TWODAYS BEFORE the inauguration of Marcus Tullius Cicero as consul of Rome, the body of a child was pulled from the River Tiber, close to the boat sheds of the republican war fleet.
Such a discovery, though tragic, would not normally have warranted the attention of a consul-elect. But there was something so grotesque about this particular corpse, and so threatening to civic peace, that the magistrate responsible for keeping order in the city, Gaius Octavius, sent word to Cicero asking him to come at once.
Cicero at first was reluctant to go, pleading pressure of work. As the consular candidate who had topped the...