Cicero's First Speech Against Catiline
Penguin Classics edition, translation and comments by Michael Grant
On 21 October 63 B.C. Cicero's excellent intelligence service - including the mistress of one of the conspirators - enabled him to inform a startled Senate that six days later a rebellion under Catilina's henchman Gaius Manlius would break out at Faesulae (Fiesole) in Etruria; that on 28 October there would be an extensive massacre at Rome, and that on 1 November the rebels would attempt to take Praeneste (Palestrina) by surprise. He profited by the alarm caused by this news to persuade the Senate to pass the formal Emergency Decree, charging the consuls to see that no harm befell the Republic; and of this more will be heard in connection with the Fourth Speech.
Cicero's consular colleague Gaius Antonius Hybrida did nothing, and was indeed strongly suspected of Catilinarian sympathies. Cicero also did nothing much at first, for he was not by nature a man of action. But then events enabled, or forced, him to move. First, Crassus brought him an anonymous letter he had received: it gave warning that a massacre was indeed imminent. Then another, Senator, Lucius Saenius, read out in the Senate a letter indicating that Manlius had taken the field at Faesulae on precisely the day which Cicero had foretold. Military counter-measures were taken, and Cicero recruited a large and vigorous bodyguard of the knights who were his strong supporters.
Cicero now convened an extraordinary meeting of the Senate for 7 November. He was able to provide a sensational new piece of information. For he had learnt that on the previous night Catilina, still in Rome, and ostensibly in voluntary custody (to disarm suspicion), had summoned a secret conference of the conspirators, at which according to the orator - who is no doubt, as usual, exaggerating, but probably this time not too much - the most treasonable and violent designs were formed. The Senate's meeting was particularly dramatic because Catilina thought it advisable to attend in person, as a bluff to display his good intentions, and so he sat listening to Cicero's violent abuse.
The speech was a triumph because it convinced the Senate, whose members (though unwilling to sit anywhere near Catilina) had at first been incredulous of the plot and reluctant to act, that the danger, was a real one; and as open hostility broke out against Catilina, he got up and walked out. But before leaving the meeting, according to Sallust, he spoke up for himself, at first quietly denying all charges and recalling his family's services to the state, then sneering at Cicero as an upstart "resident alien", and finally, when faced with angry cries, shouting back ferocious threats in a fury and rushing from the temple where the meeting was held. But it is, in fact, doubtful whether Cicero and Catilina each delivered a single speech in turn. Probably there was much excitable give-and-take, what the Romans called altercatio: the oration which has come down to us being a written-up version of the points which Cicero made during this exchange, perhaps with a few more added by hindsight after the event.
Nevertheless, the speech as we have it still ends with something of an anti-climax, because after a recital of Catilina's allegedly horrible record and intentions Cicero concludes with a rather tame suggestion that he should relieve Rome of his presence. Probably, however, the anti-climax was an authentic feature of what he had actually said, and was calculated: the Senate was supposed to reply, "No; no, arrest him immediately!" But when it was clear that the Senators were not going to react in this way, Cicero managed, as practised orators do when they see they are not going to achieve their first aim, to score another success instead. For Catilina, bated beyond endurance and no doubt alarmed that his movements might soon be restricted, not only left the meeting but immediately departed from Rome altogether and moved off to join his associates in Etruria, thus convincing many who had previously been skeptical that his plans were as treasonable as Cicero maintained, and inducing the Senate to declare him a public enemy.
THE FIRST SPEECH
Delivered to the Senate
In the name of heaven, Catilina, how long do you propose to exploit our patience? Do you really suppose that your lunatic activities are going to escape our retaliation for evermore? Are there to be no limits to this audacious, uncontrollable swaggering? Look at the garrison of our Roman nation which guards the Palatine by night, look at the patrols ranging the city, the whole population gripped by terror, the entire body of loyal citizens massing at one single spot! Look at this meeting of our Senate behind strongly fortified defences(1), see the expressions on the countenances of every one of these men who are here! Have none of these sights made the smallest impact on your heart? You must be well aware that your plot has been detected. Now that every single person in this place knows all about your conspiracy, you cannot fail to realize it is doomed. Do you suppose there is a single individual here who has not got the very fullest information about what you were doing last night and the night before, where you went, the men you summoned, the plans you concocted?
