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Readings on Roman Men and Women

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                                       Roman Men and Women: Generalizations and Exceptions

    Text adaptations and notes by Brittany Blagburn and Jessalynn Bird.


    Class Plan (one 75 minute college class or several shorter classes)

    Before class, read the scanned chapter from Barrow’s book on the Romans about Roman women (or another textbook).  Then, also before class, read your assigned document from the selection below.

    Group 1 reads Livy.

    Group 2 reads Hortensia’s speech.

    Group 3 reads the Laudatio.

    Group 4 reads Cicero on Clodia.


    Be prepared to discuss the following questions in class.

    1. What does Barrow (textbook chapter) say about the opportunities afforded to and limitations imposed on Roman women and men?

    2. How do these compare and contrast to the statuses of Greek women and men?

    3. Does your assigned document confirm or contradict the picture of the life of Roman women depicted by Barrow? Be prepared to point to specific passages and explain how they either confirm or contest Barrow’s picture of Roman women and Roman men.

    After sharing and discussing our documents, we will look at other forms of surviving evidence.

    1. Are there any interesting parallels or contradictions between textual evidence and surviving artistic and archeological evidence (see the Powerpoint) for Roman women and men?

    2. How has the historical record been altered by which statues and monuments from Rome have been selected for display in museums? What does this tell us about the power of museums to shape our perception of the past? (see the links in the document on Africans living in the Roman empire).

    3. Will social media undermine or contest the power of scholars and/or museums to shape impressions (Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc)? Is social media’s power to put images out there a positive or negative influence on our perceptions of the past as it relates to the present? Can you think of specific examples of this?


                                                        DOCUMENTS ON ROMAN MEN AND WOMEN


    Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, trans. George Baker, 6 vols. (London: A.J. Valpy, 1833-1844), vol. 4, pp. 406-414.

    Livy’s history dates from the late 1st century BCE to the early 1st century CE and influenced many later writers, including Machiavelli [1].


    Bk. 34.1. Amid the serious concerns of so many important wars, some scarcely ended, and others impending, an incident intervened, which may seem too trivial to be mentioned, but which, through the zeal of the parties concerned, occasioned a violent contest. Marcus Fundanius and Lucius Valerius, plebeian tribunes [2], proposed to the people the repealing of the Oppian law. This law, which had been introduced by Caius Oppius, plebeian tribune, in the consulate of Quintus Fabius and Tiberius Sempronius, during the heat of the Punic war [3], enacted, that “no woman should possess more than half an ounce of gold, or wear a garment of various colors, or ride in a carriage drawn by horses, in a city, or any town, or any place, nearer thereto than one mile; except on occasion of some public religious solemnity.”

    Marcus and Publius Junius Brutus, plebeian tribunes, supported the Oppian law, and declared that they would never allow it to be repealed; while many of the nobility stood forth to argue for and against the motion proposed. The Capitol was filled with crowds, who favored or opposed the law; nor could the matrons [4] be kept at home, either by advice or shame, nor even by the commands of their husbands; but beset every street and pass in the city; beseeching the men as they went down to the Forum [5], that in the present flourishing state of the commonwealth, when the public prosperity was daily increasing, they would permit the women so far to partake of it, as to have their former ornaments of dress restored. This throng of women increased daily, for they arrived even from the country towns and villages; and had at length the boldness to come up to the consuls [6], prætors [7], and other magistrates [8], to urge their request. One of the consuls, however, they found inexorable—Marcus Porcius Cato [9], who, in support of the law proposed to be repealed, spoke to this effect:—

    Bk 34.2. “If, Romans, every individual among us had made it a rule to maintain the prerogative and authority of a husband with respect to his own wife, we should have less trouble with the whole sex. But now, our privileges, overpowered at home by female contempt, are, even here in the Forum, spurned and trodden under foot; and because we are unable to withstand each separately, we now dread their collective body. I was accustomed to think it a fabulous and fictitious tale, that, in a certain island, the whole race of males was utterly abolished by a conspiracy of the women. But the utmost danger may be apprehended equally from either sex, if you suffer conspiracies and secret consultations to be held: scarcely, indeed, can I determine, in my own mind, whether the act itself, or the precedent that it affords, is of more dangerous tendency. The latter of these more particularly concerns us consuls, and the other magistrates; the former, you, my fellow-citizens. For, whether the measure, proposed to your consideration, be profitable to the state or not, is to be determined by you, who are to vote on the occasion.

    As to the outrageous behavior of these women, whether it be merely an act of their own, or owing to your instigations, Marcus Fundanius and Lucius Valerius, it unquestionably implies culpable conduct in magistrates. I know not whether it reflects greater disgrace on you, tribunes, or on the consuls: on you certainly, if you have brought these women here for the purpose of raising tribunician seditions; on us, if we suffer laws to be imposed on us by a secession of women, as was done formerly by that of the common people. It was not without painful emotion of shame, that I, just now, made my way into the Forum, through the midst of a band of women. Had I not been restrained by respect for the modesty and dignity of some individuals among them, rather than of the whole number; and been unwilling that they should be seen rebuked by a consul, I should not have refrained from saying to them, ‘What sort of practice is this, of running out into public, besetting the streets, and addressing other women’s husbands? Could not each have made the same request to her husband at home? Are your blandishments more seducing in public than in private; and with other women’s husbands than with your own? Although if females would let their modesty confine them within the limits of their own rights, it did not become you, even at home, to concern yourselves about any laws that might be passed or repealed here.’

    Our ancestors thought it not proper that women should perform any, even private business, without a director; but that they should be ever under the control of parents, brothers, or husbands. We, it seems, permit them, now, to interfere in the management of state affairs, and to thrust themselves into the Forum, into general assemblies, and into assemblies of election. For, what are they doing, at this moment, in your streets and lanes? What but arguing, some in support of the motion of tribunes; others, contending for the repeal of the law? Will you give the reins to their intractable nature, and then expect that themselves should set bounds to their licentiousness, and without your interference! This is the smallest of the injunctions laid on them by usage or the laws, all of which, women bear with impatience: they long for entire liberty; nay, to speak the truth, not for liberty, but for unbounded freedom in every particular. For what will they not attempt, if they now come off victorious? Recollect all the institutions respecting the sex, by which our forefathers restrained their profligacy, and subjected them to their husbands; and yet, even with the help of all these restrictions, they can scarcely be kept within bounds. If, then, you suffer them to throw these off one by one, to tear them all asunder, and, at last, to be set on an equal footing with yourselves; can you imagine that they will be any longer tolerable? Permit them once to arrive at an equality with you, and they will from that moment become your superiors.

    Bk 34.3. “But, indeed, they only object to any new law being made against them: they mean to deprecate, not justice, but severity. Nay, their wish is, that a law which you have admitted, established by your suffrages, and found in the practice and experience of so many years to be beneficial, should now be repealed; and that by abolishing one law, you should weaken all the rest. No law perfectly suits the convenience of every member of the community: the only consideration is, whether, upon the whole, it be profitable to the greater part. If, because a law proves obnoxious to a private individual, it must therefore be canceled and annulled, to what purpose is it for the community to enact laws, which those, whom they were particularly intended to comprehend, could presently repeal? Let us, however, inquire what this important affair is which has induced the matrons thus to run out into public in this indecorous manner, scarcely restraining from pushing into the Forum and the assembly of the people. Is it to solicit that their parents, their husbands, children, and brothers, may be ransomed from captivity under Hannibal [10]? By no means: and far be ever from the commonwealth so unfortunate a situation. Yet, when such was the case, you refused this to the prayers which, upon that occasion, their duty dictated. But it is not duty, nor solicitude for their friends; it is religion that has collected them together. They are about to receive the Idæan Mother [11], coming out of Phrygia from Pessinus [12].


    Picture of the Roman Forum taken by J. Miers in Rome, Italy.

    What motive, that even common decency will allow to be mentioned, is pretended for this female insurrection? Hear the answer: That we may shine in gold and purple; that, both on festival and common days, we may ride through the city in our chariots, triumphing over vanquished and abolished law, after having captured and wrested from you your suffrages; and that there may be no bounds to our expenses and our luxury. Often have you heard me complain of the profuse expenses of the women—often of those of the men; and that not only of men in private stations, but of the magistrates: and that the state was endangered by two opposite vices, luxury and frugality: those pests, which have ever been the ruin of every great state. These I dread the more, as the circumstances of the commonwealth grow daily more prosperous and happy: as the empire increases; as we have passed over into Greece and Asia, places abounding with every kind of temptation that can inflame the passions; and as we have begun to handle even royal treasures: for I greatly fear that these matters will rather bring us into captivity, than we them. Believe me, those statues from Syracuse [13] made their way into this city with hostile effect. I already hear too many commending and admiring the decorations of Athens [14] and Corinth [15], and ridiculing the earthen images of our Roman gods that stand on the fronts of their temples. For my part I prefer these gods,—propitious as they are, and I hope will continue, if we allow them to remain in their own mansions.

    In the memory of our fathers, Pyrrhus, by his ambassador Cineas [16], made trial of the dispositions, not only of our men, but of our women also, by offers of presents: at that time the Oppian law, for restraining female luxury, had not been made: and yet not one woman accepted a present. What, do you think, was the reason? That for which our ancestors made no provision by law on this subject: there was no luxury existing which might be restrained. As diseases must necessarily be known before their remedies, so passions come into being before the laws, which prescribe limits to them. What called forth the Licinian law, restricting estates to five hundred acres, but the unbounded desire for enlarging estates [17]? What the Cincian law, concerning gifts and presents, but that the plebeians [18] had become vassals and tributaries to the senate [19]? It is not therefore in any degree surprising, that no want of the Oppian law, or of any other, to limit the expenses of the women, was felt at that time, when they refused to receive gold and purple that was thrown in their way, and offered to their acceptance. If Cineas were now to go round the city with his presents, he would find numbers of women standing in the public streets to receive them.

    Bk 34.4. “There are some passions, the causes or motives of which I can no way account for. To be debarred of a liberty in which another is indulged, may perhaps naturally excite some degree of shame or indignation; yet, when the dress of all is alike, what inferiority in appearance can any one be ashamed of? Of all kinds of shame, the worst, surely, is the being ashamed of frugality or of poverty; but the law relieves you with regard to both; you want only that which it is unlawful for you to have. This equalization, says the rich matron, is the very thing that I cannot endure. Why do not I make a figure, distinguished with gold and purple? Why is the poverty of others concealed under this cover of a law, so that it should be thought that, if the law permitted, they would have such things as they are not now able to procure. Romans, do you wish to excite among your wives an emulation of this sort, that the rich should wish to have, what no other can have; and that the poor, lest they should be despised as such, should extend their expenses beyond their abilities?

    Be assured that when a woman once begins to be ashamed of what she ought not to be ashamed of, she will not be ashamed of what she ought. She who can, will purchase out of her own purse; she who cannot, will ask her husband. Unhappy is the husband, both he who complies with the request, and he who does not; for what he will not give himself, another will. Now, they openly solicit favors from other women’s husbands; and, what is more, solicit a law and votes. From some they obtain them; although, with regard to you, your property, or your children, you would find it hard to obtain anything from them. If the law ceases to limit the expenses of your wife, you yourself will never be able to limit them. Do not suppose that the matter will hereafter be in the same state in which it was before the law was made on the subject. It is safer that a wicked man should never be accused, than that he should be acquitted; and luxury, if it had never been meddled with, would be more tolerable than it will be, now, like a wild beast, irritated by having been chained, and then let loose. My opinion is that the Oppian law ought on no account to be repealed. Whatever determination you may come to, I pray to all the gods to prosper it.”

    Bk 34.5. After him the plebeian tribunes, who had declared their intention of protesting, added a few words to the same purport. Then Lucius Valerius [20], who made the motion, spoke thus in support of it:—“If private persons only had stood forth to argue for and against the proposition which we have submitted to your consideration, I, for my part, thinking enough to have been said on both sides, would have waited in silence for your determination. But since a person of most respectable judgment, the consul, Marcus Porcius, has denounced our motion, not only by the influence of his opinion, which, had he said nothing, would carry very great weight, but also in a long and labored discourse, it becomes necessary to say a few words in answer. He has spent more words in rebuking the matrons, than in arguing against the measure proposed; and even went so far as to mention a doubt, whether the conduct which he censured in them, arose from themselves, or from our instigation. I shall defend the measure, not ourselves: for the consul threw out those insinuations against us, rather for argument’s sake, than as a serious charge. He has made use of the terms conspiracy and sedition; and, sometimes, secession of the women: because the matrons had requested of you, in the public street, that, in this time of peace, when the commonwealth is flourishing and happy, you would repeal a law that was made against them during a war, and in times of distress.

