The First Oration of Cicero Against Catiline

Daily Dabble in the Classics, Cicero

THE FIRST ORATION OF CICERO AGAINST CATILINE. Spoken in the SENATE.

HOW far, Catiline, wilt thou persist in abusing our Patience? How much longer, too, is that headlong Rage of thine to brave and deride us? What Period wilt thou set to thy boasted and desperate Guilt? Art thou in no degree struck with the Guards, posted by Night to secure the Palace? In no degree by the Watch placed all over the City? In none by the terrible Apprehensions possessing the People? Not struck by the Concurrence and Unanimity of all worthy Romans? Nor by the Assembling of the Senate in this Place of Strength? Nor by the Countenances and Looks of the Assembly itself? Perceivest thou not, that all thy guilty Counsels are disclosed? Dost thou not see the Senators apprised of thy Conspiracy, and, thence, its Efforts marred and restrained? To which of us all dost thou suppose it remains a Secret, what were thy Doings this last Night, what those of the Night before; or whom of the Associates thou didst call together, or the Place where, or what Measures thou didst then concert?

Alas, what Times! Alas, the Degeneracy of Men! All this the Senate knows; all this the Consul beholds. Yet this Parricide still lives! Lives? He even assumes his Seat in the Senate, takes Part in the public Debates, nay, marks us our severally to Vengeance with his Looks, and destines us all to the Slaughter: Whilst we, magnanimous Persons! judge, that we acquit ourselves to the Commonwealth, if, in our own Persons, we can escape his Fury and murdering Sword. In Justice, Catiline, the Consul should, long ere now, have doomed thee to Execution, and inflicted upon thy own Head that bloody Destruction, which thou hast been long framing against us all.

Is it indeed true, that Publius Scipio, Chief Pontiff, a celebrated Roman, but invested with no Magistracy, caused Tiberius Gracchus to be slain, for discomposing the then Government, tho’ by ways void of Force? And shall we, who bear the supreme Consular Office, tamely suffer Catiline to live; a Traitor bent to lay waste the World, by Carnage and Conflagration? I pass over, as too remote, the Example of Quintus Servilius Ahala, who, with his own Hand, slew Spurius Melius, for attempting a Revolution in the State. There once was, I say, there once was, in this our Commonwealth, a Spirit so virtuous, as to animate brave Patriots to pursue a pestilent Citizen to capital Punishment, with more Rigour than the most implacable public Enemy. Against thee, Catiline, we are furnished with an awful and solemn Decree of the Senate: The Commonwealth wants not sound Counsel, nor this Body due Authority. We only, I speak it aloud, we Consuls fail in not executing that Decree.

Formerly, when the Senate had ordered the Consul Lucius Opimius, to provide, ‘that no Detriment accrued to the State;’ not a Day intervened between that Order, and the Death of Caius Gracchus, who was fallen only under the Suspicion of seditious Proceedings; Gracchus, who was sprung from a Father, Grandfather, and Ancestors, all very glorious in our State. In like manner Marcus Fulvius, a Man of Consular Dignity, was cut off, he, and both his Sons.

When, by such another Ordinance, the immediate Care of the Commonwealth was committed to the then Consuls, Caius Marius, and Lucius Valerius; did the high Station of Lucius Saturninus, Tribune of the People, and of Caius Servilius Prætor, avail to retard their Execution, and the Vengeance of the Public, for a single Day? But we have now suffered the Spirit of the Senatorian Authority to droop and deaden for the Space of Twenty Days. For we too are armed with an Ordinance like the former; but leave it to rest amongst the Archives, like a Weapon in the Sheath; tho’, by that Ordinance, thou, Catiline, art justly doomed forthwith to perish. Thou still dost live; and livest not to banish thy outrageous Cruelty, but to harden thyself in it.

