It is to the ancients we turn when we seek to find the foundations on which the structure of modern civilization has been reared. Our laws we trace to Rome. Athens is the mother of art, both plastic and poetic. Both Greece and Rome have taught us the science of government, nay, given us government itself. And eloquence, the fleeting utterance of the tongue, we trace in its beginning and perfection, through the channels of Rome, to Athens, its source and fountain-head.
Oratory was a living power in Athens and in Rome. It has been a power with all civilized peoples. Its power has always been in direct proportion to the eloquence it bore. For, in the living speech lies that hidden charm by which the emotions are kindled, that rouses to action, that imparts knowledge. “What is there in the world,” says Cicero, “more extraordinary than eloquence, whether we consider the admiration of its hearers, the reliance of those who stand in need of assistance, or the good-will it procures from those whom it defends.”
Eloquence, the quintessence of oratory, has ever been a safe criterion of the intellectual and moral level of a people, its decay an indication of torpor and of decay of the ideal. In Demosthenes culminated the eloquence of Greece; in Cicero that of Rome. With their disappearance vanish the liberties of the people and self-government is effaced. With the institution of free government Roman oratory developed and grew during the five hundred years that Rome was her own mistress. Before the fall of the Republic, when liberty was about to make her last struggle, it reached the summit of perfection. With the decline of independence oratory declined in Rome as well as in Greece. Eloquence ceased to be a weapon in public affairs and yielded its gentle sway to force borne by appeal to arms. Rarely has oratory flourished and unfolded its powers in times of peace and general prosperity. It needs a soil peculiar to itself, from which to draw its vigor and an atmosphere of its own to expand and to develop its supreme powers. Political ideals and the attainment of high aims have ever been its foster-mother. Great issues, the welfare of nations, oppression of the proud and generous, religious fervor, each in turn has tended to urge the orator to impassioned eloquence. Turn to the Irish Parliament and its champions for national independence; to the French Revolution and its unattainable ideals; to the great struggle in the United States to free the slave from bondage. Never have the powers of eloquence had greater sway, never have they helped to shape greater events.
Cicero is the embodiment of Roman eloquence. None is greater than he save Demosthenes; none of the ancients nearer to us than he. The more realistic a nation’s conception of the life of the ancients, especially in their literature, the nearer has it attained to their standard of perfection. Witness the Latin races, witness England and its intellectual offspring, America. The prose style of all modern writers has been largely influenced by Latin prose, and, above all, by the model style of Cicero.
Marcus Tullius Cicero was born on the third of January, about the year 106 B.C. He was of noble birth and his family had possessed equestrian rank from its first admission to the freedom of Rome. At an early age he was brought to Rome. Reared under the best tutors of his time and guided by a natural tendency of his mind, he soon became a zealous student of philosophy, jurisprudence and its twin sister, eloquence. He grew into manhood under the shadow of the outrages of civil war.
His defence of Roscius against the favorite of Sulla falls in the year 81 B.C. Hortensius was his opponent. To triumph over such a foe was a triumph indeed. A two-years’ sojourn abroad in Greece and Asia Minor did much to invigorate his body and develop his mind. As quæstor in Sicily, then in his thirtieth year, he acquired his first experience in the administration of government. In the Senate Cicero was at this time looked upon as leader and champion. Public favor was bestowed on him without his courting it by insidious arts. The accusation of Verres was delegated to him after he had been unanimously elected ædilis curulis in 69 B.C. During his prætorship he assisted Pompey in securing the generalship in the war against Mithridates. His election as consul, in 64 B.C., marks the climax of his life. The defence of Rabirius and the prosecution of Catiline belong to this period.
But stronger arms than his aspired to rule. Cicero was powerless against the combination of Crassus, Cæsar and Pompey. The entry of Publius Clodius into the triumvirate drove him into exile. To Pompey’s quarrel with Clodius he owed his recall. The fate of Crassus had impressed him profoundly, and we miss in Cicero henceforth that independence of character that marked his earlier years. Discouraged from participating in public affairs, he now entered upon a period of great literary activity.
The final struggle between Pompey and Cæsar was drawing near. Cicero’s friendship and influence, still powerful, were sought by both, and, while his heart inclined him to Pompey, his reason favored Cæsar. Nothing, however, could induce him to abandon his seclusion, till, after the assassination of Cæsar, he proposed in the Senate a general pardon for all participants in the struggle, and effected a superficial reconciliation between the opposing factions. He joined Octavianus against Antonius, and with all the power of his eloquence strove to thwart the designs of Antonius to continue in the role of Cæsar.
