Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Cicero's Life and letters : The life of Cicero, by Dr. Middleton, Cicero's letters to his friends, translated by Wm. Melmoth [and] Cicero's letters to Atticus, translated by Dr. Heberden online

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so that if Catiline had gained any little advantage
at setting out, or come off but equal in the first
battle, there was reason to expect a general decla-
ration in his favour'.

He called a council therefore of all the conspira-
tors, to settle the plan of their work, and divide
the parts of it among themselves, and fix a proper
day for the execution. There were about thirty-
five, whose names are transmitted to us as princi-
pals in the plot, partly of the senatorian, partly of
the equestrian order, with many others from the
colonies and municipal towns of Italy, men of fa-
milies and interest in their several countries. The
senators were, P. Cornelius Lentulus, C. Cethegus,
P. Autronius, L. Cassius Longinus, P. Sylla, Serv.
Sylla, L. Vargunteius, Q. Curius, Q. Annius, M.
Po reins Lecca, L. Bestia".

Lentulus was descended from a patrician branch
of the Cornelian family, one of the most numerous
as well as the most splendid in Rome. His grand-
father had borne the title of prince of the senate,
and was the most active in the pursuit and
destruction of C. Gracchus, in which he received

* Inflatum tum spe militum, turn collegas mei, ut ipse
dicebat, promissis. — Pro Miiren. 23.

k Castra sunt in Italia eontra rempublicam in EtruriiE
faucibus coUocata. — In Cat. i. 2 ; it. ii. 6.

1 Sed omnino cuneta plebes, novarum rerum studio,
Catilinse incepta probabat — quod si primo prselio Catilina
superior, aut isqua manu discessisset, profecto magna
clades, &c.— Sallust. Bell. Cat. 27, 2<J.

" Ibid. 1/,

a dangerous wound". The grandson, by the favour
of his noble birth, had been advanced to the con-
sulslii]) about eight years before, but was turned
o>it of the senate soon aftiT by the censors, for
the notorious infamy ot his life, till by obtaining
the ])rijetorship a second time, which he now
actually enjoyed, he recovered his former place and
rank in that supreme council". His parts were
hut moderate, or rather slow; yet the comeliness
of his person, the gracefulness and propriety of his
action, the strength and sweetness of his voice,
procured him some reputation as a speaker?. He
was lazy, luxurious, and profligately wicked ; yet
so vain and ambitious, as to expect from the over-
throw of the government, to be the first man in the
repuWlic ; in which fancy he was strongly flattered
by some crafty soothsayers, who assured him from
the sibylline books, that there were three Corne-
liuses destined to the dominion of Rome ; that Cinna
and Sylla had already possessed it, and the pro-
phecy wanted to be completed in himi. W'ith these
views he entered freely into the conspiracy, trust-
ing to Catiline's vigour for the execution, and
hoping to reap the chief fruit from its success.

Cethegus was of an extraction equally noble, but
of a temper fierce, impetuous, and daring to a de-
gree even of fury. He had been warmly engaged
in the cause of Marius, with whom he was driven
out of Rome ; but when Sylla's affairs became
prosperous, he presently changed sides, and throw-
ing himself at Sylla's feet, and promising great
services, was restored to the city'. After Sylla's
death, by intrigues and faction, he acquired so great
an influence, that while Pompey was abroad, he
governed all things at home ; procured for Antonius,
that command over the coasts of the Mediterranean,
and for LucuUus, the management of the Mithri-
datic war^. In the height of this power, he made
an excursion into Spain, to raise contributions in
that province, where meeting with some opposi-
tion to his violences, he had the hardiness to insult,
and even wound, the proconsul Q. Metellus Pius'.
But the insolence of his conduct and the infamy
of his life gradually diminished, and at last de-
stroyed his credit ; when finding himself controlled
by the magistrates, and the particular vigilance of
Cicero, he entered eagerly into Catiline's plot, and
was entrusted with the most bloody and desperate

D Num P. Lentulum, principem scnatus? Complures
alios summos viros, qui cum L. Opimio Consulc armati
Gracchum in Aventinum persecuti sunt? quo in praelio
Lentulus grave vulnus acccpit. — Phil. viii. 4 ; In Cat. iv. b".

Lentulus quoque tunc maxime prtetor, &e. — Flor.
iv. 1 ; Die, p. 43 ; Plut. in Cic.

P P. Lentulus, cujus et escogitandi et loquendi tardi-
tatem tegebat formae dignitas, corporis niotus plenus et
artis et venustatis, vocis et suavitas et magnitudo. — Brut.