What a scandalous commentary on our age and its standards! For the Senate knows about all these things. The consul sees them being done. And yet this man still lives! Lives? He walks right into the Senate. He joins in our national debates - watches and notes and marks down with his gaze each one of us he plots to assassinate. And we, how brave we are! Just by getting out of the way of his frenzied onslaught, we feel we are doing patriotic duty enough.
But yours was the death which the consul should have ordered long ago. The calamity which you have long been planning for each one of us ought to have rebounded on to yourself alone. The noble Publius Scipio Nasica,(2) who was chief priest but held no administrative office, killed Tiberius Gracchus, although his threat to the national security was only on a limited scale. Shall we, then, who hold the office of consuls, tolerate Catilina when he is determined to plunge the entire world into fire and slaughter? Upon precedents that go too far back into antiquity, such as the act of Gaius Servilius Ahala(3) who with his own hand slew Spurius Maelius for plotting a revolution, I shall not dwell: except to say that atformer epochs, in this country of ours, brave men did not lack the courage to strike down a dangerous Roman citizen more fiercely even than they struck down the bitterest of foreign foes. Moreover, we have in our hands, Catilina, a decree of the Senate that is specifically aimed against yourself; and a formidable and stern decree it is.(4) From this body, then, the state has no lack of counsel and authority. I tell you frankly; it is we, the consuls, who are not doing our duty.
The Senate once ordained that Lucius Opimius,(5) who was at that time consul, should take measures to protect the state from harm. Thereafter, not one single night was allowed to elapse. Because of a mere suspicion of treason, Gaius Gracchus, the son, grandson and descendant of highly distinguished men, was put to death. A man of consular rank, Marcus Fulvius, was also killed, and so were his children. A similar resolution of the Senate entrusted the national safety to the consuls Gaius Marius and Lucius Valerius; and thereafter not one day went by before the vengeance of the state brought a violent end to the tribune of the people Lucius Saturninus and the praetor Gaius Servilius.(6)
But look at us, on the other hand. For the past twenty days we have allowed the powers which the Senate has given into our grasp to become blunt at the edges. We have an entirely appropriate decree - but it is left buried in the archives like a sword hidden in its sheath. According to this decree, Catilina, it is evident to all that you should have been instantly executed. And yet you are still alive - and living with an effrontery which bears not the smallest sign of subsiding and is indeed more outrageous than ever.
Members of the Senate, my desire is to be merciful. Yet in this grave national emergency I also do not want to seem negligent; and as things are I blame myself for culpable inaction. Inside Italy, within the passes of Etruria, there is a camp occupied by men who plan the destruction of the Roman people. The number of these enemies increases every day. But as for the real commander of that camp, the leader of the hostile force, he is to be seen within our own walls and even inside the Senate itself, plotting every day, from this interior vantage point, some form of ruin for our country. If, therefore, Catilina, I order your arrest and execution, surely all honest men will complain, not that I am acting with undue brutality; but that I have delayed too long.
Yet there is a particular reason why I still cannot bring myself to do what I ought to have done long ago. For I intend that your execution shall be timed to coincide with that day when even the most abandoned rascals, the people most resembling yourself, will be admitting one and all that this is your just fate. As long as one man exists who can dare to defend you, you will continue to live - and live as you are living now, surrounded by large numbers of my trusty guards whose duty it is to ensure that you make no move against the government. Although you may not know it, many eyes and ears will be paying you their alert attention. They have been doing so already.
For now, Catilina, your hopes must obviously be at an end. The darkness of night no longer avails to conceal your traitorous consultations. A private house does not suffice to keep the voices of your conspiracy secret.(7) Everything is patently apparent. It all bursts out into the open; you are forced to give up the whole outrageous design. So do as I say: dismiss all those projects of carnage and conflagration from your mind. You are hemmed in on every side. All your schemes are more glaringly evident to us than the light of day.
Let us just go over them together. Do you remember how I said in the Senate on the twenty-first of October that Gaius Manlius, your henchman and satellite in this frightful project, would take up arms on a particular date, and that the date in question would be the twenty-seventh of October? Was I mistaken, Catilina, in prophesying this significant, deplorable and unbelievable event? And, more remarkable still, was I wrong about the day? I also informed the Senate that you had put off the massacre of our national leaders until the twenty-eighth of October, although by that time many of the chief men in the state had fled from Rome, less from a desire for self-preservation than in order to thwart your plans. But you went around saying that, in spite of their departure, you would still be content with the slaughter of the rest of us who remained. After that admission of failure, you cannot very well deny that my guards and my vigilant attentions encompassed you so completely that you were quite unable to take any effective revolutionary action. When you were confident you would be able to seize Praeneste on the first of November by a night attack, you had no idea that the town was defended, on my orders, by my police and garrisons and protective forces. No single thing you do, nothing you attempt or even contemplate, escapes my notice. I hear and see and plainly understand your every move.