But Octavianus repaid him ill. In his new triumvirate with Antonius and Lepidus all friends of liberty were doomed by proscription. Cicero was the first victim demanded from Octavianus by the implacable Antonius. On the seventh day of December in the year 43 B.C., he suffered death at the hands of C. Popillius Lænas, whose life he had once saved. His head and right hand were exposed to the populace, a spectacle that brought tears to every eye in the gazing multitude, and exultation to the hearts of sycophants and the enemies of liberty.
It was the conception and the pursuit of ideal beauty that produced all the masterpieces of Greek art. Cicero applied it to eloquence. He tells us that he continually strove to attain an ideal excellence not found in any living model nor taught in any school; and accords to his Grecian rival the great praise of all but reaching a perfection which he had himself always longed for but had never been able to attain. No writer has ever made so close a scrutiny of himself and his art as he. In “De Oratore” he points to the variations of his style. Thus, among others, he gives reasons that aroused him to indignation and vehemence in his pleadings against Verres and Catiline, and those that inspired him to insinuating eloquence in speaking on the Manilian law. In Brutus he has laid down all the results of his observations, reflections and experience, what a speaker should be, can never be, yet must ever strive to be.
Cicero owed his great perfection in eloquence more to himself and his constant endeavors than to any other source. It is true he acknowledges more than once his indebtedness and gratitude to Isocrates. Archias, the poet, is mentioned as one of his early preceptors. But the genius of eloquence was born in him, and, at an early age, following a natural inclination he resolved to devote himself to oratory. He often saw and listened to the orators of his day, Crassus, Antonius, Cæsar, Sulpicius and Cotta. In acquiring a profound knowledge of the law he owed much to the two Scævolas, the most eminent jurists of the day. Again the arrival of Philo and other learned Greeks, in 89 B.C., was an event in the life of Cicero. Phædrus had already initiated him in the study of philosophy and the Stoic Diodolus in the art of dialectics. Thus it was that, at the threshold of manhood and at the very outset of his career, he had attained to a degree of perfection which few have reached after a long and active career. His sojourn in Greece, his intercourse there with the foremost minds, especially his associations with Appolonius Molon, whom he had known in Rome, offered an unusual opportunity for self-improvement. His early causes established his fame as an orator. Cicero preferred to plead the case of the defendant and only reluctantly arose as public accuser. Content to conquer in triumphs won by talent, he often pleaded causes without remuneration. The confidence and love of his people, so nobly won, he retained almost uninterruptedly till his death.
In bringing his style to an unparalleled degree of perfection Cicero was guided by Isocrates, who had labored much to shape the language of the Athenians to the purposes of the highest eloquence. It is a long distance from the harsh and clumsy style of the old Romans to the refined latinity of Cicero. Owing to so many points of similarity with the Greeks by virtue of his early training and the course of his studies in later life, Cicero has often been compared with Demosthenes. Quintilian tells us that Demosthenes always seeks to attain victory at the point of his weapon, while Cicero employs the weight of the weapon itself for this purpose, each being perfect in his way. He tells us that Demosthenes is concise while Cicero is flowing and redundant. This is the keynote to the powers of each. Demosthenes, objective, realistic, concise, intensely earnest, linking himself to his cause, only asking the good-will of his hearers; Cicero subjective, redundant, verbose, jesting at times, displaying flash and fire, and often sacrificing form to substance in pleading. Cicero has been reproached for his inordinate vanity, his glittering sophisms, his self-complacency, putting himself always in the centre of all, shutting all else out from view. But no assaults have been able to dethrone him from that lofty position which the mature judgment of the generations of twenty centuries has assigned to him. And are we not ever drawn anew to the man as well as to the orator by the surpassing elegance of his style, the urbanity of his manner, his skill and erudition, his knowledge of men and of affairs, and, above all, by his profound sympathy with mankind? Future generations may well re-echo the words of John Quincy Adams when he said, “Cicero is the friend of the soul, whom we can never meet without a gleam of pleasure, from whom we can never part without reluctance.”