    I know that to declaim is an easy task: that strong expressions, for the purpose of exaggeration, are easily found; and that, mild as Marcus Cato is in his disposition, and gentle in his manners, yet in his speeches he is not only vehement, but sometimes even austere. What new thing, let me ask, have the matrons done in coming out into public in a body? Have they never before appeared in public? I will turn over your own Antiquities, and quote them against you. Hear now, how often they have done the same, and always to the advantage of the public. In the earliest period of our history, even in the reign of Romulus [21], when the Capitol [22] had been taken by the Sabines [23], and a pitched battle was fought in the Forum, was not the fight stopped by the matrons running in between the two armies [24]? When, after the expulsion of the kings, the legions [25] of the Volscians [26], under the command of Marcius Coriolanus, were encamped at the fifth stone, did not the matrons turn away that army, which would have overwhelmed this city [27]? Again, when the city was taken by the Gauls [28], whence was the gold procured for the ransom of it? Did not the matrons, by unanimous agreement, bring it into the public treasury? In the late war, not to go back to remote antiquity, when there was a want of money, did not the widows supply the treasury? And when new gods were invited hither to the relief of our distressed affairs, did not the matrons go out in a body to the sea-shore to receive the Idæan Mother [29]? The cases, he says, are dissimilar. It is not my purpose to produce similar instances; it is sufficient that I clear these women of having done anything new. Now, what nobody wondered at their doing, in cases which concerned all in common, both men and women, can we wonder at their doing, in a case peculiarly affecting themselves? But what have they done? We have proud ears, truly, if, though masters disdain not the prayers of slaves, we are offended at being asked a favor by honorable women.


    Giambologna's The Rape of the Sabine Women photographed by Yair Hakalai at the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, Italy.

    Bk. 34.6. “I come now to the question in debate, with respect to which the consul’s argument is two-fold: for, first, he is displeased at the thought of any law whatever being repealed; and then, particularly, of that law which was made to restrain female luxury. His mode of arguing, on the former head, in support of the laws in general, appeared highly becoming of a consul; and that, on the latter, against luxury, was quite conformable to the rigid strictness of his morals. Unless, therefore, I shall be able to point out to you which of his arguments, on both heads, are destitute of foundation, you may, probably, be led away by error. For while I acknowledge, that of those laws which are instituted, not for any particular time, but for eternity, on account of their perpetual utility, not one ought to be repealed; unless either experience proves it to be useless, or some state of the public affairs render it such; I see, at the same time, that those laws which particular seasons have required, are mortal (if I may use the term), and changeable with the times. Those made in peace, are generally repealed by war; those made in war, by peace; as in the management of a ship, some implements are useful in good weather, others in bad. As these two kinds are thus distinct in their nature, of which kind, do you think, is that law, which we now propose to repeal? Is it an ancient law of the kings, contemporary with the city itself? Or, what is next to that, was it written in the twelve tables by the decemvirs [30], appointed to form a code of laws [31]?

    Is it one, without which our ancestors thought that the honour of the female sex could not be preserved; and, therefore, we also have reason to fear, that, together with it, we should repeal the modesty and chastity of our females? Now, is there a man among you who does not know that this is a new law, passed more than twenty years ago, in the consulate of Quintus Fabius and Tiberius Sempronius? And as, without it, our matrons sustained, for such a number of years, the most virtuous characters, what danger is there of their abandoning themselves to luxury on its being repealed? For, if the design of passing that law was to check the passions of the sex, there would be reason to fear lest the repeal of it might operate as an incitement to them. But the real reason of its being passed, the time itself will show. Hannibal was then in Italy, victorious at Cannæ [32], possessed of Tarentum [33], of Arpi [34], of Capua [35], and seemed ready to bring up his army to the city of Rome. Our allies had deserted us. We had neither soldiers to fill up the legions, nor seamen to man the fleet [36], nor money in the treasury. Slaves, who were to be employed as soldiers, were purchased on condition of their price being paid to the owners, at the end of the war. The farmers of the revenues declared that they would contract to supply corn and other matters, which the challenges of the war required, to be paid for at the same time. We gave up our slaves to the oar, in numbers proportioned to our properties, and paid them out of our own pockets. All our gold and silver, in imitation of the example given by the senators, we dedicated to the use of the public. Widows and minors lodged their money in the treasury. We were prohibited from keeping in our houses more than a certain quantity of wrought gold or silver, or more than a certain sum of coined silver or brass. At such a time as this, were the matrons so eagerly engaged in luxury and dress, that the Oppian law was requisite to repress such practices? When the senate, because the sacrifice of Ceres [37] had been omitted, in consequence of all the matrons being in mourning, ordered the mourning to end in thirty days? Who does not clearly see that the poverty and distress of the state requiring that every private person’s money should be converted to the use of the public, [the state] enacted that law, with intent that it should remain in force so long only as the cause of enacting it should remain? For, if all the decrees of the senate, and orders of the people, which were then made to answer the necessities of the times, are to be of perpetual obligation, why do we refund their money to private persons? Why do we pay ready money to contractors for public services? Why are not slaves brought to serve in the army? Why do we not, private subjects, supply rowers as we did then?

    Bk 34.7. “Shall, then, every other class of people, every individual, feel the improvement in the state; and shall our wives alone reap none of the fruits of the public peace and tranquility? Shall we men have the use of purple, wearing the purple-bordered gown in magistracies and priests’ offices? Shall our children wear gowns bordered with purple? Shall we allow the privilege of such a dress to the magistrates of the colonies and borough towns, and to the very lowest of them here at Rome, the superintendents of the streets; and not only of wearing such an ornament of distinction while alive, but of being buried with it when dead; and shall we forbid the use of purple to women alone? And when you, the husband, may wear purple in your great coat, will you not permit your wife to have a purple cloak? Shall the furniture of your house be finer than your wife’s clothes? But with respect to purple, which will be worn out and consumed, I can see an unjust, indeed, but still some sort of reason, for parsimony: but with respect to gold, in which, excepting the price of the workmanship, there is no waste, what motive can there be for denying it to them? It rather serves as a useful fund for both public and private emergencies, as you have already experienced. He says there will be no emulation between individuals, when no one is possessed of it.

    But, in truth, it will be a source of grief and indignation to all, when they see those ornaments allowed to the wives of the Latin confederates which have been forbidden to themselves; when they see those riding through the city in their carriages, and decorated with gold and purple, while they are obliged to follow on foot, as if empire were seated in the country of the others, not in their own. This would hurt the feelings even of men, and what do you think must be its effect on those of weak women, whom even trifles can disturb? Neither offices of state, not of the priesthood, nor triumphs, nor badges of distinction, nor military presents, nor spoils, can fall to their share. Elegance of appearance, and ornaments, and dress, these are the women’s badges of distinction; in these they delight and glory; these our ancestors called the women’s world. What other change in their apparel do they make, when in mourning, except the laying aside their gold and purple? And what, when the mourning is over, except resuming them? How do they distinguish themselves on occasion of public thanksgivings and supplications, but by adding unusual splendor to their dress?

    But then, if you repeal the Oppian law, should you choose to prohibit any of those particulars which the law at present prohibits, you will not have it in your power; your daughters, wives, and even the sisters of some, will be less under your control. The bondage of women is never shaken off, without the loss of their friends; and they themselves look with horror on that freedom which is purchased with the loss of a husband or parent. Their wish is that their dress should be under your regulation, not under that of the law; and it ought to be your wish to hold them in control and guardianship, not in bondage; and to prefer the title of father or husband, to that of master. The consul just now made use of some hateful terms, calling it a female sedition and secession; because, I suppose, there is danger of their seizing the sacred mount, as formerly the angry plebeians did; or the Aventine [38]. Their feeble nature must submit to whatever you think proper to enjoin; and the greater power you possess, the more moderate ought you to be in the exercise of your authority.”

    Bk. 34.8. Notwithstanding all these arguments against the motion, the women next day poured out into public in much greater numbers, and, in a body, beset the doors of the protesting tribunes; nor did they retire until the tribunes withdrew their protest. There was then no farther hesitation, but every one of the tribes voted for the repeal. Thus was this law annulled, in the twentieth year after it had been made. [....]


    Photograph by Marie-Lan Nguyen of krater with a depiction of a Symposium on it found at the National Archaeological Museum, Madrid


    [1] An Italian Renaissance diplomat, philosopher, and writer.

    [2] The plebeian tribunes were the first public office open to plebeians and traditionally served to curb the power of the Roman Senate and magistrates. Tribunes could convoke and preside over the people’s assembly, could call the senate to meet and propose legislation to it. Tribunes could also act to protect plebeians in legal cases and could veto the consuls and other officials. An assault on the tribune’s person was punishable by death. Most of their powers were usurped by the emperors after the end of the Republic.

    [3] The Punic Wars were a series of vicious and long-running wars between Rome and the Carthaginians.

    [4] A married woman.

    [5] An area in the center of Rome that was home to many daily public activities such as shopping, speeches, and trials.

    [6] The highest political office for elected officials in the Roman Republic.

    [7] Judicial officials responsible for public games and equity in the Roman Republic.

    [8] Elected officials.

    [9] A noted orator and politician who represented the longing for the “good old days” of Rome and opposed Hellenizing influences. He was known for his simple lifestyle.

    [10] The archenemy of the Romans during the Punic Wars, a famous Carthaginian general.

    [11] The Great Idaean Mother of the Gods (Mater Deum Magna Idaea) was Cybele, an ancient eastern and Greco-Roman goddess.

    [12] Pessinus correlates to the modern day city of Ballihisar. This town, located in ancient Phrygia (a region in Asia Minor), was famed for its cult of Cybele.

    [13] A city on the Eastern coast of the island of Sicily.

    [14] A city in Greece.

    [15] A city in South-central Greece.

    [16] A Greek king and opponent of the early Roman Republic.  Cineas was a Thessalian advisor of Pyrrhus sent to negotiate peace with the Romans on at least two separate occasions. In general, the Romans considered the Greeks luxury-loving.

    [17] This was part of a series of laws proposed by two plebeian tribunes in 368 BCE, Lucius Sextus Lateranus and Gaius Licinius Stolo. Cato refers to a law which curbed private ownership of over 300 acres of public land and limited grazing rights on public land to no more than 100 cattle. This was an attempt to prevent the wealthy from encroaching on public lands traditionally allotted in small plots to plebeian farmers for subsistence farming. It appears to have had little effect.

    [18] General citizens of Ancient Rome.

    [19] Passed by a plebeian plebiscite, this law sought to reform the legal system by preventing advocates who presented cases from receiving compensation. The law was later extended to the regulation of other forms of gift-giving in an attempt to curb the influence of wealthy patricians at the expense of the plebeians.

    [20] A consul of the Roman Republic.

    [21] Legendary first king and founder of Rome.

    [22] Rome.

    [23] An ancient people living in Italy who inhabited the central Apennine Mountains.

    [24] This is the famous legend of the Sabine women, one of the founding myths of Rome.

    [25] The Roman army's largest military unit.

    [26] An ancient people living in Italy who inhabited the Liris River's upper valley.

    [27] According to Livy, Ab urbe Condita, 2:40, the legendary Roman general Coriolanus had defected to the Volscian side. His mother, Veturia, and wife, Volumnia, their two sons and the Roman matrons ventured into the Volscian camp and pleaded with Coriolanus to end the siege of Rome, which he did. A temple to the goddess Fortuna was built in honor of these women’s salvation of Rome.

    [28] An ancient Celtic people who inhabited continental Europe.

    [29] In Livy’s History, 5.25, after the sack of Rome by the Gauls, in order to fund a defensive colony to be founded on the Volscian frontier, a massive contribution from the Roman populace was requested. “Thus the city and territory came into the estimate. The money was drawn from the treasury, and the consular tribunes were commissioned to purchase gold with it. As there was not a sufficient supply, the matrons, after meeting to talk the matter over, made themselves by common consent responsible to the tribunes for the gold, and sent all their trinkets to the treasury. The senate were in the highest degree grateful for this, and the tradition goes that in return for this munificence the matrons had conferred upon them the honour of driving to sacred festivals and games in a carriage, and on holy days and work days in a two-wheeled car. The gold received from each was appraised in order that the proper amount of money might be paid for it, and it was decided that a golden bowl should be made and carried to Delphi as a gift to Apollo.” (Rev. Canon Roberts, trans., Livy’s History of Rome, vol. 1, J.M. Dent and Sons, Ltd., London, 1905). See footnote 27 above for the goddess.

