Conspiracy of Catiline

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Conspiracy of Catiline (1867)
by Gaius Sallustius Crispus, translated by John Selby Watson
Gaius Sallustius Crispus792152Conspiracy of Catiline1867John Selby Watson


It becomes all men, who desire to excel other animals, to strive, to the utmost of their power, not to pass through life in obscurity, like the beasts of the field, which nature has formed groveling and subservient to appetite. All our power is situated in the mind and in the body. Of the mind we rather employ the government; of the body, the service. The one is common to us with the gods; the other with the brutes. It appears to me, therefore, more reasonable to pursue glory by means of the intellect than of bodily strength, and, since the life which we enjoy is short, to make the remembrance of us as lasting as possible. For the glory of wealth and beauty is fleeting and perishable; that of intellectual power is illustrious and immortal.

Yet it was long a subject of dispute among mankind, whether military efforts were more advanced by strength of body, or by force of intellect. For, in affairs of war, it is necessary to plan before beginning to act, and, after planning, to act with promptitude and vigor. Thus, each being insufficient of itself, the one requires the assistance of the other.


In early times, accordingly, kings (for that was the first title of sovereignty in the world) applied themselves in different ways; some exercised the mind, others the body. At that period, however, the life of man was passed without covetousness; every one was satisfied with his own. But after Cyrus in Asia, and the Lacedaemonians and Athenians in Greece, began to subjugate cities and nations, to deem the lust of dominion a reason for war, and to imagine the greatest glory to be in the most extensive empire, it was then at length discovered, by proof and experience, that mental power has the greatest effect in military operations. And, indeed, if the intellectual ability of kings and magistrates were exerted to the same degree in peace as in war, human affairs would be more orderly and settled, and you would not see governments shifted from hand to hand, and things universally changed and confused. For dominion is easily secured by those qualities by which it was at first obtained. But when sloth has introduced itself in the place of industry, and covetousness and pride in that of moderation and equity, the fortune of a state is altered together with its morals; and thus authority is always transferred from the less to the more deserving.

Even in agriculture, in navigation, and in architecture, whatever man performs owns the dominion of intellect. Yet many human beings, resigned to sensuality and indolence, uninstructed and unimproved, have passed through life like travelers in a strange country; to whom, certainly, contrary to the intention of nature, the body was a gratification, and the mind a burden. Of these I hold the life and death in equal estimations, for silence is maintained concerning both. But he only, indeed, seems to me to live, and to enjoy life, who, intent upon some employment, seeks reputation from some ennobling enterprise, or honorable pursuit.

But in the great abundance of occupations, nature points out different paths to different individuals.


To act well for the Commonwealth is noble, and even to speak well for it is not without merits. Both in peace and in war it is possible to obtain celebrity; many who have acted, and many who have recorded the actions of others, receive their tribute of praise. And to me, assuredly, though by no means equal glory attends the narrator and the performer of illustrious deeds, it yet seems in the highest degree difficult to write the history of great transactions; first, because deeds must be adequately represented by words; and next, because most readers consider that whatever errors you mention with censure, are mentioned through malevolence and envy; while, when you speak of the great virtue and glory of eminent men, every one hears with acquiescence only that which he himself thinks easy to be performed; all beyond his own conception he regards as fictitious and incredible.

I myself, however, when a young man, was at first led by inclination, like most others, to engage in political affairs; but in that pursuit many circumstances were unfavorable to me; for, instead of modesty, temperance, and integrity, there prevailed shamelessness, corruption, and rapacity. And although my mind, inexperienced in dishonest practice, detested these vices, yet, in the midst of so great corruption, my tender age was ensnared and infected by ambition; and though I shrunk from the vicious principles of those around me, yet the same eagerness for honors, the same obloquy and jealousy, which disquieted others, disquieted myself.


When, therefore, my mind had rest from its numerous troubles and trials, and I had determined to pass the remainder of my days unconnected with public life, it was not my intention to waste my valuable leisure in indolence and inactivity, or, engaging in servile occupations, to spend my time in agriculture or hunting; but, returning to those studies from which, at their commencement, a corrupt ambition had allured me, I determined to write, in detached portions, the transactions of the Roman people, as any occurrence should seem worthy of mention; an undertaking to which I was the rather inclined, as my mind was uninfluenced by hope, fear, or political partisanship. I shall accordingly give a brief account with as much truth as I can, of the Conspiracy of Catiline; for I think it an enterprise eminently deserving of record, from the unusual nature both of its guilt and of its perils. But before I enter upon my narrative, I must give a short description of the character of the man.


Lucius Catiline was a man of noble birth, and of eminent mental and personal endowments, but of a vicious and depraved disposition. His delight, from his youth, had been in civil commotions, bloodshed, robbery, and sedition; and in such scenes he had spent his early years. His constitution could endure hunger, want of sleep, and cold, to a degree surpassing belief. His mind was daring, subtle, and versatile, capable of pretending or dissembling whatever he wished. He was covetous of other men’s property, and prodigal of his own. He had abundance of eloquence, though but little wisdom. His insatiable ambition was always pursuing objects extravagant, romantic, and unattainable.

Since the time of Sylla’s dictatorship, a strong desire of seizing the government possessed him, nor did he at all care, provided that he secured power for himself, by what means he might arrive at it. His violent spirit was daily more and more hurried on by the diminution of his patrimony, and by his consciousness of guilt; both which evils he had increased by those practices which I have mentioned above. The corrupt morals of the state, too, which extravagance and selfishness, pernicious and contending vices, rendered thoroughly depraved, furnished him with additional incentives to action.

Since the occasion has thus brought public morals under my notice, the subject itself seems to call upon me to look back, and briefly to describe the conduct of our ancestors in peace and war; how they managed the state, and how powerful they left it; and how, by gradual alteration, it became, from being the most virtuous, the most vicious and depraved.


Of the city of Rome, as I understand, the founders and earliest inhabitants were the Trojans, who, under the conduct of Aeneas, were wandering about as exiles from their country, without any settled abode; and with these were joined the Aborigines, a savage race of men, without laws or government, free and owning no control. How easily these two tribes, though of different origin, dissimilar language, and opposite habits of life, formed a union when they met within the same walls, is almost incredible. But when their state, from an accession of population and territory, and an improved condition of morals, showed itself tolerably flourishing and powerful, envy, as is generally the case in human affairs, was the consequence of its prosperity. The neighboring kings and people, accordingly, began to assail them in war, while a few only of their friends came to their support; for the rest, struck with alarm, shrunk from sharing their dangers. But the Romans, active at home and in the field, prepared with alacrity for their defense. They encouraged one another, and hurried to meet the enemy. They protected with their arms, their liberty, their country, and their homes. And when they had at length repelled danger by valor, they lent assistance to their allies and supporters, and procured friendships rather by bestowing favors than by receiving them.

They had a government regulated by laws. The denomination of their government was monarchy. Chosen men, whose bodies might be enfeebled by years, but whose minds were vigorous in understanding, formed the council of the state; and these, whether from their age, or from the similarity of their duty, were called fathers. But afterwards, when the monarchical power, which had been originally established for the protection of liberty, and for the promotion of the public interest, had degenerated into tyranny and oppression, they changed their plan, and appointed two magistrates, with power only annual; for they conceived that, by this method, the human mind would be least likely to grow overbearing through want of control.


At this period every citizen began to seek distinction, and to display his talents with greater freedom; for, with princes, the meritorious are greater objects of suspicion than the undeserving, and to them the worth of others is a source of alarm. But when liberty was secured, it is almost incredible how much the state strengthened itself in a short space of time, so strong a passion for distinction had pervaded it. Now, for the first time, the youth, as soon as they were able to bear the toils of war, acquired military skill by actual service in the camp, and took pleasure rather in splendid arms and military steeds than in the society of mistresses and convivial indulgence. To such men no toil was unusual, no place was difficult or inaccessible, no armed enemy was formidable; their valor had overcome everything. But among themselves the grand rivalry was for glory; each sought to be first to wound an enemy, to scale a wall, and to be noticed while performing such an exploit. Distinction such as this they regarded as wealth, honor, and true nobility. They were covetous of praise, but liberal of money; they desired competent riches, but boundless glory. I could mention, but that the account would draw me too far from my subject, places in which the Roman people, with a small body of men, routed vast armies of the enemy; and cities which, though fortified by nature, they carried by assault.


But, assuredly, Fortune rules in all things. She makes everything famous or obscure rather from caprice than in conformity with truth. The exploits of the Athenians, as far as I can judge, were very great and glorious, yet something inferior to what fame has represented them. But because writers of great talent flourished there, the actions of the Athenians are celebrated over the world as the most splendid of achievements. Thus, the merit of those who have acted is estimated at the highest point to which illustrious intellects could exalt it in their writings.

But among the Romans there was never any such abundance of writers; for, with them, the most able men were the most actively employed. No one exercised the mind independently of the body; every man of ability chose to act rather than narrate, and was more desirous that his own merits should be celebrated by others, than that he himself should record theirs.


Good morals, accordingly, were cultivated in the city and in the camp. There was the greatest possible concord, and the least possible avarice. Justice and probity prevailed among the citizens, not more from the influence of the laws than from natural inclination. They displayed animosity, enmity, and resentment only against the enemy. Citizens contended with citizens in nothing but honor. They were magnificent in their religious services, frugal in their families, and steady in their friendships.

By these two virtues, intrepidity in war, and equity in peace, they maintained themselves and their state. Of their exercise of which virtues, I consider these as the greatest proofs; that, in war, punishment was oftener inflicted on those who attacked an enemy contrary to orders, and who, when commanded to retreat, retired too slowly from the contest, than on those who had dared to desert their standards or, when pressed by the enemy, to abandon their posts; and that, in peace, they governed more by conferring benefits than by exciting terror, and, when they received an injury, chose rather to pardon than to revenge it.


