Twice Assassinated

9th July 2014

Yesterday evening I read Cicero’s oration ‘Pro Murena’ (For Murena). This was a speech in defence of Lucius Murena, accused of having, in BC63, gained election as consul by bribery. It was the custom of losing candidates, in the hope of supplanting the winners, to prosecute those rivals after the event. Of the two elected consuls, Sulpicius, the plaintiff, actually a good friend of the great orator, picked on Murena. Following Cicero’s successful plea, the accuser had to wait another twelve years to hold office.

Delivered cogently, with both humour and seriousness, this piece reads as freshly and fluently as if it had been written today. Also focussing on the interests of national security, Cicero paces his argument well and stakes his own reputation on his closing commendation.

The next in The Folio Society’s selection of Cicero’s Orations, which I went on to read, is ‘Pro Caelio’ (For Caelius). Possibly because the jurors, on account of the nature of the case, had been forced to forgo a public holiday, the advocate set out to entertain them. The fury of a woman scorned, it was Cicero’s contention, was behind the charges laid against his client. He stated that they had been brought ‘to gratify the whim of a licentious woman’, Caelius’s ex-lover. It seems to have been the practice in Roman courts to deprecate the characters of the protagonists. Cicero therefore defends his client’s reputation, and slays that of Clodia, the lady in question, saying very little about the actual charges of violence he was meant to refute. This is skilfully done, often indirectly, and with innuendo. He makes the woman out to have led the young man astray. The tone is light-hearted, with free use of irony, wit, and satire. It did the trick.

Gangs roamed the streets of ancient Rome at the behest of wealthy men. Two of these were Milo, and Clodius whom Cicero hated. In ‘Pro Milano’.which I read this morning, the author defended Milo, charged with Clodius’s murder. This is how it came about: From other, independent sources, it is clear that the two gangs mat by accident on the Appian Way. They fought. Clodius seems to have been victorious, but was soon afterwards murdered by his enemy, and dumped in the street. There was speculation in the city that one had laid a trap for the other. Cicero’s false case rested on Clodius having set the snare, and Milo simply defending himself. This time the jurors did not buy it. Despite a brilliant speech, full of the orator’s customary eloquent techniques, they found the defendant guilty. Clodius was twice assassinated. Once in reality by Milo, and later, figuratively, in court, by Cicero.

Mouths were agape in Le Code Bar this lunchtime, not poised over plates, but trained on the TV. It was not the flavoursome noodle soup; the crisp calamari in batter; the succulent pork kebabs, rice, and ratatouille; nor the gorgeous creme brûlée; but the aftermath of Brazil’s defeat by Germany, 7-1, in the World Cup semi-final, that grasped their attention.

This afternoon Saufiene drove me to Eymet and beyond in search of a charger for my HP laptop. Despite helpful assistants opening up various boxes we shared defeat with both Brazil and Cicero.Sunset

As I watched the Sigoules sunset, I reflected on my friends Majid in London, and Saufiene in Acquitaine, both observing Ramadan, and now able to break their fast.

The Power Of Speech

This morning, Jackie drove me to New Milton where I caught the London train. It is the first week of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Naturally the train was to have an additional stop at Wimbledon. Naturally it was a little late. Naturally it contained only four coaches. Naturally one of those was designated First Class. Naturally the other carriages were crowded.

As an introduction to to Cicero’s ‘In Catilanum’ I-IV, D.H.Berry’s article on ‘The Catiline Conspiracy’ which I read today offers a clear account of this event and Cicero’s action in opposing it. We are also told that Cicero’s speeches ‘Against Catiline’, which I went on to read, were published three years after the happenings that took place during the great orator’s consulship. This is significant because, although presented by the author as what he had said at the time, they may be construed as a later defence of his position.cicero

Cicero was responsible for implementing the senate’s decision to execute the five captured conspirators without trial. This was not legal. The consul’s action, although praised at the time – he was honoured as the saviour of Rome – was ultimately to lead to his death in dishonour.

The four speeches deal, in order, with his exhorting Catiline to leave Rome; with warning the senate that the rebel was gathering his armies against the state; with the capture of those criminals left by their leader to act in the capital when the time came;and with the execution debate.

There were many such events in Roman history. What makes this one unique is that it occurred during the time of a man with the ability to sniff it out, to combat it so eloquently, and to write it up so cleverly to preserve the story for posterity.

From Waterloo I travelled by my now customary underground route to Preston Road, and a short walk to Norman’s. In the recreation ground through which I pass, I noticed two patient carers helping a severely disabled young woman prepare her headgear, presumably as a protection against the strong sun. They passed me on their way to the enclosure where I had seen Yaw practising his footballing skills on 19th March. I greeted them. The carers returned the greeting. The young woman took that as an invitation to sit on the bench I was occupying. With good humour she was persuaded otherwise.