    [30] Ten-man commissions of the Roman Republic.

    [31] The Romans venerated the laws of the Twelve Tables as their first formal code of law.

    [32] The Battle of Cannae was waged during the Second Punic War between the Roman Republic and Carthage.

    [33] An ancient Roman city located on the Southern coast of Apulia.

    [34] An ancient Roman city in Apulia.

    [35] A city in Southern Italy.

    [36] The Roman navy.

    [37] Ceres was a powerful deity associated with the well-being of cities (including Rome) and relations with the shades of the dead in the underworld. Roman women participated in rites in the temple of Ceres to mark life transition points and special sacrifices were made to the goddess at certain points in the year and in times of crisis for Rome. Mourning the dead made one ritually unclean and unable to offer sacrifice.

    [38] One of the seven hills that ancient Rome was built on.


    Hortensia makes a speech, from Appian’s Civil Wars, 4.32-4 (2nd century AD). Excerpted from Appian, The Civil Wars, trans. Horace White (London, MacMillan & Co., 1899).


    [In the midst of a reign of terror, when proscriptions [1] were used to seize the wealth of political opponents and citizens….]

    [ch. 4, sect. 23] Ligarius was concealed by his wife, who communicated the secret to only one female slave. Having been betrayed by the latter, she followed her husband's head as it was carried away, crying out, "I sheltered him; those who give shelter are to share the punishment." As nobody killed her or informed on her, she came to the triumvirs [2] and accused herself before them. Being moved by her love for her husband, they pretended not to see her. So she starved herself to death. I have mentioned her in this place because she failed to save her husband and would not survive him. I shall refer to those who were successful in their devotion to their husbands when I speak of the men who escaped. Other women betrayed their husbands infamously. Among these was the wife of Septimius, who had an affair with a certain friend of Antony [3]. Being impatient to exchange this illicit connection for matrimony, she besought Antony through her paramour to rid her of her husband. Septimius was at once put on the list of the proscribed. He learned this fact from his wife, and in ignorance of his domestic ills prepared for flight. She, as though with loving anxiety, closed the doors, and kept him until the murderers came. The same day that her husband was killed she celebrated her new nuptials.


    [ch.4, sect. 24] Salassus escaped, and, not knowing what to do with himself, came back to the city by night, thinking that the danger had mostly passed away. His house had been sold. The janitor, who had been sold with the house, was the only one who recognized him, and he received him in his room, promising to conceal him and feed him as well as he could. Salassus told the janitor to call his wife from her own house. She pretended to be very desirous to come, but to be fearful of the night and distrustful of her servants, and said that she would come at daybreak. When daylight came she went for the murderers. The janitor, because she was delaying, ran to her house to hasten her coming. When the janitor went out Salassus feared that he had gone to lay a plot against him, and went up to the roof to watch what would happen. Seeing that it was not the janitor but his wife who was bringing the murderers, he threw himself from the roof. Fulvius fled to the house of a female servant, who had been his mistress, and to whom he had given freedom and a dowry [4] on her marriage. Although she had been so well treated by him she betrayed him on account of jealousy of the woman whom Fulvius had married after his relations with her. Let these serve as examples of depraved women.


    [ch. 4, sect. 25] Statius, the Samnite, who had had great influence with the Samnites [5] during the social war and who had been raised to the rank of a Roman senator for his noble deeds, his wealth, and his lineage, and who was now eighty years of age, was proscribed on account of his riches. He threw open his house to the people and to his own slaves to carry away whatever they pleased. He also scattered his property around with his own hand. When at last the house was empty he closed the doors, set fire to it, and perished, and the fire spread to many other parts of the city. Capito, through his half-opened door, for a long time resisted those who had been sent against him, killing them one by one. Finally, he was overpowered by numbers and slain after killing single-handed many of his assailants. Vetulinus assembled around Rhegium a large force of the proscribed and those who had fled with them, and others from the eighteen cities which had been promised as rewards of victory to the soldiers and who were indignant at such treatment. With these men Vetulinus slew the centurions [6] who were scouting thereabouts, until a larger force was sent against him, and even then he did not desist, but passed over to Sicily [7] and joined Sextus Pompeius, who had mastered that island and who received the fugitives. There he fought bravely until he was defeated in several engagements. Then he sent his son and the remainder of the proscribed who were with him to Messana [8], and when he saw that their boat was passing the straits [9] he dashed upon the enemy and was cut in pieces


    [ch. 4, sect. 26] Naso, having been betrayed by a freedman [10] who had been his favorite, snatched a sword from one of the soldiers, and, having killed his betrayer with it, surrendered himself to the murderers. A slave who was devoted to his master left the latter on a hill while he went to the sea-shore to hire a boat. On his return he found that his master had been killed, and while he was breathing his last the slave called out to him, "Wait a moment, my master," whereupon he fell suddenly upon the centurion and slew him. Then he killed himself, saying to his master, "Now you have consolation." Lucius placed his gold in the hands of his two most faithful freedmen and started for the seashore. They ran away with it, and he turned around, despairing of his life, and gave himself up to the murderers. Labienus, who had captured and killed many persons in the time of the proscription of Sulla, thought that he would be disgraced if he did not bear himself bravely under similar circumstances. So he went to his front door, seated himself in a chair, and waited for the murderers. Cestius concealed himself in the fields among faithful slaves. When he saw centurions running here and there with weapons and the heads of the proscribed he could not endure the prolonged fear. He persuaded the slaves to light a funeral pyre [11], so that they might say that they were paying the last rites [12] to the dead Cestius. They were deceived by him and lighted the pyre accordingly, whereupon he leaped into it. Aponius concealed himself securely, but, as he could not endure the meanness of his diet, he came forth and delivered himself to slaughter. Another proscript voluntarily seated himself in full view, and, as the murderers delayed their coming, he strangled himself in public.


    [ch. 4, sect. 27] Lucius, the father-in-law of Asinius, who was then consul, fled by sea, but, as he could not endure the anguish of the storm, he leaped overboard. Sisinius fled from his pursuers, exclaiming that he was not proscribed, but that they had conspired against him on account of his money. They brought him to the proscription list and told him to read his name on it, and while he was reading killed him. Æmilius, not knowing that he was proscribed and seeing another man pursued, asked the pursuing centurion who the proscribed man was. The centurion, recognizing Æmilius, replied, "You and he," and killed them both. Cilo and Decius were going out of the senate-house when they learned that their names were on the list of the proscribed, but no one had yet gone in pursuit of them. They fled incontinently through the city gates, and their running betrayed them to the centurions whom they met on the road. Icilius, who was one of the judges in the trial of Brutus and Cassius [13] when Octavius [14] presided over the tribunal [15] with his army, and who, when all the other judges deposited secret ballots of condemnation, alone publicly deposited one of acquittal, now unmindful of his former magnanimity and independence put his shoulder under a dead body that was being conveyed to burial, and took a place among the carriers of the bier. The guards at the city gates noticed that the number of corpse-bearers was greater by one man than usual, but they did not suspect the bearers. They only searched the bier to make sure that it was not somebody counterfeiting a corpse, but, as the bearers fell into a dispute with Icilius as not being a member of their trade, he was recognized by the murderers and killed.


    [ch. 4, sect. 28] Varus, who was betrayed by a freedman, ran away, and after wandering from mountain to mountain came to a marsh at Minturnæ [16], where he stopped to take rest. The inhabitants of Minturnæ were mounting guard over this marsh in search of robbers, and the agitation of the reeds revealed the hiding-place of Varus. He was captured and said that he was a robber. He was condemned to death and resigned himself to his fate, but as they were preparing to subject him to torture to compel him to reveal his accomplices, he could not bear such an indignity. "I forbid you, citizens of Minturnæ," he said, "either to torture or to kill one who has been a consul and -- what is more important in the eyes of our present rulers -- also proscribed! If it is not permitted me to escape, I prefer to suffer at the hands of my equals." The Minturnians did not believe him. They discredited his story until a centurion, who was scouting in that neighborhood, recognized him, and cut off his head, leaving the remainder of his body to the Minturnians. Largus was captured in the fields by soldiers who were pursuing another man. They took pity on him because he had been captured when they were not seeking him, and allowed him to escape in the forest. Being pursued by others, he ran back to his first captors, saying, "I would rather that you, who had compassion on me, should kill me, so that you may have the reward instead of those men." Thus he recompensed them with his death for their kindness to him.


    Photograph by Carole Raddato of a theater in Minturnae, Italy

    [ch. 4, sect. 29] Rufus possessed a handsome house near that of Fulvia, the wife of Antony, which she had wanted to buy, but he would not sell it, and although he now offered it to her as a free gift, he was proscribed. His head was brought to Antony, who said it did not concern him and sent it to his wife. She ordered that it be fastened to the front of his own house instead of the rostra [17]. Another man had a very handsome and well-shaded country-place in which was a beautiful and deep grotto, on account of which probably he was proscribed. He was taking the air in this grotto when the murderers were observed by a slave, as they were coming toward him, but still some distance off. The slave conveyed him to the innermost recess of the grotto, dressed himself in his master's short tunic, pretended that he was the man and simulated alarm, and would have been killed on the spot had not one of his fellow-slaves exposed the trick. In this way the master was killed, but the people were so indignant that they gave the triumvirs no rest until they had obtained from them the crucifixion [18] of the slave who had betrayed his master, and the freedom of the one who had tried to save him. A slave revealed the hiding-place of Aterius and obtained his freedom in consequence. He had the impudence to bid against the sons at the sale of the dead man's property, and insulted them grossly. They followed him everywhere with silent tears till the people became exasperated, and the triumvirs made him again the slave of the sons of the proscript, for doing more than was needful. Such were the evils that befell the men.


    [ch. 5, sect. 30] The calamity extended to orphan children on account of their wealth. One of these, who was going to school, was killed, together with the attendant, who threw his arms around the boy and would not give him up. Atilius, who was just assuming the virile toga, went, as was customary, with a procession of friends to sacrifice in the temples. His name being put on the proscription list unexpectedly, his friends and servants ran away. Left alone, and bereft of his brilliant escort, he went to his mother. She was afraid to receive him. As he did not consider it safe to ask help from anybody else after his mother had failed him, he fled to a mountain. Hunger drove him down to the plain, where he was captured by a robber and committed to a workhouse. The delicate boy, unable to endure the toil, escaped to the high road with his fetters, revealed himself to some passing centurions, and was killed.


    [ch. 5, sect. 31] While these events were taking place, Lepidus enjoyed a triumph for his exploits in Spain, and an edict was displayed in the following terms: "In God's name, let it be proclaimed to all men and women that they celebrate this day with sacrifices and feasting. Whoever shall fail to do so shall be put on the list of the proscribed." Lepidus led the triumphal procession to the Capitol [19], accompanied by all the citizens, who showed the external appearance of joy, but were sad at heart. The houses of the proscribed were gutted, but there were not many buyers of their lands. Some were ashamed to add to the burdens of the unfortunate. Others thought that such property would bring them bad luck, or that it would not be quite safe for them to be seen with gold and silver in their possession, or that, as they were not free from danger with their present holdings, it would be extra-hazardous to increase them. Only the boldest spirits came forward and purchased at the lowest prices, because they were the only buyers. Thus it came to pass that the triumvirs, who had hoped to realize a sufficient sum for their preparations, were short 20,000,000 drachmas.


    [ch. 5, sect. 32] The triumvirs addressed the people on this subject and published an edict [20] requiring 1400 of the richest women to make a valuation of their property, and to furnish for the service of the war such portion as the triumvirs should require from each. It was provided further that if any should conceal their property or make a false valuation they should be fined, and that rewards should be given to informers, whether free persons or slaves. The women resolved to beseech the female relatives of the triumvirs. With the sister of Octavius and the mother of Antony they did not fail, but they were repulsed from the doors of Fulvia, the wife of Antony, whose rudeness they could scarce endure. They then forced their way to the tribunal of the triumvirs in the forum [21], the people and the guards dividing to let them pass. There, through the mouth of Hortensia [22], they spoke as follows, according to previous arrangement: "As is befitting women of our rank addressing a petition to you, we had recourse to your female relatives. Having suffered unseemly treatment on the part of Fulvia, we have been compelled by her to visit the forum. You have deprived us of our fathers, our sons, our husbands, and our brothers, whom you accused of having wronged you. If you take away our property also, you reduce us to a condition unbecoming our birth, our manners, our sex. If we have done you wrong, as you say our husbands have, proscribe us as you do them. If we women have not voted you public enemies, have not torn down your houses, destroyed your army, or led another one against you; if we have not hindered you in obtaining offices and honors, -- why do you visit upon us the same punishment as upon the guilty, whose offences we have not shared?