But when, by perseverance and integrity, the republic had increased its power; when mighty princes had been vanquished in war; when barbarous tribes and populous states had been reduced to subjection; when Carthage, the rival of Rome’s dominion, had been utterly destroyed, and sea and land lay everywhere open to her sway, Fortune then began to exercise her tyranny, and to introduce universal innovation. To those who had easily endured toils, dangers, and doubtful and difficult circumstances, ease and wealth, the objects of desire to others, became a burden and a trouble. At first the love of money, and then that of power, began to prevail, and these became, as it were, the sources of every evil. For avarice subverted honesty, integrity, and other honorable principles, and, in their stead, inculcated pride, inhumanity, contempt of religion, and general venality. Ambition prompted many to become deceitful; to keep one thing concealed in the breast, and another ready on the tongue; to estimate friendships and enmities, not by their worth, but according to interest; and to carry rather a specious countenance than an honest heart. These vices at first advanced but slowly, and were sometimes restrained by correction; but afterwards, when their infection had spread like a pestilence, the state was entirely changed, and the government, from being the most equitable and praiseworthy, became rapacious and insupportable.


At first, however, it was ambition, rather than avarice, that influenced the minds of men; a vice which approaches nearer to virtue than the other. For of glory, honor, and power, the worthy is as desirous as the worthless; but the one pursues them by just methods; the other, being destitute of honorable qualities, works with fraud and deceit. But avarice has merely money for its object, which no wise man has ever immoderately desired. It is a vice which, as if imbued with deadly poison, enervates whatever is manly in body or mind. It is always unbounded and insatiable, and is abated neither by abundance nor by want.

But after Lucius Sylla, having recovered the government by force of arms, proceeded, after a fair commencement, to a pernicious termination, all became robbers and plunderers; some set their affections on houses, others on lands; his victorious troops knew neither restraint nor moderation, but inflicted on the citizens disgraceful and inhuman outrages. Their rapacity was increased by the circumstance that Sylla, in order to secure the attachment of the forces which he had commanded in Asia, had treated them, contrary to the practice of our ancestors, with extraordinary indulgence, and exemption from discipline; and pleasant and luxurious quarters had easily, during seasons of idleness, enervated the minds of the soldiery. Then the armies of the Roman people first became habituated to licentiousness and intemperance, and began to admire statues, pictures, and sculptured vases; to seize such objects alike in public edifices and private dwellings; to spoil temples; and to cast off respect for everything, sacred and profane. Such troops, accordingly, when once they obtained the mastery, left nothing to the vanquished. Success unsettles the principles even of the wise, and scarcely would those of debauched habits use victory with moderation.


When wealth was once considered an honor, and glory, authority, and power attended on it, virtue lost her influence, poverty was thought a disgrace, and a life of innocence was regarded as a life of ill-nature. From the influence of riches, accordingly, luxury, avarice, and pride prevailed among the youth; they grew at once rapacious and prodigal; they undervalued what was their own, and coveted what was another’s; they set at naught modesty and continence; they lost all distinction between sacred and profane, and threw off all consideration and self-restraint.

It furnishes much matter for reflection, after viewing our modern mansions and villas extended to the size of cities, to contemplate the temples which our ancestors, a most devout race of men, erected to the Gods. But our forefathers adorned the fanes of the deities with devotion, and their homes with their own glory, and took nothing from those whom they conquered but the power of doing harm; their descendants, on the contrary, the basest of mankind have even wrested from their allies, with the most flagrant injustice, whatever their brave and victorious ancestors had left to their vanquished enemies; as if the only use of power were to inflict injury.


For why should I mention those displays of extravagance, which can be believed by none but those who have seen them; as that mountains have been leveled, and seas covered with edifices, by many private citizens; men whom I consider to have made a sport of their wealth, since they were impatient to squander disreputably what they might have enjoyed with honor.

But the love of irregular gratification, open debauchery, and all kinds of luxury, had spread abroad with no less force. Men forgot their sex; women threw off all the restraints of modesty. To gratify appetite, they sought for every kind of production by land and by sea; they slept before there was any inclination for sleep; they no longer waited to feel hunger, thirst, cold, or fatigue, but anticipated them all by luxurious indulgence. Such propensities drove the youth, when their patrimonies were exhausted, to criminal practices; for their minds, impregnated with evil habits, could not easily abstain from gratifying their passions, and were thus the more inordinately devoted in every way to rapacity and extravagance.


In so populous and so corrupt a city, Catiline, as it was very easy to do, kept about him, like a body-guard, crowds of the unprincipled and desperate. For all those shameless, libertine, and profligate characters, who had dissipated their patrimonies by gaming, luxury, and sensuality; all who had contracted heavy debts, to purchase immunity for their crimes or offences; all assassins or sacrilegious persons from every quarter, convicted or dreading conviction for their evil deeds; all, besides, whom their tongue or their hand maintained by perjury or civil bloodshed; all, in fine, whom wickedness, poverty, or a guilty conscience disquieted, were the associates and intimate friends of Catiline. And if any one, as yet of unblemished character, fell into his society, he was presently rendered, by daily intercourse and temptation, similar and equal to the rest. But it was the young whose acquaintance he chiefly courted; as their minds, ductile and unsettled from their age, were easily ensnared by his stratagems. For as the passions of each, according to his years, appeared excited, he furnished mistresses to some, bought horses and dogs for others, and spared, in a word, neither his pursue nor his character, if he could but make them his devoted and trustworthy supporters. There were some, I know, who thought that the youth, who frequented the house of Catiline, were guilty of crimes against nature; but this report arose rather from other causes than from any evidence of the fact.


Catiline, in his youth, had been guilty of many criminal connections, with a virgin of noble birth, with a priestess of Vesta, and of many other offences of this nature in defiance of law and religion. At last, when he was smitten with a passion for Aurelia Orestilla, in whom no good man, at any time of her life, commended anything but her beauty, it is confidently believed that because she hesitated to marry him, from the dread of having a grown-up step-son, he cleared the house for their nuptials by putting his son to death. And this crime appears to me to have been the chief cause of hurrying forward the conspiracy. For his guilty mind, at peace with neither gods nor men, found no comfort either waking or sleeping; so effectually did conscience desolate his tortured spirit. His complexion, in consequence, was pale, his eyes haggard, his walk sometimes quick and sometimes slow, and distraction was plainly apparent in every feature and look.


The young men, whom, as I said before, he had enticed to join him, he initiated, by various methods, in evil practices. From among them he furnished false witnesses, and forgers of signatures; and he taught them all to regard, with equal unconcern, horror, property, and danger. At length, when he had stripped them of all character and shame, he led them to other and greater enormities. If a motive for crime did not readily occur, he invited them, nevertheless, to circumvent and murder inoffensive persons, just as if they had injured him; for, lest their hand or heart should grow torpid for want of employment, he chose to be gratuitously wicked and cruel.

Depending on such accomplices and adherents, and knowing that the load of debt was everywhere great, and that the veterans of Sylla, having spent their money too liberally, and remembering their spoils and former victory, were longing for a civil war, Catiline formed the design of overthrowing the government. There was no army in Italy; Pompey was fighting in a distant part of the world; he himself had great hopes of obtaining the consulship; the senate was wholly off its guard; everything was quiet and tranquil, and all these circumstances were exceedingly favorable for Catiline.


Accordingly, about the beginning of June, in the consulship of Lucius Caesar and Caius Figulus, he at first addressed each of his accomplices separately, encouraged some, and sounded others, and informed them of his own resources, of the unprepared condition of the state, and of the great prizes to be expected from the conspiracy. When he had ascertained, to his satisfaction, all that he required, he summoned all whose necessities were the most urgent, and whose spirits were the most daring, to a general conference. At that meeting there was present, of senatorial rank: Publius Lentulus Sura, Publius Autronius, Lucius Cassius Longinus, Caius Cethegus, Publius and Servius Sylla, the sons of Servius Sylla, Lucius Vargunteius, Quintus Annius, Marcus Porcius Laeca, Lucius Bestia, Quintus Curius; and of the equestrian order, Marcus Fulvius Nobilior, Lucius Statilius, Publius Gabinius Capito, Caius Cornelius; with many from the colonies and municipal towns, persons of consequence in their own localities. There were many others, too, among the nobility, concerned in the plot, but less openly; men whom the hope of power, rather than poverty or any other exigence, prompted to join in the affair. But most of the young men, and especially the sons of the nobility, favored the schemes of Catiline; they who had abundant means of living at ease, either splendidly or voluptuously, preferred uncertainties to certainties, war to peace. There were some, also, at that time, who believed that Marcus Licinius Crassus was not unacquainted with the conspiracy; because Cneius Pompey, whom he hated, was at the head of a large army, and he was willing that the power of anyone whomsoever should raise itself against Pompey’s influence; trusting, at the same time, that if the plot should succeed, he would easily place himself at the head of the conspirators.


But previously to this period, a small number of persons, among whom was Catiline, had formed a design against the state; of which affair I shall here give as accurate an account as I am able.

Under the consulship of Lucius Tullius and Marcus Lepidus, Publius Autronius and Publius Sylla, having been tried to bribery under the laws against it, had paid the penalty of the offence. Shortly after Catiline, being brought to trial for extortion, had been prevented from standing for the consulship, because he had been unable to declare himself a candidate within the legitimate number of days. There was at that time, too, a young nobleman of the most daring spirit, needy and discontented, named Cneius Piso, whom poverty and vicious principles instigated to disturb the government. Catiline and Autronius, having concerted measures with this Piso, prepared to assassinate the consuls, Lucius Cotta and Lucius Torquatus, in the Capitol, on the first of February, when they, having seized on the fasces, were to send Piso with an army to take possession of the two Spains. But their design being discovered, they postponed the assassination to the fifth of February; when they meditated the destruction, not of the consuls only, but of most of the senate. And had not Catiline, who was in front of the senate-house, been too hasty to give the signal to his associates, there would that day have been perpetrated the most atrocious outrage since the city of Rome was founded. But as the armed conspirators had not yet assembled in sufficient numbers, the want of force frustrated the design.


Some time afterwards, Piso was sent as quaestor, with Praetorian authority, into Hither Spain; Crassus promoting the appointment, because he knew him to be a bitter enemy to Cneius Pompey. Nor were the senate, indeed, unwilling to grant him the province; for they wished so infamous a character to be removed from the seat of government; and many worthy men, at the same time, thought that there was some security in him against the power of Pompey, which was then becoming formidable. But this Piso, on his march towards his province, was murdered by some Spanish cavalry whom he had in his army. These barbarians, as some say, had been unable to endure his unjust, haughty, and cruel orders; but others assert that this body of cavalry, being old and trusty adherents of Pompey, attacked Piso at his instigation, since the Spaniards, they observe, had never before committed such an outrage, but had patiently submitted to many severe commands. This question we shall leave undecided. Of the first conspiracy enough has been said.


