The Fourth Oration of Cicero Against Catiline

Daily Dabble in the Classics, Cicero

The Fourth Oration of Cicero Against Catiline: Addressed to the Senate

Editor’s Overview: Cicero makes the case for the strictest sentence possible for those who joined in Catiline’s conspiracy to overthrow Rome and kill every last Roman, whether death to them, or life in prison without possibility of parole. He feared anything less would open the door to a future day when the popularity of the conspirators would lead to their release and a return to their diabolical work.

As to the possibility of the death penalty, Cicero notes:  “Yet still Cæsar is aware, that the Sempronian Law secures the Lives of Roman Citizens: But he is likewise aware, that whoever is an Enemy to the Roman Commonwealth, can by no means be a Roman Citizen; nay, that the Author of the Sempronian Law paid his Life as an Atonement to the Commonwealth, even by an Ordinance of the People.”

He builds his case further:  “Suppose the Father of a Family found his Children butchered, his Wife murdered, and his House burnt by a Slave; whether would he, in adjudging that Slave to the most rigid and painful Doom, be accounted merciful and tender, or very inhuman, and very barbarous? To me he would appear altogether savage and absurd, if he forbore to mitigate his own Pangs and Sufferings, by the Sufferings and Pangs of his guilty Slave. … [I]f we treat them with the utmost Rigour, we shall be esteemed compassionate; if we be sparing of Rigour, we can never escape the everlasting Reproach of the most comprehensive Cruelty, in exposing to Perdition our native State, and all our Fellow-Citizens.”

Leading up to this dread day of conspiracy (from within) Cicero says he “long since perceived many Instances of raging Licentiousness in the Commonwealth; these, too, daily increased, and inflamed by an Accession and Mixture of fresh Corruptions and Violence.”

Steve Farrell

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I PERCEIVE all your Faces turned towards me, Conscript Fathers, all your Eyes fixed upon me. I perceive you all anxious, not only for your own and the public Peril, but, though that were already dissipated, still anxious for mine also. Such Affection to me exhilarates me even in Distress, and yields me Pleasure under Anguish. But, by the immortal Gods I beseech you, divest yourselves of such partial Concern; think not of my Security; study your own, and that of your Children. Since, by the Terms and Circumstances of my Consulship, I am exposed to bear all Adversities, all Afflictions, and the keenest Sufferings, I will bear them all, not only undauntedly, but frankly, if by all my Labours I can but ascertain the Dignity of the Roman State, and your particular Saferies. Such, Conscript Fathers, hath been my Lot as Consul, as to have been no-where exempt from deadly Snares, and the Pursuits of Assassins; not amidst the Tribunals, where all Right and Justice is dispensed; not in the Field of Mars, a Place hallowed by solemn Auspices for the Election of Consuls; not in the Senate, the highest and common Refuge of all Nations; not at Home, the common Retreat of all Men; not in my Bed, ever sacred to Repose; not, finally, in this Vehicle of Dignity, the Chair of State.

In many Instances I have dissembled what I knew; in many I have exercised Patience; in many, Compliance; and in many, to case you of your Fears, I have undergone real Pain myself. If, indeed, the immortal Deities have determined, that I shall conclude my Consulship by rescuing you, Conscript Fathers, and the whole Roman People, from tragical Carnage; your Wives and Children, and the venerable Vestals, from Barbarity and Woe; the Temples and Tabernacles of the Gods, nay, this our glorious Country, alike interesting to us all, from horrible Conflagration, with all Italy from War and Desolation; I am ready to yield to any Lot, which Fortune shall assign me. For, if Publius Lentulus, convinced by the Augurs, believed that his Name was destined to bring Perdition upon the Commonwealth; have not I cause to rejoice to find my Consulship reserved, as it were, by Fate, for the Preservation of the Commonwealth?