    [ch. 5, sect. 33] "Why should we pay taxes when we have no part in the honors, the commands, the state-craft, for which you contend against each other with such harmful results? 'Because this is a time of war,' do you say? When have there not been wars, and when have taxes ever been imposed on women, who are exempted by their sex among all mankind? Our mothers once for all rose superior to their sex and made contributions when you were in danger of losing the whole empire and the city itself through the conflict with the Carthaginians [23]. But then they contributed voluntarily, not from their landed property, their fields, their dowries, or their houses, without which life is not possible to free women, but only from their own jewelry, and not according to fixed valuation, not under fear of informers or accusers, not by force and violence, but what they themselves were willing to give. Who now causes you alarm for the empire or the country? Let war with the Gauls [24] or the Parthians [25] come, and we shall not be inferior to our mothers in zeal for the common safety; but for civil wars may we never contribute, nor ever assist you against each other. We did not contribute to Cæsar [26] or to Pompey [27]. Neither Marius [28] nor Cinna [29] imposed taxes upon us. Nor did Sulla [30], who held despotic power in the state, do so, whereas you say that you are reestablishing the commonwealth."


    [ch. 5, sect. 34] When Hortensia had thus spoken the triumvirs were angry that women should dare to hold a public meeting when the men were silent; that they should demand from magistrates [31] the reasons for their acts, and not furnish money while the men were serving in the army. They ordered the lictors [32] to drive them away from the tribunal, which they proceeded to do until cries were raised by the multitude outside, when the lictors desisted and the triumvirs said they would postpone till the next day the consideration of the matter. On the following day they reduced the number of women, who were to present a valuation of their property, from 1400 to 400, and decreed that all men who possessed more than 100,000 drachmas [33], both citizens and strangers, freedmen and priests, and men of all nationalities without a single exception, should (under the same dread of penalty and also of informers) lend them at interest a fiftieth part of their property and contribute one year's income to the war expenses.


    Image of a silver coin circulated in the Roman Republic

    [ch. 5, sect. 35] Such calamities befell the Romans from the orders of the triumvirs. Even worse ones were visited upon them by the soldiers in disregard of orders. Believing that they alone enabled the triumvirs to do what they were doing with impunity, some of them asked for the confiscated houses, or fields, or villas, or entire property of the proscribed. Others demanded that they should be made the adopted sons of rich men. Others, of their own motion, killed men who had not been proscribed, and plundered the houses of those who were not under accusation, so that the triumvirs were obliged to publish an edict that one of the consuls [34] should put a restraint upon those who were exceeding their orders. The consul did not dare to touch the soldiers lest he should excite their rage against himself, but he seized and crucified certain slaves who were masquerading as soldiers and committing outrages in company with them.


    [1] Proscriptions were published notices which listed Roman citizens who had been officially declared to be outlaws and whose goods were therefore open to confiscation. Outlawry put these individuals outside of the law, and those who killed or betrayed the proscribed were rewarded. Inversely, those who sheltered them were subject to severe punishments.  The properties of proscribed individuals were confiscated killing or betraying the proscribed, and severe penalties were inflicted on anyone harboring them. Their properties were confiscated, and their male descendants were barred from holding public office and from the Senate (thus closing the cursus honorum to the family).

    [2] The leaders of the Triumvirate (a political structure ruled by three people).

    [3] Mark Antony was a Roman politician and general during the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire.

    [4] Money or property given by a wife's family to her husband.

    [5] An ancient people who lived in South-central Italy.

    [6] A commander in the Roman army.

    [7] An island just off the Southwestern coast of Italy.

    [8] A city in Northeastern Sicily.

    [9] The Strait of Messina is a narrow strait between the eastern tip of Sicily and Southern Italy.

    [10] Ex-slaves who were granted citizenship.

    [11] Used to burn a body after death.

    [12] Signify a person's transition between the world of the living and the dead.

    [13] Two Roman senators who were involved in and led the assassination of Julius Caesar.

    [14] Also known as Caesar Augustus, he was the first Roman emperor.

    [15] A court of law.

    [16] An ancient Italian city.

    [17] A platform in the city of Rome that faced the senate and allowed speakers to deliver orations.

    [18] A form of capital punishment used by the Romans in which a person is either nailed or bound to a cross and left until they asphyxiate.

    [19] Rome.

    [20] An official order.

    [21] An area in the center of Rome that was home to many daily public activities such as shopping, speeches, and trials.

    [22] "Hortensia, the daughter of Q. Hortensius, when the matrons of Rome were burdened with a heavy tax by the triumvirs and no man dared undertake their defence, pleaded the cause of the women before the triumvirs with firmness and success. By the faithful reproduction of her father's eloquence she succeeded in getting the greater part of the pecuniary impost remitted. Quintus Hortensius lived again in his female line. He breathed once more in the words of his daughter. If his male descendants had been willing to follow this vigorous example, the eloquence of Hortensius, so great a heritage, would not have been reduced to a single pleading of a woman" (Valerius Maximus, viii. 3, 3).

    [23] People who lived in the ancient Phoenician city-state of Carthage which is located in present-day Tunisia.

    [24] Celtic people who lived in the region of Gaul in Western Europe.

    [25] People who lived in the Parthian Empire in ancient Iran.

    [26] Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman consul. 

    [27] Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus was a Roman general and statesman.

    [28] Gaius Marius was a Roman general and statesman who was involved in a civil war against.

    [29] Lucius Cornelius Cinna was a consul of the Roman Republic.

    [30] Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix was a Roman general and statesman who was involved in a civil war against Gaius Marius.

    [31] Elected officials in the Roman Republic.

    [32] A Roman social class made up of attendants to magistrates.

    [33] A form of currency once used in Greece.

    [34] The highest elected position in the Roman Republic.


    Laudatio Turiae (ILS 8393. Translation by E. Wistrand.)


    This lengthy funerary inscription is often titled 'Laudatio Turiae'. The form of the inscription follows that of the “laudatio,” or eulogy normally read aloud by the main heir of the deceased person at their funeral. In this case it is probably the woman’s husband. Her name has not been preserved, although some have sought to identify her with the wife of Quintus Lucretius Vespillo, consul [1] in 19 BC. Her deeds during the proscriptions [2] were related by the historians Valerius Maximus and Appian.


             ...of my wife

             (Left-hand column)

             (line 1)... through the honesty of your character ...

             (2) ... you remained ...

             (3) You became an orphan suddenly before the day of our wedding, when both your parents were murdered together in the solitude of the countryside. It was mainly due to your efforts that the death of your parents was not left unavenged. For I had left for Macedonia [3], and your sister's husband Cluvius had gone to the Province of Africa (in 49 BC) [4].

             (7) So strenuously did you perform your filial duty by your insistent demands and your pursuit of justice that we could not have done more if we had been present. But these merits you have in common with that most virtuous lady your sister.

             (10) While you were engaged in these things, having secured the punishment of the guilty, you immediately left your own house in order to guard your modesty and you came to my mother's house, where you awaited my return. (13) Then pressure was brought to bear on you and your sister to accept the view that your father's will, by which you and I were heirs, had been invalidated by his having contracted a coemptio [5] with his wife. If that was the case, then you together with all your father's property would necessarily come under the guardianship of those who pursued the matter; your sister would be left without any share at all of that inheritance, since she had been transferred to the potestas [6] of Cluvius. How you reacted to this, with what presence of mind you offered resistance, I know full well, although I was absent.

             (18) You defended our common cause by asserting the truth, namely, that the will had not in fact been broken, so that we should both keep the property, instead of your getting all of it alone. It was your firm decision that you would defend your father's written word; you would do this anyhow, you declared, by sharing your inheritance with your sister, if you were unable to uphold the validity of the will. And you maintained that you would not come under the state of legal guardianship, since there was no such right against you in law, for there was no proof that your father belonged to any gens [7] that could by law compel you to do this. For even assuming that your father's will had become void, those who prosecuted had no such right since they did not belong to the same gens.

             (25) They gave way before your firm resolution and did not pursue the matter any further. Thus you on your own brought to a successful conclusion the defense you took up of your duty to your father, your devotion to your sister, and your faithfulness towards me.


    Photograph by Ad Meskens of a sarcophagus with a marble relief of a marriage ceremony found in the Musée de l'Arles antique in Arles, France

             (27) Marriages as long as ours are rare, marriages that are ended by death and not broken by divorce. For we were fortunate enough to see our marriage last without disharmony for fully 40 years. I wish that our long union had come to its final end through something that had befallen me instead of you; it would have been more just if I as the older partner had had to yield to fate through such an event.

             (30) Why should I mention your domestic virtues: your loyalty, obedience, affability, reasonableness, industry in working wool, religion without superstition, sobriety of attire, modesty of appearance? Why dwell on your love for your relatives, your devotion to your family? You have shown the same attention to my mother as you did to your own parents, and have taken care to secure an equally peaceful life for her as you did for your own people, and you have innumerable other merits in common with all married women who care for their good name. It is your very own virtues that I am asserting, and very few women have encountered comparable circumstances to make them endure such sufferings and perform such deeds. Providentially Fate [8] has made such hard tests rare for women.

             We have preserved all the property you inherited from your parents under common custody, for you were not concerned to make your own what you had given to me without any restriction. We divided our duties in such a way that I had the guardianship of your property and you had the care of mine. Concerning this side of our relationship I pass over much, in case I should take a share myself in what is properly yours. May it be enough for me to have said this much to indicate how you felt and thought.

             (42) Your generosity you have manifested to many friends and particularly to your beloved relatives. On this point someone might mention with praise other women, but the only equal you have had has been your sister. For you brought up your female relations who deserved such kindness in your own houses with us. You also prepared marriage-portions [9] for them so that they could obtain marriages worthy of your family. The dowries [10] you had decided upon Cluvius and I by common accord took upon ourselves to pay, and since we approved of your generosity we did not wish that you should let your own financial consciousness suffer weakening but substituted our own money and gave our own estates as dowries. I have mentioned this not from a wish to commend ourselves but to make clear that it was a point of honor for us to execute with our means what you had conceived in a spirit of generous family affection.

             (52) A number of other benefits of yours I have preferred not to mention ... (several lines missing)

             (Right-hand column)

             (2a) You provided abundantly for my needs during my flight and gave me the means for a dignified manner of living, when you took all the gold and jewelry from your own body and sent it to me and over and over again enriched me in my absence with servants, money and provisions, showing great ingenuity in deceiving the guards posted by our adversaries.


    Photograph by Carole Raddato of a fresco of a woman found in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy

             (6a) You begged for my life when I was abroad  - it was your courage that urged you to this step - and because of your entreaties I was shielded by the clemency of those against whom you marshaled your words. But whatever you said was always said with undaunted courage.

             (9a) Meanwhile when a troop of men collected by Milo, whose house I had acquired through purchase when he was in exile, tried to profit by the opportunities provided by the civil war and break into our house to plunder, you beat them back successfully and were able to defend our home.

             (About 12 lines missing)

             (0) ... exist ... that I was brought back to my country by him (Caesar Augustus [11]), for if you had not, by taking care for my safety, provided what he could save, he would have promised his support in vain. Thus I owe my life no less to your devotion than to Caesar.

             (4) Why should I now hold up to view our intimate and secret plans and private conversations: how I was saved by your good advice when I was roused by startling reports to meet sudden and imminent dangers; how you did not allow me imprudently to tempt providence by an overbold step but prepared a safe hiding-place for me, when I had given up my ambitious designs, choosing as partners in your plans to save me your sister and her husband Cluvius, all of you taking the same risk? There would be no end, if I tried to go into all this. It is enough for me and for you that I was hidden and my life was saved.

             (11) But I must say that the bitterest thing that happened to me in my life befell me though what happened to you. When thanks to the kindness and judgment of the absent Caesar Augustus I had been restored to my county as a citizen, Marcus Lepidus, his colleague, who was present, was confronted with your request concerning my recall, and you lay prostrate at his feet, and you were not only not raised up but were dragged away and carried off brutally like a slave. But although your body was full of bruises, your spirit was unbroken and you kept reminding him of Caesar's edict [12] with its expression of pleasure at my reinstatement, and although you had to listen to insulting words and suffer cruel wounds, you pronounced the words of the edict in a loud voice, so that it should be known who was the cause of my deadly perils. This matter was soon to prove harmful for him.

