Cicero : In Catilinam, 2

This speech was delivered against L. Sergius Catilina, in November 63 B.C.

The translation is by H.E.D. Blakiston (1894). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section. Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.

    ← Previous speech (In Catilinam 1)

[1.] L   [1] At length and at last, citizens of Rome, we have prevailed over L. Catilina ; with passion in his violent heart, with crime on his furious lips, in the midst of his abominable designs to bring disasters on his country, in the midst of his threats to overwhelm you and this city with sword and flame, he has been by us ejected, or shall I say despatched from the city, or at least while departing of his own accord sped on his way by our valedictions. He has gone, he has escaped us, evaded us, eluded us. His inhuman and portentous malice will no longer be devising means for the destruction of these walls while actually within their confines. Yes, this man, the sole leader in this civil war, we have indisputably vanquished. We shall no longer feel his dagger pricking our sides ; we shall not now quake with fear in the Campus, in the Forum, in the Senate-house, or in the privacy of our own homes. He has been driven from his post of vantage in being expelled from the city. We shall now be able to engage openly with the foe without let or hinderance. There is no doubt we have ruined the man and won a glorious victory, in forcing him to abandon his secret treacheries and betake himself to open brigandage. [2] But that he has not carried with him a blade dripping with blood, as he intended, that we live to witness his departure, that we have wrested his weapons from his hands, that he has had to leave his fellow-countrymen unhurt and his native city not in ruins, how heavily do you think that all these considerations augment his mournful dejection and despair ? Yes, he has been stunned by the blow ; at the present moment he feels crushed and disheartened ; and as he goes, he often, I know, looks back to this city, and laments that his prey has been snatched from his jaws : but Rome for her part seems to me to exult aloud, that she has relieved herself of the infection and cast away the poison from her.

[2.] L   [3] Yet if there is any one here who, under the influence of feelings which should have been felt by all, hotly denounces me with regard to that very result which supplies the note of triumph to my speech, and blames me for not having arrested, for having merely sent away, so deadly a foe, I must plead that the blame should fall not on me but on the circumstances of the time. L. Catilina ought long ago to have been put to death, ought long ago to have suffered the severest penalties of the law ; yes, I was called upon to take such measures by the traditions of the past, by the rigour of the powers committed to me, and by the interests of the state. But how many do you think there were who did not believe my denunciations ? How many who went so far as to defend him ? Yet if I had been convinced that his removal would avert all peril from you, I should long ago have removed L. Catilina at the risk of not only my popularity but even my life. [4] But seeing as I did that even you were not yet all of you clear as to the facts, and that if I inflicted on him the death he deserved, I should incur an amount of unpopularity which would hamper me in the task of following up his associates, I let matters take their course, in order that when you saw the enemy plainly, you might be able to deal with him on the open field. Though indeed how gravely formidable I deem this enemy when outside the walls, you may estimate from this fact, that I feel no satisfaction in knowing that he had so few companions in his flight ! Would that he had taken with him the whole of his gang ! Tongilius, whom he began to adore when he was a lad, I am glad to say he has taken, with Publicius and Minucius, whose unpaid tavern scores were not likely to have seriously shaken the constitution : but the men he has left, think of them, and of their debts, and of their importance, and of their high rank !

[3.] L   [5] So I for my part utterly despise Catilina's army in comparison with our legions from Cisalpine Gaul, and the new troops which Q. Metellus has levied in Picenum and among the Senonian Gauls, and the forces which we are daily raising here, since Catilina's army is composed of ruined veterans, of country spendthrifts and rustic bankrupts, of persons who have preferred to run away from their legal obligations rather than from his army. If I show men like these, I will not say our battle array, but merely the praetor's warrant, they will collapse ! But these whom I see swarming in the forum, standing about the senate-house,, even coming into the senate, men who are sleek with essences and wear gorgeous purple borders, I had far rather he had taken these to be his bodyguard. If they remain here, you must remember to view with alarm not so much his actual army as these deserters from it ; nay, you must fear them the more for this, that they know that I am aware of all their plans, and yet they are not discomposed. [6] I can tell who has received the charge of Apulia, who undertakes Etruria, the districts of Picenum and of the Ager Gallicus, and who has claimed as his care the secret schemes for murder and arson at Rome. They know that all the counsels of the night before last have been reported to me. I exposed them in the senate yesterday ; Catilina himself has taken fright and fled. What are these men waiting for ? They are making a grave mistake indeed, if they expect that my original leniency will be continued for ever.

