Julius Caesar

History of Catiline

History of Catiline.--A Candidate for the Consulship.--Catiline and Cicero.--Cicero chosen Consul.--Attaches Himself to the Senatorial Party.--Caesar elected Aedile.--Conducts an Inquiry into the Syllan Proscriptions.--Prosecution of Rabirius.--Caesar becomes Pontifex Maximus--and Praetor.--Cicero's Conduct as Consul.--Proposed Agrarian Law.--Resisted by Cicero.--Catiline again stands for the Consulship.-- Violent Language in the Senate.--Threatened Revolution.--Catiline again defeated.--The Conspiracy.--Warnings sent to Cicero.--Meeting at Catiline's House.--Speech of Cicero in the Senate.--Cataline joins an Army of Insurrection in Etruria.--His Fellow-conspirators.--Correspondence with the Allobroges.--Letters read in the Senate.--The Conspirators seized.-- Debate upon their Fate.--Speech of Caesar.--Caesar on a Future State.-- Speech of Cato--and of Cicero.--The Conspirators executed untried.--Death of Catiline.

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[B.C. 64.] Among the patricians who were rising through the lower magistracies and were aspiring to the consulship was Lucius Sergius Catiline. Catiline, now in middle life, had when young been a fervent admirer of Sylla, and, as has been already said, had been an active agent in the proscription. He had murdered his brother-in-law, and perhaps his brother, under political pretences. In an age when licentiousness of the grossest kind was too common to attract attention, Catiline had achieved a notoriety for infamy. Ho had intrigued with a Vestal virgin, the sister of Cicero's wife, Terentia. If Cicero is to be believed, he had made away with his own wife, that he might marry Aurelia Orestilla, a woman as wicked as she was beautiful, and he had killed his child also because Aurelia had objected to be encumbered with a step-son. But this, too, was common in high society in those days. Adultery and incest had become familiar excitements. Boys of ten years old had learnt the art of poisoning their fathers, 1 and the story of Aurelia Orestilla and Catiline had been rehearsed a few years before by Sassia and Oppianicus at Larino. 2 Other enormities Catiline had been guilty of which Cicero declined to mention, lest he should show too openly what crimes might go unpunished under the senatorial administration.

History of Catiline

But villainy, however notorious, did not interfere with advancement in the public service. Catiline was adroit, bold, and even captivating. He made his way into high office along the usual gradations. He was praetor in B.C. 68. He went as governor to Africa in the year following, and he returned with money enough, as he reasonably hoped, to purchase the last step to the consulship. He was impeached when he came back for extortion and oppression, under one of the many laws which were made to be laughed at. Till his trial was over he was disqualified from presenting himself as a candidate, and the election for the year 65 was carried by Autronius Paetus and Cornelius Sylla. Two other patricians, Aurelius Cotta and Manlius Torquatus, had stood against them. The successful competitors were unseated for bribery; Cotta and Torquatus took their places, and, apparently as a natural resource in the existing contempt into which the constitution had fallen, the disappointed candidates formed a plot to kill their rivals and their rivals' friends in the Senate, and to make a revolution. Cneius Piso, a young nobleman of the bluest blood, joined in the conspiracy. Catiline threw himself into it as his natural element, and aristocratic tradition said in later years that Caesar and Crassus were implicated also. Some desperate scheme there certainly was, but the accounts of it are confused: one authority says that it failed because Catiline gave the signal prematurely; others that Caesar was to have given the signal, and did not do it; others that Crassus's heart failed him; others that the consuls had secret notice given to them and took precautions. Cicero, who was in Rome at the time, declares that he never heard of the conspiracy. 3 When evidence is inconclusive, probability becomes argument. Nothing can be less likely than that a cautious capitalist of vast wealth like Crassus should have connected himself with a party of dissolute adventurers. Had Caesar committed himself, jealously watched as he was by the aristocrats, some proofs of his complicity would have been forthcoming. The aristocracy under the empire revenged themselves for their ruin by charging Caesar with a share in every combination that had been formed against them, from Sylla's time downwards. Be the truth what it may, nothing came of this project. Piso went to Spain, where he was killed. The prosecution of Catiline for his African misgovernment was continued, and, strange to say, Cicero undertook his defence. He was under no uncertainty as to Catiline's general character, or his particular guilt in the charge brought against him. It was plain as the sun at midday. 4 But Cicero was about to stand himself for the consulship, the object of his most passionate desire. He had several competitors; and as he thought well of Catiline's prospects, he intended to coalesce with him. 5 Catiline was acquitted, apparently through a special selection of the judges, with the connivance of the prosecutor. The canvass was violent, and the corruption flagrant. 6Cicero did not bribe himself, but if Catiline's voters would give him a help, he was not so scrupulous as to be above taking advantage of it. Catiline's humor or the circumstances of the time provided him with a more honorable support. He required a more manageable colleague than he could have found in Cicero. Among the candidates was one of Sylla's officers, Caius Antonius, the uncle of Marc Antony, the triumvir. This Antonius had been prosecuted by Caesar for ill-usage of the Macedonians. He had been expelled by the censors from the Senate for general worthlessness; but public disgrace seems to have had no effect whatever on the chances of a candidate for the consulship in this singular age. Antonius was weak and vicious, and Catiline could mould him as he pleased. He had made himself popular by his profusion when aedile in providing shows for the mob. The feeling against the Senate was so bitter that the aristocracy had no chance of carrying a candidate of their own, and the competition was reduced at last to Catiline, Antonius and Cicero. Antonius was certain of his election, and the contest lay between Catiline and Cicero. Each of them tried to gain the support of Antonius and his friends. Catiline promised Antonius a revolution, in which they were to share the world between them. Cicero promised his influence to obtain some lucrative province for Antonius to misgovern. Catiline would probably have succeeded, when the aristocracy, knowing what to expect if so scandalous a pair came into office, threw their weight on Cicero's side and turned the scale. Cicero was liked among the people for his prosecution of Verres, for his support of the Manilian law, and for the boldness with which he had exposed patrician delinquencies. With the Senate for him also, he was returned at the head of the poll. The proud Roman nobility had selected a self-made lawyer as their representative. Cicero was consul, and Antonius with him. Catiline had failed. It was the turning-point of Cicero's life. Before his consulship he had not irrevocably taken a side. No public speaker had more eloquently shown the necessity for reform; no one had denounced with keener sarcasm the infamies and follies of senatorial favorites. Conscience and patriotism should have alike held him to the reforming party; and political instinct, if vanity had left him the use of his perception, would have led him in the same direction. Possibly before he received the votes of the patricians and their clients he had bound himself with certain engagements to them. Possibly he held the Senate's intellect cheap, and saw the position which he could arrive at among the aristocracy if he offered them his services. The strongest intellect was with the reformers, and first on that side he could never be. First among the Conservatives 7 he could easily be; and he might prefer being at the head of a party which at heart he despised, to working at the side of persons who must stand inevitably above him. We may regret that gifted men should be influenced by personal considerations, but under party government it is a fact that they are so influenced, and will be as long as it continues. Caesar and Pompey were soldiers. The army was democratic, and the triumph of the democracy meant the rule of a popular general. Cicero was a civilian, and a man of speech. In the forum and in the Curia he knew that he could reign supreme.

