History of Catiline's Conspiracy

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History of Catiline’s Conspiracy (1831)
by Sallust
, translated by William Rose
Sallust1173685History of Catiline’s Conspiracy1831William Rose
I-IV. Introduction—V. Genius and character of Catiline.VI-VII. View of the ancient manners and government of Rome—VIII-IX. Literature little cultivated; virtuous simplicity and firmness of the Roman character—X-XI. Causes of its degeneracy—XII-XIII. Rapid progress, and complete dominion of vice and luxury—XIV. Depraved manners of Catiline and his companions—XV. His crimes and profligacy—XVI. His ascendancy over his associates; he forms the design of seizing the government—XVII. Success of his intrigues; list of the principal conspirators—XVIII-XIX. Origin and miscarriage of a former plot—XX-XXIII. First meeting held by the confederates; artful speech and management of Catiline—XXIV. Q. Curtius reveals the secret to his mistress Fulvia; the intelligence circulated at Rome; Cicero promoted to the consulship—XXV. Disappointment of Catiline; his intrigues and activity—XXVI. Singular character of Sempronia—XXVII-XXVIII. Catiline still baffled in his designs; he endeavours to excite the states of Italy to revolt—XXIX. Failure of the scheme for assassinating Cicero—XXX. Embarrassment of the consul; extraordinary powers conferred on the chief magistrates—XXXI. The rebels take the field; vigorous measures adopted by the senate—XXXII-XXXIII. Consternation of the city; effrontery and despair manifested by Catiline; he takes his departure privately from Rome—XXXIV. Deputation from Manlius to Q. Marcius Rex—XXXV-XXXVI. Specious conduct of Catiline; his confidential letter sent to Catulus—XXXVII-XXXVIII. Decrees of the senate; reflections on the condition and manners of the commonwealth—XXXIX-XL. Ancient and inveterate feud between the patrician and popular factions—XLI. The deputies of the Allobroges drawn into the conspiracy—XLII. They make the discovery to Cicero—XLIII. Insurrections in Gaul and Italy—XLIV. Plan of the intended massacre and conflagration of Rome—XLV. Secret conference with the Allobrogian deputies—XLVI. They are arrested, by order of the consul, at the Milvian bridge—XLVII-XLVIII. Cicero carries Lentulus and the other prisoners before the senate; depositions of the witnesses—XLIX. Rejoicings of the populace at the discovery of the conspiracy; suspicions entertained against Crassus and Cæsar; deliberations of the senate—L-LII. Speech of Cæsar on the punishment of the conspirators—LIII-LVI. Speech of Cato—LVII. The culprits condemned to suffer death; parallel between Cæsar and Cato—LVIII. Execution of Lentulus and his associates—LIX. Vigorous operations against the rebels in Etruria; Catiline resolves on risking an action—LX-LXI. His address to his men—LXII. Disposition of the two armies previously to the battle of Pistoria—LXIII-LXIV. Obstinacy of the engagement; defeat and death of Catiline.


Men who would act up to the dignity of their nature ought not to pass their lives in obscurity, like the beasts of the field, formed with bodies prone to the earth, and under necessary subjection to their appetites.

Now, our faculties are twofold; those of the soul, and those of the body: the soul was designed for sovereign command, the body for subjection: the former we enjoy in common with the gods, the latter with the brute creation. So that to me it appears more agreeable to nature to pursue glory by the abilities of the mind than those of the body; and as our lives are but of short duration, it should be our study to render our memory immortal: for the splendour derived from riches and beauty is short-lived and frail, virtue[1] alone confers immortality.

It has, however, been a great and long debate, whether success in war is most owing to bodily strength or mental abilities: for, as counsel is necessary before we enter on action, after measures are duly concerted, speedy execution is equally necessary; so that neither of these being sufficient singly, they prevail only by the assistance of each other.


Accordingly, kings of old (for this was the first title of authority among men) applied themselves differently; some to strengthen their bodies by exercise, others to improve their minds. Then, indeed, ambition had no share in influencing the conduct of men; every one was satisfied with his own. But after Cyrus began in Asia, and the Lacedæmonians and Athenians in Greece, to conquer cities and nations; when the lust of power was thought a sufficient reason for commencing a war, and glory was measured by the extent of dominions, then it was discovered by experience that genius conduces most to success. And if kings and rulers would exert their abilities in peace as they do in war, the condition of human affairs would be much more steady and uniform; nor should we see so frequent revolutions and convulsions in states, and such universal confusion: for the same arts by which dominion was at first acquired will serve to secure it. But when, instead of industry, moderation, and equity, sloth, licentiousness, and pride prevail, the fortune of a state changes with its manners: and thus power always passes from him who has least merit to him who has most.

It is to the powers of the mind we owe the invention and advantages of agriculture, navigation, and architecture, and indeed all the other arts of life. Yet many there are in the world who, abandoned to sloth and sensuality, without learning or politeness, pass their lives much like travellers; and who, in opposition to the design of nature, place their whole happiness in animal pleasure, looking on their minds as a heavy burden. The life and death of such as these are to me of equal value, since there is no notice taken of either.[2] He only seems to me to be truly alive, and to enjoy his rational nature, who, by engaging in an active course of life, pursues the glory that is derived from noble actions, or the exercise of some honourable employment. Now, amid a great variety of occupations, nature has directed men to different pursuits.


To act well for the state is glorious, and to write well for it is not without its merit. A man may become illustrious in peace or in war: many have been applauded for performing heroic actions, many for relating them. And though the character of the historian is not reckoned so glorious as that of the hero, yet to me it appears a very arduous task to write history well, since the style must be suited to the subject. Besides, many look on the censure of faults as the effect of malice and envy; and when the glorious achievements of brave and worthy men are related, every reader will be easily inclined to believe what he thinks he could have performed himself, but will treat what exceeds that measure as false and fabulous.

As for me, like most others, I had in my younger days a strong desire for a share in the administration; but found many obstructions in my way: for instead of modesty, justice, and virtue, licentiousness, corruption, and avarice flourished; which, though my soul, as yet untainted with evil habits, utterly abhorred, yet amid such general depravity my tender years were caught by ambition; and although I avoided, in the general tenor of my conduct, the corrupt practices of the age, yet being fired with the same ardour for preferment that others were, I was thence exposed to envy and reproach as well as they.


As soon, however, as my mind was delivered from the many crosses and dangers attending this pursuit, and I had determined to retire during the remainder of my life from the administration, it was not my intention to waste such valuable time in sloth and indolence, nor to pass my days in agriculture, hunting, or the like servile occupations; but, resuming my former design, from which the cursed spirit of ambition had diverted me, I resolved to employ myself in writing such parts of the Roman history as appeared to me to be most deserving of being transmitted to posterity; and this I chose the rather, because my mind was neither influenced by hope or fear, nor attached to any party in the state: accordingly, I shall here, with the utmost veracity, give a short account of Catiline’s Conspiracy; a memorable attempt, both for the enormous wickedness of it, and the danger it threatened. But before I enter directly on the story I shall give a short character of the man.


Lucius Catiline was descended of an illustrious family:[3] he was a man of great vigour, both of body and mind, but of a disposition extremely profligate and depraved. From his youth he took pleasure in civil wars, massacres, depredations, and intestine broils; and in these he employed his younger days. His body was formed for enduring cold, hunger, and want of rest, to a degree indeed incredible: his spirit was daring, subtle, and changeable: he was expert in all the arts of simulation and dissimulation; covetous of what belonged to others, lavish of his own; violent in his passions: he had eloquence enough, but a small share of wisdom. His boundless soul was constantly engaged in extravagant and romantic projects, too high to be attempted.[4]

Such was the character of Catiline; who, after Sylla’s usurpation, was fired with a violent desire of seizing the government; and, provided he could but carry his point, he was not at all solicitous by what means. His spirit, naturally violent, was daily more and more hurried on to the execution of his design by his poverty and the consciousness of his crimes; both which evils he had heightened by the practices above mentioned. He was encouraged to it by the wickedness of the state, thoroughly debased by luxury and avarice; vices equally fatal, though of contrary natures.

Now that I have occasion to mention the Roman manners, I am naturally led to look back a little to past ages, and to give a short account of the institutions of our ancestors, both in war and peace; how they governed the state, and in what grandeur they left it; and how, by a gradual declension, it has fallen from the highest degree of virtue and glory to the lowest pitch of vice and depravity.


The Trojans, as far as I can learn, who were forced to fly from their native country, and wandered up and down, without any fixed abode, under the conduct of Æneas, were the founders of Rome, together with the Aborigines, a barbarous race, subject to no laws, and restrained by no authority, but altogether independent and unaccountable. It is incredible how easily these two nations, after they came to inhabit the same city, formed into one people, though differing in original, language, and manners. Afterward, when wholesome institutions, an increase of territory and inhabitants, had rendered their state sufficiently flourishing and glorious, their opulence, such is the hard fate of almost all human affairs, became the object of envy; neighbouring princes and nations fell on them in war, and but few of their friends came to their assistance; the rest, struck with terror, kept at a distance from the danger.

The Romans, however, fearless and undaunted, equally on their guard both within and without the walls, acted with spirit and resolution; concerted their measures, encouraged one another; boldly faced the enemy; and by their arms protected their liberty, their country, and their families: then, after having repelled their own dangers, they carried assistance to their confederates, and procured themselves alliances more by conferring than receiving favours.[5]

The form of their government was monarchical; but monarchy circumscribed by laws: a select number of men, whose bodies were indeed enfeebled with years, but their minds in full vigour, formed a council for the direction of public affairs; they were called Fathers,[6] either on account of their age, or a similitude of concern. Afterward, when the regal government, which was established for maintaining liberty and aggrandizing the state, degenerated into pride and tyranny, they abolished it, and created two magistrates with annual power;[7] this they thought would be the most effectual method to prevent that insolence which a long continuance of power generally inspires.


This change in the form of their government produced a great alteration in their manners; every one now exerted the utmost of his capacity in the service of his country, and was ready to display his talents on all occasions: for under tyrants the worthy are more exposed to jealousy than the worthless, and great abilities are always dreaded by them. It is incredible to relate how much the city increased in a short time after the recovery of its liberty; so great was the ardour of its citizens for glory. The youth, as soon as they were able to bear arms,[8] betook themselves to the camp, where they were trained up to war by labour and practice; and they took greater pleasure in fine armour and war-horses than in licentiousness and banqueting. To such men no toils were unusual, no situation grievous, no enemies formidable; their resolution surmounted all difficulties. But their chief contest for glory was with one another; every one laboured to signalize himself in the view of his fellow-soldiers, by striving to be the first in wounding the enemy and scaling the walls. This they reckoned riches, this glory and high rank.[9] They were fond of applause, but liberal of money; they desired only a competent share of riches, but boundless glory. I could relate on what occasions a handful of Romans has defeated mighty armies; and what cities, strongly fortified by nature, they have taken by assault; but this would carry me too far from my undertaking.


