Author: Tamás Nótári
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  • 1 Institute for Legal Studies of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences H-1014 Budapest Országház u. 30 Hungary
  • 2 Károli Gáspár University Faculty of Law and Political Science Department of Roman Law H-1042 Budapest Viola u. 2-4 Hungary

The statement of the defence delivered in the criminal action (causa publica) of Aulus Cluentius Habitus-Cicero’s longest actually delivered speech left to us-is from 66, that is, the year when Cicero was praetor. In certain respect, it is the precious stone of Cicero’s ars oratoria since its narrative is vivid, full of turns like a crime story; events, scenes, planes of time replace one another boldly, sometimes seemingly illogically but, being subordinated to the effect the orator means to attain, in an exactly premeditated sequence. Cluentius was charged, on the one hand, with poisoning his stepfather, Statius Albius Oppianicus. The other part of the charge was founded on the criminal proceedings under which eight years before Cluentius charged Oppianicus with poisoning attempt against him, as a result of which Oppianicus was compelled to go into exile-in the current lawsuit, however, the prosecution brought it up against him that the former court of justice declared Oppianicus guilty purely because Cluentius had bribed the judges. Lex Cornelia de sicariis et veneficis of 81 served as basis for judging crimes that provide grounds for the charge of poisoning; however, the prohibition of bribing judges applied to the order of senators only, and Cluentius belonged to the order of knights. First, we intend to outline the historical background of the oration, so to say, the historical facts of the case (I.); then, we turn our attention to the opportunity of applying statutory facts of the case, i.e. lex Cornelia de sicariis et veneficis. (II.) Finally, we examine the rhetorical tools of Cicero’s strategy to explore how the orator handled, modified or distorted the system of the charges and chronology-to support the argument, which can be considered brilliant with a lawyer’s eyes, too. (III.)

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