Cicero had thus reached the highest step in the scale of promotion by trimming between the rival factions. Caesar was rising simultaneously behind him on lines of his own. In the year B.C. 65 he had been aedile, having for his colleague Bibulus, his future companion on the successive grades of ascent. Bibulus was a rich plebeian, whose delight in office was the introduction which it gave him into the society of the great; and in his politics he outdid his aristocratic patrons. The aediles had charge of the public buildings and the games and exhibitions in the capital. The aedileship was a magistracy through which it was ordinarily necessary to pass in order to reach the consulship; and as the aediles were expected to bear their own expenses, the consulship was thus restricted to those who could afford an extravagant outlay. They were expected to decorate the city with new ornaments, and to entertain the people with magnificent spectacles. If they fell short of public expectation, they need look no further for the suffrages of their many-headed master. Cicero had slipped through the aedileship, without ruin to himself. He was a self-raised man, known to be dependent upon his own exertions, and liked from the willingness with which he gave his help to accused persons on their trials. Thus no great demands had been made upon him. Caesar, either more ambitious or less confident in his services, raised a new and costly row of columns in front of the Capitol. He built a temple to the Dioscuri, and he charmed the populace with a show of gladiators unusually extensive. Personally he cared nothing for these sanguinary exhibitions, and he displayed his indifference ostentatiously by reading or writing while the butchery was going forward. 8 But he required the favor of the multitude, and then, as always, took the road which led most directly to his end. The noble lords watched him suspiciously, and their uneasiness was not diminished when, not content with having produced the insignia of Marius at his aunt's funeral, he restored the trophies for the victories over the Cimbri and Teutons, which had been removed by Sylla. The name of Marius was growing every day more dear to the popular party. They forgave, if they had ever resented, his credulities. His veterans who had fought with him through his campaigns came forward in tears to salute the honored relics of their once glorious commander.

As he felt the ground stronger under his feet, Caesar now began to assume an attitude more peremptorily marked. He had won a reputation in the Forum; he had spoken in the Senate; he had warmly advocated the appointment of Pompey to his high commands; and he was regarded as a prominent democratic leader. But he had not aspired to the tribunate; he had not thrown himself into politics with any absorbing passion. His exertions had been intermittent, and he was chiefly known as a brilliant member of fashionable society, a peculiar favorite with women, and remarkable for his abstinence from the coarse debauchery which disgraced his patrician contemporaries. He was now playing for a higher stake, and the oligarchy had occasion to be reminded of Sylla's prophecy. In carrying out the proscription, Sylla had employed professional assassins, and payments had been made out of the treasury to wretches who came to him with bloody trophies in their hands to demand the promised fees. The time had come when these doings were to be looked into; hundreds of men had been murdered, their estates confiscated, and their families ruined, who had not been even ostensibly guilty of any public crime. At Caesar's instance an inquiry was ordered. He himself was appointed Judex Quaestionis, or chairman of a committee of investigation; and Catiline, among others, was called to answer for himself--a curious commentary on Caesar's supposed connection with him.