Take care, therefore, of yourselves, Conscript Fathers; study the Welfare of your Country; secure your own Lives, your Wives, your Children, and your Fortunes; defend the Persons and Dignity of the Roman People; and relinquish your Tenderness, drop your Anxiety, for me. For, first, I have Cause to hope, that the Gods, who preside over this City, will all concur to reward me according to the Measure of my Services to it. Next, if any Fate unforeseen should befal me, I shall die with a Spirit altogether firm and resigned. Indeed, no brave Man can ever die ignominiously; no Man, who has borne the Consulship, prematurely; no wise Man, meanly. Not that I am hardened against Nature; far otherwise: I am sensibly touched with the Sorrow of a very dear, a very affectionate Brother here present; and with that of those, whom you now behold, all in Tears, surrounding me. My Soul, too, is often dragged back to my Family, by a Wife expiring under Pangs, by a Daughter crushed with Dread and Woe, by a little Son, whom, methinks, I see the Commonwealth clasping in her Arms, as a Pledge for my faithful Ministry; as also by my Daughter’s Husband, now standing in my View, and awaiting here the Issue of this Day. All these Thoughts affect me: Yet I yield to the better Choice, that all these Objects of my Tenderness escape safe with you, though I should fall a Victim to Violence; rather than that they, and all of us, be swallowed up in the final Overthrow of the Republic.

Exert, therefore, Conscript Fathers, your Endeavours for the Safety of the Commonwealth: Cast your Eyes around you; watch on every Side against approaching Storms, such as, without your special Precaution, will overwhelm you. For the Objects of your present Deliberations you have not a Tiberius Gracchus aiming to be a second time chosen Tribune of the People; not a Caius Gracchus, striving to excite Commotions, in order to carry the Agrarian Law; not a Lucius Saturninus, under Prosecution for killing Caius Memmius, and subjected to the Severity of your Judgment. Higher Criminals await your Sentence, Criminals already in Bonds, Accomplices of Catiline, such, who remained here behind him, on purpose to restore him, by reduceing Rome to Ashes, and by butchering you all. The Proofs against them are in your Possession, their Signets, their Letters under their own Hands, and indeed their several Confessions, that they had urged the Allobrogians to revolt, animated the Slaves to rebel, pressed Catiline, with his Army, to advance; and formed a Scheme so effectually to murder all without Exception, that not a Soul should be left to mourn over the Ashes and late Grandeur of the Commonwealth; none to bewail the dreadful Catastrophe of so glorious an Empire.

All these Facts the Witnesses have verified, all these Facts the Parties have owned; and upon them you have already founded many Determinations. First, you have unanimously presented me your Thanks in solemn Strains; nay, you have testified, that, by my Courage, and unwearied Pains, a Conspiracy formed by abandoned Men was disclosed. Next, you have compelled Publius Lentulus to relinquish the Office of Prætor. Then you have given Orders to have him and the rest, whom you tried, committed to Custody: What likewise is chiefly remarkable, as it is an Honour which never was bestowed upon any Roman in Civil Office before me, you have ordained Days of public Thanksgiving to be solemnized in my Name. Lastly, you Yesterday awarded grand Recompences to the Allobrogian Deputies, and to Titus Volturcius. All which Proceedings tend directly to shew, that those, whom you have by Name ordered into Durance, are already judged by you, without any Scruple, worthy of Condemnation. I determined, however, to represent it to you anew, Conscript Fathers; that you may both comprehend the Fact, and ascertain the Measure of Punishment. What Information is due from me as Consul, I will freely give you.

I long since perceived many Instances of raging Licentiousness in the Commonwealth; these, too, daily increased, and inflamed by an Accession and Mixture of fresh Corruptions and Violence: But that a Conspiracy so dreadful, so deadly, was framed against Rome by Roman Citizens, I never once conjectured. Time and Danger press you: Which Way soever your Inclinations and Propositions tend, you must finally determine and declare them before Night. By the Evidence produced before you, you perceive the prodigious Strength and Size of the Treason. If you suppose, that in it there are but few Co-operators, you are grievously deceived. The Source of this Evil is spread beyond all Conception: It hath not only flowed over all Italy, but even passed over the Alps, and, by silently gliding into many Provinces, still prevails in them. It is an Evil not to be crushed by a Course of Sufferance and Procrastinations. Whatever Method of Punishment you determine, the Punishment itself must be forthwith inflicted.