Yet surely Fortune bears sovereign influence over every thing; it is she that brightens or obscures all things, more from caprice and humour than a regard to truth and justice. The actions of the Athenians were, I am ready to grant, sufficiently great and noble; though not to such a degree as fame has represented them: but as they had writers of great genius, their achievements were celebrated throughout the world as the greatest that ever were; and the bravery of those who performed them is reckoned just as great as the abilities of these illustrious authors in extolling them. But the Roman people wanted this advantage, because their ablest men were the most employed in the service of the state. None cultivated their minds without bodily application. The worthiest men preferred doing to speaking, and chose rather that others should commend their virtuous actions than they relate those of others.[10]


Good morals, therefore, were cultivated both at home and abroad. A spirit of perfect harmony and disinterestedness every where prevailed. Laws had no greater influence in determining them to the practice of justice and equity than natural disposition. The only quarrels, dissensions, and disputes they exercised were against the public enemy: all the contests that subsisted among the citizens were in virtuous deeds. They were magnificent in their offerings to the gods; frugal in their families; and faithful to their friends. Bravery in war, and equity and moderation in peace, were the only means by which they supported themselves and the public affairs: and, as the clearest evidence of these virtues, I find that, in time of war, such as engaged the enemy contrary to orders, or continued in the field after a retreat was sounded, were more frequently punished than those who abandoned their standards, or quitted their posts;[11] and, in peace, they conducted the administration more by the force of favours than of terror; and, if they received an injury, chose rather to forgive than revenge it.


But when by probity and industry the state was become powerful; when mighty princes were conquered in war; barbarous nations and potent states reduced to obedience; when Carthage, that vied with Rome for the empire of the world, was utterly demolished, and sea and land lay every where open to her power; then Fortune began to exert her malice, and throw every thing into confusion. Ease and riches, the grand objects of the pursuit of others, depressed and ruined those who had, without regret, undergone toils and hardships, distresses and dangers. First a love of money possessed their minds; then a passion for power; and these were the seeds of all the evils that followed. For avarice rooted out faith, probity, and every worthy principle; and, in their stead, substituted insolence, inhumanity, contempt of the gods, and a mercenary spirit. Ambition obliged many to be deceitful; to belie with their tongues the sentiments of their hearts; to value friendship and enmity, not according to their real worth, but as they conduced to interest; and to have a specious countenance, rather than an honest heart. These corruptions at first grew by degrees, and were sometimes checked by correction. At last, the infection spreading like a plague, the state was entirely changed, and the government, from being the most righteous and equitable, became cruel and insupportable.


At first, indeed, the minds of men were less influenced by avarice than ambition, a vice which has some affinity to virtue; for the desire of glory, power, and preferment is common to the worthy and the worthless; with this difference, that the one pursues them by direct means; the other, being void of merit, has recourse to fraud and subtlety: avarice has money for its object, which no wise man ever coveted. This vice, as if impregnated with deadly poison, enervated both soul and body; is always boundless and insatiable; nor are its cravings lessened by plenty or want. But when Sylla had, by force of arms, made himself master of the state, and, from fair beginnings, brought matters to a bloody issue, his victorious troops gave themselves up to rapine and violence; one coveted a house, another lands: they observed neither measure nor moderation, but exercised the most enormous and inhuman outrages on the citizens. Besides, Sylla, to gain the affections of the army which he had commanded in Asia, had, contrary to the rules of our ancestors, allowed them too great latitude, and indulged them in luxury: the warlike tempers of the soldiers, who were now without employment, became easily enervated by their delicious quarters and a life of pleasure. There the Roman troops first habituated themselves to licentiousness and drinking; to admire statues, pictures, and sculpture; to make spoil of them both publicly and privately; to plunder the temples of the gods, and to ravage every thing both sacred and profane. An army thus disposed, and victorious too, was sure to leave nothing to the conquered: for success unhinges the minds even of wise men; how then should they who were so depraved use their victory with moderation?


When riches began to be held in high esteeem, and attended with glory, honour, and power, virtue languished, poverty was deemed a reproach, and innocence passed for ill-nature. And thus luxury, avarice, and pride, all springing from riches, enslaved the Roman youth; they wantoned in rapine and prodigality; undervalued their own, and coveted what belonged to others; trampled on modesty, friendship, and continence; confounded things divine and human; and threw off all manner of consideration and restraint.

To see the difference between modern and ancient manners, one needs but take a view of the houses of particular citizens, both in town and country, all resembling in magnificence so many cities; and then behold the temples of the gods, built by our ancestors, the most religious of all men. But they thought of no other ornament for their temples than devotion; nor for their houses but glory; neither did they take any thing from the conquered but the power of doing hurt. Whereas their descendants, the most effeminate of all men, have plundered from their allies, by the most flagrant injustice, whatever their brave ancestors left to their conquered enemies, as if the only use of power was to do wrong.


It is needless to recount other things, which none but those who saw them will believe; as the levelling of mountains by private citizens, and even covering the sea itself with fine edifices.[12] These men appear to me to have sported with their riches, since they lavished them in the most shameful manner, instead of enjoying them with honour. Nor were they less addicted to all manner of extravagant gratifications: men and women laid aside all regard to chastity. To procure dainties for their tables, sea and land were ransacked. They indulged in sleep before nature craved it; the returns of hunger and thirst were anticipated with luxury: and cold and fatigue were never so much as felt. The Roman youth, after they had spent their fortunes, were prompted by such depravations to commit all manner of enormities; for their minds, impregnated with evil habits, and unable to resist their craving appetites, were violently bent on all manner of extravagances, and all the means of supplying them.


In so great and corrupted a city, Catiline had always about him, what was no difficult matter to find in Rome, bands of profligate and flagitious wretches, like guards to his person. For all those who were abandoned to gluttony and voluptuousness, and had exhausted their fortunes by gaming, feasting, and licentiousness; all who were overwhelmed with debts, contracted to purchase pardon for their crimes: add to this, parricides and sacrilegious persons from all quarters; such as were convicted for crimes, or feared conviction; nay, farther, all who lived by perjury and shedding the blood of citizens: lastly, all whom wickedness, indigence, or a guilty conscience disquieted,—were united to Catiline in the firmest bonds of friendship and intimacy. Or if any person of an unblameable character became familiar with him, by daily conversation, and the snares that were laid to corrupt him, he too soon resembled, and even equalled, the rest. But what he chiefly courted was the intimacy of young men: their minds, being soft and pliable, were easily ensnared. Some of these he provided with mistresses; bought horses and dogs for others, gratifying the favourite passion of each: in a word, he spared no expense, nor even his own honour, to engage them heartily in his interests. Some there were, I know, who thought that the youth who frequented Catiline’s house were guilty of licentiousness; but this rumour, I apprehend, was more owing to other reasons, than that there was any clear evidence of the fact.


As for Catiline himself, he had, when very young, been guilty of many atrocious crimes, in open contempt of all law and order: afterward he conceived a passion for Aurelia Orestilla, one who had nothing but her beauty to recommend her; and because she scrupled to marry him, on account of his having a son who was arrived at years of maturity, it is believed as a certain fact, that he destroyed that son, and made his house desolate, to open a way for this so infamous an alliance. And this indeed appears to me to have been the principal cause that pushed him on to the execution of the conspiracy: for his guilty soul, at enmity with gods and men, could find no rest; so violently was his mind torn and distracted by a consciousness of guilt. Accordingly, his countenance was pale, his eyes ghastly, his pace, one while quick, another slow; and indeed in all his looks there was an air of distraction.


As for the youth whom he had corrupted in the manner above related, they were trained up to wickedness by various methods: he taught them to be false witnesses, to forge deeds, to throw off all regard to truth, to squander their fortunes, and slight dangers: and after he had stripped them of all reputation and shame, he pushed them on to crimes still more heinous; and, even when no provocation was given, it was their practice to ensnare and murder those who had never injured them, as well as those who had. For he chose to be cruel and mischievous without any cause, rather than the hands and spirits of his associates should lose their vigour for want of employment.

Catiline, confiding in these friends and accomplices, formed a design to seize the government: he found an additional encouragement from the number of those who were oppressed with debts throughout the state, and the disposition of Sylla’s soldiers, who, having squandered away what they had lately acquired, and calling to remembrance their former conquests and depredations, longed for a civil war. Besides, there was no army in Italy: Pompey was carrying on a war in the remotest parts of the earth: he himself was in great hopes of obtaining the consulship: the senate seemed careless of the public; and all things were quiet: a conjuncture of circumstances extremely favourable to his designs.


Accordingly, about the first of June, in the consulship of L. Cæsar and C. Figulus, he first applied himself to his accomplices: some he encouraged, others he sounded; acquainted them how strongly he was supported; how few forces the government had to oppose him; and laid before them the great advantage that would attend the conspiracy. Having sufficiently sifted them, he called all those together who were most necessitous and daring.

In this assembly were found of senatorial rank, P. Lentulus Sura, P. Autronius, L. Cassius Longinus, C. Cethegus, P. Sylla and S. Sylla, the sons of Servius; L. Vargunteius, Q. Annius, M. Porcius Læcca, L. Bestia, and Q. Curtius: of the equestrian order, M. Fulvius Nobilior, L. Statilius, P. Gabinius Capito, and C. Cornelius, to whom were joined many from the colonies and municipal towns, all men of figure in their several countries. There were likewise several noblemen engaged in this conspiracy, though not so openly; men excited, not by want, or any pressing consideration, but by the hopes of lawless power. Besides these, almost all the youth, especially the youth of quality, favoured Catiline’s undertaking: even those who had it in their power to live at their ease, nay, splendidly and luxuriously, preferring uncertainties to certainties, and discord to peace. Some there were at that time, too, who believed that M. Licinius Crassus was privy to the design; because he hated Pompey, who was at the head of a great army; to reduce whose power he would willingly have promoted any interest whatever: besides, he hoped, if the conspiracy succeeded, that he should find it easy to make himself head of the conspirators.

Some time before this a like conspiracy had been formed by a few, among whom was Catiline, of which I shall give the best account I am able.


In the consulship of L. Tullus and M. Lepidus, P. Autronius and P. Sylla, who were chosen to succeed them, had been prosecuted for bribery at elections and punished.[13] Not long after Catiline was likewise convicted of bribery, and hindered from suing for the consulship, because he could not declare himself a candidate within the limited time. At this time, too, Cn. Piso, a young nobleman, extremely bold, indigent, and factious, was instigated by his poverty and depraved morals to raise commotions in the state. Catiline, Autronius, and he, entering into a combination about the fifth of December, determined to murder the consuls L. Torquatus and L. Cotta in the capitol, on the first of January: on which Catiline and Autronius were to seize the consulship, and send Piso with an army to take possession of both the Spains. But their design being discovered, they put off the assassination plot to the fifth of February; at which time they proposed not only to murder the consuls, but likewise most of the senators. And if Catiline had not been too forward in giving the signal to his associates, before the senate-house, there had been that day the most bloody massacre Rome had ever seen. But as no great number of the conspirators had yet got together, the scheme was frustrated.


Notwithstanding this, Piso, though he had only the office of quæstor, was afterward sent into Nether-Spain, in quality of proprætor, by the interest of Crassus; because he knew him to be an irreconcilable enemy to Pompey. Nor was the senate indeed averse to his having the province, for they were desirous to have so turbulent a citizen at a great distance from them; besides, a great many who wished well to the interests of the state looked on him as a defence to it, now the power of Pompey was become formidable. But Piso, in his march to his province, was murdered by some Spanish horsemen he had in his army. Some there are who ascribe his death to his haughty, arbitrary, and tyrannical behaviour in his command, which the barbarians could not bear. Others allege, that these soldiers assassinated Piso by Pompey’s order, whose old followers they were, and devoted to his interest: that the Spaniards had never attempted any such thing before, but had often submitted patiently to the merciless orders of their commanders. As for me, I shall leave the matter undetermined; and have now said enough of the first conspiracy.


