To wash the blackamoor white has been the favorite task of some modern historians. To find a paradox in character is a relief to the investigating mind which does not care to walk always in the well-tried paths, or to follow the grooves made plain and uninteresting by earlier writers. Tiberius and even Nero have been praised. The memories of our early years have been shocked by instructions to regard Richard III. and Henry VIII. as great and scrupulous kings. The devil may have been painted blacker than he should be, and the minds of just men, who will not accept the verdict of the majority, have been much exercised to put the matter right. We are now told that Catiline was a popular hero; that, though he might have wished to murder Cicero, he was, in accordance with the practice of his days, not much to be blamed for that; and that he was simply the follower of the Gracchi, and the forerunner of Cæsar in his desire to oppose the oligarchy of Rome.1 In this there is much that is true. Murder was common. He who had seen the Sullan proscriptions, as both Catiline and Cicero had done, might well have learned to feel less scrupulous as to blood than we do in these days. Even Cicero, who of all the Romans was the most humane — even he, no doubt, would have been well contented that Catiline should have been destroyed by the people.2 Even he was the cause, as we shall see just now, of the execution of the leaders of the conspirators whom Catiline left behind him in the city — an execution of which the legality is at any rate very doubtful. But in judging even of bloodshed we have to regard the circumstances of the time in the verdicts we give. Our consciousness of altered manners and of the growth of gentleness force this upon us. We cannot execrate the conspirators who murdered Cæsar as we would do those who might now plot the death of a tyrant; nor can we deal as heavily with the murderers of Cæsar as we would have done then with Catilinarian conspirators in Rome, had Catiline’s conspiracy succeeded. And so, too, in acknowledging that Catiline was the outcome of the Gracchi, and to some extent the preparation for Cæsar, we must again compare him with them, his motives and designs with theirs, before we can allow ourselves to sympathize with him, because there was much in them worthy of praise and honor.
That the Gracchi were seditious no historian has, I think, denied. They were willing to use the usages and laws of the Republic where those usages and laws assisted them, but as willing to act illegally when the usages and laws ran counter to them. In the reforms or changes which they attempted they were undoubtedly rebels; but no reader comes across the tale of the death, first of one and then of the other, without a regret. It has to be owned that they were murdered in tumults which they themselves had occasioned. But they were honest and patriotic. History has declared of them that their efforts were made with the real purport of relieving their fellow-countrymen from what they believed to be the tyranny of oligarchs. The Republic even in their time had become too rotten to be saved; but the world has not the less given them the credit for a desire to do good; and the names of the two brothers, rebels as they were, have come down to us with a sweet savor about them. Cæsar, on the other hand, was no doubt of the same political party. He too was opposed to the oligarchs, but it never occurred to him that he could save the Republic by any struggles after freedom. His mind was not given to patriotism of that sort — not to memories, not to associations. Even laws were nothing to him but as they might be useful. To his thinking, probably even in his early days, the state of Rome required a master. Its wealth, its pleasures, its soldiers, its power, were there for any one to take who could take them — for any one to hold who could hold them. Mr. Beesly, the last defender of Catiline, has stated that very little was known in Rome of Cæsar till the time of Catiline’s conspiracy, and in that I agree with him. He possessed high family rank, and had been Quæstor and Ædile; but it was only from this year out that his name was much in men’s mouths, and that he was learning to look into things. It may be that he had previously been in league with Catiline — that he was in league with him till the time came for the great attempt. The evidence, as far as it goes, seems to show that it was so. Rome had been the prey of many conspiracies. The dominion of Marius and the dominion of Sulla had been effected by conspiracies. No doubt the opinion was strong with many that both Cæsar and Crassus, the rich man, were concerned with Catiline. But Cæsar was very far-seeing, and, if such connection existed, knew how to withdraw from it when the time was not found to be opportune. But from first to last he always was opposed to the oligarchy. The various steps from the Gracchi to him were as those which had to be made from the Girondists to Napoleon. Catiline, no doubt, was one of the steps, as were Danton and Robespierre steps. The continuation of steps in each case was at first occasioned by the bad government and greed of a few men in power. But as Robespierre was vile and low, whereas Vergniaud was honest and Napoleon great, so was it with Catiline between the Gracchi and Cæsar. There is, to my thinking, no excuse for Catiline in the fact that he was a natural step, not even though he were a necessary step, between the Gracchi and Cæsar.
I regard as futile the attempts which are made to rewrite history on the base of moral convictions and philosophical conclusion. History very often has been, and no doubt often again will be, rewritten, with good effect and in the service of truth, on the finding of new facts. Records have been brought to light which have hitherto been buried, and testimonies are compared with testimonies which have not before been seen together. But to imagine that a man may have been good who has lain under the ban of all the historians, all the poets, and all the tellers of anecdotes, and then to declare such goodness simply in accordance with the dictates of a generous heart or a contradictory spirit, is to disturb rather than to assist history. Of Catiline we at least know that he headed a sedition in Rome in the year of Cicero’s Consulship; that he left the city suddenly; that he was killed in the neighborhood of Pistoia fighting against the Generals of the Republic, and that he left certain accomplices in Rome who were put to death by an edict of the Senate. So much I think is certain to the most truculent doubter. From his contemporaries, Sallust and Cicero, we have a very strongly expressed opinion of his character. They have left to us denunciations of the man which have made him odious to all after-ages, so that modern poets have made him a stock character, and have dramatized him as a fiend. Voltaire has described him as calling upon his fellow-conspirators to murder Cicero and Cato, and to burn the city. Ben Jonson makes Catiline kill a slave and mix his blood, to be drained by his friends. “There cannot be a fitter drink to make this sanction in.” The friends of Catiline will say that this shows no evidence against the man. None, certainly; but it is a continued expression of the feeling that has prevailed since Catiline’s time. In his own age Cicero and Sallust, who were opposed in all their political views, combined to speak ill of him. In the next, Virgil makes him as suffering his punishment in hell.3 In the next, Velleius Paterculus speaks of him as the conspirator whom Cicero had banished.4 Juvenal makes various allusions to him, but all in the same spirit. Juvenal cared nothing for history, but used the names of well-known persons as illustrations of the idea which he was presenting.5 Valerius Maximus, who wrote commendable little essays about all the virtues and all the vices, which he illustrated with the names of all the vicious and all the virtuous people he knew, is very severe on Catiline.6 Florus, who wrote two centuries and a half after the conspiracy, gives us of Catiline the same personal story as that told both by Sallust and Cicero: “Debauchery, in the first place; and then the poverty which that had produced; and then the opportunity of the time, because the Roman armies were in distant lands, induced Catiline to conspire for the destruction of his country.”7 Mommsen, who was certainly biassed by no feeling in favor of Cicero, declares that Catiline in particular was “one of the most nefarious men in that nefarious age. His villanies belong to the criminal records, not to history.”8 All this is no evidence. Cicero and Sallust may possibly have combined to lie about Catiline. Other Roman writers may have followed them, and modern poets and modern historians may have followed the Roman writers. It is possible that the world may have been wrong as to a period of Roman history with which it has thought itself to be well acquainted; but the world now has nothing to go by but the facts as they have come down to it. The writers of the ages since have combined to speak of Cicero with respect and admiration. They have combined, also, to speak of Catiline with abhorrence. They have agreed, also, to treat those other rebels, the Gracchi, after such a fashion that, in spite of their sedition, a sweet savor, as I have said, attaches itself to their names. For myself, I am contented to take the opinion of the world, and feel assured that I shall do no injustice in speaking of Catiline as all who have written about him hitherto have spoken of him I cannot consent to the building up of a noble patriot out of such materials as we have concerning him.9
