Oratio De Haruspicum Responsis1
Introductory Note.—Early in 56 a strange noise was reported to have been heard in the Ager Latiniensis, a district near Rome. The Senate referred the matter to the Soothsayers, who pronounced that expiation must be offered to the gods for (a) neglect and impiety in the conduct of public games, (b) profanation of hallowed sites, (c) assassination of ambassadors, (d) violation of oaths, (e) neglect and impiety in the conduct of an ancient sacrifice.
In the interval between this and the speech De domo sua the Senate had decided against Clodius’ alleged consecration of the site of C.’s house, and had restored it to its former owner, and Clodius, who was aedile for the year, affirmed that it was to this site that the Soothsayers referred.
In this speech C. gives the following explanations of the offences to be expiated: (a) the games alluded to were the Megalesia, on which occasion Clodius had packed the theatre with his gangs of slaves, though only freemen should
I. Hesterno die, patres conscripti, quum me et vestra dignitas et frequentia equitum Romanorum praesentium, quibus senatus dabatur, magno opere commosset, putavi mihi reprimendam esse P. Clodii impudicam impudentiam, quum is publicanorum causam stultissimis interrogationibus impediret, P. Tullioni Syro navaret operam atque ei se, cui totus
The Speech Concerning the Response of the Soothsayers
[Delivered before the Senate, 56]
have been admitted, (b) the site alluded to was not his house, but that of Seius, of which Clodius was in possession after having murdered its owner, the house having contained a shrine and altars, (c) the ambassadors alluded to were Theodosius and Plator, the former of whom had been killed by Clodius, and the latter by Piso, his associate, (d) the perjury alluded to was that of the jury which had acquitted Clodius when he was manifestly guilty of sacrilege, and (e) the sacrifice alluded to was that of the Bona Dea, which Clodius had polluted.
A modern authority (Heitland, Roman Republic, vol. iii. p. 187 n.) says of the speech, “That Cicero’s speech De haruspicum responso is the edited copy of that actually delivered, I do not venture to affirm. But I find it very difficult to attribute it to a forger. It does not stand on a high level, I freely admit.”
I. Conscript Fathers: Yesterday,a under the influence of the profound emotions inspired in me by your lofty demeanour and by the concourse of Roman knights, to whom you had vouchsafed an audience, I considered it to be my duty to repress the shameless impudence displayed by Publius Clodius in endeavouring to obstruct the business dealing with the collectors of revenue by his fatuous questions, in espousing the cause of Publius Tullio the Syrian, and in displaying his wares, before your