Lucius Catiline, a man of noble extraction, and who had already been prætor, had been a competitor of Cicero’s for the consulship; the next year he again offered himself for the office, practising such excessive and open bribery that Cicero published a new law against it, with the additional penalty of ten years’ exile; prohibiting likewise all shows of gladiators from being exhibited by a candidate within two years of the time of his suing for any magistracy, unless they were ordered by the will of a person deceased. Catiline, who knew this law to be aimed chiefly at him, formed a design to murder Cicero and some others of the chief men of the Senate, on the day of election, which was fixed for the twentieth of October. But Cicero had information of his plans, and laid them before the Senate, on which the election was deferred, that they might have time to deliberate on an affair of so much importance. The day following, when the Senate met, he charged Catiline with having entertained this design, and Catiline’s behavior had been so violent, that the Senate passed the decree to which they had occasionally recourse in times of imminent danger from treason or sedition: “Let the consuls take care that the republic suffers no harm.” This decree invested the consuls with absolute power, and suspended all the ordinary forms of law, till the danger was over. On this Cicero doubled his guards, introduced some additional troops into the city, and when the elections came on, he wore a breast-plate under his robe for his protection; by which precaution he prevented Catiline from executing his design of murdering him and his competitors for the consulship, of whom Decius Junius Silanus and Lucius Licinius Murena were elected.
Catiline was rendered desperate by this his second defeat, and resolved without farther delay to attempt the execution of all his schemes. His greatest hopes lay in Sylla’s veteran soldiers, whose cause he had always espoused. They were scattered about in the different districts and colonies of Italy; but he had actually enlisted a considerable body of them in Etruria, and formed them into a little army under the command of Manlius, a centurion of considerable military experience, who was only waiting for his orders. He was joined in his conspiracy by several senators of profligate lives and desperate fortunes, of whom the chiefs were Publius Cornelius Lentulus, Caius Cethegus, Publius Autronius, Lucius Cassius Longinus, Marcus Porcius Lecca, Publius Sylla, Servilius Sylla, Quintus Curius. Lucius Vargunteius, Quintus Annius, and Lucius Bestia. These men resolved that a general insurrection should be raised throughout all Italy; that Catiline should put himself at the head of the troops in Etruria; that Rome should be set on fire in many places at once; and that a general massacre should be made of all the Senate, and of all their enemies, of whom none were to be spared but the sons of Pompey, who were to be kept as hostages, and as a check upon their father, who was in command in the East. Lentulus was to be president of their councils, Cassius was to manage the firing of the city, and Cethegus the massacre. But, as the vigilance of Cicero was the greatest obstacle to their success, Catiline desired to see him slain before he left Rome; and two knights, parties to the conspiracy, undertook to visit him early on pretence of business, and to kill him in his bed. The name of one of them was Caius Cornelius.
Cicero, however, had information of all the designs of the conspirators, as by the intrigues of a woman called Fulvia, the mistress of Curius, he had gained him over, and received regularly from him an account of all their operations. He sent for some of the chief men of the city, and informed them of the plot against himself, and even of the names of the knights who were to come to his house, and of the hour at which they were to come. When they did come they found the house carefully guarded and all admission refused to them. He was enabled also to disappoint an attempt made by Catiline to seize on the town of Præneste, which was a very strong fortress, and would have been of great use to him. The meeting of the conspirators had taken place on the evening of the sixth of November. On the eighth Cicero summoned the Senate to meet in the temple of Jupiter in the Capitol, a place which was only used for this purpose on occasions of great danger. (There had been previously several debates on the subject of Catiline’s treasons and design of murdering Cicero, and a public reward had actually been offered to the first discoverer of the plot. But Catiline had nevertheless continued to dissemble; had offered to give security for his behavior, and to deliver himself to the custody of anyone whom the Senate chose to name, even to that of Cicero himself.) Catiline had the boldness to attend this meeting, and all the Senate, even his own most particular acquaintance, were so astonished at his impudence that none of them would salute him; the consular senators quitted that part of the house in which he sat, and left the bench empty; and Cicero himself was so provoked at his audacity, that, instead of entering on any formal business, he addressed himself directly to Catiline in the following invective.
When, O Catiline, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end of that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now? Do not the mighty guards placed on the Palatine Hill — do not the watches posted throughout the city — does not the alarm of the people, and the union of all good men — does not the precaution taken of assembling the Senate in this most defensible place — do not the looks and countenances of this venerable body here present, have any effect upon you? Do you not feel that your plans are detected? Do you not see that your conspiracy is already arrested and rendered powerless by the knowledge which everyone here possesses of it? What is there that you did last night, what the night before — where is it that you were — who was there that you summoned to meet you — what design was there which was adopted by you, with which you think that anyone of us is unacquainted?