When Catiline saw those, whom I have just above mentioned, assembled, though he had often discussed many points with them singly, yet thinking it would be to his purpose to address and exhort them in a body, retired with them into a private apartment of his house, where, when all witnesses were withdrawn, he harangued them to the following effect:

“If your courage and fidelity had not been sufficiently proved by me, this favorable opportunity would have occurred to no purpose; mighty hopes, absolute power, would in vain be within our grasp; nor should I, depending on irresolution or ficklemindedness, pursue contingencies instead of certainties. But as I have, on many remarkable occasions, experienced your bravery and attachment to me, I have ventured to engage in a most important and glorious enterprise. I am aware, too, that whatever advantages or evils affect you, the same affect me, and to have the same desires and the same aversions, is assuredly a firm bond of friendship.

“What I have been meditating you have already heard separately. But my ardor for action is daily more and more excited when I consider what our future condition of life must be, unless we ourselves assert our claims to liberty. For since the government has fallen under the power and jurisdiction of a few, kings and princes have constantly been their tributaries; nations and states have paid them taxes; but all the rest of us, however brave and worthy, whether noble or plebeian, have been regarded as a mere mob, without interest or authority, and subject to those, to whom, if the state were in a sound condition, we should be a terror. Hence, all influence, power, honor, and wealth, are in their hands, or where they dispose of them; to us they have left only insults, dangers, prosecutions, and poverty. To such indignities, bravest of men, how long will you submit? Is it not better to die in a glorious attempt, than, after having been the sport of other men’s insolence, to resign a wretched and degraded existence with ignominy?

“But success (I call gods and men to witness!) is in our hands. Our years are fresh, our spirit is unbroken; among our oppressors, on the contrary, through age and wealth, a general debility has been produced. We have therefore only to make a beginning; the course of events will accomplish the rest.

“Who in the world, indeed, that has the feelings of a man, can endure that they should have a superfluity of riches, to squander in building over seas and leveling mountains, and that means should be wanting to us even for the necessaries of life, that they should join together two houses or more, and that we should not have a hearth to call our own? They, though they purchase pictures, statues, and embossed plate; though they pull down new buildings and erect others, and lavish and abase their wealth in every possible method, yet cannot, with the utmost efforts of caprice, exhaust it. But for us there is poverty at home, debts abroad; our present circumstances are bad, our prospects much worse; and what, in a word, have we left, but a miserable existence?

“Will you not, then, awake to action? Behold that liberty, that liberty for which you have so often wished, with wealth, honor, and glory, are set before your eyes. All these prizes fortune offers to the victorious. Let the enterprise itself, then, let the opportunity, let your poverty, your dangers, and the glorious spoils of war, animate you far more than my words. Use me either as your leader or your fellow-soldier; neither my heart nor my hand shall be wanting to you. These objects I hope to effect, in concert with you, in the character of consul; unless, indeed, my expectation deceives me, and you prefer to be slaves rather than masters.”


When these men, surrounded with numberless evils but without any resources or hopes of good, had heard this address, though they thought it much for their advantage to disturb the public tranquillity, yet most of them called on Catiline to state on what terms they were to engage in the contest; what benefits they were to expect from taking up arms; and what support or encouragement they had, and in what quarters. Catiline then promised them the abolition of their debts; a proscription of the wealthy citizens; offices, sacerdotal duties, plunder, and all other gratifications which war, and the license of conquerors, can afford. He added that Piso was in Hither Spain, and Publius Sittius Nucerinus with an army in Mauritania, both of whom were privy to his plans; that Caius Antonius, whom he hoped to have for a colleague, was canvassing for the consulship, a man with whom he was intimate, and who was involved in all manner of embarrassments; and that, in conjunction with him, he himself, when consul, would commence operations. He, moreover, assailed all the respectable citizens with reproaches, commended each of his associates by name, reminded one of his poverty, another of his ruling passion, several others of their danger or disgrace, and many of the spoils which they had obtained by the victory of Sylla. When he saw their spirits sufficiently elevated, he charged them to attend to his interest at the election of consuls, and dismissed the assembly.


There were some, at that time, who said that Catiline, having ended his speech, and wishing to bind his accomplices in guilt by an oath, handed round among them in goblets, the blood of a human body mixed with wine; and that when all, after an imprecation, had tasted of it, as is usual in sacred rites, he disclosed his design; and they asserted that he did this, in order that they might be the more closely attached to one another, by being mutually conscious of such an atrocity. But some thought that this report, and many others, were invented by persons who supposed that the odium against Cicero, which afterwards arose, might be lessened by imputing an enormity of guilt to the conspirators who had suffered death. The evidence which I have obtained, in support of this charge, is not at all in proportion to its magnitude.


Among those present at this meeting was Quintus Curius, a man of no mean family, but immersed in vices and crimes, and whom the censors had ignominiously expelled from the senate. In this person there was not less levity than impudence; he could neither keep secret what he heard, nor conceal his own crimes; he was altogether heedless what he said or what he did. He had long had a criminal intercourse with Fulvia, a woman of high birth, but growing less acceptable to her, because in his reduced circumstances he had less means of being liberal, he began, on a sudden, to boast, and to promise her seas and mountains; threatening her, at times, with the sword, if she were not submissive to his will; and acting, in his general conduct, with greater arrogance than ever. Fulvia, having learned the cause of his extravagant behavior, did not keep such danger to the state a secret; but, without naming her informant, communicated to several persons what she had heard, and under what circumstances, concerning Catiline’s conspiracy. This intelligence it was that incited the feelings of the citizens to give the consulship to Marcus Tullius Cicero. For before this period, most of the nobility were moved with jealousy, and thought the consulship in some degree sullied, if a man of no family, however meritorious, obtained it. But when danger showed itself, envy and pride were laid aside.


Accordingly, when the comitia were held, Marcus Tullius and Caius Antonius were declared consuls; an event which gave the first shock to the conspirators. The ardor of Catiline, however, was not at all diminished; he formed every day new schemes; he deposited arms, in convenient places, throughout Italy; he sent sums of money, borrowed on his own credit, or that of his friends, to a certain Manlius, at Faesulae, who was subsequently the first to engage in hostilities. At this period, too, he is said to have attached to his cause great numbers of men of all classes, and some women, who had, in their earlier days, supported an expensive life by the price of their beauty, but who, when age lessened their gains but not their extravagance, had contracted heavy debts. By the influence of these females, Catiline hoped to gain over the slaves in Rome, to get the city set on fire, and either to secure the support of their husbands or take away their lives.


In the number of these ladies was Sempronia, a woman who had committed many crimes with the spirit of a man. In birth and beauty, in her husband and her children, she was extremely fortunate; she was skilled in Greek and Roman literature; she could sing, play, and dance, with greater elegance than became a woman of virtue, and possessed many other accomplishments that tend to excite the passions. But nothing was ever less valued by her than honor or chastity. Whether she was more prodigal of her money or her reputation, it would have been difficult to decide. Her desires were so ardent that she oftener made advances to the other sex than waited for solicitation. She had frequently, before this period, forfeited her word, forsworn debts, been privy to murder, and hurried into the utmost excesses by her extravagance and poverty. But her abilities were by no means despicable; she could compose verses, jest, and join in conversation either modest, tender, or licentious. In a word, she was distinguished by much refinement of wit, and much grace of expression.


Catiline, having made these arrangements, still canvassed for the consulship for the following year, hoping that, if he should be elected, he would easily manage Antonius according to his pleasure. Nor did he, in the mean time, remain inactive, but devised schemes, in every possible way, against Cicero, who, however, did not want skill or policy to guard against them. For, at the very beginning of his consulship, he had, by making many promises through Fulvia, prevailed on Quintus Curius, whom I have already mentioned, to give him secret information of Catiline’s proceedings. He had also persuaded his colleague, Antonius, by an arrangement respecting their provinces, to entertain no sentiments of disaffection towards the state; and he kept around him, though without ostentation, a guard of his friends and dependents.

When the day of the comitia came, and neither Catiline’s efforts for the consulship, nor the plots which he had laid for the consuls in the Campus Martius, were attended with success, he determined to proceed to war, and to resort to the utmost extremities, since what he had attempted secretly had ended in confusion and disgrace.


He accordingly dispatched Caius Manlius to Faesulae, and the adjacent parts of Etruria; one Septimius, of Camerinum, into the Picenian territory; Caius Julius into Apulia; and others to various places, wherever he thought each would be most serviceable. He himself, in the mean time, was making many simultaneous efforts at Rome; he laid plots for the consul; he arranged schemes for burning the city; he occupied suitable posts with armed men, he went constantly armed himself, and ordered his followers to do the same; he exhorted them to be always on their guard and prepared for action; he was active and vigilant by day and by night, and was exhausted neither by sleeplessness nor by toil. At last, however, when none of his numerous projects succeeded, he again, with the aid of Marcus Porcius Laeva, convoked the leaders of the conspiracy in the dead of night, when, after many complaints of their apathy, he informed them that he had sent forward Manlius to that body of men whom he had prepared to take up arms; and others of the confederates into other eligible places, to make a commencement of hostilities; and that he himself was eager to set out to the army, if he could but first cut off Cicero, who was the chief obstruction to his measures.


While, therefore, the rest were in alarm and hesitation, Caius Cornelius, a Roman knight, who offered his services, and Lucius Vargunteius, a senator, in company with him, agreed to go with an armed force, on that very night, and with but little delay, to the house of Cicero, under pretence of paying their respects to him, and to kill him unawares, and unprepared for defense, in his own residence. But Curius, when he heard of the imminent danger that threatened the consul, immediately gave him notice, by the agency of Fulvia, of the treachery which was contemplated. The assassins, in consequence, were refused admission, and found that they had undertaken such an attempt only to be disappointed.