Two strong points have been made for Catiline in Mr. Beesly’s defence. His ancestors had been Consuls when the forefathers of patricians of a later date “were clapping their chapped hands and throwing up their sweaty nightcaps.” That scorn against the people should be expressed by the aristocrat Casca was well supposed by Shakspeare; but how did a liberal of the present day bring himself to do honor to his hero by such allusions? In truth, however, the glory of ancient blood and the disgrace attaching to the signs of labor are ideas seldom relinquished even by democratic minds. A Howard is nowhere lovelier than in America, or a sweaty nightcap less relished. We are then reminded how Catiline died fighting, with the wounds all in front; and are told that the “world has generally a generous word for the memory of a brave man dying for his cause, be that cause what it will; but for Catiline none!” I think there is a mistake in the sentiment expressed here. To die readily when death must come is but a little thing, and is done daily by the poorest of mankind. The Romans could generally do it, and so can the Chinese. A Zulu is quite equal to it, and people lower in civilization than Chinese or Zulus. To encounter death, or the danger of death, for the sake of duty — when the choice is there; but duty and death are preferred to ignominious security, or, better still, to security which shall bring with it self-abasement — that is grand. When I hear that a man “rushed into the field and, foremost fighting, fell,” if there have been no adequate occasion, I think him a fool. If it be that he has chosen to hurry on the necessary event, as was Catiline’s case, I recognize him as having been endowed with certain physical attributes which are neither glorious nor disgraceful. That Catiline was constitutionally a brave man no one has denied. Rush, the murderer, was one of the bravest men of whom I remember to have heard. What credit is due to Rush is due to Catiline.
What we believe to be the story of Catiline’s life is this: In Sulla’s time he was engaged, as behooved a great nobleman of ancient blood, in carrying out the Dictator’s proscriptions and in running through whatever means he had. There are fearful stories told of him as to murdering his own son and other relatives; as to which Mr. Beesly is no doubt right in saying that such tales were too lightly told in Rome to deserve implicit confidence. To serve a purpose any one would say anything of any enemy. Very marvellous qualities are attributed to him — as to having been at the same time steeped in luxury and yet able and willing to bear all bodily hardships. He probably had been engaged in murders — as how should a man not have been so who had served under Sulla during the Dictatorship? He had probably allured some young aristocrats into debauchery, when all young aristocrats were so allured. He had probably undergone some extremity of cold and hunger. In reading of these things the reader will know by instinct how much he may believe, and how much he should receive as mythic. That he was a fast young nobleman, brought up to know no scruples, to disregard blood, and to look upon his country as a milch cow from which a young nobleman might be fed with never-ending streams of rich cream in the shape of money to be borrowed, wealth to be snatched, and, above all, foreigners to be plundered, we may take, I think, as proved. In spite of his vices, or by aid of them, he rose in the service of his country. That such a one should become a Prætor and a Governor was natural. He went to Africa with proconsular authority, and of course fleeced the Africans. It was as natural as that a flock of sheep should lose their wool at shearing time. He came back intent, as was natural also, on being a Consul, and of carrying on the game of promotion and of plunder. But there came a spoke in his wheel — the not unusual spoke of an accusation from the province. While under accusation for provincial robbery he could not come forward as a candidate, and thus he was stopped in his career.
It is not possible now to unravel all the personal feuds of the time — the ins and outs of family quarrels. Clodius — the Clodius who was afterward Cicero’s notorious enemy and the victim of Milo’s fury — became the accuser of Catiline on behalf of the Africans. Though Clodius was much the younger, they were men of the same class. It may be possible that Clodius was appointed to the work — as it had been intended that Cæcilius should be appointed at the prosecution of Verres — in order to assure not the conviction but the acquittal of the guilty man. The historians and biographers say that Clodius was at last bought by a bribe, and that he betrayed the Africans after that fashion. It may be that such bribery was arranged from the first. Our interest in that trial lies in the fact that Cicero no doubt intended, from political motives, to defend Catiline. It has been said that he did do so. As far as we know, he abandoned the intention. We have no trace of his speech, and no allusion in history to an occurrence which would certainly have been mentioned.10 But there was no reason why he should not have done so. He defended Fonteius, and I am quite willing to own that he knew Fonteius to have been a robber. When I look at the practice of our own times, I find that thieves and rebels are defended by honorable advocates, who do not scruple to take their briefs in opposition to their own opinions. It suited Cicero to do the same. If I were detected in a plot for blowing up a Cabinet Council, I do not doubt but that I should get the late attorney-general to defend me.11
But Catiline, though he was acquitted, was balked in his candidature for the Consulship of the next year, B.C. 65. P. Sulla and Autronius were elected12— that Sulla to whose subsequent defence I have just referred in this note — but were ejected on the score of bribery, and two others, Torquatus and Cotta, were elected in their place. In this way three men standing on high before their countrymen — one having been debarred from standing for the Consulship, and the other two having been robbed of their prize even when it was within their grasp — not unnaturally became traitors at heart. Almost as naturally they came together and conspired. Why should they have been selected as victims, having only done that which every aristocrat did as a matter of course in following out his recognized profession in living upon the subject nations? Their conduct had probably been the same as that of others, or if more glaring, only so much so as is always the case with vices as they become more common. However, the three men fell, and became the centre of a plot which is known as the first Catiline conspiracy.
The reader must bear in mind that I am now telling the story of Catiline, and going back to a period of two years before Cicero’s Consulship, which was B.C. 63. How during that year Cicero successfully defended Murena when Cato endeavored to rob him of his coming Consulship, has been already told. It may be that Murena’s hands were no cleaner than those of Sulla and Autronius, and that they lacked only the consular authority and forensic eloquence of the advocate who defended Murena. At this time, when the two appointed Consuls were rejected, Cicero had hardly as yet taken any part in public politics. He had been Quæstor, Ædile, and Prætor, filling those administrative offices to the best of his ability. He had, he says, hardly heard of the first conspiracy.13 That what he says is true, is, I think, proved by the absence of all allusion to it in his early letters, or in the speeches or fragments of speeches that are extant. But that there was such a conspiracy we cannot doubt, nor that the three men named, Catiline, Sulla, and Autronius, were leaders in it. What would interest us, if only we could have the truth, is whether Cæsar and Crassus were joined in it.