When Catiline saw those whose names we have already given assembled together, though he had often conferred with them singly, yet, judging it proper to address and encourage them in a body, he withdrew with them into a private part of the house, where none could hear him but the conspirators, and there spoke to them in the following manner:—

“If your bravery and fidelity were not well known to me, the present opportunity had occurred to no purpose; vain would all our great hopes have been: the power of seizing the government had dropped into our hands in vain; nor should I, depending on dastardly and irresolute associates, have hazarded certainties for uncertainties. But as I have on many important occasions proved your bravery and attachment to me, I have dared to engage in an enterprise of the highest consequence and the greatest glory. It is an additional encouragement to me, when I consider the harmony of our desires and aversions, which is the firmest bond of friendship.

“Now the nature of my undertaking you have already heard severally; and my ardour to put it in execution increases daily, when I consider what must be our future lot, unless we recover our liberty. For since the government came under the power and management of a few, kings and princes have been tributary to them, and nations have paid them taxes; while all the rest of us citizens, however worthy or brave, noble or plebeian, have remained as a sorry mob, without interest or authority, slaves to those to whom we should be a terror, were the state but in its due vigour. All sway, preferment, interest, and riches are now in their hands, or those of their favourites; to us they have left nothing but dangers, repulses from public dignities, the terror of tribunals, and the buffetings of poverty. Which indignities how long will ye tamely submit to, ye bravest of men? Is it not better to die in a brave attempt than to drag a wretched and infamous life, and to lose it at last shamefully, after having been the sport of other men’s insolence?


“But I take gods and men to witness, that success is in our hands; our bodies and minds are in full vigour: on the other hand, they are on the decline in every respect, oppressed with years and riches. All that is necessary is, only to make the attempt; when once the undertaking is set on foot, every thing else will follow in course. For who, that has the spirit of a man, can bear with patience that they should have such a superfluity of riches as to lavish them in raising mighty edifices on the deep, and levelling mountains, while we have not so much as the necessaries of life; that they should be multiplying their palaces, while we have no fixed habitation; that though they are constantly buying pictures, statues, and vessels of curious workmanship, pulling down new houses, and building others; in short, though they waste and dissipate their wealth by every extravagant method; yet, by all the efforts of profusion, they are unable to exhaust it? As for us, we have poverty at home, and debts abroad; our condition is bad, our expectation much worse: finally, what have we left but a wretched life? Rouse then to action! Behold the object you have often wished for! behold Liberty! and in her train riches, glory, and honour, all full in your view! All these rewards Fortune has prepared for the conquerors. But let the present conjuncture and opportunity,—let your dangers, your poverty, and the glorious spoils of war animate you more powerfully than any words of mine. As for me, use me as you please, either as a leader or as a private soldier. I shall always be with you, both in council and execution. But I hope to act as consul with you in this enterprise; if, after all, I am not deceived in my opinion of you, and you prefer not slavery to empire.”[14]


On hearing this harangue, his associates, who were all extremely wretched, destitute of every thing, and even void of every honest hope; though they were pleased with the thought of embroiling the state, and even looked on that as a great recompense; yet most of them desired that he would declare to them on what terms they were to engage in the war, and what were to be their rewards; what strength they had to depend on, and what hopes of success. Then Catiline promised them an abolition of their debts; the proscription of the rich; dignities, sacred and civil; plunder, and every other advantage that the uncontrolled pleasure of conquerors includes. Besides, he told them that Piso and P. Sitius Nucerinus were both privy to his design; the former with an army in Spain, the other at the head of one in Mauritania: that C. Antonius was candidate for the consulship, whom he hoped to have for his colleague; one who was his intimate, and embarrassed with all manner of difficulties; and that in conjunction with him he would begin the execution of his design as soon as they should enter on their office. After this he proceeded to inveigh bitterly against all men of worth; commended his own accomplices, and calling to every one by his name, some he put in mind of their poverty, others of their amours, several of their dangers and disgraces, and many of the booty they had got in consequence of Sylla’s victory. Then, perceiving all their spirits elevated, he pressed them to take care of his interest at the next election, and dismissed the assembly.


Some there were at that time who said that Catiline, when he had ended his speech, and proceeded to administer an oath to his associates, presented them all round with a bowl of human blood mixed with wine; that, when they had all tasted and sworn, as is usual in solemn sacrifices, he disclosed his design to them; and that he did this in order to engage them more strictly to mutual faith, as each was privy to the guilt of another in so horrible a fact.[15] But some believe that this, and much more, was invented by those who thought to allay the odium which fell on Cicero for putting the conspirators to death, by aggravating their crimes. But I could never meet with clear evidence for so extraordinary a fact.


In this conspiracy was Q. Curius, a man of no mean family, but loaded with crimes, and, as a mark of disgrace, expelled the senate by the censors. This man had an equal share of levity and audaciousness; whatever he heard he disclosed: nor could he even conceal his own crimes: in a word, he neither considered what he said or did. There had been for a long time a criminal correspondence between him and Fulvia, a lady of quality; but finding himself less agreeable to her than formerly, because his poverty would not suffer him to be so liberal, all on a sudden he began to tempt her with great promises, boasting of seas and mountains of wealth; sometimes he threatened to kill her, if she would not be obsequious: in a word, he behaved more haughtily than he had ever done before. When Fulvia learned the ground of this insolent behavior, she did not conceal what threatened so much danger to the state; but, without mentioning her author, discovered to many all that she had heard of Catiline’s conspiracy. This discovery made the people zealous to confer the consulship on M. T. Cicero: for before this most of the nobility regarded Cicero’s views with envy and indignation, and thought that the consular dignity would be sullied if a new man, however deserving, should be raised to it.[16] But when danger threatened, pride and envy disappeared.


Accordingly, when the assembly for elections was held, M. Tullius and C. Antonius were declared consuls, which was a heavy blow to the conspirators. Catiline’s fury, however, was not in the least abated; he exerted himself every day more and more; provided magazines of arms in all the most convenient places of Italy; borrowed money, either on his own credit or that of his friends, and conveyed it to Fæsulæ, to one Manlius, who first began the war. At this juncture he is said to have engaged in his interest great numbers of all ranks; some women were drawn over to his cause, with whom a taste for expense had formerly been supported by their gallantries: but as a passion for luxury survived the decay of their charms, a load of debt had necessarily followed. By their means he expected to bring over to his party the city slaves to set fire to the city, and either engage their husbands, or in case of refusal have them slain.


Among these was Sempronia, a woman of masculine spirit, and who had often been engaged in many daring and hardy enterprises. In her person and family, in her husband and children, she was abundantly happy. With no inconsiderable tincture of Greek and Roman literature, she could sing and dance with greater elegance than was needful or becoming in a modest woman.[17] She had also other accomplishments of the same cast; numerous, indeed, though little useful, except as the instruments of luxury; the charms of which were ever dearer to her heart than the graces of modesty or the praise of virtue. On money she set no value; none whatever on reputation: and in affairs of the heart, she was sometimes more ready to make the first advances, than wait to receive them. She had often forfeited her faith, perjured herself to avoid paying her debts, been privy to murders,—in a word, her extravagance and indigence had carried her to the utmost excesses of wickedness. Notwithstanding all this, she had a great deal of wit, could compose verses, was very facetious in conversation, could talk modestly, tenderly, or satirically; in short, she excelled in humour and pleasantry.


Having taken these measures, Catiline, notwithstanding his late repulse, declared himself a candidate for the consulship against the ensuing year, in hopes, if he should be chosen, of using Antonius as he pleased. Nor was he inactive in the mean time; but contriving endless machinations for the destruction of Cicero, who was not wanting in dexterity and subtlety to defeat them; for, from the beginning of his consulship, he had successfully employed Fulvia to engage, by force of promises, Q. Curius, whom we have already mentioned, to discover all Catiline’s designs: and by promising a province to his colleague, he had prevailed on him not to act against the state. Besides, he had always about him a number of his friends and clients to guard his person. When the day of election came, Catiline, finding that neither his suit for the consulship, nor his plots to cut off Cicero in the field of Mars, had succeeded, determined on open war, and to try the utmost extremities, since his secret attempts had ended in disappointment and infamy.


Accordingly, he despatched C. Manlius to Fæsulæ and the adjacent parts of Etruria, one Septimius of Camertes to the territory of Picenum, and C. Julius into Apulia; others too he sent to different places, just as he thought it subservient to his purpose. Meanwhile he was making several efforts at Rome at once; laying fresh snares against the life of the consul; contriving to set fire to the city, placing armed men in convenient posts: he himself was constantly armed, and ordered his followers to be so too;[18] was ever pressing them to be on their guard, and prepared for action; day and night he was in a hurry; lived without sleep; and was nevertheless indefatigable under all his toils. At last, perceiving that his numerous efforts were unsuccessful, he employed M. Porcius Læcca to summon together the principal conspirators once more in the dead of night; and after having complained grievously of their inactivity, he informed them that he had sent Manlius to command a body of men, which he had prepared to take up arms; that he had likewise despatched others to different places to begin the war; and that he himself longed earnestly to go to the army, if he could but first destroy Cicero, for that he greatly obstructed all his measures.


Now, when all the rest remained fearful and irresolute, C. Cornelius, a Roman knight, and L. Vargunteius, a senator, offered their services: they agreed to go that very night to Cicero’s house, with a few armed men, under pretence of making him a visit, and to assassinate him by surprise. Curius, as soon as he learned what danger threatened the consul, despatched Fulvia to acquaint him with the plot; so that when they came entrance was denied them, and their black attempt frustrated.

Meanwhile Manlius was exciting the people in Eturia to take arms; who, both from their poverty and their resentment of the injuries done them under Sylla’s usurpation, when they were deprived of their lands and all they had, were of themselves desirous of innovations. He likewise engaged robbers of all kinds, who were very numerous in that country, with some of Sylla’s old soldiers too, who by their intemperance and extravagance had squandered away all their former acquisitions.


Cicero, on hearing of these transactions, was struck with so threatening an evil; and not being able any longer to defend the city against the plots of the conspirators by his own private management, nor being apprized of the strength or views of Manlius’s army, laid the matter before the senate, which already had been the subject of public conversation. Whereon the senate, as was usual in cases of extreme danger, passed a decree “that the consuls should take care the state suffered no detriment;” by which they were empowered (such is the policy of the Roman government) to raise forces, make war, exercise an unlimited jurisdiction over the citizens and allies, and to bear sovereign command both in the city and in the field; none of which things fall under their authority without a special ordinance of the people.


A few days after, L. Sænius, a senator, read a letter in the senate, which he said was brought him from Fæsulæ; acquainting him that C. Manlius had taken arms about the latter end of October, with a numerous body of men. To this some added, as is usual on such occasions, accounts of omens and prodigies; others related that unusual cabals were held, arms carried to different places, and that the slaves were arming in Capua and Apulia. Whereon, by a decree of the senate, Q. Marcius Rex was sent Fæsulæ, and Q. Metellus Creticus to Apulia and the adjacent parts; both these officers had been commanders of armies, and were waiting without the city for the honour of a triumph, which was refused them by the malice of a few, whose custom it was to make sale of every thing, honourable and infamous. The prætors, too, Q. Pompeius Rufus and Q. Metellus Celer,[19] were sent, the one to Capua, the other to Picenum; and power was given them to raise forces, according to the exigency of the times and the degree of danger. Besides, the senate decreed, that if any one would make any discovery concerning the conspiracy against the state, he should have, if a slave, his liberty and a hundred thousand sesterces;[20] if a freeman, his pardon and two hundred thousand. It was likewise decreed, that bands of gladiators[21] should be sent to Capua and the other municipal towns, according to the strength of each; and that guards should be posted at Rome, in every quarter, under the command of the inferior magistrates.