Review with me what happened on the night before last, and you will appreciate that I watch for the safety of our country far more keenly even than you watch for its destruction. I am able to report how on that night you came into Scythe-makers' Street (I will be perfectly specific) and entered the home of Marcus Laeca: and many of your accomplices in this lunatic, criminal enterprise joined you there. Do you dare to deny it? What can be the reason for your silence? But indeed, if you attempt a denial, I will prove that it is true. For here in the Senate today I can see with my own eyes some of the men who were with you in that house.
By heaven, Senators, it is difficult to imagine where on earth we can be, or what sort of a system of government is ours, or what kind of a city we inhabit, when there are men sitting here among ourselves, in this most solemn and dignified of all the world's assemblies, who are actually plotting the destruction of every single one of us, and of all Rome, and of everything upon the face of the earth! I, the consul, am gazing upon them now; they are taking part in this national debate. They ought to have been put to death by the sword. And yet, so far, I have not even succeeded in marking them with a verbal wound.
So you were at Laeca's house that night, Catilina. You parcelled out the regions of Italy. You decided where you wanted each of your agents to go. You chose the men to leave at Rome and the men you would take with you. You divided up the city into sections for the benefit of the incendiaries. You confirmed that you yourself would be leaving, and added that the only thing which still held you back for a bit was the fact that I was still alive. But two Roman knights(8) were found to relieve you of this worry. They promised they would kill me in my bed during that same night, a little before dawn. However, almost before your meeting dispersed, I knew about all these projects. Thereupon I proceeded to strengthen and fortify my home with an increased number of bodyguards; and the individuals you had sent me, to convey the morning's greetings, were refused admission. I had foretold the arrival of these visitors to many leading personages. And the men made their appearance at the very hour I had indicated.
Since that is the position, Catilina, I call upon you to leave for the destination you already have in mind. Depart, at last, from our city! The gates are open; be on your way. Your camp run by Manlius has been waiting all too long for you to take over its command. And take all your friends with you, or as many as you can - clean the city up. Once there is a wall between you and ourselves, you will have delivered me from grave anxiety. With us, you can remain no longer. I find it unendurable that you should still be here: unendurable, intolerable, impermissible.
Profound thanks are owed to the immortal gods, and particularly to Jupiter the Stayer in this very place, the most ancient guardian of our city, because we have already on so many occasions proved able to ward off this most ferocious and appalling and deadly menace to our country. But there is a limit to the number of times when one can allow the supreme national safety to be imperilled by a single individual. All. the time you were intriguing against me while I was consul elect, Catilina, I employed no official guard to defend me, but only my own private security measures. And then after I had become consul, when at the last consular elections(9) you wanted to kill both myself and your own rival candidates in the Campus Martius, I thwarted your murderous scheme by the assistance and resources of my friends, without raising any public alarm of war. In a word, every time that you attacked me, although I was well aware that my death would be a disaster to our state, I employed only my own unaided endeavours to frustrate your plots.