[B.C. 63.] Nor did the inquisition stop with Sylla. Titus Labienus, afterward so famous and so infamous, was then tribune of the people. His father had been killed at the side of Saturninus and Glaucia thirty-seven years before, when the young lords of Rome had unroofed the senate-house, and had pelted them and their companions to death with tiles. One of the actors in the scene, Caius Rabirius, now a very old man, was still alive. Labienus prosecuted him before Caesar. Rabirius was condemned, and appealed to the people; and Cicero, who had just been made consul, spoke in his defence. On this occasion Cicero for the first time came actively in collision with Caesar. His language contrasted remarkably with the tone of his speeches against Verres and for the Manilian law. It was adroit, for he charged Marius with having shared the guilt, if guilt there had been, in the death of those men; but the burden of what he said was to defend enthusiastically the conservative aristocracy, and to censure with all his bitterness the democratic reformers. Rabirius was acquitted, perhaps justly. It was a hard thing to revive the memory of a political crime which had been shared by the whole patrician order after so long an interval. But Cicero had shown his new colors; no help, it was evident, was thenceforward to be expected from him in the direction of reform. The popular party replied in a singular manner. The office of Pontifex Maximus was the most coveted of all the honors to which a Roman citizen could aspire. It was held for life, it was splendidly endowed, and there still hung about the pontificate the traditionary dignity attaching to the chief of the once sincerely believed Roman religion. Like other objects of ambition, the nomination had fallen, with the growth of democracy, to the people, but the position had always been held by some member of the old aristocracy; and Sylla, to secure them in the possession of it, had reverted to the ancient constitution, and had restored to the Sacred College the privilege of choosing their head. Under the impulse which the popular party had received from Pompey's successes, Labienus carried a vote in the assembly, by which the people resumed the nomination to the pontificate themselves. In the same year it fell vacant by the death of the aged Metullus Pius. Two patricians, Quintus Catulus and Caesar's old general Servilius Isauricus, were the Senate's candidates, and vast sums were subscribed and spent to secure the success of one or other of the two. Caesar came forward to oppose them. Caesar aspired to be Pontifex Maximus--Pope of Rome--he who of all men living was the least given to illusion; he who was the most frank in his confession of entire disbelief in the legends which, though few credited them any more, yet almost all thought it decent to pretend to credit. Among the phenomena of the time this was surely the most singular. Yet Caesar had been a priest from his boyhood, and why should he not be Pope? He offered himself to the Comitia. Committed as he was to a contest with the richest men in Rome, he spent money freely. He was in debt already for his expenses as aedile. He engaged his credit still deeper for this new competition. The story ran that when his mother kissed him as he was leaving his home for the Forum on the morning of the election, he told her that he would return as pontiff, or she would never see him more. He was chosen by an overwhelming majority, the votes given for him being larger than the collective numbers of the votes entered for his opponents.

[B.C. 63.] The election for the pontificate was on the 6th of March, and soon after Caesar received a further evidence of popular favor on being chosen praetor for the next year. As the liberal party was growing in courage and definiteness, Cicero showed himself more decidedly on the other side. Now was the time for him, highly placed as he was, to prevent a repetition of the scandals which he had so eloquently denounced, to pass laws which no future Verres or Lucullus could dare to defy. Now was his opportunity to take the wind out of the reformers' sails, and to grapple himself with the thousand forms of patrician villainy which he well knew to be destroying the Commonwealth. Not one such measure, save an ineffectual attempt to check election bribery, distinguished the consulship of Cicero. His entire efforts were directed to the combination in a solid phalanx of the equestrian and patrician orders. The danger to society, he had come to think, was an approaching war against property, and his hope was to unite the rich of both classes in defence against the landless and moneyless multitudes. 9 The land question had become again as pressing as in the time of the Gracchi. The peasant proprietors were melting away as fast as ever, and Rome was becoming choked with impoverished citizens, who ought to have been farmers and fathers of families, but were degenerating into a rabble fed upon the corn grants, and occupied with nothing but spectacles and politics. The agrarian laws in the past had been violent, and might reasonably be complained of; but a remedy could now be found for this fast-increasing mischief without injury to anyone. Pompey's victories had filled the public treasury. Vast territories abroad had lapsed to the possession of the State; and Rullus, one of the tribunes, proposed that part of these territories should be sold, and that out of the proceeds, and out of the money which Pompey had sent home, farms should be purchased in Italy and poor citizens settled upon them. Rullus's scheme might have been crude, and the details of it objectionable; but to attempt the problem was better than to sit still and let the evil go unchecked. If the bill was impracticable in its existing form, it might have been amended; and so far as the immediate effect of such a law was concerned, it was against the interests of the democrats. The popular vote depended for its strength on the masses of poor who were crowded into Rome; and the tribune was proposing to weaken his own army. But the very name of an agrarian law set patrician households in a flutter, and Cicero stooped to be their advocate. He attacked Rullus with brutal sarcasm. He insulted his appearance; he ridiculed his dress, his hair, and his beard. He mocked at his bad enunciation and bad grammar. No one more despised the mob than Cicero; but because Rullus had said that the city rabble was dangerously powerful, and ought to be "drawn off" to some wholesome employment, the eloquent consul condescended to quote the words, to score a point against his opponent; and he told the crowd that their tribune had described a number of excellent citizens to the Senate as no better than the contents of a cesspool. 10

By these methods Cicero caught the people's voices. The plan came to nothing, and his consulship would have waned away, undistinguished by any act which his country would have cared to remember, but for an accident which raised him for a moment into a position of real consequence, and impressed on his own mind a conviction that he was a second Romulus.

