Clodius is a Monster! (and the Origin of the Phrase Cui Bono)

Cicero, Pro Milone 32

“How, then, is it possible to prove that Clodius conspired against Milo? For such an audacious, nefarious monster it is enough to show that he had a great reason, that great hope resided in the death of Milo, and that there was great purpose to it. And so, let that proverb of Cassius “Who profited from it?” [cui bono fuerit] frame the players on the stage, if truly good men are compelled to deception by no prize while the wicked often are moved by a small one.

Once Milo was killed, Clodius advanced in these ways: not only was he as a praeter under no consul who would do something about his crime, but he was also a praeter serving under consuls with whose plans if not their actually help he hoped that he would be able to get away with his planned insanities. These men, as I am sure we were thinking, would not want to restrain his actions if they could, since they would think about the great benefit they owed him; men who, even if they wanted to, would hardly be capable of squashing the boldness of the most criminal person, an audacity fully strengthened by time.”

Quonam igitur pacto probari potest insidias Miloni fecisse Clodium? Satis est in illa quidem tam audaci, tam nefaria belua docere, magnam ei causam, magnam spem in Milonis morte propositam, magnas utilitates fuisse. Itaque illud Cassianum, “cui bono fuerit,” in his personis valeat, etsi boni nullo emolumento impelluntur in fraudem, improbi saepe parvo. Atqui Milone interfecto Clodius haec adsequebatur, non modo ut praetor esset non eo consule, quo sceleris nihil facere posset, sed etiam ut eis consulibus praetor esset, quibus si non adiuvantibus, at coniventibus certe speraret posse se eludere in illis suis cogitatis furoribus: cuius illi conatus, ut ipse ratiocinabatur, nec cuperent reprimere, si possent, cum tantum beneficium ei se debere arbitrarentur, et, si vellent, fortasse vix possent frangere hominis sceleratissimi conroboratam iam vetustate audaciam.

The Cassius in question is L. Cassius Longinus, Tribune of the Plebs in 127 BCE . We have mentioned the polarizing P. Clodius Pulcher before.

Cicero was a fan of this saying.

Cicero, Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino, 84

The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to consider the most truthful and wisest judge, often used to say in evaluating cases “who stood to profit” [cui bono fuisset]. This is the human way: no one pursues a crime without the hope of some profit.”

Cassius ille, quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat, identidem in causis quaerere solebat, “cui bono” fuisset. Sic vita hominum est, ut ad maleficium nemo conetur sine spe atque emolumento accedere.

Roman Coin depicting Vestal Virgin on one side and L. Cassius on the other (he famously prosecuted the Vestal Virgins for not being chaste)

 

 

Sophocles, Elektra 1503-1507: Orestes (!) Wants to Kill All Criminals

 

Orestes says at the end of Elektra:

 

“You cannot die wherever you want—
I must guard this bitter poison from you.
It is right that this be the penalty for everyone:
Kill whoever wants to break the law—
Then there wouldn’t be so much treachery.”

 

 

ΟΡ.                      Μὴ μὲν οὖν καθ’ ἡδονὴν
θάνῃς· φυλάξαι δεῖ με τοῦτό σοι πικρόν.
Χρῆν δ’ εὐθὺς εἶναι τήνδε τοῖς πᾶσιν δίκην,
ὅστις πέρα πράσσειν γε τῶν νόμων θέλει,
κτείνειν· τὸ γὰρ πανοῦργον οὐκ ἂν ἦν πολύ.

 

I remain dissatisfied with my translation of πανοῦργον .  I am not at all dissatisfied with the irony that Sheriff Orestes might be calling for his own head.

Euripides on a Sick Country: fr. 267 (Auge)

“The sick state is ingenious at discovering crimes.”

δεινὴ πόλις νοσοῦσ’ ἀνευρίσκειν κακά.

I’m sure we can all think of events in our respective polities appropriate to this fragment from Euripides. The more things change…

But, here’s a useful reminder from Aeschylus on consequences (Eumenides, 644-651)

“After the dust has soaked up the blood
Of a dying man, there is no resurrection.
My father can’t cast a spell on this
But all other things he can turn back and forth
Without losing his breath at all.”

ἀνδρὸς δ’ ἐπειδὰν αἷμ’ ἀνασπάσῃ κόνις
ἅπαξ θανόντος, οὔτις ἔστ’ ἀνάστασις.
τούτων ἐπῳδὰς οὐκ ἐποίησεν πατὴρ
οὑμός, τὰ δ’ ἄλλα πάντ’ ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω
στρέφων τίθησιν οὐδὲν ἀσθμαίνων μένει.

The father in question in this passage is Zeus, the god of justice. The Greeks needed to believe that Zeus would support justice (ultimately) because they saw that men failed to. Since we’re playing Aristophanes here and having the old tragedians compete, I’ll give Euripides a final and sacrilegious word:

Euripides, fr. 292.6 (Bellerophon)

“If the gods do a shameful thing, they are not gods.”

εἰ θεοί τι δρῶσιν αἰσχρόν, οὐκ εἰσὶν θεοί.

Ovid, Heroides 5.5-9: Oenone to Paris

“What god has put his power against my prayers?
What crime stops me from remaining yours?
We must bear lightly whatever suffering we’ve earned.
We must mourn the punishment that comes undeserved.”

Quis deus opposuit nostris sua numina votis?
ne tua permaneam, quod mihi crimen obest?
leniter, e merito quicquid patiare, ferendum est;
quae venit indignae poena dolenda venit.