Cicero of Arpinum: A Political and Literary Biography Being a Contribution to the History of Ancient Civilization and a Guide to the Study of Cicero's Writings

By E. G. Sihler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
THE FIRST PUBLIC CASE OF CICERO

80 B. C.

IN this year the dictator himself assumed the consulate, having for his colleagues one of his chief lieutenants, Metellus Pius. This year also in a way brought the first test of Sulla's constitution. The form of a republic was to be gradually restored.

A very wealthy elderly gentleman of Ameria, Sextus Roscius, had been murdered in the year 81, at night (18), near the Pallacinian baths,1 which were not far from the Flaminian Circus. The murdered man had been for a long time in a state of feud with two kinsmen (17) called Roscius like himself and domiciled at Ameria, in Southern Umbria, a few miles east of the Tiber. The crime of this assassination took place after the last hour of daylight, and at the dawn of the next morning a message with the news had been carried the fifty-six odd miles north, not to the home of the murdered man, but to one of the hostile kinsmen, Titus Roscius Capito. The facts of this crime, both those revealed and those hidden, are a curious and typical symptom of the subversal bound up with, and produced by, Sulla's autocratic power. Evidently the kindred Roscii made some pact with one of the dictator's freedmen, Cornelius Chyrsogonus, that he was to share in the estate of the murdered man, and as a requital save them from ulterior consequences (21 sq.). The date of the limitation indeed had gone by (June 1, 81), the time up to which any names should or could be proscribed: the proscribing was to be a retroactive legalization of the murder, the rich loot being divided among the two cousins and the favorite of Sulla. What a risk for the young pleader! As a matter of fact he took pains to separate the omnipotent dictator from his freedman. "All these things, gentlemen of the jury (21), I surely know are done without the knowledge of L. Sulla (22), and no wonder, since he at the same time both remedies2 what has gone by, and organizes those things which seem to be on the threshold of the

____________________
1
H. Jordan, Hermes 2, 76, sqq.
2
sanet: other readings are reparet or curet.

-46-

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