Revolutionary conspiracies are only formidable when the government against which they are directed is already despised and detested. As long as an administration is endurable the majority of citizens prefer to bear with it, and will assist in repressing violent attempts at its overthrow. Their patience, however, may be exhausted, and the disgust may rise to a point when any change may seem an improvement. Authority is no longer shielded by the majesty with which it ought to be surrounded. It has made public its own degradation; and the most worthless adventurer knows that he has no moral indignation to fear if he tries to snatch the reins out of hands which are at least no more pure than his own. If he can dress his endeavors in the livery of patriotism, if he can put himself forward as the champion of an injured people, he can cover the scandals of his own character and appear as a hero and a liberator. Catiline had missed the consulship, and was a ruined man. He had calculated on succeeding to a province where he might gather a golden harvest and come home to live in splendor, like Lucullus. He had failed, defeated by a mere plebeian whom his brother-patricians had stooped to prefer to him. Were the secret history known of the contest for the consulship, much might be discovered there to explain Cicero's and Catiline's hatred of each other. Cicero had once thought of coalescing with Catiline, notwithstanding his knowledge of his previous crimes: Catiline had perhaps hoped to dupe Cicero, and had been himself outwitted. He intended to stand again for the year 62, but evidently on a different footing from that on which he had presented himself before. That such a man should have been able to offer himself at all, and that such a person as Cicero should have entered into any kind of amicable relations with him, was a sign by itself that the Commonwealth was already sickening for death.

Catiline was surrounded by men of high birth, whose fortunes were desperate as his own. There was Lentulus, who had been consul a few years before, and had been expelled from the Senate by the censors. There was Cethegus, staggering under a mountain of debts. There was Autronius, who had been unseated for bribery when chosen consul in 65. There was Manlius, once a distinguished officer in Sylla's army, and now a beggar. Besides these were a number of senators, knights, gentlemen, and dissolute young patricians, whose theory of the world was that it had been created for them to take their pleasure in, and who found their pleasures shortened by emptiness of purse. To them, as to their betters, the Empire was but a large dish out of which they considered that they had a right to feed themselves. They were defrauded of their proper share, and Catiline was the person who would help them to it.

Etruria was full of Sylla's disbanded soldiers, who had squandered their allotments, and were hanging about, unoccupied and starving. Catiline sent down Manlius, their old officer, to collect as many as he could of them without attracting notice. He himself, as the election day approached, and Cicero's year of office was drawing to an end, took up the character of an aristocratic demagogue, and asked for the suffrages of the people as the champion of the poor against the rich, as the friend of the wretched and oppressed; and those who thought themselves wretched and oppressed in Rome were so large a body, and so bitterly hostile were they all to the prosperous classes, that his election was anticipated as a certainty. In the Senate the consulship of Catiline was regarded as no less than an impending national calamity. Marcus Cato, great-grandson of the censor, then growing into fame by his acrid tongue and narrow republican fanaticism, who had sneered at Pompey's victories as triumphs over women, and had not spared even Cicero himself, threatened Catiline in the Curia. Catiline answered, in a fully attended house, that if any agitation was kindled against him he would put it out, not with water, but with revolution. His language became so audacious that, on the eve of the election day, Cicero moved for a postponement, that the Senate might take his language into consideration. Catiline's conduct was brought on for debate, and the consul called on him to explain himself. There was no concealment in Catiline. Then and always Cicero admits he was perfectly frank. He made no excuses. He admitted the truth of what had been reported of him. The State, he said, had two bodies, one weak (the aristocracy), with a weak leader (Cicero); the other, the great mass of the citizens-- strong in themselves, but without a head, and he himself intended to be that head. 11 A groan was heard in the house, but less loud than in Cicero's opinion it ought to have been; and Catiline sailed out in triumph, leaving the noble lords looking in each other's faces.

[October, B.C. 63.] Both Cicero and the Senate were evidently in the greatest alarm that Catiline would succeed constitutionally in being chosen consul, and they strained every sinew to prevent so terrible a catastrophe. When the Comitia came on, Cicero admits that he occupied the voting place in the Campus Martius with a guard of men who could be depended on. He was violating the law, which forbade the presence of an armed force on those occasions. He excused himself by pretending that Catiline's party intended violence, and he appeared ostentatiously in a breastplate as if his own life was aimed at. The result was that Catiline failed once more, and was rejected by a small majority. Cicero attributes his defeat to the moral effect produced by the breastplate. But from the time of the Gracchi downwards the aristocracy had not hesitated to lay pressure on the elections when they could safely do it; and the story must be taken with reservation, in the absence of a more impartial account than we possess of the purpose to which Cicero's guard was applied. Undoubtedly it was desirable to strain the usual rules to keep a wretch like Catiline from the consulship; but as certainly, both before the election and after it, Catiline had the sympathies of a very large part of the resident inhabitants of the city, and these sympathies must be taken into account if we are to understand the long train of incidents of which this occasion was the beginning.

Two strict aristocrats, Decimus Silanus and Lucius Murena, 12 were declared elected. Pompey was on his way home, but had not yet reached Italy. There were no regular troops in the whole peninsula, and the nearest approach to an army was the body of Syllans, whom Manlius had quietly collected at Fiesole. Cicero's colleague Antonius was secretly in communication with Catiline, evidently thinking it likely that he would succeed. Catiline determined to wait no longer, and to raise an insurrection in the capital, with slave emancipation and a cancelling of debt for a cry. Manlius was to march on Rome, and the Senate, it was expected, would fall without a blow. Caesar and Crassus sent a warning to Cicero to be on his guard. Caesar had called Catiline to account for his doings at the time of the proscription, and knew his nature too well to expect benefit to the people from a revolution conducted under the auspices of bankrupt patrician adventurers. No citizen had more to lose than Crassus from a crusade of the poor against the rich. But they had both been suspected two years before, and in the excited temper of men's minds they took precautions for their own reputation's sake, as well as for the safety of the State. Quintus Curius, a senator, who was one of the conspirators, was meanwhile betraying his accomplices, and gave daily notice to the consuls of each step which was contemplated. But so weak was authority and so dangerous the temper of the people that the difficulty was to know what to do. Secret information was scarcely needed. Catiline, as Cicero said, was "apertissimus," most frank in the declaration of his intentions. Manlius's army at Fiesole was an open fact, and any day might bring news that he was on the march to Rome. The Senate, as usual in extreme emergencies, declared the State in danger, and gave the consuls unlimited powers to provide for public security. So scornfully confident was Catiline that he offered to place himself under surveillance at the house of any senator whom Cicero might name, or to reside with Cicero himself, if the consul preferred to keep a personal eye upon him. Cicero answered that he dared not trust himself with so perilous a guest.