But now it is different: for now you are openly attacking our whole existence, and calling down destruction and devastation upon the temples of the immortal gods, the habitations of our city, the lives of every citizen, and Italy in all its parts. Even so, I still do not venture to perform what ought to be my very first action, the action most in keeping with this authority I hold and with the traditions of ancient times. But instead I shall adopt a course which is at the same time more lenient and more expedient to our common welfare. For if I order you to be killed, the rest of your conspirators will still remain embedded in our public life. But if you leave Rome, as I have long been urging you to do, the city will be relieved of those copious, pestilential dregs of the community who are your accomplices. Well, Catilina? That is what you were just going to do in any case, of your own accord; so I am unable to see why you take your time in going, when that is precisely the course which I, too, propose that you should adopt. The consul orders a public enemy to leave the city. Into banishment? you ask. That is not part of my order. But, if you ask my opinion, it is what I advise.(10)
For within this city today, Catilina, there is nothing that could give you satisfaction any more. Apart from your own degraded band of fellow-conspirators, no man exists who does not hold you in fear and detestation. Your life is marked with every sort of scandalous blot. There is no imaginable form of dishonour which does not stain your private affairs. No bounds can be set to the lecheries your eyes have witnessed, the atrocities your hands have committed, the iniquities into which every part of your body has been plunged. Your insidious seductions, that trapped one young man after another, have left them well equipped for a career of dreadful crime, or thoroughly stimulated to pursue a life of unrestrained sensuality. And then again, think of the time when by means of your former wife's death you ensured that your house should be vacated and free for a further marriage. You supplemented that ghastly deed by another so appalling that it is scarcely believable.(11) But I pass the incident over and gladly allow it to be veiled in silence, because I cannot bear people to say that such a horror could have been perpetrated in this country without receiving the smallest retribution of any kind. I say nothing, either, about the financial ruin into which you will be plunged upon the thirteenth of this month.(12)
Instead, I shall turn to the matters which relate not to the squalor of your personal depravities, not to the sordid tangle of your personal affairs, but to the supreme interests of our commonwealth, and the life and safety of every one of us. It is hard to see, Catilina, how you can derive any satisfaction from this daylight that you see around you, this air you breathe. For you must realize that, out of all these men seated here, not one single person is unaware how during the consulship of Lepidus and Tullus, when you took your place in the Assembly on the last day of December(13) you were illegally carrying arms. You had got together a group determined to strike down the leading men of the state, including the two consuls themselves; and what prevented this mad crime from being carried out was no sanity or nervousness of yours, but the good fortune that favours the people of Rome.
Of other offences I say nothing, because they are well known, and in any case many more have been added since they were committed. There are all your attempts, for example, to kill myself, when I was consul elect, and again when I had assumed the consulship. Many of your thrusts were so lethal that it seemed they could not fail to hit their mark. All the same, by some sort of sideways movement or dodge, I managed to elude them. For your plans, in fact, do not work; you achieve nothing. But that does not seem to stop you from trying and hoping. Many a time, already, that dagger has been swept from your hands, and many a time, too, it has slipped out of them and fallen by some mere chance. And yet you still cannot endure to be parted from the weapon for one single day. I do not like to think of the rituals you must have performed in order to hallow and dedicate the blade for its appointed task: the task of being plunged into the body of a Roman consul.
And now let us speak of this life you are leading. I shall show, by what I say, that I am not impelled by hatred - although I ought to be. On the contrary, I am moved by pity, which you do not deserve. A little while ago, you walked into the Senate. Here was this large gathering of members; here were many friends and relatives of your own. And yet, out of all these men, which one offered you a single word of greeting? Within all human memory no one else has been treated in such a way. When this is what happens; do you have to wait for the hostility to be expressed in words as well? The blow against you has already been struck - by that terrible verdict of silence.
And then again, when you arrived inside the Senate, every seat anywhere near your own was promptly vacated. As soon as you took your place, all the former consuls, whom you have repeatedly marked down for assassination, left that entire area of seats unoccupied and empty. Well, how does this make you' feel? I really believe that, if my slaves were as scared of me as all your fellow-citizens are scared of you, I should be forced to leave my home altogether. Do you not have a comparable feeling - that you ought to go away from the city? If I saw that my fellow-citizens held me in such suspicion and loathing, even unjustly, I should not be able to face their hostile looks; I should depart outside their range. As for yourself, you know your own crimes well enough to understand that the universal hatred which men feel for you is justified, and has long been no more than your due. How, then, can you hesitate to flee from the gaze and presence of the men who are the victims of your persecution and torment?
If your parents feared and hated you, and you could find no way to pacify them, surely you would withdraw somewhere out of their sight. And now you are feared and hated by your country, the common parent of us all: for, indeed, she is convinced that your one idea is her assassination. Can it be that you feel no reverence at all for her authority, or deference to her judgement - or, for that matter, fear of her strong hand? Imagine her pleading with you in silent eloquence. `For years past,' she will say, `there has not been one single abomination or outrage for which anyone has been responsible apart from yourself. By your own agency you have slain many Roman citizens. You have harassed and plundered our allies.(14) And you have done all this in freedom and with impunity. Indeed, you have contrived not merely to ignore our laws and courts altogether, but to beat them down and shatter them into fragments. I ought not to have tolerated your earlier offences; yet I did. But now that I am stricken through and through with terror, entirely because of yourself, now that every sound I hear inspires me with dread of Catilina, now that your evil spirit is behind every sort of conspiracy against my life, I can bear it no longer. Therefore be gone, and relieve me of anxiety. If there is reason for my alarm, your departure will save me from destruction - and even if it is baseless, once you are away I shall at long last be freed from my fears.'
