Showing posts with label Roscius. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roscius. Show all posts

December 18, 2011

Museo Archeologico di Amelia: Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino

This post is part of a series highlighting the collection at the municipal archaeology museum in Amelia. This information is from museum's English placards.

The gens Roscia was one of the most important families of Ameria [the Roman name of Amelia] and was made famous by Cicero's renowned oration defending Sextus Roscius, accused of parricide by two members of his family: Titus Roscius Magnus and Titus Roscius Capito, one of whose descendants may have been mentioned in an inscription in Ameria. Cicero's words tell us about the wealth of his client's father -- thirteen very fertile plots close to the Tiber (Pro Rosc., 20) and about his influential ties with some of Rome's artistocratic families, such at the Metelli and the Scipio. The exploitation of landed property through the work of slaves must have been one of the ways the gens made its fortune. The family also had brickworks, attested to by the seals bearing the family name.

The wealth and reputation of the gens offered some of its members the opportunity to become city magistrates. Well-known family figures became members of the quattuorviri, and in the first half of the 1st century AD one of them -- Titus Roscius Autuma -- donated a thesaurus or container for offers of the faithful at the temples.

Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino

In 80 BC, Cicero defended Sextus Roscius of America, accused by two relatives of murdering his father. The two men responsible for the murder wanted to gain possession of the dead man’s property.

In 80 BC Cicero defended Sextus Roscius, who had been accused of murdering his father. Although this was his first causa publica (criminal case), it brought the orator – who was not even 30 years old at the time – enormous fame. Cicero later proudly recalled his courage in agreeing to defend the man, for in the final phase he had to accuse Chrysogonus, the powerful freedman of the Roman dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, but without actually drawing the dictator’s name into the case (De officiis, 14.51).

The accusation of parricide was effectively the last stage of a conspiracy that, as Cicero successfully demonstrated, had been organized by two of Sextus Roscius’ relatives, Titus Roscius Capito and Titus Roscius Magnus, who had murdered the man and wanted to put their hands on his fortune with the help of Chrysogonus. Sextus Roscius – father and son bore the same name – was a wealthy citizen of Ameria whose friends included some of the most important Roman families. One night, he was murdered on his way back from a dinner in Rome, while his son was in Ameria. A few days later, the two conspirators convinced Chrysogonus to put the dead man’s name on the prosciption lists, though they had been closed for some time, in order to cheat the son out of his inheritance. In fact, through this prosciption Sextus Roscius’ property was confiscated and auctioned, only to be bought by Chrysogonus for a pittance compared to its real value, which would then be shared by the three.

In the meantime, in Sulla’s name (though unbeknownst to him) the freedman had received a delegation from the city of Ameria, pleading the cause of Roscius, father and son. Chrysogonus promised to look into the matter, but did nothing. At this point the young Roscius, reduced to poverty and facing a possible death penalty, decided to seek refuge in Rome with his father’s friend Cecilia Metella. While he was there, in order to get rid of him, the two relatives accused him of parricide, a crime punishable with death by drowning.

His father’s powerful friends rallied around him. Realizing the political implications of the trial, they decided not to enter the fray but to hand his defense over to Cicero, whose youth and supposed inexperience would have justified any unwarranted words. In his harsh attack of Chrysogonus, Cicero deftly avoided harming Sulla’s reputation, saying that the dictator could “not have been aware of anything, given that alone he has the entire government in his hands, and is so full of important commitments that he cannot even breathe freely (Pro Rosc., 22).

Sextus Roscius was acquitted of the accusation of parricide.

June 17, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011 - ,, No comments

Amelia, Umbria: In His First Criminal Trial, Cicero Defended Sextus Roscius the Younger from the Charge of Killing His Father, A Wealthy Resident of Amelia

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Sometimes on this art crime blog we feature stories about Amelia, the town in Umbria that is hosting for the third year ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies.

This post is about not an art crime but murder. In 80 BC, during the dictatorship of Sulla, the only military commander to take victories in both Rome and Athens, a wealthy resident of Amelia was murdered in Rome. Sextus Roscius the Elder's estate in Amelia consisted of 13 farms and numerous slaves. He spent much of his time in Rome and left the farming to his son, Sextus Roscius the Younger, a middle-aged man who shunned social occasions and loved his work. One evening in September, while walking after dinner with two of his slaves, between 8 and 9 p.m. near the Palatine Baths, 'Old' Roscius was killed. Shortly thereafter, his estate was confiscated and put up for sale. This happened because at the time people who were not loyal to Sulla could be put on a list and have their assets sold. However, adding names to the list had stopped the year before Old Roscius was killed. Yet, sometimes, property was auctioned as if the owner had been listed. Two distant relatives, Capito and Magnus, purchased the farms.

A committee in Amelia felt that this was unfair so they sent a delegation to speak with Sulla and explain that Old Roscius had been in good standing at the time of his death and that the sale should be reversed. However, the delegation only spoke to a spokesman of Sulla who promised that the property would be restored to Sextus Roscius the Younger.

However, this delegation may have only been a smokescreen to appear to be seeking justice as the committee was headed up by Capito himself. What ended up happening is that Sextus Roscius the Younger was actually accused of killing his father in order to keep the property for himself. A witness came forward and said that the younger Roscius had been on poor terms with his father and was afraid of being disinherited.

No one thought that anyone would be brave enough to defend Roscius the Younger. Robbery and murder was common in Rome and the judicial court was easily bribed. People were afraid that they too would be accused by officials of or friendly to Sulla's regime.

However, the Roscius family had friends in Rome who convinced the 27-year-old Cicero to take the case.

The young advocat did not have to provide any evidence, just refute the accusations. Cicero defended Sextus Roscius the Younger by saying that he was uncouth and ignorant and the luxurious things meant nothing to him. In addition, Cicero said that the son had not been to Rome at the time of the death of his father, that he had been 50 miles away in Amelia. Cicero said that the younger Sextus had neither the means, the opportunity, or even the disposition to carry out such a crime. On the other hand, Cicero said, Magnus, a distant Roscius relative who had feuded for years over the estate, had been in Rome the night of the murder and had traveled to Amelia by dawn the next morning to tell his cousin Capito that Sextus Roscius the Elder was dead. Capito ended up owning three farms and Magnus managed 10 farms in the name of one of Sulla's administrators. Cicero gave such an impassioned speech that the 50 judges of the criminal court could not help but acquit Sextus Roscius the Younger, although Capito and Magnus never returned the property or faced charges in the death of Old Roscius.

In Amelia, just past Piazza Marconi and down Via Piacenti, you can find a plaque in memory of the Roscius family.

If you would like to read more about this case, you may read a summary of Cicero's "Pro Roscio Amerino" here and Chapter 4 of Anthony Trollope's book, The Life of Cicero, here.