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Legal Techniques of Marcus Tullius Cicero

Legal Techniques of Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman orator, philosopher, constitutionalist and lawyer who is considered amongst Rome’s greatest oral speakers and arguably the best poet also that ever lived (Trumbull, Mcnamara 1). His brilliance in the field of law was also worth noting as he was able to win crucial cases for his clients whom oddly enough, he did not charge for the services that he had offered. Some of Cicero’s works have been found and archived while some have been reported lost and through the available material we can see that Cicero used a number of techniques that saw him emerge victorious in his legal battles.

Oratory was a skill that was considered with high regards in Rome during Cicero’s time and he had perfected it (James 4). A good number of times Cicero used oratory in order to win cases and it was evident when he handled the case of Governor Gaius Verras. The people of Sicily had accused Verras of mismanagement and had requested Cicero to represent them while on the other hand Verras had taken up the services of Quintus Hortensius Hortalus a high flying lawyer in Rome at that time. During one of his arguments, Cicero made a scathing attack on the character of Verras at the same time involving the jury to put his point across. It is recorded in the speech Against Verras I, Cicero stated that he could not see what Verres hoped to achieve with the current jurors sitting on the bench.

With those words Cicero was able to give the jury a sense of self importance considering he emphasized on the weight of the decision that they would have made. His oratory skills worked in his favor since he was able to win the case and Verras was charged.

Being a great orator it would only be obvious that Cicero would find it easy to implement sarcasm in some of his legal situations. Still as praetor he once encountered Vatinius who was known for his insolent behavior towards the courts plus his rudeness. Vatinius who had large swellings on his neck made a request and when Cicero asked form more time to deliberate on the matter Vatinius answered that if he himself had been the praetor at that time he would have no problem in giving a direct response at the moment. Cicero immediately had a sarcastic response stating that he did not have a neck like Vatinius’ thus he could not make such a decision hastily. This goes to show that Cicero managed to pull himself out of a tricky situation through a brilliant legal mind (Trumbull, McNamara 2005).

It is has been widely considered that Cicero was for the moral standards compared to government laws and this policy made worked for him in the numerous cases that he undertook whether as a lawyer or praetor (Annas 15).In one particular case, in which he was acting as praetor, a man named Manilius was brought to him being accused of peculation. Manilius had requested for some time before his trial could begin. Cicero agreed to his request and gave him a day before the trial could begin a decision which did not go well with the local people since Manilius was popular amongst them and the norm was that the accused person would be given ten days at least. When Cicero came out to explain his decision he said that as far as he was concerned he treated every accused person with equity and humanity as far as the law was concerned and Manilius was no exception. He went on further to explain that the day was the only day that he would be in charge and that he did not want to leave the trial to another person therefore his decision. Ciecero’s explanation to the issue at hand saw his policy of moral standards in regards to the legal system gain favor from the people as they later requested him to represent Manilius after his praetor duties were over.

In another instance that Cicero showed equality as a major foundation in his law career when he advocated for the impeachment of Caius Verra who was a corrupt judge. He urged the Senate to apply the laws of Rome equally without favor to anyone in order to protect the reputation of their state and also give justice to the victims of a corrupt judge. Cicero in his speech accused Caius Verra of not being the appointed but an inhuman tyrant who had tarnished the reputation and name of Rome. He want on further to state that Caius Verra should not have any comfort having escaped from Rome’s allies but should be held accountable by Rome itself. (Forum 2005). Cicero proves that through equality the Roman legal system would have much better off as compared to favoritism.

Justice and integrity were two ideologies that Cicero advocated at all costs not only as a politician but also as a part of the Ancient Roman legal system (Annas 28) During the period he served as a praetor he handled a case where an influential man named Licinius Macer was accused of extortion. Licinius Macer was convinced that he could not be convicted since he was well connected therefore as the judges were deliberating on the judgment, Macer went home and trimmed his hair and changed into clean robes expecting to be acquitted. Crassus another influential individual and a friend to Macer met him as he was going back to the hearing and informed him that all the judges had condemned him. Reports say that Macer went back to his bed and died immediately apparently due to the outcome of the trial.

