Cicero, pro S. Roscio Amerino (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. S. Rosc.].
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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.

ch. 25

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.

70 The state of the Athenians is said to have been the wisest while it enjoyed the supremacy. Moreover of that state they say that Solon was the wisest man, he who made the laws which they use even to this day. When he was asked why he had appointed no punishment for him who killed his father, he answered that he had not supposed that any one would do so. He is said to have done wisely in establishing nothing about a crime which had up to that time never been committed, lest he should seem not so much to forbid it as to put people in mind of it. How much more wisely did our ancestors act! for as they understood that there was nothing so holy that audacity did not sometimes violate it, they devised a singular punishment for parricides in order that they whom nature herself had not been able to retain in their duty, might be kept from crime by the enormity of the punishment. They ordered them to be sown alive in a sack, and in that condition to be thrown into the river.

ch. 26


O singular wisdom, O judges! Do they not seem to have cut this man off and separated him from nature; from whom they took away at once the heaven, the sun, water and earth, so that he who had slain him, from whom he himself was horn, might be deprived of all those things from which everything is said to derive its birth. They would not throw his body to wild beasts, lest we should find the very beasts who had touched such wickedness, more savage; they would not throw them naked into the river, lest when they were carried down into the sea, they should pollute that also, by which all other things which have been polluted are believed to be purified. There is nothing in short so vile or so common that they left them any share in it.

72 Indeed what is so common as breath to the living, earth to the dead, the sea to those who float, the shore to those who are cast up by the sea? These men so live, while they are able to live at all, that they are unable to draw breath from heaven; they so die that earth does not touch their bones; they are tossed about by the waves so that they are never washed; lastly, they are cast up by the sea so, that when dead they do not even rest on the rocks. Do you think, O Erucius, that you can prove to such men as these your charge of so enormous a crime, a crime to which so remarkable a punishment is affixed, if you do not allege any motive for the crime? If you were accusing him before the very purchasers of his property, and if Chrysogonus were presiding at that trial, still you would have come more carefully and with more preparation.

73 Is it that you do not see what the cause really is, or before whom it is being pleaded? The cause in question is parricide; which cannot be undertaken without many motives; and it is being tried before very wise men, who are aware that no one commits the very slightest crime without any motive whatever.

ch. 27

Be it so; you are unable to allege any motive. Although I ought at once to gain my cause, yet I will not insist on this, and I will concede to you in this cause what I would not concede in another, relying on this man's innocence. I do not ask you why Sextus Roscius killed his father; I ask you how he killed him? So I ask of you, O Caius Erucius, how, and I will so deal with you, that I will on this topic give you leave to answer me or to interrupt me, or even, if you wish to at all, to ask me questions.

74 How did he kill him? Did he strike him himself, or did he commit him to others to be murdered? If you say he did it himself, he was not at Rome; if you say he did it by the instrumentality of others, I ask you were they slaves or free men? who were they? Did they come from the same place, from Ameria, or were they assassins of this city? If they came from Ameria, who are they, why are they not named? If they are of Rome, how did Roscius make acquaintance with them? who for many years had not come to Rome, and who never was there more than three days. Where did he meet them? with whom did he speak? how did he persuade them? Did he give them a bribe? to whom did he give it? by whose agency did he give it? whence did he get it, and how much did he giver? Are not these the steps by which one generally arrives at the main fact of guilt? And let it occur to you at the same time how you have painted this man's life; that you have described him as an unpolished and country-mannered man; that he never held conversation with any one, that he had never dwelt in the city.

Cicero, pro S. Roscio Amerino (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. S. Rosc.].
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