Marius Priscus accusantibus Afris quibus pro consule praefuit, omissa defensione iudices petiit. ego et Cornelius Tacitus, adesse provincialibus iussi, existimavimus fidei nostrae convenire notum senatui facere excessisse Priscum immanitate et saevitia crimina quibus dari iudices possent, cum ob innocentes condemnandos, interficiendos etiam, pecunias accepisset. respondit Fronto Catius deprecatusque est, ne quid ultra repetundarum legem quaereretur, omniaque actionis suae vela vir movendarum lacrimarum peritissimus quodam velut vento miserationis implevit. magna contentio, magni utrimque clamores aliis cognitionem senatus lege conclusam, aliis liberam solutamque dicentibus, quantumque admisisset reus, tantum vindicandum. novissime consul designatus Iulius Ferox, vir rectus et sanctus, Mario quidem iudices interim censuit dandos, evocandos autem quibus diceretur innocentium poenas vendidisse. quae sententia non praevaluit modo, sed omnino post tantas dissensiones fuit sola frequens, adnotatumque experimentis, quod favor et misericordia acres et vehementes primos impetus habent, paulatim consilio et ratione quasi restincta considunt. unde evenit ut, quod multi clamore permixto tuentur, nemo tacentibus ceteris dicere velit; patescit enim, cum separaris a turba, contemplatio rerum quae turba teguntur.
(Pliny Minor, Ep. 2.11.2-7)
Marius Priscus was indicted by the Africans whom he governed as proconsul. He pleaded guilty, and asked for assessors to be appointed. Cornelius Tacitus and I, who had been bidden to represent the provincials, believed that it was in keeping with the trust reposed in us to inform the Senate that Priscus by his monstrous savagery had overstepped any charges for which assessors could be appointed, for he had received money for the condemnation and even the execution of innocent persons. Catius Fronto in reply pleaded that no investigation should be made beyond the law covering extortion. He is a man with the greatest expertise at extracting tears, and he filled all the sails of his speech with the breeze, as it were, of compassion. There was considerable dispute, with considerable shouting on both sides, some maintaining that the Senate’s judicial inquiry was limited by legal principle, and others claiming that its discretion was free and unfettered, and that the punishment should be measured by the guilt of the defendant. In the end Julius Ferox, the consul-designate, who is a man of uprightness and probity, proposed that in the meantime assessors should indeed be appointed for Marius, but that the persons to whom he was alleged to have sold the punishment of innocent men should be summoned. This proposal was not merely carried, but after those major disagreements it was absolutely the only one which won support. Such outcomes demonstrate that benevolence and pity exercise an initial impact which is penetrating and considerable, but that gradually mature thought and reason stifle them and cause them to subside. The result is that a position maintained by many in mingled shouting finds no one willing to defend it when the rest are silent, the reason being that assessment of factors cloaked by turmoil becomes clear once you detach it from that turmoil. (tr. Patrick Gerard Walsh)