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Quote of the day: He called into his service twelve lictor
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Historiae by Tacitus
Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
Book IV Chapter 42: Complot against Crassus and Orfitus[AD 70]
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Great was the reputation for brotherly affection, as well as for eloquence, which Vipstanus Messalla earned for himself on that day, by venturing, though not yet of senatorial age, to plead for his brother Aquilius Regulus. The fall of the families of the Crassi and Orfitus had brought Regulus into the utmost odium. Of his own free will, as it seemed, and while still a mere youth, he had undertaken the prosecution, not to ward off any peril from himself, but in the hope of gaining power. The wife of Crassus, Sulpicia Praetextata, and her four children were ready, should the Senate take cognizance of the cause, to demand vengeance. Accordingly, Messalla, without attempting to defend the case or the person accused, had simply thrown himself in the way of the perils that threatened his brother, and had thus wrought upon the feelings of several senators. On this Curtius Montanus met him with a fierce speech, in which he went to the length of asserting, that after the death of Galba, money had been given by Regulus to the murderer of Piso, and that he had even fastened his teeth in the murdered man's head. "Certainly," he said, Nero did not compel this act; you did not secure by this piece of barbarity either your rank or your life. We may bear with the defence put forward by men who thought it better to destroy others than to come into peril themselves. As for you, the exile of your father, and the division of his property among his creditors, had left you perfectly safe, besides that your youth incapacitated you for office; there was nothing in you which Nero could either covet or dread. It was from sheer lust of slaughter and greed of gain that you, unknown as you were, you, who had never pleaded in any man's defence, steeped your soul in noble blood, when, though you had snatched from the very grave of your country the spoils of a man of consular rank, had been fed to the full with seven million sesterces, and shone with all sacerdotal honours, you yet overwhelmed in one common ruin innocent boys, old men of illustrious name, and noble ladies, when you actually blamed the tardy movements of Nero in wearying himself and his informers with the overthrow of single families, and declared that the whole Senate might be destroyed by one word. Keep, Conscript Fathers, preserve a man of such ready counsels, that every age may be furnished with its teacher, and that our young men may imitate Regulus, just as our old men imitate Marcellus and Crispus. Even unsuccessful villany finds some to emulate it: what will happen, if it flourish and be strong? And the man, whom we dare not offend when he holds only quaestor's rank, are we to see him rise to the dignities of praetor and consul? Do you suppose that Nero will be the last of the tyrants? Those who survived Tiberius, those who survived Caligula, thought the same; and yet after each there arose another ruler yet more detestable and more cruel. We are not afraid of Vespasian; the age and moderation of the new Emperor reassure us. But the influence of an example outlives the individual character. We have lost our vigour, Conscript Fathers; we are no longer that Senate, which, when Nero had fallen, demanded that the informers and ministers of the tyrant should be punished according to ancient custom. The first day after the downfall of a wicked Emperor is the best of opportunities."