             (19) What could have been more effective than the virtue you displayed? You managed to give Caesar an opportunity to display his clemency and not only to preserve my life but also to brand Lepidus' insolent cruelty by your admirable endurance.


    Photograph by Alberto Fernandez of a mosaic in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria

             (22) But why go on? Let me cut my speech short. My words should and can be brief, lest by dwelling on your great deeds I treat them unworthily. In gratitude of your great services towards me let me display before the eyes of all men my public acknowledgement that you saved my life.

             (25) When peace had been restored throughout the world and the lawful political order reestablished, we began to enjoy quiet and happy times. It is true that we did wish to have children, who had for a long time been denied to us by an envious fate. If it had pleased Fortune [13] to continue to be favorable to us as she was wont to be, what would have been lacking for either of us? But Fortune took a different course, and our hopes were sinking. The courses you considered and the steps you attempted to take because of this would perhaps be remarkable and praiseworthy in some other women, but in you they are nothing to wonder at when compared to your other great qualities and I will not go into them.

             (31) When you despaired of your ability to bear children and grieved over my childlessness, you became anxious lest by retaining you in marriage I might lose all hope of having children and be distressed for that reason. So you proposed a divorce outright and offered to yield our house free to another woman's fertility. Your intention was in fact that you yourself, relying on our well-known conformity of sentiment, would search out and provide for me a wife who was worthy and suitable for me, and you declared that you would regard future children as joint and as though your own, and that you would not effect a separation of our property which had already been held in common, but that it would still be under my control and, if I wished so, under your administration: nothing would be kept apart by you, nothing separate, and you would consequently take upon yourself the duties and the loyalty of a sister and a mother-in-law.

             (40) I must admit that I flared up so that I almost lost control of myself; so horrified was I by what you tried to do that I found it difficult to retrieve my composure. To think that separation should be considered between us before fate had so ordained, to think that you had been able to conceive in your mind the idea that you might cease to be my wife while I was still alive, although you had been utterly faithful to me when I was exiled and practically dead!

             (44) What desire, what need to have children could I have had that was so great that I should have broken faith for that reason and changed certainty for uncertainty? But no more about this! You remained with me as my wife, for I could not have given in to you without disgrace for me and unhappiness for both of us.

             (48) But on your part, what could have been more worthy of commemoration and praise than your efforts in devotion to my interests: when I could not have children from yourself, you wanted me to have them through your good offices, and since you despaired of bearing children, to provide me with offspring by my marriage to another woman.


    Photograph by Marie-Lan Ngyuen of a marble relief of a woman breastfeeding a baby found in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France

             (51) Would that the life-span of each of us had allowed our marriage to continue until I, as the older partner, had been borne to the grave - that would have been more just - and you had performed for me the last rites [14], and that I had died leaving you still alive and that I had had you as a daughter to myself in place of my childlessness.

             (54) Fate decreed that you should precede me. You bequeathed me sorrow though my longing for you and left me a miserable man without children to comfort me. I on my part will, however, bend my way of thinking and feeling to your judgments and be guided by your admonitions.

             (56) But all your opinions and instructions should give precedence to the praise you have won so that this praise will be a consolation for me and I will not feel too much the loss of what I have consecrated to immortality to be remembered forever.

             (58) What you have achieved in your life will not be lost to me. The thought of your fame gives me strength of mind and from your actions I draw instruction so that I shall be able to resist Fortune. Fortune did not rob me of everything since it permitted your memory to be glorified by praise. But along with you I have lost the tranquility of my existence. When I recall how you used to foresee and ward off the dangers that threatened me, I break down under my calamity and cannot hold steadfastly by my promise.

             (63) Natural sorrow wrests away my power of self-control and I am overwhelmed by sorrow. I am tormented by two emotions: grief and fear - and I do not stand firm against either. When I go back in time through to my previous misfortunes and when I envisage what the future may have in store for me, fixing my eyes on your glory does not give me strength to bear my sorrow with patience. Rather I seem to be destined to long mourning.

             (67) The conclusions of my speech will be that you deserved everything but that it did not fall to my lot to give you everything as I ought; Your last wishes I have regarded as law; whatever it will be in my power to do in addition, I shall do.

             (69) I pray that your Di Manes [15] will grant you rest and protection.


    Photograph by Marie-Lin Nguyen of a marble relief of children playing together found in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France


    [1] The highest elected position in the Roman Republic.

    [2] Proscriptions were published notices which listed Roman citizens who had been officially declared to be outlaws and whose goods were therefore open to confiscation. Outlawry put these individuals outside of the law, and those who killed or betrayed the proscribed were rewarded. Inversely, those who sheltered them were subject to severe punishments.  The properties of proscribed individuals were confiscated killing or betraying the proscribed, and severe penalties were inflicted on anyone harboring them. Their properties were confiscated, and their male descendants were barred from holding public office and from the Senate (thus closing the cursus honorum to the family). 

    [3] Ancient kingdom that encompassed parts of Greece

    [4] A Roman province on the northern African coast known as Africa Proconsularis.

    [5]A coemptio was one specific type of Roman marriage in which the wife's property was transferred to the control of the husband.

    [6] Literally, potestas means "power." In this case it is a legal term meaning that the wife in question of the husband assumed the same status (with reference to property and inheritance) as his daughter would have. He exercised the patria potestas or “power of a father” over her.

    [7] Gens means "clan".

    [8] Roman goddesses, the Parcae, who were responsible for determining the destiny of a person.

    [9] A dowry given to a bride.

    [10] Money or property given to a husband by a bride or her family.

    [11] Also known as Gaius Octavius, he was the first Roman emperor.

    [12] An official order.

    [13] Fortuna, goddess of chance.

    [14] Signify a person's transition between the world of the living and the dead.

    [15] The Di Manes were deities who represented the souls of the deceased.


    M. Tullius Cicero, “For Marcus Caelius,” C. D. Yonge, Ed. M. Tullius Cicero. The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, literally translated by C. D. Yonge, B. A. London. George Bell & Sons, York Street, Covent Garden. 1891. Here pp. 246ff.


    Cicero gives a speech in defense of Marcus Caelius, a member of the equestrian order [1] and an acquaintance of Cicero. As a young man, Marcus Coelius had prosecuted Caius Antonius, Cicero’s co-consul [2], and also prosecuted Lucius Atratinus for bribery and corruption. Lucius’ son then impeached Marcus Caelius for public violence, for having been involved in the murder of Dio, head of the Roman embassy in Alexandria [3], and for attempting to poison Clodia, sister of Clodius.  It appears Clodia may have instigated the prosecution of Caelius, who had been her lover and a tenant of Clodius for a house on the Palatine hill. Marcus Caelius was acquitted. The first part of the speech is omitted here.

    Cicero makes an allusion to Euripides’ Medea [4] as sick at heart wounded in love and then claims that “it was this Medea of the Palatine Hill [5], and this migration, which has been the cause of all his misfortunes to this young man; or rather, of all the things that have been said about him.” He counters allegations brought against Marcus for luxury, seductions, and wantonness by pleading his youth and the prevalence of these vices in Rome. He goes on to say that there are two special counts in the indictment levelled against Marcus Caelius: gold and poison.

    [31] “And in both of them one person is concerned. Gold is said to have been taken from Coldia; poison is said to have been sought for, for the purpose of being given to Clodia. All the other statement are not charges, but are rather pieces of abuse prompted by a petulant quarrel, than cited as part of a criminal investigation. To call a man an adulterer, an immodest man, a pimp, is abuse, not accusation. For there is no foundation for such charges; they have nothing to rest upon; they are mere abusive expressions poured forth by an accuser in a passion, without any authority. Of these two charges I see the source, I see the author, I see the certain originator and mainspring. Gold was wanted; he received it from Clodia; he received it without any witness; he had it as long as he wanted it. I see here a great proof of some very extraordinary intimacy. Again, he wanted to kill her; he sought for poison; he tampered with every one with whom he could; he prepared it; he arranged a place; he brought it. Again, I see that a violent quarrel has sprung up between them, and caused a furious hatred. Our whole business in this part of the case, O judges, is with Clodia, a woman not only of high rank, but also notorious; of whom I will say nothing except for the sake of repelling some accusation.

    [32] But you are aware, O Cnaeus Domitius, as a man of your eminent wisdom must be, that we have in this matter to deal with no one but her; for if she does not say that she lent the money to Caelius, if she does not accuse him and say that poison was prepared by him for her, then we are acting wantonly and groundlessly, in mentioning the name of a mother of a family in a way so different from what is due to a Roman matron. But if, if you only take away that woman, there is no longer any charge against Caelius, nor have the accusers any longer any resources by which to attack him, then what is our duty as the advocates of his cause, except to repel those who pursue him? And, indeed, I would do so still more vigorously, if I had not a quarrel with that woman's husband—brother, I meant to say; I am always making this mistake. At present I will proceed with moderation, and go no further than my own duty to my client and the nature of the cause which I am pleading compels me. For I have never thought it my duty to engage in quarrels with any woman, especially with one whom all men have always considered everybody's friend rather than any one's enemy.

    [33] But still I will first put this question to her herself, whether she wishes me to deal with her strictly, and gravely, and according to old-fashioned notions of right and wrong; or indulgently, mercifully, and courteously? If I am to proceed in the old-fashioned way and manner of pleading, then I must summon up from the shades below one of those bearded old men,—not men with those little bits of imperials which she takes such a fancy to, but a man with that long shaggy beard which we see on the ancient statues and images,—to reproach the woman, and to speak in my stead, lest she by any chance should get angry with me. Let, then, some one of her own family rise up, and above all others that great blind Claudius of old time. For he will feel the least grief, since he will not see her. And, in truth, if he can come forth from the dead, he will deal thus with her; he will say,—“Woman, what have you to do with Caelius? What have you to do with a very young man? What have you to do with one who does not belong to you? Why have you been so intimate with him as to lend him gold, or so much an enemy of his as to fear his poison? Had you never seen that your father, had you never heard that your uncle, your grand-father, your great-grandfather, your great-great-grand-father, were all consuls?

    [34] Did you not know, moreover, that you were bound in wedlock to Quintus Metellus, a most illustrious and gallant man, and most devoted to his country? who from the first moment that he put his foot over his threshold, showed himself superior to almost all citizens in virtue, and glory, and dignity. When you had become his wife, and, being previously of a most illustrious race yourself, had married into a most renowned family, why was Caelius so intimate with you? Was he a relation? a connection? Was he a friend of your husband? Nothing of the sort. What then was the reason, except it was some folly or lust?

    * * * Even if the images of us, the men of your family, had no influence over you, did not even my own daughter, that celebrated Quinta Claudia, admonish you to emulate the praise belonging to our house from the glory of its women? Did not that vestal virgin [6] Claudia recur to your mind, who embraced her father while celebrating his triumph, and prevented his being dragged from his chariot by a hostile tribune of the people? Why had the vices of your brother more weight with you than the virtues of your father, of your grandfather, and others in regular descent ever since my own time; virtues exemplified not only in the men, but also in the women? Was it for this that I broke the treaty which was concluded with Pyrrhus [7], that you should every day make new treaties of most disgraceful love? Was it for this that I brought water into the city, that you should use it for your impious purposes? Was it for this that I made the Appianroad [8], that you should travel along it escorted by other men besides your husband?”

    [35] But why, O judges, have I brought a person on the scene, of such gravity as to make me fear that this same Appius may on a sudden turn round and begin also to accuse Caelius with the severity which belongs to the censor [9]? But I will look to this presently, and I will discuss it, O judges, so that I feel sure that I shall show even the most rigid scrutineers reason to approve of the habits of life of Marcus Caelius. But you, O woman, (for now I speak to you myself, without the intervention of any imaginary character) if you are thinking of making us approve of what you are doing, and what you are saying, and what you are charging us with, and what you are intending, and what you are seeking to achieve by this prosecution, you must give an intelligible and satisfactory account of your great familiarity, your intimate connection, your extraordinary union with him. The accusers talk to us about lusts, and loves, and adulteries, and Baiae [10], and doings on the sea-shore, and banquets, and revels, and songs, and music parties, and water parties; and intimate also that they do not mention all these things without your consent. And as for you, since, through some unbridled and headlong fury which I cannot comprehend, you have chosen these things to be brought into court, and dilated on at this trial, you must either efface the charges yourself, and show that they are without foundation, or else you must confess that no credit is to be given to any accusations which you may make, or to any evidence which you may give.