Shame on the age and on its principles! The Senate is aware of these things; the consul sees them; and yet this man lives. Lives! ay, he comes even into the Senate. He takes a part in the public deliberations; he is watching and marking down and checking off for slaughter every individual among us. And we, gallant men that we are, think that we are doing our duty to the republic if we keep out of the way of his frenzied attacks.
You ought, O Catiline, long ago to have been led to execution by command of the consul. That destruction which you have been long plotting against us ought to have already fallen on your own head.
What? Did not that most illustrious man, Publius Scipio, the Pontifex Maximus, in his capacity of a private citizen, put to death Tiberius Gracchus, though but slightly undermining the constitution? And shall we, who are the consuls, tolerate Catiline, openly desirous to destroy the whole world with fire and slaughter? For I pass over older instances, such as how Caius Servilius Ahala with his own hand slew Spurius Mælius when plotting a revolution in the state. There was — there was once such virtue in this republic, that brave men would repress mischievous citizens with severer chastisement than the most bitter enemy. For we have a resolution of the Senate, a formidable and authoritative decree against you, O Catiline; the wisdom of the republic is not at fault, nor the dignity of this senatorial body. We, we alone — I say it openly — we, the consuls, are wanting in our duty.
The senate once passed a decree that Lucius Opimius, the consul, should take care that the republic suffered no injury. Not one night elapsed. There was put to death, on some mere suspicion of disaffection, Caius Gracchus, a man whose family had borne the most unblemished reputation for many generations. There were slain Marcus Fulvius, a man of consular rank, and all his children. By a like decree of the Senate the safety of the republic was intrusted to Caius Marius and Lucius Valerius, the consuls. Did not the vengeance of the republic, did not execution overtake Lucius Saturninus, a tribune of the people, and Caius Servilius, the prætor, without the delay of one single day? But we, for these twenty days, have been allowing the edge of the Senate’s authority to grow blunt, as it were. For we are in possession of a similar decree of the Senate, but we keep it locked up in its parchment — buried, I may say, in the sheath; and according to this decree you ought, O Catiline, to be put to death this instant. You live — and you live, not to lay aside, but to persist in your audacity.
I wish, O conscript fathers, to be merciful; I wish not to appear negligent amid such danger to the state; but I do now accuse myself of remissness and culpable inactivity. A camp is pitched in Italy, at the entrance of Etruria, in hostility to the republic; the number of the enemy increases every day; and yet the general of that camp, the leader of those enemies, we see within the walls — ay, and even in the Senate — planning every day some internal injury to the republic. If, O Catiline, I should now order you to be arrested, to be put to death, I should, I suppose, have to fear lest all good men should say that I had acted tardily, rather than that anyone should affirm that I acted cruelly. But yet this, which ought to have been done long since, I have good reason for not doing as yet; I will put you to death, then, when there shall be not one person possible to be found so wicked, so abandoned, so like yourself, as not to allow that it has been rightly done. As long as one person exists who can dare to defend you, you shall live; but you shall live as you do now, surrounded by my many and trusted guards, so that you shall not be able to stir one finger against the republic: many eyes and ears shall still observe and watch you, as they have hitherto done, though you shall not perceive them.
CICERO ACCUSING CATILINE
Photogravure from a wall painting by Prof. C. Maccari in the Palazzo del Senato at Rome.
The artist has chosen the moment when the orator leaps to his feet, takes his stand before the assembled conscript fathers, and addresses Catiline in terms which reveal to the assembly the whole plot of the traitor, which Cicero has been for weeks secretly unravelling. The effect of the scarcely expected apostrophe is electrical. The Senators hang on the words of the orator, and the detected conspirator cowers under the lash of the speaker’s eloquence. The picture is highly dramatic, as, indeed, it represents one of the most dramatic incidents in all Roman history.
