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Cicero and Ancient Roman Law

Marcus Tullius Cicero born on3 January 106 BC and died 7 December 43 BC was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.

Besides being an influential politician, Cicero was also the most celebrated defense lawyer of his time—a Roman Johnny Cochran or F. Lee Bailey if you will. He was famous for winning wobbly cases with his amazing persuasive skills. He once won a Greek poet Roman citizenship, even though he had documents to prove it, by waxing expressively about contributions poets make to society. Cicero once said, “We are brought in not to say what we stand by in our own opinions, but what is called for by circumstances and the case itself” and if required “to pour darkness over the judges.”

Cicero was the pionner of the standard defense tactics such as the praeterito (a technique in which the lawyer condemns his adversaries while he insists he doing no such thing) and the ad misericordiam (an appeal of pity in which the defendants crying wife and malnourished children were positioned in front of the jury box). If Cicero’s client was childless he would hire some homeless children to play the part. In the classic example of a praeterito, the lawyer would say he wants the jury to make their decision based completely on evidence and the fact that the prosecutor cheats on wife and is cruel to his dog.

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