With all these things the city was deeply affected, and assumed a new face; from the highest jollity and riot, such as spring from a lasting peace, sorrow of a sudden appeared on every countenance. There was nothing but universal hurry and confusion; no place was thought secure; no person fit to be trusted; they neither enjoyed peace nor were at war; every one measured the public danger by their private fears. The women, too, full of apprehensions of war, which the great power of the state had formerly secured them against, gave themselves up to sorrow and lamentation; raised their suppliant hands to heaven; bewailed their tender children; were eager for news; alarmed at every thing; and laying aside their pride and pleasures, became anxious for themselves and their country. Yet the cruel spirit of Catiline persisted in the same desperate pursuit, notwithstanding the preparations that were made to defeat his measures, and though he himself stood arraigned by L. Paulus, on the Plautian law: nay, he even came to the senate-house, the better to dissemble his design; as if, provoked by injurious representations, he only came to clear his character. As soon as he appeared the consul Cicero, either fearing some bad effects from his presence, or fired with indignation, made that powerful and impressive speech, so useful to the state, which he afterward reduced to writing, and gave to the public.[22] As soon as he had sat down Catiline, resolved to deny every article, with downcast looks and suppliant voice, begged of the fathers not to believe too hastily what was alleged against him;[23] that such was his birth, and such had been his conduct from his youth, that he had reason to hope for a very favourable impression from the public; and it was not to be imagined that one of the patrician order, whose ancestors, as well as himself, had done so many services to the Roman people, should want to overturn the government, while Cicero, a stranger, and late inhabitant of Rome, was so zealous to defend it. As he was going on with his invectives against the consul, the senate, raising a general outcry, called him traitor and parricide: on which, abandoning himself to fury and despair,—“Since, then,” said he, “I am circumvented and driven headlong by my enemies, I will quench the flame raised about me by the common ruin.”


With these words, he rushed out of the assembly and went home; where, reflecting much with himself, and considering that his designs against the consul had proved unsuccessful, and that it was impossible to set fire to the city, by reason of the guards that were placed every where, he judged it most advisable to reinforce his army, and to make all necessary preparations for war before the legions were raised; and accordingly set out in the dead of night for Manlius’s camp, with a few attendants. Before his departure, however, he gave instructions to Lentulus and Cethegus, and those of his associates whom he knew to be most daring and resolute, to strengthen the party by all possible means; to despatch the consul as soon as they could; to have every thing in readiness for the intended massacre, the firing of the city, and the other feats of war; promising that he himself would in a short time come to the city at the head of a great army.[24]


During these transactions at Rome, C. Manlius sent deputies to Q. Marcius Rex, with orders to accost him in the following manner:—

“We call gods and men to witness, O general, that we have neither taken up arms against our country, nor with a view to injure any particular person, but to defend ourselves from oppression, wretched and needy as we are, through the violence and cruelty of usurers; most of us deprived of our habitations, and all of our reputation and fortunes; none of us allowed the protection of the laws, as our forefathers were, nor so much as the liberty of our persons, when nothing else is left us: such has been the cruelty of the usurers and prætors.[25] Your ancestors, out of compassion to the people of Rome, have often relieved their wants by their decrees; and but lately, in our own times, on account of the great pressure of debts, they have obliged the creditors to compound, and that with the approbation of every worthy man. The people have often taken arms, and separated from the senate, prompted either by a passion for power, or the insolence of their magistrates. As for us, we neither desire power nor riches, which are the sources of all the wars and contests among men: liberty is our aim; that liberty which no brave man will lose but with his life. Wherefore we conjure you and the senate to espouse the interests of your wretched fellow-citizens, to restore to us the protection of the laws, torn from us by the iniquity of the prætors; and not reduce us to the fatal necessity of studying to perish in such a manner as amply to avenge our blood on those who have oppressed us.”


To this Q. Marcius replied, “That if they had any petition to present to the senate, they must forthwith quit their arms and repair to Rome as suppliants; that such had been the clemency and compassion of the senate and people of Rome on all occasions, that no one had ever applied to them in vain for relief.”

Now Catiline, in his way to the camp, sent letters to several persons of consular dignity, and indeed to every one of distinguished merit, representing, “That being beset with false accusations, and unable to resist the faction of his enemies, he submitted to his fortune, and was going a voluntary exile to Marseilles; not that he was conscious of the horrid treason he was charged with, but out of regard to the tranquillity of the state, and to prevent any disturbances that might arise from his opposition.”

But a letter of a quite different kind was read in the senate by Q. Catulus, which he declared he had received from Catiline; a copy of which here follows:


“L. Catiline to Q. Catulus, health.

“Your great friendship to me, which I have so often proved when in my greatest dangers, inspires me with confidence to apply to you on this occasion; for which reason I shall not offer you any defence of my present measures: as I am conscious of no guilt, I shall only make a declaration of my innocence, for the truth of which I appeal to the gods.

“Being provoked by injuries and false accusations, deprived of the rewards of my services, and disappointed of the dignity I sued for, I have, according to my usual practice, undertaken the cause of the oppressed; not that I am urged to this by my debts, for my estate is sufficient to discharge what I owe on my account; and Orestilla would (such is her generosity) clear all my engagements on account of others out of her own fortune and that of her daughters: but seeing men of no merit raised to the highest honours of the state, and myself set aside on groundless jealousies, I have on this account taken such measures for preserving the small remains of my dignity as my present situation will sufficiently justify. I should have said more to you, but I am just now informed that violent measures are taken against me; I therefore conclude with recommending Orestilla to your protection; beseeching you, by the regard you have for your own children, to defend her from injuries. Adieu.”


Having staid a few days with C. Flaminius in the territory of Reate, till he had furnished that neighbourhood, which had before been gained over to his party, with arms, he proceeded with the fasces and the other ensigns of consular authority to Manlius’s camp. When this was known at Rome the senate declared Catiline and Manlius enemies to the state, with pardon to such of their followers as should quit their arms by a certain day, those only excepted who were under sentence for capital crimes. They likewise decreed that the consuls should levy forces; that C. Antonius should pursue Catiline with all expedition, and Cicero stay to defend the city.[26] The Roman state, at this juncture, appears to me to have been in a condition extremely deplorable; since, though all nations, from the rising to the setting sun, were reduced to its obedience; though peace and prosperity, the greatest blessings of life in the estimation of men, reigned at home, there were yet some of her citizens desperately bent on their own ruin and that of the commonwealth: for, notwithstanding, the two decrees of the senate, not a man was found among the numerous followers of Catiline to accept the reward and discover the conspiracy; not a single person to desert his camp: so strong a spirit of disaffection had, like a pestilence, taken possession of their minds.


Nor were the conspirators and their accomplices the only disaffected persons; the whole body of the populace, from their passion for a revolution, approved Catiline’s designs; nor in this did they act contrary to their usual character: for in all states, those that are poor envy the possessions of the great; extol the extravagant; hate what they have been long accustomed to; long for changes; and, from a dislike to their own condition, endeavour to throw every thing into confusion: in times of public disorder and discord they find their subsistence without any trouble; since poverty is always attended with this advantage, that it has nothing to lose. But the Roman populace were become extremely degenerate, from several causes; chiefly because all who were remarkable for wickedness and violence; such as had squandered their fortunes in riot and extravagance; in a word, all they who were forced from their native country for their crimes flocked to Rome from all quarters, as a common resort. Many again were continually reflecting on Sylla’s success; through which they had seen some common soldiers raised to the dignity of senators, and others so enriched, that in pomp and splendour they lived like kings; and every one hoped, in case of a civil war, to gain the victory, and the same advantages from it. Besides, the young men in the provinces, who were accustomed to earn a scanty subsistence by their labour, being drawn to Rome by the allurements of public and private largesses, preferred the ease of the city to their hard labour in the fields: these, with all others of the like character, found their support in the calamities of the state. So that it is not to be wondered at that such men as these, oppressed with poverty, of dissolute lives and extravagant views, should consult the interests of the state just as far as they were subservient to their own. They, too, whose parents had been proscribed, whose estates were confiscated, and who had been deprived of the privileges of citizens under the tyranny of Sylla, had the same expectations from a war as the others had. Moreover, all they who were of any party different from that of the senate wished rather to see the state embroiled than themselves without power: a mighty evil! which, after having lain dormant for many years, had again revived in the city.


After the tribunitian authority was restored, under the consulship of Pompey and Crassus, certain young men, whose age and spirits were vigorous and buoyant, having acquired that high dignity, began, by inveighing against the senate, to inflame the populace; then by largesses, and great promises, to heighten their rage; and thus gained great credit and power to themselves.

The greatest part of the nobility exerted their utmost efforts in opposition to them; in appearance, to support the grandeur of the senate, but, in reality, their own: for, to declare the truth in few words, all who raised commotions in the state in those days made use of specious pretences; some, to assert the rights of the people; others, to advance the authority of the senate; all to promote the public good; while every one only endeavoured to gain power to himself. Their contests were carried on without any bounds or moderation; and whatever party prevailed, made a cruel use of the victory.


But when Pompey was sent against the pirates and Mithridates, the power of the people declined, and the whole sway was in the hands of a few. These engrossed all public offices, the government of the provinces, and every thing else; lived unaccountable themselves, in great ease and security; overawed the popular magistrates with impeachments, and thus prevented them from exciting the spirit of the people. But as soon as there was any hope of a change in the state, the old contest fired the minds of the populace. And if Catiline had conquered in the first engagement, or come off but with equal loss, great distress and calamity must certainly have overwhelmed the state: nor would the conquerors have long enjoyed their victory; but, when they were weakened and exhausted, whoever had most power would have seized the government, and subverted liberty.

Some there were, however, who, though not concerned in the conspiracy, yet immediately joined Catiline. Among these was A. Fulvius, the son of a senator; who was taken on the road, brought back to the city, and put to death by his father’s orders.[27] At the same time Lentulus, in obedience to Catiline’s orders, was endeavouring to gain over, by himself or others, all such as, from their characters or circumstances, he thought proper to be employed in bringing about a revolution; not only citizens of Rome, but all that could bear arms.


Accordingly he employed one P. Umbrenus to apply to the deputies of the Allobroges,[28] and engage them, if possible, to join in the war: for he imagined, that as they were oppressed both with public and private debts, and the whole nation of the Gauls was naturally warlike, it would be no difficult matter to persuade them to enter into such a design. Umbrenus, having traded in Gaul, was known to most of the principal men in it, and acquainted with the characters. Accordingly, without any delay, as soon as he saw the deputies in the forum, after putting a few questions to them concerning the state of their nation, and affecting a deep concern for their grievances, he proceeded to ask, what issue they hoped for to their calamities? then, perceiving that they complained of the covetousness of our magistrates; that they inveighed against the senate for yielding them no protection; and that they expected from death alone a remedy to their miseries; he replied, “If you will only act like men, I will put you on a method to get rid of all your pressures.” The Allobroges, on hearing this, conceived mighty hopes, and besought Umbrenus to take pity on them; for that there was no enterprise so difficult or dangerous in which they would not with the utmost readiness engage, provided it would free their state from so vast a load of debt. He then carried them to the house of D. Brutus, which joined to the forum, and was a very proper place for such a consultation, Sempronia being an accomplice, and Brutus then from Rome. To give the greater weight to what he had to say, he sent for Gabinius, too, before whom he laid open to them the conspiracy, named all who were engaged in it, and also many innocent persons, of every rank, to give them the greater courage; and then dismissed them, after they had promised their assistance.