For what is there, O Catiline, that you can still expect, if night is not able to veil your nefarious meetings in darkness, and if private houses cannot conceal the voice of your conspiracy within their walls — if everything is seen and displayed? Change your mind: trust me: forget the slaughter and conflagration you are meditating. You are hemmed in on all sides; all your plans are clearer than the day to us; let me remind you of them. Do you recollect that on the twenty-first of October I said in the Senate, that on a certain day, which was to be the twenty-seventh of October, C. Manlius, the satellite and servant of your audacity, would be in arms? Was I mistaken, Catiline, not only in so important, so atrocious, so incredible a fact, but, what is much more remarkable, in the very day? I said also in the Senate that you had fixed the massacre of the nobles for the twenty-eighth of October, when many chief men of the Senate had left Rome, not so much for the sake of saving themselves as of checking your designs. Can you deny that on that very day you were so hemmed in by my guards and my vigilance, that you were unable to stir one finger against the republic; when you said that you would be content with the flight of the rest, and the slaughter of us who remained? What? When you made sure that you would be able to seize Præneste on the first of November by a nocturnal attack, did you not find that that colony was fortified by my order, by my garrison, by my watchfulness and care? You do nothing, you plan nothing, think of nothing which I not only do not hear, but which I do not see and know every particular of.
Listen while I speak of the night before. You shall now see that I watch far more actively for the safety than you do for the destruction of the republic. I say that you came the night before (I will say nothing obscurely) into the Scythe-dealers’ street, to the house of Marcus Lecca; that many of your accomplices in the same insanity and wickedness came there too. Do you dare to deny it? Why are you silent? I will prove it if you do deny it; for I see here in the Senate some men who were there with you.
O ye immortal gods, where on earth are we? In what city are we living? What constitution is ours? There are here — here in our body, O conscript fathers, in this the most holy and dignified assembly of the whole world, men who meditate my death, and the death of all of us, and the destruction of this city, and of the whole world. I, the consul, see them; I ask them their opinion about the republic, and I do not yet attack, even by words, those who ought to be put to death by the sword. You were, then, O Catiline, at Lecca’s that night; you divided Italy into sections; you settled where everyone was to go; you fixed whom you were to leave at Rome, whom you were to take with you; you portioned out the divisions of the city for conflagration; you undertook that you yourself would at once leave the city, and said that there was then only this to delay you, that I was still alive. Two Roman knights were found to deliver you from this anxiety, and to promise that very night, before daybreak, to slay me in my bed. All this I knew almost before your meeting had broken up. I strengthened and fortified my house with a stronger guard; I refused admittance, when they came, to those whom you sent in the morning to salute me, and of whom I had foretold to many eminent men that they would come to me at that time.
As, then, this is the case, O Catiline, continue as you have begun. Leave the city at last: the gates are open; depart. That Manlian camp of yours has been waiting too long for you as its general. And lead forth with you all your friends, or at least as many as you can; purge the city of your presence; you will deliver me from a great fear, when there is a wall between me and you. Among us you can dwell no longer — I will not bear it, I will not permit it, I will not tolerate it. Great thanks are due to the immortal gods, and to this very Jupiter Stator, in whose temple we are, the most ancient protector of this city, that we have already so often escaped so foul, so horrible, and so deadly an enemy to the republic. But the safety of the commonwealth must not be too often allowed to be risked on one man. As long as you, O Catiline, plotted against me while I was the consul elect, I defended myself not with a public guard, but by my own private diligence. When, in the next consular comitia, you wished to slay me when I was actually consul, and your competitors also, in the Campus Martins, I checked your nefarious attempt by the assistance and resources of my own friends, without exciting any disturbance publicly. In short, as often as you attacked me, I by myself opposed you, and that, too, though I saw that my ruin was connected with great disaster to the republic. But now you are openly attacking the entire republic.
You are summoning to destruction and devastation the temples of the immortal gods, the houses of the city, the lives of all the citizens; in short, all Italy. Wherefore, since I do not yet venture to do that which is the best thing, and which belongs to my office and to the discipline of our ancestors, I will do that which is more merciful if we regard its rigor, and more expedient for the state. For if I order you to be put to death, the rest of the conspirators will still remain in the republic; if, as I have long been exhorting you, you depart, your companions, these worthless dregs of the republic, will be drawn off from the city too. What is the matter, Catiline? Do you hesitate to do that when I order you which you were already doing of your own accord? The consul orders an enemy to depart from the city. Do you ask me, Are you to go into banishment? I do not order it; but, if you consult me, I advise it.
For what is there, O Catiline, that can now afford you any pleasure in this city? For there is no one in it, except that band of profligate conspirators of yours, who does not fear you — no one who does not hate you. What brand of domestic baseness is not stamped upon your life? What disgraceful circumstance is wanting to your infamy in your private affairs? From what licentiousness have your eyes, from what atrocity have your hands, from what iniquity has your whole body, ever abstained? Is there one youth, when you have once entangled him in the temptations of your corruption, to whom you have not held out a sword for audacious crime, or a torch for licentious wickedness?