Hitherto I see but two Propositions offered, one by Decius Silanus, for dooming to Death those who endeavoured to destroy the Commonwealth; the other by Caius Cæsar, exempting them from Death, but subjecting them to all the Rigour and Anguish of every other terrible Punishment. Both of them, acting suitably to their great public Dignity, and to the Importance of the Question, contend for a Sentence extremely severe. Silanus judges, that it behoves us not to allow the Conspirators a Moment to live, and breathe common Air; Conspirators, who laboured to bereave us all of Life, us and the Roman People; Conspirators, who strove to extinguish the Empire and Sovereignty of Rome, nay, the Name and Memory of Romans. He recounts, too, how frequent a Practice it was in this Commonwealth to inflict such Doom upon guilty Citizens.

Cæsar conceives, that the immortal Deities have not instituted Death as a Punishment, but either as the necessary Condition of Nature, or as an everlasting Deliverance from all Fatigues and Woe: Hence wise Men never encounter it with Regret; brave Men frequently with Pleasure. He, therefore, consigns the Criminals over to Chains, nay, to endless Chains; and, under such, to be committed apart to the municipal Cities: A new Chastisement, yet, in truth, suitably grievous for their diabolical Crimes.

This Scheme, however, infers Violence offered to these Cities, if you oblige them to be answerable for the Prisoners; at least, infers a Difficulty upon them how to secure the Prisoners, if you make it but a Request to the Cities. You may determine this Point how you please: For I will undertake to convince Cæsar, by such Arguments as, I hope, will weigh with him, that it suits not with his great Figure in the State, to oppose what you think proper to ordain for the common Preservation of all Men.

To his Proposition he adds a heavy Penalty upon the Citizens of these municipal Towns, if any of the Prisoners escape. He adjudges them to be dreadfully guarded, and offers rigorous Sanctions, (all worthy of such blood-thirsty Profligates) that no Man may be able, by Application either to the Senate, or to the People, to alleviate their Sufferings. He even divests them of Hope, the sole, the common Consolation of Men under the forest Misery. He likewise advises their Estates and Fortunes to be confiscated, and publicly sold, and leaves these guilty Men their Life only; since, were he to bereave them of that, he should, by one short Pang, deliver them from a Train of Afflictions, both in Body and Spirit, and from all the lasting Sufferings due to their Cruelties. Thus it was, that, to awe and restrain wicked Men in the Course of their Lives, the Ancients contended, that future Torments were ordained for the Impious; as they conceived, that, if the Dread of such were taken away, Death itself would not be dreaded.

Here, Conscript Fathers, I perceive which Way my own particular Advantage lies. If you take the Proposition of Cæsar, who in it has taken what is reckoned the popular Part in the Commonwealth; I perhaps have less to apprehend from any popular Outrage, after he shall be known to have offered and defended such a Proposition: Whereas, if you take that of Silanus, I doubt I shall incur great Difficulty. But let all Considerations of Dangers to myself yield to the Interest of the Commonwealth. For, from Cæsar too we have had, what well became his own Dignity, and the great Lustre of his Ancestors, such a Proposition, as abundantly assures us of his unalterable Zeal for the Commonwealth. It is, in truth, well known, what Difference there is between the Lenity affected in popular Harangues, and a Spirit truly anxious for the People, and employed for their Preservation. Some, I observe, are now absent; such, who, aiming at a popular Character, would avoid joining in Judgment against the Life of a Roman Citizen.

He, Cæsar, the other Day, declared for committing Roman Citizens to Prison, declared for solemnizing Days of Thanksgiving, in Honour of me; nay, Yesterday declared for distinguishing the Witnesses with grand Recompences. It, therefore, can be a Mystery to none, what Sentiments he has all along entertained concerning this Prosecution, and the whole Affair; He, who hath already adjudged Imprisonment to the Criminals, public Thanks to the Impleader, and Rewards to the Witnesses. Yet still Cæsar is aware, that the Sempronian Law secures the Lives of Roman Citizens: But he is likewise aware, that whoever is an Enemy to the Roman Commonwealth, can by no means be a Roman Citizen; nay, that the Author of the Sempronian Law paid his Life as an Atonement to the Commonwealth, even by an Ordinance of the People.

