Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 569 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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AULUS CLUENTIUS HABITUS, of Larinum in Samnium, the hero of a Roman cause celebre. In 74 B.C. he accused his step-father Statius Albius Oppianicus of an attempt to poison him; had it been successful, the property of Cluentius would have fallen to his mother Sassia. Oppianicus and two others were condemned, and some years later Oppianicus died in exile. But the verdict was looked upon with suspicion, and it was known for a fact that one of the jurymen had received a large sum of money for distribution amongst his colleagues. The result was the degradation of Cluentius himself and several of the jurymen. In 66, Sassia induced her stepson Oppianicus to charge Cluentius with having caused the elder Oppianicus to be poisoned while in exile. On this occasion the defence was undertaken by Cicero in the extant speech Pro Cluentio. In the end Cluentius was acquitted. Cicero afterwards boasted openly that he had thrown dust in the eyes of the jury (Quintilian, Instit. ii. 17. 21, who quotes this speech more than any other). His efforts are chiefly devoted to proving that the condemnation of the elder Oppianicus was just and in no way the result of the jury having been bribed by Cluentius; only a small portion of the end of the speech deals with the specific charge. It was generally believed that the verdict in the former trial was an unfair one; and this opinion was most prejudicial to Cluentius. But even if it could be shown that Cluentius had bribed the jury-men, this did not prove that he had poisoned Oppianicus, although it supplied a sufficient reason for wishing to get him out of the way. The speech delivered by Cicero on this occasion is considered one'of his best. Editions of the speech by W. Y. Fausset (1887), W. Ramsay (1883) ; see also H. Nettleship, Lectures and Essays (1885).

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