[4.] L   I have now attained my object, which was to make you all see that a conspiracy has been openly formed against the state : no one can deny this unless he thinks that those who are so like Catilina in character do not also sympathise with his aims. There is no room now for leniency towards these men ; the case calls loudly for severity. Yet even now I will make one concession to them : let them depart, let them start now, let them not leave Catilina to pine with grief at their prolonged absence. I will indicate the route ; their leader left Rome by the Aurelian Road ; if they choose to make haste, they will catch him up before nightfall. [7] Fortunate indeed will Rome be, if the city can be cleansed of this vile refuse ! I verily believe that the ejection of Catilina alone has relieved and refreshed the state ! Can any one invent or imagine any evil or crime which has not been meditated by him ? Is there any poisoner to be found in the whole of Italy, any bully, any brigand, any assassin, any murderer, any forger of wills, any swindler, any rake, any spendthrift, any adulterer, any loose woman, any debaucher of young men, any debauched or des perate character, who can avoid the admission that he has lived on terms of the closest intimacy with Catilina? Has there been any bloodshed for these many years in which he has not had a hand ? Has there been any abominable profligacy of which he has not been guilty ?

[8] Why, what fascinations have there ever been so dangerous to young men as his ? For some of them he entertained affections of a most disgraceful character, to the affections of others he showed a most infamous subservience : to some he promised the gratification of their lusts, to others the death of their parents ; and he not only suggested but abetted their wicked plans. And at the present crisis observe with what rapidity he had collected from the country as well as from Rome a huge number of desperate men ! There is no one deep in debt, either at Rome or in any hidden corner of Italy, whom he has not enrolled in his astounding confederacy of crime.

[5.] L   [9] And to illustrate to you the different pursuits and the utterly diverse spheres of life on which he has drawn, there is no one in the gladiatorial training-schools at all disposed to violence who does not own to intimacy with Catilina ; there is no one on the stage of lighter or more worthless character than usual who does not boast that he has been all but a member of the same guild as Catilina. And yet this man of practised experience in impurity and crime, was proclaimed by his friends to be a man courageous in enduring cold and hunger and thirst and want of sleep, while he was wasting in licentiousness and violence the strength which might have supported industry or assisted virtuous courses. [10] Such is the man ; and if his comrades will only follow him, if these in famous gangs of desperate men will only depart from the city, happy shall we be indeed, fortunate will be our country, and illustrious the memory of my consulship ! For men's passions are not at the present day of a moderate character, their villainies are not such as are endurable or natural to man. They contemplate nothing short of massacre and conflagration and pillage. They have squandered their own inheritances, they have encumbered their own estates ; their purses have long since run dry, their credit has begun to fail : but the same evil cravings, which they felt in the midst of their abundance, possess them still. Yet if in their hours of drunkenness and gambling their desires were limited to revelry and lewdness, their own state would be desperate indeed, but it might still be tolerated by others : but who can tolerate this situation, indolence plotting against the truest bravery, folly against the soundest wisdom, drunkenness against sobriety, and somnolence against vigilance ? Yes, I hear them as they lie at their feasts with shameless women in their arms, drowsy with drink and gorged with solid food, wreathed with flowers and smeared with scents, their strength sapped by their debaucheries, hiccoughing out across the table threats to massacre the loyal and burn down the city. [11] But I am confident that some doom is hanging over them, and that the punishment, which their impudence and wickedness, their crimes and lusts have long deserved, is either visibly impending or at least approaching surely : and if, as consul, since I cannot heal this disease, I shall have had strength to extirpate it, then I feel that I shall have prolonged the existence of Rome not for some brief period but for many ages to come. There is no foreign nation for us to fear, no sovereign able to make war upon the Roman people. Everywhere abroad the valour of a single general has established peace by land and sea. The possibility of civil war remains ; within our own walls is conspiracy, within our own walls is hidden peril, within our own walls is our only foe : we have still to deal with profligacy, with madness, with crime. Citizens of Rome, I offer you myself as the leader of your forces in this war ; I take upon myself the personal enmity of desperate men. All that can be cured, I will cure by whatever means I can : what must be cut away, I will not leave to grow to the destruction of society. Therefore let them either depart now or cease to trouble us ; or else, if they choose to remain in Rome and to remain of the same mind, let them expect to receive the reward they deserve.