The carers then began a game of catch with their charge inside the fenced off area. They were encouraging when she managed the task of grasping the basket ball, and all three seemed genuinely to be enjoying themselves. I realised that the younger person seemed without the power of speech.

I did not think it appropriate to produce my camera.

The Roman orator employed his considerable skills more than two thousand years ago. He used them to climb to a position of great power. Ultimately they caused his violent death. His name and influence have been valued throughout the world, and down the centuries.

Today’s nameless young lady will have a very different life. May it, and its ending be happier than that of the man whose name will be forever remembered.

For lunch my friend provided an excellent beef casserole with mashed potato and vegetables followed by juicy summer pudding with which we shared a superb bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape 2012. I then took the tube from Preston Road to Westminster via Finchley Road and walked on to Carol’s. From there I took my usual transport back to New Milton where Jackie was waiting to drive me home.

Latin Gave Me Up

Although not having got round its baffle, the crow is back trampling the petunias on the chimney pot. The squirrel, on the other hand, earned a meal this morning. It made a successful launch from the eucalyptus, crash landed on top of the corvine baffle, slipped underneath it, and scoffed away. Given that the rodent has now rivalled Eddie the Eagle, Jackie moved the feeder further from the tree. The next lift-off point will doubtless be the new arch. Google can supply further information both on our aforementioned Olympic skier and yesterday’s Greg Rutherford reference.

We returned, briefly, to Castle Malwood Lodge this morning to retrieve two garden recliners we had left behind; and for a chat with Mo. Jackie then drove us to Ringwood where I deposited two pairs of shoes for repair; back home for lunch; then on to New Milton for me to catch the London train to visit Carol.

MeadowThe corner around our old flat is well stocked with self-seeded blooms from Jackie’s temporary garden; and the little meadow alongside New Milton station has an abundance of wild flowers.

Today I finished reading Cicero’s ‘Pro Roscio Amerino’ (For Roscius of Ameria). This is an eloquent and subtle defence of a man facing a trumped-up charge of parricide, and is significant for its being the young advocate’s first speech in a criminal court, and for his courage in taking on powerful political elements. No doubt aided by D.H.Berry’s able translation, the writing flows, and is very readable and entertaining.

It is to be inferred from my last sentence that I did not read this in the original, which would have been far beyond me. I am no Latin scholar, as was proven by my first three years at Wimbledon College. My Grammar school was then notable for its emphasis on the classics. Keen to obtain as many OxBridge university places as possible, Latin and Greek were the school’s most valued subjects, for in those 1950s days, a Latin qualification was a requirement for entry into our two leading centres of learning.

I was never subjected to Greek, and my Latin was so abysmal that, long before the O level stage, I was transferred to Geography, not then considered of prime importance.

Being top of the class in French, it was always a mystery to me that I could not grasp Latin. At school, I thought maybe it was because it seemed to be all about wars that didn’t particularly interest me. Not very many years ago, I twigged the reason for the imbalance. It was partially about word order, but more significantly about ignorance of grammatical terms. Without understanding these, I could manage the modern language, not that dissimilar in construction to our own. Meeting concepts like ‘subjunctive’ which were not considered needing explanation for passers of the eleven plus exam, I didn’t just swim, I sank.

Cicero OrationsLatin gave me up. And Geography teaching was hit and miss, so I failed that too.

So. In English. I went on to read ‘In Verrem 1’ (Against Verres). This was a necessarily short piece used as a device to circumvent the delaying tactics of the defence of a patently guilty man. It was so successful that Verres withdrew and further prepared speeches were not required.

Each of the Orations in my Folio Society edition is preceded by a helpful introduction by the translator. I began Berry’s piece on ‘The Catilinarian Conspiracy’.

From Waterloo I walked across Westminster Bridge to Carol’s in Rochester Row. South BankI have seen this route even more crowded than today, but it was still a struggle to reach and walk across the bridge and past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

At the junction of Great Smith Street and Victoria Street a woman struggled with a chain of keys that would have done credit to Dickens’s Jacob Marley from ‘A Christmas Carol’, to free her bicycle from its fixture on a set of railings.Woman unlocking bike Having succeeded, she dropped the cluster on the pavement and loaded her steed. Given her apparel and the content of her baskets, I wondered how she would manage to ride off. She didn’t. She donned her furry hat over the straw one, pushed the bike across the road, and continued down the street.

I took the 507 bus from Carol’s back to Waterloo and boarded the train to New Milton where my chauffeuse was waiting to drive me home; show me her planting and tidying of the garden; and feed me on fresh vegetables with beef casserole, the method of cooking of which is given in yesterday’s post. She drank Hoegaarden, and I abstained.