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About the Author
Roman politician, lawyer, and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 B.C.) is famed for his oratory skills. His life coincided with the civil wars that ended the Roman republic, and his writings provide a valuable source of information on the period. Cicero was assassinated in the political struggles that followed the death of Julius Caesar, and his works exercised considerable influence on the development of European political thought and philosophy.
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FIRST ORATION AGAINST CATILINE
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 him self 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 Juniu s Silanus and Lucius Licinius Murena were elected. Catiline was rendered desperate by this his second def eat, and resolved with out 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 Lecea, 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 ref used 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.
FIRST ORATION AGAINST CATILINE
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.
II. 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.
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 Lecea; 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 of ten 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 my self 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 Martius, I checked your nefarious attempt by the assistance and resources of my own friends, without exciting any disturbance publicly. In short, as of ten 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, you r 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?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Cicero's Orations"
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Table of Contents
First Oration against Catiline
Second Oration against Catiline
Third Oration against Catiline
Fourth Oration against Catiline
Oration in Defence of Lucius Murena
Oration in Defence of Publius Sylla
Speech in Defence of Aulus Licinius Archias
Speech in Defence of the Proposed Manilian Law
Speech in Defence of Titus Annius Milo
Speech in Defence of Caius Rabirius Postumus
Speech in Defence of Marcus Claudius Marcellus
Speech in Defence of Quintus Ligarius
Speech in Defence of King Deiotarus
The First Oration against Marcus Antonius
The Second Oration against Marcus Antonius
The Ninth Oration against Marcus Antonius
The Last Oration against Marcus Antonius
The Prosecution of Verres