[November, B.C. 63.] So for a few days matters hung in suspense, Manlius expecting an order to advance, Catiline waiting apparently for a spontaneous insurrection in the city before he gave the word. Intended attempts at various points had been baffled by Cicero's precautions. At last, finding that the people remained quiet, Catiline called a meeting of his friends one stormy night at the beginning of November, and it was agreed that two of the party should go the next morning at dawn to Cicero's house, demand to see him on important business, and kill him in his bed. Curius, who was present, immediately furnished Cicero with an account of what had passed. When his morning visitors arrived they were told that they could not be admitted; and a summons was sent round to the senators to assemble immediately at the Temple of Jupiter Stator, one of the strongest positions in the city. 13 The audacious Catiline attended, and took his usual seat; every one shrank from him, and he was left alone on the bench. Then Cicero rose. In the Senate, where to speak was the first duty of man, he was in his proper element, and had abundant courage. He addressed himself personally to the principal conspirator. He exposed, if exposure be the fitting word when half the persons present knew as much as he could tell them, the history of Catiline's proceedings. He described in detail the meeting of the past evening, looking round perhaps in the faces of the senators who he was aware had been present at it. He spoke of the visit designed to himself in the morning, which had been baffled by his precautions. He went back over the history of the preceding half-century. Fresh from the defence of Rabirius, he showed how dangerous citizens, the Gracchi, Saturninus, Glaucia, had been satisfactorily killed when they were meditating mischief. He did not see that a constitution was already doomed when the ruling powers were driven to assassinate their opponents, because a trial with the forms of law would have ended in their acquittal. He told Catiline that under the powers which the Senate had conferred on him he might order his instant execution. He detailed Catiline's past enormities, which he had forgotten when he sought his friendship, and he ended in bidding him leave the city, go and join Manlius and his army.

Never had Cicero been greater, and never did oratory end in a more absurd conclusion. He dared not arrest Catiline. He confessed that he dared not. There was not a doubt that Catiline was meditating a revolution--but a revolution was precisely what half the world was wishing for. Rightly read, those sounding paragraphs, those moral denunciations, those appeals to history and patriotic sentiment, were the funeral knell of the Roman Commonwealth.

Let Catiline go into open war, Cicero said, and then there would no longer be a doubt. Then all the world would admit his treason. Catiline went; and what was to follow next? Antonius, the second consul, was notoriously not to be relied on. The other conspirators, senators who sat listening while Cicero poured out his eloquent indignation, remained still in the city with the threads of insurrection in their hands, and were encouraged to persevere by the evident helplessness of the government. The imperfect record of history retains for us only the actions of a few individuals whom special talent or special circumstances distinguished, and such information is only fragmentary. We lose sight of the unnamed seething multitudes by whose desires and by whose hatreds the stream of events was truly guided. The party of revolution was as various as it was wide. Powerful wealthy men belonged to it, who were politically dissatisfied; ambitious men of rank, whose money embarrassments weighted them in the race against their competitors; old officers and soldiers of Sylla, who had spent the fortunes which they had won by violence, and were now trying to bring him back from the dead to renew their lease of plunder; ruined wretches without number, broken down with fines and proscriptions, and debts and the accumulation of usurious interest. Add to these "the dangerous classes," the natural enemies of all governments--parricides, adulterers, thieves, forgers, escaped slaves, brigands, and pirates who had lost their occupation; and, finally, Catiline's own chosen comrades, the smooth-faced patrician youths with curled hair and redolent with perfumes, as yet beardless or with the first down upon their chins, wearing scarves and veils and sleeved tunics reaching to their ankles, industrious but only with the dice-box, night-watchers but in the supper- rooms, in the small hours before dawn, immodest, dissolute boys, whose education had been in learning to love and to be loved, to sing and to dance naked at the midnight orgies, and along with it to handle poniards and mix poisoned bowls. 14

[November, B.C. 64.] Well might Cicero be alarmed at such a combination; well might he say that if a generation of such youths lived to manhood there would be a commonwealth of Catilines. But what was to be thought of the prospects of a society in which such phenomena were developing themselves? Cicero bade them all go--follow their chief into the war, and perish in the snow of the Apennines. But how if they would not go? How if from the soil of Rome, under the rule of his friends the Senate, fresh crops of such youths would rise perennially? The Commonwealth needed more drastic medicine than eloquent exhortations, however true the picture might be.

