61 And since you were deceived in all this, O Erucius, and since you see that everything is altered; that the cause on behalf of Sextus Roscius is argued, if not as it should be, at all events with freedom, since you see that be is defended whom you thought was abandoned, that those who you expected would deliver him up to you are judging impartially, give us again, at last, some of your old skill and prudence; confess that you came hither with the hope that there would he a robbery here, not a trial. A trial is held on a charge of parricide, and no reason is alleged by the accuser why the son has slain his father.
62 That which, in even the least offences and in the more trifling crimes, which are more frequent and of almost daily occurrence, is asked most earnestly and as the very first question, namely what motive there was for the offence; that Erucius does not think necessary to be asked in a case of parricide. A charge which, O judges, even when many motives appear to concur, and to be connected with one another, is still not rashly believed, nor is such a case allowed to depend on slight conjecture, nor is any uncertain witness listened to, nor is the matter decided by the ability of the accuser. Many crimes previously committed must be proved, and a most profligate life on the part of the prisoner, and singular audacity, and not only audacity, but the most extreme frenzy and madness. When all these things are proved, still there must exist express traces of the crime: where, in what manner, by whose means, and at what time the crime was committed. And unless these proofs are numerous and evident—so wicked, so atrocious, so nefarious a deed cannot be believed.
63 For the power of human feeling is great; the connection of blood is of mighty power; nature herself cries out against suspicions of this sort; it is a most undeniable portent and prodigy, for any one to exist in human shape, who so far outruns the beasts in savageness, as in a most scandalous manner to deprive those of life by whose means he has himself beheld this most delicious light of life; when birth, and bringing up, and nature herself make even beasts friendly to each other.
Not many years ago they say that Titius Cloelius, a citizen of Terracina, a well-known man, when, having supped, he had retired to rest in the same room with his two youthful sons, was found in the morning with his throat cut: when no servant could be found nor any free man, on whom suspicion of the deed could be fixed, and his two sons of that age lying near him said that they did not even know what had been done; the sons were accused of the parricide. What followed? it was, indeed, a suspicious business; that neither of them were aware of it, and that some one had ventured to introduce himself into that chamber, especially at that time when two young men were in the same place, who might easily have heard the noise and defended him. Moreover, there was no one on whom suspicion of the deed could fall.
65 Still as it was plain to the judges that they were found sleeping with the door open, the young men were acquitted and released from all suspicion. For no one thought that there was any one who, when he had violated all divine and human laws by a nefarious crime, could immediately go to sleep; because they who have committed such a crime not only cannot rest free from care, but cannot even breathe without fear.
Do you not see in the case of those whom the poets have handed down to us, as having, for the sake of avenging their father, inflicted punishment on their mother, especially when they were said to have done so at the command and in obedience to the oracles of the immortal gods, how the furies nevertheless haunt them, and never suffer them to rest, because they could not be pious without wickedness. And this is the truth, O judges. The blood of one's father and mother has great power, great obligation, is a most holy thing, and if any stain of that falls on one, it not only cannot be washed out, but it drips down into the very soul, so that extreme frenzy and madness follow it.
67 For do not believe, as you often see it written in fables, that they who have done anything impiously and wickedly are really driven about and frightened by the furies with burning torches. It is his own dishonesty and the terrors of his own conscience that especially harassed each individual; his own wickedness drives each criminal about and affects him with madness; his own evil thoughts, his own evil conscience terrifies him. These are to the wicked their incessant and domestic furies which night and day exact from wicked sons punishment for the crimes committed against their parents.
68 This enormity of the crime is the cause why, unless a parricide is proved in a manner almost visible, it is not credible, unless a man's youth has been base, unless his life has been stained with every sort of wickedness, unless his extravagance has been prodigal and accompanied with shame and disgrace, unless his audacity has been violent, unless his rashness has been such as to be not far removed from insanity. There must be, besides a hatred of his father, a fear of his father's reproof—worthless friends, slaves privy to the deed, a convenient opportunity, a place fitly selected for the business. I had almost said the judges must see his hands stained with his father's blood, if they are to believe so monstrous, so barbarous, so terrible a crime.
69 On which account, the less credible it is unless it be proved, the more terribly is it to be punished if it be proved.
Therefore, it may be understood by many circumstances that our ancestors surpassed other nations not only in arms, but also in wisdom and prudence; and also most especially by this, that they devise a singular punishment for the impious. And in this matter consider how far they surpassed in prudence those who are said to have been the wisest of all nations.