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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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 18 of 230)
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would still grant them one thing, to quit the city
and follow Catihne ; nay, would tell them the way ;
it was the Aurelian road ; and if they would make
haste, they might overtake him before night."
Then, after describing the profligate life and con-
versation of Catiline and his accomplices^, ha
declares it " insufferably impudent for such men
to pretend to plot ; the lazy against the active, the
foolish against the prudent, the drunken against
the sober, the drowsy against the vigilant ; who,
lolling at feasts, embracing mistresses, staggering
with wine, stuffed with victuals, crowned with gar-
lands, daubed with perfumes, belch in their con-
versations of massacring the honest and firing the
city. If my consulship," says he, " since it can
not cure, should cut off all these, it would add no
small period to the duration of the republic ; for
there is no nation which we have reason to fear, no
king who can make war upon the Roman people ;
all disturbances abroad, both by land and sea, are
quelled by the virtue of one man ; but a domestic
war still remains ; the treason, the danger, the
enemy is within ; we are to combat with luxury,
with madness, with villany. In this war I profess
myself your leader, and take upon myself all the
animosity of the desperate : whatever can possibly
be healed, I will heal ; but what ought to be cut
off, I wiU never suffer to spread to the ruin of the
city."" He then takes notice of the report of
CatiHne's being driven into exile, but ridicules the
weakness of it ; and says, " that he had put that

* In Catil. u. 2.
» Ibid. 4.

y Ibid. 3.
• Ibid. 5.



matter out of doubt, by exposing all his treasons
the day before in the senate''." He laments " the
wretched condition not only of Kovernins, but even
of preserving states: For if Catiline," says he,
" baffled by my pains and counsels, should really
change his mind, drop all thoughts of war, and
betake himself to exile, he would not be said to be
disarmed and terrified, or driven from his purpose
by my vigilance, but uncondemned and innocent to
be forced into banishment by the threats of the
consul ; and there would be numbers who would
think him not wicked, but unhappy, and me not a
diligent consul, but a cruel tyrant." He declares,
" that though, for the sake of his own ease or cha-
racter, he should never wish to hear of Catiline's
being at the head of an army, yet they would
certainly hear it in three days' time : that if men
were so perverse as to complain of his being driven
away, what wotild they have said if he had been
put to death ? Yet there was not one of those
who talked of his going to Marseilles, but would
be sorry for it, if it was true, and wished much
rather to see him in Manlius's camp""." He pro-
ceeds to describe at large the strength and forces of
Catiline, and the different sorts of men of which
they were composed ; and then displaying and
opposing to them the superior forces of the repub-
lic, he shows it to be " a contention of all sorts of
virtue against all sorts of vice ; in which, if all
human help should fail them, the gods themselves
would never suffer the best cause in the world to
be vanquished by the worst''." He requires them,
therefore, to " keep a watch only in their private
houses, for he had taken care to secure the public
without any tumult : that he had given notice to
all the colonies and great towns of Catiline's
retreat, so as to be upon their guard against him :
that as to the body of gladiators, whom Catiline
always depended upon as his best and surest band,
they were taken care of in such a manner as to be
in the power of the republic*; though, to say the
truth, even these were better affected than some
part of the patricians : that he had sent Q. Metel-
lus, the praetor, into Gaul and the district of Pice-
num, to oppose all Catiline's motions on that side ;
and, for settling all matters at home, had summoned
the senate to meet again that morning, which, as
they saw, was then assembling. As for those,
therefore, who were left behind in the city, though
they were now enemies, yet, since they were born
citizens, he admonished them again and again, that
his lenity had been waiting only for an opportunity
of demonstrating the certainty of the plot : that for
the rest, he should never forget that this was his
country, he their consul, who thought it his duty
either to live with them, or die for them. There
is no guard," says he, " upon the gates, none to
watch the roads ; if any one has a mind to with-
draw himself, he may go wherever he pleases ; but
if he makes the least stir within the city, so as to
be caught in any overt act against the republic, he
shall know that there are in it vigilant consuls,
excellent magistrates, a stout senate ; that there
are arms, and a prison, which our ancestors pro-
vided as the avenger of manifest crimes ; and all

l> In Catil. ii. 6. o Ibid. 7, 8. 9, 10.

d Ibid. 11.