[November, B.C. 63.] None of the promising young gentlemen took Cicero's advice. Catiline went alone and joined Manlius, and had he come on at once he might perhaps have taken Rome. The army was to support an insurrection, and the insurrection was to support the army. Catiline waited for a signal from his friends in the city, and Lentulus, Cethegus, Autronius, and the rest of the leaders waited for Catiline to arrive. Conspirators never think that they have taken precautions enough or have gained allies enough; and in endeavoring to secure fresh support they made a fatal mistake. An embassy of Allobroges was in the city, a frontier tribe on the borders of the Roman province in Gaul, who were allies of Rome, though not as yet subjects. The Gauls were the one foreign nation whom the Romans really feared. The passes of the Alps alone protected Italy from the hordes of German or Gallic barbarians, whose numbers being unknown were supposed to be exhaustless. Middle-aged men could still remember the panic at the invasion of the Cimbri and Teutons, and it was the chief pride of the democrats that the State had then been saved by their own Marius. At the critical moment it was discovered that the conspirators had entered into a correspondence with these Allobroges, and had actually proposed to them to make a fresh inroad over the Alps. The suspicion of such an intention at once alienated from Catiline the respectable part of the democratic party. The fact of the communication was betrayed to Cicero. He intercepted the letters; he produced them in the Senate with the seals unbroken, that no suspicion might rest upon himself. Lentulus and Cethegus were sent for, and could not deny their hands. The letters were then opened and read, and no shadow of uncertainty any longer remained that they had really designed to bring in an army of Gauls. Such of the conspirators as were known and were still within reach were instantly seized.

[December 5, B.C. 63.] Cicero, with a pardonable laudation of himself and of the Divine Providence of which he professed to regard himself as the minister, congratulated his country on its escape from so genuine a danger; and he then invited the Senate to say what was to be done with these apostates from their order, whose treason was now demonstrated. A plot for a mere change of government, for the deposition of the aristocrats and the return to power of the popular party, it might be impolitic, perhaps impossible, severely to punish; but Catiline and his friends had planned the betrayal of the State to the barbarians; and with persons who had committed themselves to national treason there was no occasion to hesitate. Cicero produced the list of those whom he considered guilty, and there were some among his friends who thought the opportunity might be used to get rid of dangerous enemies, after the fashion of Sylla, especially of Crassus and Caesar. The name of Crassus was first mentioned, some said by secret friends of Catiline, who hoped to alarm the Senate into inaction by showing with whom they would have to deal. Crassus, it is possible, knew more than he had told the consul. Catiline's success had, at one moment, seemed assured; and great capitalists are apt to insure against contingencies. But Cicero moved and carried a resolution that the charge against him was a wicked invention. The attempt against Caesar was more determined. Old Catulus, whom Caesar had defeated in the contest for the pontificate, and Caius Calpurnius Piso, 15 a bitter aristocrat, whom Caesar had prosecuted for misgovernment in Gaul, urged Cicero to include his name. But Cicero was too honorable to lend himself to an accusation which he knew to be false. Some of the young lords in their disappointment threatened Caesar at the senate-house door with their swords; but the attack missed its mark, and served only to show how dreaded Caesar already was, and how eager a desire there was to make an end of him.

The list submitted for judgment contained the names of none but those who were indisputably guilty. The Senate voted at once that they were traitors to the State. The next question was of the nature of their punishment. In the first place the persons of public officers were sacred, and Lentulus was at the time a praetor. And next the Sempronian law forbade distinctly that any Roman citizen should be put to death without a trial, and without the right of appeal to the assembly. 16 It did not mean simply that Roman citizens were not to be murdered, or that at any time it had been supposed that they might. The object was to restrain the extraordinary power claimed by the Senate of setting the laws aside on exceptional occasions. Silanus, the consul-elect for the following year, was, according to usage, asked to give his opinion first. He voted for immediate death. One after the other the voices were the same, till the turn came of Tiberius Nero, the great-grandfather of Nero the Emperor. Tiberius was against haste. He advised that the prisoners should be kept in confinement till Catiline was taken or killed, and that the whole affair should then be carefully investigated. Investigation was perhaps what many senators were most anxious to avoid. When Tiberius had done, Caesar rose. The speech which Sallust places in his mouth was not an imaginary sketch of what Sallust supposed him likely to have said, but the version generally received of what he actually did say, and the most important passages of it are certainly authentic. For the first time we see through the surface of Caesar's outward actions into his real mind. During the three quarters of a century which had passed since the death of the elder Gracchus one political murder had followed upon another. Every conspicuous democrat had been killed by the aristocrats in some convenient disturbance. No constitution could survive when the law was habitually set aside by violence; and disdaining the suspicion with which he knew that his words would be regarded, Caesar warned the Senate against another act of precipitate anger which would be unlawful in itself, unworthy of their dignity, and likely in the future to throw a doubt upon the guilt of the men upon whose fate they were deliberating. He did not extenuate, he rather emphasized, the criminality of Catiline and his confederates; but for that reason and because for the present no reasonable person felt the slightest uncertainty about it, he advised them to keep within the lines which the law had marked out for them. He spoke with respect of Silanus. He did not suppose him to be influenced by feelings of party animosity. Silanus had recommended the execution of the prisoners, either because he thought their lives incompatible with the safety of the State, or because no milder punishment seemed adequate to the enormity of their conduct. But the safety of the State, he said, with a compliment to Cicero, had been sufficiently provided for by the diligence of the consul. As to punishment, none could be too severe; but with that remarkable adherence to fact, which always distinguished Caesar, that repudiation of illusion and sincere utterance of his real belief, whatever that might be, he contended that death was not a punishment at all. Death was the end of human suffering. In the grave there was neither joy nor sorrow. When a man was dead he ceased to be. 17He became as he had been before he was born. Probably almost every one in the Senate thought like Caesar on this subject. Cicero certainly did. The only difference was that plausible statesmen affected a respect for the popular superstition, and pretended to believe what they did not believe. Caesar spoke his convictions out. There was no longer any solemnity in an execution. It was merely the removal out of the way of troublesome persons; and convenient as such a method might be, it was of graver consequence that the Senate of Rome, the guardians of the law, should not set an example of violating the law. Illegality, Caesar told them, would be followed by greater illegalities. He reminded them how they had applauded Sylla, how they had rejoiced when they saw their political enemies summarily despatched; and yet the proscription, as they well knew, had been perverted to the license of avarice and private revenge. They might feel sure that no such consequence need be feared under their present consul: but times might change. The worst crimes which had been committed in Rome in the past century had risen out of the imitation of precedents, which at the moment seemed defensible. The laws had prescribed a definite punishment for treason. Those laws had been gravely considered; they had been enacted by the great men who had built up the Roman dominion, and were not to be set aside in impatient haste. Caesar therefore recommended that the estates of the conspirators should be confiscated, that they themselves should be kept in strict and solitary confinement dispersed in various places, and that a resolution should be passed forbidding an application for their pardon either to Senate or people.