What? When lately by the death of your former wife you had made your house empty and ready for a new bridal, did you not even add another incredible wickedness to this wickedness? But I pass that over, and willingly allow it to be buried in silence, that so horrible a crime may not be seen to have existed in this city, and not to have been chastised. I pass over the ruin of your fortune, which you know is hanging over you against the ides of the very next month; I come to those things which relate not to the infamy of your private vices, not to your domestic difficulties and baseness, but to the welfare of the republic and to the lives and safety of us all.
Can the light of this life, O Catiline, can the breath of this atmosphere be pleasant to you, when you know that there is not one man of those here present who is ignorant that you, on the last day of the year, when Lepidus and Tullus were consuls, stood in the assembly armed; that you had prepared your hand for the slaughter of the consuls and chief men of the state, and that no reason or fear of yours hindered your crime and madness, but the fortune of the republic? And I say no more of these things, for they are not unknown to everyone. How often have you endeavored to slay me, both as consul elect and as actual consul? How many shots of yours, so aimed that they seemed impossible to be escaped, have I avoided by some slight stooping aside, and some dodging, as it were, of my body? You attempt nothing, you execute nothing, you devise nothing that can be kept hid from me at the proper time; and yet you do not cease to attempt and to contrive. How often already has that dagger of yours been wrested from your hands? How often has it slipped through them by some chance, and dropped down? And yet you cannot any longer do without it; and to what sacred mysteries it is consecrated and devoted by you I know not, that you think it necessary to plunge it in the body of the consul.
But now, what is that life of yours that you are leading? For I will speak to you not so as to seem influenced by the hatred I ought to feel, but by pity, nothing of which is due to you. You came a little while ago into the Senate: in so numerous an assembly, who of so many friends and connections of yours saluted you? If this in the memory of man never happened to any one else, are you waiting for insults by word of mouth, when you are overwhelmed by the most irresistible condemnation of silence? Is it nothing that at your arrival all those seats were vacated? That all the men of consular rank, who had often been marked out by you for slaughter, the very moment you sat down, left that part of the benches bare and vacant? With what feelings do you think you ought to bear this? On my honor, if my slaves feared me as all your fellow-citizens fear you, I should think I must leave my house. Do not you think you should leave the city? If I saw that I was even undeservedly so suspected and hated by my fellow-citizens, I would rather flee from their sight than be gazed at by the hostile eyes of everyone. And do you, who, from the consciousness of your wickedness, know that the hatred of all men is just and has been long due to you, hesitate to avoid the sight and presence of those men whose minds and senses you offend? If your parents feared and hated you, and if you could by no means pacify them, you would, I think, depart somewhere out of their sight. Now, your country, which is the common parent of all of us, hates and fears you, and has no other opinion of you, than that you are meditating parricide in her case; and will you neither feel awe of her authority, nor deference for her judgment, nor fear of her power?
And she, O Catiline, thus pleads with you, and after a manner silently speaks to you: there has now for many years been no crime committed but by you; no atrocity has taken place without you; you alone unpunished and unquestioned have murdered the citizens, have harassed and plundered the allies; you alone have had power not only to neglect all laws and investigations, but to overthrow and break through them. Your former actions, though they ought not to have been borne, yet I did bear as well as I could; but now that I should be wholly occupied with fear of you alone, that at every sound I should dread Catiline, that no design should seem possible to be entertained against me which does not proceed from your wickedness, this is no longer endurable. Depart, then, and deliver me from this fear; that, if it be a just one, I may not be destroyed; if an imaginary one, that at least I may at last cease to fear.
If, as I have said, your country were thus to address you, ought she not to obtain her request, even if she were not able to enforce it? What shall I say of your having given yourself into custody? What of your having said, for the sake of avoiding suspicion, that you were willing to dwell in the house of Marcus Lepidus? And when you were not received by him, you dared even to come to me, and begged me to keep you in my house; and when you had received answer from me that I could not possibly be safe in the same house with you, when I considered myself in great danger as long as we were in the same city, you came to Quintus Metellus, the prætor, and being rejected by him, you passed on to your associate, that most excellent man, Marcus Marcellus, who would be, I suppose you thought, most diligent in guarding you, most sagacious in suspecting you, and most bold in punishing you; but how far can we think that man ought to be from bonds and imprisonment who has already judged himself deserving of being given into custody?