If our country spoke to you in such terms, ought not her plea to be granted, even if she did not have the power to back it with force?
It is significant that you actually gave yourself voluntarily into custody, declaring that you wished to live in the house of Manius Lepidus in order to avoid suspicion. When he refused to receive you, you even had the audacity to come to myself and ask me to keep you at my house. But I replied that, since I was in the utmost peril while the two of us were even inside the same city, I should feel the very opposite of safe if we were together within a single house. Accordingly you went on to Quintus Metellus the praetor. When he likewise rebuffed you, your next visit was to your own marvellous associate Marcus Metellus.(15) How convinced you must have been that he would guard you most diligently, eye you with the very keenest suspicion, and intrepidly enforce against you the full rigours of the law! But when a man is himself so sure that he deserves to be under arrest, it is evident enough that prison chains ought not to be very far away.
So, then, Catilina, if you cannot die with a good grace, you ought at the very least to take yourself off with great alacrity to some other land, and having thus saved your life from a host of just and amply merited penalties, resign it to a future of exile and solitude.
`Refer the matter to the Senate,' you say. That is your demand, and if the Senate decides you should go into exile(16) you declare you will obey. I shall not refer it to them, for a step as rigorous as that would be against my principles. And yet all the same I propose to let you see what the Senators think of you. Get out of Rome, Catilina. Spare our country, this feeling of panic. Go into exile, if that is the word you are waiting to hear. Note and mark well how silent the Senators are. Their silence means that they agree; and when you see their wishes expressed without a sound, what need is there to wait for the spoken word?
If I had addressed the excellent Publius Sestius or the gallant Marcus Marcellus in these terms, the Senate would have been entirely justified in laying violent hands upon me in this very temple, consul though I am. But since it is yourself who are concerned, Catilina, their absence of words means approval, their acquiescence amounts to a formal resolution, their silence is the equivalent of a mighty cry. Nor does this apply only to the Senators, whose opinions you plainly value, though you rate their lives low. For the same is true also of the loyal, honourable Roman knights and other staunch citizens who are standing round outside this meeting. You had a sight of their large numbers just now. Their passionate feelings were paraded before your eyes; and you also heard clearly enough what they were shouting. For quite a time I have been hard put to it to keep their hands and weapons of you. When you quit the places which you have so long been planning to destroy, I shall have not the slightest difficulty in persuading them to escort you to the gates.
But why do I say all this? For nothing is likely to deter you from your purpose; nothing will make you mend your ways or contemplate flight or think of going into exile. If only the gods might incline you in that direction, what a wonderful thing it would be!
And yet, if you did by any chance take fright at my words and decided to go away into banishment, I am well aware that a storm of unpopularity would then fall upon myself, not perhaps now when the recollection of your crimes is still fresh, but in the years to come. However, I judge that prospect amply worth while, provided only that my ruin remains personal to myself and does not at the same time imperil our country.
But it is evidently no use expecting you to be disturbed by your own crimes, or to stand in awe of legal penalties, or give way to a national emergency. For you are by no means the man, Catilina, to let shame deter you from evil-doing, or fear from perilous adventures, or reason from acts of madness. I have urged you repeatedly to get out. If, as you proclaim, I am your enemy, if you want to stir up hatred against me, the very best thing that you could do would be to go straight into exile. For if that becomes your decision, I know I shall have a difficult time enduring all the criticisms that will descend upon my head; if your banishment should be due to the consul's orders, the odium falling upon myself, the consul, will be hard indeed to bear. But if, instead, your aim is to increase my reputation and glory, take your degraded herd of rascals and go with them to Manlius. Stir up, by all means, the dregs of our community, and alienate every honest man. Make war on your own country; behave like a godless brigand, and revel in the fact. For then it will be abundantly clear that I have not driven you into the arms of strangers, but that you have merely responded to an invitation to join your own friends.
And yet I do not see why I should be urging this course upon you, because I am well aware that you have already sent armed men ahead to wait for your arrival at Forum Aurelium. I know you have fixed a day with Manlius. I know you have sent ahead your silver eagle,(17) the one which you housed in a blasphemous shrine in your home - and may it bring ruin and annihilation upon you and all your friends! When you were about to set forth to commit a murder, you used to bow down before this object; upon its altar rested your godforsaken hand before you lifted it to massacre Roman citizens.. Where your eagle has gone, you yourself will assuredly soon follow.