I am, Conscript Fathers, sincerely disposed to Mercy: I am disposed too, whilst Perils so mighty threaten the State, not to appear to act remisly for it. Yet I already condemn myself for my Inactivity and Neglect. An Army is already in Italy, encamped upon the Borders of Etruria, breathing open War against the State: The Number of the Enemy increases daily: The Leader of the Enemy is within our Walls; nay, you see him amongst you in the Senate, still continually occupied in pestilent Devices to destroy the Commonwealth. If, therefore, I should order thee, Catiline, to be forthwith seized, nay, order thee to be instantly executed; I guess I have rather the Censure of all worthy Men to fear, for having been too slow, than Blame from any Man, for being cruel.

Yet this very Deed, which ought long since to have been done, I have certain Reasons, moving me, for some Time, not to do. I will then doom thee to die, when not a Soul shall be possibly found so wicked, so abandoned, so resembling thyself, as not to acknowledge such Death to be thy Due: So long as one Man is left, who will venture to defend thee, thou shalt live: But live, as thou now livest, beset with Restraints, powerful and manifold, all of my providing; such as utterly disable thee from annoying the Commonwealth. Many will have their Eyes, many their Ears, employed about thee, all watching and guarding thee; as hitherto they have done, though thou perceivest it not.

In truth, what further Success, O Catiline, hast thou yet in View, when neither the Shades of Night can conceal thy traiterous Cabals, nor thy domestic Walls confine the Accents of thy Treason? If all thy Proceedings are thus glaring, all thus exposed; trust to my Advice, forsake thy desperate Purposes, forego thy Schemes of Conflagrations and Massacre. Thou art, on every side, firmly beset: Thy Devices are all clearer than the Day; and since I know them, thou hadst best avow them.

Thou rememberest well, what I declared to the whole Senate (on the Kalends of November) that on the fourth Day following precisely Caius Manlius, the Implement and Champion of thy desperate Designs would be in open Arms. Have I been deceived, Catiline, in my Presage, not only of an Attempt so enormous, so shocking, and so incredible, but, what is yet more marvellous, of the very Day which was to produce it? I declared too, at the same time, that thou hadst assigned a particular Day, even the Twenty-sixth of the same Month, for the Massacre of the chief Men of Rome; a Day, when many Romans of principal Rank were already fled out of Rome, not so much for securing their own Lives, as to defeat thy pernicious Designs. Canst thou disown, that, on that very Day thou wast so narrowly surrounded by Stratagems of my contriving, and by Guards of my placing, as to be utterly disabled from making any Effort against the Commonwealth, even when thou hadst avowed, that, tho’ the rest had, by retiring, escaped thee, thou wouldst still go on, and content thyself with the Slaughter of us, who chose to remain? Nay, when, even during the Kalends of November, thou hadst conceived an Assurance of having Præneste seized by Surprize in the Night, didst thou not learn, that, by my Orders, by my Reinforcements, by my Vigilance and Precautions, that Colony was secured?

Thou actest nothing, thou attemptest nothing, nay thou meditatest nothing, but what I not only am apprised of, but what I even perceive, and evidently know. Look, moreover, back with me upon what passed during this last Night; thou wilt thence discover, that I watch with more Vigour for the Preservation of the Commonwealth, than thou dost for her Destruction. I say then, thou camest this last Night to the House of Marcus Lecca, in the Street called the Reapers (I speak explicitly); whither, likewise, resorted many of the Associates in the same Phrensy and Treason. Darest thou deny this? Why art thou silent? I will convince thee, if thou disavowest it; for I see here amongst us some Senators, who then accompanied thee.

Immortal Deities! In what Region of the Earth are we placed? Under what Government do we live? In what City have we our Abode? Here, even here, there are now sitting amongst us some of our own Rank, Conscript Fathers, and common Members of this Great Council, the most venerable and awful in the whole Earth, yet studying to bring Perdition upon you, upon me, nay, upon this our State, and, consequently, upon the World itself. These Men I now behold; behold them, whilst I bear the Character of Consul; nay, I, as Consul, call upon them to propose their Sentiments, as Senators, concerning the Public: And I, who ought to have subjected these Men to a bloody Doom, as yet forbear personally to wound them, even with Words.