* Ibid. 12. Decrevere uti familiae gladiatoria; Capuam
et in caetera municipia distribuerentur pro cujusque opi-
bus.— Salluat Bell. Cat. 30

this shall be transacted in such a manner, citizens,
that the greatest disorders shall be quelled without
the least hurry ; the greatest dangers, without any
tumult ; a domestic war, the most desperate of any
in our mcmoi-)', by me, your only leader and gene-
ral, in my gown ; which I will manage so, that, as
far as it is possible, not one even of the guilty shall
suffer jiunishment in the city. Hut if their auda-
ciousness, and my country's danger, should neces-
sarily drive me from this mild resolution, yet I will
effect, what in so cruel and treacherous a war could
hardly be hoped for, that not one honest man shall
fall, but all of you be safe by the punishment of a
few. This I promise, citizens, not from any con-
fidence in my own prudence, or from any human
councils, but from the many evident declarations of
the gods, by whose impulse I am led into this per-
suasion ; who assist us, not as they used to do, at a
distance, against foreign and remote enemies, but
by their present help and protection, defend their
temples and our houses. It is your part, there-
fore, to worship, imjdorc, and pray to them, that
since all our enemies are now subdued both by land
and sea, they would continue to preserve this city,
which was designed by them for the most beautiful,
the most flourishing, and most powerful on earth,
from the detestable treasons of its own desperate

We have no account of this day's debate in the
senate, which met while Cicero was speaking to
the people, and were waiting his coming to them
from the rostra : but as to Catiline, after staying
a few days on the road to raise and arm the coun-
try through which he passed, and which his agents
had already been disposing to his interests, he
marched directly to Manlius's camp, with the fasces
and all the ensigns of military command displayed
before him. Upon this news, the senate declared
both him and Manlius public enemies, with offers
of pardon to all his followers who were not con-
demned of capital crimes, if they returned to their
duty by a certain day ; and ordered the consuls to
make new levies, and that Antonius should follow
Catiline with the army ; Cicero stay at home to
guard the city'.

It will seem strange to some, that Cicero, when
he had certain information of Catiline's treason,
instead of seizing him in the city, not only suf-
fered but urged his escape, and forced him as it
were to begin the war. But there was good reason
for what he did, as he frequently intimates in his
speeches ; he had many enemies among the nobility,
and Catiline many secret friends ; and though he
was perfectly informed of the whole progress and
extent of the plot, yet the proofs being not ready
to be laid before the public, Catiline's dissimu-
lation still prevailed, and persuaded great numbers
of his innocence ; so that if he had imprisoned and
punished him at this time, as he deserved, the
whole faction were prepared to raise a general
clamour against him, by representing his admi-
nistration as a tyranny, and the plot as a forgery
contrived to support it : whereas by driving Catiline
into rebellion, he made all men see the reality of
their danger ; while from an exact account of his
troops, he knew them to be so unequal to those of
the republic, that there was no doubt of his being
destroyed, if he could be pushed to the necessity of.

' Sallust. Bell. Cat. 36.



declaring himself, before his other projects were
ripe for execution. He knew also, that if Catiline
was once driven out of the city, and separated from
his accomplices, who were a lazy, drunken, thought-
less crew, they would ruin themselves by tlieir own
rashness, and be easily drawn into any trap which
he should lay for them : the event showed that he
judged right ; and by what happened afterwards
both to Catiline and to himself, it appeared, that,
as far as human caution comld reach, he acted with
the utmost prudence in regard as well to his own,
as to the public safety.

In the midst of all this hurry, and soon after
Catiline's flight, Cicero found leisure, according to
his custom, to defend L. Murena, one of the
consuls elect, who was now brought to a trial for
bribery and corruption. Cato liad declared in the
senate, that he would try the force of Cicero's late
law upon one of the consular candidates e : and since
Catiline, whom he chiefly aimed at, was out of his
reach, he resolved to fall upon Murena ; yet con-
nived at the same time at the other consul, Silanus,
who had married his sister, though equally guilty
with his colleague'' : he was joined in the accusa-
tion by one of the disappointed candidates, S.
Sulpicius, a person of distinguished worth and
character, and the most celebrated lawyer of the
age, for whose service, and at whose instance,
Cicero's law against bribery was chiefly provided'.