[6.] L   And yet, citizens of Rome, there are people who say that I have driven Catilina into exile. [12] Truly if a word of mine could do so much, I should very soon drive into exile the men who use such language. He was evidently a timid creature, or perhaps so peaceable a citizen that he could not bear the consul's lightest word ; the moment he was bidden to go into exile, he obeyed ! What is this ? When I yesterday, men of Rome, having nearly been murdered in my own house, convened the senate in the temple of Jupiter Stator, I denounced the whole matter to the members of that assembly. When Catilina presented him self, did any single senator welcome him ? Did any one give him a word of greeting ? Did any one, I say, look at him as one looks at a bad citizen and not rather as one regards a most vindictive enemy ? Nay, the leading members of the house left the benches near that on which he had taken his seat absolutely bare and empty. [13] At this point I, in my new character as the overbearing consul, a word from whom drives citizens into exile, inquired of Catilina whether he had or had not been one of the party that met by night at M. Laeca's house. When he, utterly reckless as he is, was for the moment struck dumb by his sense of guilt, I laid all the facts before the house. I told them in detail what he had done that night, what he had settled for the following night, how he had planned and arranged the whole campaign. When he stammered and involved himself, I asked why he hesitated to start for the destination he had long had in his mind, since I was well aware that he had sent forward weapons of all sorts, the axes and rods of the consular insignia, trumpets and standards,, and even the famous silver eagle,, for which he had actually made a shrine in his own house. [14] Was I driving into exile then the man whom I could see had already embarked upon war ? Yes, I am to believe, I suppose, that a mere centurion, Manlius, who has encamped in the neighbourhood of Faesulae, has declared war on the Roman people on his own account, that they are not even now waiting for Catilina to assume the command in that camp, and that since he has been driven into exile he will retire to Massilia, as people say, and not to that encampment. [7.] L   Alas ! how wretched is the vocation not only of those who govern but even of those who preserve the state ! Even now if L. Catilina, finding himself driven into a corner and hopelessly weakened by my plans and toils and perils, should be seized with sudden panic, should alter his plans, desert his friends, discard his idea of making war, and turn aside from his career of crime and war to the path of flight and voluntary exile, people will not say that I have stripped him of the weapons of violence, that my vigilance has covered him with confusion and alarm, that I have forced him to abandon his cherished hopes and schemes ; no, he will be said, an unconvicted, an innocent man, to have been driven into exile by the threats and the violence of the consul. There will be people who will wish him, if he does all this, to be counted not wicked but afflicted, and me not a most vigilant consul but a most barbarous tyrant ! [15] It is well worth my while, citizens of Rome, to expose myself to this storm of baseless and undeserved unpopularity, if by so doing I may avert from you the danger of this awful and abominable war. Yes ! let it be said that he was driven out into exile by me, if only he will really go ! But,, believe me, he does not mean to go. Never shall heaven hear prayer of mine, men of Rome, to diminish my unpopularity at the cost of your having to hear the news that L. Catilina is commanding a hostile army and pervading Italy with armed followers ; nevertheless in three days you will hear such tidings ; and I am much more afraid of this, that I shall one day incur unpopularity for having induced him to go rather than driven him away. But when there are men who say that he has been driven out, though he has merely gone away, what would be their language if he had been put to death? [16] However, those who repeat that Catilina is on his way to Massilia, are much more alarmed than indignant at the possibility : there is not one among them whose pity for Catilina prevents him from preferring that he should go to Manlius rather than to Massilia, ** and Catilina himself, I verily believe, even if he had never previously contemplated his present course, would rather die fighting even as a brigand than survive as an exile. But as things are, since as yet nothing has occurred which is opposed to Catilina's own wishes and intentions, except indeed his having to leave us alive when he left Rome, let us pray to heaven that he may go into exile rather than feel any indignation at his going.