It is necessary again to consider the condition of the Republic. To us a conspiracy to subvert the government under which the conspirer lives seems either a very terrible remedy for great evils, or an attempt to do evil which all good men should oppose. We have the happy conspiracy in which Washington became the military leader, and the French Revolution, which, bloody as it was, succeeded in rescuing Frenchmen from the condition of serfdom. At home we have our own conspiracy against the Stuart royalty, which had also noble results. The Gracchi had attempted to effect something of the same kind at Rome; but the moral condition of the people had become so low that no real love of liberty remained. Conspiracy! oh yes. As long as there was anything to get, of course he who had not got it would conspire against him who had. There had been conspiracies for and against Marius, for and against Cinna, for and against Sulla. There was a grasping for plunder, a thirst for power which meant luxury, a greed for blood which grew from the hatred which such rivalry produced. These were the motive causes for conspiracies; not whether Romans should be free but whether a Sulla or a Cotta should be allowed to run riot in a province.
Cæsar at this time had not done much in the Roman world except fall greatly into debt. Knowing, as we do know now, his immense intellectual capacity, we cannot doubt but at the age he had now reached, thirty-five, B.C. 65, he had considered deeply his prospects in life. There is no reason for supposing that he had conceived the idea of being a great soldier. That came to him by pure accident, some years afterward. To be Quæstor, Prætor, and Consul, and catch what was going, seems to have been the cause to him of having encountered extraordinary debt. That he would have been a Verres, or a Fonteius, or a Catiline, we certainly are not entitled to think. Over whatever people he might have come to reign, and in whatever way he might have procured his kingdom, he would have reigned with a far-seeing eye, fixed upon future results. At this period he was looking out for a way to advance himself. There were three men, all just six years his senior, who had risen or were rising into great repute; they were Pompey, Cicero, and Catiline. There were two who were noted for having clean hands in the midst of all the dirt around; and they were undoubtedly the first Romans of the day. Catiline was determined that he too would be among the first Romans of the day; but his hands had never been clean. Which was the better way for such a one as Cæsar to go?
To have had Pompey under his feet, or Cicero, must have then seemed to Cæsar to be impracticable, though the time came when he did, in different ways, have his feet on both. With Catiline the chance of success might be better. Crassus he had already compassed. Crassus was like M. Poirier in the play — a man who, having become rich, then allowed himself the luxury of an ambition. If Cæsar joined the plot we can well understand that Crassus should have gone with him. We have all but sufficient authority for saying that it was so, but authority insufficient for declaring it. That Sallust, in his short account of the first conspiracy, should not have implicated Cæsar was a matter of course,14 as he wrote altogether in Cæsar’s interest. That Cicero should not have mentioned it is also quite intelligible. He did not wish to pull down upon his ears the whole house of the aristocracy. Throughout his career it was his object to maintain the tenor of the law with what smallest breach of it might be possible; but he was wise enough to know that when the laws were being broken on every side he could not catch in his nets all those who broke them. He had to pass over much; to make the best of the state of things as he found them. It is not to be supposed that a conspirator against the Republic would be horrible to him, as would be to us a traitor against the Crown: there were too many of them for horror. If Cæsar and Crassus could be got to keep themselves quiet, he would be willing enough not to have to add them to his list of enemies. Livy is presumed to have told us that this conspiracy intended to restore the ejected Consuls, and to kill the Consuls who had been established in their place. But the book in which this was written is lost, and we have only the Epitome, or heading of the book, of which we know that it was not written by Livy.15 Suetonius, who got his story not improbably from Livy, tells us that Cæsar was suspected of having joined this conspiracy with Crassus;16 and he goes on to say that Cicero, writing subsequently to one Axius, declared that “Cæsar had attempted in his Consulship to accomplish the dominion which he had intended to grasp in his Ædileship” the year in question. There is, however, no such letter extant. Asconius, who, as I have said before, wrote in the time of Tiberius, declares that Cicero in his lost oration, “In toga candida,” accused Crassus of having been the author of the conspiracy. Such is the information we have; and if we elect to believe that Cæsar was then joined with Catiline, we must be guided by our ideas of probability rather than by evidence.17 As I have said before, conspiracies had been very rife. To Cæsar it was no doubt becoming manifest that the Republic, with its oligarchs, must fall. Subsequently it did fall, and he was — I will not say the conspirator, nor will I judge the question by saying that he was the traitor; but the man of power who, having the legions of the Republic in his hands, used them against the Republic. I can well understand that he should have joined such a conspiracy as this first of Catiline, and then have backed out of it when he found he could not trust those who were joined with him.
This conspiracy failed. One man omitted to give a signal at one time, and another at another. The Senate was to have been slaughtered; the two Consuls, Cotta and Torquatus, murdered, and the two exConsuls, Sulla and Autronius, replaced. Though all the details seem to have been known to the Consuls, Catiline was allowed to go free, nor were any steps taken for the punishment of the conspirators.
The second conspiracy was attempted in the Consulship of Cicero, B.C. 63, two years after the first. Catiline had struggled for the Consulship, and had failed. Again there would be no province, no plunder, no power. This interference, as it must have seemed to him, with his peculiar privileges, had all come from Cicero. Cicero was the busybody who was attempting to stop the order of things which had, to his thinking, been specially ordained by all the gods for the sustenance of one so well born, and at the same time so poor, as himself. There was a vulgar meddling about it — all coming from the violent virtue of a Consul whose father had been a nobody at Arpinum — which was well calculated to drive Catiline into madness. So he went to work and got together in Rome a body of men as discontented and almost as nobly born as himself, and in the country north of Rome an army of rebels, and began his operations with very little secrecy. In all the story the most remarkable feature is the openness with which many of the details of the conspiracy were carried on. The existence of the rebel army was known; it was known that Catiline was the leader; the causes of his disaffection were known; his comrades in guilt were known When any special act was intended, such as might be the murder of the Consul or the firing of the city, secret plots were concocted in abundance. But the grand fact of a wide-spread conspiracy could go naked in Rome, and not even a Cicero dare to meddle with it.B.C. 63, ætat. 44.
As to this second conspiracy, the conspiracy with which Sallust and Cicero have made us so well acquainted, there is no sufficient ground for asserting that Cæsar was concerned in it.18 That he was greatly concerned in the treatment of the conspirators there is no doubt. He had probably learned to appreciate the rage, the madness, the impotence of Catiline at their proper worth. He too, I think, must have looked upon Cicero as a meddling, over-virtuous busybody; as did even Pompey when he returned from the East. What practical use could there be in such a man at such a time — in one who really believed in honesty, who thought of liberty and the Republic, and imagined that he could set the world right by talking? Such must have been the feeling of Cæsar, who had both experience and foresight to tell him that Rome wanted and must have a master. He probably had patriotism enough to feel that he, if he could acquire the mastership, would do something beyond robbery — would not satisfy himself with cutting the throats of all his enemies, and feeding his supporters with the property of his opponents. But Cicero was impracticable — unless, indeed, he could be so flattered as to be made useful. It was thus, I think, that Cæsar regarded Cicero, and thus that he induced Pompey to regard him. But now, in the year of his Consulship, Cicero had really talked himself into power, and for this year his virtue must be allowed to have its full way.
