Setting the Stage (Pro Caelio 1)

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Felicia Escandon discusses how the beginning of Pro Caelio is related to the festival taking place in Rome at the time, the Ludi Megalenses. She shows that Cicero laces the opening of his speech with humor and comedy to connect with the jury and soften the seriousness of the charges.

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Latin Text

Si quis, iudices, forte nunc adsit ignarus legum iudiciorum consuetudinisque nostrae, miretur profecto quae sit tanta atrocitas huiusce causae, quod diebus festis ludisque publicis, omnibus forensibus negotiis intermissis, unum hoc iudicium exerceatur, nec dubitet quin tanti facinoris reus arguatur ut eo neglecto civitas stare non possit. Idem cum audiat esse legem quae de seditiosis consceleratisque civibus qui armati senatum obsederint, magistratibus vim attulerint, rem publicam oppugnarint cotidie quaeri iubeat: legem non improbet, crimen quod versetur in iudicio requirat; cum audiat nullum facinus, nullam audaciam, nullam vim in iudicium vocari, sed adulescentem illustri ingenio, industria, gratia accusari ab eius filio quem ipse in iudicium et vocet et vocarit, oppugnari autem opibus meretriciis: Atratini ipsius pietatem non reprehendat, libidinem muliebrem comprimendam putet, vos laboriosos existimet quibus otiosis ne in communi quidem otio liceat esse.


Translation (by Felicia Escandon, slightly modified): Judges, if anyone should be here and not know our ways and legal system, he would really wonder what the huge problem of this case might be, that on the days of public games, all business had been interrupted, except for this trial. He wouldn’t doubt that the defendant is accused of a major crime. Surely if this trial was ceased, the government shouldn’t be able to continue. When that guy hears that there is a law about rebellious citizens who specifically surround the senate, bring violence against civil officers, and fight the orders of the government, demanding that they should be tried immediately, he would not disapprove of the law, but would want to know what the accusation is in this trial. When he hears that no crime or violence is brought forth in the trial, but that a young, intelligent, hardworking man is accused by the son of one whom he himself called to trial, and that he is fought with the money of whores, he would not blame the dutifulness of Atratinus himself. Rather, he would think that the womanly desires should be suppressed. In addition, he would think the judges are hardworking when they aren’t allowed a break when others typically are.


Austin, R. G., ed. M. Tulli Ciceronis Pro M. Caelio Oratio. 3rd ed. New York; Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.

Geffcken, Katherine A. Comedy in the Pro Caelio. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy­Carducci, 1995.

Hornblower, Simon, and Antony Spawforth. The Oxford Classical Dictionary . 3rd rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Keitel, Elizabeth, and Jane Crawford, eds. Cicero: Pro Caelio. Newburyport, MA: Focus, 2010.

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