Neither can such a Man even as Lentulus, however signal for Largesses, and profuse Expence, pass with Cæsar for a popular Man, especially when, with a Spirit so pestilent and blood-thirsty, he had devised to butcher the Roman People, and reduce Rome itself to Ashes. Thus Cæsar, the mildest and most moderate of all Men, never once pauses about consigning Publius Lentulus to Bonds and Darkness, without Redemption or End; nay, he annexes a penal Restriction, without Limitation of Time, that no Man shall venture to mitigate such Punishment, lest such a Man may thence boast his popular Merit, or hereafter grow popular by a Step so ruinous to the Roman People. Besides, he subjoins the Confiscation of their Possessions, whence, as their Souls may be gnawed with Torments and Anguish, so may their Bodies with Want and Beggary.

Thus, therefore, it is; if you adopt this Proposition of Cæsar’s, I shall, in recounting it to an Assembly of the People, be furnished by you with a Companion, who is very amiable and dear to them: If you prefer that of Silanus, you will still find it easy to defend yourselves and me from the Imputation of Cruelty; nay, I will procure it to be approved, as implying the lighter Punishment. Though, to say Truth, Conscript Fathers, how is it possible to commit Cruelty in punishing such black and stupendous Treason? For, my declared Judgment about it, is what my Spirit really dictates. Neither doth my Ardour on this Occasion arise from any Barbarity of Heart, (for who is more humane than I?) but even from uncommon Mildness and Mercy, from pure Zeal to secure our Commonwealth, that I may continue to enjoy, with you, all its Blessings and Privileges.

For, methinks, I behold this Imperial City, the Light and Glory of the Earth, the Refuge of all Nations, finally swallowed up in one sudden Blaze. My Soul presents me with a View of my Country buried under her own Ruins; with the deplorable Piles of Citizens butchered and unburied! Full in my Eye appears Cethegus, flaming with frantic Vengeance, and quenching it in your Blood. When my Imagination, next, represents Lentulus exercising lawless Sway, a Lot for which he avows to have trusted to the Fates; under him, the Traitor Gabinius, adorned with Purple; then Catiline, arrived with his Army; I shrink with the Horror of what follows; Matrons wailing, Virgins and tender Youths frighted and flying, and even the holy Vestals violated.

These are affecting Calamities, and full of Woe; and, because they appear very sensibly such to me, I therefore act with Acrimony and Fervour towards the Men, who laboured to introduce these affecting Calamities. Suppose the Father of a Family found his Children butchered, his Wife murdered, and his House burnt by a Slave; whether would he, in adjudging that Slave to the most rigid and painful Doom, be accounted merciful and tender, or very inhuman, and very barbarous? To me he would appear altogether savage and absurd, if he forbore to mitigate his own Pangs and Sufferings, by the Sufferings and Pangs of his guilty Slave.

Thus, in our Proceedings with these Criminals of State, Criminals, who purposed to slaughter us all, us, our Wives, and our Children; Criminals, who strove utterly to raze our several Dwellings, without Exception, and this our City, the great Head and Centre of our Commonwealth; Criminals, who intended to have settled the Nation of the Allobrogians upon the Ruins of Rome; to have brought Barbarians into their native Country, first laid desolate by Fire; if we treat them with the utmost Rigour, we shall be esteemed compassionate; if we be sparing of Rigour, we can never escape the everlasting Reproach of the most comprehensive Cruelty, in exposing to Perdition our native State, and all our Fellow-Citizens.