Cicero had a hand in the verdict as he was able to examine the evidence that were available and saw that Macer was indeed guilty. The scenario shows how Cicero used integrity regardless of who was involved in the case to carry out his legal duties.

Cicero was fond of using rhetoric while arguing his cases or when discussing legal matters and this was evident when he uncovered the conspiracy to do away with the Republic of Rome with Lucius Sergius Catilina leading them. At that time Cicero was of the Roman Senate and he declared martial law after which he sent Catilina out of the city with four speeches commonly referred to as the Catiline Orations. In the speeches Cicero described Catilina and his followers as debaucheries, and went on to denounce Catliline’s sympathizers as a rogue debtors who wanted to depend on the disgraced Senator as final and desperate hope. The ensuing events saw Cicero sentence the conspirators to face the death penalty without trial. With the event taking place Cicero was able to turn the Senate against Catilina including those that supported through his rhetoric argument and achieved what he wanted through a lawful way (Siobhán 19).

As most of his legal encounters required him to speak a lot most of his works regardless of which field have been recorded through the speeches that he had delivered. Cicero was particularly fond of using comic motifs in his speech including legal proceedings. One such instance came about when he was involved a case where there were two brothers and their father had died and there was an inheritance dispute. He went on to give a comic motif when he referred to comedic play “Hypobolimaeus” whose plot was almost the same with the case he was handling. Ciceros managed to convince the jury at through the motif as it was able to bring out the desired reaction from them. (May, Wisse 36)

Cicero was always inclined to use evidence in the cases that he argued or was involved in. in one of his many orations specifically the Pro Archia Poeta which translates to the defense of the Aulus Licinius Archias. The case involved the poet, Licinius Archias who as accused of not being a Roman citizen. Archias was originally from Greece but gained Roman citizenship through a politician and army general named Lucullus. The accusations towards Archias were therefore seen as a political move towards Lucullus (Grant 34). The accusations that had been brought forward against were; that there was no record of Archias being enrolled as a citizen of Heraclea which we claimed to be. The praetor’s records from 89 BC which Archias’ name appears were unreliable. That Archias did not own a permanent residence in Roman and the final charge was that that his name did not appear in the census that took place during the period that he claims he was in Rome.

While arguing for Achias, Cicero responded to the accusations with viable explanations. He at first explained that the reason why Archias did not appear in Heraclea registry was because the records had been destroyed during the Social War and in fact that representatives from Heraclea had testified that Archias was indeed a citizen. That Archias’ name was in praetors Metellus records and that they were credible. Cicero further mentioned that Archias indeed have a permanent residence in Rome. On his last point Cicero explained that the reason why Archias’ name did not appear in the census records was because he was on war tours with Lucullus every time they were taken (Berry 17). As much as there is no clear indication of the outcome of the trial it is clear that Cicero was keen on his arguing his cases based on the evidence that was available.

Cicero had a queer way of doing things and despite using evidence as way of arguing his cases he sometimes he totally disregarded this aspect. Cicero would ignore the evidence produced his against his clients and would at that point rather look at the motive that drove the perpetrator to commit a particular crime. This technique would work out in favor of Cicero and winning his cases since he brought on to the table a more humane way of looking into cases rather than just use existing evidence.

Cicero had a knack in using the situation at hand to his advantage when dealing with legal matters. He would switch situations and place a convincing argument in his favor. Such was case when he was defending his friend Titus Annias Milo who had been accused of murder (Berry 34). The details of the case were that Milo had killed Publius Clodius Pulcher a man who was contesting for the seat of praetor of which Milo was holding. In a brawl that ensued between the slaves of the two rivals, of which Pulcher’s slaves had started, he was injured and died due to his wounds. On Milo’s defence Cicero did not deny that Milo had killed Pulcher but insisted that he did so in self defence. This was a result of the pro Pulcher crowds that had gathered at the courts and were a restless. Cicero realised this and he took advantage of the situation. As much as the trial did not go in Cicero’s way since Milo was convicted it showed the brilliant mind of Cicero.

