Cicero, Post Reditum in Senatu

LCL 158: 44-45

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left Rome for his legions in 58, leaving his tool, the dissolute and anarchical Clodius, to watch over his interests in the city. Clodius’ first object was to remove Cicero, whose uncompromising attitude was a standing menace to the “Triumvirate.” He carried a decree pronouncing sentence of banishment against anyone who had put a Roman citizen to death without a trial. The reference to the execution of Catiline’s fellow - conspirators was obvious; Cicero bowed to the storm and left Rome. A further decree was then carried, in which Cicero’s name was introduced,a banishing him four hundred miles from Rome, and ordering that his house on the Palatine should be destroyed. Cicero retired to Thessalonica in Macedonia.

Meanwhile the arrogance and turbulence of Clodius was alienating Pompey and exasperating the senate. Efforts were made by his fellowtribunes to pass measures for Cicero’s recall, but Clodius’ gangs of ruffians frustrated all attempts at legislation. Finally, in the middle of 57, the senate called on the country voters to attend the assembly in force, and on August 4 a bill for his restoration was passed. He entered Rome in triumph on September 4. On the following day he returned thanks to the senate for his restoration in the speech which is most probably (for it has been doubted) that which has come down to us. Two days later he thanked the people at a mass meeting.b

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But as yet Cicero did not look upon his restoration as complete. In his absence Clodius had pulled down his house on the Palatine, consecrated the site, and erected thereon a monument to Liberty, hoping thereby to place it beyond recovery by its owner. At the end of September Cicero appealed to the senate to declare the consecration null and void, and on the question being referred by the senate to the College of Pontiffs, the body with whom lay the decision in matters of public religion, the orator stated his case before them “elaborately” (Ad Att. iv. 2) in the speech which is the third of this series. The pontiffs gave a ruling in Cicero’s favour, the senate passed a decree for restitution accordingly, and the house was re-built, in spite of Clodius’ efforts to intimidate the workmen.

The irrepressible agitator, foiled for the time being, lost no opportunity of harassing Cicero. Early in 56 strange sounds were reported to have been heard in the outskirts of the city, and the senate decreed that soothsayers should be summoned from Etruria to interpret the prodigy. The soothsayers replied that the sounds were an intimation of the anger of the gods at the lax celebration of games, the desecration of sacred places, the murder of politicians, and the violation of oaths. Clodius, who was aedile in this year, asserted that the desecration alleged to have been committed consisted in Cicero’s reoccupation of his house. Cicero, in the speech which we possess, delivered before the senate, retorted the charge upon his assailant, visiting upon Clodius the responsibility for all the offences which were said to have occasioned the prodigy.

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.marcus_tullius_cicero-post_reditum_in_senatu.1923