The speech was weighty in substance and weightily delivered, and it produced its effect. 18 Silanus withdrew his opinion. Quintus Cicero, the consul's brother, followed, and a clear majority of the Senate went with them, till it came to the turn of a young man who in that year had taken his place in the house for the first time, who was destined to make a reputation which could be set in competition with that of the gods themselves, and whose moral opinion could be held superior to that of the gods. 19

Marcus Porcius Cato was born in the year 95, and was thus five years younger than Caesar and eleven years younger than Cicero. He was the great-grandson, as was said above, of the stern rugged censor who hated Greek, preferred the teaching of the plough-tail and the Twelve Tables to the philosophy of Aristotle, disbelieved in progress, and held by the maxims of his father--the last, he of the Romans of the old type. The young Marcus affected to take his ancestor for a pattern. He resembled him as nearly as a modern Anglican monk resembles St. Francis or St. Bernard. He could reproduce the form, but it was the form with the life gone out of it. He was immeasurably superior to the men around him. He was virtuous, if it be virtue to abstain from sin. He never lied. No one ever suspected him of dishonesty or corruption. But his excellences were not of the retiring sort. He carried them written upon him in letters for all to read, as a testimony to a wicked generation. His opinions were as pedantic as his life was abstemious, and no one was permitted to differ from him without being held guilty rather of a crime than of a mistake. He was an aristocratic pedant, to whom the living forces of humanity seemed but irrational impulses of which he and such as he were the appointed school- masters. To such a temperament a man of genius is instinctively hateful. Cato had spoken often in the Senate, though so young a member of it, denouncing the immoral habits of the age. He now rose to match himself against Caesar; and with passionate vehemence he insisted that the wretches who had plotted the overthrow of the State should be immediately killed. He noticed Caesar's objections only to irritate the suspicion in which he probably shared, that Caesar himself was one of Catiline's accomplices. That Caesar had urged as a reason for moderation the absence of immediate danger, was in Cato's opinion an argument the more for anxiety. Naturally, too, he did not miss the opportunity of striking at the scepticism which questioned future retribution. Whether Cato believed himself in a future life mattered little, if Caesar's frank avowal could be turned to his prejudice.

Cato spoke to an audience well disposed to go with him. Silanus went round to his first view, and the mass of senators followed him. Caesar attempted to reply; but so fierce were the passions that had been roused, that again he was in danger of violence. The young knights who were present as a senatorial guard rushed at him with their drawn swords. A few friends protected him with their cloaks, and he left the Curia not to enter it again for the rest of the year. When Caesar was gone, Cicero rose to finish the debate. He too glanced at Caesar's infidelity, and as Caesar had spoken of the wisdom of past generations, he observed that in the same generations there had been a pious belief that the grave was not the end of human existence. With an ironical compliment to the prudence of Caesar's advice, he said that his own interest would lead him to follow it; he would have the less to fear from the irritation of the people. The Senate, he observed, must have heard with pleasure that Caesar condemned the conspiracy. Caesar was the leader of the popular party, and from him at least they now knew that they had nothing to fear. The punishment which Caesar recommended was, in fact, Cicero admitted, more severe than death. He trusted, therefore, that if the conspirators were executed, and he had to answer to the people for the sentence to be passed upon them, Caesar himself would defend him against the charge of cruelty. Meanwhile he said that he had the ineffable satisfaction of knowing that he had saved the State. The Senate might adopt such resolutions as might seem good to them without alarm for the consequences. The conspiracy was disarmed. He had made enemies among the bad citizens; but he had deserved and he had won the gratitude of the good, and he stood secure behind the impregnable bulwark of his country's love.

So Cicero, in the first effusion of self-admiration with which he never ceased to regard his conduct on this occasion. No doubt he had acted bravely, and he had shown as much adroitness as courage. But the whole truth was never told. The Senate's anxiety to execute the prisoners arose from a fear that the people would be against them if an appeal to the assembly was allowed. The Senate was contending for the privilege of suspending the laws by its own independent will; and the privilege, if it was ever constitutional, had become so odious by the abuse of it, that to a large section of Roman citizens a conspiracy against the oligarchy had ceased to be looked on as treason at all. Cicero and Cato had their way. Lentulus, Cethegus, Autronius and their companions were strangled in their cells, on the afternoon of the debate upon their fate. A few weeks later Catiline's army was cut to pieces, and he himself was killed. So desperately his haggard bands had fought that they fell in their ranks where they stood, and never Roman commander gained a victory that cost him more dear. So furious a resistance implied a motive and a purpose beyond any which Cicero or Sallust records, and the commission of inquiry suggested by Tiberius Nero in the Senate might have led to curious revelations. The Senate perhaps had its own reasons for fearing such revelations, and for wishing the voices closed which could have made them.

