Pro L. Flacco M. Tulli Ciceronis Oratio

Introduction

   "Lucius Valerius Flaccus had been praetor in Cicero's consulship, and had received the thanks of the senate for his zeal and vigor in the arrest of Catiline's accomplices; but he was now accused by Publius Laelius of rapine and oppression in the province of Asia, which had fallen to his lot after his praetorship. Part of the charge was on the grounds that he had prohibited the Jews from carrying out of his province the gold which they used to collect annually throughout the empire for the temple at Jerusalem, and that he had seized it all, and remitted it to Rome. Hortensius was joined with Cicero in the defense; as is mentioned by Cicero in the last epistle of the second book of the letters to Atticus; where he says, "With how much copiousness, with how much nobleness, with how much elegance, did your friend Hortensius [but some editions here read Hortalus] extoll me to the skies, both when he was speaking of the praetorship of Flaccus, and of the times of the Allobroges."
   We may observe, since there has been some dispute as to the order in which this oration should be placed, that it cannot have been spoken before the year 695, A.U.C., in the consulship of Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, for Cicero's consulship took place A.U.C. 691, and after that Flaccus was occupied as propraetor for three years in Asia, and it could not have been before the expiration of his propraetorship, and his return from it, that this prosecution was instituted. [But see below where excerpts from the Loeb introduction further narrow down the timeframe. -- Webmaster.] Flaccus was acquitted.
   NOTE: This oration is imperfectly preserved and mutilated in some places."

-- Reprinted from "Introduction to Pro Flacco", The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, vol. 2. trans. C.D. Yonge. George Bell & Sons. London: 1902.

   "[Flaccus] accompanied his father to the East and in 85 after his father's murder took refuge with his uncle, Gaius Valerius Flaccus, who was at that time in Transalpine Gaul. There he served under his uncle and later saw further service as a military tribune under Publius Servilius Vatia. In 76 he was, probably as a quindecimvir sacris faciundis, a member of a sacred embassy dispatched under the leadership of Publius Gabinius to collect Sibylline oracles from Erythrae. In 71 or 70 he was quaestor and served under Marcus Pupius Piso in Spain, service which in all likelihood extended into the following year, in which he would have been proquaestor. In 68 he was a subordinate commander under Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus, in 67 in Achaea and Crete and in 66 under Pompey in his campaign against the pirates. Sallust's description of him as a homo militaris was in the light of this record of service no idle phrase."
   "He succeeded Publius Servilius Globulus [as propraetor and governor in Asia], and was in his turn succeeded by Cicero's brother Quintus."
   "On his return from Asia in 60 he was, together with Metellus Creticus and Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Clodianus, appointed envoy by decree of the Senate to urge various Gallic tribes not to join the Helvetii. It was on his return from this mission that he was brought before the extortion court to answer for his behavior in his province."
   "Yet Cicero's task in 59 was not as straightforward as he could have wished it. In the previous year he had written the letter to his brother Quintus [Epistulae ad Quintum fratrem] and this letter complicated matters for him. It was clearly a letter for public consumption in which he instructed his brother at length in a governor's problems and duties in the province of Asia and it contained pious injunctions to Quintus on the subject of the special responsibilities he owed to Greeks. This line made it difficult for Cicero to undermine their credit as bluntly as he would have liked, in a speech delivered not so many months later....so in this speech Cicero impugns the credibility of Greek witnesses both as a class and as individuals. He extricates himself, however, from his awkward position with no little skill. Firstly, he makes a clear-cut distinction between the literary and intellectual achievements of Greeks, which he readily acknowledges, and their reliability as witnesses. Later in the speech he shifts his ground and draws a different distinction between Asiatic Greeks and "true" Greeks. Fortunately Flaccus had seen service in Greece and Cicero is therefore able to produce native Greek witnesses to testify on Flaccus' behalf."
   "Cicero represents, as also apparently had Hortensius, that the prosecution's chief concern was to attack Flaccus, as they had attacked Gaius Antonius, because he had effectively helped Cicero in the suppression of the Catilinarian conspiracy; and that by means of their attack on Flaccus they hoped to smash Cicero himself. [Note that this trial takes place only 6 months before Publius Clodius forces Cicero's exile with his passage of a law targeting Cicero's execution of Roman citizens without a trial. -- Webmaster.] A stronger motive seems to have been the desire of the Triumvirs to eliminate Flaccus as a member of the nobility opposing their interests, and in Pompey's case another motive was his genuine concern for good provincial government. In Asia the view was widely held that Pompey's hostility lay behind Laelius' prosecution and the freedom with which he had been able to prepare his case."
   "...Cicero makes the best use of the material available on his client's behalf; the maintenance of a fleet against the pirates rings true of a homo militaris, the ban on the export of gold may well have had sound economic reasons behind it, Flaccus' legal decisions may have been perfectly good, even though they laid him open to personal revenge.
   Yet, when everything has been said on Flaccus' behalf, ...the picture is of a guilty man. The specific indictments of the prosecution go unanswered and in the place of any effective reply there are generalizations, evasions, sarcasm and appeals to prejudice. Combined with these tactics the partisan appeal for sympathy with those who help Cicero in 63 does nothing to strengthen our belief in Flaccus' innocence.
   Flaccus appears to have been acquitted and there is good reason to feel that he owed the favorable verdict more to his counsel's powers of persuasion than to any inherent strength of his case. The result of the trial is not recorded in any surviving source; Flaccus never held another magistracy and the consulship that he had been promised eluded him. In 57-56, however, he was a legatus of Lucius Piso in Macedonia; apart from this reference to him in the speech pro Plancio delivered in 54 he is not heard of again."

-- Excerpts from "Introduction: Pro Flacco", Cicero's Works, vol X, Loeb Classical Library, vol. 324, trans. C. MacDonald. Harvard UP, Cambridge, Mass: 1977.

Pro L. Flacco M. Tulli Ciceronis Oratio Latin Text  
English Text
Translation Notes
    The English text source is The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, vol. 2; trans. C.D. Yonge. George Bell & Sons, London: 1902.
   
   
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