1 Lentulum autem sibi confirmasse ex fatis sibyllinis,
lianispicumque responsis, se esse tertium ilium Corne-
liuni, ad quern regnum hujus urbis atque imperiiun per-
venixe esset necesse, &c. — In Cat. iii. 4 ; it. iv. 6.

r Quid Catilina tuis natalibus, atque Cethegl
Inveniet quisquam sublimius ?

Juv. Sat. viii. 231 ; Appian. 309.
s Hie est M. Antonius, qui gratia Cottae consulis et
Cethegi factione in senatu, curationem iniinitam nactus,
&c.— Ascon. in Verr. ii. 3 ; Plut. in LucuU.

t Quis de C. Cethego, atque ejus in Hispaniam profec-
tione, ac de vulnere Q,. Metelli Pii cositat, cui non ad
illius poenam career aedificatus esse videatur? — Pro SylL



part of it, the task of massacring their enemies
witiiin the city. The rest of the conspirators were
not less illustrious for their birth". The two Syllas
were nephews to the dictator of that name ; Autro-
nius had obtained the consulship, but was deprived
for bribery ; and Cassius was a competitor for it
with Cicero himself. In short, they were all of
the same stamp and character ; men whom disap-
pointments, ruiiied fortunes, and flagitious lives,
had prepared for any design against the state ; and
all whose hopes of ease and advancement depended
on a change of affairs, and the subversion of the

At this meeting it was resolved, that a general
insurrection should be raised through Italy, the
different parts of which were assigned to different
leaders ; that Catiline should put himself at the
head of the troops in Etruria ; that Rome should
be fired in many places at once, and a massacre
oegun at the same time of the whole senate, and
all their enemies ; of whom none were to be spared
except the sons of Pompey, who were to be kept as
hostages of their peace and reconciliation with the
father ; that in the consternation of the fire and
massacre, Catiline should be ready with his Tuscan
army, to take the benefit of the public confusion,
and make himself master of the city ; where Len-
tulus, in the meanwhile, as first in dignity, was to
preside in their general councils ; Cassius to ma-
nage the affair of firing it, Cethegus to direct the
massacred But the vigilance of Cicero being the
chief obstacle to all their hopes, Catiline was very
desirous to see him taken off before he left Rome ;
upon which two knights of the company undertook
to kill him the next moi-ning in his bed, in an early
visit on pretence of business y. They were both of
his acquaintance, and used to frequent his house ;
and knowing his custom of giving free access to all,
made no doubt of being readily admitted, as C.
Cornelius, one of the two, afterwards confessed*.

The meeting was no sooner over, than Cicero
had information of all that passed in it ; for by
the intrigues of a woman named Fulvia, he had
gained over Curius her gallant, one of the conspi-
rators of senatorian rank, to send him a punctual
account of all their deliberations. He presently
imparted his intelligence to some of the chiefs of
the city, who were assembled that evening, as usual,
at his house ; informing them not only of the design,
but naming the men who were to e.xecute it, and
the very hour when they would be at his gate : all
which fell out exactly as he foretold ; for the two
knights came before break of day, but had the mor-
tification to find the house well guarded, and all
admittance refused to them".

" Curii, Porcii, Syllje, Cethegi, Antonii, Vargunteii,
atque Longini : qua familise ? quae senatus insignia ? &c.
— Flor. iv. 1.

^ Cum Catilina egrederetur ad esercitum, Lentulus in
urbe relinqueretur, Cassius inccndtis, Cethegus c£Edi prae-
poneretur.— Pro Syll. 19 ; Vid. Plut. in Ciccr.

7 Dixisti pauUulum tibi esse morse, quod ego viverem :
reperti sunt duo Equites Romani, qui te ista cura libera-
rent, et sese ilia ipsa nocte ante lucem me meo in lectulo

interfecturos pollicerentiu- In CatU. i. 4 ; it. Sallnst. Bell.

Cat. 28.

» Tunc tuus pater, Corneli, id quod tandem aliquando
confitetur, illam sibi officiosam provinciam depoposcit. —
Pro Syll. 18.