    Photograph by Tyler Bell of the Temple of Venus in Baiae, Italy,_Baiae.jpg

    [36] But if you wish me to deal more courteously with you, I will argue the matter thus with you. I will put away that harsh and almost boorish old man; and out of these kinsmen of yours here present I will take some one, and before all I will select your youngest brother, who is one of the best-bred men of his class, who is exceedingly fond of you, and who, on account of some childish timidity, I suppose and some groundless fears of what may happen by night, has always, when he was but a little boy, slept with you his eldest sister. Suppose, then, that he speaks to you in this way. “What are you making this disturbance about, my sister? Why are you so mad? ‘Why thus with outcry loud do you exalt / Such trifles into things of consequence?’

    “You saw a young man become your neighbor; his fair complexion, his height and his countenance and eyes made an impression on you, you wished to see him oftener; you were sometimes seen in the same gardens with him; being a woman of high rank you are unable with all your riches to detain him, the son of a thrifty and financially conscious father: he kicks, he rejects you, he does not think your presents worth so much as you require of him. Try someone else. You have gardens on the Tiber [11], and you carefully made them in that particular spot to which all the youth of the city comes to bathe. From that spot you may every day pick out people to suit you. Why do you annoy this one man who scorns you?”

    [37] I come now again to you, O Caelius, in your turn; and I take upon myself the authority and strictness of a father; but I doubt which father's character I shall select to assume. Shall I not [play] the part of some one of Caecilius's fathers, harsh and vehement?  ‘For now, in truth, at length my bosom glows, / My heart with passion rages;’ or that other father?— ‘Oh thou unhappy, worthless son.’ Those are very hard-hearted fathers; ‘What shall I say, what wishes dare I form, / When your base actions frustrate all my prayers;’ such a father as that would say things which you would find it difficult to bear. He would say, ‘Why did you take yourself to the neighborhood of a harlot? Why did you not shun her notorious blandishments? Why did you form a connection with a woman who was nothing to you? Squander your money, throw it away; I give you leave. If you come to want, it is you yourself who will suffer for it. I shall be satisfied if I am able to spend pleasantly the small portion of my life that remains to me.’

    [38] To this morose and severe old man Caelius would reply, that he had not departed from the right path from being led away by any passion. What proof could he give? That he had been at no expense, at no loss; that he had not borrowed any money. But it was said that he had. How few people are there who can avoid such a report, in a city so prone to evil speaking! Do you wonder that the neighbor of that woman was spoken of unfavorably, when her own brother could not escape being made the subject of conversation by profligate men? But to a gentle and considerate father such as his is, whose language would be, ‘Has he broken the doors? They shall be mended. Has he torn his garments? They shall be repaired;’ the cause of his son is easily explained. For what circumstances could there be in which he would not be able easily to defend himself? I am not saying anything now against that woman: but if there were a woman totally unlike her, who made herself common to everybody; who had always someone or other openly avowed as her lover; to whose gardens, to whose house, to whose baths the lusts of every one had free access as of their own right; a woman who even kept young men, and made up for the financial consciousness of their fathers by her liberality; if she lived, being a widow, with freedom, being a lascivious woman, with wantonness, being a rich woman, extravagantly, and being a lustful woman, after the fashion of prostitutes; am I to think anyone an adulterer who might happen to salute her with a little too much freedom?

    [39] Someone will say, ‘Is this then the discipline which you enforce? Is this the way you train up young men? Was this the object with which a parent recommended his son to you and delivered him to you, that he might devote his youth to love and pleasure, and that you might defend this manner of life and these pursuits?’ If, O judges, any one was of such vigor of mind, and of a natural disposition so formed for virtue and continence as to reject all pleasures, and to dedicate the whole course of his life to labor of body and to wholesome training of his mind, a man who took no delight in rest or relaxation, or the pursuits of those of his own age, or games, or banquets, who thought nothing in life worth wishing for, except what was connected with glory and with dignity, that man I consider furnished and endowed with good qualities which may be called godlike. Of this class I consider were those great men, the Camilli, the Fabricii, the Curii and all those men who have achieved such mighty exploits with inadequate means. But these examples of virtue are not only not found in our practice, but they occur but rarely, even in books.

    [40] The very records which used to contain accounts of that old fashioned strictness of morals, are worn out and that not only among us, who have adopted this school and system of life in reality more than in words, but also among the Greeks most learned men, who, though they could not act in such a manner were nevertheless at liberty to speak and write honorably and magnificently; when the habits of Greece became changed other precepts arose and prevailed. Therefore some of their wise men said that they did everything for the sake of pleasure; and even learned men were not ashamed of the degradation of uttering such a sentiment.

    [41] Others thought that dignity ought to be united with pleasure, so as by their neatness of expression to unite things as inconsistent with one another as possible. Those who still think that the only direct road to glory is combined with toil, are left now almost solitary in their schools. For nature herself has supplied us with numerous allurements, by which virtue may be lulled asleep, and at which, she may be induced to connive; nature herself has at times pointed out to youth many slippery ways, on which it is hardly possible for it to stand, or along which it can hardly advance without some slip or downfall, and has supplied also an infinite variety of exquisite delights, by which not only that tender age, but even one which is more strongly fortified, may be caught.


    Image of Giovanni Paolo Panini's oil painting "Ancient Roman Ruins" (1725-50) found in the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon, Portugal

    [42] Wherefore, if by chance you find anyone whose eyes are so well tutored as to look with scorn on the outward beauty of things; who is not captivated by any fragrance, or touch, or flavor, and who stops his ears against all the allurements of sound; I, and perhaps a few others, may think that the gods have been propitious to this man, but most people will consider that he has been treated by them as an object of their anger.

    [43] And, O judges, both within, our own recollection and in the time of our fathers and ancestors, there have been many most excellent men and most illustrious citizens, who, after their youthful passions had cooled down, displayed, when they became of more mature and vigorous age, the most exalted virtues; of whom there is no need for me to name to you any particular instance; you yourselves can recollect plenty. For I should not wish to connect even the slightest error on the part of any brave and illustrious man with his greatest glory. But if I did choose to do so, then I could name many most eminent and most distinguished men, some of whom were notorious for excessive licentiousness in their early days, some for their profuse luxury, their enormous debts, their extravagance, and their debaucheries, but whose early errors were afterwards so veiled over by their numerous virtues, that every one felt at liberty to make excuses for and to defend their youth.

    [44] But in Marcus Caelius (for I will speak with the greater confidence of his honorable pursuits, because, relying on your good sense, O judges, I am not afraid freely to confess some things respecting him) no luxury will be found; no extravagance; no debt; no lasciviousness; no devotion to banquets or to gluttony. Those vices, really, of the belly and the throat, age is so far from diminishing in men, that it even increases them. And loves, and those things which are called delights, and which, when men have any strength of mind, are not usually troublesome to them for any length of time, (for they wear off early and very rapidly,) never had any firm hold on this man so as to entangle or embarrass him. You have heard him, when he was speaking in his own defense.

    [45] You have heard him before now, when he was acting as prosecutor; (I say this for the sake of defending him, not by way of boasting;) you have seen, your apprehension could not help seeing, his style of eloquence, his facility, his richness of ideas and language; and in that branch of study you saw not only his genius shine forth, which frequently, even when it is not nourished by industry, still produces great effects by its own natural vigor; but there was in him (unless I am greatly deceived by reason of my favorable inclination towards him) a degree of method implanted in him by liberal tastes, and worked up by care and hard labour. And know, O judges, that those passions which are now brought up against Caelius as an objection to him, and these studies on which I am now enlarging, cannot easily exist in the same man; for it is impossible that a mind which is devoted to lust which is hampered by love, by desire, by passion, often with overindulgence, sometimes too by embarrassment in monetary matters, can support the labor; such as they are, which we go through in speaking; not merely when actually pleading, but even in thinking.

    [46] Do you suppose that there is any other reason, why, when the prizes of eloquence are so great when the pleasure of speaking is so great, when the glory is so high, the influence derived from it so extensive, and the honor so pure, there are and always have been so few men who devote themselves to this study? All pleasures must be trampled underfoot, all pursuit of amusement must be abandoned, O judges; sports and jesting and feasting; yes, I may almost say, the conversation of one's friends, must be shunned. And this is what deters men of this class from the labors and studies of oratory [12]; not that their abilities are deficient, or that their early training has been neglected.

    [47] Would Caelius, if he had given himself up to a life of pleasure, while still a very young man, have instituted a prosecution against a man of consular rank? Would he, if he shunned this labor, if he were captivated by and entangled in the pursuit of pleasure, take his place daily among this array of orators? Would he court enmities? Would he undertake prosecutions? Would he incur danger to his life? Would he, in the sight of all the Roman people, struggle for so many months for safety or for glory?


    Photograph by Diego Delso of the Temple of Augustus in Pula, Croatia

    [48] But if there be any one who thinks that youth is to be wholly interdicted from amours with courtesans, he certainly is very strict indeed. I cannot deny what he says; but still he is at variance not only with the license of the present age, but even with the habits of our ancestors, and with what they used to consider allowable. For when was the time that men were not used to act in this manner? when was such conduct found fault with? when was it not permitted? when, in short, was the time when that which is lawful was not lawful? Here, now, I will lay down what I consider a general rule: I will name no woman in particular; I will leave the matter open for each of you to apply what I say as he pleases.

    [49] If any woman, not being married, has opened her house to the passions of everybody, and has openly established herself in the way of life of a harlot, and has been accustomed to frequent the banquets of men with whom she has no relationship; if she does so in the city in country houses and in that most frequented place, Baiae, if in short she behaves in such a manner, not only by her gait, but by her style of dress, and by the people who are seen attending her, and not only by the eager glances of her eyes and the freedom of her conversation, but also by embracing men, by kissing them at water parties and sailing parties and banquets so as not only to seem a harlot, but a very wanton and lustful harlot, I ask you, O Lucius Herennius, if a young man should happen to have been with her, is he to be called an adulterer or a lover? does he seem to have been attacking chastity or merely to have aimed at satisfying his desires?

    [50] I forget for the present all the injuries which you have done me, O Clodia; I banish all recollection of my own distress; I put out of consideration your cruel conduct to my relations when I was absent. You are at liberty to suppose that what I have just said was not said about you. But I ask you yourself, since the accusers say that they derived the idea of this charge from you, and that they have you yourself as a witness of its truth; I ask you, I say, if there be any woman of the sort that I have just described, a woman unlike you, a woman of the habits and profession of a harlot, does it appear an act of extraordinary baseness, or extraordinary wickedness, for a young man to have had some connection with her? If you are not such a woman,—and I would much rather believe that you are not—then, what is it that they impute to Caelius? If they try to make you out to be such a woman, then why need we fear such an accusation for ourselves, if you confess that it applies to you, and despise it? Give us then a path to and a plan for our defense. For either your modesty will supply us with the defense, that nothing has been done by Marcus Caelius with any undue wantonness; or else your impudence will give both him and everyone else very great facilities for defending themselves.

    [51] But since my speech appears at last to have raised itself out of the shallows, and to have passed by the rocks, the rest of my course is made plain and easy to me. For there are two charges, both relating to one woman,—both imputing enormous wickedness; one respecting the gold which is said to have been received from Clodia, the other respecting the poison which the prosecutors accuse Caelius of having prepared with the view of assassinating Clodia. He took gold, as you say, to give to the slaves of Lucius Lucceius, by whom Dio of Alexandria [13] was slain, who at that time was living in Lucceius's house. It is a great crime to intrigue against ambassadors, or to tamper with slaves to induce them to murder their master's guest; it is a design full of wickedness, full of audacity.

    [52] But with respect to that charge, I will first of all ask this—whether he told Clodia for what purpose he was then taking the gold, or whether he did not tell her? If he did not tell her, why was it that she gave it? If he did tell her, then she has implicated herself as an accomplice in the same wickedness. Did you dare to take gold out of your strong-box? Did you dare to strip that statue of yours of Venus [14] the Plunderer of men of her ornaments? But when you knew for what an enormous crime this gold was required,—for the murder of an ambassador,—for the staining of Lucius Lucceius, a most pious and upright man, with the blot of everlasting impiety—then your well-educated mind ought not to have been privy to so horrible an atrocity; your house, so open to all people, ought not to have been made an instrument in it. Above all, that most hospitable Venus of yours ought not to have been an assistant in it.