The Allobroges, however, were long in suspense what course to take. On one side were pressing debts, a passion for war, and the prospect of great advantages from victory: on the other, superior power, safe measures, and instead of uncertain hopes, a certain recompense. While they were thus balancing, the fortune of Rome prevailed.[29] Accordingly, they discovered all they knew of the conspiracy to Q. Fabius Sanga, on whose patronage their nation chiefly depended. Cicero, apprized of the matter by Sanga, ordered the deputies to feign a mutiny zeal for the conspiracy, to go to the rest of the accomplices, to promise largely, and endeavour to bring them under as clear conviction as possible.


Much about the same time there were commotions in Hither and Further Gaul, in the territory of Picenum, in Brutium, and Apulia. Those whom Catiline had sent into those parts acted like madmen, pushing inconsiderately all their measures at once; and by their consultations in the night-time, their carrying arms to and fro, their eager haste and precipitate proceedings, caused more alarm than danger. Many of these Q. Metellus Celer the prætor committed to prison, agreeably to the decree of the senate; as did C. Muræna in Hither Gaul, where he was deputy-governor.


At Rome, in the mean time, Lentulus, with the other heads of the conspiracy, presuming on a sufficient force, resolved that, as soon as Catiline arrived with his army in the territory of Fæsulæ, L. Bestia the tribune should assemble the people, inveigh against Cicero’s conduct, and lay the blame of so distressful a war on the best of consuls; that on this signal the whole body of the conspirators should, on the ensuing night, betake themselves to the discharge of their respective parts, which were said to be assigned them in the following manner. Statilius and Gabinius, with a considerable party, were to set fire at once to twelve of the most convenient places in the city, that in the general hurry they might the more easily reach the consul, and all those whom they designed to assassinate. Cethegus was to force Cicero’s house and put him to death; while others were employed elsewhere in the like manner: young men too there were, living as yet with their parents (mostly indeed from among the nobility), who were to kill their fathers: and when they had spread consternation and horror every where by flames and massacre, they were to march out and meet Catiline.

While they were thus resolving and forming their measures Cethegus was constantly complaining of want of spirit in his associates; that, by their irresolution and delay, they abused the fairest opportunities; that, in so dangerous an enterprise, action was more necessary than deliberation; that for himself, would a few only but support him, he would, notwithstanding the cowardice of others, attack the senate-house. As he was naturally of a daring, resolute spirit, and brave in his person, he thought the success depended on expedition.


Now the Allobroges, according to Cicero’s instructions, procured a meeting, by means of Gabinius, with the rest of the conspirators; and demanded from Lentulus, Cethegus, Statilius, and likewise from Cassius, an oath signed severally by them, to carry to their countrymen, who otherwise would not be easily prevailed on to engage in an affair of so great importance. The rest, suspecting nothing, readily granted it: but Cassius promised that he would be in their country in a short time; and accordingly left Rome a little before the deputies. In company with these Lentulus sent one Volturcius, of Crotona, that before they went home they might ratify the league with Catiline by mutual ties. He likewise gave Volturcius a letter for Catiline, in the following words:

“Who I am you will learn from him whom I have sent you. Consider your great danger, and remember you are a man: recollect what you situation requires: seek assistance from all, even the lowest.”

Besides, he gave him verbal instructions to expostulate with Catiline, “how he could reject the assistance of the slaves, when he was declared a public enemy by the senate:” to acquaint him likewise, “that all preparations were made in Rome according to his directions; and that he himself must not delay to advance.”


Cicero, on the night fixed for the departure of the deputies, from whom he had learned all, ordered the prætors, V. Flaccus, and C. Pomptinus, to lie in wait for the Allobroges at the Milvian bridge, and to secure them. He acquainted them at the same time with the reason of thus employing them, and left them to act as they should see occasion. According to orders, they posted their guards quietly, and silently beset the bridge. When the deputies and Volturcius arrived, a shout was set up on both sides, and the Gauls, soon understanding their design, immediately surrendered themselves to the prætors. Volturcius at first, encouraging his companions, defended himself with his sword against the numbers who surrounded him; but seeing himself forsaken by the deputies, he began earnestly to beseech Pomptinus, as his acquaintance, to spare his life. At last, full of dread and despair, he surrendered himself to the prætors, as if they had been foreign enemies.


Immediately on this messengers were despatched with an account of it to Cicero, who was seized at once with great joy and anxiety. He was glad to see the state rescued from ruin, by a full discovery of the conspiracy; but what perplexed him was the difficulty of knowing how to proceed against citizens of such eminence, convicted of such horrible treason. To punish them, he thought, would create him many enemies, and to let them pass unpunished would ruin the state; for which reason, arming his mind with resolution, he ordered Lentulus, Cethegus, Statilius, and Gabinius to be summoned before him; as likewise Cæparius of Terracina, who was on the point of marching to Apulia to raise the slaves. The others came immediately; but Cæparius, having gone from home a little before, and learned that all was discovered, had fled from the city. The consul took Lentulus, who was then prætor, by the hand, and conducted him to the senate, which he had assembled in the Temple of Concord, whither he ordered the rest to be brought under guard. Volturcius and the deputies were introduced into a very full assembly, and Flaccus was ordered to bring the packet of letters which he had received from them.


Volturcius, being questioned about his journey, the packet of letters, and lastly, what his design was, and from what motives he acted, made, at first, ridiculous pretences, affecting to know nothing of the conspiracy. But being promised his pardon, on the security of the public faith, he discovered every thing; and told them, that a few days before Gabinius and Cæparius had drawn him in for an associate; that he knew no more than the deputies did; only he used to hear Gabinius say that P. Autronius, Ser. Sulla, L. Vargunteius, with many more, were engaged in the conspiracy. The Gauls gave the same account; they likewise convicted Lentulus (who pretended ignorance of the whole matter) not only by his letters, but by his common discourse, “that, according to the Sibylline oracles, three of the Cornelian family should be sovereigns of Rome; that Sylla and Cinna had been so already; and he himself was now the third, appointed by the Fates to be master of the city: besides, that the present was the twentieth year from the burning of the capitol,[30] which the augurs, from several prodigies, had often foretold would produce a civil war and much bloodshed.” On this the letters were read, and the criminals having acknowledged their several seals, the senate decreed that Lentulus should lay down his office, and, together with the rest, be kept in custody. Accordingly, Lentulus was delivered to P. Lentulus Spinther, who was then ædile; Cethegus to Q. Cornificius; Statilius to C. Cæsar; Gabinius to M. Crassus; and Cæparius (who was taken in his flight, and brought back immediately before) to Cn. Terentius, a senator.


Meanwhile the populace, which at first, from their passion for a revolution, were too fond of a civil war, on discovery of the conspiracy, changed their sentiments; cursed the designs of Catiline; extolled Cicero to the skies;[31] and, like people rescued from bondage, gave themselves up to mirth and jollity: for though they expected more advantage than loss by the ordinary events of the war, yet they looked on the firing of the city as an inhuman, barbarous attempt, and extremely distressful to themselves, whose whole substance consisted in what supported them from day to day, and what they daily wore.

The day after one L. Tarquinius was brought before the senate, who was going to join Catiline, as was reported, and apprehended by the way. This man, offering to give a particular account of the conspiracy, on the security of the public faith for his pardon, was ordered by the consul to declare what he knew. He then gave the senate almost the same account Volturcius had done; of the design to fire the city; of the intended massacre of the best citizens; and of the march of the army to Rome; adding, that he was sent by Crassus to tell Catiline not to be discouraged by the apprehending of Lentulus, Cethegus, and others of the conspirators, but to make the greater haste to the city to rescue them from danger, and revive the ardour of the rest.

When Tarquinius named Crassus, a man of high quality, great riches, and vast credit in the state, they all called out that he was a false witness, and desired that it might be debated. Some thought it quite incredible; others, though they believed the charge to be true, yet thought that a person of so great influence ought at such a juncture rather to be courted than exasperated: besides, most of the senators were under private obligations to Crassus. Accordingly, it was agreed in a full senate, at the motion of Cicero, that Tarquinius’s evidence appeared to be false; that he should be ordered to prison, and confined till he discovered by whose advice he had framed so impudent a falsehood. Some there were at that time who thought that this evidence was a contrivance of P. Autronius, that Crassus, by being involved in the same danger with the rest of the conspirators, might protect them by his power. Others said that Tarquinius was urged to it by Cicero, to prevent Crassus from embroiling the state, by undertaking to protect villains, as was his custom. I heard Crassus indeed himself affirm that this contumely was fixed on him by Cicero.

Yet, at the same time, Q. Catulus and C. Piso were not able to prevail on Cicero, either by interest, importunity, or any offers whatever, to have C. Cæsar falsely accused by the Allobroges, or any other evidence: for both these great men were inveterate enemies to him; Piso, because Cæsar had obtained judgment against him for bribery, in sentencing to death a man beyond the Po unjustly; Catulus was fired with resentment, because Cæsar, though but a young man, in their competition for the office of high-priest,[32] had carried it against him in his old age, after having enjoyed the highest honours of the state. Now this they thought was a favourable opportunity to bring him under suspicion: for by his great liberality to private persons, and great largesses to the people, he had contracted vast debts. But not being able to persuade the consul to so black a crime, they themselves, by going about from man to man, and charging Cæsar with many instances of guilt, which they pretended to have heard from Volturcius and the Allobroges, brought great odium on him, insomuch that certain Roman knights who were posted about the Temple of Concord as a guard to the senate, whether struck with the greatness of the danger, or, animated by a nobler principle, to testify their zeal for the public, threatened him as he came out of the house with their drawn swords.

While these things were transacting in the senate, and rewards decreeing to the deputies of the Allobroges and Volturcius, whose discoveries were approved, the freedmen and a few of the dependents of Lentulus went into different parts of the city, some endeavouring to prevail on the slaves and workmen in the streets to rescue him by force; others searching after the ringleaders of the mob, who used for hire to raise commotions in the state. Cethegus, too, sent messengers to his domestic slaves and freedmen, fellows trained up to audacious enterprises, begging of them to form themselves into an armed body and come to his deliverance. The consul, as soon as he received information of these proceedings, placed guards, as the time and exigency required; and assembling the senate, desired to know “what they would please to determine concerning those who were now in custody?” A full senate had indeed but lately declared them public traitors. Then D. Junius Silanus, who was first asked his opinion, as being consul-elect, voted for capital punishment to be inflicted, not on the prisoners only, but likewise on L. Cassius, P. Furius, P. Umbrenus, and Q. Annius, if they should be apprehended: but afterward, yielding to the strength of Cæsar’s arguments, he declared himself of the same sentiments with Tiberius Nero, who had proposed that the guards should be strengthened and the debate adjourned. Cæsar, when asked by the consul in his turn, spoke in substance as follows:[33]


“It is the duty of all men, Conscript Fathers, in their deliberations on subjects of difficult determination, to divest themselves of hatred and affection, of revenge and pity. The mind when clouded with such passions cannot easily discern the truth; nor has any man ever gratified his own headstrong inclination and at the same time answered any valuable purpose. When we exercise our judgment only, it has sufficient force; but when passion possesses us, it bears sovereign sway, and reason is of no avail. I could produce a great many instances of kings and states pursuing wrong measures when influenced by resentment or compassion. But I had rather set before you the example of our forefathers, and show how they acted in opposition to the impulses of passion, but agreeably to wisdom and sound policy. In the war which we carried on with Perses, king of Macedonia, Rhodes, a mighty and flourishing city, which owed all its grandeur, too, to the Roman aid, proved faithless, and became our enemy: but when the war was ended, and the conduct of the Rhodians came to be taken into consideration, our ancestors pardoned them, that none might say the war had been undertaken more on account of their riches than of injuries. In all the Punic wars, too, though the Carthaginians, both in time of peace and even during a truce, had often insulted us in the most outrageous manner, yet our ancestors never improved any opportunity of retaliating; considering more what was worthy of themselves than what might in justice be done against them.