As much as Cicero was always keen on giving a help hand he was sometimes considered an as a self centered individual whose interest at times was his own. He was particularly fond of using jest whether in court or whether he was using it to intimidate his rivals at the senate sessions. This way he could easily get into the minds of those he was up against and wins the cases (Grant 19).

There was a particular instance Caesar suggested that there be a law in which land will be divided to soldiers at Campania, a law that most of the senators were opposed to. At that time there was a senator by the name of Lucius Gellius one of the oldest in the house who was opposed to the motion so when he stood up and stated that the law should never exist a long as e lived. After that statement Cicero quipped with a jest that they should postpone the proposed law since Gellius would not make them wait for long (Siobhán 47). Another instance was where he made fan of Nepos who they were arguing with in the arguments Nepos kept asking Cicero who was his father. Cicero in his usual jest nature told Nepos that his mother had made it difficult to answer such a case in his case. With such a response Cicero was making fun of Nepos since Nepos’ mother had a reputation of indulging in sexual relations with many men (Trumbull, Mcnamara 1).

In one of the senate session there was a senator who went by the name of Marcus Gellius and it was supposed that his father was a slave. So as he read some letters with a shrill voice Cicero made a joke concerning the way speech was delivered. He suggested that Gellius’ voice was like that since he came from the criers as the slaves were known back then. This went show that Cicero would at time use intimidation tactics so that he would have an advantage over them. This way Cicero could divert the attention of those he was going up against and would easily win such cases. The tactic cannot be described as the best example for upcoming lawyers but if it would work for them then it would not matter as long they win the case and it as it is stated Cicero won a good number of his cases (Mobile reference 2)

Cicero was also known to known to do pro bono work in most if not all of his cases. This evidently became a reputation that preceded him and in most cases it was positive. Having been known to do good deeds for people many judgments went his way. It can be argued that he had the best interest of his clients at heart therefore they were in the right. In one of his first cases he defended an innocent man who was wrongfully accused. In the case a young man named Roscius was accused of having murdered his father who had been put to the death via proscription. Sylla who was one of the influential citizens at that time wanted to but the deceased land from the son who had inherited it for a much cheaper price which Roscius refused. Since Sylla was also very influential he turned the tables around on Roscius. As there was a case to be answered no other advocate wanted to go against Sylla nut Cicero did. This showed that Cicerso was willing to go out of his way and help those in need. Pro Bono work has been proven to be a crucial process for lawyers. As much as it is a moral issue to be undertaken for the sake of helping others it may help in terms of gaining a good reputation as in the case of Cicero (Annas 43).

With the examples given it can be said that Cicero had successful career as a lawyer. The ways his works have been put across are clear evidence of the various techniques he used in order to win his cases. His oratory skills are obviously his greatest strength and were unmatched. He used them so well not only when he was arguing in court but also in his rise in the field of politics. Cicero added other techniques in his oral skills as mentioned above such as rhetoric, jest and comedy to win his cases. These avenues allowed him to convince the judges, jurors in a manner unmatched. He was at times was put to test and judge cases and he would also implement this without a problem and give the best decision that he could come up with (Grant 39).

Cicero’s techniques can be described as unusual what is important to note that it is they worked considerably well for him (Grant 41). He managed to curve out way of thought in terms of handling the legal system of Ancient Rome whenever he was involved. In the process he was able to gain admiration at the same time criticism from all the different sectors. With that in mind we can conclude that Cicero was indeed a unique figure in terms of ancient Roman law.



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