Will any one impute Cruelty to Lucius Cæsar, that very brave Man, and very affectionate to the Commonwealth, for publicly declaring the other Day, in the Senate, that Publius Lentulus, though Husband to his Sister, a Lady of shining Character, ought unquestionably to suffer Death; nay, for declaring it in the Presence and Hearing of Lentulus? He alledged the Example and Fate of his own Grandfather, slain by Order of the Consul, who caused even his Son, yet a Youth, to be executed in Prison, though purposely sent to him on Commission from his Father. What Offence had they committed, resembling the present? In what Scheme had they engaged for the utter Destruction of the Commonwealth? There then prevailed in the Commonwealth a Spirit of Popularity for courting the People by public Grants: Thence followed a Struggle of Parties; and, upon that Occasion, the Grandfather of this very Lentulus, an illustrious Roman, took Arms, and fell upon Gracchus; nay, was even grievously wounded; all to prevent the least Concussion to the State. The present Lentulus applies himself to extirpate the very Foundations of the State, invites an Invasion from the Gauls, rouses the Slaves to rebel, calls home Catiline, consigns us Senators to be butchered by Cethegus, all the other Citizens to be massacred by Gabinius, the City to be set on Fire by Cassius, all Italy to be ravaged and plundered by Catiline.

Here is Barbarity indeed, tremendous in its Nature, prodigious in its Size! Nor can I conceive, how, in your Proceedings against it, you should possibly fear to have passed any Resolution too rigorous. Surely, you have much more Cause to fear having appeared cruel towards our common Country, by too tender a Punishment, than thought unrelenting by the Asperity of whatever Doom we pass upon such determined and implacable Enemies. I cannot, however, smother what I hear: A Rumour which flies abroad, hath reached my Ear, raised by such as seem to apprehend, that I am not furnished with sufficient Power and Assistance to execute what you are this Day about to ordain.

All Precautions, Conscript Fathers, are taken, all necessary Strength provided, all Measures of Safety concerted, not only with my utmost Circumspection and Vigilance, but rather by the superior Ardour of the Roman People, all zealous to preserve the Roman Empire in its intire Splendour, and their own Persons and Fortunes in full Security. All Men attend to assist us, those of every Rank, and every Age: They throng all the great Forum; throng all the Temples round the Forum; nay, all the Avenues to this very Quarter, and this Temple. Indeed, ever since the Founding of Rome, this Cause is the only one yet known, where the Opinions and Wishes of all intirely agree: I except those Men, who, finding themselves destined to perish, were resolved rather to involve the whole Community in their Doom, than perish by themselves. Such Men I freely except, and distinguish from the rest; since I am persuaded, that they are not to be numbered even amongst bad Citizens, but only amongst the most cruel and pestilent Enemies. As to all the others, immortal Deities! in what Multitudes, with what Zeal, with how much Vigour, do they all concur to maintain the public Dignity and Welfare!

What need is there to mention the Roman Knights, Men, who, whilst they consent, that you preside in the public Councils, and excel in Rank, yet vie with you in Affection to the Commonwealth? They are now, after many Years, recovered, from their antient Rupture, to Union and Reconcilement with this our Body; and, on this Day, by this interesting Cause, unanimously attached to us. This is a Conjunction of such Moment, that, if we can but always maintain it, as it is now confirmed under my Consulship, I here undertake to you, that no intestine or domestic Harm shall henceforth, in any Instance, embroil the State.

I perceive, that the same Zeal hath animated these very brave Men, the Tribunes of the Exchequer, to assemble for the Defence of the Commonwealth; with the whole Body, too, of Scribes, who, happening to meet in great Numbers there, forsook their Pursuit of Debts, and Attendance for Gain, all watchful for the common Safety. We have here, with all the rest, to aid us, the whole Body of such as are free-born Romans, even the most young and tender. In truth, who is the Man, to whom these. Temples of the Gods, the Aspect of the City, the Enjoyment of Liberty, nay, the common Light and Air, and even the very Soil, of our common Country, do not prove, not only very dear, but even lovely and delightful?