In the mean time, Manlius was in Etruria, stirring up the populace, who, both from poverty, and from resentment for their injuries (for, under the tyranny of Sylla, they had lost their lands and other property), were eager for a revolution. He also attached to himself all sorts of marauders, who were numerous in those parts, and some of Sylla’s colonists, whose dissipation and extravagance had exhausted their enormous plunder.


When these proceedings were reported to Cicero, he, being alarmed at the twofold danger, since he could no longer secure the city against treachery by his private efforts, nor could gain satisfactory intelligence of the magnitude or intentions of the army of Manlius, laid the matter, which was already a subject of discussion among the people, before the senate. The senate, accordingly, as is usual in any perilous emergency, decreed that THE CONSULS SHOULD MAKE IT THEIR CARE THAT THE COMMONWEALTH SHOULD RECEIVE NO INJURY. This is the greatest power which, according to the practice at Rome, is granted by the senate to the magistrate, and which authorizes him to raise troops; to make war; to assume unlimited control over the allies and the citizens; to take the chief command and jurisdiction at home and in the field, rights which, without an order of the people, the consul is not permitted to exercise.


A few days afterwards, Lucius Saenius, a senator, read to the senate a letter, which, he said, he had received from Faesulae, and in which it was stated that Caius Manlius, with a large force, had taken the field by the 27th of October. Others at the same time, as is not uncommon in such a crisis, spread reports of omens and prodigies; others of meetings being held, of arms being transported, and of insurrections of the slaves at Capua and in Apulia. In consequence of these rumors, Quintus Marcius Rex was dispatched, by a decree of the senate, to Faesulae, and Quintus Metellus Creticus into Apulia and the parts adjacent, both which officers, with the title of commanders, were waiting near the city, having been prevented from entering in triumph, by the malice of a cabal, whose custom was to ask a price for everything, whether honorable or infamous. The praetors, too, Quintus Pompeius Rufus, and Quintus Metellus Celer, were sent off, the one to Capua, the other to Picenum, and power was given them to levy a force proportioned to the exigency and the danger. The senate also decreed, that if any one should give information of the conspiracy which had been formed against the state, his reward should be, if a slave, his freedom and a hundred sestertia, if a freeman, a complete pardon and two hundred sestertia. They further appointed that the schools of gladiators should be distributed in Capua and other municipal towns, according to the capacity of each; and that, at Rome, watches should be posted throughout the city, of which the inferior magistrates should have the charge.


By such proceedings as these the citizens were struck with alarm, and the appearance of the city was changed. In place of that extreme gaiety and dissipation, to which long tranquillity had given rise, a sudden gloom spread over all classes; they became anxious and agitated; they felt secure neither in any place, nor with any person; they were not at war, yet enjoyed no peace; each measured the public danger by his own fear. The women, also, to whom, from the extent of the empire, the dread of war was new, gave way to lamentation, raised supplicating hands to heaven, mourned over their infants, made constant inquiries, trembled at everything, and, forgetting their pride and their pleasures, felt nothing but alarm for themselves and their country.

Yet the unrelenting spirit of Catiline persisted in the same purposes, notwithstanding the precautions that were adopted against him, and though he himself was accused by Lucius Paullus under the Plautian law. At last, with a view to dissemble, and under pretence of clearing his character, as if he had been provoked by some attack, he walked into the senate-house. It was then that Marcus Tullius, the consul, whether alarmed at his presence, or fired with indignation against him, delivered that splendid speech, so beneficial to the republic, which he afterwards wrote and published.

When Cicero sat down, Catiline, being prepared to pretend ignorance of the whole matter, entreated, with downcast looks and suppliant voice, that “the Conscript Fathers would not too hastily believe anything against him;” saying “that he was sprung from such a family, and had so ordered his life from his youth, as to have every happiness in prospect; and that they were not to suppose that he, a patrician, whose services to the Roman people, as well as to those of his ancestors, had been so numerous, should want to ruin the state, where Marcus Tullius, a mere adopted citizen of Rome, was eager to preserve it.” When he was proceeding to add other invectives, they all raised an outcry against him, and called him an enemy and a traitor. Being thus exasperated, “Since I am encompassed by enemies,” he exclaimed, “and driven to desperation, I will extinguish the flame kindled around me in a general ruin.”


He then hurried from the senate to his own house; and then, after much reflection with himself, thinking that, as his plots against the consul had been unsuccessful, and as he knew the city to be secured from fire by the watch, his best course would be to augment his army, and make provision for the war before the legions could be raised, he set out in the dead of night, and with a few attendants, to the camp of Manlius. But he left in charge Lentulus and Cethegus, and others of whose prompt determination he was assured, to strengthen the interests of their party in every possible way, to forward the plots against the consul, and to make arrangements for a massacre, for firing the city, and for other destructive operations of war; promising that he himself would shortly advance on the city with a large army.

During the course of these proceedings at Rome, Caius Manlius dispatched some of his followers as envoys to Quintus Marcius Rex, with directions to address him to the following effect:


“We call gods and men to witness, general, that we have taken up arms neither to injure our country, nor to occasion peril to any one, but to defend our own persons from harm, who, wretched and in want, have been deprived, most of us, of our homes, and all of us of our character and property, by the oppression and cruelty of usurers; nor has any one of us been allowed, according to the usage of our ancestors, to have the benefit of the law, or, when our property was lost, to keep our persons free. Such has been the inhumanity of the usurers and of the praetor.

“Often have your forefathers, taking compassion on the commonalty at Rome, relieved their distress by decrees; and very lately, within our own memory, silver, by reason of the pressure of debt, and with the consent of all respectable citizens, was paid with brass.

“Often too, have the commonalty themselves, driven by desire of power, or by the arrogance of their rulers, seceded under arms from the patricians. But at power or wealth, for the sake of which wars, and all kinds of strife, arise among mankind, we do not aim; we desire only our liberty, which no honorable man relinquishes but with life. We therefore conjure you and the senate to befriend your unhappy fellow-citizens; to restore us the protection of the law, which the injustice of the praetor has taken from us and not to lay on us the necessity of considering how we may perish, so best to avenge our blood.”


To this address Quintus Marcius replied, that, “if they wished to make any petition to the senate, they must lay down their arms, and proceed as suppliants to Rome;” adding, that “such had always been the kindness and humanity of the Roman senate and people, that none had ever asked help of them in vain.”

Catiline, on his march, sent letters to most men of consular dignity, and to all the most respectable citizens, stating, that “as he was beset by false accusations, and unable to resist the combination of his enemies, he was submitting to the will of fortune, and going into exile at Marseilles; not that he was guilty of the great wickedness laid to his charge, but that the state might be undisturbed, and that no insurrection might arise from his defense of himself.”

Quintus Catulus, however, read in the senate a letter of a very different character, which, he said, was delivered in the name of Catiline, and of which the following is a copy:


“Lucius Catiline to Quintus Catulus. Your eminent integrity, known to me by experience, gives a pleasing confidence, in the midst of great perils, to my present recommendation. I have determined therefore, to make no formal defense with regard to my new course of conduct; yet I was resolved, though conscious of no guilt, to offer you some explanation, which, on my word of honor, you may receive as true. Provoked by injuries and indignities, since, being robbed of the fruit of my labor and exertion, I did not obtain the post of honor due to me, I have undertaken, according to my custom, the public cause of the distressed. Not but that I could have paid, out of my own property, the debts contracted on my own security; while the generosity of Orestilla, out of her own fortune and her daughter’s, would discharge those incurred on the security of others. But because I saw unworthy men ennobled with honors, and myself proscribed on groundless suspicion, I have, for this very reason, adopted a course, amply justifiable in my present circumstances, for preserving what honor is left to me. When I was proceeding to write more, intelligence was brought that violence is preparing against me. I now commend and entrust Orestilla to your protection; entreating you, by your love for your own children, to defend her from injury. Farewell.”


Catiline himself, having stayed a few days with Caius Flaminius Flamma in the neighborhood of Arretium while he was supplying the adjacent parts, already excited to insurrection, with arms, marched with the fasces, and other ensigns of authority, to join Manlius in his camp.

When this was known at Rome, the senate declared Catiline and Manlius enemies to the state, and fixed a day as to the rest of their force, before which they might lay down their arms with impunity except such as had been convicted of capital offences. They also decreed that the consuls should hold a levy; that Antonius, with an army, should hasten in pursuit of Catiline; and that Cicero should protect the city.

At this period the empire of Rome appears to me to have been in an extremely deplorable condition; for though every nation, from the rising to the setting of the sun, lay in subjection to her arms, and though peace and prosperity, which mankind think the greatest blessings, were hers in abundance, there yet were found, among her citizens, men who were bent, with obstinate determination, to plunge themselves and their country into ruin; for, notwithstanding the two decrees of the senate, not one individual, out of so vast a number, was induced by the offer of reward to give information of the conspiracy; nor was there a single deserter from the camp of Catiline. So strong a spirit of disaffection had, like a pestilence, pervaded the minds of most of the citizens.


Nor was this disaffected spirit confined to those who were actually concerned in the conspiracy; for the whole of the common people, from a desire of change, favored the projects of Catiline. This they seemed to do in accordance with their general character; for, in every state, they that are poor envy those of a better class, and endeavor to exalt the factious; they dislike the established condition of things, and long for something new; they are discontented with their own circumstances, and desire a general alteration; they can support themselves amidst revolt and sedition, without anxiety, since poverty does not easily suffer loss.

As for the populace of the city, they had become disaffected from various causes. In the first place, such as everywhere took the lead in crime and profligacy, with others who had squandered their fortunes in dissipation, and, in a word, all whom vice and villainy had driven from their homes, had flocked to Rome as a general receptacle of impurity. In the next place, many, who thought of the success of Sylla, when they had seen some raised from common soldiers into senators, and others so enriched as to live in regal luxury and pomp, hoped, each for himself, similar results from victory, if they should once take up arms. In addition to this, the youth, who, in the country, had earned a scanty livelihood by manual labor, tempted by public and private largesses, had preferred idleness in the city to unwelcome toil in the field. To these and all others of similar character, public disorders would furnish subsistence. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that men in distress, of dissolute principles and extravagant expectations, should have consulted the interest of the state no further than as it was subservient to their own. Besides, those whose parents, by the victory of Sylla, had been proscribed, whose property had been confiscated, and whose civil rights had been curtailed, looked forward to the event of a war with precisely the same feelings.