    [53] Balbus saw that. He said that Clodia was kept in the dark, and that Caelius alleged to her as his reason for wanting the gold, that he wanted it for the ornamenting of his arms if he was as intimate with Clodia as you make him out when you say so much about his amorous propensities, he, no doubt, told her what he wanted the gold for. If he was not so intimate with her, then, no doubt, she never gave it. Therefore, if Caelius told you the truth, O you most ill-regulated woman, you knowingly gave gold to promote a crime; if he did not venture to tell you, you never gave it at all.


    Photograph of the Roman Forum seen from the Arch of Septimius Severus

    [54] But all these topics, which belong peculiarly to the orator, and which might do some service in my hands if I were to work them up and dilate upon them in this presence, not because of any natural ability that I possess, but because of my constant practice in, and habit of, speaking, I, from a view to brevity, forbear to urge. For I have, O judges, a man whom you will willingly allow to be connected with you by the religious obligation of taking a similar oath with yourselves, Lucius Lucceius, a most religious man, and a most conscientious witness; who if such guilt so calculated to compromise his credit and his fortunes had been brought into his household by Caelius, could not have failed to hear of it, and would never have been indifferent to it and would never have borne it. Could such a man as he, a man of such humanity, a man devoted to such pursuits as his, and imbued with all his learning and accomplishments, have been indifferent to the imminent danger of that man to whom he had become attached on account of these very studies and pursuits? And when he would have been most indignant at hearing of such a crime if it had been committed against a stranger, would he have omitted taking any notice of it when it affected his own guest? When he would have grieved if he had found out that such a deed had been perpetrated by strangers, would he have thought nothing of it when attempted by his own household? An action which he would blame if done in the fields or in public places, was he likely to think lightly of when it was begun in his own city and in his own house? What he would not have concealed if it threatened any country person with danger, can he, a learned man himself, be supposed to have kept secret when a plot was laid against a most learned man?

    [55] But why, O judges, do I detain you so long? You shall have the authority and scrupulous faith of the man himself on his oath before you, and listen carefully to every word of his evidence. Read the evidence of Lucius Lucceius. [The evidence of Lucceius is read.] What more do you wait for? Do you think that the case itself, or even that truth of itself can utter any actual words in its own defense? This is the defense made by innocence,—this is the language of the cause itself,—this is the single, unassisted voice of truth.

    In the circumstances of the crime itself there is no suspicion; in the facts of the case there is no argument. In the negotiation which is said to have been carried on, there is no trace of any conversation, of any opportunity, of either time or place. No one is named as having been a witness of it. No one is accused of having been privy to it. The whole accusation proceeds from a house that is hostile to him,—that is of infamous character, cruel, criminal, and lascivious. And that house, on the other hand, which is said to have been tampered with, with a view to this nefarious wickedness, is one full of integrity, dignity, kindness and piety. And from this last you have had read to you a most authoritative declaration under the sanction of an oath. So that the matter which you have to decide upon is one on which very little doubt can arise,—namely, whether a rash, lusty, furious woman appears to have invented an accusation, or a dignified, and wise, and virtuous man is to be believed to have given his evidence with a scrupulous regard to truth.

    [56] There remains the charge respecting the poison for me to consider; a charge of which I can neither discover the origin nor guess the object. For what reason was there for Caelius desiring to give poison to that woman? Was it in order to save himself from being forced to repay the gold? Did she demand it back? Was it to save himself from being accused? Did any one impute anything to him? In short, would anyone ever have mentioned him if he had not himself instituted a prosecution against somebody? Moreover you heard Lucius Herennius say that he would never have caused annoyance to Caelius by a single word, if he had not prosecuted his intimate friend a second time on the same charge, after he had been already acquitted once. Is it credible then, that so enormous a crime was committed without any object? And do you not see that an accusation of the most enormous wickedness is invented against him in order that it may appear to have been committed for the sake of facilitating the other wickedness?

    [57] To whom, then, did he entrust its execution? Whom did he employ as an assistant? Who was his companion? Who was his accomplice? To whom did he entrust so foul a crime; to whom did he entrust himself and his own safety? Was it to the slaves of that woman? For that is what is imputed to him. Was he, then; so insane,—he to whom at least you allow the credit of good abilities, even if you refuse him all other praise in that hostile speech of yours,—as to trust his whole safety to another man's slaves? And to what slaves? For even that makes a considerable difference? Was it to slaves whose slavery as he was aware was one of no ordinary condition, but who were in the habit of being treated with indulgence and freedom and every familiarity, by their mistress? For who is there, O judges, who does not see, who is there who does not know, that in such a house as that in which the mistress of the house lives after the fashion of a prostitute,—in which nothing is done which is fit to be mentioned out of doors,—in which debauchery, and lust, and luxury and, in short all sorts of unheard of vices and wickednesses are carried on, the slaves are not slaves at all? Men to whom everything is confided, whose agency everything is done; who are occupied in the same pleasures as their mistress; who have secrets entrusted to them, and who get even some, and that no inconsiderable, share of the daily extravagance and luxury. Was Caelius, then, not aware of this?

    [58] For if he was as intimate with the woman as you try to make him out, he certainly knew that those slaves also were intimate with her. But if no such intimacy existed between him and her as is alleged by you, then how could he have arrived at such familiarity with her slaves?


    Image by Dennis JArvis of a mosaic of slaves preparing for a banquet found in the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, Tunisia

    [59] O ye immortal gods! Why do you at times appear to wink at the greatest crimes of men, or why do you reserve the punishment of present wickedness to a future day? For I saw, I saw, and I myself experienced that grief, the bitterest grief that I ever felt in my life, when Quintus Metellus was torn from the heart and bosom of his country, and when that man who considered himself born only for this empire, but three days after he had been in good health, flourishing in the senate-house, in the rostrum, and in the republic; while in the flower of his age, of an excellent constitution, and in the full vigor of manhood, was torn in a most unworthy manner from all good men, and from the entire state; at which time he, though dying, when on other points his senses appeared to be bewildered, retained his senses to the last as far as his recollection of the republic [15] was concerned; and beholding me in tears, he intimated with broken and failing voice, how great a storm he saw was impending over the city,—how great a tempest was threatening the state; and frequently striking that wall which separated his house from that of Catulus, he kept on mentioning Catulus by name, and me myself, and the republic, so as to show that he was grieving, not so much because he was dying, as because both his country and I were about to be deprived of his aid and protection.

    [60] But, if no violence of sudden wickedness had carried off that great man, with what vigour would he, as a man of consular rank, have resisted that frantic cousin of his,—he, who as consul said in the hearing of the senate [16], at a time when he was beginning and endeavoring to give reins to his fury, that he would slay him with his own hand! And shall that woman, proceeding from this house, dare to speak of the rapidity of the operation of poison? Is she not afraid of the very house itself, lest she should make it utter some sound? Does she not dread the very walls, which are privy to her wickedness? does she not shudder at the recollection of that fatal and melancholy night?

    But I will return to the accusation: but this mention of that most illustrious and most gallant man has both weakened my voice with weeping, and overcome my mind with sorrow.

    [61] But still there is no mention made of whence the poison came from, or how it was prepared. They say that it was given to Publius Licinius, a modest and virtuous young man, and an intimate friend of Caelius. They say that an arrangement was entered into with the slaves, that they should come to the strangers' baths; and that Licinius should come thither also, and should give them the box containing the poison. Now, here first of all I ask this question, What was the object of all this being done in that previously arranged place? Why did not the slaves come to Caelius's house? If that great intimacy and that excessive familiarity between Caelius and Clodia still subsisted, what suspicion would have been excited by one of the slaves of that woman having been seen at Caelius's house? But if a quarrel had already sprung up between them, if the intimacy was over, and enmity had taken its place, “Hence arose those tears.” This is the cause of all that wickedness and of all those crimes.

    [62] Very true, says he, and when the slaves had reported to their mistress the whole transaction and the guilty designs of Caelius, that crafty woman enjoined her slaves to promise Caelius everything; but in order that the poison when it was being delivered to them by Licinius, might be clearly detected, she commanded them to appoint the strangers' baths as the place where it was to he delivered in order to send in that respect friends to lie in ambush there and then on a sudden, when Licinius had arrived and was delivering the poison, to jump out, and arrest the man.

    [63] And, in truth, I was waiting eagerly to see who those virtuous men were, who would be stated to have been witnesses of this poison having been so clearly detected. For none have been named as yet. But I have no doubt that they are men of very high authority indeed, as, in the first place, they are the intimate friends of such a woman; and, in the second place, they took upon themselves that share of the business,—that, namely, of being thrust down into the baths; which she, even were she as powerful as she could possibly wish to be, could never have prevailed on any men to do, except such as were most honorable men, and men of the very greatest natural dignity. But why do I speak of the dignity of those witnesses? Learn yourselves how virtuous and how scrupulous they are. They lay in ambush in the baths. Splendid witnesses, indeed! Then they sprung out precipitately. O men entirely devoted to their dignity! For this is the story that they make up: that when Licinius had arrived, and was holding the box of poison in his hand, and was endeavoring to deliver it to them, but had not yet delivered it, then all on a sudden those splendid nameless witnesses sprung out; and that Licinius, when he had already put out his hand to give them over the box of poison, drew it back again, and, alarmed at that an expected onset of men, took to his heels. O how great is the power of truth! which of its own power can easily defend itself against all the ingenuity, and cunning, and wisdom of men, and against the treacherous plots of all the world.


    Drawing by Fortunino Matania of women bathing in a Roman bath

    [64] But how destitute of all proof is the whole of the story of this poetess and inventress of many fables! How totally without any conceivable object or result is it! For what does she say? Why did so numerous a body of men, (for it is clear enough it was not a small number, as it was requisite that Licinius should be arrested with ease, and that the transaction should be more completely proved by the eyewitness of many witnesses,) why, I say, did so numerous a body of men let Licinius escape from their hands? For why was Licinius less liable to be apprehended when he had drawn back in order not to deliver up the box than he would have been if he had delivered it up? For those men had been placed on purpose to arrest Licinius in order that Licinius might be caught in the very fact either of having just delivered up the poison, or of still having it in his possession. This was the whole plan of the woman. This was the part allotted to those men who were asked to undertake it but why it is that they sprung forth so precipitately and prematurely as you say, I do not find stated.

    [65] Could they spring forward at a better time than when Licinius had arrived? when he was holding in his hand the box of poison? and if after that box had been delivered to the slaves the friends of the woman had on a sudden emerged from the baths and seized Licinius, he would have implored the protection of their good faith and have denied that that box had been delivered to them by him. And how would they have reproved him? Would they have said that they had seen it? First of all that would have been to bring the imputation of a most atrocious crime on themselves besides, they would be saying that they had seen what from the spot in which they had been placed they could not possibly have seen. Therefore they showed themselves at the very nick of time when Licinius had arrived and was getting out the box, and was stretching out his hand, and delivering the poison. This is rather the end of a farce than a regular comedy; in which, when a regular end cannot be invented for if someone escapes out of someone else's hands, the whistle sounds, and the curtain drops.

    [66] For I ask why that army under the command of the woman allowed Licinius, when embarrassed, hesitating, receding, and endeavoring to fly, to slip through their fingers? Why did they not seize him? Why did not they prove beyond all denial a crime of such enormous wickedness by his own confession, by the eye-witness of many people, by even the voice of the crime itself if I may say so? Were they afraid that so many men would not be able to get the better of one, that strong men would not be able to beat a weak man, or active men to surprise one in such a fright? No corroborative proof is to be found in the circumstances; no ground for suspicion in any part of the case, no object for or result of the crime, can be imagined. Therefore, this cause, instead of being supported by arguments, by conjecture, and by those tokens by which the truth generally has a light thrown upon it rests wholly on the witnesses. And those witnesses, O judges, I long to see, not only without the least apprehension, but with a sort of hope of great enjoyment.

    [67] My mind is exceedingly eager to behold them, first, because they are luxurious youths, the intimate friends of a rich and high-born woman; secondly, because they are gallant men, placed by their Amazonian [17] general in ambush, and as a sort of garrison to the baths. And, when I see them, I will ask them how they lay hid, and where; whether it was a canal, or a second Trojan horse [18], which bore and concealed so many invincible men waging war for the sake of a woman? And this I will compel them to tell me, why so many gallant men did not either at once seize this man, who was but a single individual, and as slight and weak a man as you see, while he was standing there; or, at all events, why they did not pursue him when he fled.