What, next, deserves our Consideration, Conscript Fathers, is the public Spirit of such as were not born, but made free; Men, who, having, by their Merit, obtained the Right of Citizens, sincerely hold this to be their native Country; a Country, which some, who were born in it, nay, born to all the Lustre and superior Privileges in it, hold, not for their Country, but for a State full of Enemies.

But why need I recount the several Ranks of Men, who, either from their private Fortunes, or from their common Engagements to the Public, or for their Love of Liberty, (a Blessing so charming!) are all roused to exert themselves, in Defence of their Common Welfare? There is not a Slave, who, if his Lot of Servitude be but supportable, does not see the bold Disloyalty of natural Citizens with Abhorrence; does not wish the Continuance of our Establishment; does not manifest as much Zeal as he dares, and is allowed, towards the public Security.

If, therefore, any of you chance to be alarmed with the Report, that a prostitute Instrument of Lentulus is running from Shop to Shop, in hopes, by Bribes, to corrupt the Minds of the Indigent and Unwary; this Expedient is, indeed, devised and tried: But none are found, either so wretched in their Condition, or so utterly depraved in their Inclinations, as to comply: They are, on the contrary, desirous to preserve their humble Habitations, their slender Fare, the Product of their daily Earnings and Labour, with their mean Lodging, and little Bed; and, finally, their present Course of Life, endeared to them by Freedom and Indolence. Indeed, by far the greatest Part of such who live in Shops, or, rather, as we must needs own, all of them in general, are zealous for public Tranquility: Since their whole Stock, their whole Industry and Gain, is supported by the Resort of Citizens; the Whole thrives by public Quiet. Now, if such their Gain be subject to be reduced and impaired by keeping their Shops shut, what must be the Consequence, if they were burnt?

From the Roman People, therefore, Conscript Fathers, no Aid or Defence will be wanting. To You it belongs, so to act, that you may not seem wanting to the Roman People. You have a Consul, who, surviving numberless Dangers, and bloody Snares, nay, delivered out of the very Jaws of Death, is still reserved for your Preservation, rather than that of his own Life. All Orders of Men agree to secure and protect the Commonwealth: To this great End they all contrive; all exert their best Zeal and Wishes; all express their Vigour and Testimony. Your Common Country, beset by diabolical Conspirators, armed with Fire and Sword, applies to You in a supplicant Posture: To You, as her Protectors, she recommends herself; to You the Lives of all the Citizens; to You the Castle and Capitol; to You the Altars of the Houshold Gods; to You the Fire of the Vestals; that holy Fire, never to be extinguished; to You all the Temples and Tabernacles of the Deities; to You the Walls of Rome, and all her Dwellings.

You are, moreover, this important Day, to pass Judgment upon your own Lives, upon those of your Children and Wives, upon the Fortunes of all, upon your Mansions, and domestic Hearths. You have a Leader, intirely vigilant for you, intirely thoughtless about himself; a Qualification which does not always occurr. You have all Ranks, all Men, indeed, the Roman People, universally concurring in the same Sentiment; a Union, such as, in any public Proceeding, was never seen, till this very Juncture.

Recollect what a Tragedy one single Night had well-nigh produced, even the final Overthrow of this Empire, founded by such a painful Succession of Struggles and Fatigues; the Extinction of public Liberty, established by a long Course of heroic Actions; with the utter Dissipation of all Wealth and Treasure, all procured and accumulated by the signal Bounty of the Gods! That no room be henceforth left, not only for accomplishing such dreadful Treason, but even for devising it, is the Business of your present Deliberations. Observe, that I have not offered these Considerations to fire your Zeal, (for, in Zeal, you almost surpass me) but to let my Voice, which ought to be the foremost in the State; testify, that I had spoken what became the Duty of a Consul.

Here, Conscript Fathers, before I come to my concluding Inference, I shall offer a few Particulars concerning myself. You perceive the Band of Conspirators to be extremely numerous; as I do, that, let their Number be ever so great, I have incurred the mortal Enmity of just so many Men, as there are Conspirators; a Band, however, which I hold for base, impotent, contemptible, and forlorn. But, suppose, that, in time to come, these Conspirators, animated by the Fury and Villainy of some successful Parricide, should prevail against your Authority, and that of the State; still, Conscript Fathers, I shall never be sorry for the Course of my Conduct and Counsels. Perhaps they threaten me with Death; a Lot appointed to all Men: And, in this Life, no Man ever attained to so much Applause, as, by your Decrees, you have honoured me withal. To others you have decreed public Festivals, for having well served the Commonwealth: To me, for having saved it.

