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There was some courage in Cicero's undertaking his defence; as a known partisan of Pompey, he was treading on dangerous and delicate ground. Caesar was dictator at the time; and the case seems to have been tried before him as the sole judicial authority, without pretence of the intervention of anything like a jury. The defence--if defence it may be called--is a remarkable instance of the common appeal, not to the merits of the case, but to the feelings of the court. After making out what case he could for his client, the advocate as it were throws up his brief, and rests upon the clemency of the judge.
There is no reason to suppose that Cicero had recourse to it in any unusual degree; but employ it he did, and most unscrupulously. It was not only private character that he attacked, as in the case of Antony and Clodius, but even personal defects or peculiarities were made the subject of bitter ridicule. He did not hesitate to season his harangue by a sarcasm on the cast in the prosecutor's eye, or the wen on the defendant's neck, and to direct the attention of the court to these points, as though they were corroborative evidence of a moral deformity.
I have pleaded many causes, Caesar--some, indeed, in association with yourself, while your public career spared you to the courts; but surely I never yet used language of this sort,--'Pardon him, sirs, he has offended: he has made a false step: he did not think to do it; he never will again'. This is language we use to a father. To the court it must be,--'He did not do it: he never contemplated it: the evidence is false; the charge is fabricated'. If you tell me you sit but as the judge of the fact in this case, Caesar,--if you ask me where and when he served against you,--I am silent; I will not now dwell on the extenuating circumstances, which even before a judicial tribunal might have their weight.