" Domum meani majoribus prasidiis munivi: exclusi
cos, quos tu mane ad me salutatiun misoras ; cum illi ipsi

Catiline was disappointed likewise in another
affair of no less moment before he quitted the city ;
a design to surprise the town of Prteneste, one of
the strongest fortresses of Itaiy, within twenty-five
miles of Rome ; which would have been of singular
use to him in the war, and a sure retreat in all
events : but Cicero was still beforehand with him,
and, from the a))prehension of such an attempt, had
previously sent orders to the place to keep a special
guard ; so that when Catiline came in the night to
make an assault, he found them so well provided,
that he durst not venture upon the experiments

This was the state of the conspiracy, when
Cicero dehvered the first of thoise four speeches,
which were spoken upon the occasion of it, and are
still extant. The meeting of the conspirators was
on the sixth of November, in the evening; and on
the eighth he summoned the senate to the temple
of Jupiter in the capitol, where it was not usually
held but in times of public alarm '^. There had
been several debates before this on the same sub-
ject of Catihne's treasons, and his design of killing
the consul ; and a decree had passed at the motion
of Cicero, to offer a public reward to the first dis-
coverer of the plot ; if a slave, his liberty, and eight
hundred pounds ; if a citizen, his pardon, and six-
teen hundred"*. Yet Catiline, by a profound dis-
simulation, and the constant professions of his
innocence, still deceived many of all ranks ; repre-
senting the whole as the fiction of his enemy
Cicero, and offering to give security for his beha-
viour, and to deliver himself to the custody of any
whom the senate would name ; of M. Lepidus, of
the prjetor Metellus, or of Cicero himself: but
none of them would receive him ; and Cicero
plainly told him, that he should never think himself
safe in the same house, when he was in danger by
living in the same city with him*^ : yet he still kept
on the mask, and had the confidence to come to
this very meeting in the capitol ; which so shocked
the whole assembly, thatn^e even of his acquaint-
ance durst venture to saluWyiim ; and the consular
senators quitted that part orKhe house in which he
sat, and left the whole bench clear to him'. Cicero
was so provoked by his impudence, that instead of
entering upon any business, as he designed, ad-
dressing himself directly to Catiline, he broke out
into a most severe invective against him ; and with
all the fire and force of an incensed eloquence, laid
open the whole course of his villanies, and the
notoriety of his treasons.

He put him in mind, " that there was a decree
already made against him, by which he could take

venissent, quos ego jam multis ac summi.s viris ad me id
temporis ventures esse pra?dixeram. — In Catil. i. 4.

^ Quid ? eum tu Prteneste Kalendis ipsis Novembrlbus
occupaturum nocturno inipetu confideres ? Sensistine
illam coloniam meo jussu, meis prsBsidiis — esse munitam ?
—Ibid. i. 3. Prceneste — natura numitum. — Veil. Pat. ii. 26.

<: Niliil hie niunitissiinus habendi senatus locus — ^Ib.
i. 1.

<* Si quis indicasset do conjuratione, qu» contra rempub-
licam facta erat, premium, servo, libertatem et sestertia
centum ; Uberti), impunitatem et sestertia cc. — Sallust.
Bell. Cat. 30.

e Cum a me id responsum tulisses, me nuUo modo posse
iisdem parietibus tuto esse tecum, qui magno in periculo
essem, quod iisdem moenibus coatineremur. — In Catil. i. 8.

i Quis te ex hac tanta frequentia, tot ex tuis amicis ac
necessariis salutavit ? Quid, quod adventu tuo ista bu1>-
sellia vacuefacta sunt ? &C. — lb. i. 7-



his life^'; and that he ought to have done it long
ago, since many, far inori'. eminent and less crimi-
nal, had been tai<(ii otl' by the same authority for
the suspicion only of treasonable designs ; that if
he should order him, therefore, to be killed up6n
the spot, there was cause to apprehend that it
■would be thought rather too late than too cruel." —
But there was a certain reason which yet withheld
him : " Thou shaltthen be put to death," says he,
'' when there is not a man to be found so wicked, so
desperate, so like to thyself, who will deny it to be
done justly. — As long as there is one who dares to
defend thee, thou shalt live ; and live so as thou
now dost, surrounded by the guards which I have
placed about thee, so as not to suffer thee to stir a
foot against the republic ; whilst the eyes and ears
of many shall watch thee, as they have hitherto
done, when thou little thoughtest of it''." He
then goes on to give a detail of all that had been
concerted by the conspirators at their several
meetings, to let him see " that he was perfectly
informed of every step which he had taken, or
designed to take;" and observes, " that he saw
several, at that very time in the senate, who had
assisted at those meetings." He presses him, there-
fore, to quit the city ; and " since all his councils
were detected, to drop the thought of fires and
massacres ; — that the gates were open, and nobody
should stop him'." Then running over the flagi-
tious enormities of his life, and the series of his
traitorous practices, lie " exhorts, urges, com-
mands him to depart, and, if he would be advised
by him, to go into a voluntary exile, and free them
from their fears ; that, if they were just ones, they
might be safer ; if groundless, the quieter''. That
though he would not put the question to the house,
whether they would order him into banishment or
not, yet he would let him see their sense upon it by
their manner of behaving while he was urging him
to it ; for should he bid any other senator of credit,
P. Sextius, or M. Marcellus, to go into exile, they
•srould all rise up against him at once, and lay vio-
lent hands on their consul : yet when he said it to
him, by their silence they approved it ; by their
suffering it, decreed it ; by saying nothing, pro-
claimed their consent'. That he would answer
likewise for the knights, who were then guarding
the avenues of the senate, and were hardly restrained
from doing him violence ; that if he would consent
to go, they would all quietly attend him to the
gates. — Yet, after all, if in virtue of Lis command
he should really go into banishment, he foresaw
what a storm of envy he should draw by it upon
himself ; but he did not value that, if by his own
calamity he could avert the dangers of the republic :
but there was no hope that Catiline could ever be
induced to yield to the occasions of the state, or
moved with a sense of his crimes, or reclaimed by
shame, or fear, or reason, from his madness"'. He
exhorts him, therefore, if he would not go into
exile, to go at least, where he was expected, into
Manlius's camp, and begin the war ; provided
only, that he would carry out with him all the rest
of his icrew. — That there he might riot and exult at
his full ease, without the mortification of seeing one

