Cicero, De Officiis (English) (XML Header) [word count] [Cic. Off.].
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1.106 Therefore, thoseThe Stoics. who discuss these problems with more rigour make bold to say that moral wrong is the only evil, while thoseThe Peripatetics. who treat them with more laxity do not hesitate to call it the supreme evil.

Once more, they quote the sentiment: None have I given, none give I ever to the faithless.

It was proper for the poet to say that, because, when he was working out his Atreus, he had to make the words fit the character. But if they mean to adopt it as a principle, that a pledge given to the faithless is no pledge, let them look to it that it be not a mere loophole for perjury that they seek.

1.107 Furthermore, we have laws regulating warfare, [ERROR: no link :]What is perjury? and fidelity to an oath must often be observed in dealings with an enemy: for an oath sworn with the clear understanding in one's own mind that it should be performed must be kept; but if there is no such understanding, it does not count as perjury if one does not perform the vow. For example, suppose that one does not deliver the amount agreed upon with pirates as the price of one's life, that would be accounted no deception—not even if one should fail to deliver the ransom after having sworn to do so; for a pirate is not included in the number of lawful enemies, but is the common foe of all the world; and with him there ought not to be any pledged

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word nor any oath mutually binding.1.108 For swearing to what is false is not necessarily perjury, but to take an oath upon your conscience, as it is expressed in our legal formulas, and then fail to perform it, that is perjury. For Euripides aptly says: My tongue has sworn; the mind I have has sworn no oath.
But Regulus had no right to confound by perjury[ERROR: no link :]Oaths made to an enemy as binding as treaties.
the terms and covenants of war made with an enemy. For the war was being carried on with a legitimate, declared enemy; and to regulate our dealings with such an enemy, we have our whole fetialSee Index, s.v. code as well as many other laws that are binding in common between nations. Were this not the case, the senate would never have delivered up illustrious men of ours in chains to the enemy.

1.109

ch. 30 And yet that very thing happened. Titus[ERROR: no link :]Roman strictness. Veturius and Spurius Postumius in their second consulship lost the battle at the Caudine Forks, and our legions were sent under the yoke. And because they made peace with the Samnites, those generals were delivered up to them, for they had made the peace without the approval of the people and senate. And Tiberius Numicius and Quintus Maelius, tribunes of the people, were delivered up at the same time, because it was with their sanction that the peace had been concluded. This was done in order that the peace with the Samnites might be annulled. And Postumius, the very man whose delivery was in question, was the proposer and advocate of the said delivery.

Many years later,184 years, i.e., in B.C. 137. Gaius Mancinus had a similar experience: he advocated the bill, introduced in

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accordance with a decree of the senate by Lucius Furius and Sextus Atilius, that he should be delivered up to the Numantines, with whom he had made a treaty without authorization from the senate; and when the bill was passed, he was delivered up to the enemy. His action was more honourable than Quintus Pompey's; Pompey's situation was identical with his, and yet at his own entreaty the bill was rejected. In this latter case, apparent expediency prevailed over moral rectitude; in the former cases, the false semblance of expediency was overbalanced by the weight of moral rectitude.

1.110 But, they argued against Regulus, an oath[ERROR: no link :](3) the interests of the state higher than personal advantage; extorted by force ought not to have been binding. As if force could be brought to bear upon a brave man!

Why, then, did he make the journey to the senate, especially when he intended to plead against the surrender of the prisoners of war?

Therein you are criticizing what is the noblest feature of his conduct. For he was not content to stand upon his own judgment but took up the case, in order that the judgment might be that of the senate; and had it not been for the weight of his pleading, the prisoners would certainly have been restored to the Carthaginians; and in that case, Regulus would have remained safe at home in his country. But because he thought this not expedient for his country, he believed that it was therefore morally right for him to declare his conviction and to suffer for it.

When they argued also that what is highly expedient [ERROR: no link :](4) nothing expedient unless morally right. may prove to be morally right, they ought rather to say not that it may prove to be but that

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it actually is morally right. For nothing can be expedient which is not at the same time morally right; neither can a thing be morally right just because it is expedient, but it is expedient because it is morally right.

From the many splendid examples in history, therefore, we could not easily point to one either more praiseworthy or more heroic than the conduct of Regulus.

1.111

ch. 31 But of all that is thus praiseworthy in the[ERROR: no link :]The most striking lesson in the story of Regulus. conduct of Regulus, this one feature above all others calls for our admiration: it was he who offered the motion that the prisoners of war be retained. For the fact of his returning may seem admirable to us nowadays, but in those times he could not have done otherwise. That merit, therefore, belongs to the age, not to the man. For our ancestors were of the opinion that no bond was more effective in guaranteeing good faith than an oath. That is clearly proved by the laws of the Twelve Tables, by the sacred laws,Sacred laws, according to Festus (p. 318), were laws that placed their transgressor, together with his household and his property, under the ban of some divinity; other authorities limit the term to the laws enacted upon the Sacred Mount (B.C. 394). by the treaties in which good faith is pledged even to the enemy, by the investigations made by the censors and the penalties imposed by them; for there were no cases in which they used to render more rigorous decisions than in cases of violation of an oath.



Cicero, De Officiis (English) (XML Header) [word count] [Cic. Off.].
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