Cicero Pro Roscio Essay

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Discuss the political significance of Cicero’s defence of Sextus Roscius Amerinus

Pro Roscio Amerino was Cicero’s first speech in a criminal court and entails his defence of Sextus Roscius Amerinus, a man accused of parricide with the trial taking place in 80BC. This essay aims to study the political background and context of the trial, mainly the Sullan regime, and how Cicero and the trial are a circumstance of the times. Secondly, what ramifications Cicero has in taking up the case, the details of the case itself and whether or not the speech involves Cicero speaking out against specific persons. Amongst this, there will also be analysis of the speech’s political significance and any effects it has on either changing the politics of the Republic or what Cicero believed his defence to achieve.

The case of Sextus Roscius Amerinus was one of alleged parricide. The rich, elder Roscius was killed in Rome while his son was managing his thirteen farms in Ameria. Shortly after the death Roscius Amerinus had his inheritance taken from him and was accused of murdering his father.

The trial took place in 80BC; Sulla had recently resigned his dictatorship and taken up the position of Consul, resulting in a large amount of political context surrounding the trial. During his time as dictator (end of 82BC until the end of 81BC) Sulla enacted several reforms on the republic which had their impact on the case of Pro Roscio. Many of the reforms were enacted to restore power to the aristocracy, giving more influence to the senate while severely crippling positions such as the office of the Plebeian Tribune whose main role was to impose a balance of democracy on the aristocracy. Seven new permanent law courts were created to try major crimes and their juries were to consist exclusively of senators, a role which was given to the Equites since the reform of Gaius Gracchus in 123BC. One of the more seminal reforms for Pro Roscius Amerinus was the use of the proscriptions by Sulla to punish his enemies and to raise money for the state treasury and friends of Sulla. With the case occurring at the outcome of these reforms we see the ‘extent to which civil conflict had resulted in social and economic as well as political disruption illustrated in Cicero’s...Pro Roscio Amerino’.

As the trial was the first murder case in the new courts, the jury were expected to condemn the first person accused to shown their strength and ability in upholding the law. As such, Cicero’s case is already at a disadvantage. One of the main reasons why there is such design and political intrigue in the case of Roscius Amerinus was the use of the proscription list by those who wanted to obtain Roscius’ land and invalidate any claim Roscius junior would usually have on his inheritance. The proscriptions were used by Sulla in 82BC as a means of legally killing off his enemies and allowing his friends to profit from it. Whoever was put on the list was declared an enemy of the state and their killers were rewarded with a share of the victims’ estate; the rest would go to the state. No one could inherit from a proscribed man, and his sons and grandsons couldn’t run for office. This was an effective way of filling the treasury, severely reducing any rival power and controlling the state through fear.

Plutarch stated in his Life of Sulla that: ‘Sulla at once proscribed eighty persons... He also proscribed anyone who harboured and saved a proscribed person...but offering any one who slew a proscribed person two talents as a reward for this murderous deed, even though a slave should slay his master, or a son his father. And what seemed the greatest injustice of all, he took away the civil rights from the sons and grandsons of those who had been proscribed, and confiscated the property of all’.

The proscriptions were managed by one of Sulla’s freedmen, Chrysogonus. While the plot against Roscius seems to have started with Capito and Magnus, they soon gained the...
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