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YOUR mercy and your honesty, fellow citizens,2 which make you supreme and renowned throughout all nations, cause me the greatest apprehension in the face of the tyranny of Lucius Sulla. On the one hand, I fear that you may be outwitted through not believing others capable of acts which you yourselves regard as abominable; especially since all Sulla’s hopes depend upon crime and treachery, and since he thinks that he cannot be safe, unless he has shown himself ever worse and more detestable than you fear, so that when you are enslaved to him, you may cease because of your wretchedness to think of freedom. On the other hand, if you are on your guard, I fear that you may be more occupied in avoiding danger than in taking vengeance.
As to his satellites, I cannot sufficiently wonder that men bearing great names, made great by the deeds of distinguished ancestors, are willing to purchase dominion over you with their own slavery, and 387 prefer these two things joined with injustice to living free with the best of right. Glorious scions of the Bruti, Aemilii, and Lutatii,3 born to overthrow what their ancestors won by their prowess! For what did their forefathers defend against Pyrrhus, Hannibal, Philip and Antiochus, if not our liberty and our own hearthstones, and our privilege of submitting to nothing but the laws? All these things that caricature of Romulus4 holds in his possession, as if they had been wrested from foreigners; and not content with their destruction of so many armies, consuls, and other leading men, whom the fortune of war had swept away, he grows more cruel at a time when success turns most men from wrath to pity. Nay, he alone of all within the memory of man has devised punishment for those yet unborn,5 who are thus assured of outrage before they are of life. Worst of all, he has hitherto been protected by the enormity of his crimes, while you are deterred from trying to recover your liberty by the fear of a still more cruel slavery.
You must rouse yourselves, fellow citizens, and resist the tyrant, in order that he may not possess your spoils. You must not delay or look for help from prayers to the gods; unless haply you hope that Sulla is now weary or ashamed of his tyranny and that what he has criminally seized he will with still greater peril6 resign. On the contrary, he has sunk so low that he thinks nothing glorious 389 which is not safe, and regard every means of retaining his supremacy as honourable. Hence that state of repose and tranquillity combined with freedom, which many good men prized more highly than honours attended with toil, is a thing of the past; in these times one must either be slave or master, one must feel fear, citizens, or inspire it. For what else is left us? What human laws survive? What divine laws have not been violated? The Roman people, lately ruler of the nations, now stripped of power, repute and rights, without the means to live7 and an object of contempt, does not even retain the rations of slaves. A great part of our allies and of the people of Latium to whom you gave citizenship in return for distinguished services are robbed of it by one man, while a few of his minions, as a recompense for their crimes, have seized upon the ancestral homes of the guiltless commons. The laws, the courts,8 the treasury, the provinces, the kings, in fact, the power of life and death over our citizens are in the hands of one man. You have even beheld human sacrifices9 and tombs stained with the blood of citizens. If you are men, is anything left to you except to put an end to oppression or to die valiantly? For of a truth Nature has appointed one and the same end for all, even for those encased in steel, and no one awaits the last necessity, daring nothing, unless he has the heart of a woman.
But Sulla says that I am a sower of sedition, because I protest against the rewards paid to civil commotion; a lover of war, because I would reclaim 391 the rights of peace. Of course! since you cannot be safe and fully protected under Sulla’s dominion, unless Vettius of Picenum and the clerk Cornelius10 may squander the goods which others have honestly acquired; unless you all approve the proscription of innocent men because of their wealth, the tortures of distinguished citizens, a city depopulated by exile and murder, the goods of wretched citizens sold or given away as if they were the spoils of the Cimbri. Sulla blames me for having possessions which are derived from the goods of the proscribed. But in fact it is the very greatest of his crimes that neither I nor anyone else would have been safe if we did what was right. Moreover, the property which at that time I bought through fear and paid for I nevertheless restore now to its rightful owners, and it is not my purpose to allow any booty to be taken from the citizens. Let it be enough to have endured what our frenzy has brought about — Roman armies pitted against each other, our arms turned away from the enemy and against ourselves. Let there be an end to crime and outrage; of which, however, Sulla is so far from repenting that he counts them among his titles to glory, and, if he were allowed, would more eagerly do them again.
But now I care no longer what you think of him, but what you dare; for while you are all waiting for someone else to assume the lead, I fear lest you may be caught, not by his forces, which are insignificant and degenerate, but through your own indifference, which allows him to continue his course of rapine and to seem fortunate11 in proportion to his audacity. For with the exception of his crime-stained minions, 393 who is on his side or who does not desire a complete change, retaining only the victory?12 Think you it is the soldiers, at the price of whose blood riches are won for vile slaves such as Tarula and Scirtus? Or is it those who are in suing for office were thought less worthy than Fufidius, a vile wench, the dishonour of all honours? It is because of acts like these that I rest my greatest confidence in the victorious army, which has gained nothing by so many wounds and hardships save a tyrant. Unless haply they took the field to overthrow the power of the tribunes, which their forefathers had established, and to rob themselves with their own hands of their rights and their jurisdiction13; richly rewarded, no doubt, when, banished to swamps and woods, they find that insult and hatred are their portion, that a handful of men gain the prizes!