Since, then, this is the case, do you hesitate, O Catiline, if you cannot remain here with tranquility, to depart to some distant land, and to trust your life, saved from just and deserved punishment, to flight and solitude? Make a motion, say you, to the Senate (for that is what you demand), and if this body votes that you ought to go into banishment, you say that you will obey. I will not make such a motion, it is contrary to my principles, and yet I will let you see what these men think of you. Be gone from the city, O Catiline, deliver the republic from fear; depart into banishment, if that is the word you are waiting for. What now, O Catiline? Do you not perceive, do you not see the silence of these men? They permit it, they say nothing; why wait you for the authority of their words, when you see their wishes in their silence?
But had I said the same to this excellent young man, Publius Sextius, or to that brave man, Marcus Marcellus, before this time the Senate would deservedly have laid violent hands on me, consul though I be, in this very temple. But as to you, Catiline, while they are quiet they approve, while they permit me to speak they vote, while they are silent they are loud and eloquent. And not they alone, whose authority forsooth is dear to you, though their lives are unimportant, but the Roman knights too, those most honorable and excellent men, and the other virtuous citizens who are now surrounding the Senate, whose numbers you could see, whose desires you could know, and whose voices you a few minutes ago could hear — ay, whose very hands and weapons I have for some time been scarcely able to keep off from you; but those, too, I will easily bring to attend you to the gates if you leave these places you have been long desiring to lay waste.
And yet, why am I speaking? That anything may change your purpose? That you may ever amend your life? That you may meditate flight or think of voluntary banishment? I wish the gods may give you such a mind; though I see, if alarmed at my words you bring your mind to go into banishment, what a storm of unpopularity hangs over me, if not at present, while the memory of your wickedness is fresh, at all events hereafter. But it is worth while to incur that, as long as that is but a private misfortune of my own, and is unconnected with the dangers of the republic. But we cannot expect that you should be concerned at your own vices, that you should fear the penalties of the laws, or that you should yield to the necessities of the republic, for you are not, O Catiline, one whom either shame can recall from infamy, or fear from danger, or reason from madness.
Wherefore, as I have said before, go forth, and if you wish to make me, your enemy as you call me, unpopular, go straight into banishment. I shall scarcely be able to endure all that will be said if you do so; I shall scarcely be able to support my load of unpopularity if you do go into banishment at the command of the consul; but if you wish to serve my credit and reputation, go forth with your ill-omened band of profligates; betake yourself to Manlius, rouse up the abandoned citizens, separate yourself from the good ones, wage war against your country, exult in your impious banditti, so that you may not seem to have been driven out by me and gone to strangers, but to have gone invited to your own friends.
Though why should I invite you, by whom I know men have been already sent on to wait in arms for you at the forum Aurelium; who I know has fixed and agreed with Manlius upon a settled day; by whom I know that that silver eagle, which I trust will be ruinous and fatal to you and to all your friends, and to which there was set up in your house a shrine as it were of your crimes, has been already sent forward. Need I fear that you can long do without that which you used to worship when going out to murder, and from whose altars you have often transferred your impious hand to the slaughter of citizens?
You will go at last where your unbridled and mad desire has been long hurrying you. And this causes you no grief, but an incredible pleasure. Nature has formed you, desire has trained you, fortune has preserved you for this insanity. Not only did you never desire quiet, but you never even desired any war but a criminal one; you have collected a band of profligates and worthless men, abandoned not only by all fortune but even by hope.
Then what happiness will you enjoy! With what delight will you exult! in what pleasure will you revel! When in so numerous a body of friends, you neither hear nor see one good man. All the toils you have gone through have always pointed to this sort of life; your lying on the ground not merely to lie in wait to gratify your unclean desires, but even to accomplish crimes; your vigilance, not only when plotting against the sleep of husbands, but also against the goods of your murdered victims, have all been preparations for this. Now you have an opportunity of displaying your splendid endurance of hunger, of cold, of want of everything; by which in a short time you will find yourself worn out. All this I effected when I procured your rejection from the consulship, that you should be reduced to make attempts on your country as an exile, instead of being able to distress it as consul, and that that which had been wickedly undertaken by you should be called piracy rather than war.