All those, too, who were of any party opposed to that of the senate, were desirous rather that the state should be embroiled, than that they themselves should be out of power. This was an evil, which, after many years, had returned upon the community to the extent to which it now prevailed.


For after the powers of the tribunes, in the consulate of Cneius Pompey and Marcus Crassus, had been fully restored, certain young men, of an ardent age and temper, having obtained that high office, began to stir up the populace by inveighing against the senate, and proceeded, in course of time, by mean of largesses and promises, to inflame them more and more; by which methods they became popular and powerful. On the other hand, the most of the nobility opposed their proceedings to the utmost; under pretence, indeed, of supporting the senate, but in reality for their own aggrandizement. For, to state the truth in few words whatever parties, during that period, disturbed the republic under plausible pretexts, some, as if to defend the rights of the people, others, to make the authority of the senate as great as possible, all, though affecting concern for the public good, contended everyone for his own interest. In such contests there was neither moderation nor limit; each party made a merciless use of its success.


After Pompey, however, was sent to the maritime and Mithridatic wars, the power of the people was diminished and the influence of the few increased. These few kept all public offices, the administration of the provinces, and everything else, in their own hands; they themselves lived free from harm, in flourishing circumstances, and without apprehension; overawing others, at the same time, with threats of impeachment, so that, when in office, they might be less inclined to inflame the people. But as soon as a prospect of change, in this dubious state of affairs, had presented itself, the old spirit of contention awakened their passions; and had Catiline, in his first battle, come off victorious, or left the struggle undecided, great distress and calamity must certainly have fallen upon the state, nor would those, who might at last have gained the ascendancy, have been allowed to enjoy it long, for some superior power would have wrested dominion and liberty from them when weary and exhausted.

There were some, however, unconnected with the conspiracy, who set out to join Catiline at an early period of his proceedings. Among these was Aulus Fulvius, the son of a senator, whom, being arrested on his journey, his father ordered to be put to death. In Rome, at the same time Lentulus, in pursuance of Catiline’s directions, was endeavoring to gain over, by his own agency or that of others, all whom he thought adapted, either by principles or circumstances, to promote an insurrection; and not citizens only but every description of men who could be of any service in war.


He accordingly commissioned one Publius Umbrenus to apply to certain deputies of the Allobroges, and to lead them, if he could, to a participation in the war; supposing that as they were nationally and individually involved in debt, and as the Gauls were naturally warlike, they might easily be drawn into such an enterprise. Umbrenus, as he had traded in Gaul, was known to most of the chief men there, and personally acquainted with them; and consequently without loss of time, as soon as he noticed the envoys in the Forum, he asked them, after making a few inquiries about the state of their country, and affecting to commiserate its fallen condition, “what termination they expected to such calamities?” When he found that they complained of the rapacity of the magistrates, inveighed against the senate for not affording them relief, and looked to death as the only remedy for their sufferings, “Yet I,” said he, “if you will but act as men, will show you a method by which you may escape these pressing difficulties.” When he had said this, the Allobroges, animated with the highest hopes, besought Umbrenus to take compassion on them; saying that there was nothing so disagreeable or difficult, which they would not most gladly perform, if it would but free their country from debt. He then conducted them to the house of Decimus Brutus, which was close to the Forum, and, on account of Sempronia, not unsuitable to his purpose, as Brutus was then absent from Rome. In order, too, to give greater weight to his representations, he sent for Gabinius, and, in his presence, explained the objects of the conspiracy, and mentioned the names of the confederates, as well as those of many other persons, of every sort, who were guiltless of it, for the purpose of inspiring the embassadors with greater confidence. At length, when they had promised their assistance, he let them depart.


Yet the Allobroges were long in suspense what course they should adopt. On the one hand, there was debt, an inclination for war, and great advantages to be expected from victory; on the other, superior resources, safe plans, and certain rewards instead of uncertain expectations. As they were balancing these considerations, the good fortune of the state at length prevailed. They accordingly disclosed the whole affair, just as they had learned it, to Quintus Fabius Sanga, to whose patronage their state was very greatly indebted. Cicero, being apprised of the matter by Sanga, directed the deputies to pretend a strong desire for the success of the plot, to seek interviews with the rest of the conspirators, to make them fair promises, and to endeavor to lay them open to conviction as much as possible.


Much about the same time there were commotions in Hither and Further Gaul, in the Picenian and Bruttian territories, and in Apulia. For those, whom Catiline had previously sent to those parts, had begun, without consideration and seemingly with madness, to attempt everything at once, and, by nocturnal meetings, by removing armor and weapons from place to place, and by hurrying and confusing everything, had created more alarm than danger. Of these, Quintus Metellus Celer, the praetor, having brought several to trial, under the decree of the senate, had thrown them into prison, as had also Caius Muraena in Further Gaul, who governed that province in quality of legate.


But at Rome, in the mean time, Lentulus, with the other leaders of the conspiracy, having secured what they thought a large force, had arranged, that as soon as Catiline should reach the neighborhood of Faesulae, Lucius Bestia, a tribune of the people, having called an assembly, should complain of the proceedings of Cicero, and lay the odium of this most oppressive war on the excellent consul; and that the rest of the conspirators, taking this as a signal, should, on the following night, proceed to execute their respective parts.

These parts are said to have been thus distributed. Statilius and Gabinius, with a large force, were to set on fire twelve places in the city, convenient for their purpose, at the same time; in order that, during the consequent tumult, an easier access might be obtained to the consul, and to the others whose destruction was intended; Cethegus was to beset the gate of Cicero, and attack him personally with violence; others were to single out other victims; while the sons of certain families, mostly of the nobility, were to kill their fathers; and, when all were in consternation at the massacre and conflagration, they were to sally forth to join Catiline.

While they were thus forming and settling their plans, Cethegus was incessantly complaining of the want of spirit in his associates; observing, that they wasted excellent opportunities through hesitation and delay; that, in such an enterprise, there was need, not of deliberation, but of action and that he himself, if a few would support him, would storm the senate-house while the others remained inactive. Being naturally bold, sanguine, and prompt to act, he thought that success depended on rapidity of execution.


The Allobroges, according to the directions of Cicero, procured interviews, by means of Gabinius, with the other conspirators; and from Lentulus, Cethegus, Statilius, and Cassius, they demanded an oath, which they might carry under seal to their countrymen, who otherwise would hardly join in so important an affair. To this the others consented without suspicion; but Cassius promised them soon to visit their country, and, indeed, left the city a little before the deputies.

In order that the Allobroges, before they reached home, might confirm their agreement with Catiline, by giving and receiving pledges of faith, Lentulus sent with them one Titus Volturcius, a native of Crotona, he himself giving Volturcius a letter for Catiline, of which the following is a copy:

“Who I am, you will learn from the person whom I have sent to you. Reflect seriously in how desperate a situation you are placed, and remember that you are a man. Consider what your views demand, and seek aid from all, even the lowest. In addition, he gave him this verbal message: Since he was declared an enemy by the senate, for what reason should he reject the assistance of slaves? That, in the city, everything which he had directed was arranged and that he should not delay to make nearer approaches to it.”


Matters having proceeded thus far, and a night being appointed for the departure of the deputies, Cicero, being by them made acquainted with everything, directed the praetors, Lucius Valerius Flaccus, and Caius Pomtinus, to arrest the retinue of the Allobroges, by lying in wait for them on the Milvian Bridge; he gave them a full explanation of the object with which they were sent, and left them to manage the rest as occasion might require. Being military men, they placed a force, as had been directed, without disturbance, and secretly invested the bridge; when the envoys, with Volturcius, came to the place, and a shout was raised from each side of the bridge, the Gauls, at once comprehending the matter, surrendered themselves immediately to the praetors. Volturcius, at first, encouraging his companions, defended himself against numbers with his sword; but afterwards, being unsupported by the Allobroges, he began earnestly to beg Pomtinus, to whom he was known, to save his life, and at last, terrified and despairing of safety, he surrendered himself to the praetors as unconditionally as to foreign enemies.


The affair being thus concluded, a full account of it was immediately transmitted to the consul by messengers. Great anxiety, and great joy, affected him at the same moment. He rejoiced that, by the discovery of the conspiracy, the state was freed from danger; but he was doubtful how he ought to act, when citizens of such eminence were detected in treason so atrocious. He saw that their punishment would be a weight upon himself, and their escape the destruction of the Commonwealth. Having, however, formed his resolutions he ordered Lentulus, Cethegus, Statilius, Gabinius, and one Quintus Coeparius of Terracina, who was preparing to go to Apulia to raise the slaves, to be summoned before him. The others came without delay; but Coeparius, having left his house a little before, and heard of the discovery of the conspiracy, had fled from the city. The consul himself conducted Lentulus, as he was praetor, holding him by the hand, and ordered the others to be brought into the Temple of Concord, under a guard. Here he assembled the senate, and in a very full attendance of that body, introduced Volturcius with the deputies. Hither also he ordered Valerius Flaccus, the praetor, to bring the box with the letters which he had taken from the deputies.


Volturcius, being questioned concerning his journey, concerning his letter, and lastly, what object he had had in view, and from what motives he had acted, at first began to prevaricate, and to pretend ignorance of the conspiracy; but at length, when he was told to speak on the security of the public faith, he disclosed every circumstance as it had really occurred, stating that he had been admitted as an associate a few days before, by Gabinius and Coeparius; that he knew no more than the envoys, only that he used to hear from Gabinius, that Publius Autronius, Servius Sylla, Lucius Vargunteius, and many others, were engaged in the conspiracy. The Gauls made a similar confession, and charged Lentulus, who began to affect ignorance, not only with the letter to Catiline, but with remarks which he was in the habit of making, “that the sovereignty of Rome, by the Sibylline books, was predestined to three Cornelii, that Cinna and Sylla had ruled already; and that he himself was the third, whose fate it would be to govern the city; and that this, too, was the twentieth year since the Capitol was burnt; a year which the augurs, from certain omens, had often said would be stained with the blood of civil war.”

