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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

Caius Gracchus: “this is only interesting for political speakers, own interest”

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Aulus Gellius, in Book XI, Chapter 9 of his Attic Nights, tells how the famous Greek orator Demosthenes leave buy for a good amount of money for not a speech against the Macedonian Harpalus. In the next chapter 10 gives us another version now attributed to a speech of Gaius Gracchus. But the interest of this text goes beyond the different allocation, because Gracchus reveals starkly how political speakers and advocates seek above all profit and benefit.

Gelius says:

That Gaius Gracchus in a speech of his applied the story related above to the orator Demades, and not to Demosthenes; and a quotation of Gracchus' words.

The story which in the preceding chapter we said was told by Critolaus about Demosthenes, Gaius Gracchus, in the speech Against the Aufeian Law, applied to Demades in the following words: 

“For you, fellow citizens, if you wish to be wise and honest, and if you inquire into the matter, will find that none of us comes forward here without pay. All of us who address you are after something, and no one appears before you for any purpose except to carry something away. I myself, who am now recommending you to increase your taxes, in order that you may the more easily serve your own advantage and administer the government, do not come here for nothing; but I ask of you, not money, but honour and your good opinion. Those who come forward to persuade you not to accept this law, do not seek honour from you, but money from Nicomedes; those also who advise you to accept it are not seeking a good opinion from you, but from Mithridates a reward and an increase of their possessions; those, however, of the same rank and order who are silent are your very bitterest enemies, since they take money from all and are false to all. You, thinking that they are innocent of such conduct, give them your esteem; but the embassies from the kings, thinking it is for their sake that they are silent, give them great gifts and rewards.

So in the land of Greece, when a Greek tragic actor boasted that he had received a whole talent for one play, Demades, the most eloquent man of his country, is said to have replied to him: 'Does it seem wonderful to you that you have gained a talent by speaking? I was paid ten talents by the king for holding my tongue.' Just so, these men now receive a very high price for holding their tongues.”  (Translation. John C. Rolfe. Cambridge. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1927)

Quod C. Gracchus in oratione sua historiam supra scriptam Demadi rhetori, non Demostheni, adtribuit; verbaque ipsius C. Gracchi relata.
Quod in capite superiore a Critolao scriptum esse diximus super Demosthene, id C. Gracchus in oratione, qua legem  Aufeiam dissuasit, in Demaden contulit verbis hisce:  "Nam vos, Quirites, si velitis sapientia atque virtute uti, etsi quaeritis, neminem nostrum invenietis sine pretio huc prodire. Omnes nos, qui verba facimus, aliquid petimus, neque ullius rei causa quisquam ad vos prodit, nisi ut aliquid auferat. Ego ipse, qui aput vos verba facio, uti vectigalia vestra augeatis, quo facilius vestra commoda et rempublicam administrare possitis, non gratis prodeo; verum peto a vobis non pecuniam, sed bonam existimationem atque honorem. Qui prodeunt dissuasuri, ne hanc legem accipiatis, petunt non honorem a vobis, verum a Nicomede pecuniam; qui suadent, ut accipiatis, hi quoque petunt non a vobis bonam existimationem, verum a Mithridate rei familiari suae pretium et praemium; qui autem ex eodem loco atque ordine tacent, hi vel acerrimi sunt; nam ab omnibus pretium accipiunt et omnis fallunt.  Vos, cum putatis eos ab his rebus remotos esse, inpertitis bonam existimationem;  legationes autem a regibus, cum putant eos sua causa reticere, sumptus atque pecunias maximas praebent, item uti in terra Graecia, quo in tempore tragoedus gloriae sibi ducebat talentum magnum ob unam fabulam datum esse, homo eloquentissimus civitatis suae Demades ei respondisse dicitur: "Mirum tibi videtur, si tu loquendo talentum quaesisti? ego, ut tacerem, decem talenta a rege accepi". Item nunc isti pretia maxima ob tacendum accipiunt".

This Demades is a contemporary orator of Demosthenes, who is in favor of the Macedonians Philip and then Alexander, his son,  and his policy of expansion in Greece. See article http://en.antiquitatem.com/political-corrption-demosthenes-philippi , where it is told  the same story, although now applied to Demosthenes.

A consideration about  the Lex  Aufeia, referred by speech of   Gracchus, exposes very clearly what is the general atmosphere of corruption in the awarding of public services at the time when Rome is spreading throughout the Mediterranean  unstoppably .

Some philologists as H. Hill considered that the term " Aufeia " is a corrupt term that and it actually refers to the Lex Aquilia , which owes its name to Manius Aquilio , consul in 129 BC .  But the relevance of the quote is that this Aquilio was proconsul of Asia and as such he awarded the collection of taxes in the provinces of Asia ; specifically he awarded to the King of Pontus Mithridates V the taxes  of Great Phrygia , but as it was said, in exchange for a hefty bribe .

He was accused in court " de repetundis " . The " Lex de pecuniis repetundis " , "law claim improperly collected monies " acted  against concussions ( arbitrary charge made by a public official for their own benefit ) and bribes ( offense of bribing a judge or an officer or acceptance bribery ) .

Aquilio was acquitted with great scandal.As a result , the tribune Gaius Gracchus , seeking resources for their agricultural reforms , enacted the " Lex Sempronia de provincia  Asia ";  so that the resources of Asia will be  auctioned and leased to "publicani " in Rome itself and by the censors , as security against the abuses of the governors.

Anyway, that matter of the award of "public works" whom pays a good commission seems a matter extracted from the press today, the acquittal of the corrupt too.

A peculiar thing, we will  say that the word "concussio" derives from the Latin verb "concutere" which means to move, to hit; it  seems  taken from the practice of "shake or move the tree to pick the fruits that fall" and indeed it seems a suitable source because that is what is generally done by the governors and officials of the Roman provinces, to shake them and beaten them to collect all the fruit.

Since the very name of "provincia", province,  is sufficiently expressive:  "territory to conquer", dominate and despoil, relentlessly applying the expressive meaning of another Latin phrase: "Vae Victis"  woe to the vanquished (ones) , a phrase whose interesting origin we discuss another time.

   
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