1. In 80 B.C. (during the Dictatorship of Sulla), Cicero at the age of 27 defended Sextus Roscius.

* Roscius had been accused of parricide.

2. It was the first causa publica or criminal case in which he was involved.

a. The case came before the quaesitio inter sicarios, one of the standing commissions (quaesitiones perpetuae) or criminal courts to try various offences.

* During Cicero's time there at least eight such courts.

b. Each quaesitio had a president (quaesitor), either one of the praetors or a iudex quaesitionis (usually an aedile) assisted by a number of iudices chosen from the senators who acted as a jury.

c. No appeal was allowed from the judgment given by a quaesitio perpetua.

* the quaesitor was a M. Fannius of whom nothing further is known.

3. Sextus Roscius the Elder, the father of the accused, was a wealthy and distinguished citizen of Ameria.

a. Cicero maintains that he supported the aristocratic party that was headed by Sulla.

b. He also maintains that Roscius had never been put on the proscription lists, and was often seen openly in Rome.

4. One night, when returning from dinner, Roscius the Elder was attacked and murdered near the Pallacianian baths.

5. Sextus Roscius the Younger, the accused son, was in Ameria taking care of the family property at the time of the murder.

A long standing feud (probably over property and money) had existed between the Elder Roscius and two relatives.

Titus Roscius Capito and Titus Roscius Magnus. (Magnus had been in Rome at the time of the murder.)

Cicero attempts to bring suspicion on these two men.

6. Cicero tells us that a certain Mallius Glaucia immediately brought news to Ameria not to the son, but to Capito.

7. Within four days L. Cornelius Chrysogonus, a powerful freedman and favorite of Sulla was informed of what had taken place.

a. A conspiracy was formed between Chrysogonus and the two Roscii to defraud Roscius the Younger of his estates.

b. Although the list of the proscribed had been closed (since June 1, 81 B.C.) and the father's well known support for Sulla, Roscius the Elder's name was put on the list after his death.

c. This resulted in the confiscation and public sale of the Roscian Estate.

8. At the public sale, Chrysogonus bought the property for 2,000 sesterces although it was valued at 6,000,000 sesterces.

* No one dared to bid against Chrysogonus.

a. Capito received three landed estates as his share.

b. The remaining ten estates were taken over in the name of Chrysogonus by Magnus (who had been appointed his agent and business manager).

c. Magnus took possession of the goods and estate of Roscius the Younger driving him from house and home.

9. This event created a great deal of anger and uproar in Ameria.

a. The decuriones (senators) of the town passed a resolution to send the first ten (decem viri, as a special committee) to Sulla.

b. Purpose: to explain what kind of man the Elder Roscius was and how he had supported the aristocratic cause and to have his name removed from the list of the proscribed and to restore the Younger Roscius to his inheritance.

10. Capito who was a member of this embassy immediately informed Chrysogonus.

a. Capito succeeded in persuading the embassy to accept Chrysogonus' promise that Roscius' name would be removed from the proscription and the property be restored.

b. The embassy left Sulla's camp without having a personal interview with him.

11. After several attempts had been made on his life, Roscius the Younger took refuge in Rome.

a. He found protection in the house Caecilia, an old friend of his father.

b. The Conspirators discovered that the father and son had not been on the best of terms, and conceived a plan to blame the Younger Roscius for the murder.

12. A man by the name of Erucius had been found to bring the charge of murder against the son.

a. A number of witnesses were bribed to give evidence against Roscius.

b. Two slaves who had accompanied the Elder Roscius to Rome were not allowed to give evidence by Chrysogonous.

13. It was thought by the accusers that fear of Sulla would prevent anyone from defending the Younger Roscius.

There were members of the nobility who did have sympathy for him and finally persuaded Cicero to take the case.


1. Cicero had to refute the accusations on which Erucius had attempted to base his charge of parricide.

a. Roscius neither wanted to kill his father or had the opportunity of doing so.

b. He was on good terms with his father who never intended to disinherit him (as Erucius could never prove).

c. Roscius did not have the depraved and vicious character that was needed to carry out such a crime.

d. Roscius did not have the means of committing the crime, nor would he get anyone else to do it (slave or free).

2. In the second part Cicero passes from defense to attack.

a. Cicero attempts to implicate Capito and Magnus partly from their life and character and partly from what happened after the murder.

b. He shows that Magnus had many reasons and opportunities for murdering the Elder Roscius.

* Cicero also casts suspicion on their behavior after the murder.

3. In the third part he directly attacks Chrysogonus.

a. Cicero asks, "Why was the property of a patriotic citizen confiscated, and sold so cheaply after the proscriptions had ceased?" Why had he not originally been put on the list of the proscribed, or died fighting on the enemy's side?"

b. Cicero attempts to prove that Chrysogonus was the real author of Erucius' accusations.

c. Cicero warns that such behavior will have disastrous results on the cause of the nobility.

d. Cicero finally begs the judges not to allow Chrysogonus to rob the name and life of the man whom he had already robbed of his fortune.

4. The attack on Chrysogonus was in reality a veiled attack upon Sulla, and took a great deal of courage on the part of Cicero to make.

a. Cicero attempts to separate the deeds and greed of Chrysogonus from the person of Sulla.

b. Cicero pretends that Sulla's cruelties were acts committed by his agents.

* Popular Opinion: they knew much better what the actual truth was.

6. Cicero's boldness and courage were rewarded by the acquittal of his client.

a. The question of acquittal must rest with Sulla himself.

Seeing a conviction as a threat to the noble institutions that Sulla was attempting to restore.

b. There is no evidence that there was a restitutio bonorum or whether charges were brought against Magnus and Capito.

c. Both are highly unlikely and again the reason has to be Sulla.