Cicero, Pro Roscio Amerino 46-59

 

46. If fortune did not give to you to know the father whose son you are, so that you could understand what was the affection of fathers towards their children; still, at all events, nature has given you no small share of human feeling. To this is added a zeal for learing, so that you are not unversed in literature. Does that old man in Caecilius, (to quote a play,) appear to have less affection for Eutychus, his son, who lives in the country, than for his other one Chaerestratus? for that, I think, is his name; do you think that he keeps one with him in the city to do him honor, and sends the other into the country in order to punish him? 47. Why do you have recourse to such trifling? you will say. As if it were a hard matter for me to bring forward ever so many by name, of my own tribe, or my own neighbors, (not to wander too far off,) who wish their sons for whom they have the greatest regard, to be diligent farmers. But it is an odious step to quote known men, when it is uncertain whether they would like their names to be used; and no one is likely to be better known to you than this same Eutychus; and certainly it has nothing to do with the argument, whether I name this youth in a play, or someone of the country about Veii. In truth, I think that these things are invented by poets in order that we may see our manners sketched under the character of strangers, and the image of our daily life represented under the guise of fiction. 48. Come now; turn your thoughts, if you please, to reality, and consider not only in Umbria and that neighborhood, but in these old municipal towns, what pursuits are most praised by fathers of families. You will at once see that, from want of real grounds of accusation, you have imputed that which is his greatest praise to Sextus Roscius as a fault and a crime. 

XVII. But not only do children do this by the wish of their fathers, but I have myself known many men (and so, unless I am deceived, has every one of you) who are inflamed of their own accord with a fondness for what relates to the cultivation of land, and who think this rural life, which you think ought to be a disgrace to a charge against a man, the most honorable and the most delightful. 49. What do you think of this very Sextus Roscius? How great is his fondness for, and shrewdness in rural affairs! As I hear from his relations, most honorable men, you are not more skillful in this your business of an accuser, than he is in his. But, as I think, since it seems good to Chrysogonus, who has left him no farm, he will be able now to forget this skill of his, and to give up this taste. And although that is a sad and a scandalous thing, yet he will bear it, O judges, with equanimity, if, by your verdict, he can preserve his life and his character; but this in intolerable, if he is both to have this calamity brought upon him on account of the goodness and number of his farms, and if that especially to be imputed to him as a crime that he cultivated them with great care; so that it is not to be misery enough to have cultivated them for others not for himself, unless it is also to be accounted a crime that he cultivated them at all. 

XVIII. 50. In truth, O Erucius, you would have been a ridiculous accuser, if you had been born in those times when men were sent for from the plough to be made consuls. Certainly you, who think it a crime to have superintended the cultivation of a farm, would consider that Atilius, whom those who were sent to him found sowing seed with his own hand, a most base and dishonorable man. But, forsooth, our ancestors judged very differently both of him and of all other such men. And therefore from a very small and powerless state they left us one very great and very prosperous. For they diligently cultivated their own lands, they did not graspingly desire those of others; by which conduct they enlarged the republic, and this dominion, and the name of the Roman people, with lands, and conquered cities, and subjected nations. 51. Nor do I bring forward these instances in order to compare them with these matters which we are now investigating; but in order that that may be understood; that, as in the times of our ancestors, the highest and most illustrious men, who ought at all times to have been sitting at the helm of the republic, yet devoted much of their attention and time to the cultivation of their lands; that man ought to be pardoned, who avows himself a rustic, for having lived constantly in the country, especially when he could do nothing which was either more pleasing to his father, or more delightful to himself, or in reality more honorable.

52. The bitter dislike of the father to the son, then, is proved by this, O Erucius, that he allowed him to remain in the country. Is there anything else? Certainly, says he, there is. For he was thinking of disinheriting him. I hear you. Now you are saying something which may have a bearing on the business, for you will grant, I think, that those other arguments are trifling and childish. He never went to any feasts with his father. Of course not, as he very seldom came to town at all. People very seldom asked him to their houses. No wonder, for a man who did not live in the city, and was not likely to ask them in return.  