Murena was bred a soldier, and had acquired
great fame in the Mithridatic war, as lieutenant to
Lucullus''; and was now defended by three, the
greatest men, as well as the greatest orators of
Rome, Crassus, Hortensius, and Cicero : so that
there had seldom been a trial of more expectation,
on account of the dignity of all the parties con-
cerned. The character of the accusers makes it
reasonable to believe, that there was clear proof of
some illegal practices ; yet from Cicero's speech,
which, though imperfect, is tlie only remaining
monument of the transaction, it seems probable,
that they were such only as, though strictly
speaking irregular, were yet warranted by custom
and the example of all candidates ; and though
heinous in the eyes of a Cato, or an angry compe-
titor, were usually overlooked by the magistrates
and expected by the people.

The accusation consisted of three heads : the
scandal of Murena' s life ; the want of dignity in
his character and family ; and bribery in the late
election. As to the first, the greatest crime which
Cato charged him with was dancing ; to which
Cicero's defence is somewhat remarkable : " He
admonishes Cato not to throw out such a calumny
so inconsiderately, or to call the consul of Rome
a dancer ; but to consider how many other crimes
a man must needs be guilty of before that of
dancing could be truly objected to him ; since no-
body ever danced, even in solitude, or a private
meeting of friends, who was not either drunk or
mad ; for dancing was always the last act of

S Dixi in senatu, me nomen consularis candidati dela-
•turum.— Pro Muren. 30. Quod atrociter in senatu dixisti,
aut non dLxisses, aut seposuissos. — lb. 31 ; Plutar. in Cato.

•> Plutarch, in Cato.

» Legem ambitus flagitasti— gestus est mos at voluntati
et dignitati tuae..— Pro Muren. 23.

^ Legatus L. LucuUo fuit : qua in legations duxit exer-
citmn — magnas copias hostium fudit, urbes partim vi,
partim obsidione cepit.^Pro Muren. 9.

riotous banquets, gay places, and much jollity :
that Cato charged him therefore with what was
the effect of many vices, yet with none of those,
without which that vice could not possibly subsist ;
with no scandalous feasts, no amours, no nightly
revels, no lewdness, no extravagant expense,"

As to the second article, the want of dignity, it
was urged chiefly by Sulpicius, who being noble
and a patrician, was the more mortified to be
defeated by a ]ilebeian, whose extraction he con-
temned : but Cicero " ridicules the vanity of
thinking no family good, but a patrician ; shows
that Murena's grandfather and great-grandfather
had been praetors ; and that his father also from
the same dignity had obtained the honour of a
triumph : that Sulpicius's nobiUty was better
known to the antiquaries than to the people ;
since his grandfather had never borne any of the
principal offices, nor his father ever mounted
higher than the equestrian rank : that being there-
fore the son of a Roman knight, he had always
reckoned him in the same class with himself, of
those who by their own industry had opened their
way to the highest honours ; that the Curiuses,
the Catos, the Pompeiuses, the Mariuses, the
Didiuses, the CseUuses were all of the same sort :
that when he had broken through that barricade
of nobility, and laid the consulship open to the
virtuous, as well as to the noble ; and when a
consul, of an ancient and illustrious descent, was
defended by a consul, the son of a knight ; he
never imagined, that the accusers would venture to
say a word about the novelty of a family : that he
himself had two patrician competitors, the one a
profligate and audacious, the other an excellent
and modest man ; yet that he outdid Catiline in
dignity, Galba in interest ; and if that had been a
crime in a new man, he should not have wanted
enemies to object it to him'"." He then shows
" that the science of arms, in which Murena
excelled, had much more dignity and splendour in
it than the science of the law, being that which
first gave a name to the Roman people, brought
glory to their city, and subdued the world to their
empire : that martial virtue had ever been the
means of conciliating the favour of the people, and
recommending to the honours of the state ; and
it was but reasonable that it should hold the first
place in that city, which was raised by it to be the
head of all other cities in the world"."