S Ilabemus senatus consultiim in te, Catilina, veliemens
et grave.— In Catil,-i. 1.
^ Ibid, 2. i Ibid. 5.

^ Ibid. 7. » Ibid. 8.

«» Ibid. 9.

honest man about him ". — There he might practise
all that discipline to which he had been trained, of
lying upon the ground, not only in jiursuit of his
lewd amours, but of bold and liardy enterprises :
there he might exert all that boasted patience of
hunger, cold, and want, by which however he
would shortly find himself undone." He then
introduces an expostulation of the republic with
himself, " for his too great lenity, in suffering such
a traitor to escape, instead of hurrying him lo im-
mediate death ; that it was an instance of cowardice
and ingratitude to the Roman people, that he, a
new man, who, without any recommendation from
his ancestors, had been raised by them through all
the degrees of honour to sovereign dignity, should,
for the sake of any danger to himself, neglect the
care of the public safety". To this most sacred
voice of my country," says he, "and to all those who
blame me after the same manner, I shall make this
short answer : that if I had thought it the most
advisable to put Catiline to death, I would not
have allowed that gladiator the use of one mo-
ment's life : for if, in former days, our most
illustrious citizens, instead of sullying, have done
honour to their memories, by the destruction of
Satuminus, the Gracchi, Flaccus, and many others ;
there is no ground to fear, that, by killing this
parricide, any envy would lie upon me with jioste-
rity ; yet if the greatest was sure to befall me, it
was always my persuasion, that envy acquired by
virtue was really glory, not envy : but there are
some of this very order, who do not either see the
dangers which hang over us, or else dissemble what
they see, who, by the softness of their votes, cherish
Catiline's hopes, and add strength to the conspi-
racy by not believing it ; whose authority influences
many, not only of the wicked, but the weak ; who,
if I had punished this man as he deserved, would
not have faded to cry out upon me for acting the
tyrantP. Now I am persuaded, that when he is
once gone into Manlius's camp, whither he actu-
ally designs to go, none can be so silly as not to
see that there is a plot ; none so wicked, as not to
acknowledge it : whereas, by taking off him alone,
though this pestilence would be somewhat checked,
it could not be sujipressed ; but when he has thrown
himself into rebellion, and carried out his friends
along with him, and drawn together the profligate
and desperate from aU parts of the empire, not only
this ripened plague of the republic, but the very
root and seed of all our evils, wUl be extirpated
with him at once." Then applying himself again
to Catiline, he concludes with a short prayer to
Jupiter : " With these omens, Catiline, of all pros-
perity to the republic, but of destruction to thyself
and all those who have joined themselves with tliee
in all kinds of parricide, go thy way then to this
impious and abominable war; whUstthou, Jupiter,
whose religion was established with the foundation
of this city, whom we truly call Stator, the stay and
prop of this empire, witt drive this man and his
accomplices from thy altars and temples, from the
houses and walls of the city, from the lives and for-
tunes of us all ; and wilt destroy with eternal
punishments, both living and dead, all the haters
of good men, the enemies of their country, the
plunderers of Italy, now confederated in this detest-
able league and partnership of villany."

n In Catil. 1 10.
P Ibid. 12.

o Ibid. a.