He did so much in this year, was so really efficacious in restraining for a time the greed and violence of the aristocracy, that it is not surprising that he was taught to believe in himself. There were, too, enough of others anxious for the Republic to bolster him up in his own belief. There was that Cornelius in whose defence Cicero made the two great speeches which have been unfortunately lost, and there was Cato, and up to this time there was Pompey, as Cicero thought. Cicero, till he found himself candidate for the Consulship, had contented himself with undertaking separate cases, in which, no doubt, politics were concerned, but which were not exclusively political. He had advocated the employment of Pompey in the East, and had defended Cornelius. He was well acquainted with the history of the Republic; but he had probably never asked himself the question whether it was in mortal peril, and if so, whether it might possibly be saved. In his Consulship he did do so; and, seeing less of the Republic than we can see now, told himself that it was possible.
The stories told to us of Catiline’s conspiracy by Sallust and by Cicero are so little conflicting that we can trust them both. Trusting them both, we are justified in believing that we know the truth. We are here concerned only with the part which Cicero took. Nothing, I think, which Cicero says is contradicted by Sallust, though of much that Cicero certainly did Sallust is silent. Sallust damns him, but only by faint praise. We may, therefore, take the account of the plot as given by Cicero himself as verified: indeed, I am not aware that any of Cicero’s facts have been questioned.
Sallust declares that Catiline’s attempt was popular in Rome generally.19 This, I think, must be taken as showing simply that revolution and conspiracy were in themselves popular: that, as a condition of things around him such as existed in Rome, a plotter of state plots should be able to collect a body of followers, was a thing of course; that there were many citizens who would not work, and who expected to live in luxury on public or private plunder, is certain. When the conspiracy was first announced in the Senate, Catiline had an army collected; but we have no proof that the hearts of the inhabitants of Rome generally were with the conspirators. On the other hand, we have proof, in the unparalleled devotion shown by the citizens to Cicero after the conspiracy was quelled, that their hearts were with him. The populace, fond of change, liked a disturbance; but there is nothing to show that Catiline was ever beloved as had been the Gracchi, and other tribunes of the people who came after them.
Catiline, in the autumn of the year B.C. 63, had arranged the outside circumstances of his conspiracy, knowing that he would, for the third time, be unsuccessful in his canvass for the Consulship. That Cicero with other Senators should be murdered seems to have been their first object, and that then the Consulship should be seized by force. On the 21st of October Cicero made his first report to the Senate as to the conspiracy, and called upon Catiline for his answer. It was then that Catiline made his famous reply: “That the Republic had two bodies, of which one was weak and had a bad head”— meaning the aristocracy, with Cicero as its chief —“and the other strong, but without any head,” meaning the people; “but that as for himself, so well had the people deserved of him, that as long as he lived a head should be forth-coming.”20 Then, at that sitting, the Senate decreed, in the usual formula, “That the Consuls were to take care that the Republic did not suffer.”21 On the 22d of October, the new Consuls, Silanus and Murena, were elected. On the 23d, Catiline was regularly accused of conspiracy by Paulus Lepidus, a young nobleman, in conformity with a law which had been enacted fifty-five years earlier, “de vi publica,” as to violence applied to the State. Two days afterward it was officially reported that Manlius — or Mallius, as he seems to have been generally called — Catiline’s lieutenant, had openly taken up arms in Etruria. The 27th had been fixed by the conspirators for the murder of Cicero and the other Senators. That all this was to be, and was so arranged by Catiline, had been declared in the Senate by Cicero himself on that day when Catiline told them of the two bodies and the two heads. Cicero, with his intelligence, ingenuity, and industry, had learned every detail. There was one Curius among the conspirators, a fair specimen of the young Roman nobleman of the day, who told it all to his mistress Fulvia, and she carried the information to the Consul. It is all narrated with fair dramatic accuracy in Ben Jonson’s dull play, though he has attributed to Cæsar a share in the plot, for doing which he had no authority. Cicero, on that sitting in the Senate, had been specially anxious to make Catiline understand that he knew privately every circumstance of the plot. Throughout the whole conspiracy his object was not to take Catiline, but to drive him out of Rome. If the people could be stirred up to kill him in their wrath, that might be well; in that way there might be an end of all the trouble. But if that did not come to pass, then it would be best to make the city unbearable to the conspirators. If they could be driven out, they must either take themselves to foreign parts and be dispersed, or must else fight and assuredly be conquered. Cicero himself was never blood-thirsty, but the necessity was strong upon him of ridding the Republic from these blood-thirsty men.
The scheme for destroying Cicero and the Senators on the 27th of October had proved abortive. On the 6th of the next month a meeting was held in the house of one Marcus Porcius Læca, at which a plot was arranged for the killing of Cicero the next day — for the killing of Cicero alone — he having been by this time found to be the one great obstacle in their path. Two knights were told off for the service, named Vargunteius and Cornelius. These, after the Roman fashion, were to make their way early on the following morning into the Consul’s bedroom for the ostensible purpose of paying him their morning compliments, but, when there, they were to slay him. All this, however, was told to Cicero, and the two knights, when they came, were refused admittance. If Cicero had been a man given to fear, as has been said of him, he must have passed a wretched life at this period. As far as I can judge of his words and doings throughout his life, he was not harassed by constitutional timidity. He feared to disgrace his name, to lower his authority, to become small in the eyes of men, to make political mistakes, to do that which might turn against him. In much of this there was a falling off from that dignity which, if we do not often find it in a man, we can all of us imagine; but of personal dread as to his own skin, as to his own life, there was very little. At this time, when, as he knew well, many men with many weapons in their hands, men who were altogether unscrupulous, were in search for his blood he never seems to have trembled.
But all Rome trembled — even according to Sallust. I have already shown how he declares in one part of his narrative that the common people as a body were with Catiline, and have attempted to explain what was meant by that expression. In another, in an earlier chapter, he says “that the State,” meaning the city, “was disturbed by all this, and its appearance changed.22 Instead of the joy and ease which had lately prevailed, the effect of the long peace, a sudden sadness fell upon every one.” I quote the passage because that other passage has been taken as proving the popularity of Catiline. There can, I think, be no doubt that the population of Rome was, as a body, afraid of Catiline. The city was to be burnt down, the Consuls and the Senate were to be murdered, debts were to be wiped out, slaves were probably to be encouraged against their masters. The “permota civitas” and the “cuncta plebes,” of which Sallust speaks, mean that all the “householders” were disturbed, and that all the “roughs” were eager with revolutionary hopes.