The letter then being read, the senate, when all had previously acknowledged their seals, decreed that Lentulus, being deprived of his office, should, as well as the rest, be placed in private custody. Lentulus, accordingly, was given in charge to Publius Lentulus Spinther, who was then aedile; Cethegus, to Quintus Cornificius; Statilius, to Caius Caesar; Gabinius, to Marcus Crassus; and Coeparius, who had just before been arrested in his flight, to Cneius Terentius, a senator.


The common people, meanwhile, who had at first, from a desire of change in the government, been to much inclined to war, having, on the discovery of the plot, altered their sentiments, began to execrate the projects of Catiline, to extol Cicero to the skies; and, as if rescued from slavery, to give proofs of joy and exultation. Other effects of the war they expected as a gain rather than a loss; but the burning of the city they thought inhuman, outrageous, and fatal especially to themselves, whose whole property consisted in their daily necessaries and the clothes which they wore.

On the following day, a certain Lucius Tarquinius was brought before the senate, who was said to have been arrested as he was setting out to join Catiline. This person, having offered to give information of the conspiracy, if the public faith were pledged to him, and being directed by the consul to state what he knew, gave the senate nearly the same account as Volturcius had given, concerning the intended conflagration, the massacre of respectable citizens, and the approach of the enemy, adding that “he was sent by Marcus Crassus to assure Catiline that the apprehension of Lentulus, Cethegus, and others of the conspirators, ought not to alarm him, but that he should hasten, with so much the more expedition, to the city, in order to revive the courage of the rest, and to facilitate the escape of those in custody.” When Tarquinius named Crassus, a man of noble birth, of very great wealth, and of vast influence, some, thinking the statement incredible, others, though they supposed it true, yet, judging that at such a crisis a man of such power was rather to be soothed than irritated (most of them, too, from personal reasons, being under obligation to Crassus), exclaimed that he was “a false witness,” and demanded that the matter should be put to the vote. Cicero, accordingly, taking their opinions, a full senate decreed, “that the testimony of Tarquinius appeared false; that he himself should be kept in prison; and that no further liberty of speaking should be granted him, unless he should name the person at whose instigation he had fabricated so shameful a calumny.”

There were some, at that time, who thought that this affair was contrived by Publius Autronius, in order that the interest of Crassus, if he were accused, might, from participation in the danger, more readily screen the rest. Others said that Tarquinius was suborned by Cicero, that Crassus might not disturb the state, by taking upon him, as was his custom, the defense of the criminals. That this attack on his character was made by Cicero, I afterwards heard Crassus himself assert.


Yet, at the same time, neither by interest, nor by solicitation, nor by bribes, could Quintus Catulus, and Caius Piso, prevail upon Cicero to have Caius Caesar falsely accused, either by means of the Allobroges, or any other evidence. Both of these men were at bitter enmity with Caesar; Piso, as having been attacked by him, when he was on his trial for extortion, on a charge of having illegally put to death a Transpadane Gaul; Catulus, as having hated him ever since he stood for the pontificate, because, at an advanced age, and after filling the highest offices, he had been defeated by Caesar, who was then comparatively a youth. The opportunity, too, seemed favorable for such an accusation; for Caesar, by extraordinary generosity in private, and by magnificent exhibitions in public, had fallen greatly into debt. But when they failed to persuade the consul to such injustice, they themselves, by going from one person to another, and spreading fictions of their own, which they pretended to have heard from Volturcius or the Allobroges, excited such violent odium against him, that certain Roman knights, who were stationed as an armed guard round the Temple of Concord, being prompted, either by the greatness of the danger, or by the impulse of a high spirit, to testify more openly their zeal for the republic, threatened Caesar with their swords as he went out of the senate-house.


While these occurrences were passing in the senate, and while rewards were being voted, on approbation of their evidences, to the Allobrogian deputies and to Titus Volturcius, the freedmen, and some of the other dependents of Lentulus, were urging the artisans and slaves, in various directions throughout the city, to attempt his rescue; some, too, applied to the ringleaders of the mob, who were always ready to disturb the state for pay. Cethegus, at the same time, was soliciting, through his agents, his slaves and freedmen, men trained to deeds of audacity, to collect themselves into an armed body, and force a way into his place of confinement.

The consul, when he heard that these things were in agitation, having distributed armed bodies of men, as the circumstances and occasion demanded, called a meeting of the senate, and desired to know “what they wished to be done concerning those who had been committed to custody.” A full senate, however, had but a short time before declared them traitors to their country. On this occasion, Decimus Julius Silanus, who, as consul elect, was first asked his opinion, moved that capital punishment should be inflicted, not only on those who were in confinement, but also on Lucius Cassius, Publius Furius, Publius Umbrenus, and Quintus Annius, if they should be apprehended; but afterwards, being influenced by the speech of Caius Caesar, he said that he would go over to the opinion of Tiberius Nero, who had proposed that the guards should be increased, and that the senate should deliberate further on the matter. Caesar, when it came to his turn, being asked his opinion by the consul, spoke to the following effect:


“It becomes all men, Conscript Fathers, who deliberate on dubious matters, to be influenced neither by hatred, affection, anger, nor pity. The mind, when such feelings obstruct its view, cannot easily see what is right; nor has any human being consulted, at the same moment, his passions and his interest. When the mind is freely exerted, its reasoning is sound; but passion, if it gain possession of it, becomes its tyrant, and reason is powerless.

“I could easily mention, Conscript Fathers, numerous examples of kings and nations, who, swayed by resentment or compassion, have adopted injudicious courses of conduct; but I had rather speak of those instances in which our ancestors, in opposition to the impulse of passion, acted with wisdom and sound policy.

“In the Macedonian war, which we carried on against king Perses, the great and powerful state of Rhodes, which had risen by the aid of the Roman people, was faithless and hostile to us; yet, when the war was ended, and the conduct of the Rhodians was taken into consideration, our forefathers left them unmolested, lest any should say that war was made upon them for the sake of seizing their wealth, rather than of punishing their faithlessness. Throughout the Punic Wars, too, though the Carthaginians, both during peace, and in suspensions of arms, were guilty of many acts of injustice, yet our ancestors never took occasion to retaliate, but considered rather what was worthy of themselves, than what might justly be inflicted on their enemies.

“Similar caution, Conscript Fathers, is to be observed by yourselves, that the guilt of Lentulus, and the other conspirators, may not have greater weight with you than your own dignity, and that you may not regard your indignation more than your character. If, indeed, a punishment adequate to their crimes be discovered, I consent to extraordinary measures; but if the enormity of their crime exceeds, whatever can be devised, I think that we should inflict only such penalties as the laws have provided.

“Most of those, who had given their opinions before me, have deplored, in studied and impressive language, the sad fate that threatens the republic; they have recounted the barbarities of war, and the afflictions that would fall on the vanquished; they have told us that maidens would be dishonored, and youths abused; that children would be torn from the embraces of their parents; that matrons would be subjected to the pleasure of the conquerors; that temples and dwelling-houses would be plundered; that massacres and fires would follow; and that every place would be filled with arms, corpses, blood, and lamentation. But to what end, in the name of the eternal gods! was such eloquence directed? Was it intended to render you indignant at the conspiracy? A speech, no doubt, will inflame him whom so frightful and monstrous a reality has not provoked! Far from it: for to no man does evil, directed against himself, appear a light matter; many, on the contrary, have felt it more seriously than was right.

“But to different persons, Conscript Fathers, different degrees of license are allowed. If those who pass a life sunk in obscurity, commit any error, through excessive anger, few become aware of it, for their fame is as limited as their fortune; but of those who live invested with executive power, and in an exalted station, the whole world knows the proceedings. Thus in the highest position there is the least liberty of action; and it becomes us to indulge neither partiality nor aversion, but least of all animosity; for what in others is called resentment, is in the powerful termed violence and cruelty.

“I am indeed of opinion, Conscript Fathers, that the utmost degree of torture is inadequate to punish their crime; but the generality of mankind dwell on that which happens last, and, in the case of malefactors, forget their guilt, and talk only of their punishment, should that punishment have been inordinately severe. I feel assured, too, that Decimus Silanus, a man of spirit and resolution, made the suggestions which he offered, from zeal for the state, and that he had no view, in so important a matter, to favor or to enmity; such I know to be his character, and such his discretion. Yet his proposal appears to me, I will not say cruel (for what can be cruel that is directed against such characters?), but foreign to our policy. For assuredly, Silanus, either your fears, or their treason, must have induced you, a consul elect, to propose this new kind of punishment. Of fear it is unnecessary to speak, when, by the prompt activity of that distinguished man our consul, such numerous forces are under arms, and as to the punishment, we may say, what is indeed the truth, that in trouble and distress, death is a relief from suffering, and not a torment; that it puts an end to all human woes; and that, beyond it, there is no place either for sorrow or joy.

“But why, in the name of the immortal gods, did you not add to your proposal, Silanus, that, before they were put to death, they should be punished with the scourge? Was it because the Porcian law forbids it? But other laws forbid condemned citizens to be deprived of life, and allow them to go into exile. Or was it because scourging is a severer penalty than death? Yet what can be too severe, or too harsh, towards men convicted of such an offence? But if scourging be a milder punishment than death, how is it consistent to observe the law as to the smaller point, when you disregard it as to the greater?

“But who, it may be asked, will blame any severity that shall be decreed against these parricides of their country? I answer that time, the course of events, and fortune, whose caprice governs nations, may blame it. Whatever shall fall on the traitors, will fall on them justly; but it is for you, Conscript Fathers, to consider well what you resolve to inflict on others. All precedents productive of evil effects, have had their origin from what was good; but when a government passes into the hands of the ignorant or unprincipled, any new example of severity, inflicted on deserving and suitable objects, is extended to those that are improper and undeserving of it. The Lacedaemonians, when they had conquered the Athenians, appointed thirty men to govern their state. These thirty began their administration by putting to death, even without a trial, all who were notoriously wicked, or publicly detestable; acts at which the people rejoiced, and extolled their justice. But afterwards, when their lawless power gradually increased, they proceeded, at their pleasure, to kill the good and bad indiscriminately, and to strike terror into all; and thus the state, overpowered and enslaved, paid a heavy penalty for its imprudent exultation.