“In like manner, Conscript Fathers, ought you to take care that the wickedness of Lentulus and the rest of the conspirators weigh not more with you than a regard to your own honour; and that while you gratify your resentment you do not forfeit your reputation. If a punishment indeed can be invented adequate to their crimes, I approve the extraordinary proposal made; but if the enormity of their guilt is such that human invention cannot find out a chastisement proportioned to it, my opinion is, that we ought to be contented with such as the law has provided.

“Most of those who have spoken before me have in a pompous and affecting manner lamented the situation of the state; they have enumerated all the calamities of war, and the many distresses of the conquered; virgins and youths violated; children torn from the embraces of their parents; matrons forced to bear the brutal insults of victorious soldiers; temples and private houses plundered; all places filled with flames and slaughter: finally, nothing but arms, carcasses, blood, and lamentations to be seen.

“But, for the sake of the immortal gods, to what purpose were such affecting strains? Was it to raise in your minds an abhorrence of the conspiracy, as if he whom so daring and threatening a danger cannot move could be inflamed by the breath of eloquence? No; this is not the way: nor do injuries appear light to any one that suffers them; many stretch them beyond their due size. But, Conscript Fathers, different allowances are made to different persons: when such as live in obscurity are transported by passion to the commission of any offences, there are few who know it, their reputation and fortune being on a level: but those who are invested with great power are placed on an eminence, and their actions viewed by all; and thus the least allowance is made to the highest dignity. There must be no partiality, no hatred, far less any resentment or animosity, in such a station. What goes by the name of passion only in others, when seen in men of power, is called pride and cruelty.

“As for me, Conscript Fathers, I look on all tortures as far short of what these criminals deserve. But most men remember best what happened last; and, forgetting the guilt of wicked men, talk only of their punishment, if more severe than ordinary. I am convinced that what Decius Silanus, brave and worthy man, said, was from his zeal to the state, and that he was neither biassed by partiality nor enmity; such is his integrity and moderation, as I well know. But his proposal appears to me not indeed cruel, (for against such men what can be cruel?) but contrary to the genius of our government. Surely, Silanus, you were urged by fear, or the enormity of the treason, to propose a punishment quite new. How groundless such a fear is it is needless to show; especially when, by the diligence of so able a consul, such powerful forces are provided for our security: and as to the punishment, we may say, what indeed is the truth, that to those who live in sorrow and misery, death is but a release from trouble; that it is death which puts an end to all the calamities of men, beyond which there is no room for care and joy.[34] But why, in the name of the gods, did not you add to your proposal that they should be punished with stripes? Was it because the Porcian law forbids it?[35] But there are other laws, too, which forbid the putting to death a condemned Roman, and allow him the privilege of banishment. Or was it because whipping is a more severe punishment than death? Can any thing be reckoned too cruel or severe against men convicted of such treason? But if stripes are a lighter punishment, how is it consistent to observe the law in a matter of small concern, and disregard it in one that is of greater?

“But you will say, ‘Who will find fault with any punishment decreed against traitors to the state?’ I answer, time may, so may sudden conjunctures; and fortune too, that governs the world at pleasure. Whatever punishment is inflicted on these parricides will be justly inflicted. But take care, Conscript Fathers, how your present decrees may affect posterity. All bad precedents spring from good beginnings, but when the administration is in the hands of wicked or ignorant men, these precedents, at first just, are transferred from proper and deserving objects to such as are not so.


“The Lacedæmonians, when they had conquered the Athenians, placed thirty governors over them; who began their power by putting to death, without any trial, such as were remarkably wicked and universally hated. The people were highly pleased at this, and applauded the justice of such executions. But when they had by degrees established their lawless authority, they wantonly butchered both good and bad without distinction; and thus kept the state in awe. Such was the severe punishment which the people, oppressed with slavery, suffered for their foolish joy.

“In our own times, when Sylla, after his success, ordered Damasippus, and others of the like character, to be put to death, who did not commend him for it? All agreed that such wicked and factious instruments, who were constantly embroiling the commonwealth, were justly put to death. Yet this was an introduction to a blood massacre: for whoever coveted his fellow-citizen’s house, either in town or country, nay, even any curious vase or fine raiment, took care to have the possessor of it put on the list of the proscribed.

“Thus they who had rejoiced at the punishment of Damasippus were soon after dragged to death themselves; nor was an end put to this butchery till Sylla had glutted all his followers with riches. I do not indeed apprehend any such proceedings from M. Cicero, nor from these times. But in so great a city as ours there are various characters and dispositions. At another time, and under another consul, who may have an army too at his command, any falsehood may pass for fact; and when, on this precedent, the consul shall, by a decree of the senate, draw the sword, who is to set bounds to it? who to moderate its fury?


“Our ancestors, Conscript Fathers, never wanted conduct nor courage; nor did they think it unworthy of them to imitate the customs of other nations, if they were useful and praiseworthy. From the Samnites they learned the exercise of arms, and borrowed from them their weapons of war; and most of their ensigns of magistracy from the Tuscans: in a word, they were very careful to practise whatever appeared useful to them, whether among their allies or their enemies; choosing rather to imitate than envy what was excellent.

“Now in those days, in imitation of the custom of Greece, they inflicted stripes on guilty citizens, and capital punishment on such as were condemned: but when the commonwealth became great and powerful, and the vast number of citizens gave rise to factions; when the innocent began to be circumvented, and other such inconveniences to take place; then the Porcian and other laws were made, which provided no higher punishment than banishment for the greatest crimes. These considerations, Conscript Fathers, appear to me of the greatest weight against our pursuing any new resolution on this occasion: for surely their share of virtue and wisdom, who from so small beginnings raised so mighty an empire, far exceeds ours, who are scarce able to preserve what they acquired so gloriously.—‘What! shall we discharge the conspirators,’ you will say, ‘to reinforce Catiline’s army?’ By no means: but my opinion is this; that their estates should be confiscated; their persons closely confined in the most powerful cities of Italy; and that no one move the senate or the people for any favour towards them, under the penalty of being declared by the senate an enemy to the state and the welfare of its members.”


When Cæsar had concluded, and the rest of the senators, either by words or signs, approved or disapproved of the several proposals made, Cato, being asked his opinion, delivered it in the following strain:


“I am very differently affected, Conscript Fathers, when I view our present situation and the danger we are in, and then consider the proposals made by some senators who have spoken before me. They appear to me to have reasoned only about the punishment of those who have entered into a combination to make war on their country, on their parents, on religion and private property; whereas our present circumstances warn us rather to guard against them than to consider in what manner we shall punish them. You make take vengeance for other crimes after they are committed; but if you do not prevent the commission of this, when it is once accomplished, in vain will you have recourse to the tribunals. When the city is once taken, no resource remains to the conquered citizens.

“Now I conjure you, by the immortal gods! you who have always valued your splendid palaces, your pictures, your statues, more than the welfare of the state; if you are desirous to preserve these things, which, whatever their real value be, you are so fond of; if you would have leisure for pursuing your pleasures; rouse for once out of your lethargy, and take on you the defence of the state. The debate is not about the public revenues, nor the oppression of our allies; no, our liberties, our lives are in danger.

“Often, Conscript Fathers, have I spoken in this assembly; often have I complained of the luxury and avarice of our fellow-citizens; on which account I bear the enmity of many: I, who never indulged myself in any vice, nor even cherished the thought of any, could not easily pardon the crimes of others. And though you little regarded my remonstrances, yet the commonwealth remained firm; her native strength supported her even under the negligence of her governors. But the present debate is not about the goodness or depravity of our morals, nor about the greatness or prosperity of the Roman empire: no; it is whether this empire, such as it is, continue our own, or, together with ourselves, fall a prey to the enemy.


“And, in such a case, will any one talk of gentleness or mercy? We have long since lost the true names of things. To give away what belongs to others is called generosity; to attempt what is criminal, fortitude; and thence the state is reduced to the brink of ruin.[36] Let them, since such is the fashion of the times, be generous from the spoils of our allies; merciful to the plunderers of the treasury; but let them not be prodigal of our blood, and, by sparing a few bad citizens, destroy all the good.

“Caius Cæsar has just now spoken, with great strength and accuracy, concerning life and death; taking for fictions, I doubt not, the vulgar notions of an infernal world; where the bad, separated from the good, are confined to dark, frightful, and melancholy abodes. Accordingly, his proposal is, that their estates be confiscated, and their persons confined in the corporate towns; from an apprehension, I imagine, that if they were kept at Rome they might be rescued by force, either by their fellow-conspirators, or a mercenary mob; as if wicked and profligate persons were only to be found in this city, and not all over Italy; or as if there were not more encouragement to the attempts of the desperate where there is least strength to resist them.

“This, then, is an empty proposal, if he fears any danger from them; but if, amid this so great and universal consternation, he alone is void of fear, so much the more does it concern me to be afraid, both for myself and you.


“Hence, in determining the fate of Lentulus and the other prisoners, be assured, that you likewise determine that of Catiline’s army and all the conspirators. The more vigour and resolution you exert, so much the less spirit and courage will they have; but if they observe the least remissness in your proceedings, they will presently fall on you with fury.

“Do not think it was by arms our ancestors raised the state from so small beginnings to such grandeur: if so, we should have it in its highest lustre; as having a greater number of allies and citizens, of arms and horses, than they had. But there were other things from which they derived their greatness, such as we are entirely without. They were industrious at home, and exercised an equitable government abroad; their minds were free in council, neither swayed by crimes nor passion. Instead of these virtues, we have luxury and avarice; poverty in the state, and great wealth in the members of it: we admire riches, and abandon ourselves to idleness; we make no distinction between the virtuous and the wicked; and all the rewards of virtue are possessed by ambition. Nor is it at all strange, while each of you pursues his separate interest; while you abandon yourselves to pleasure at home, and here in the senate are slaves to money or favour, that attacks are made on the senate when thus forsaken. But no more of this.

“Romans of the highest quality have conspired to destroy their country, and are endeavouring to engage the Gauls, the sworn enemies of the Roman name, to join them. The commander of the enemy is hovering over us with an army, and yet at this very juncture you delay and hesitate how to proceed against such of the conspirators as are seized within your walls. Would you extend your compassion towards them? Be it so; they are young men only, and have offended through ambition: send them away armed too; what would be the consequence of this gentleness and mercy? Why this; when they got arms in their hands, it would prove your utter ruin.

“Our situation is indeed dangerous; but you are not afraid: yes, you are very much; only from effeminacy and want of spirit, you are in suspense, every one waiting the motions of another; trusting perhaps to the immortal gods, who have often saved this commonwealth in the greatest dangers. But assistance is not obtained from the gods by idle vows and supplications, like those of women; it is by vigilance, activity, and wise counsels that all undertakings succeed. If you resign yourselves to sloth and idleness, it will be in vain to implore the assistance of the gods; you will only provoke them to anger, and they will make you feel your unworthiness.