On the 8th of November, the day after that on which the Consul was to have been murdered in his own house, he called a special meeting of the Senate in the temple of Jupiter Stator. The Senate in Cicero’s time was convened according to expedience, or perhaps as to the dignity of the occasion, in various temples. Of these none had a higher reputation than that of the special Jupiter who is held to have befriended Romulus in his fight with the Sabines. Here was launched that thunderbolt of eloquence which all English school-boys have known for its “Quousque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra.” Whether it be from the awe which has come down to me from my earliest years, mixed perhaps with something of dread for the great pedagogue who first made the words to sound grandly in my ears, or whether true critical judgment has since approved to me the real weight of the words, they certainly do contain for my intelligence an expression of almost divine indignation. Then there follows a string of questions, which to translate would be vain, which to quote, for those who read the language, is surely unnecessary. It is said to have been a fault with Cicero that in his speeches he runs too much into that vein of wrathful interrogation which undoubtedly palls upon us in English oratory when frequent resort is made to it. It seems to be too easy, and to contain too little of argument. It was this, probably, of which his contemporaries complained when they declared him to be florid, redundant, and Asiatic in his style.23 This questioning runs through nearly the whole speech, but the reader cannot fail to acknowledge its efficacy in reference to the matter in hand. Catiline was sitting there himself in the Senate, and the questions were for the most part addressed to him. We can see him now, a man of large frame, with bold, glaring eyes, looking in his wrath as though he were hardly able to keep his hands from the Consul’s throat, even there in the Senate. Though he knew that this attack was to be made on him, he had stalked into the temple and seated himself in a place of honor, among the benches intended for those who had been Consuls. When there, no one spoke to him, no one saluted him. The consular Senators shrunk away, leaving their places of privilege. Even his brother-conspirators, of whom many were present, did not dare to recognize him. Lentulus was no doubt there, and Cethegus, and two of the Sullan family, and Cassius Longinus, and Autronius, and Læca, and Curius. All of them were or had been conspirators in the same cause. Cæsar was there too, and Crassus. A fellow conspirator with Catiline would probably be a Senator. Cicero knew them all. We cannot say that in this matter Cæsar was guilty, but Cicero, no doubt, felt that Cæsar’s heart was with Catiline. It was his present task so to thunder with his eloquence that he should turn these bitter enemies into seeming friends — to drive Catiline from out of the midst of them, so that it should seem that he had been expelled by those who were in truth his brother-conspirators; and this it was that he did.
He declared the nature of the plot, and boldly said that, such being the facts, Catiline deserved death. “If,” he says, “I should order you to be taken and killed, believe me I should be blamed rather for my delay in doing so than for my cruelty.” He spoke throughout as though all the power were in his own hands, either to strike or to forbear. But it was his object to drive him out and not to kill him. “Go,” he said; “that camp of yours and Mallius, your lieutenant, are too long without you. Take your friends with you. Take them all. Cleanse the city of your presence. When its walls are between you and me then I shall feel myself secure. Among us here you may no longer stir yourself. I will not have it — I will not endure it. If I were to suffer you to be killed, your followers in the conspiracy would remain here; but if you go out, as I desire you, this cesspool of filth will drain itself off from out the city. Do you hesitate to do at my command that which you would fain do yourself? The Consul requires an enemy to depart from the city. Do you ask me whether you are to go into exile? I do not order it; but if you ask my counsel, I advise it.” Exile was the severest punishment known by the Roman law, as applicable to a citizen, and such a punishment it was in the power of no Consul or other officer of state to inflict. Though he had taken upon himself the duty of protecting the Republic, still he could not condemn a citizen. It was to the moral effect of his words that he must trust: “Non jubeo, sed si me consulis, suadeo.” Catiline heard him to the end, and then, muttering a curse, left the Senate, and went out of the city. Sallust tells us that he threatened to extinguish, in the midst of the general ruin he would create, the flames prepared for his own destruction. Sallust, however, was not present on the occasion, and the threat probably had been uttered at an earlier period of Catiline’s career. Cicero tells us expressly, in one of his subsequent works, that Catiline was struck dumb.24
Of this first Catiline oration Sallust says, that “Marcus Tullius the Consul, either fearing the presence of the man, or stirred to anger, made a brilliant speech, very useful to the Republic.”25 This, coming from an enemy, is stronger testimony to the truth of the story told by Cicero, than would have been any vehement praise from the pen of a friend.
Catiline met some of his colleagues the same night. They were the very men who as Senators had been present at his confusion, and to them he declared his purpose of going. There was nothing to be done in the city by him. The Consul was not to be reached. Catiline himself was too closely watched for personal action. He would join the army at Fæsulæ and then return and burn the city. His friends, Lentulus, Cethegus, and the others, were to remain and be ready for fire and slaughter as soon as Catiline with his army should appear before the walls. He went, and Cicero had been so far successful.
But these men, Lentulus, Cethegus, and the other Senators, though they had not dared to sit near Catiline in the Senate, or to speak a word to him, went about their work zealously when evening had come. A report was spread among the people that the Consul had taken upon himself to drive a citizen into exile. Catiline, the ill-used Catiline — Catiline, the friend of the people, had, they said, gone to Marseilles in order that he might escape the fury of the tyrant Consul. In this we see the jealousy of Romans as to the infliction of any punishment by an individual officer on a citizen. It was with a full knowledge of what was likely to come that Cicero had ironically declared that he only advised the conspirator to go. The feeling was so strong that on the next morning he found himself compelled to address the people on the subject. Then was uttered the second Catiline oration, which was spoken in the open air to the citizens at large. Here too there are words, among those with which he began his speech, almost as familiar to us as the “Quousque tandem”—“Abiit; excessit; evasit; erupit!” This Catiline, says Cicero, this pest of his country, raging in his madness, I have turned out of the city. If you like it better, I have expelled him by my very words. “He has departed. He has fled. He has gone out from among us. He has broken away!” “I have made this conspiracy plain to you all, as I said I would, unless indeed there may be some one here who does not believe that the friends of Catiline will do the same as Catiline would have done. But there is no time now for soft measures. We have to be strong-handed. There is one thing I will do for these men. Let them too go out, so that Catiline shall not pine for them. I will show them the road. He has gone by the Via Aurelia. If they will hurry they may catch him before night.” He implies by this that the story about Marseilles was false. Then he speaks with irony of himself as that violent Consul who could drive citizens into exile by the very breath of his mouth. “Ego vehemens ille consul qui verbo cives in exsilium ejicio.” So he goes on, in truth defending himself, but leading them with him to take part in the accusation which he intends to bring against the chief conspirators who remain in the city. If they too will go, they may go unscathed; if they choose to remain, let them look to themselves.
Through it all we can see there is but one thing that he fears — that he shall be driven by the exigencies of the occasion to take some steps which shall afterward be judged not to have been strictly legal, and which shall put him into the power of his enemies when the day of his ascendency shall have passed away. It crops out repeatedly in these speeches.26 He seems to be aware that some over-strong measure will be forced upon him for which he alone will be held responsible. If he can only avoid that, he will fear nothing else; if he cannot avoid it, he will encounter even that danger. His foresight was wonderfully accurate. The strong hand was used, and the punishment came upon him, not from his enemies but from his friends, almost to the bursting of his heart.
Though the Senate had decreed that the Consuls were to see that the Republic should take no harm, and though it was presumed that extraordinary power was thereby conferred, it is evident that no power was conferred of inflicting punishment. Antony, as Cicero’s colleague, was nothing. The authority, the responsibility, the action were, and were intended, to remain with Cicero. He could not legally banish any one. It was only too evident that there must be much slaughter. There was the army of rebels with which it would be necessary to fight. Let them go, these rebels within the city, and either join the army and get themselves killed, or else disappear, whither they would, among the provinces. The object of this second Catiline oration, spoken to the people, was to convince the remaining conspirators that they had better go, and to teach the citizens generally that in giving such counsel he was “banishing” no one. As far as the citizens were concerned he was successful; but he did not induce the friends of Catiline to follow their chief. This took place on the 9th of November. After the oration the Senate met again, and declared Catiline and Mallius to be public enemies.