And so, at long last, you will have made for the destination to which your unbridled, deranged ambition has all this time been dragging you. Nor does the prospect cause you a bit of grief. No, it fills your heart with a kind of 'unimaginable delight. This is the lunacy for which nature has brought you into the world and your own will has trained you - for which destiny has kept you alive. You never wanted peace; and the only war you wanted was a horrible one. Around yourself you have collected a depraved gang compounded of ruffians utterly abandoned by fortune and even by hope. Among them you will be able to indulge in every excess of gloating and exultation and debauchery, since among all the number of your associates you will not hear the voice or see the. face of one single decent man. For that kind of life. these exertions of yours, of which men speak, have been excellent practice lying on the bare ground, well placed to tackle the object of your lusts or commit a variety of evil deeds; and keeping wakeful watch by night, to take advantage of some husband's sleep or rob peaceful citizens of their property. Now you have every opportunity for exhibitions of your famous endurance of hunger, cold and every discomfort. Indeed, soon you will be experiencing a good deal too much of them all. And so, by preventing you from becoming consul, here at any rate is one thing that I have achieved. For I am at least able to ensure that your attacks on our country are made in the capacity of an exile rather than a consul, and that it is abundantly clear, from the nature of your foul enterprise, that you are no fighter and nothing but a bandit.
And now, Senators, I want to avert and fend off a protest which my country, almost with some justification, might address to me. So I urge you to listen carefully to what I am going to say, and to store it in your innermost hearts and minds. For let us imagine that this land of ours, which is far dearer to me than my life itself, let us imagine that all Italy and our entire nation addressed me in some such terms as these: "Marcus Tullius, what are you doing? You have discovered that this man is a public enemy. You are well aware he will be the leader of your foes in the war. You know the enemy camp is waiting for him to take command. You have learnt that he is the planner of this criminal enterprise and the instigator of the plot, a mobilizer of slaves and of the most disreputable citizens he can find. Are you really going to let him go? If you do, it will by no means look as though you are ejecting him from the city; it will seem as though you are letting him loose for its destruction. It is surely your duty to bid him be cast into chains and hurried off to supreme retri-bution and death. What can be preventing you? Is it our ancestral custom? And yet, in this country, even private individuals have inflicted the capital penalty upon treasonable citizens. Is it the law about punishing Roman citizens that deters you? (18) But Rome has never accepted that rebels against the state enjoy the rights of citizens.
"Or are you afraid of censure from posterity? Now, in your career, you have had nothing but your own deeds to recommend you. There were no distinctions won by your ancestors to give you a start. Nevertheless, at an early age, the Roman people advanced you from one post to another, at every level, up to the highest office of the state. A fine return you are giving them if the fear of incurring dislike, or indeed if any kind of danger whatever, makes you neglect your fellow citizens' security! If the question of inviting disapproval arises at all, the unpopularity resulting from firmness and determination is no more to be dreaded than the opprobrium produced by culpable failure to act. For when Italy is to be ravaged by war, when cities are assaulted and houses gutted by fire, do you not see how utterly the flames of hatred will consume you then?"
To those solemn remonstrations addressed to me by our country - by the men whose feelings such reproaches reflect I will offer this brief answer. Had I thought it best, Senators, that Catilina should be put to death, I would not have given that gladiator the enjoyment of one single further hour of life. For seeing that our most eminent and distinguished citizens of earlier times, when they shed the blood of Saturninus and the Gracchi and Flaccus and many others, did not by any means stain their reputations but even enhanced them, I certainly had not the smallest reason to fear that the execution of this murderer of Roman citizens would cause me to be blamed by posterity. And indeed, even if this were a serious danger, I have always been convinced that unpopularity earned by honourable actions is not unpopularity at all, but renown.
And yet there are some men here in this Senate who either genuinely fail to see, or make a pretence of not seeing, the disasters by which we are menaced. Their mildness has fostered Catilina's hopes, and their refusal to believe in his growing conspiracy has given it strength.