“In the days of our ancestors, T. Manlius Torquatus, in a war with the Gauls, ordered his son to be put to death for having engaged the enemy without orders; and thus a young man of great hopes was punished for too much bravery. And do you demur about the doom of the most barbarous parricides?

“Their present offence, perhaps, is unsuitable to their former character: show a tender regard then for the dignity of Lentulus, if you find that he himself ever showed any for his own chastity, for his honour, for gods and men; pardon Cethegus, in consideration of his youth, if this is not the second time of his making war on his country: for what need I mention Gabinius, Statilius, Cæparius? who, if they had possessed the least degree of reflection, would never have embarked in such wicked designs against the state.

“Finally, Conscript Fathers, were there any room for a wrong step on this occasion, I should suffer you to be corrected by the consequences, since you disregard my reasonings. But we are surrounded on all sides: Catiline is hovering over our heads with an army; we have enemies within the walls, and in the very heart of the city. No preparations can be made, no measures taken, without their knowledge: hence the greater reason for despatch.

“My opinion then is this: that since by a detestable combination of profligate citizens the state is brought into the greatest danger; since they are convicted, by the evidence of Volturcius, and the deputies of the Allobroges, and their own confession, to have entered into a conspiracy for destroying their fellow-citizens and native country, by slaughter, conflagration, and other unheard-of cruelties; they be put to death, according to the ancient usage, as being condemned by their own mouths.”


When Cato had done speaking, all of consular dignity, and the greatest part of the senate, indeed, applauded his opinion; extolled his resolution; and reproached one another with pusillanimity. Cato was looked on as a great and illustrious patriot; and a decree passed conformable to his proposal.

Now, as I have read and heard much of the glorious achievements of the Roman people, in war and peace, both by sea and land, I was very desirous to discover the cause to which they were principally owing. I knew that they had often, with a handful of men, engaged mighty armies: I was not ignorant, that with small forces they had carried on war against powerful princes; that they had often supported themselves under the severe buffetings of adverse fortune; that the Greeks surpassed them in eloquence, and the Gauls in military glory. And having duly weighed every cause, I was convinced that all was owing to the great virtue of some particular persons; hence it was that poverty triumphed over riches, and a handful of men prevailed over great numbers. Nay, after Rome became depraved by luxury and sloth, the commonwealth still supported herself by her native strength, under the ambition and intrigues of her magistrates and generals; even when, like a superannuated matron, she did not produce, for a long time, any citizen of distinguished merit.

Two, however, I myself remember, Cato and Cæsar, both men of great abilities, but different characters; whom, as so fair an opportunity presents itself, I would not omit to notice; but shall endeavour, in the best manner I am able, to display the temper and manners of each.[37]

As to their extraction, years, and eloquence, they were nearly equal. Both of them had the same greatness of mind, both the same degree of glory, but in different ways: Cæsar was celebrated for his great bounty and generosity: Cato for his unsullied integrity: the former became renowned by his humanity and compassion; an austere severity heightened the dignity of the latter. Cæsar acquired glory by a liberal, compassionate, and forgiving temper; as did Cato by never bestowing any thing. In the one the miserable found a sanctuary; in the other the guilty met with certain destruction. Cæsar was admired for an easy, yielding temper; Cato for his immoveable firmness. Cæsar, in a word, had formed himself for a laborious, active life; was intent on promoting the interest of his friends, to the neglect of his own; and refused to grant nothing that was worth accepting: what he desired for himself was, to have sovereign command, to be at the head of armies, and engaged in new wars, in order to display his military talents. As for Cato, his only study was moderation, regular conduct, and, above all, rigorous severity. He did not vie with the wealthy in riches, nor in turbulence with the factious; but, taking a nobler aim, he contended in valour with the brave; in modesty with the modest; in integrity with the upright; and was more desirous to be virtuous than to appear so: so that the less he courted fame the more it followed him.


When the senate had agreed to Cato’s proposal, as I have already related, the consul thought it most expedient to put the sentence in execution immediately, lest any new attempt should be made in the night, which was just at hand; and accordingly ordered the triumvirs to get every thing in readiness for it. He himself, after posting the guards, conducted Lentulus to prison, as the prætors did the rest.

There is a place in the prison, after a small descent to the left, called the Tullian dungeon, sunk about twelve feet under ground, secured on all sides with strong walls, and above with an arch of stone; a dark, noisome solitude, frightful to behold. Lentulus, being thrust down into this place, was presently strangled by the executioners appointed for that purpose. Such was the death of this noble patrician, who had borne the office of consul, and was descended from the most illustrious family of the Cornelii; a death due to his life and crimes. Cethegus, Statilius, Gabinius, and Cæparius were executed in the same manner.


During these transactions at Rome, Catiline, out of all the forces which he had carried with him, and those under the command of Manlius, formed two legions; filled up the several cohorts according to the number of his men; then distributing equally among them all the volunteers, with those who were sent him by his associates, he soon saw his legions complete;[38] though he had at first but two thousand men. But of these only a fourth part were completely armed; the rest were furnished with whatever chance threw in their way; some had darts, some spears, and others sharp stakes.

As soon as Antonius approached with his army Catiline betook himself to the mountains; one while advancing towards Rome, another towards Gaul; and by this means deprived the enemy of an opportunity of fighting him. He was indeed in daily hopes of receiving great reinforcements, if his accomplices executed their designs at Rome. In the mean time, he refused to take the slaves into his service,[39] who flocked to him in great numbers from the very beginning; trusting to the strength of the conspiracy, and likewise conceiving that it would be bad policy to appear to blend the cause of freemen with that of fugitive slaves.

But when news reached the camp that the conspiracy was discovered at Rome; that Lentulus, Cethegus, and the rest above mentioned were put to death, most of those who were tempted to take arms by the hopes of spoil, or a passion for changes, presently left him. The rest he led by long marches over steep mountains into the territory of Pistorium, with a design to escape into Cisalpine Gaul by obscure roads.

Quintus Metellus Celer, who at that time commanded three legions in the territory of Picenum, judged that Catiline, in his present difficulties, would take this very course. Accordingly, having learned from his deserters what route he had taken, he immediately decamped, and posted himself at the foot of the mountains, just where Catiline was obliged to pass in his way to Gaul. Nor was Antonius far behind, who pursued the flying rebels through ways more level, at the head of a great army. When Catiline saw himself enclosed by the mountains and two hostile armies; that his designs had miscarried in the city; that there was neither hope of escaping nor receiving any succour; he thought his best way, in such a situation, was to try the fortune of a battle, and determined to engage Antonius as soon as possible. Accordingly, assembling his troops, he spoke to them in the following manner:


“I have learned by experience, fellow-soldiers, that words cannot inspire courage, nor a general’s speech render a spiritless army brave and intrepid. Every man displays in battle just so much courage as nature or habit has given him, and no more. It is to no purpose to exhort him whom neither glory nor danger can animate; his fear deprives him of his hearing. I have assembled you, fellow-soldiers, to instruct you in a few particulars, and to lay before you the grounds of my final resolution.

“You all know what a dreadful calamity Lentulus, by his slow and spiritless conduct, has brought on himself and us; and how I have been prevented from marching into Gaul, by waiting for reinforcements from Rome. In what posture our affairs now are you all see.


“Two armies, one from Rome, another from Gaul, obstruct our motions. Want of provisions and other necessaries will not allow us to make any longer stay here, were we ever so desirous of doing it. To whatever place you think of marching, you must open yourselves a passage with your swords. I conjure you then to summon up all your courage; to act like men resolute and undaunted; to remember, when you engage, that you carry in your hands riches, honour, and glory; nay, even your liberty and your country. If we overcome, all will be safe; we shall have plenty of provisions; the corporate towns and colonies will be all ready to receive us. But if we fail through fear, the very reverse will be our fate; nor will any place or friend protect those whose arms could not. Let me add to this, my fellow-soldiers, that we have different motives to animate us from what the opposite army has. We fight for our country, for our liberty, for our lives; they, for no interest of their own, but only to support the power of a few. Let this consideration, then, engage you to fall on them the more courageously, remembering your former bravery.

“We might, indeed, have passed our days, with the utmost infamy, in banishment: some of you too might have lived at Rome, depending for your subsistence on others, after having lost your own estates. But such a condition appearing infamous and intolerable to men of spirit, you resolved on the present course. If you repent of the step, it is necessary to remind you, that even to secure a retreat, the firmest valour is still indispensable. Peace must be procured by victory alone, not by a grovelling cowardice. To hope for security from flight, where you have turned from the enemy the arms which serve to defend you, is the height of madness. In battle, the most cowardly are always in most danger: courage is a wall of defence. When I consider your characters, fellow-soldiers, and reflect on your past achievements, I have great hopes for victory: your spirit, your age, your virtue encourage me; and our necessity, too, which even inspires cowards with bravery: for the straitness of our situation will prevent the enemy’s numbers from surrounding us. But should fortune envy your bravery, be sure you fall not without taking due vengeance on the enemy; suffer not yourselves to be taken a slaughtered like cattle; but fight rather like men, and leave the enemy a bloody and mournful victory.”[40]


Pausing a little after this speech, he ordered the trumpets to sound to battle; and led down his forces in their ranks to the plain.[41] Then sending away all the horses, by making the danger of all equal, he himself, on foot, drew up his army in order of battle, according to its number and the nature of the place. For as there lay a plain on his left, bounded by the mountains, and a steep rock on his right, he placed eight cohorts in his front, and the rest he posted in closer order to support them.

From among these he drew out the choicest centurions, the honorary veterans, and the bravest and best armed of the common soldiers, and placed them in the front. He appointed Manlius to command the right, and a native of Fæsulæ[42] the left; he himself, with his freedmen, and such troops as he had raised in the colonies, stood by the eagle;[43] the same which Marius was said to have had in his army in the Cimbrian war.

On the other side, Antonius, being seized by the gout, was unable to be present at the engagement, and gave the command to Marcus Petreius, his lieutenant-general.

He posted the veteran cohorts, which he had raised on this occasion, in the front; and the rest of his army behind them as a body of reserve. He himself rode from rank to rank, and addressing himself to his men by their names, entreated and conjured them “to remember that they were now to engage against unarmed robbers in defence of their gods, their country, their children, and their property.” As he was an old soldier, having served in the army upwards of thirty years, as tribune, præfect, lieutenant-general, or prætor, and that with distinguished renown, he knew most of the soldiers and their gallant actions; and by calling these to remembrance, he roused their courage.


Petreius, having taken all his measures with the utmost precaution, sounded to battle, and ordered his cohorts to advance slowly: the enemy did the same. But when they were come near enough for the light-armed soldiers to begin the fight, they set up a mighty shout, rushed with great fury into a close engagement, and laying aside their darts, made use of their swords only. The veterans, mindful of their former bravery, pressed vigorously on the rebels, who made a bold resistance; so that the fight was maintained with great obstinacy. Catiline was all the while in the first line, at the head of a light-armed body; sustaining such as were severely pressed; putting fresh men in the room of those who were wounded; providing for every exigence; often charging the enemy in person; and performing at once the duty of a brave soldier and a great commander.

Petreius, when he found that Catiline, contrary to his expectations, exerted himself with great vigour, brought up the prætorian cohort against his main body, broke their ranks, and made great slaughter of them, as he did likewise of the others who maintained their ground elsewhere. Then he fell on both the wings at once. Manlius and the other office from Fæsulæ were both killed, fighting in the foremost rank. Catiline, when he saw his forces routed, and himself left with a few only, mindful of his birth and former dignity, rushed headlong into the thickest of the enemy, where he fell covered with wounds, and fighting to the last.