Twenty-four days elapsed before the third speech was spoken — twenty-four days during which Rome must have been in a state of very great fever. Cicero was actively engaged in unravelling the plots the details of which were still being carried on within the city; but nevertheless he made that speech for Murena before the judicial bench of which I gave an account in the last chapter, and also probably another for Piso, of which we have nothing left. We cannot but marvel that he should have been able at such a time to devote his mind to such subjects, and carefully to study all the details of legal cases. It was only on October 21st that Murena had been elected Consul; and yet on the 20th of November Cicero defended him with great skill on a charge of bribery. There is an ease, a playfulness, a softness, a drollery about this speech which appears to be almost incompatible with the stern, absorbing realities and great personal dangers in the midst of which he was placed; but the agility of his mind was such that there appears to have been no difficulty to him in these rapid changes.
On the same day, the 20th of November, when Cicero was defending Murena, the plot was being carried on at the house of a certain Roman lady named Sempronia. It was she of whom Sallust said that she danced better than became an honest woman. If we can believe Sallust, she was steeped in luxury and vice. At her house a most vile project was hatched for introducing into Rome Rome’s bitterest foreign foes. There were in the city at this time certain delegates from a people called the Allobroges, who inhabited the lower part of Savoy. The Allobroges were of Gaulish race. They were warlike, angry, and at the present moment peculiarly discontented with Rome. There had been certain injuries, either real or presumed, respecting which these delegates had been sent to the city. There they had been delayed, and fobbed off with official replies which gave no satisfaction, and were supposed to be ready to do any evil possible to the Republic. What if they could be got to go back suddenly to their homes, and bring a legion of red-haired Gauls to assist the conspirators in burning down Rome? A deputation from the delegates came to Sempronia’s house and there met the conspirators — Lentulus and others. They entered freely into the project; but having, as was usual with foreign embassies at Rome, a patron or peculiar friend of their own among the aristocracy, one Fabius Sanga by name, they thought it well to consult him.27 Sanga, as a matter of course, told everything to our astute Consul.
Then the matter was arranged with more than all the craft of a modern inspector of police. The Allobroges were instructed to lend themselves to the device, stipulating, however, that they should have a written signed authority which they could show to their rulers at home. The written signed documents were given to them. With certain conspirators to help them out of the city they were sent upon their way. At a bridge over the Tiber they were stopped by Cicero’s emissaries. There was a feigned fight, but no blood was shed; and the ambassadors with their letters were brought home to the Consul.
We are astonished at the marvellous folly of these conspirators, so that we could hardly have believed the story had it not been told alike by Cicero and by Sallust, and had not allusion to the details been common among later writers.28 The ambassadors were taken at the Milvian bridge early on the morning of the 3d of December, and in the course of that day Cicero sent for the leaders of the conspiracy to come to him. Lentulus, who was then Prætor, Cethegus, Gabinius, and Statilius all obeyed the summons. They did not know what had occurred, and probably thought that their best hope of safety lay in compliance. Cæparius was also sent for, but he for the moment escaped — in vain; for before two days were over he had been taken and put to death with the others. Cicero again called the Senate together, and entered the meeting leading the guilty Prætor by the hand. Here the offenders were examined and practically acknowledged their guilt. The proofs against them were so convincing that they could not deny it. There were the signatures of some; arms were found hidden in the house of another. The Senate decreed that the men should be kept in durance till some decision as to their fate should have been pronounced. Each of them was then given in custody to some noble Roman of the day. Lentulus the Prætor was confided to the keeping of a Censor, Cethegus to Cornificius, Statilius to Cæsar, Gabinius to Crassus, and Cæparius, who had not fled very far before he was taken, to one Terentius. We can imagine how willingly would Crassus and Cæsar have let their men go, had they dared. But Cicero was in the ascendant. Cæsar, whom we can imagine to have understood that the hour had not yet come for putting an end to the effete Republic, and to have perceived also that Catiline was no fit helpmate for him in such a work, must bide his time, and for the moment obey. That he was inclined to favor the conspirators there is no doubt; but at present he could befriend them only in accordance with the law. The Allobroges were rewarded. The Prætors in the city who had assisted Cicero were thanked. To Cicero himself a supplication was decreed. A supplication was, in its origin, a thanksgiving to the gods on account of a victory, but had come to be an honor shown to the General who had gained the victory. In this case it was simply a means of adding glory to Cicero, and was peculiar, as hitherto the reward had only been conferred for military service.29 Remembering that, we can understand what at the time must have been the feeling in Rome as to the benefits conferred by the activity and patriotism of the Consul.
On the evening of the same day, the 3d of December, Cicero again addressed the people, explaining to them what he had done, and what he had before explained in the Senate. This was the third Catiline speech, and for rapid narrative is perhaps surpassed by nothing that he ever spoke. He explains again the motives by which he had been actuated; and in doing so extols the courage, the sagacity, the activity of Catiline, while he ridicules the folly and the fury of the others.30 Had Catiline remained, he says, we should have been forced to fight with him here in the city; but with Lentulus the sleepy, and Cassius the fat, and Cethegus the mad, it has been comparatively easy to deal. It was on this account that he had got rid of him, knowing that their presence would do no harm. Then he reminds the people of all that the gods have done for them, and addresses them in language which makes one feel that they did believe in their gods. It is one instance, one out of many which history and experience afford us, in which an honest and a good man has endeavored to use for salutary purposes a faith in which he has not himself participated. Does the bishop of today, when he calls upon his clergy to pray for fine weather, believe that the Almighty will change the ordained seasons, and cause his causes to be inoperative because farmers are anxious for their hay or for their wheat? But he feels that when men are in trouble it is well that they should hold communion with the powers of heaven. So much also Cicero believed, and therefore spoke as he did on this occasion. As to his own religious views, I shall say something in a future chapter.
Then in a passage most beautiful for its language, though it is hardly in accordance with our idea of the manner in which a man should speak of himself, he explains his own ambition: “For all which, my fellow-countrymen, I ask for no other recompense, no ornament or honor, no monument but that this day may live in your memories. It is within your breasts that I would garner and keep fresh my triumph, my glory, the trophies of my exploits. No silent, voiceless statue, nothing which can be bestowed upon the worthless, can give me delight. Only by your remembrance can my fortunes be nurtured — by your good words, by the records which you shall cause to be written, can they be strengthened and perpetuated. I do think that this day, the memory of which, I trust, may be eternal, will be famous in history because the city has been preserved, and because my Consulship has been glorious.”31 He ends the paragraph by an allusion to Pompey, admitting Pompey to a brotherhood of patriotism and praise. We shall see how Pompey repaid him.
