Life of Cicero, 13

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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13For this man beyond all others showed the Romans how great a charm eloquence adds to the right, and that justice is invincible if it is correctly put in words, and that it behooves the careful statesman always in his acts to choose the right instead of the agreeable, and in his words to take away all vexatious features from what is advantageous. 2A proof of the charm of his discourse may be found in an incident of his consulship connected with the public spectacles. In earlier times, it seems, the men of the equestrian order were mingled with the multitudes in the theatres and saw the spectacles along with the people, seated as chance would have it; Marcus Otho was the first to separate in point of honour the knights from the rest of the citizens, which he did when he was praetor,[24] and gave them a particular place of their own at the spectacles, which they still retain. 3The people took this as a mark of dishonour to themselves, and when Otho appeared in the theatre they hissed him insultingly, while the knights received him with loud applause. The people renewed and increased their hisses, and then the knights their applause. After this they turned upon one another with reviling words, and disorder reigned in the theatre. 4When Cicero heard of this he came and summoned the people to the temple of Bellona, where he rebuked and exhorted them, whereupon they went back again to the theatre and applauded Otho loudly, and vied with the knights in showing him honour and esteem.

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  • [24] It was in 67 B.C., four years before Cicero's consulship, that Lucius Roscius Otho, as tribune of the people, introduced his law giving the equites a special place at the spectacles, namely, the fourteen rows of seats next those of the senators. The law, however, had only recently been enacted.

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