As to the last and heaviest part of the charge,
the crime of bribery, there was little or nothing
made out against him, but what was too common
to be thought criminal; the bribery of shows,
plays, and dinners given to the populace ; yet not
so much by himself, as by his friends and relations,
who were zealous to serve him ; so that Cicero
makes very slight of it, and declares himself " more
afraid of the authority, than the accusation of
Cato ; " and to obviate the influence which the
reputation of Cato's integrity might have in the
cause, he observes, " that the people in general,
and all wise judges, had ever been jealous of the
power and interest of an accuser ; lest the criminal
should be borne down, not by the weight of his
crimes, but the superior force of his adversary.
Let the authority of the great prevail," says he,

1 Pro Muren. 6. "Tbid. 7, 8.

n Ibid. 9, 10, 11.



" for the safety of the innocent, the protection of
the helpless, the relief of the miserable ; but let its
inrtuence be rejjelled from the dangers and destruc-
tion of citizens : for if any one should say, that
Cato would not have taken the pains to accuse, if
lie had not been assured of the crime, he estab-
lishes a very unjust law to men in distress, by
makinn; the judgment of an accuser to be con-
sidered as a prejudice or previous condemnation nf
the criminal"." He exhorts " Cato not to be so
severe on what ancient custom and the republic
itself had found useful ; nor to deprive the people
of their plays, gladiators, and feasts, which their
ancestors had ajiproved ; nor to take from candi-
dates an o])i)ortunity of obliging by a method of
expense which indicated their generosity, rather
than an intention to corrupt?."

But whatever Murena's crime might be, the
circumstance which chiefly favoured him was, the
difficulty of the times, and a rebellion actually on
foot ; which made it neither safe nor prudent to
deprive the city of a consul, who by a military
education was the best qualified to defend it in so
dangerous a crisis. This point Cicero dwells much
upon, declaring, " that he undertook this cause,
not so much for the sake of Murena, as of the
peace, the liberty, the lives and safety of them all.
Hear, hear," says he, " your consul, wlio, not
to speak arrogantly, thinks of nothing day and
night but of the republic : Catiline does not
despise us so far, as to hope to subdue this city
•with the force which he has carried out with him :
the contagion is spread wider than you imagine ;
the Trojan horse is within our walls ; which, while
I am consul, shall never oppress you in your sleep.
If it be asked then, what reason I have to fear
Catiline .' none at all ; and I have taken care that
nobody else need fear him : yet I say, that we
have cause to fear those troops of his, which I see
in this very place. Nor is his army so much to be
dreaded, as those who are said to have deserted it :
for in truth they have not deserted, but are left by
him only as spies upon us, and placed as it were
in ambush, to destroy us the more securely : all
these want to see a worthy consul, an experienced
general, a man both by nature and fortunes attached
to the interests of the republic, driven by your
sentence from the guard and custody of the city "J."
After urging this topic with great warmth and
force, he adds; " We are now come to the crisis
and extremity of our danger ; there is no resource
or recovery for us, if we now miscarry ; it is no
time to throw away any of the helps which we
have, but by all means possible to acquire more.
The enemy is not on the banks of the Anio, which
was thought so terrible in the Punic war, but in
the city and the forum. Good gods ! (1 cannot speak
it without a sigh,) there are some enemies in the
very sanctuary ; some, I say, even in the senate !
The gods grant, that my colleague may quell this
rebellion by our arms ; whilst I, in the gown, by
the assistance of all the honest, will dispel the
other dangers with which the city is now big. But
what wUl become of us, if they should slip through
our hands into the new year ; and find but one
consul in the republic, and him employed not in
prosecuting the war, but in providing a colleague .''
Then this plague of Catiline will break out in all

o Pro Muren. 28.
9 Ibid. 37.

P Ibid. 30'.

its fury, spreading terror, confusion, fire, and
sword through the city," &C.'' This considera-
tif>n, so forcibly urged, of the necessity of having
two consuls for the guard of the city at the opening
of the new year, had such weight with the judges,
that without any deliberation they unanimously
acquitted IMurena, and would not, as Cicero says,
so much as hear the accusation of men, the most
eminent and illustrious'.

