“They Made Me Do It.”

The oldest excuse in the book.  This example of it comes from Cic. Rab. Post. 29:

Therefore, I say, that he was compelled by force to act as he did,—by force which, as our great poet says “Breaks and subdues the loftiest dignity.” He should have died, you will say; for that is the alternative. And so he would have done, if, while his affairs were in such a state of embarrassment, he could have died without the greatest disgrace.  Do not then, impute his hard fortune to him as a fault; do not think the injury done to him by the king his crime; do not judge of his intentions by the compulsion under which he was, nor of his inclination by the force to which he submitted. Unless, indeed, you think those men deserving of reproach who have fallen among enemies or among thieves, and who then act differently under compulsion from what they would if they were free. No one of us is ignorant, even if we have had no personal experience of it, of the mode of proceeding adopted by a king. These are the orders given by kings,—“Take notice,” “Obey orders,” “Do not complain when you are not asked.” These are their threats,—“If I catch you here tomorrow, you shall die.” Expressions which we ought to read and consider, not only for the purpose of being amused by them, but in order to learn to beware of their authors and to avoid them.

It reminded me of a fragment from Pacuvius’ Atalanta:

Omnes, qui tamquam nos serviunt               

Sub regno, callent domini imperia metuere (Pac. 72-73).

All, who are enslaved, like us,

Under a king, are callous to any fear of orders, in a word—they are tame.

The translation is my own.  This may mean I am in agreement of a sort with Wiseman via Leigh:

In late-republican Rome, tragedy was par excellence the exemplary genre for revealing the ways of kings and tyrants.

From p. 32 of Roman Drama and Roman History.  Corresponding footnote:


 [Leigh 1996 is on ILL order.]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s