Text #820

Dio Cassius. Roman History. Vol. 3
[DioCass. 39. Translated by Earnest Cary. Harvard University Press. 1914. (9 Vols.) pp. 335--337]


For a season, then, Milo served as an excuse for their (Clodius) taunts and assassinations. But about this time some portents occurred: on the Alban Mount a small temple of Juno, set on a kind of table facing the east, was turned around toward the north; a blaze of light darted from the south across to the north; A wolf entered the city; an earthquake occurred; Some of the citizens were killed by thunderbolts; In the Latin territory a subterranean tumult was heard; and the soothsayers, being anxious to find a remedy, said that some divinity was angry with them because some temples or consecrated sites were being used for residence.

Then Clodius substituted Cicero for Milo and not only attacked him vigorously in a speech because the site of the house he had built upon was dedicated to Liberty, but even went to it once, with the intention of razing it anew to the ground; but he did not do so, as he was prevented by Milo. Cicero, however, was as angry with him as if he had actually accomplished his purpose, and kept making accusations. Finally, taking with him Milo and some tribunes, he ascended the Capitol and took down the tablets set up by Clodius to commemorate his exile. This time Clodius came up with his brother Gaius, a praetor, and took them away from him, but later he watched for a time when Clodius was out of town, and going up to the Capitol again, took them and carried them home. After this occurrence no quarter was shown on either side, but they abused and slandered each other as much as they could, without refraining from the basest means. The one declared that the tribuneship of Clodius had been contrary to the laws and that therefore his official acts were invalid, and the other that Cicero’s exile had been justly decreed and his return unlawfully voted.

Text #822

Cicero. Orations. Vol. 3
[Cic. Har. 62--63. Translated by C. D. Yonge. George Bell and Sons. 1875. (4 Vols.) pp. 100--101]

62 But if other more ordinary and more trifling occurrences have often influenced us, shall not the express voice of the immortal gods influence every one’s mind? Do not think that really possible, which you often see in plays, that some god descending from heaven can approach the assemblies of men, and abide on earth, and converse with men. Consider the description of noise which the Latins have reported. Remember that prodigy also, which has not as yet been formally reported, that at almost the same time a terrible earthquake is said to have taken place in the Picenian district, at Potentia, with many other terrible circumstances;—these things which we foresee you will fear as impending over the city.

63 In truth, this ought almost to be considered as the voice and speech of the immortal gods, when the world itself and the air and the earth tremble with a certain unusual agitation, and prophecy to us with an unprecedented and incredible sound. On this emergency we must appoint atonements and prayers as we are ordered; but it is easy to address prayers to those beings who of their own accord point out to us the path of safety. Our own internal quarrels and dissensions must be terminated by ourselves.

Text #9741

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

This earthquake occurred a few weeks before Cicero’s oration “On the Responses of the Haruspices”, delivered between 6-14 May 56 BC.

Cicero soon after his consulship, had purchased the house of Marcus Crassus on the Palatine Hill, which adjoined that in which he had always lived with his father; it was one of the finest houses in Rome, and cost him nearly thirty thousand pounds, and was joined to the colonnade or portico called by the name of Catulus, who had built it out of the Cimbric spoils on that area where Flaccus formerly lived, whose house had been demolished by public authority for his seditious union with Caius Gracchus.

As soon as Clodius had carried his decree against Cicero after his flight, he immediately began plundering and destroying all his houses; the consuls, Piso and Gabinius, divided the greater part of his furniture and of the ornaments of his house and villa between them; and, in the hope of making the loss of his house at Rome irretrievable, Clodius consecrated the area on which it stood to the service of religion, building on it a temple to Liberty, and he pulled down the adjoining portico of Catulus in order to rebuild it of the same order as the temple. The law being that a consecration, legally performed, made the thing consecrated inapplicable ever after to any private use.

The affair was to be determined by the college of priests, who were the judges in all cases relating to religion; since the senate could only make a provisional decree, that, if the priests discharged the ground from the service of religion, then in that case the consuls should rebuild the house at the public charge. The cause now came before the priests on the last day of September. Cicero endeavoured, in the first place, to disabuse their minds of any enmity to him which might have been instilled into their minds by Clodius on account of his late conduct with respect to Pompey. (For there had been a great scarcity at Rome, partly occasioned by the great multitudes that had come from all parts of Italy on Cicero’s account; and Cicero had supported a resolution of the senate by which Pompey was entreated to undertake the province of restoring plenty to the city, and to this end the consuls had been ordered to draw up a law by which the whole administration of the corn and provisions of the republic was granted to Pompey for five years. And in consequence of Cicero’s advocacy of the measure Clodius endeavoured to excite odium against him, as having deserted the cause of the senate to pay court to Pompey; though the measure had been very successful, as the credit of Pompey’s name immediately reduced the price of provisions in the markets.)

As, however, the main question turned upon the legality of the consecration, Cicero applies to establish the fact of its illegality by proving that Clodius could not legally consecrate anything, as his election to the tribunate was illegal; since his adoption into a plebeian family, or at least into that particular family into which he had been adopted, was in violation and defiance of all the laws made for such cases; if his adoption was illegal, clearly he could not have legally been elected tribune, nor have legally done any action as tribune.

The priests decided that if he who performed the office of consecration had not been legally authorized to do so, then the area in question might without any scruple of religion be restored to Cicero. The point of law they left to the senate, who, after many interruptions from Clodius and Serranus, passed a decree that Cicero’s damage should be made good to him, and his houses rebuilt at the public charge.

Cicero himself thought very highly of this speech, and published it immediately; and says, in one of his letters to Atticus, (iv. 2) that if ever he was great in speaking, he was so especially now, as his indignation and the greatness of the injury done to him gave him especial energy and force of oratory. Some critics, but apparently without any good reason, have doubted the genuineness of this oration.1


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