Let Scipio be still renowned; He by whose Conduct and Bravery Hannibal was driven out of Italy into Africa again. Let the other Scipio, called the Second Africanus, be complimented with high Fame; He who overthrew Carthage and Numantia, Two Cities bearing implacable Enmity to this our Empire. Let the Praise of a signal Commander ever follow Lucius Paulus Æmilius; who, to honour his Triumph, made King Perses, in Chains, accompany his Chariot; a Prince, formerly, so very powerful, and so very splendid. Let Marius be covered with eternal Glory; he, who twice delivered Italy from Invasion, and the Dread of Thraldom. Be Pompey yet preferred to all others whomsoever; a Roman whose Virtues and Atchievements are bounded only by the utmost Regions visited by the Sun.

Surely, amidst the Praises of all these, some room will be left for mine! Unless it be judged a nobler Task to conquer distant Provinces, whither we may afterwards have recourse, than so to guard the State, whilst they are absent, that, the City being safe, they may have a Place whither to bring back their Laurels. One Advantage, indeed, attends conquering Abroad, more than at Home; for foreign Enemies, when quite subdued, either become Slaves, or, when received into Grace, judge themselves under the Tie of Gratitude: But when those of the same Community are so smitten with any Phrensy, as once to entertain Enmity against their Country, though you may defeat their Purposes to destroy the Commonwealth, you can never after restrain them by Force, nor pacify them by Favours.

Hence I perceive myself involved in an everlasting War with reprobate Citizens. Their utmost Violence, however, I trust easily to repulse from me and from mine: Such is my Confidence in your Support, and that of all worthy Men, and in your and their remembering what dreadful Perils surrounded us; Remembrance which will for ever cleave to the Minds and Conversation, not only of this People, who have felt the Deliverance, but even to those of all Nations. Neither will any Violence, wheresoever, be able to break the Union between You and the Roman Knights, or dissolve the Conjunction of all good Citizens.

In this Situation, Conscript Fathers, all that I request of you, in place of the Command of the Army, in place of the Province, both which I slighted and resigned; in place of the Triumph, which, with the other Displays of Honour, I rejected, purposely here to guard the City, and your Lives; in place of all Dependencies, and Claims of Hospitality in the Provinces; Advantages, which, as Consul, I employ the public Aid to maintain, with as much Labour as I do to acquire: For all these Considerations; for all the Instances of my singular Attachment to you; for all the Proofs which you see of my indesatigable Assiduity to save the State; I request nothing else of you, but only to retain the Impression of this Period of Time, and of the Transactions throughout my Consulship. As long as such Impressions continue rivetted in your Minds, I shall think myself surrounded with a Bulwark. Should the Violence of wicked Men frustrate my Hopes, and prevail against me, to You I recommend my little Son: It will prove abundant Security to him; not only to his Person, but even to his Reputation, that you remember him to be the Son of that Citizen, who, at his own single Peril, preserved this our whole City and Empire.

As you, therefore, tender your very Lives, Conscript Fathers, with those of the Roman People, your Wives and Children; as you tender your Sanctuaries, your Temples, and holy Places, your Habitations, and all the Dwellings in Rome; as you tender your Empire, the public Liberty, and the Preservation of Italy, and, indeed, the whole Commonwealth; attend to what you do, and decree, as you have determined to decree, with Circumspection, and with Vigour. You have a Consul, who, without pausing, will not only fulfil your Decrees, but, whilst his Life lasts, will set himself, with all his Might, to maintain and execute whatever you shall decree.


Original copyright is in the Public Domain. This edition with editor’s overview and modernized spelling Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell and Self-Educated American.