerius. But my house was restored to me on the Palatine Hill. He had a spot of ground given him. I had walls also and a roof. He had a house given to him which he was to defend by his rights as a private citizen; but I had one which all the magistrates were ordered to protect with the public force of the city. And if I had all this owing to my own exertions, or if I had received it from any other persons except you, I would not mention it before you, lest I might appear to be boasting too much. But as all these things have been given me by you, and as they are now being attacked by the tongue of that man by whose hand they were formerly overthrown, when you restored them with your own hands to me and to my children, I am not speaking of my own actions but of yours; nor am I afraid lest this public mention of all your kindness to me should appear to be not so much grateful as arrogant.


Although, if indeed a certain indignation which I cannot help feeling were to lead me who have exerted myself so much in the cause of the public safety at times to speaking some what boastfully when refuting the aspersions of wicked men who would not excuse me for so doing? For I did see yesterday someone murmuring: and people said that he declared that he could not endure me because when I was asked by that foul traitor to his country to what city I belonged, I answered, with the approval of you and of the Roman knights also, that I belonged to a city which could not do without me. He, I imagine, groaned at this. What then was I to answer? (I ask that very man who cannot endure me.) That I was a Roman citizen? It would have been a truly learned answer. Should I have held my tongue? That would have been a betrayal of my own cause. Can any man when it is attempted to excite odium against him with respect to important affairs, reply with sufficient dignity to the abuse of his enemy without some praise of himself? But no doubt he himself, when he is attacked, not only answers as well as he can, but is even glad to be prompted by his friends and to have an answer suggested to him.

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ch. 9

Cicero, de Haruspicum Responso (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Har.].
<<Cic. Har. 10 Cic. Har. 15 (Latin) >>Cic. Har. 20

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