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About Me:I'm a graduate student studying International Criminal Law and first started writing for King's News almost 4 years ago! My hobbies include reading, travelling and charity work. I cover many categories but my favourite articles to write are about mysteries of the ancient world, interesting places to visit, the Italian language and animals!
Civis Romanus Sum – I am a Roman
During my Latin lessons we would translate what seemed to be infinite Latin versions, some would be exciting, some even funny, but there were the occasional boring versions which made my eyes start to close. When I began translating the works of Cicero, one of the greatest orators in Rome, I delve deep into the layers of Roman life. One of his most heartfelt writings can be found in Cicero’s In Verrem (Against Verres) which is a collection of written speeches by Cicero in 70BC on the trial of Gaius Verres, former governor of Sicily. The speeches were usually written after Cicero has proclaimed them thus the words were to some extent more thought-out than when said instinctively and as such they became very powerful. The speeches coincided with Cicero’s electoral race to the aedileship and therefore gained public presence.
CIVIS ROMANUS SUM _ IN VERREM
162. Caedebatur virgis in medio foro Messanae civis Romanus, iudices, cum interea nullus gemitus, nulla vox alia illius miseri inter dolorem crepitumque plagarum audiebatur, nisi haec: "Civis Romanus sum". Hac se commemoratione civitatis omnia verbera depulsurum cruciatumque a corpore deiecturum arbitrabatur. Is non modo hoc non perfecit, ut virgarum vim deprecaretur, sed, cum imploraret saepius usurparetque nomen civitatis, crux, crux, inquam, infelici et aerumnoso, qui numquam istam pestem viderat, comparabatur.
163. O nomen dulce libertatis! O ius eximium nostrae civitatis! O lex Porcia legesque Semproniae! O graviter desiderata et aliquando reddita plebi Romanae tribunicia potestas! Hucine tandem omnia reciderunt ut civis Romanus in provincia populi Romani, in oppido foederatorum ab eo, qui beneficio populi Romani, fascis et securis haberet, deligatus in foro virgis caederetur? […] In crucem tu agere ausus es quemquam qui se civem Romanum esse diceret?
He was chased in the middle of the square in Messina, a Roman citizen, o judges, and despite the pain not a scream was heard, not another word from that poor man if not this “I am a Roman citizen”, between the crackle of sticks hitting him. He thought that by reminding them he was indeed a Roman citizen he could avoid every lash and get rid of every torture. Not only was he not able to do so, that is to stop the lashes, nut whilst he begged repetedly that he was a Roman citizen the cross – yes the cross I say – was being prepared for the poor man, the disgraced, thee that had never seen such horror.
O sweet name of freedom! O supreme law of our Empire! O law Procia and law Sempronie! O power of the trials, desired so much and given to the Roman plede! Everything has fallen so low that a Roman citizen has been beated with sticks and then tied up in a public square of an allied city, in a roman province, from thee who held beams in the interest of the roman public? Have you dare to put on the cross one who claimed to be a roman citizen?
This entire boast of being a Roman citizen carried much weight in a period were few where graced with citizenship. This claim alone was enough to refrain condemnation as Roman citizenship gave the right to be tried in Roman courts. On June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke to the people of Berlin, West Germany: “Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was ‘civis Romanus sum.’ Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner'". Unfortunately for the poor man Cicero describes above, his claim of being a citizen was not believed enough to give him a trial as his scream echoes in my head every time i read this passage.