[1] "Nunc quis patrem decem annorum natus non modo aufert sed tollit nisi veneno?"--Varronis Fragmenta, ed. Alexander Riese, p. 216.

[2] See the story in Cicero, Pro Cluentio.

[3] Pro P. Sullâ, 4.

[4] "Catilina, si judicatum erit, meridie non lucere, certus erit competitor."--Epist. ad Atticum, i. 1.

[5] "Hoc tempore Catilinam, competitorem nostrum, defendere cogitamus. Judices habemus, quos volumus, summa accusatoris voluntate. Spero, si absolutus erit, conjunctiorem illum nobis fore in ratione petitionis."--Ib., i. 2.

[6] "Scito nihil tam exercitum nunc esse Romae quam candidatos omnibus iniquitatibus."--Ib., i. 11.

[7] I use a word apparently modern, but Cicero himself gave the name of Conservatores Reipublicae to the party to which he belonged.

[8] Suetonius, speaking of Augustus, says: "Quoties adesset, nihil praeterea agebat, seu vitandi rumoris causâ, quo patrem Caesarem vulgo reprehensum commemorabat, quod inter spectandum epistolis libellisque legendis aut rescribendis vacaret; seu studio spectandi et voluptate," etc.--Vita Octavii, 45.

[9] Writing three years later to Atticus, he says: "Confirmabam omnium privatorum possessiones, is enim est noster exercitus, ut tute scis locupletium."--To Atticus, i. 19. Pomponius Atticus, Cicero's most intimate correspondent, was a Roman knight, who inheriting a large estate from his father, increased it by contracts, banking, money-lending, and slave-dealing, in which he was deeply engaged. He was an accomplished, cultivated man, a shrewd observer of the times, and careful of committing himself on any side. His acquaintance with Cicero rested on similarity of temperament, with a solid financial basis at the bottom of it. They were mutually useful to each other.

[10] "Et nimium istud est, quod ab hoc tribuno plebis dictum est in senatu: urbanam plebem nimium in republicâ posse: exhauriendam esse: hoc enim verbo est usus; quasi de aliquâ sentinâ, ac non de optimorum civium genere loqueretur."--Contra Rullum, ii. 26.

[11] Cicero, Pro Murenâ, 25.

[12] Murena was afterward prosecuted for bribery at this election. Cicero defended him; but even Cato, aristocrat as he was, affected to be shocked at the virtuous consul's undertaking so bad a case. It is observable that in his speech for Murena, Cicero found as many virtues in Lucullus as in his speech on the Manilian law he had found vices. It was another symptom of his change of attitude.

[13] "In loco munitissimo."

[14] This description of the young Roman aristocracy is given by Cicero in his most powerful vein: "Postremum autem genus est, non solum numero, verum etiam genere ipso atque vita, quod proprium est Catilinae, de ejus delectu, immo vero de complexu ejus ac sinu: quos pexo capillo, nitidos, aut imberbes, aut bene barbatos, videtis, manicatis et talaribus tunicis; velis amictos, non togis: quorum omnis industria vitae et vigilandi labor in antelucanis coenis expromitur. In his gregibus omnes aleatores, omnes adulteri, omnes impuri impudicique versantur. Hi pueri tam lepidi ac delicati non solum amare et amari neque cantare et saltare, sed etiam sicas vibrare et spargere venena didicerunt.... Nudi in conviviis saltare didicerunt."--In Catilinam, ii. 10. Compare In Pisonem, 10.

The Romans shaved their beards at full maturity, and therefore "benebarbatos" does not mean grown men, but youths on the edge of manhood.

[15] Not to be confounded with Lucius Calpurnius Piso, who was Caesar's father-in-law.

[16] "Injussu populi."

[17] The real opinion of educated Romans on this subject was expressed in the well-known lines of Lucretius, which were probably written near this very time:

"Nil igitur mors est, ad nos neque pertinet hilum,
Quandoquidem natura animi mortalis habetur:
Et, velut ante acto nil tempore sensimus aegri,
Ad confligendum venientibus undique Poenis;
Omnia cum belli trepido concussa tumultu,
orrida, contremuere sub altis aetheris auris;
In dubioque fuit sub utrorum regna cadendum
Omnibus humanis esset, terrâque, marique:
Sic, ubi non erimus, cum corporis atque animai
Discidium fuerit, quibus e sumus uniter apti,
Scilicet haud nobis quicquam, qui non erimus tum,
Accidere omnino poterit, sensumque movere:
Non, si terra mari miscebitur, et mare coelo."

LUCRETIUS, lib. iii. 11. 842-854.

[18] In the following century when Caesar's life had become mythic, a story was current that when Caesar was speaking on this occasion a note was brought in to him, and Cato, suspecting that it referred to the conspiracy, insisted that it should be read. Caesar handed it to Cato, and it proved to be a love letter from Cato's sister, Servilia, the mother of Brutus. More will be said of the supposed liaison between Caesar and Servilia hereafter. For the present it is enough to say that there is no contemporary evidence for the story at all; and that if it be true that a note of some kind from Servilia was given to Caesar, it is more consistent with probability and the other circumstances of the case, that it was an innocent note of business. Ladies do not send in compromising letters to their lovers when they are on their feet in Parliament; nor, if such an accident should happen, do the lovers pass them over to be read by the ladies' brothers.

[19] "Victrix causa Deis placuit, sed victa Catoni."--LUCAN.

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