XIX. 53. But you are aware that these things too are trifling. Let us consider that which we began with, than which no more certain argument of dislike can possibly be found. The father was thinking of disinheriting his son. I do not ask on what account. I ask how you know it? Although you ought to mention and enumerate all the reasons. And it was the duty of a regular accuser, who was accusing a man of such wickedness, to unfold all the vice and sins of a son which had exasperated the father so as to enable him to bring his mind to subdue nature herself--to banish from his mind that affection so deeply implanted in it--to forget in short that he was a father; and all this I do not think could have happened without great errors on the part of the son. 54. But I give you leave to pass over those things, which, as you are silent, you admit have no existence. At all events you ought to make it evident that he did intend to disinherit him. What then do you allege to make us think that that was the case? You can say nothing with truth. Invent something at least with probability in it; that you may not manifestly be convicted of doing what you are openly doing--insulting the fortunes of this unhappy man, and the dignity of these noble judges. He meant to disinherit his son. On what account? I don't know. Did he disinherit him? No. Who hindered him? He was thinking of it. He was thinking of it? Who did he tell? No one. What is abusing the court of justice, and the laws, and your majesty, O judges, for the purposes of gain and lust, but accusing men in this manner, and bringing imputations against them which you not only are not able to prove, but which you do not even attempt to? 55. There is not one of us, Erucius, who does not know that you have no enmity against Sextus Roscius. All men see on what account you come here as his adversary. They know that you are induced to do so by this man's money. What then? Still you ought to have been desirous of gain with such limitations as to think that the opinion of all these men, and the Remmian law ought to have some weight. 

XX. It is a useful thing for these to be many accusers in a city, in order that audacity may be kept in check by far; but it is only useful with this imitation, that we are not to be manifestly mocked by accusers. A man is innocent. But although he is free from guilt he is not free from suspicion. Although it is a lamentable thing, still I can, to some extent, pardon a man who accuses him. For when he has anything which he can say, imputing a crime, or fixing a suspicion, he does not appear knowingly to be openly mocking and calumniating. 56. On which account we all easily allow that there should be as many accusers as possible; because an innocent man, if he be accused, can be acquitted; a guilty man, unless he be accused cannot be convicted. But it is more desirable that an innocent man should be acquitted, than that a guilty man should not be brought to trial. Food for the geese is contracted for at the public expense, and dogs are maintained in the Capitol, to give notice if thieves come. But they cannot distinguish thieves. Accordingly they give notice if anyone comes by night to the Capitol; and because that is a suspicious thing, although they are but beasts, yet they oftenest err on that side which is the more prudent one. But if the dogs barked by day also, when anyone came to pay honor to the gods, I imagine their legs would be broken for being active then also, when there was no suspicion. 57. The notion of accusers is very much the same. Some of you are geese, who only cry out, and have no power to hurt, some are dogs who can both bark and bite. We see that food is provided for you; but you ought chiefly to attack those who deserve it. This is most pleasing to the people; then if you will, then you may bark on suspicion when it seems probable that someone has committed a crime. That may be allowed. But if you act in such a way as to accuse a man of having murdered his father, without being able to say why or how; and if you are only barking without any ground for suspicion, no one, indeed, will break your legs; but if I know these judges well, they will so firmly affix to your heads that letter to which you are so hostile that you hate all the Calends too, that you shall hereafter be able to accuse no one but your own fortunes.

XXI. 58. What have you given me to defend my client against, my good accuser? And what ground have you given these judges for any suspicion? He was afraid of being disinherited. I hear you. But no one says what ground he had for fear. His father had it in contemplation. Prove it. There is no proof; there is no mention of anyone with whom he deliberated about it--whom he told of it; there is no circumstance from which it could occur to your minds to suspect it. When you bring accusations in this manner, O Erucius, do you not plainly say this? "I know what I have received, but I do not know what to say. I have had regard to that alone which Chrysogonus said, that no one would be his advocate; that there was no one who would dare at this time to say a word about the purchase of the property, and about that conspiracy." This false opinion prompted you to this dishonesty. You would not in truth have said a word if you had thought that anyone would answer you.

59. It were worthwhile, if you have noticed it, O judges, to consider this man's carelessness in bringing forward his accusations. I imagine, when he saw what men were sitting on those benches, that he inquired whether this man or that man was going to defend him; that he never even dreamt of me, because I have never pleaded any public cause before. After he found that no one was going to defend him of those men who have the ability and are in the habit of so doing, he began to be so careless that, when it suited his fancy he sat down, then he walked about, sometimes he even called his boy, I suppose to give him orders for supper, and utterly overlooked your assembly and all this court as if it had been a complete desert.

 

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