Catiline, astonished by the thunder of this speech,
had little to say for himself in answer to it ; yet, with
downcast looks and suppliant voice, he begged of
the fathers not to believe too hastily what was said
against him by an enemy ; that his birth and past
lii'e oifered everything to him that was hopeful ; and
it was not to be imagined that a man of patrician
family, whose ancestors, as well as himself, had
given many proofs of their affection to the Roman
people, should want to overturn the government ;
while Cicero, a stranger and late inhabitant of
Rome, was so zealous to preserve it. But as he
was going on to give foul language, the senate
interrupted him by a general outcry, calling him
traitor and pamcide : upon which, being furious
and desperate, he declared again aloud what he had
said before to Cato, that since he was circumvented
and driven headlong by his enemies, he would
quench the flame which was raised about him, by
the common ruin ; and so rushed out of the assem-
bly i. As soon as he was come to his house, and
began to reflect on what had passed, perceiving it
in vain to dissemble any longer, he resolved to
enter into action immediately, before the troops of
the republic were increased, or any new levies
made ; so that, after a short conference with Len-
tulus, Cethegus, and the rest, about what had been
concerted in the last meeting, having given fresh
orders and assurances of his speedy return at the
head of a strong army, he left Rome that very
night with a small retinue, to make the best of his
way towards Etruria''.

He no sooner disappeared, than his friends gave
out that he was gone into a voluntary exile at Mar-
seilles' ; which was industriously spread through
the city the next morning, to raise an odium upon
Cicero for driving an innocent man into banish-
ment without any previous trial or proof of his
guilt ; but Cicero was too well informed of his
motions to entertain any doubt about his going to
Manlius's camp, and into actual rebellion : he knew
that he had sent thither already a quantity of arms,
and all the ensigns of military command, with that
silver eagle which he used to keep with great super-
stition in his house, for its having belonged to C.
Marius in his expedition against the Cimbri'. But
lest the story should make an ill impression ou the
city, he called the people together into the forum,
to give them an account of what passed in the
senate the day before, and of Catiline's leaving
Rome upon it.

He began by congratulating with them on Cati-
line's flight, as on a certain victory; "since the
driving him from his secret plots and insidious
attempts on their lives and fortunes into open
rebellion, was in effect to conquer him : that Cati-
line himself was sensible of it, whose chief regret
in his retreat was not for leaving the city, but for
leaving it standing". — But if there be any here,"

1 Turn iUe furibundus ; — Quoniam quidem circumven-
tus, inquit, ab inimiois prseceps agor, incendium meum
ruina extinguam.— Sallust. Bell. Cat. 31.

' Ibid. 32.

' At enim sunt, Quirltes, qui dicunt a me in exilium

ejectum esse Catilinam Ego vehemens ille consul,

qui vcrbo cives in exilium ejicio, &c. — In Catil. ii. 6.

' Cum fasces, cum tubas, cum sigua militaria, cum
aquilam illam argentcara, cui ille etiam sacrarium scele-
rum domi suas fecerat, scirem esse prjemissam lb. ; Sal-
lust. Bell. Cat. 59.

u In Catil. ii. I.

says he, "who blame me for what I am boasting
of, as you all indeed justly may, that 1 did not
rather seize than send away so capital an enemy ;
that is not my fault, citizens, but the fault of the
times. Catiline ought long ago to have suffered
the last punishment ; the custom of our ancestors,
tlie discipline of the empire, and the republic
itself, required it. But how many would there
have been who would not have believed what I
charged him with ? How many, who, through
weakness, would never have imagined it, or through
wickedness would have defended it ? " He observes,
" that if he had put Catiline to death, he should
have drawn upon himself such an odium as would
have rendered him unable to prosecute his accom-
plices and extirpate the remains of the conspiracy;
but so far from being afraid of him now, he was
sorry only that he went off with so few to attend
him'': that his forces were contemptible, if com-
pared with those of the repubhc ; made up of a
miserable, needy crew, who had wasted their sub-
stance, forfeited their bails, and would run away
not only at the sight of an army, but of the prsetor's
edict. — That those who had deserted his army, and
staid behind, were more to be dreaded than the armv
itself ; and the more so, because they knew him to
be informed of all their designs, yet were not at all
moved by it : that he had laid open all their coun-
cils in the senate the day before, upon which Cati-
line was so disheartened that he immediately fled :
that he could not guess what these others meant ;
if they imagined that he should always use the same
lenity, they were much mistaken^; for he had now
gained what he had hitherto been waiting for, to
make all people see that there was a conspiracy :
that now, therefore, there was no more room for
clemency, the case itself required severity ; yet he

Online LibraryMarcus Tullius CiceroCicero's Life and letters : The life of Cicero, by Dr. Middleton, Cicero's letters to his friends, translated by Wm. Melmoth [and] Cicero's letters to Atticus, translated by Dr. Heberden → online text (page 17 of 230)