Now that I may remove and avert, O conscript fathers, any in the least reasonable complaint from myself, listen, I beseech you, carefully to what I say, and lay it up in your inmost hearts and minds. In truth, if my country, which is far dearer to me than my life — if all Italy — if the whole republic were to address me, “Marcus Tullius, what are you doing? Will you permit that man to depart whom you have ascertained to be an enemy? Whom you see ready to become the general of the war? Whom you know to be expected in the camp of the enemy as their chief, the author of all this wickedness, the head of the conspiracy, the instigator of the slaves and abandoned citizens, so that he shall seem not driven out of the city by you, but let loose by you against the city? Will you not order him to be thrown into prison, to be hurried off to execution, to be put to death with the most prompt severity? What hinders you? Is it the customs of our ancestors? But even private men have often in this republic slain mischievous citizens. Is it the laws which have been passed about the punishment of Roman citizens? But in this city those who have rebelled against the republic have never had the rights of citizens. Do you fear odium with posterity? You are showing fine gratitude to the Roman people which has raised you, a man known only by your own actions, of no ancestral renown, through all the degrees of honor at so early an age to the very highest office, if from fear of unpopularity or of any danger you neglect the safety of your fellow-citizens. But if you have a fear of unpopularity, is that arising from the imputation of vigor and boldness, or that arising from that of inactivity and indecision most to be feared? When Italy is laid waste by war, when cities are attacked and houses in flames, do you not think that you will be then consumed by a perfect conflagration of hatred?”
To this holy address of the republic, and to the feelings of those men who entertain the same opinion, I will make this short answer: If, O conscript fathers, I thought it best that Catiline should be punished with death, I would not have given the space of one hour to this gladiator to live in. If, forsooth, those excellent men and most illustrious cities not only did not pollute themselves, but even glorified themselves by the blood of Saturninus, and the Gracchi, and Flaccus, and many others of old time, surely I had no cause to fear lest for slaying this parricidal murderer of the citizens any unpopularity should accrue to me with posterity. And if it did threaten me to ever so great a degree, yet I have always been of the disposition to think unpopularity earned by virtue and glory, not unpopularity.
Though there are some men in this body who either do not see what threatens, or dissemble what they do see; who have fed the hope of Catiline by mild sentiments, and have strengthened the rising conspiracy by not believing it; influenced by whose authority many, and they not wicked, but only ignorant, if I punished him, would say that I had acted cruelly and tyrannically. But I know that if he arrives at the camp of Manlius to which he is going, there will be no one so stupid as not to see that there has been a conspiracy, no one so hardened as not to confess it. But if this man alone were put to death, I know that this disease of the republic would be only checked for a while, not eradicated forever. But if he banishes himself, and takes with him all his friends, and collects at one point all the ruined men from every quarter, then not only will this full-grown plague of the republic be extinguished and eradicated, but also the root and seed of all future evils.
We have now for a long time, O conscript fathers, lived among these dangers and machinations of conspiracy; but somehow or other, the ripeness of all wickedness, and of this long-standing madness and audacity, has come to a head at the time of my consulship. But if this man alone is removed from this piratical crew, we may appear, perhaps, for a short time relieved from fear and anxiety, but the danger will settle down and lie hid in the veins and bowels of the republic. As it often happens that men afflicted with a severe disease, when they are tortured with heat and fever, if they drink cold water, seem at first to be relieved, but afterward suffer more and more severely; so this disease which is in the republic, if relieved by the punishment of this man, will only get worse and worse, as the rest will be still alive.
Wherefore, O conscript fathers, let the worthless begone — let them separate themselves from the good — let them collect in one place — let them, as I have often said before, be separated from us by a wall; let them cease to plot against the consul in his own house — to surround the tribunal of the city prætor — to besiege the senate-house with swords — to prepare brands and torches to burn the city; let, it, in short, be written on the brow of every citizen, what are his sentiments about the republic. I promise you this, O conscript fathers, that there shall be so much diligence in us the consuls, so much authority in you, so much virtue in the Roman knights, so much unanimity in all good men, that you shall see everything made plain and manifest by the departure of Catiline — everything checked and punished.
With these omens, O Catiline, begone to your impious and nefarious war, to the great safety of the republic, to your own misfortune and injury, and to the destruction of those who have joined themselves to you in every wickedness and atrocity. Then do you, O Jupiter, who were consecrated by Romulus with the same auspices as this city, whom we rightly call the stay of this city and empire, repel this man and his companions from your altars and from the other temples — from the houses and walls of the city — from the lives and fortunes of all the citizens; and overwhelm all the enemies of good men, the foes of the republic, the robbers of Italy, men bound together by a treaty and infamous alliance of crimes, dead and alive, with eternal punishments.