How many things must have been astir in his mind when he spoke those words of Pompey! In the next sentence he tells the people of his own danger. He has taken care of their safety; it is for them to take care of his.32 But they, these Quirites, these Roman citizens, these masters of the world, by whom everything was supposed to be governed, could take care of no one; certainly not of themselves, as certainly not of another. They could only vote, now this way and now that, as somebody might tell them, or more probably as somebody might pay them. Pompey was coming home, and would soon be the favorite. Cicero must have felt that he had deserved much of Pompey, but was by no means sure that the debt of gratitude would be paid.
Now we come to the fourth or last Catiline oration, which was made to the Senate, convened on the 5th of December with the purpose of deciding the fate of the leading conspirators who were held in custody. We learn to what purport were three of the speeches made during this debate — those of Cæsar and of Cato and of Cicero. The first two are given to us by Sallust, but we can hardly think that we have the exact words. The Cæsarean spirit which induced Sallust to ignore altogether the words of Cicero would have induced him to give his own representation of the other two, even though we were to suppose that he had been able to have them taken down by short-hand writers — Cicero’s words, we have no doubt, with such polishing as may have been added to the short-hand writers’ notes by Tiro, his slave and secretary. The three are compatible each with the other, and we are entitled to believe that we know the line of argument used by the three orators.
Silanus, one of the Consuls elect, began the debate by counselling death. We may take it for granted that he had been persuaded by Cicero to make this proposition. During the discussion he trembled at the consequences, and declared himself for an adjournment of their decision till they should have dealt with Catiline. Murena, the other Consul elect, and Catulus, the Prince of the Senate,33 spoke for death. Tiberius Nero, grandfather of Tiberius the Emperor, made that proposition for adjournment to which Silanus gave way. Then — or I should rather say in the course of the debate, for we do not know who else may have spoken — Cæsar got up and made his proposition. His purpose was to save the victims, but he knew well that, with such a spirit abroad as that existing in the Senate and the city, he could only do so not by absolving but by condemning. Wicked as these men might be, abominably wicked it was, he said, for the Senate to think of their own dignity rather than of the enormity of the crime. As they could not, he suggested, invent any new punishment adequate to so abominable a crime, it would be better that they should leave the conspirators to be dealt with by the ordinary laws. It was thus that, cunningly, he threw out the idea that as Senators they had no power of death. He did not dare to tell them directly that any danger would menace them, but he exposed the danger skilfully before their eyes. “Their crimes,” he says again, “deserve worse than any torture you can inflict. But men generally recollect what comes last. When the punishment is severe, men will remember the severity rather than the crime.” He argues all this extremely well. The speech is one of great ingenuity, whether the words be the words of Sallust or of Cæsar. We may doubt, indeed, whether the general assertion he made as to death had much weight with the Senators when he told them that death to the wicked was a relief, whereas life was a lasting punishment; but when he went on to remind them of the Lex Porcia, by which the power of punishing a Roman citizen, even under the laws, was limited to banishment, unless by a plebiscite of the people generally ordering death, then he was efficacious. He ended by proposing that the goods of the conspirators should be sold, and that the men should be condemned to imprisonment for life, each in some separate town. This would, I believe, have been quite as illegal as the death-sentence, but it would not have been irrevocable. The Senate, or the people, in the next year could have restored to the men their liberty, and compensated them for their property. Cicero was determined that the men should die. They had not obeyed him by leaving the city, and he was convinced that while they lived the conspiracy would live also. He fully understood the danger, and resolved to meet it. He replied to Cæsar, and with infinite skill refrained from the expression of any strong opinion, while he led his hearers to the conviction that death was necessary. For himself he had been told of his danger; “but if a man be brave in his duty death cannot be disgraceful to him; to one who had reached the honors of the Consulship it could not be premature; to no wise man could it be a misery.” Though his brother, though his wife, though his little boy, and his daughter just married were warning him of his peril, not by all that would he be influenced. “Do you,” he says, “Conscript Fathers, look to the safety of the Republic. These are not the Gracchi, nor Saturninus, who are brought to you for judgment — men who broke the laws, indeed, and therefore suffered death, but who still were not unpatriotic. These men had sworn to burn the city, to slay the Senate, to force Catiline upon you as a ruler. The proofs of this are in your own hands. It was for me, as your Consul, to bring the facts before you. Now it is for you, at once, before night, to decide what shall be done. The conspirators are very many; it is not only with these few that you are dealing. On whatever you decide, decide quickly. Cæsar tells you of the Sempronian law34— the law, namely, forbidding the death of a Roman citizen — but can he be regarded as a citizen who has been found in arms against the city?” Then there is a fling at Cæsar’s assumed clemency, showing us that Cæsar had already endeavored to make capital out of that virtue which he displayed afterward so signally at Alesia and Uxellodunum. Then again he speaks of himself in words so grand that it is impossible but to sympathize with him: “Let Scipio’s name be glorious — he by whose wisdom and valor Hannibal was forced out of Italy. Let Africanus be praised loudly, who destroyed Carthage and Numantia, the two cities which were most hostile to Rome. Let Paulus be regarded as great — he whose triumph that great King Perses adorned. Let Marius be held in undying honor, who twice saved Italy from foreign yoke. Let Pompey be praised above all, whose noble deeds are as wide as the sun’s course. Perhaps among them there may be a spot, too, for me; unless, indeed, to win provinces to which we may take ourselves in exile is more than to guard that city to which the conquerors of provinces may return in safety.” The last words of the orator also are fine: “Therefore, Conscript Fathers, decide wisely and without fear. Your own safety, and that of your wives and children, that of your hearths and altars, the temples of your gods, the homes contained in your city, your liberty, the welfare of Italy and of the whole Republic are at stake. It is for you to decide. In me you have a Consul who will obey your decrees, and will see that they be made to prevail while the breath of life remains to him.” Cato then spoke advocating death, and the Senate decreed that the men should die. Cicero himself led Lentulus down to the vaulted prison below, in which executioners were ready for the work, and the other four men were made to follow. A few minutes afterward, in the gleaming of the evening, when Cicero was being led home by the applauding multitude, he was asked after the fate of the conspirators. He answered them but by one word “Vixerunt”— there is said to have been a superstition with the Romans as to all mention of death —“They have lived their lives.”
As to what was being done outside Rome with the army of conspirators in Etruria, it is not necessary for the biographer of Cicero to say much. Catiline fought, and died fighting. The conspiracy was then over. On the 31st of December Cicero retired from his office, and Catiline fell at the battle of Pistoia on the 5th of January following, B.C. 62.
A Roman historian writing in the reign of Tiberius has thought it worth his while to remind us that a great glory was added to Cicero’s consular year by the birth of Augustus — him who afterward became Augustus Cæsar.35 Had a Roman been living now, he might be excused for saying that it was an honor to Augustus to have been born in the year of Cicero’s Consulship.
1 Catiline, by Mr. Beesly. Fortnightly Review, 1865.
2 Pro Murena, xxv.: “Quem omnino vivum illinc exire non oportuerat.” I think we must conclude from this that Cicero had almost expected that his attack upon the conspirators, in his first Catiline oration, would have the effect of causing him to be killed.
3 Æneid, viii., 668:
“Te, Catilina, minaci
4 Velleius Paterculus, lib. ii., xxxiv.
5 Juvenal, Sat. ii., 27: “Catilina Cethegum!” Could such a one as Catiline answer such a one as Cethegus? Sat. viii., 232: “Arma tamen vos Nocturna et flammas domibus templisque parastis.” Catiline, in spite of his noble blood, had endeavored to burn the city. Sat. xiv., 41: “Catilinam quocunque in populo videas.” It is hard to find a good man, but it is easy enough to put your hand anywhere on a Catiline.
6 Val Maximus, lib. v., viii., 5; lib. ix., 1, 9; lib. ix., xi., 3.
7 Florus, lib. iv.
8 Mommsen’s History of Rome, book v., chap v.
9 I feel myself constrained here to allude to the treatment given to Catiline by Dean Merivale in his little work on the two Roman Triumvirates. The Dean’s sympathies are very near akin to those of Mr. Beesly, but he values too highly his own historical judgment to allow it to run on all fours with Mr. Beesly’s sympathies. “The real designs,” he says, “of the infamous Catiline and his associates must indeed always remain shrouded in mystery. * * * Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny, and on the whole it would be unreasonable to doubt, that such a conspiracy there really was, and that the very existence of the commonwealth was for a moment seriously imperilled.” It would certainly be unreasonable to doubt it. But the Dean, though he calls Catiline infamous, and acknowledges the conspiracy, nevertheless give us ample proof of his sympathy with the conspirators, or rather of his strong feeling against Cicero. Speaking of Catiline at a certain moment, he says that he “was not yet hunted down.” He speaks of the “upstart Cicero,” and plainly shows us that his heart is with the side which had been Cæsar’s. Whether conspiracy or no conspiracy, whether with or without wholesale murder and rapine, a single master with a strong hand was the one remedy needed for Rome! The reader must understand that Cicero’s one object in public life was to resist that lesson.
10 Asconius, “In toga candida,” reports that Fenestella, a writer of the time of Augustus, had declared that Cicero had defended Catiline; but Asconius gives his reasons for disbelieving the story.
11 Cicero, however, declares that he has made a difference between traitors to their country and other criminals. Pro P. Sulla, ca. iii.: “Verum etiam quædam contagio sceleris, si defendas eum, quem obstrictum esse patriæ parricidio suspicere.” Further on in the same oration, ca. vi., he explains that he had refused to defend Autronius because he had known Autronius to be a conspirator against his country. I cannot admit the truth of the argument in which Mr. Forsyth defends the practice of the English bar in this respect, and in doing so presses hard upon Cicero. “At Rome,” he says, “it was different. The advocate there was conceived to have a much wider discretion than we allow.” Neither in Rome nor in England has the advocate been held to be disgraced by undertaking the defence of bad men who have been notoriously guilty. What an English barrister may do, there was no reason that a Roman advocate should not do, in regard to simple criminality. Cicero himself has explained in the passage I have quoted how the Roman practice did differ from ours in regard to treason. He has stated also that he knew nothing of the first conspiracy when he offered to defend Catiline on the score of provincial peculations. No writer has been heavy on Hortensius for defending Verres, but only because he took bribes from Verres.
12 Publius Cornelius Sulla, and Publius Autronius P[oe]tus.
13 Pro P. Sulla, iv. He declares that he had known nothing of the first conspiracy and gives the reason: “Quod nondum penitus in republica versabar, quod nondum ad propositum mihi finem honoris perveneram, quod mea me ambitio et forensis labor ab omni illa cogitatione abstrahebat.”
14 Sallust, Catilinaria, xviii.
15 Livy, Epitome, lib. ci.
16 Suetonius, J. Cæsar, ix.
17 Mommsen, book v., ca. v., says of Cæsar and Crassus as to this period, “that this notorious action corresponds with striking exactness to the secret action which this report ascribes to them.” By which he means to imply that they probably were concerned in the plot.
18 Sallust tells us, Catilinaria, xlix., that Cicero was instigated by special enemies of Cæsar to include Cæsar in the accusation, but refused to mix himself up in so great a crime. Crassus also was accused, but probably wrongfully. Sallust declares that an attempt was made to murder Cæsar as he left the Senate. There was probably some quarrel and hustling, but no more.
19 Sallust, Catilinaria, xxxvii.: “Omnino cuncta plebes, novarum rerum studio, Catilinæ incepta probabat.” By the words “novarum rerum studio”— by a love of revolution — we can understand the kind of popularity which Sallust intended to express.
20 Pro Murena, xxv.
21 “Darent operam consules ne quid detrimenti respublica capiat.”
22 Catilinaria, xxxi.
23 Quintilian, lib. xii., 10: “Quem tamen et suorum homines temporum incessere audebant, ut tumidiorem, et asianum, et redundantem.”
24 Orator., xxxvii.: “A nobis homo audacissimus Catilina in senatu accusatus obmutuit.”
25 2 Catilinaria, xxxi.
26 In the first of them to the Senate, chap. ix., he declares this to Catiline himself: “Si mea voce perterritus ire in exsilium animum induxeris, quanta tempestas invidiæ nobis, si minus in præsens tempus, recenti memoria scelerum tuorum, at in posteritatem impendeat.” He goes on to declare that he will endure all that, if by so doing he can save the Republic. “Sed est mihi tanti; dummodo ista privata sit calamitas, et a reipublicæ periculis sejungatur.”
27 Sallust, Catilinaria, xli.: “Itaque Q. Fabio Sangæ cujus patrocinio civitas plurimum utebatur rem omnem uti cognoverant aperiunt.”
28 Horace, Epo. xvi., 6: “Novisque rebus infidelis Allobrox.” The unhappy Savoyard has from this line been known through ages as a conspirator, false even to his fellow-conspirators.
Juvenal, vii., 214: “Rufum qui toties Ciceronem Allobroga dixit.” Some Rufus, acting as advocate, had thought to put down Cicero by calling him an Allobrogian.
29 The words in which this honor was conferred he himself repeats: “Quod urbem incendiis, cæde cives, Italiam bello liberassem”—“because I had rescued the city from fire, the citizens from slaughter, and Italy from war.”
30 It is necessary in all oratory to read something between the lines. It is allowed to the speaker to produce effect by diminishing and exaggerating. I think we should detract something from the praises bestowed on Catiline’s military virtues. The bigger Catiline could be made to appear, the greater would be the honor of having driven him out of the city.
31 In Catilinam, iii., xi.
32 In Catilinam, ibid., xii.: “Ne mihi noceant vestrum est providere.”
33 “Prince of the Senate” was an honorary title, conferred on some man of mark as a dignity — at this period on some exConsul; it conferred no power. Cicero, the Consul who had convened the Senate, called on the speakers as he thought fit.
34 Cæsar, according to Sallust, had referred to the Lex Porcia. Cicero alludes, and makes Cæsar allude, to the Lex Sempronia. The Porcian law, as we are told by Livy, was passed B.C. 299, and forbade that a Roman should be scourged or put to death. The Lex Sempronia was introduced by C. Gracchus, and enacted that the life of a citizen should not be taken without the voice of the citizens.
35 Velleius Paterculus, xxxvi.: “Consulatui Ciceronis non mediocre adjecit decus natus eo anno Divus Augustus.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01