“Within our own memory, too, when the victorious Sylla ordered Damasippus, and others of similar character, who had risen by distressing their country, to be put to death, who did not commend the proceeding? All exclaimed that wicked and factious men, who had troubled the state with their seditious practices, had justly forfeited their lives. Yet this proceeding was the commencement of great bloodshed. For whenever any one coveted the mansion or villa, or even the plate or apparel of another, he exerted his influence to have him numbered among the proscribed. Thus they, to whom the death of Damasippus had been a subject of joy, were soon after dragged to death themselves; nor was there any cessation of slaughter, until Sylla had glutted all his partisans with riches.

“Such excesses, indeed, I do not fear from Marcus Tullius, or in these times. But in a large state there arise many men of various dispositions. At some other period, and under another consul, who, like the present, may have an army with his command, some false accusation may be credited as true; and when, with our example for a precedent, the consul shall have drawn the sword on the authority of the senate, who shall stay its progress, or moderate its fury?

“Our ancestors, Conscript Fathers, were never deficient in conduct or courage; nor did pride prevent them from imitating the customs of other nations, if they appeared deserving of regard. Their armor, and weapons of war, they borrowed from the Samnites; their ensigns of authority, for the most part, from the Etrurians; and, in short, whatever appeared eligible to them, whether among allies or among enemies, they adopted at home with the greatest readiness, being more inclined to emulate merit than to be jealous of it. But at the same time, adopting a practice from Greece, they punished their citizens with the scourge, and inflicted capital punishment on such as were condemned. When the republic, however, became powerful, and faction grew strong from the vast number of citizens, men began to involve the innocent in condemnation, and other like abuses were practiced; and it was then that the Porcian and other laws were provided, by which condemned citizens were allowed to go into exile. This lenity of our ancestors, Conscript Fathers, I regard as a very strong reason why we should not adopt any new measures of severity. For assuredly there was greater merit and wisdom in those, who raised so mighty an empire from humble means, than in us, who can scarcely preserve what they so honorably acquired. Am I of opinion, then, you will ask, that the conspirators should be set free, and that the army of Catiline should thus be increased? Far from it; my recommendation is, that their property be confiscated, and that they themselves be kept in custody in such of the municipal towns as are best able to bear the expense; that no one hereafter bring their case before the senate, or speak on it to the people; and that the senate now give their opinion, that he who shall act contrary to this, will act against the republic and the general safety.”


When Caesar had ended his speech, the rest briefly expressed their assent, some to one speaker, and some to another, in support of their different proposals; but Marcus Porcius Cato, being asked his opinion, made a speech to the following purport:

“My feelings, Conscript Fathers, are extremely different, when I contemplate our circumstances and dangers, and when I revolve in my mind the sentiments of some who had spoken before me. Those speakers, as it seems to me, have considered only how to punish the traitors who had raised war against their country, their parents, their altars, and their homes; but the state of affairs warns us rather to secure ourselves against them, than to take counsel as to what sentence we should pass upon them. Other crimes you may punish after they have been committed; but as to this, unless you prevent its commission, you will, when it has once taken effect, in vain appeal to justice. When the city is taken, no power is left to the vanquished.

“But, in the name of the immortal gods, I call upon you who have always valued your mansions and villas, your statues and pictures, at a higher price than the welfare of your country; if you wish to preserve those possessions, of whatever kind they are, to which you are attached; if you wish to secure quiet for the enjoyment of your pleasures, arouse yourselves, and act in defense of your country. We are not now debating on the revenues, or on injuries done to our allies, but our liberty and our life is at stake.

“Often, Conscript Fathers, have I spoken at great length in this assembly; often have I complained of the luxury and avarice of our citizens, and, by that very means, have incurred the displeasure of many. I, who never excused to myself, or to my own conscience, the commission of any fault, could not easily pardon the misconduct, or indulge the licentiousness, of others. But though you little regarded my remonstrances, yet the republic remained secure; its own strength was proof against your remissness. The question, however, at present under discussion, is not whether we live in a good or bad state of morals; nor how great, or how splendid, the empire of the Roman people is; but whether these things around us, of whatever value they are, are to continue our own, or to fall, with ourselves, into the hands of the enemy.

“In such a case, does any one talk to me of gentleness and compassion? For some time past, it is true, we have lost the real names of things; for to lavish the property of others is called generosity, and audacity in wickedness is called heroism; and hence the state is reduced to the brink of ruin. But let those, who thus misname things, be liberal, since such is the practice, out of the property of our allies; let them be merciful to the robbers of the treasury; but let them not lavish our blood, and, while they spare a few criminals, bring destruction on all the guiltless.

“Caius Caesar, a short time ago, spoke in fair and elegant language, before this assembly, on the subject of life and death; considering as false, I suppose, what is told of the dead; that the bad, going a different way from the good, inhabit places gloomy, desolate, dreary, and full of horror. He accordingly proposed that the property of the conspirators should be confiscated, and themselves kept in custody in the municipal towns; fearing, it seems, that, if they remain at Rome, they may be rescued either by their accomplices in the conspiracy, or by a hired mob; as if, forsooth, the mischievous and profligate were to be found only in the city, and not through the whole of Italy, or as if desperate attempts would not be more likely to succeed where there is less power to resist them. His proposal therefore, if he fears any danger from them, is absurd; but if, amidst such universal terror, he alone is free from alarm, it the more concerns me to fear for you and myself.

“Be assured, then, that when you decide on the fate of Lentulus and the other prisoners, you at the same time determine that of the army of Catiline, and of all the conspirators. The more spirit you display in your decision, the more will their confidence be diminished; but if they shall perceive you in the smallest degree irresolute, they will advance upon you with fury. Do not suppose that our ancestors, from so small a commencement, raised the republic to greatness merely by force of arms. If such had been the case, we should enjoy it in a most excellent condition; for of allies and citizens, as well as arms and horses, we have a much greater abundance than they had. But there were other things which made them great, but which among us have no existence; such as industry at home, equitable government abroad, and minds impartial in council, uninfluenced by any immoral or improper feeling. Instead of such virtues, we have luxury and avarice, public distress, and private superfluity; we extol wealth, and yield to indolence; no distinction is made between good men and bad; and ambition usurps the honors due to virtue. Nor is this wonderful; since you study each his individual interest, and since at home you are slaves to pleasure, and here to money or favor; and hence it happens that an attack is made on the defenseless state.

“But on these subjects I shall say no more. Certain citizens, of the highest rank, have conspired to ruin their country; they are engaging the Gauls, the bitterest foes of the Roman name, to join in a war against us; the leader of the enemy is ready to make a descent upon us; and do you hesitate, even in such circumstances how to treat armed incendiaries arrested within your walls? I advise you to have mercy upon them; they are young men who have been led astray by ambition; send them away, even with arms in their hands. But such mercy, and such clemency, if they turn those arms against you, will end in misery to yourselves. The case is, assuredly, dangerous, but you do not fear it; yes, you fear it greatly, but you hesitate how to act, through weakness and want of spirit, waiting one for another, and trusting to the immortal gods, who have so often preserved your country in the greatest dangers. But the protection of the gods is not obtained by vows and effeminate supplications; it is by vigilance, activity, and prudent measures, that general welfare is secured. When you are once resigned to sloth and indolence, it is in vain that you implore the gods; for they are then indignant and threaten vengeance.

“In the days of our forefathers, Titus Manlius Torquatus, during a war with the Gauls, ordered his own son to be put to death, because he had fought with an enemy contrary to orders. That noble youth suffered for excess of bravery; and do you hesitate what sentence to pass on the most inhuman of traitors? Perhaps their former life is at variance with their present crime. Spare, then, the dignity of Lentulus, if he has ever spared his own honor or character, or had any regard for gods or for men. Pardon the youth of Cethegus, unless this be the second time that he has made war upon his country. As to Gabinius, Statilius, Coeparius, why should I make any remark upon them? Had they ever possessed the smallest share of discretion, they would never have engaged in such a plot against their country.

“In conclusion, Conscript Fathers, if there were time to amend an error, I might easily suffer you, since you disregard words, to be corrected by experience of consequences. But we are beset by dangers on all sides; Catiline, with his army, is ready to devour us; while there are other enemies within the walls, and in the heart of the city; nor can any measures be taken, or any plans arranged, without their knowledge. The more necessary is it, therefore, to act with promptitude. What I advise, then, is this: that since the state, by a treasonable combination of abandoned citizens, has been brought into the greatest peril; and since the conspirators have been convicted on the evidence of Titus Volturcius, and the envoys of the Allobroges, and on their own confession, of having concerted massacres, conflagrations, and other horrible and cruel outrages, against their fellow-citizens and their country, punishment be inflicted, according to the usage of our ancestors, on the prisoners who have confessed their guilt, as on men convicted of capital crimes.”


When Cato had resumed his seat, all the senators of consular dignity, and a great part of the rest, applauded his opinion, and extolled his firmness of mind to the skies. With mutual reproaches, they accused one another of timidity, while Cato was regarded as the greatest and noblest of men; and a decree of the senate was made as he had advised.

After reading and hearing of the many glorious achievements which the Roman people had performed at home and in the field, by sea as well as by land, I happened to be led to consider what had been the great foundation of such illustrious deeds. I knew that the Romans had frequently, with small bodies of men, encountered vast armies of the enemy; I was aware that they had carried on wars with limited forces against powerful sovereigns; that they had often sustained, too, the violence of adverse fortune; yet that, while the Greeks excelled them in eloquence, the Gauls surpassed them in military glory. After much reflection, I felt convinced that the eminent virtue of a few citizens had been the cause of all these successes; and hence it happened that poverty had triumphed over riches, and a few over a multitude. And even in later time, when the state had become corrupted by luxury and indolence, the republic still supported itself, by its own strength, under the misconduct of its generals and magistrates; when, as if the parent stock were exhausted, there was certainly not produced at Rome, for many years, a single citizen of eminent ability. Within my recollection, however, there arose two men of remarkable powers, though of very different character, Marcus Cato and Caius Caesar, whom, since the subject has brought them before me, it is not my intention to pass in silence, but to describe, to the best of my ability, the disposition and manners of each.