It is then true, Catiline, that thou heldest a Meeting last Night at the House of Lecca; there didst canton out, and assign, the several Districts of Italy to thy Lieutenants; didst declare thy Pleasure to what Quarter each was to repair; didst chuse such as were to remain in Rome, reserve others to accompany thee in thy Progress; mark out what Parts of the City were destined to the Flames; assure them of thy Purpose presently to leave it; and add, that thou must still defer going a little while, for that I was yet alive. Instantly two Roman Knights undertook to relieve thee from that Source of Anguish, and offered to assassinate me in my Bed that very Night, at least before Dawn.

All these Passages I learnt, almost before thou and thy Cabal had parted. I immediately strengthened my House, and guarded it with an additional Force: I caused Entrance to be denied to such as then came from thee, with a Compliment to me; and they proved to be the very Men, who, I had just foretold to many eminent Persons about me, would come at that same Instant.

In this Situation of Things, Catiline, proceed forward, according to thy Purpose. Depart out of Rome. The Time is come. The Gates stand open for thee: March forth. Thy Forces, encamped under Manlius, have too long expected thee to command them in chief: Lead along with thee, at once, thy whole Party; or, if not the Whole, at least as many as possible. Thus purge the City: Thou wilt then have delivered me from very terrible Apprehensions, when I find myself secured from thee by the Interposition of our Walls. With us, here, thou canst not any longer mix; it is what I will never allow, never bear, never acquiesce in.

Mighty, surely, and solemn Thanksgiving is due from us to the immortal Deities; particularly to Jupiter, there represented by his Statue in this his Temple; Jupiter, the antient Guardian of this our City; for having now so often delivered us from a Calamity so dismal, so horrible, so pestilent to the Commonwealth. Doubtless the Destruction of the whole State is not to be again and again risqued for the sake of one of its Subjects.

All the Time thou wast framing Devices against my Life, whilst I was Consul elect, I guarded myself against thee, Catiline, by no Defence borrowed from the Public, but by my own private Circumspection. When, in the last Assembly held by me in the Field of Mars, for chusing my Successors, thou didst strive to assassinate both me, and thy Competitors, I defeated thy bloody Efforts, by the Aid and Force of my Friends, without alarming the Public in my Behalf. In a Word, to all thy private Assaults I have opposed private Defence; though I foresaw the utter Perdition of the Public inseparably linked to mine. Thou dost now openly assail the whole State; the Temples of the immortal Gods; all the Dwellings in our City, together with the Lives of thy Fellow-citizens; nay, thou dost destine all Italy to Carnage and Desolation.

Seeing, therefore, I dare not have Recourse to the most decisive Expedients, and what most corresponds with primitive Rigour, and the Genius of our State, I will exercise Justice less severe, but more conducing to public Safety. For, should I now sentence thee to be executed, thy Band of Conspirators will still continue in the Bosom of the State; but, if thou dost withdraw, as I now exhort, and have long exhorted thee, since many too of thy Associates will follow thee; that Sink of Profligates, so noisome and destructive to the Commonwealth, will be drained from it.

What thinkest thou, Catiline? Dost thou hesitate to pursue at my Command, what thou wast ready of thyself to pursue? It is the Consul who orders an Enemy to go out of the City. Dost thou ask me, whether into Banishment? I do not order it; but, if thou desirest my Opinion, I advise it.

In truth, Catiline, what is there, that can contribute to thy Pleasure in Rome, where, excepting only thy own abandoned Train of Traitors and Outlaws, not a Man is found, who does not dread, not a Man, who does not abhor thee? What new Note of Infamy can be added, further to blacken thy private and domestic Life? What personal Abomination is not already stamped and glaring upon thy Character? In what one Instance hast thou ever guarded thy Eyes from lewd Objects, or thy Hands from base Actions, or thy Person in general from foul Reproach? Of all the numerous Youth, such as thou hadst once entangled in the Snares of Pollution and Debauchery, whom hast thou forborne to animate and arm for bloody Deeds, when they were found desperate; or with Incentives to Sensuality, when they appeared voluptuous?

What can be said for thee? thee, who, lately, upon the Death of thy former Wife, having, by procuring it, made room in thy House for the Reception of a second, didst aggravate and complete that Crime by another, most incredible and shocking? What it was, I omit to explain, and willingly leave it to be buried under Silence; that, of an Iniquity so monstrous, no Traces may remain in Rome, or, at least, of its having escaped due Vengeance there. I also omit to represent the utter Ruin of thy Fortune, which, thou art aware, is to be intirely assigned over by the Law to thy Creditors the very next Month. I proceed to other Particulars, not such as concern thy infamous Vices, or thy domestic Reproach and Distresses; but such as affect the very Being of the Commonwealth, together with the Lives and Safety of us all.

Is it possible, Catiline, that the Light of the Day, or the Air thou dost breathe, can yield thee Delight? since thou art aware, that not a Man here is ignorant, how, on the last Day of December, during the Consulship of Lepidus and Tullus, thou didst come into the Assembly, (then held) armed with a murdering Dagger? That thou hadst engaged with thee a Band of Assassins, to have then dispatched both the Consuls, with other distinguished Romans; an Effort of thy Rage and Treason, disappointed by no Awe, no Tenderness, in thee, but by the good Destiny of the Roman State.

But I leave these Passages, some of late Date, others that are older, all well known. I ask, How often hast thou attempted to murder me, whilst I was yet only Consul elect? how often, since I became Consul? How many Blows from thee have I escaped, by slightly shifting myself out of their Reach, even when they seemed so well aimed as to threaten inevitable Execution? Of all thy Doings, of all thy Pursuits, of all thy Machinations, not a Tittle can escape my immediate Intelligence. Yet thou droppest nothing of thy bloody Purposes, and terrible Efforts. How often has that bloody Dagger been wrung out of thy Hands? How often too has it fallen thence by Accident, and therefore missed Execution? Thou canst not, however, be a Moment without resuming it. I am at a Loss, in what holy Place thou hast consecrated that fatal Weapon, which thou holdest thus devoted to pierce the Heart of the Consul.

What, now, is thy present Situation of Life? For I will here reason with thee, without any Emotion of Hate, for which I have such just Causes; nay, I will do it with Compassion, to which thou hast no Title. Upon thy coming into the Senate just now, who was the Man, that, in all this Assembly, so numerous and full, once offered thee, nay, who, of all thy Friends and Relations here, offered thee the Civility of a Salute? If there be no Trace, in Memory or Records, of such an Indignity ever happening to any Man before, what Treatment dost thou next expect here? Not, surely, to be assaulted with explicit Scorn, when thou hast already incurred thy Doom from such awful Silence? Dost thou not see, how, upon thy Entrance, all the Benches round thee were instantly deserted? Didst thou not perceive, how, the Moment thou hadst taken thy Seat, all the Senators of Consular Quality, such as thou hadst marked for Assassination, to avoid being so near thee, forsook theirs; nor have yet resumed them?

With what Temper of Mind canst thou bear such Marks of Abhorrence! For myself, I avow, that did my Slaves dread me as much, as all thy Fellow-citizens dread thee; I should judge it my best Course to relinquish my Habitation: Believest thou not that thou shouldest thus consider, and thus relinquish Rome? Or, if I perceived myself, however unjustly, exposed to such flaming Distrust and Aversion of my Fellow-citizens, I would rather chuse to retire from seeing them, than thus be seen by all of them with Eyes full of Acrimony and Vengeance. As against thee thy own Heart bears Testimony of thy Guilt and Enormities, and obliges thee to own thyself to have been long subject to the just Antipathy of all Men, dost thou hesitate to fly from the Looks and Presence of the Roman People; thou who dost thus wound their Senses, thus shock their Spirit?

Suppose thy natural Parents so feared and hated thee, as upon no Terms to be reconciled to thee; I imagine thou wouldst withdraw somewhere far from their Sight. At present, thy Country hates and fears thee; that Country which is the common Parent of us all, and which has long considered thee as a Parricide, studying her final Overthrow. Wilt thou neither reverence the Authority, nor submit to the Judgment, nor be awed by the Power, of thy Country? Thy Country, therefore, seems to reason thus with thee:

‘Not an Enormity has happened for so many Years, but what began from thee; not one crying Crime been committed without thee. By thee alone so many of our Citizens have been butchered; by thee alone our Confederates have been oppressed, with Impunity, and plundered, without Restraint. Thou not only hast succeeded in defying the Laws and Tribunals, but even in utterly crushing and overturning them. All these Excesses past, so flagrant, and beyond all Bearing, I have yet borne, with what Patience I was able; but it is now utterly insupportable to me, to live in continual Dread of thee only; to see, upon every Alarm, whencesoever it comes, Catiline to be the constant Object of public Terror; and that no treasonable Machination seems possible to be formed against me, but some such as resembles thine. Depart, therefore, and release me from all this Dread; that, if it be well grounded, I may escape Destruction; if groundless, I may, however, for once, cease to live in Fear.’

If thy Country were thus to accost thee, ought she not to prevail with thee, even tho’ she wanted Power to force thee? How do I say, prevail with thee? Thee, who didst offer thyself to be kept in Restraint? Thee, who didst declare, that, in order to remove the common Suspicions, thou wast content to live confined in the House of Marcus Lepidus? Thee, who, being refused by him, hadst the Assurance to come even to me, and besought me to secure thee in my House? When, from me too, thou hadst received thy Answer, that I could by no means be safe under the same Roof with thee, whilst I was in such eminent Peril from living with thee in the same City; thou didst then repair with the like Request to Quintus Metellus the Prætor. As He rejected it, thou didst retire to the House of Marcus Marcellus, thy close Companion; doubtless, a trusty Person, one who, thou didst guess, would prove exceeding vigilant in guarding thee, equally sagacious in discovering thy Designs, and most resolute, withal, in bringing thee to Vengeance! Now, how far removed from a Dungeon and Chains should that Man be, who hath already adjudged himself worthy to be in Custody?

In this Situation, Catiline, since thou canst not bring thyself to suffer Death here with Courage and Acquiescence, dost thou still hesitate to withdraw to another Country; and to commit the Remainder of thy Life to Banishment and Solitude; a Life thus frequently snatched from its just Fate, even capital Vengeance, and a bloody End? But, sayst thou, propose it to be debated by the Senate. This thou claimest, and declarest thyself disposed to obey, if they decree thee to be banished. This is what I shall not propose; it is repugnant to my Temper and Conduct: Yet I will so manage, as fully to apprise thee, what Sentiments this awful Assembly entertains of thee. Mind me then, when I say, ‘Depart out of Rome, Catiline; relieve the Commonwealth from so much Dread. Go into Exile; if thou wilt needs have that Word pronounced.’

How dost thou now conceive Things, Catiline? Dost thou, in any Degree, observe the Temper of the Senate? What Inference dost thou make from the profound Silence of the Senators? They hear me patiently, whilst I thus urge thee to depart: They hear me, and are silent. By their Silence thou dost plainly perceive their Inclinations: Why then dost thou expect Judgment from their Mouths?

Had I applied in the same Strain to this excellent young Senator, Publius Sextius, or to the brave Marcus Marcellus, tho’ I bear the Dignity of Consul, I should, doubtless, have already felt the Indignation and Vengeance of the Senate, agreeably to all the Rules of Justice, even in this very Temple, however sacred. But, when I thus attack thee, Catiline, by their Silence they shew their Approbation; their Acquiescence is equivalent to a verbal Decree; and, whilst they are mute, they cry aloud.

Nor is this the Spirit of the Senators only, those Senators whose Authority thou dost affect to reverence, whilst thou makest no Account of their Blood and Lives: It is also the Spirit of the brave and worthy Roman Knights, and of other magnanimous Citizens, who now guard and surround the Senate; Men whose Concourse thou mightest just now have beheld, observed their warm Attachment to the Commonwealth, heard their honest Acclamations; Men, who would, long since, have inflicted upon thee mortal Vengeance, had I not, with much Difficulty, restrained them. With all these I will, however, prevail to attend thee quite to the Gates, when they see thee quitting this their City, and these their Habitations, which thou hast so long destined to Plunder and Desolation.

But why do I waste Words? Art thou to be softened by any Consideration? Is it possible, that thou shouldst ever reform? Art thou to be persuaded to meditate any Retreat, or once to think of Exile? May the immortal Gods inspire thee with such a Purpose! Though shouldst thou indeed prove so terrified with my Discourse, as to reconcile thy Spirit to Banishment, I clearly foresee with what a Tempest of Party Rage I am threatened, if not during the present Conjuncture, whilst the Impressions of thy Crimes are still fresh, yet, surely, in Times to come. Yet even the Rage of Party is worth incurring on such Terms, if upon myself only I draw all the Woe and Smart, without involving the Public in them. But to bring thee to Compunction for thy Wickedness, to be awed by the Frowns and Coercion of the Laws, to comply with the Exigencies of the Commonwealth, are Conditions not to be required of thee: For thou art not so formed, Catiline, as to be reclaimed by Shame from infamous Courses, or by Fear from desperate ones, or by right Reason from Madness and Fury.

To repeat, therefore, what I have already so often said, Depart. If I be thy Enemy, as thou dost loudly aver, and if thou wouldst load me with public Indignation, go directly into Exile: If thou dost, I shall scarce be able to bear all the popular Censures attending it. The Weight of public Indignation upon me, if thou retirest into Banishment, by my Order, as Consul, will be such, as I shall hardly support. But, if thou studiest rather to advance my Glory and Fame, march forth at the Head of thy fell Band of Profligates; proceed to join Manlius; rouse all the abandoned Subjects of the State to take Arms against it; separate thyself from all worthy Citizens; make War upon thy Country in Person; glory in thy unhallowed Depredations and Havock. It will then fully appear, that, instead of being doomed by me an Exile to Nations unknown, thou art only invited out to join thy Fellow Conspirators.

Indeed, what Occasion have I to incite thee to this Choice? when I know, that thou hast already sent forward a Number of Accomplices, as far as the Aurelian Village, there, under Arms, to await thy coming? When I know the Day of Conjunction fixed, by Consent, between thee and Manlius? When I know, that thou hast conveyed before thee, to Manlius, that boasted silver Eagle, so much revered by thee, as to be kept consecrated at home in a peculiar Sanctuary, where thou wast wont devoutly to recommend and hallow all thy crying Enormities; whence I trust, that that Standard will prove pernicious and fatal to thee, and all thy Followers? How canst thou be so long bereft of such a precious Pledge? Thou, who art always wont first to pay thy Devotions to it, just when thou art going about any bloody Undertaking? Nay, thou hast often laid thy impious Hands solemnly upon that thy domestic Altar; then instantly employed them to butcher Roman Citizens.

Thus thou wilt, at last, repair to a Scene, whither thy desperate and raging Spirit hath been long hurrying thee: There, far from feeling any Anguish, thou wilt find Delight inexpressible. For such wild Adventures as these, Nature hath formed thee, thy Inclinations hardened thee, thy Fate reserved thee. Quiet and Recess thou hast never sought; nay, thou hast never longed even after any War, but such as was murdering and baneful. The Forces thou hast amassed are guilty and profligate Men, Sons of Perdition, abandoned by Fortune, nay, even by Hope. Amongst these, with what Joys must thou be filled! What Pleasure must ravish thee! How voluptuously must thou revel! For in so huge a Multitude, all thy own Creatures, thou wilt be safe from seeing, safe from hearing, any one worthy Man. To qualify thyself for this kind of Life, thou hast performed the surprising Exploits, called, proverbially, Catiline’s Labours; such as, lying in wait upon the Ground, not only to seize impure Pleasures, but to compass Acts of Rapine; such too as watching Opportunities to dishonour the sleeping Husband, and to spoil the wealthy and secure Citizen.

There, likewise, an Occasion presents for displaying at large thy distinguished Talent, of bearing Hunger and Cold, with the Want of all the Necessaries of Life; Distresses with which thou wilt quickly perceive thyself overwhelmed. It was a great Point that I gained, when I defeated thy Endeavours to obtain the Consulship: Instead of afflicting the Commonwealth, as Consul, thou canst now only assail it as an Exile: So that what thou hast impiously undertaken, is not, so properly, to be named a War, as the Effort of a Robber.

Here, Conscript Fathers, that I may avert and extinguish a Complaint, which my Country might exhibit against me, upon probable Grounds, attend closely, I beseech you, to what I am going to advance, and rivet it deeply in your Hearts and Thoughts. For were my Country, I say my Country, ever much dearer to me than my Life, were all Italy, and the whole Commonwealth, to accost me in the following Strain; ‘Cicero, what art thou doing? Wilt thou then suffer Catiline to escape out of Rome? him whom thou hast discovered to be a public Enemy? him whom thou seest just about to conduct the War against the State? him whom thou knowest to be expected as Commander in chief in the Camp of our Foes? the Author of all this Treason and Revolt? the Head and Manager of the Conspiracy? the Traitor who debauches, and enlists, every abandoned Citizen and Slave? Wilt thou indeed suffer him to escape, when, by doing it, thou seemest not so much to drive him out of Rome, as to furnish him with Forces to enter it? Wilt thou not order such a one to be thrown into Irons, not adjudge him to present Death, not doom him to the most rigorous Execution? What is it that hath thus long restrained thee? Was it the Institutions of our Ancestors, when it is known, that, in this our City, private Persons have frequently inflicted capital Vengeance upon pestilent Citizens? Was it the Law which limits the corporal Chastisement of Roman Citizens, when, in this our City, they who proved Traitors to the Commonwealth, were never intituled to the Rights of Citizens? Art thou afraid of incensing Posterity against thee? Surely thou makest glorious Retribution to the Roman People, who, having carried thee thro’ all the Stages of public Dignities, raised thee so suddenly to the highest of all, tho’ known to them only by thy personal Qualities, recommended by no Lustre or Merit of thy Ancestors; if, yet, from Fear of public Censure, or from any Fear or Danger whatsoever, thou foregoest the Care and Protection of thy Fellow-citizens. Now, if there be any Danger of such Censure, is it more terribly to be apprehended from a Conduct full of Justice and Magnanimity, than from Timidity and Desertion of Duty? When Italy shall be laid waste by the Ravages of War, her municipal Cities oppressed, her Dwellings all on a Blaze, thinkest thou to escape the consuming Flames of public Indignation?’

To all this Reasoning, so hallowed and venerable, from the Commonwealth, as, likewise, to all such particular Persons who are under the same Impressions, I shall return a short Answer: Had I once judged it the wholsomest Course to have subjected Catiline to the Pains of Death, I should not have spared, no, not for an Hour, the Life of this Son of Blood. Indeed, if Roman Citizens, of the highest Rank and Dignity, derived not only no Stain, but even notable Lustre, upon their Characters, from shedding the Blood of Saturninus, Flaccus, and the two Gracchi, with many others, in former Times; I too, doubtless, ought to have reckoned myself secure from any Share of Reproach from Ages to come, for having adjudged to Execution this Traitor, the common Assassin of Roman Citizens. But, suppose I were ever so severely exposed to such Reproach, it has been always my Principle, To esteem popular Censure procured by righteous Actions, to be rather Glory than Censure.

But we have amongst us, in this Assembly, some, who either perceive not our impending Destruction, or disown that they do; some, who have fed the Hopes of Catiline by too tender Notions and Overtures about him; nay, have added Strength to the Conspiracy, from the very Beginning, by giving no Credit to it. Their Authority is blindly followed by many others, not only the Vicious and Corrupt, but the Weak and Credulous, who would readily join in a heavy Charge upon me, of terrible Cruelty and Tyranny, should I pass Sentence even upon this Criminal. Hence I am convinced, that, when once he has conveyed himself, whither he is bent, into the Camp of Manlius, none will be so stupid, as not to see, that the Conspiracy is formed and existing, none so abandoned as not to confess it. I am likewise convinced, that, by the Execution of Catiline alone, this pestilent Malady in the State might, indeed, be somewhat checked, but never finally crushed and eradicated. But if he relinquish Rome, if he carry with him his Followers here, and with them draw together, into one Body, all his other forlorn Castaways from every Quarter; this direful Distemper in the State, however inveterate, will not only be quelled and extirpated, but with it the Seeds and Materials of all our public Disorders and Misfortunes.

For, surely, Conscript Fathers, we have been long surrounded with all the Terrors, and dark Devices, of this deadly Conspiracy; though I know not by what means it hath happened, that all these Treasons, with other furious and desperate Designs, long before concerted, have been reserved to appear in their full Light and Maturity during my Consulship. Now if, out of so formidable a Host of Robbers, this single one only were snatched away, we should, perhaps, for some small Interval, seem released from our present Anxiety and Dread: But the dangerous Disease would still pursue us, as it is intimately attached to the very Blood and Vitals of the Commonwealth; like the Condition of Men in the Rage of a Fever, who, under the Pangs of Heat and Thirst, if they drink cold Water, appear at first refreshed, but are thenceforward more keenly and more cruelly tormented. It is thus with the Commonwealth, under her present Disorder: For, should it abate upon the Execution of Catiline, it would rage with fresh Ardour, as his Accomplices would be still left alive.

For these Reasons, Conscript Fathers, let the Guilty retire; let them separate themselves from the Innocent and Worthy; let them assemble in one Place. In short, to repeat what I have already often said, let the Walls of Rome stand between us and them; let them drop their bloody Snares against the Consul in his own House; let them no longer beset and insult the Tribunal of Justice, no longer invest the Senate with their armed Emissaries, and employ themselves no longer in amassing Firebrands and Combustibles to destroy the City by Flames. In a Word, let it be read in the Face of every Citizen, what are his Thoughts, what his Wishes, concerning the Commonwealth. Thus much I undertake, Conscript Fathers; that such shall be the Vigilance found in us the Consuls, such the Authority of your Proceedings in the Senate, so much Resolution in the Equestrian Order, with such hearty Unanimity in all good Citizens, that, immediately upon the Departure of Catiline, the whole detestable Scheme will appear under Evidence as glaring as the Day; nay, will prove fully defeated, and even fully punished.

From all these Considerations, Catiline, Be-gone: Go; and conduct that impious, that inhuman War: Go, for the certain Preservation of the Commonwealth; for thy own Curse and Perdition, and for the final Destruction of those, who have combined with thee in all thy black Treasons, and unnatural Attempts to destroy their Common Country.

It is then, O Jupiter, that Thou, who wast chosen Guardian of this City by Romulus, as early as its Foundation; and, under the same Auspices, Thou, whom We truly call the Preserver of our City and Empire; it is then that Thou wilt defend our public Walls, our private Dwellings, with the Lives and Fortunes of all our Citizens, against the Cruelty of this Parricide, and those associated with him: Thou wilt then also inflict dreadful Chastisement upon all who afflict the Just, upon all the Enemies of their Country, upon all barbarous Free-booters throughout Italy, such as are combined together by the Ties of brutal Crimes, and still subsist by that guilty Union: All these, O Jupiter, thou wilt doom, both Living and Dead, as proper Victims, to present and eternal Vengeance.


Copyright: Public Domain

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