    And, in truth, they will never be able to get out of their perplexity, if they ever do go into that witness-box; not though they may be ever so witty and talkative at banquets, and sometimes, over their wine, even eloquent. For the forum [19] is one thing, and the banqueting couch another. The benches of counselors are very different from the sofas of revelers. A tribunal [20] of judges is not particularly like a row of hard-drinkers. In short, the radiance of the sun is a very different thing from the light of lamps. So that we will soon scatter all those gentlemen's delicate airs, all their absurdities, if they do appear. But if they will be guided by me; let them apply themselves to some other task; let them curry the favor of someone else by some other means; let them display their capacity in other employments; let them flourish in that woman's house in beauty; let them regulate her expenses let them cling to her, sup with her, serve her in every possible way, but let them spare the lives and fortunes of innocent men.

    [68] But those slaves have been emancipated by the advice of her relations,—most highly born and illustrious men. At last then we have found something which that woman is said to have done by the advice and authority of her own relations,—men of the highest respectability of character. But I wish to know what proof there is in that emancipation of slaves, so that either any charge against Caelius can be made out of that, or any examination of the slaves themselves by means of torture prevented, or any pretext found for giving rewards to slaves who were privy to too many transactions which it is desired to keep secret? But her relations advised it. Why should not they advise it, when you yourself stated that you were reporting to them a matter which you had not received information of from others, but which had been discovered by yourself?


    Marble relief of two roman slaves wearing collars in the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford, England

    [69] Here also we wonder whether any most obscene story followed the tale of that imaginary box. There is nothing which may not seem applicable to such a woman as that. The matter has been heard of, and has been the subject of universal conversation. You have long ago perceived, O judges, what I wish to say, or rather what I wish not to say. For even if such a crime was committed, it certainly was not committed by Caelius; for what concern was it of his? It may perhaps have been committed by some young man, not so much foolish as destitute of modesty. But if it be a mere fiction, it is not indeed a very modest invention, but still it is not destitute of wit;—one which in truth the common conversation and common opinion of men would never have sealed with their approbation, if every sort of story which involved any kind of infamy did not appear consistent with and suited to that woman's character.

    [70] The cause has now been fully stated by me, O judges, and summed up. You now understand how important an action this is which has been submitted to your decision; how serious a charge is confided to you. You are presiding over an investigation into a charge of violence;—into a law which concerns the empire, the majesty of the state, the condition of the country, and the safety of all the citizens;—a law which Quintus Catulus passed at a time when armed dissensions were dividing the people, and when the republic was almost at its last gasp;—a law which, after the flame which raged so fiercely in my consulship had been allayed, extinguished the smoking relics of the conspiracy. Under this law the youth of Marcus Caelius is demanded, not for the sake of enduring any punishment called for by the republic, but in order to be sacrificed to the lust and profligate pleasures of a woman.

    [71] And even in this place the condemnation of Marcus Camurtius and Caius Caesernius is brought up again! Oh the folly, or shall I rather say, oh the extraordinary impudence! Do you dare,—you prosecutors,—when you come from that woman's house, to make mention of those men? Do you dare to reawaken the recollection of so enormous a crime, which is not even now dead, but is only smothered by its antiquity? For on account of what charge, or what fault did those men fall? Truly, because they endeavored to avenge the grief and suffering of that same woman caused by the injury which they believed she had received from Vettius. Was, then, the cause of Camurtius and Caesernius brought up again in order that the name of Vettius might be heard of in connection with this cause, and that farcical old story, suited to the pen of Afranius [21], might be rubbed up again? For though they were certainly not liable under the law concerning violence, they were still so implicated in that crime, that they deemed men who ought never to be released from the shackles of the law.

    [72] But why is Marcus Caelius brought before this court? when no charge properly belonging to this mode of investigation is imputed to him, nor indeed anything else of such a nature that, though it may not exactly come under the provisions of my law, still calls for the exercise of your severity. His early youth was devoted to strict discipline; and to those pursuits by which we are prepared for these forensic labors,—for taking part in the administration of the republic,—for honor, and glory, and dignity * * * * and to those friendships with his elders, whose industry and temperance he might most desire to imitate; and to those studies of the youths of his own age: so that he appeared to be pursuing the same course of glory as the most virtuous and most highly-born of the citizens.

    [73] Afterwards, when he had advanced somewhat in age and strength, he went into Africa, as a comrade of Quintus Pompeius the proconsul, one of the most temperate of men, and one of the strictest in the performance of every duty. And as his paternal property and estate lay in that province, he thought that some knowledge of its habits and feelings would be usefully acquired by him, now that he was of an age which our ancestors thought adapted for gaining that sort of information. He departed from Africa, having gained the most favorable opinion of Pompeius, as you shall learn from Pompeius's own evidence. He then wished, according to the old-fashioned custom, and following the example of those young men who afterwards turned out most eminent men and most illustrious citizens in the state, to signalize his industry in the eyes of the Roman people, by some very conspicuous prosecution.

    [74] I wish indeed that his desire for glory had led him in some other direction; but the time for this complaint has passed by. He prosecuted Caius Antonius, my colleague; an unhappy man, to whom the recollection of the great service which he did the republic was no benefit, but to whom the belief of the evil which he had designed was the greatest prejudice. After that he never was behind any of his fellows in his constant appearance in the forum, in his incessant application to business and to the causes of his friends, and in the great influence which he acquired over his relations. He achieved by his labor and diligence all those objects which they cannot attain who are other than vigilant, and sober, and industrious men.


    Drawing, "Architectural Capriccio with Roman Monuments and Washerwomen", found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

    [75] At this turning-point of his life, (for I place too much reliance on your humanity and on your good sense to conceal anything,) the fame of the young man stood trembling in the balance, owing to his new acquaintance with this woman, and his unfortunate neighborhood to her, and his want of habituation to pleasure; for the desire of pleasure when it has been too long pent up, and repressed, and chained down in early youth, sometimes bursts forth on a sudden, and throws down every barrier. But from this course of life, and from being in this way the subject of common conversation, (though his excesses were not by any means as great as report made them out to be;)—however, from this course of life, I say, whatever it was, he soon emerged, and delivered himself wholly from it and raised himself out of it, and he is now so far removed from the discredit of any familiarity with that woman, that he is occupied in warding off the attacks which are instigated against him by her enmity and hatred.

    [76] And in order to put a violent end to the reports which had arisen of his luxury and inactivity,—(what he did, he did in fact greatly against my will, and in spite of my strongest remonstrances, but still he did it,)—he instituted a prosecution against a friend of mine for bribery and corruption. And after he is acquitted he pursues him still, drags him back before the court, refuses to be guided by any one of us, and is far more violent than I approve of. But I am not speaking of wisdom,—which indeed does not belong to men of his age,—I am speaking of his ardent spirit, of his desire for victory, of the eagerness of his soul in the pursuit of glory. Those desires indeed in men of our age ought to have become more limited and moderate, but in young men, as in herbs, they show what ripeness of virtue and what great crops are likely to reward our industry. In truth, youths of great ability have always required rather to be restrained from the pursuit of glory, than to be spurred on to it: more things required to be pruned away from that age,—if indeed, it deserves distinction for ability and genius,—than to be implanted in it.

    [77] If therefore, the energy, and fierceness, and pertinacity of Caelius appear to any one to have boiled over too much, either in respect of his voluntarily incurring, or of his mode of carrying on enmities; if even any of the most trifling particulars of his conduct in this respect seem offensive to any one; or if anyone feels displeased at the magnificence of his purple robe, or at the troops of friends who escort him, or at the general splendor and brilliancy of his appearance, let him recollect that all these things will soon pass away, -- that a riper age, and circumstances, and the progress of time, will soon have softened down all of them.

    Preserve, therefore, for the republic, O judges, a citizen devoted to liberal studies [22], and to the most virtuous party in the state, and to all good men. I promise you this, -- and I give this  undertaking to the republic, provided we ourselves have by our conduct given satisfaction to the republic, -- that Caelius’s conduct will never be at variance with our own. And I promise this, not only because I rely on the intimacy that subsists between him and me, but also because he has taken upon himself already the obligation of the most stringent engagements. For a man who has ventured on such a step as that of prosecuting a man of consular rank because he says that the republic has been injured by his violence, cannot possibly behave as a turbulent citizens in the republic himself: a man who will not allow another to be at peace, even after he has been acquitted of bribery and corruption, can never himself become a briber of others with impunity.

    [78] For a man who has ventured on such a step as that of prosecuting a man of consular rank because he says that the republic has been injured by his violence, cannot possibly behave as a turbulent citizen in the republic himself: a man who will not allow another to be at peace, even after he has been acquitted of bribery and corruption, can never himself become a briber of others with impunity. The republic, O judges, has two prosecutions, which have been carried on by Marcus Caelius, as pledges to secure it from any danger from him and guarantees of his good-will and devotion. Wherefore I do pray and entreat you, O judges, after Sextus Clodius has been acquitted within these few days in this very city;—a man whom you have seen for the last two years acting on all occasions as the minister or leader of sedition [23];—a man who has burnt sacred temples and even the census  of the Roman people and all the public records and registers [24] with his own hands;—a man without property, without honesty, without hope, without a home, without any character or position, polluted in face, and tongue, and hand, and in every particular of his life;—a man who has degraded the monument of Catulus, who has pulled down my house, and burnt that belonging to my brother;—who on the Palatine hill, and in the sight of all the city, stirred up the slaves to massacre and to the conflagration of the city;—I entreat you, I say, not to suffer that man to have been acquitted in this city by the influence of a woman, and at the same time to allow Marcus Caelius to be sacrificed, in the same city, to a woman's lusts. I entreat you never to permit the same woman, in conjunction with a man who is at the same time her brother and her husband, to save a most infamous robber, and to overwhelm a most honorable and virtuous young man.

    [79] And when you have given due consideration to the fact of his youth, then place also before your eyes, I entreat you, the old age of his miserable father whom you see before you; whose whole dependence is on this his only son; who reposes on the hopes which he has formed of him; who fears nothing but the disasters which may befall him. Support, I pray you, that old man, now a suppliant for your mercy, the slave of your power, who while he throws himself at your feet, so appeals more strongly still to your virtuous habits, and to your kind and right feelings; support him, I say, moved either by the recollection of your own parents, or by the affection with which you regard your own children, so as, while relieving the misery of another, to yield to your own pious or indulgent dispositions. Do not, O judges, cause this old man, who is already, by the silent progress of nature, declining and hastening to his end, to fail prematurely through a wound inflicted by you, before the day which his natural destiny has appointed for him.

    [80] Do not overthrow this other man, now flourishing in the prime of life, now that his virtue has just taken firm root, as it were by some whirlwind or sudden tempest. Preserve the son for the father, the father for the son, lest you should appear either to have despised the old age of a man almost in despair, or on the other hand not only to have abstained from cherishing, but even to have struck down and crushed, a youth rich with the greatest promise. And if you do preserve him to yourselves, to his own relations, and to the republic, you will have him dedicated, devoted, and wholly bound to you and to your children, and you will enjoy, O judges, in the greatest possible degree, the abundant and lasting fruits of all his exertions and labors.


    Image of Giovanni Paolo Panini's oil painting "Roman Capriccio: The Pantheon and Other Monuments" (1735) found in the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Indianapolis, Indiana


    [1] Members of a property owning social class.

    [2] The highest elected position in the Roman Republic.

    [3] A city in Egypt.

    [4] An ancient Greek play about the myth of Jason and Medea.

    [5] One of the seven hills of Rome. Palatine Hill is the centermost of these hills.

    [6] Priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth, responsible for maintaining her sacred alter fire.

    [7] A Greek king who opposed Rome.

    [8] A road that connected Rome to Brindisi.

    [9] Magistrates responsible for the census and the finances of the government.

    [10] An ancient Roman town on the Northwestern coast of the Gulf of Naples.

    [11] A river flowing through Rome and Central Italy.

    [12] The art of public speaking.

    [13] An Egyptian city on the Mediterranean Sea.

    [14] Goddess of love, sex, beauty, and fertility.

    [15] The Roman Republic stretched across much of Europe as well as into Asia and part of Northern Africa.

    [16] A governing and advisory body in Rome.

    [17] According to Greek mythology, the Amazons were a race of warrior women.

    [18] A large, hollow, wooden horse crafted by the Greeks to breach the walls of Troy.

    [19] An area in the center of Rome that was home to many daily public activities such as shopping, speeches, and trials.

    [20] A court of law.

    [21] A Roman poet.

    [22] The essential education for all free Roman citizens, and the foundations of liberal arts today.

    [23] Speech or conduct that encourages the people into rebelling against the state.

    [24] Similar to a birth certificate.

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