When the engagement was ended, it evidently appeared with what undaunted spirit and resolution Catiline’s army was fired: for the body of every one was found on that very spot which, during the battle, he had occupied; those only excepted who were forced from their posts by the prætorian cohort; and even they, though they fell a little out of their ranks, were all wounded before. Catiline himself was found far from his own men, amid the dead bodies of the enemy, breathing a little, with an air of that fierceness still in his face which he had when alive. Finally, in all his army there was not so much as one free citizen taken prisoner, either in the engagement or in the flight; for they spared their own lives as little as those of the enemy. The army of the republic obtained the victory indeed; but it was neither a cheap nor a joyful one; for their bravest men were either slain in battle or dangerously wounded. As there were many, too, who went to view the field, either out of curiosity or a desire of plunder, in turning over the dead bodies, some found a friend, some a relation, and some a guest; others there were likewise who discovered their enemies: so that through the whole army there appeared a mixture of gladness and sorrow, joy and mourning.


  1. The Abbé Thyvon and M. Beauzée contend that by the word virtus, in the original, the historian obviously meant “genius, ability, distinguished talents.”
  2. “He alone,” says Seneca, “can be truly said to live, who devotes himself to some purpose of usefulness and activity. The man who indulges in apathy, and sinks into forgetfulness, renders his house like a sepulchre, in which he is virtually entombed.”
  3. The house of the Sergii, and not from that of the Cornelii, as stated by some authors.
  4. Cicero describes him as the most striking compound of contrary qualities; horribly depraved, but wonderfully versatile; and, if not actually possessed of virtue, yet ingenious, on every occasion, to assume its semblance, to seduce its adherents, and to turn the arts by which it is displayed to the most flagitious purposes.
  5. Pericles, according to Thucydides, ascribes a similar conduct to the Athenians; and the historian then adds the following reflection: “He who confers an obligation on another is ever the surest to continue steady in his friendship. The same benevolent temper which prompted him to serve his friend will generate a wish to continue the kindness, and secure his attachment. But the man who labours under the weight of an obligation experiences a feeling of far less alacrity: gratitude, with him, is not an effort of generosity, but the repayment of a debt.”
  6. The first senate at Rome consisted of one hundred members, chosen from among the nobles, and was called the Perpetual Council of the State.
  7. The profligate conduct of Sextus Tarquinius towards Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, occasioned this revolution. The wrongs of Lucretia were avenged by the people; and her character has descended to posterity as an example of female chastity and virtue.
  8. When they had completed their seventeenth year, and sometimes earlier, according to Vegetius.
  9. The Romans bestowed the brightest rewards and the most honourable distinctions to promote valour in the field; hence they were never surpassed in acts of heroism.
  10. During the first five centuries they were averse to the cultivation of eloquence or literature, which, as Cicero observes, are incompatible with war and tumult, with the caprice of tyranny, or the changefulness of revolutions.
  11. Polybius attributes the success of the Romans to their military discipline; he says, the man who served from his rank in the day of battle was uniformly punished with death.
  12. Horace complains, that such was the number of princely palaces which rose at the command of the rich and great, that they threatened to abridge the labours of the husbandman; and even the fish of the sea felt their element contracted by the piles of building which were raised in it.
  13. The Roman laws against bribery and corruption, instituted to secure the freedom of elections, were very severe: by that of Cicero, delinquents were rendered liable to banishment for ten years.
  14. The particulars of Catiline’s discourse, of which it is difficult to conceive how the historian acquired any very certain information, are well imagined, and agree with Cicero’s account of the proceeding.
  15. Florus, Plutarch, and others seem to credit the authenticity of this circumstance.
  16. M. T. Cicero was the first of his family who attained to the honours of the state: he was one of the most eminent statesmen, and certainly the greatest orator, philosopher, and critic, that Rome ever produced. He was born at Arpinum, which had formerly been the birthplace of Caius Marius. This inconsiderable town may be truly said to have boasted of men who exemplified the character given by the younger Pliny of true glory, “by doing what deserved to be written, or by writing what deserved to be read.”
  17. Singing and dancing were not disreputable among the ancient Romans: they were practised, not only at festivals, but in religious ceremonies. The historian must therefore be understood to apply this remark to Sempronia’s want of modesty.
  18. Within the city, even military officers were not, by law, permitted to carry arms: the conspirators must therefore have concealed their poniards or daggers.
  19. One of the most eminent and virtuous patriots of this period, who greatly assisted Cicero in putting down the conspiracy.
  20. About 807l. 5s. 10d. sterling.
  21. The gladiators were men selected from among condemned malefactors, captives, unmanageable slaves, and other ruffians, who were trained to fight for the entertainment of the people. These combats were first exhibited by the sons of Brutus, at the funeral of their father; and the custom seems to have originated in the superstitious notion that the manes of the deceased were appeased, and rendered propitious, by the spilling of human blood. As the Romans were delighted with such exhibitions, they were not long confined to funerals, but restored to on almost every public occasion; and a taste for these bloody spectacles continued to prevail down to the time of Constantine, when it yielded, at length, to the mild spirit of Christianity. But shows of gladiators were not completely suppressed until the reign of Honorius.
  22. This was the first of his celebrated orations against Catiline, which was pronounced without premeditation, and gives a high idea of the readiness and genius of the great orator. The feelings of Cicero were, with good reason, strongly excited: the state of the city; his own personal danger; the daring attack on his house, made but the morning before; the presence of some of the conspirators; all conspired to raise his indignation to the highest pitch.
  23. Plutarch confirms the account given by Sallust of the manner in which Catiline received this tremendous attack; and adds, that when he entered the senate, and took his seat, none of the members remained on that side of the house.
  24. The want of sufficient evidence, according to Appian, prevented the seizure of Catiline. He therefore set out, during the night, to join Manlius at Fæsulæ, previously directing his accomplices to endeavour to assassinate Cicero and set fire to Rome.
  25. The army of Manlius was chiefly composed of men who had like himself amassed considerable wealth under Sylla, but which they had dissipated; they were involved in pecuniary difficulties; and there was no class of men against whom the laws were more severe than against debtors. If they could not pay a creditor, or give him ample security, they were given up as slaves. By the laws of the Twelve Tables it was ordained, that when there were several creditors, as it was impossible to satisfy them all, the body of the debtor could even be cut to pieces for that purpose. The greatest severities were also practised at Athens for the recovery of debts: not only the debtor himself, but his children could be seized and sold as slaves in foreign countries, to reimburse the usurer.
  26. When the news reached Rome of Catiline’s arrival at the camp of Manlius, the whole senate went into mourning, a measure which was usual only in seasons of public calamity; and Dion Cassius says, that the resolution adopted by Cicero, of remaining in the city, and generously giving up his own province to his colleague Antonius, proved, in a great degree the salvation of the commonwealth.
  27. By the laws of Rome parents possessed an exorbitant power over their children. A father could with impunity suffer his infant son to perish. When grown up, he could imprison, send him bound to work in the country, or even put him to death, without assigning a cause. A son could acquire no property without the consent of his father: so that with a parent of a cruel or capricious temper the condition of a slave was, in some respects, more tolerable. A slave could be freed or emancipated by a single act; but a son, in order to become free, or his own master, was first to be sold into slavery, usually to a friend, and then resold by that friend to the father; after which, being on the footing of a slave, he was to be manumitted with the same formalities. When the son was promoted to any public office the parental authority was suspended, by no means abolished; for it continued to be exercised during the father’s life, not only over his children, but over his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. A daughter, by marriage, passed from the power of her father to that of her husband. In later times the rigour of these institutions was considerably mitigated.
  28. A people of Gaul, who inhabited what is now called Dauphiny together with Savoy, Chablais, and Foucigny.
  29. Cicero, in his third oration against Catiline, addressed to the people, notices this as a singularly fortunate occurrence to the commonwealth. “Your homage and gratitude to the gods have been often due, but never more justly than in the present juncture.”
  30. The capitol was three times destroyed by fire: first, in the time of Sylla’s wars, and this is probably the period alluded to; secondly, during the wars of Vitellius, when it was rebuilt by Vespasian, at whose death it suffered a third time, and was again repaired and decorated by Domitian.
  31. Transports of joy were now manifested by all ranks, although the historian appears to confine them to the populace. Cicero received the thanks of the senate, and was hailed as the “father of his country;” a title which no man except himself ever received during the republic, and which the best of the emperors considered as their most distinguished honour.
  32. The ministers of religion did not form a distinct order in the state, but were usually chosen from among the citizens of the highest rank.
  33. The speeches of Cæsar and Cato on this occasion, which have been justly ranked as masterpieces of ancient composition, must not be considered merely as the productions of the historian. It is generally admitted that both were addressed to the senate in nearly such terms.
  34. From the tenor of this passage many writers have been induced to believe that Cæsar inclined to the doctrines of Epicurus; to which Sallust is said to have opposed his own belief of a future state of rewards and punishments.
  35. The ancient mode of inflicting capital punishment among the Romans was, after stripping the criminal naked, to fix his head by means of a forked piece of wood, and in that situation to scourge him to death. To avoid such a barbarous punishment the Emperor Nero, who was condemned to suffer it, put himself to death.—The Porcian law, here alluded to, prohibited magistrates from punishing a citizen with death, and substituted in its stead banishment and confiscation of property.
  36. In this and other instances Sallust draws closely after Thucydides, who, in the third book of his History, makes a similar complaint against one of the most corrupt periods of the Grecian manners.
  37. The idea of bringing the characters of Cato and Cæsar into comparison did not originate with Sallust. A few years before, A.U. 707, Cicero wrote “A Eulogium on Cato,” in which he took an elaborate review of the life of that extraordinary man, in his private, his political and moral character, and extolled him in the warmest terms, as having left no equal behind him. This tract gave rise to much controversy on the subject; and the names of these great men being brought into competition, in a celebrated period, their merits formed a sort of political test to every succeeding age of the empire.
  38. In the time of Polybius the Roman legion consisted of four thousand two hundred men; but under Julius Cæsar, and the succeeding emperors, it extended to no fewer than six thousand, or six thousand one hundred, together with the usual complement of three hundred horse. Each legion was divided into ten cohorts, each cohort into three maniples, and each maniple into two centuries. When the century consisted, as its name imports, of a hundred men, the complement of six thousand was accurately made out. According to this establishment, Catiline’s forces did not exceed twelve thousand six hundred men.
  39. This was consistent with the policy of the Romans: they considered that the commonwealth could never be defended, except by men who felt some interest in its preservation. Slaves were therefore prohibited, under pain of death, from joining the army.
  40. It would be difficult to select from any ancient historian an address from a general to his soldiers equal to the speech of Catiline. That which Tacitus gives to Galgacus, in the Life of Agricola, has been often extolled; but, with the reader of taste, it will not stand the comparison, either for vigour, or spirit, or perfect verisimilitude.
  41. The battle of Pistoria, which this action has been called, derived its name from Pistoria, now Pistoia, a considerable district and town in Tuscany. The latter is situated on the river Stella, about twenty miles north-west of Florence.
  42. This person is named Furius by Plutarch; and Cicero makes mention of him as one of the ringleaders of the conspiracy.
  43. The Romans made use of various devices as standards, or colours; the eagle only was composed of metal, often of gold or silver, and was worshipped by the soldiers with religious reverence.


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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.

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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