Cicero, Pro Roscio Amerino 7-13

 

If his demand seems to you just and honorable, O judges, I, on the other hand, proffer this brief request, and one, as I persuade myself, somewhat more reasonable still.   First of all, I ask of Chrysogonus to be content with our money and our fortunes, and not to seek our blood and our lives. In the second place, I beg you, O judges, to resist the wickedness of audacious men; to relieve the calamities of the innocent, and in the cause of Sextus Roscius to repel the danger which is being aimed at everyone. But if any pretense for the accusation--if any suspicion of this act--if, in short, any, the least thing be found,--so that in bringing forward this accusation they shall seem to have had some real object,--if you find any cause whatever for it, except that plunder which I have mentioned, I will not object to the life of Sextus Roscius being abandoned to their pleasure. But if there is no other object in it, except to prevent anything being wanting to those men, whom nothing can satisfy, if this alone is contended for at this moment, that the condemnation of Sextus Roscius may be added as a sort of crown, as it were, to this rich and splendid booty,--though many things be infamous, still is not this the most infamous of all things, that you should be thought fitting men for these fellows now to expect to obtain by means of your sentences and your oaths, what they have hitherto been in the habit of obtaining by wickedness and by the sword; that though you have been chosen out of the state into the senate because of your dignity, and out of the senate into this body because of your inflexible love of justice,--still assassins and gladiators should ask of you, not only to allow them to escape the punishment which they ought to fear and dread at your hands for their crimes, but also that they may depart from this court adorned and enriched with the spoils of Sextus Roscius. Of such important and such atrocious actions, I am aware that I can neither speak with sufficient propriety, nor complain with sufficient dignity, nor cry out against with sufficient freedom. For my want of capacity is a hindrance to my speaking with propriety; my age, to my speaking with dignity; the times themselves are an obstacle to my speaking with freedom. To this is added great fear, which both nature and my modesty cause me, and your dignity, and the violence of our adversaries, and the danger of Sextus Roscius. On which account, I beg and entreat of you, O judges, to hear what I have to say with attention, and with your favorable construction. Relying on your integrity and wisdom, I have undertaken a greater burden than, I am well aware, I am able to bear. If you, in some degree, lighten this burden, O judges, I will bear it as well as I can with zeal and industry. But if, as I do not expect, I am abandoned by you, still I will not fail in courage, and I will bear what I have undertaken as well as I can. But if I cannot support it, I had rather be overwhelmed by the weight of my duty, than either through treachery betray, or through weakness of mind desert, that which has been once honestly entrusted to me. I also, above all things, entreat you, O Marcus Fannius, to show yourself at this present time both to us and to the Roman people the same man you formerly showed yourself to the Roman people when you before presided at the trial in this same cause. [Fannius had been praetor, and before a cause came to actual trial, it came before the praetor, who decided whether there were sufficient grounds for allowing the trial to proceed; much as our grand jury does now.]

 

You see how great a crowd of men has come to this trial. You are aware how great is the expectation of men, and how great their desire that the decisions of the courts of law should be severe and impartial. After a long interval, this is the first cause about matters of bloodshed which has been brought into court, though most shameful and important murders have been committed in that interval. All men hope that while you are praetor, these trials concerning manifest crimes, and the daily murders which take place, will be conducted with no less severity than this one. We who are pleading this cause adopt the exclamations which in other trials the accusers are in the habit of using. We entreat of you, Marcus Fannius, and of you, O judges, to punish crimes with the greatest energy; to resist audacious men with the greatest boldness; to consider that unless you show in this cause what your disposition is, the covetousness and wickedness, and audacity of men will increase to such a pitch that murders will take place not only secretly, but even here in the forum, before your tribunal, Marcus Fannius; before your feet, O judges, among the very benches of the court. In truth, what else is aimed at by this trial, except that it may be lawful to commit such acts? They are the accusers who have invaded this man's fortunes. He is pleading his cause as defendant, to whom these men have left nothing except misfortune. They are the accusers, to whom it was an advantage that the father of Sextus Roscius should be put to death. He is the defendant, to whom the death of his father has brought not only grief, but also poverty. They are the accusers, who have exceedingly desired to put this man himself to death. He is the defendant who has come even to this very trial with a guard, lest he should be slain here in this very place, before your eyes. Lastly, they are the accusers whom the people demand punishment on, as the guilty parties. He is the defendant, who remains as the only one left after the impious slaughter committed by them.

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