Open main menu

Sextus Roscius (often referred to as Sextus Roscius the Younger to differentiate him from his father) was a Roman citizen farmer from Ameria (modern day Amelia) during the latter days of the Roman Republic. In 80 BC, he was tried in Rome for patricide, and was successfully defended by the 27-year old Cicero in the extant Pro Roscio Amerino, Cicero's first major litigation. The case involved some risk for Cicero, since he accused Lucius Cornelius Chrysogonus, a freedman of Sulla, dictator of Rome the previous year of the trial, of corruption and involvement in the crime.


Sheltered by CaeciliaEdit

The Family Tree of Caecilia the Priestess

Before the trial, Roscius was sheltered by Caecilia,[1] probably Caecilia Metella Balearica, a former Vestal Virgin by this time (since she had her own house). Caecilia was a relative of Sulla's wife Caecilia Metella Dalmatica, and had powerful connections among the Roman elite; her intercession for the young Julius Caesar saved his life and political career. In 80 BC, the Metelli family were staunchly in Sulla's court. Her brother was Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos, a former consul whose stepdaughter, Mucia Tertia, was wife of Pompey. Her cousins included Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus Pius, chief ally of Sulla. Her widowed brother-in-law was Appius Claudius Pulcher, another Sulla ally, who had been Praetor in 88 BC.


Sextus Roscius was accused of patricide, killing his own father (also called Sextus Roscius), who was murdered in the streets of Rome after a dinner.

Sextus Roscius, like Cicero a native of the Roman countryside, was from Ameria, a municipality in Umbria. When his father was murdered in Rome sometime in late 81 BC, the Roscii family estates were added to the proscription list by Lucius Cornelius Chrysogonus, a powerful freedman of the dictator Sulla. It seems this was done illegally, since the official end-date for the proscriptions (1 June 81 BC) had already passed. At the public auction that followed, Chrysogonus himself bought the family estates, reportedly worth over 6 million sesterces, for a meagre 2000 sesterces. Soon after (at least according to Cicero), Chrysogonus conspired with two relatives of the deceased, Titus Roscius Capito and Titus Roscius Magnus, to accuse the younger Sextus Roscius of his father's murder.

Erucius, the prosecutor, formed his case around the cui bono principle: since Sextus Roscius stood to profit the most from murdering his father, he must be the most likely candidate, and must have hired someone else "to do the deed for him" (without naming other possible suspects).[2] In his first major litigation, Cicero entirely turned the trial around: he claimed that the two Amerian relatives, Capito and Magnus, murdered Sextus' father and then partnered with Chrysogonus to acquire the estates illegally through the proscription list.[3] However, the argument for the defense would likely be considered doubtful by today's standards.[4]

Cicero argued that those who chose to align themselves with Chrysogonus in the belief that they were supporting the nobility were wrong to do so, since his corruption was a stain on the Republic. "For the cause will be rendered more splendid by resisting every worthless man. The worthless favourers of Chrysogonus, who think that his cause and theirs are identical, are injured themselves by separating themselves from such splendor." [5]

Eventually, Sextus the younger was acquitted of the murder charges, but it is not likely that he ever repossessed his land.

In popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ Oration for Sextus Roscius of Ameria Archived 2008-03-02 at the Wayback Machine "Caecilia, the sister of Nepos, the daughter of Balearicus"
  2. ^
  3. ^ Boatwright, Mary T.; Gargola, Daniel J.; Talbert, Richard J. A. (2004-02-26). The Romans: From Village to Empire. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 9780195118759.
  4. ^ A. Dyck (2010), Cicero: pro Sexto Roscio. Cambridge University Press, pp. 17–18
  5. ^ "M. Tullius Cicero, For Sextus Roscius of Ameria, section 142". p. 142. Retrieved 2015-12-06.
  6. ^ "Cicero - Big Finish Audiobooks - Big Finish". Retrieved 2017-09-02.