Why then does the tyrant walk abroad with so great a following and with such assurance? Because success is a wonderful screen for vices; but let a reverse come, and he will be despised as much as he is now feared. Or perhaps he does it to make a pretence of peace and harmony, which are the names which he has applied to his guilt and treason. Furthermore, he declares that the republic cannot be established, and war ended, unless the commons are forever driven from their lands, the citizens cruelly plundered, and all rights and jurisdiction, once belonging to the Roman people, placed in his own hands. If this seems to you to be peace and order, show your approval of the utter demoralization and overthrow of the republic, bow to the laws which 395 have been imposed upon you, accept a peace combined with servitude and teach future generations how to run their country at the price of their own blood.
For my own part, although by attaining this the highest of offices14 I had done enough to live up to the fame of my ancestors as well to secure my own dignity, and even my safety, yet it was not my intention to pursue my private interests, but I looked upon freedom united with danger as preferable to peace with slavery. If you are of the same mind, citizens of Rome, rouse yourselves and with the kindly aid of the gods follow Marcus Aemilius, your consul, who will be your leader and champion in recovering your freedom!
1 This attack on Sulla’s rule was made in 78 B.C., the year of the consulship of Q. Lutatius Catulus and M. Aemilius Lepidus.
2 With the beginning of this speech compare that of the Corinthians to the Lacedaemonians, Thuc. 1. 68.
3 He refers to D. Junius Brutus, consul in 77, his colleague Mam. Aemilius Lepidus and Q. Lutatius Catulus, consul in 78.
4 Since Sulla planned a reorganization of the state, he is compared with the founder of Rome.
5 By providing that the children of the proscribed should not be allowed to hold office; see Velleius, 2, 28. 4 and Cat. xxxvii. 9.
6 That is, greater than the risk which he ran in usurping his power.
7 Since Sulla had repealed the laws which gave cheap grain to the populace.
8 Since Sulla confined the right of serving as jurors to the senatorial order, taking it from the knights.
9 Marius Gratidianus was immolated at the tomb of the Lutatian gens; see Valerius Maximus, 9, 2. 1.
10 According to Cicero (Off. 2. 29) he was a clerk in Sulla’s dictatorship and a quaestor in Caesar’s.
11 Playing upon Sulla’s surname of Felix.
12 The meaning is that even the members of Sulla’s own party (praeter satellites commaculatos) are dissatisfied with everything except their victory (in the civil war), and would gladly see everything else changed.
13 See note on § 13, above.
14 The consulship.
1 Clementia et probitas vostra, Quirites, quibus per ceteras gentis maxumi et clari estis, plurumum timoris mihi faciunt advorsum tyrannidem L. Sullae, ne, quae ipsi nefanda aestumatis, ea parum credundo de aliis circumveniamini — praesertim cum illi spes omnis in scelere atque perfidia sit neque se aliter tutum putet, quam si peior atque intestabilior metu vostro fuerit, quo captis libertatis curam miseria eximat — aut, si provideritis, in tutandis16 periculis magis quam ulciscendo teneamini.
2 Satellites quidem eius, homines maxumi nominis optumis maiorum exemplis, nequeo satis mirari, qui dominationis in vos servitium suum mercedem 386 dant et utrumque per iniuriam malunt quam optumo iure liberi agere, 3 praeclara Brutorum atque Aemiliorum et Lutatiorum proles, geniti ad ea quae maiores virtute peperere subvortunda. 4 Nam quid a Pyrrho, Hannibale, Philippoque et Antiocho defensum est aliud quam libertas et suae cuique sedes, neu cui nisi legibus pareremus? 5 Quae cuncta scaevos17 iste Romulus quasi ab externis rapta tenet, non tot excercituum clade neque consulum et aliorum principum, quos fortuna belli consumpserat, satiatus, sed tum crudelior, cum plerosque secundae res in miserationem ex ira vortunt. 6 Quin solus omnium post memoriam humani generis18 supplicia in post futuros composuit, quis prius iniuria quam vita certa esset, pravissumeque per sceleris immanitatem adhuc tutus fuit, dum vos metu gravioris serviti a repetunda libertate terremini.