Cicero had a strict intimacy all this while with
Sulpicius, whom he had served with all his interest
in this very contest for the consulship'. He had
a great friendship also with Cato, and the highest
esteem of his integrity ; yet he not only defended
this cause against them botli, but to take off the
prejudice of their authority, laboured even to make
them ridiculous ; rallying the profession of Sul-
picius as trifling and contemptible, the principles
of Cato as absurd and impracticable, with so much
humour and wit, that he made the whole audience
very merry, and forced Cato to cry out. What a
facetious consul have we" ! But what is more-
observable, the opposition of these great men in an
affair so interesting gave no sort of interruption to
their friendship, which continued as firm as ever
to the end of their lives : and Cicero, who lived
the longest of them, showed the real value that
he had for them both after their deaths, by pro-
curing public honours for the one, and writing the
life and praises of the other. Murena too, though
exposed to so much danger by the prosecution, yet
seems to have retained no resentment of it ; but
during his consulship paid a great deference to the
counsels of Cato, and employed all his power to
support him against the violence of Metellus, bis
colleague in the tribunate. This was a greatness
of mind truly noble, and suitable to the dignity of
the persons ; not to be shocked by the particular
contradiction of their friends, when their genercil
views on both sides were laudable and virtuous :
yet this must not be wholly charged to the virtue
of the men, but to the discipline of the republic
itself, which by a wise policy imposed it as a duty
on its subjects to defend their fellow citizens in.
their dangers, without regard to any friendships or
engagements whatsoever^. The examples of this
kind will be more or less frequent in states, in pro-
portion as the public good happens to be the
ruling principle ; for that is a bond of union too
firm to be broken by any little differences about
the measures of pursuing it : but where private
ambition and party zeal have the ascendant, there
every opposition must necessarily create animosity,
as it obstructs the acquisition of that good, which
is considered as the chief end of life, private benefit
and advantage.

Before the trial of Murena, Cicero had pleaded
another cause of the same kind in the defence of
C. Piso, who had been consul four years before,
and acquired the character of a brave and vigorous

r Pro Muren. 39.

s Defendi consul L. Murenam — nemo illorum judicum,
clarissimis viris accusantibus, audiendum sibi de ambitu
curavit, cum bellum jam gerente Catillna, omnes, me
auctore, duos consules Kalendis Jan. scirent esse oportere.

« Ibid. 3. " Plut. in Cato.

* Hanc nobis a majoribus esse traditani disciplinam, ut.
nuUius amicitia ad propulsanda pericula impcJiremur.—
Pro Sylla, 17.



magistrate : but we have no remains of the speech,
nor anything more said of it by Cicero, than that
Piso was acquitted on the account of his laudable
behaviour in his consulship''. We learn however
from Sallust, that he was accused of oppression
and extortion in his government; and that the
prosecution was promoted chiefly l)y J. Caesar, out
of revenge for Pise's having arl)itrarily punished
one of his friends or clients in Cisalpine Gaul'.

But to return to the affair of the conspiracy :
Lentulus and the rest, who were left in the city,
were preparing all things for the execution of their
grand design, and soliciting men of all ranks, who
seemed likely to favour their cause, or to be of any
use to it : among the rest, they agreed to make an
attempt on the ambassadors of tlie Allobroges ; a
warlike, mutinous, faithless people, inhabiting the
countries now called Savoy and Dauphiny, greatly
disaffected to the Roman power, and already ripe
for rebellion. These ambassadors, who were pre-
paring to return home, much out of humour with
the senate, and without any redress of the griev-
ances which they were sent to complain of,
received the proposal at first very greedily, and
promised to engage their nation to assist the con-
spirators with what they principally wanted", a
goodbody of horse, whenever they should begin the
war ; hut reflecting afterwards, in their cooler
thoughts, on the difficulty of the enterprise, and
the danger of involving themselves and their coun-
try in so des])erate a cause, they resolved to dis-
cover what they knew to Q. Fahius Sanga, the
patron of their city, who immediately gave intel-
ligence of it to the consul^.

Cicero's instructions upon it were, that the
ambassadors should continue to feign the same
zeal which they had hitherto shown, and promise
everything that was required of them, till they had
got a full insight into the extent of the plot, with
distinct proofs against the particular actors in it' :
upon which, at their next conference with the con-
spirators, they insisted on having some credentials
from them to show to their people at home, with-
out which they w-ould never be induced to enter
into an engagement so hazardous. This was thouglit
reasonable, and presently complied with ; and
Vulturcius was appointed to go along with the
ambassadors, and introduce them to Catiline on

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 18 of 230)