Had I punished Catilina, their influence would cause many persons, some of them malignant but others merely ignorant, to say that I had acted with tyrannical brutality. True, it is clear enough that if he joins Manlius' camp, for which he is now bound, no one will be too stupid to realize that a conspiracy has come into existence or too dishonest to admit it. Yet if, on the other hand, Catilina is executed and nobody else dies with him, it is very clear to me that the disease which is eating into our country may be checked for a short time, but cannot be completely cured. But if, instead, he removes himself, and takes his friends away too, and concentrates in one single place all the derelicts who have joined him from every quarter, not only will this pestilence which rages in our nation be obliterated and stamped out, but the very roots and seeds of the plague will also be eradicated.
Senators, we have been living for a long time among the perils and snares of his conspiracy. But somehow or other it was reserved for my consulship to witness all these incurable manias and outrages and horrors coming to a head and breaking out into open view. If the horde of looters is diminished by the removal of this single man, we shall perhaps have the brief illusion of finding a respite from our anxieties and fears. But the danger will still be here, lurking deep within the veins and vital parts of our nation. When a very sick person, tossing about in a burning fever, takes a drink of cold water, at first he thinks it has made him better, but afterwards he feels much more seriously and violently ill than he did before. In just the same way the disease that afflicts our nation will at first seem relieved by the punishment of this single individual, but later it will get much worse: since the others will still be alive.
Therefore let all bad citizens be gone. Let them separate themselves from the good, and gather together in a single place -segregated, as I have often suggested before, by a wall. Let them no longer lay snares for the consul in his own home, stand around the tribunal of the city praetor,(19) besiege the Senate House with their swords, and mobilize their firebombs and brands to plunge the city into flames. Finally, let every man's political views be written on his brow for all to see. I swear to you, Senators, that we consuls are going to display such vigour, you yourselves to carry so much weight, the knights to display so great courage, and all patriotic men to act with such a single and unanimous accord, that once Catilina has departed you will see everything brought out clearly into the light of day, and the time of suppression and punishment will be at hand.
So these are the omens, Catilina, with which I bid you get off to your wicked and traitorous war. Your departure will be the cause of supreme salvation for the state. It will cause your own ruin and downfall, and the extermination of those who have been your accomplices in every one of your murderous atrocities. And you, Jupiter, who were set up in this place by Romulus under the selfsame auspices as our own city itself; who are justly named by us the Stayer(20) of this city and its empire, you will keep this man and his associates away from the dwellings and walls of Rome, away from the lives- and properties of all its citizens. And as for these rogues-whom every patriot hates, the enemies of our country and ravishers of Italy, united in their infamous alliance by a compact of abomination, you will immolate them, dead or alive, in retribution without end.
1. The Senate was meeting in the Temple of Jupiter Stator.
2. He initiated the attack on the reformer Ti. Gracchus (133).
3. C. Servilius Ahala killed Sp. Maelius for selling cheap corn with alleged revolutionary intentions (439).
4. The Senate had passed the senate's consultum ultimum against Catilina on 21 October 63.
5. L. Opimius was responsible for the death of C. Sempronius Gracchus (121).
6. L. Appuleius Saturninus was killed after using violence and committing murder in support of the candidature of C. Servilius Glaucia for the consulship (100).
7. According to Sallust, Cicero's informant was Fulvia, mistress of one of the conspirators, Q. Curius.
8. According to Sallust the assassins were C. Cornelius and a (former?) Senator L. Vargunteius.
9. The reference is to the elections of 28 October 63, in which Catilina was again defeated.
10. Cicero as consul did not possess the power to order exile, which was not an official sanction according to Roman Law.
11. Shortly after Catilina's marriage with Aurelia Orestilla, his son by his previous marriage died.
12. The Kalends (ist) and Ides (13th or 15th) of each month were the days on which debts fell due.
13. This was 31 December 66, the day before Catilina's alleged plan to murder the incoming consuls L. Aurelius Cotta and L. Manilus Torquatus.
14. After his governorship of Africa (68-6) Catilina was due to be prosecuted for extortion.
15. M. Metellus is unknown but was evidently a friend of Catilina.
16. The Senate did not, in fact, possess the authority to send anyone into exile, any more than the consuls (n. 10).
17. The eagle was reputed to be the standard used by Marius in the war against the Cimbri.
18. According to the Valerian, Porcian and Sempronian laws only the Assembly could condemn a Roman citizen to death.
19. The city praetor who apparently had a permanent tribunal in the Forum, was in charge of cases involving debt.
20. Jupiter Stator, the Stayer, was supposedly so called because he had stayed the flight of Romulus' army from the Sabines.