7 Agundum atque obviam eundum est, Quirites, ne spolia vostra penes illum19 sint, non prolatandum neque votis paranda auxilia. Nisi forte speratis taedium iam aut pudorem tyrannidis Sullae esse et eum per scelus occupata periculosius dimissurum. 8 At ille eo processit, ut nihil gloriosum nisi tutum et 388 omnia retinendae dominationis honesta aestumet.9 Itaque illa quies et otium cum libertate, quae multi probi potius quam laborem cum honoribus capessebant, nulla sunt; 10 hac tempestate serviundum aut imperitandum, habendus metus est aut faciundus, Quirites. Nam quid ultra? 11 Quaeve humana superant aut divina impolluta sunt? Populus Romanus, paulo ante gentium moderator, exutus imperio,20 gloria, iure, agitandi inops despectusque, ne servilia quidem alimenta reliqua habet. 12 Sociorum et Lati magna vis civitate pro multis et egregiis factis a vobis data per unum prohibentur et plebis innoxiae patrias sedes occupavere pauci satellites mercedem scelerum. 13 Leges, iudicia, aerarium, provinciae, reges penes unum, denique necis civium et vitae licentia. 14 Simul humanas hostias vidistis et sepulcra infecta sanguine civili. 15 Estne viris reliqui aliud quam solvere iniuriam aut mori per virtutem? Quoniam quidem unum omnibus finem natura vel ferro saeptis statuit neque quisquam extremam necessitatem nihil ausus nisi muliebri ingenio exspectat.
16 Verum ego seditiosus, uti Sulla ait, qui praemia turbarum queror, et bellum cupiens, qui iura pacis 390 repeto. 17 Scilicet, quia non aliter salvi satisque tuti in imperio eritis, nisi Vettius Picens et scriba Cornelius aliena bene parata21 prodegerint; nisi approbaritis omnes proscriptionem innoxiorum ob divitias, cruciatus virorum illustrium, vastam urbem fuga et caedibus, bona civium miserorum quasi Cimbricam praedam venum aut dono datam. 18 At obiectat mihi possessiones ex bonis proscriptorum; quod quidem scelerum illius vel maxumum est, non me neque quemquam omnium satis tutum fuisse, si recte faceremus. Atque illa, quae tum formidine mercatus sum, pretio soluto iure dominis tamen restituo, neque pati consilium est ullam ex civibus praedam esse. 19 Satis illa fuerint, quae rabie contracta toleravimus, manus conserentis inter se Romanos exercitus et arma ab externis in nosmet vorsa; scelerum et contumeliarum omnium finis sit; quorum adeo Sullam non paenitet, ut et facta in gloria numeret et, si liceat, avidius fecerit.
20 Neque iam quid existumetis de illo, sed quantum audeatis vereor, ne alius alium principem expectantes ante capiamini, non opibus eius, quae futiles et corruptae sunt, sed vostra socordia, qua raptum ire licet22 et quam audeat,23 tam videri Felicem. 21 Nam praeter satellites commaculatos quis eadem 392 volt aut quis non omnia mutata praeter victoriam24? Scilicet milites, quorum sanguine Tarulae Scirtoque, pessumis servorum, divitiae partae sunt? 22 An quibus praelatus in magistratibus capiundis Fufidius, ancilla turpis, honorum omnium dehonestamentum? Itaque maxumam mihi fiduciam parit victor exercitus, cui per tot volnera et labores nihil praeter tyrannum quaesitum est. 23 Nisi forte tribuniciam potestatem evorsum profecti sunt per arma, conditam a maioribus suis, utique iura et iudicia sibimet extorquerent, egregia scilicet mercede, cum relegati in paludes et silvas contumeliam atque invidiam suam, praemia penes paucos intellegerent.25
24 Quare igitur tanto agmine atque animis incedit? Quia secundae res mire sunt vitiis optentui, quibus labefactis,26 quam formidatus est, tam contemnetur. Nisi forte specie concordiae et pacis, quae sceleri et parricidio suo nomina indidit. Neque aliter rem publicam et belli finem ait, nisi maneat expulsa agris plebes, praeda civilis acerbissuma, ius iudiciumque omnium rerum penes se, quod populi Romani fuit. 25 Quae si vobis pax et composita intelleguntur, maxuma turbamenta rei publicae atque exitia probate, 394 annuite legibus impositis, accipite otium cum servitio et tradite exemplum posteris ad rem publicam suimet sanguinis mercede circumveniundam!
26 Mihi quamquam per hoc summum imperium satis quaesitum erat nomini maiorum, dignitati atque etiam praesidio, tamen non fuit consilium privatas opes facere, potiorque visa est periculosa libertas quieto servitio. 27 Quae si probatis, adeste, Quirites, et bene iuvantibus divis M. Aemilium consulem ducem et auctorem sequimini ad recipiundam libertatem!
15 Histories, i. 55; see Introd. pp. xiii. ff. V = Codex Vaticanus, 3864; + = copies of V.
16 tutandis, V: vitandis, Asulanus.
17 scaevus, V; saevus, codd. Servii.
18 generis, supplied by Orelli; hominum, Aldus.
19 illum, Corte; illos, V.
20 imperii, Mommsen.
21 parta, Orelli.
22 qua raptum ire, Madvig; quam raptum ire, V.
23 quam audeat, Corte; quam audeas, V.
24 praeter victoriam, Müller; propter victoriam, V; victorem, Kritz.
25 intellegerent, V; intellegerint, Orelli.
26 labefactis, Mähly; labefacti, mss.