Cicero, pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Rab. Perd.].
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10 The charge concerning the condemnation for treason, which you keep accusing me of having abolished, is directed against me, not Rabirius. Would that I, Roman citizens, had been the first or the only man to have abolished that condemnation from this Republic! Would that this deed, which Labienus maintains is a charge against me, were testimony to my praises and no other's! What possible wish would I rather be granted than I, in my consulship, abolished the executioner from the forum and the cross from the Campus Martius? But that praise falls first to our ancestors, Roman citizens, who expelled the kings, and, afterwards, did not retain a trace of kingly savagery among a free people, and, secondly, to the many brave men who did not want your freedom to be unsafe from the severity of its punishments but fortified by the leniency of its laws.

ch. 4

11 For that matter, Labienus, which one of us is a benefactor of the people? You, who think an executioner and his fetters ought to be inflicted upon Roman citizens in a public meeting? You, who order a cross to be fixed and erected for the punishment of citizens in the Campus Martius where the auspices are taken for the Centuriate Assembly? Or I, who prohibit a public meeting from being contaminated by the pollution of an executioner? I, who say that the forum of the Roman people must be cleansed of those traces of an unspeakable crime? I, who defend the belief that a public assembly ought to be kept pure, the Campus Martius holy, the body of every Roman citizen undefiled, and the right of liberty unassailable?

12 This tribune of the commoners, this guardian and defender of right and liberty—a benefactor of the people! Really? A law of Porcius removed the rods from the body of all Roman citizens; this man of compassion has brought back scourges. A law of Porcius delivered the liberty of citizens from the lictor; Labienus, man of the people, handed their liberty over to the executioner. Gaius Gracchus carried a law guaranteeing that a trial may not be held over the life and citizenship of Roman citizens without the people's authorization. This benefactor of the people did not force a trial to be held by the Two Men without the people's authorization: he forced a citizen to be condemned on a charge involving his life and citizenship without a hearing of his case.

13Do you even mention to me the law of Porcius, the name of Gaius Gracchus, the liberty of these citizens, and any other benefactor of the people who came to mind? You, who sought to defile the liberty of this people not merely with outlandish punishments but with savage words hitherto unheard, who sought to essay their civilization, and who sought to change completely their way of life? The fact is that this stuff, “GO, LICTOR. BIND THE HANDS,” which delights you, merciful benefactor of the people, does not belong to the liberty and civilization of today, not even to Romulus or Numa Pompilius. These are the formulas of Tarquin, a most arrogant and savage king, which the soft-spoken benefactor of the people that you are most effortlessly recalls: “THERE SHALL BE A VEILING OF THE HEAD.” “THERE SHALL BE A HANGING UPON A BARREN TREE.” These words, Roman citizens, were long ago suppressed by the darkness of time past as well as the light of freedom.

ch. 5

14Or, if those proceedings of yours involving the Two Men were beneficial to the people and possessed a particle of fairness or justice, would Gaius Gracchus have ignored them? No doubt the death of your uncle brought a deeper sorrow to you than a brother's did to Gaius Gracchus; no doubt the death of this uncle whom you never saw causes you more bitterness than the death of a brother with whom he had lived in closest harmony caused Gaius Gracchus; undoubtedly, you are avenging the death of an uncle with a similar right as he pursued his brother's death; without doubt that Labienus of yours, your uncle, whoever he was, has left behind among the Roman people an equal longing for himself as had Tiberius Gracchus. Or is your loyalty greater than that of [Gaius] Gracchus, or your feelings, or your intelligence, or your resources, or your influence, or eloquence? Had they been minimal in that man, in comparison with your abilities they would have been considered maximal.

15 Seeing that in all these qualities Gaius Gracchus surpassed all men, how wide a gap do you reckon stretches out between you and him? But [Gaius] Gracchus would die a thousand times by the bitterest death before an executioner would stand in a public meeting of his. Regulations of the censors have enjoined that the executioner be deprived not merely of the forum but the skies, the air, and the dwellings of our city. This man dares to claim, does he, that he is a benefactor of the people and that I am foreign to your interests, when it was he who researched every instance of bitter punishments and bitter words, not from your memory or that of your fathers, but from annalistic archives and royal commentaries, while I, with all my energies, with my every strategy, and with everything I have said or done, have fought back and repelled savagery? Unless perchance you wish a condition for yourselves that your slaves, if they did not have the hope of liberty lying before them, could not possibly endure?

16Wretched is the loss of one's good name in the public courts, wretched, too, a monetary fine exacted from one's property, and wretched is exile, but, still, in each calamity there is retained some trace of liberty. Even if death is set before us, we may die in freedom. But the executioner, the veiling of heads, and the very word “cross,” let them all be far removed from not only the bodies of Roman citizens but even from their thoughts, their eyes, and their ears. The results and suffering from these doings as well as the situation, even anticipation, of their enablement, and, in the end, the mere mention of them are unworthy of a Roman citizen and a free man. Or is that, while the kindness of their masters frees our slaves from the fear of all these punishments with one stroke of the staff of manumission, neither our exploits nor the lives we have lived nor honors you have bestowed will liberate us from scourging, from the hook, and, finally, from the terror of the cross?

Cicero, pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Rab. Perd.].
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