Their birth, age, and eloquence, were nearly on an equality; their greatness of mind similar, as was also their reputation, though attained by different means. Caesar grew eminent by generosity and munificence; Cato by the integrity of his life. Caesar was esteemed for his humanity and benevolence; austereness had given dignity to Cato. Caesar acquired renown by giving, relieving, and pardoning; Cato by bestowing nothing. In Caesar, there was a refuge for the unfortunate; in Cato, destruction for the bad. In Caesar, his easiness of temper was admired; in Cato, his firmness. Caesar, in fine, had applied himself to a life of energy and activity; intent upon the interests of his friends, he was neglectful of his own; he refused nothing to others that was worthy of acceptance, while for himself he desired great power, the command of an army, and a new war in which his talents might be displayed. But Cato’s ambition was that of temperance, discretion, and, above all, of austerity; he did not contend in splendor with the rich, or in faction with the seditious, but with the brave in fortitude, with the modest in simplicity, with the temperate in abstinence, he was more desirous to be, than to appear, virtuous; and thus, the less he courted popularity, the more it pursued him.


When the senate, as I have stated, had gone over to the opinion of Cato, the consul, thinking it best not to wait till night, which was coming on, lest any new attempts should be made during the interval, ordered the triumvirs to make such preparations as the execution of the conspirators required. He himself, having posted the necessary guards conducted Lentulus to the prison; and the same office was performed for the rest by the praetors.

There is a place in the prison, which is called the Tullian dungeon, and which, after a slight ascent to the left, is sunk about twelve feet under ground. Walls secure it on every side, and over it is a vaulted roof connected with stone arches; but its appearance is disgusting and horrible, by reason of the filth, darkness, and stench. When Lentulus had been let down into this place, certain men, to whom orders had been given, strangled him with a cord. Thus this patrician, who was of the illustrious family of the Cornelii, and who had filled the office of consul at Rome, met with an end suited to his character and conduct. On Cethegus, Statilius, Gabinius, and Coeparius, punishment was inflicted in a similar manner.


During these proceedings at Rome, Catiline, out of the entire force which he himself had brought with him, and that which Manlius had previously collected, formed two legions, filling up the cohorts as far as his numbers would allow; and afterwards, as any volunteers, or recruits from his confederates, arrived in his camp, he distributed them equally throughout the cohorts, and thus filled up his legions, in a short time, with their regular number of men, though at first he had not had more than two thousand. But, of his whole army, only about a fourth part had the proper weapons of soldiers; the rest, as chance had equipped them, carried darts, spears, or sharpened stakes.

As Antonius approached with his army, Catiline directed his march over the hills, encamping, at one time, in the direction of Rome, at another in that of Gaul. He gave the enemy no opportunity of fighting, yet hoped himself shortly to find one, if his accomplices at Rome should succeed in their objects. Slaves, meanwhile, of whom vast numbers had at first flocked to him, he continued to reject, not only as depending on the strength of the conspiracy, but as thinking impolitic to appear to share the cause of citizens with runagates.


When it was reported in his camp, however, that the conspiracy had been discovered at Rome, and that Lentulus, Cethegus, and the rest whom I have named, had been put to death, most of those whom the hope of plunder, or the love of change, had led to join in the war, fell away. The remainder Catiline conducted, over rugged mountains, and by forced marches, into the neighborhood of Pistoria, with a view to escape covertly, by cross roads, into Gaul.

But Quintus Metellus Celer, with a force of three legions, had, at that time, his station in Picenum, who suspected that Catiline, from the difficulties of his position, would adopt precisely the course which we have just described. When, therefore, he had learned his route from some deserters, he immediately broke up his camp, and took his post at the very foot of the hills, at the point where Catiline’s descent would be, in his hurried march into Gaul. Nor was Antonius far distant, as he was pursuing, though with a large army, yet through plainer ground, and with fewer hindrances, the enemy in retreat.

Catiline, when he saw that he was surrounded by mountains and by hostile forces, that his schemes in the city had been unsuccessful, and that there was no hope either of escape or of succor, thinking it best, in such circumstances, to try the fortune of a battle, resolved upon engaging, as speedily as possible, with Antonius. Having, therefore, assembled his troops, he addressed them in the following manner:


“I am well aware, soldiers, that words cannot inspire courage; and that a spiritless army cannot be rendered active, or a timid army valiant, by the speech of its commander. Whatever courage is in the heart of a man, whether from nature or from habit, so much will be shown by him in the field; and on him whom neither glory nor danger can move, exhortation is bestowed in vain; for the terror in his breast stops his ears.

“I have called you together, however, to give you a few instructions, and to explain to you, at the same time, my reasons for the course which I have adopted. You all know, soldiers, how severe a penalty the inactivity and cowardice of Lentulus has brought upon himself and us; and how, while waiting for reinforcements from the city, I was unable to march into Gaul. In what situation our affairs now are, you all understand as well as myself. Two armies of the enemy, one on the side of Rome, and the other on that of Gaul, oppose our progress; while the want of grain, and of other necessaries, prevents us from remaining, however strongly we may desire to remain, in our present position. Withersoever we would go, we must open a passage with our swords. I conjure you, therefore, to maintain a brave and resolute spirit; and to remember, when you advance to battle, that on your own right hands depend riches, honor, and glory, with the enjoyment of your liberty and of your country. If we conquer, all will be safe, we shall have provisions in abundance; and the colonies and corporate towns will open their gates to us. But if we lose the victory through want of courage, those same places will turn against us; for neither place nor friend will protect him whom his arms have not protected. Besides, soldiers, the same exigency does not press upon our adversaries, as presses upon us; we fight for our country, for our liberty, for our life; they contend for what but little concerns them, the power of a small party. Attack them, therefore, with so much the greater confidence, and call to mind your achievements of old.

“We might, with the utmost ignominy, have passed the rest of our days in exile. Some of you, after losing your property, might have waited at Rome for assitance from others. But because such a life, to men of spirit, was disgusting and unendurable, you resolved upon your present course. If you wish to quit it, you must exert all you resolution for none but conquerors have exchanged war for peace. To hope for safety in flight, when you have turned away from the enemy the arms by which the body is defended, is indeed madness. In battle, those who are most afraid are always in most danger; but courage is equivalent to a rampart.

“When I contemplate you, soldiers, and when I consider your past exploits, a strong hope of victory animates me. Your spirit, your age, your valor, give me confidence; to say nothing of necessity, which makes even cowards brave. To prevent the numbers of the enemy from surrounding us, our confined situation is sufficient. But should Fortune be unjust to your valor, take care not to lose your lives unavenged; take care not to be taken and butchered like cattle, rather than, fighting like men, to leave to your enemies a bloody and mournful victory.”


When he had thus spoken, he ordered, after a short delay, the signal for battle to be sounded, and led down his troops, in regular order, to the level ground. Having then sent away the horses of all the cavalry, in order to increase the men’s courage by making their danger equal, he himself on foot, drew up his troops suitably to their numbers and the nature of the ground. As a plain stretched between the mountains on the left, with a rugged rock on the right, he placed eight cohorts in front, and stationed the rest of his force, in close order, in the rear. From among these he removed all the ablest centurions, the veterans, and the stoutest of the common soldiers that were regularly armed, into the foremost ranks. He ordered Caius Manlius to take the command on the right, and a certain officer of Faesulae on the left; while he himself, with his freedmen and the colonists, took his station by the eagle, which Caius Marius was said to have had in his army in the Cimbrian war.

On the other side, Caius Antonius, who, being lame, was unable to be present in the engagement, gave the command of the army to Marcus Petreius, his lieutenant. Petreius ranged the cohorts of veterans, which he had raised to meet the present insurrection, in front, and behind them the rest of his force in lines. Then, riding round among his troops, and addressing his men by name, he encouraged them, and bade them remember that they were to fight against unarmed marauders, in defense of their country, their children, their temples, and their homes. Being a military man, and having served with great reputation, for more than thirty years, as tribune, praefect, lieutenant, or praetor, he knew most of the soldiers and their honorable actions, and, by calling these to their remembrance, roused the spirits of the men.


When he had made a complete survey, he gave the signal with the trumpet, and ordered the cohorts to advance slowly. The army of the enemy followed his example; and when they approached so near that the action could be commenced by the light-armed troops, both sides, with a loud shout, rushed together in a furious charge. They threw aside their missiles, and fought only with their swords. The veterans, calling to mind their deeds of old, engaged fiercely in the closest combat. The enemy made an obstinate resistance; and both sides contended with the utmost fury. Catiline, during this time, was exerting himself with his light troops in the front, sustaining such as were pressed, substituting fresh men for the wounded, attending to every exigency, charging in person, wounding many an enemy and performing at once the duties of a valiant soldier and a skillful general.

When Petreius, contrary to his expectation, found Catiline attacking him with such impetuosity, he led his praetorian cohort against the centre of the enemy, amongst whom, being thus thrown into confusion, and offering but partial resistance, he made great slaughter, and ordered, at the same time, an assault on both flanks. Manlius and the Faesulan, sword in hand, were among the first that fell; and Catiline, when he saw his army routed, and himself left with but few supporters, remembering his birth and former dignity, rushed into the thickest of the enemy, where he was slain, fighting to the last.


When the battle was over, it was plainly seen what boldness, and what energy of spirit, had prevailed throughout the army of Catiline; for, almost everywhere, every soldier, after yielding up his breath, covered with his corpse the spot which he had occupied when alive. A few, indeed, whom the praetorian cohort had dispersed, had fallen somewhat differently, but all with wounds in front. Catiline himself was found, far in advance of his men, among the dead bodies of the enemy; he was not quite breathless, and still expressed in his countenance the fierceness of spirit which he had shown during his life. Of his whole army, neither in the battle, nor in flight, was any free-born citizen made prisoner, for they had spared their own lives no more than those of the enemy.

Nor did the army of the Roman people obtain a joyful or bloodless victory; for all their bravest men were either killed in the battle, or left the field severely wounded.

Of many who went from the camp to view the ground, or plunder the slain, some, in turning over the bodies of the enemy, discovered a friend, others an acquaintance, others a relative; some, too, recognized their enemies. Thus, gladness and sorrow, grief and joy, were variously felt throughout the whole army.

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This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse