The World’s Famous Orations.
Rome (218 B.C.–84 A.D.). 1906.
IV. The Second Oration Against Catiline
But if there be any one of that disposition which all men should have, who yet blames me greatly for the very thing in which my speech exults and triumphs—namely, that I did not arrest so capital mortal an enemy rather than let him go—that is not my fault, O citizens, but the fault of the times. Lucius Catiline ought to have been visited with the severest punishment, and to have been put to death long since; and both the customs of our ancestors, and the rigor of my office, and the republic, demanded this of me; but how many, think you, were there who did not believe what I reported? how many who out of stupidity did not think so? how many who even defended him? how many who, out of their own depravity, favored him? If, in truth, I had thought that, if he were removed, all danger would be removed from you, I would long since have cut off Lucius Catiline, had it been at the risk. not only of my popularity, but even of my life.
But as I saw that, since the matter was not even then proved to all of you, if I had punished him with death, as he had deserved, I should be borne down by unpopularity, and so be unable to follow up his accomplices, I brought the business on to this point that you might be able to combat openly when you saw the enemy without disguise. But how exceedingly I think this enemy to be feared now that he is out of doors, you may see from this,—that I am vexed even that he has gone from the city with but a small retinue. I wish he had taken with him all his forces. He has taken with him Tongillus, with whom he had been said to have a criminal intimacy, and Publicius, and Munatius, whose debts contracted in taverns could cause no great disquietude to the republic. He has left behind him others—you all know what men they are, how overwhelmed with debt, how powerful, how noble.
Therefore, with our Gallic legions, and with the levies which Quintus Metellus has raised in the Picenian and Gallic territory, and with these troops which are every day being got ready by us, I thoroughly despise that army composed of desperate old men, of clownish profligates, and uneducated spendthrifts: of those who have preferred to desert their bail rather than that army, and which will fall to pieces if I show them not the battle array of our army, but an edict of the pretor. I wish he had taken with him those soldiers of his, whom I see hovering about the forum, standing about the senate-house, even coming into the senate, who shine with ointment, who glitter in purple; and if they remain here, remember that that army is not so much to be feared by us as these men who have deserted the army. And they are the more to be feared, because they are aware that I know what they are thinking of, and yet they are not influenced by it.
I know to whom Apulia has been allotted, who has Etruria, who the Picenian territory, who the Gallic district, who has begged for himself the office of spreading fire and sword by night through the city. They know that all the plans of the preceding night are brought to me. I laid them before the senate yesterday. Catiline himself was alarmed and fled. Why do these men wait? Verily, they are greatly mistaken if they think that former lenity of mine will last forever.
What I have been waiting for, that I have gained—namely, that you should all see that a conspiracy has been openly formed against the republic; unless, indeed, there be any one who thinks that those who are like Catiline do not agree with Catiline. There is not any longer room for lenity; the business itself demands severity. One thing, even now, I will grant—let them depart, let them begone. Let them not suffer the unhappy Catiline to pine away for want of them. I will tell them the road. He went by the Aurelian road. If they make haste, they will catch him by the evening. O happy republic, if it can cast forth these dregs of the republic! Even now, when Catiline alone is got rid of, the republic seems to me relieved and refreshed; for what evil or wickedness can be devised or imagined which he did not conceive? What prisoner, what gladiator, what thief, what assassin, what parricide, what forger of wills, what cheat, what debauchee, what spendthrift, what adulterer, what abandoned woman, what corrupter of youth, what profligate, what scoundrel can be found in all Italy, who does not avow that he has been on terms of intimacy with Catiline? What murder has been committed for years without him? What nefarious act of infamy that has not been done by him?
But in what other man were there ever so many allurements for youth as in him, who both indulged in infamous love for others, and encouraged their infamous affections for himself, promising to some enjoyment of their lust, to others the death of their parents, and not only instigating them to iniquity, but even assisting them in it. But now, how suddenly had he collected, not only out of the city, but even out of the country, a number of abandoned men? No one, not only at Rome, but in every corner of Italy, was overwhelmed with debt whom he did not enlist in this incredible association of wickedness.
And, that you may understand the diversity of his pursuits and the variety of his designs, there was no one in any school of gladiators, at all inclined to audacity, who does not avow himself to be an intimate friend of Catiline—no one on the stage, at all of a fickle and worthless disposition, who does not profess himself his companion. And he, trained in the practise of insult and wickedness, in enduring cold, and hunger, and thirst, and watching, was called a brave man by those fellows, while all the appliances of industry and instruments of virtue were devoted to lust and atrocity.
But if his companions follow him,—if the infamous herd of desperate men depart from the city, oh! happy shall we be, fortunate will be the republic, illustrious will be the renown of my consulship. For theirs is no ordinary insolence,—no common and endurable audacity. They think of nothing but slaughter, conflagration and rapine. They have dissipated their patrimonies, they have squandered their fortunes. Money has long failed them, and now credit begins to fail; but the same desires remain which they had in their time of abundance. But if in their drinking and gambling parties they were content with feasts and harlots, they would be in a hopeless state indeed; but yet they might be endured. But who can bear this, that indolent men should plot against the bravest,—drunkards against the sober,—men asleep against men awake,—men lying at feasts, embracing abandoned women, languid with wine, crammed with food, crowned with chaplets, reeking with ointments, worn out with lust, belch out in their discourse the murder of all good men, and the conflagration of the city?
But I am confident that some fate is hanging over these men, and that the punishment long since due to their iniquity, and worthlessness, and wickedness, and lust, is either visibly at hand or at least rapidly approaching. And if my consulship shall have removed, since it can not cure them, it will have added, not some brief span, but many ages of existence to the republic. For there is no nation for us to fear,—no king who can make war on the Roman people. All foreign affairs are tranquilized, both by land and sea, by the valor of one man. Domestic war alone remains. The only plots against us are within our own walls,—the danger is within,—the enemy is within. We must war with luxury, with madness, with wickedness. For this war, O citizens, I offer myself as the general. I take on myself the enmity of profligate men. What can be cured, I will cure, by whatever means it may be possible. What must be cut away, I will not suffer to spread, to the ruin of the republic. Let them depart, or let them stay quiet; or if they remain in the city and in the same disposition as at present, let them expect what they deserve.
But there are men, O Romans, who say that Catiline has been driven by me into banishment. But if I could do so by a word, I would drive out those also who say so. Forsooth, that timid, that excessively bashful man could not bear the voice of the consul; as soon as he was ordered to go into banishment, he obeyed, he was quiet. Yesterday, when I had been all but murdered at my own house, I convoked the senate in the temple of Jupiter Stator; I related the whole affair to the conscript fathers; and when Catiline came thither, what senator addressed him? who saluted him? who looked upon him not so much even as an abandoned citizen, as an implacable enemy? Nay, the chiefs of that body left that part of the benches to which he came naked and empty.
On this I, that violent consul, who drive citizens into exile by a word, asked of Catiline whether he had been at the nocturnal meeting at Marcus Lecca’s or not; when that most audacious man, convicted of his own conscience, was at first silent. I related all the other circumstances; I described what he had done that night, where he had been, what he had arranged for the next night, how the plan of the whole war had been laid down by him. When he hesitated, when he was convicted, I asked why he hesitated to go whither he had been long preparing to go; when I knew that arms, that the axes, the fasces, and trumpets, and military standards, and that silver eagle to which he had made a shrine in his own house, had been sent on, did I drive him into exile who I knew had already entered upon war? I suppose Manlius, that centurion who has pitched his camp in the Fæsulan district, has proclaimed war against the Roman people in his own name; and that camp is not now waiting for Catiline as its general, and he, driven forsooth into exile, will go to Marseilles, as they say, and not to that camp.
Oh, the hard lot of those, not only of those who govern, but even of those who save the republic! Now, if Lucius Catiline, hemmed in and rendered powerless by my counsels, by my toils, by my dangers, should on a sudden become alarmed, should change his designs, should desert his friends, should abandon his design of making war, should change his path from this course of wickedness and war, and betake himself to flight and exile, he will not be said to have been deprived by me of the arms of his audacity, to have been astounded and terrified by my diligence, to have been driven from his hope and from his enterprise, but, uncondemned, and innocent, to have been driven into banishment by the consul by threats and violence; and there will be some who will seek to have him thought not worthless but unfortunate, and me considered not a most active consul, but a most cruel tyrant. I am not unwilling, O Romans, to endure this storm of false and unjust popularity as long as the danger of this horrible and nefarious war is warded off from you. Let him be said to be banished by me as long as he goes into banishment; but, believe me, he will not go. I will never ask of the immortal gods, O Romans, for the sake of lightening my own unpopularity, for you to hear that Lucius Catiline is leading an army of enemies, and is hovering about in arms; but yet in three days you will hear it. And I much more fear that it will be objected to me some day or other, that I have let him escape, rather than that I have banished him. But when there are men who say he has been banished because he has gone away, what would these men say if he had been put to death?
But those men who keep saying that Catiline is going to Marseilles do not complain of this so much as they fear it; for there is not one of them so inclined to pity, as not to prefer that he should go to Manlius rather than to Marseilles. But he, if he had never before planned what he is now doing, yet would rather be slain while living as a bandit, than live as an exile; but now, when nothing has happened to him contrary to his own wish and design—except, indeed, that he has left Rome while we are alive—let us wish rather that he may go into exile than complain of it.
But why are we speaking so long about one enemy; and about that enemy who now avows that he is one; and whom I now do not fear, because, as I have always wished, a wall is between us; and are saying nothing about those who dissemble, who remain at Rome, who are among us? Whom, indeed, if it were by any means possible, I should be anxious not so much to chastise as to cure, and to make friendly to the republic; nor, if they will listen to me, do I quite know why that may not be. For I will tell you, O Romans, of what classes of men those forces are made up, and then, if I can, I will apply to each the medicine of my advice and persuasion.
There is one class of them, who, with enormous debts, have still greater possessions, and who can by no means be detached from their affection to them. Of these men the appearance is most respectable, for they are wealthy, but their intention and their cause are most shameless. Will you be rich in lands, in houses, in money, in slaves, in all things, and yet hesitate to diminish your possessions to add to your credit? What are you expecting? War? What! in the devastation of all things, do you believe that your own possessions will be held sacred? do you expect an abolition of debts? They are mistaken who expect that from Catiline. There may be schedules made out, owing to my exertions, but they will be only catalogs of sale. Nor can those who have possessions be safe by any other means; and if they had been willing to adopt this plan earlier, and not, as is very foolish, to struggle on against usury with the profits of their farms, we should have them now richer and better citizens. But I think these men are the least of all to be dreaded, because they can either be persuaded to abandon their opinions, or if they cling to them, they seem to me more likely to form wishes against the republic than to bear arms against it.
There is another class of them, who, altho they are harassed by debt, yet are expecting supreme power; they wish to become masters. They think that when the republic is in confusion they may gain those honors which they despair of when it is in tranquillity. And they must, I think, be told the same as every one else—to despair of obtaining what they are aiming at; that in the first place, I myself am watchful for, am present to, am providing for the republic. Besides that, there is a high spirit in the virtuous citizens, great unanimity, great numbers, and also a large body of troops. Above all that, the immortal gods will stand by and bring aid to this invincible nation, this most illustrious empire, this most beautiful city, against such wicked violence. And if they had already got that which they with the greatest madness wish for, do they think that in the ashes of the city and blood of the citizens, which in their wicked and infamous hearts they desire, they will become consuls and dictators and even kings? Do they not see that they are wishing for that which, if they were to obtain it, must be given up to some fugitive slave, or to some gladiator?
There is a third class, already touched by age, but still vigorous from constant exercise; of which class is Manlius himself, whom Catiline is now succeeding. These are men of those colonies which Sulla established at Fæesulæ, which I know to be composed, on the whole, of excellent citizens and brave men; but yet these are colonists, who, from becoming possessed of unexpected and sudden wealth, boast themselves extravagantly and insolently; these men, while they build like rich men, while they delight in farms, in litters, in vast families of slaves, in luxurious banquets, have incurred such great debts, that, if they would be saved, they must raise Sulla from the dead; and they have even excited some countrymen, poor and needy men, to entertain the same hopes of plunder as themselves. And all these men, O Romans, I place in the same class of robbers and banditti. But, I warn them, let them cease to be mad, and to think of proscriptions and dictatorships; for such a horror of these times is ingrained into the city, that not even men, but it seems to me that even the very cattle would refuse to bear them again.
There is a fourth class, various, promiscuous and turbulent; who indeed are even now overwhelmed; who will never recover themselves; who, partly from indolence, partly from managing their affairs badly, partly from extravagance, are embarrassed by old debts; and worn out with bail bonds, and judgments and seizures of their goods, are said to be betaking themselves in numbers to that camp both from the city and the country. These men I think not so much active soldiers as lazy insolvents; who, if they can not stand at first, may fall, but fall so, that not only the city but even their nearest neighbors know nothing of it. For I do not understand why, if they can not live with honor, they should wish to die shamefully; or why they think they shall perish with less pain in a crowd, than if they perish by themselves.
There is a fifth class, of patricides, assassins, in short of all infamous characters, whom I do not wish to recall from Catiline, and indeed they can not be separated from him. Let them perish in their wicked war, since they are so numerous that a prison can not contain them.
There is a last class, last not only in number but in the sort of men and in their way of life: the especial bodyguard of Catiline, of his levying; aye, the friends of his embraces and of his bosom, whom you see with carefully combed hair, glossy, beardless, or with well-trimmed beards; with tunics with sleeves, or reaching to the ankles, and clothed with veils, not with robes; all the industry of whose life, all the labor of whose watchfulness, is expended in suppers lasting till daybreak.
In these bands are all the gamblers, all the adulterers, all the unclean and shameless citizens. These boys, so witty and delicate, have learned not only to love and be loved, not only to sing and to dance, but also to brandish daggers and to administer poisons; and unless they are driven out, unless they die, even should Catiline die, I warn you that the school of Catiline would exist in the republic. But what do those wretches want? Are they going to take their wives with them to the camp? flow can they do without them, especially in these nights? and how will they endure the Apennines, and these frosts, and this snow? unless they think that they will bear the winter more easily because they have been in the habit of dancing naked at their feasts. O war much to be dreaded, when Catiline is going to have his bodyguard of prostitutes!
Array now, O Romans, against these splendid troops of Catiline, your guards and your armies; and first of all oppose to that worn-out and wounded gladiator your consuls and generals; then against that banished and enfeebled troop of ruined men lead out the flower and strength of all Italy; instantly the cities of the colonies and municipalities will match the rustic mounds of Catiline; and I will not condescend to compare the rest of your troops and equipments and guards with the want and destitution of that highwayman. But if, omitting all these things in which we are rich and of which he is destitute, the senate, the Roman knights, the people, the city, the treasury, the revenues, all Italy, all the provinces, foreign nations,—if, I say, omitting all these things, we choose to compare the causes themselves which are opposed to one another, we may understand from that alone how thoroughly prostrate they are. For on the one side are fighting modesty, on the other wantonness; on the one chastity, on the other uncleanness; on the one honesty, on the other fraud; on the one piety, on the other wickedness; on the one consistency, on the other insanity; on the one honor, on the other baseness; on the one continence, on the other lust; in short, equity, temperance, fortitude, prudence, all the virtues contend against iniquity with luxury, against indolence, against rashness, against all the vices; lastly, abundance contends against destitution, good plans against baffled designs, wisdom against madness, well-founded hope against universal despair. In a contest and war of this sort, even if the zeal of men were to fail, will not the immortal gods compel such numerous and excessive vices to be defeated by these most eminent virtues?
And as this is the case, O Romans, do ye as I have said before, defend your house with guards and vigilance. I have taken care and made arrangements that there shall be sufficient protection for the city without distressing you and without any tumult. All the colonists and citizens of your municipal towns, being informed by me of this nocturnal sally of Catiline, will easily defend their cities and territories; the gladiators which he thought would be his most numerous and most trusty band, altho they are better disposed than part of the patricians, will be held in check by our power. Quintus Metellus, whom I, making provision for this, sent on to the Gallic and Picenian territory, will either overwhelm the man, or will prevent all his motions and attempts; but with respect to the arrangements of all other matters, and maturing and acting on our plans, we shall consult the senate, which, as you are aware, is convened.
Now once more I wish those who have remained in the city, and who, contrary to the safety of the city and of all of you, have been left in the city by Catiline, altho they are enemies, yet because they were born citizens, to be warned again and again by me. If my lenity has appeared to any one too remiss, it has been only waiting that that might break out which was lying hid. As to the future, I can not now forget that this is my country, that I am the consul of these citizens, that I must either live with them, or die for them. There is no guard at the gate, no one plotting against their path; if any one wishes to go, he can provide for himself; but if any one stirs in the city, and if I detect not only any action, but any attempt or design against the country, he shall feel that there are in this city vigilant consuls, eminent magistrates, a brave senate, arms, and prisons; which our ancestors appointed as the avengers of nefarious and convicted crimes.
And all this shall be so done, O Romans, that affairs of the greatest importance shall be transacted with the least possible disturbance; the greatest dangers shall be avoided without any tumult; an internal civil war the most cruel and terrible in the memory of man, shall be put an end to by me alone in the robe of peace acting as general and commander-in-chief. And this I will so arrange, O Romans, that if it can be by any means managed, even the most worthless man shall not suffer the punishment of his crimes in this city. But if the violence of open audacity, if danger impending over the republic drives, me of necessity from this merciful disposition, at all events I will manage this, which seems scarcely even to be hoped for in so great and so treacherous a war, that no good man shall fall, and that you may all be saved by the punishment of a few.
And I promise you this, O Romans, relying neither on my own prudence, nor on human counsels, but on many and manifest intimations of the will of the immortal gods; under whose guidance I first entertained this hope and this opinion; who are now defending their temples and the houses of the city, not afar off, as they were used to, from a foreign and distant enemy, but here on the spot, by their own divinity and present help. And you, O Romans, ought to pray to and implore them to defend from the nefarious wickedness of abandoned citizens, now that all the forces of all enemies are defeated by land and sea, this city which they have ordained to be the most beautiful and flourishing of all cities.