[8.] L   [17] But why do we speak at such length about a single enemy, and about an enemy who now avows his enmity, an enemy whom I do not fear, because, as I have always desired, there is now a wall between us and him ? Why do we say nothing about those who dissemble their enmity, who remain at Rome, who are still in the midst of us ? And yet, if there should be any possibility of so dealing with them, I am less anxious to punish those men than to work a moral cure in them and to reconcile them to their country ; nor do I understand why this course is impossible, if they choose to attend to my words. I will first explain to you, men of Rome, from what classes of society these hostile forces are drawn ; and then I will offer to each class in turn such remedies as may be afforded by my advice and public exhortation. [18] The first class is composed of men who, though their debts are great indeed, have estates even greater in their possession, to which they are so fondly attached that they cannot be induced to disencumber themselves. The outward appearance of these men is most honourable ; they are certainly affluent : but their whole moral position is thoroughly shameless. Are you, sir, to be elegant and sumptuous in your possession of lands and of houses and of plate and of slaves and of everything else besides ? and are you to hesitate to incur a loss as regards your possessions and make a gain as regards your credit ? If so, what are you anticipating ? War, perhaps ? What good will war do you ? Do you think that amid the universal havoc the sanctity of your property will be respected ? Or, perhaps, a general cancelling of accounts ? It is a mistake to expect this from Catilina. My remedial measures will involve the production of "new account-books," but these will be for the use of auctioneers. ** There is indeed no other way to rehabilitate these holders of landed property : if they had chosen to take this step sooner, and had not made the insane attempt to meet the interest of their debts out of the produce of their estates, we should find them now richer men, and better citizens to boot. This class, however, need not, I think, be feared at all, because men of that stamp can either be induced to abandon their intention, or, if they adhere to it, seem to me more likely to indulge in aspirations for the ruin of the state than to take up arms against us.

[9.] L   [19] The second class consists of those who, although they are weighed down by debt, nevertheless anticipate despotic rule, wish to grasp power, and think that they can secure at a revolutionary crisis the offices which they despair of obtaining in more peaceable times. They, I think, must learn this lesson, a single fact which all the rest must learn too, they must learn to abandon all hope of attaining their present object. They must be taught, I say, first of all, that I am awake and ready and attending to the interests of the state ; secondly, that the courage of the party of order is great, that the harmony of the great masses behind them is great, and that the military forces at our disposal are also great ; lastly, that the immortal gods will vouchsafe their succour in time of need against their criminal violence to this unconquered people, to this most famous empire, to this most beautiful city. And even if they secure the object of their passionate longings, do they really hope that amid the ashes of the city and the blood of their fellow-citizens they will attain their accursed and abominable desires, and become consuls and dictators or even kings ? Do they not see that they are desiring a position which, even if attained, will have to be surrendered by them in their turn to some mere fugitive slave or gladiator ?

[20] The third class, though advanced in years, is still kept in good condition by physical exercise, and to it belongs the wretched Manlius, whom Catilina is just now superseding. These are the men from the agricultural settlements founded by Sulla ; which I perceive to be colonised on the whole by excellent citizens and gallant men ; but still there are settlers whose unexpected and rapidly acquired wealth has led them to exhibit a too extravagant and insolent temper. These persons, while building houses like men of fortune, while taking their ease in well-selected farms, large establishments, and fashionable entertainments, have incurred such overwhelming liabilities, that to rehabilitate themselves they must call up Sulla from the dead. They have even induced not a few real farmers, men of small and slender means, to entertain the same wild hopes of a chance of repeating the former spoliations. These two sets I class together as the robbers and plunderers. But I give them this warning : they had better cease their ravings, and drop their ideas of proscriptions and dictatorships. The horrors of those dreadful times have left so abiding an impression on this country, that to my mind neither men nor even brute beasts are likely to tolerate a recrudescence of them.

[10.] L   [21] The fourth class is a decidedly mixed and heterogeneous rabble, consisting of men who have long been weighed down, who never rise, who partly from idleness and partly from incapacity in business, partly also from extravagance, stagger under a load of ancient liabilities. Wearied by the writs and judgments and executions for debt, they are said to be resorting to that camp in vast numbers from the city and from the rural districts. These poor men I deem not so much ardent warriors as indolent defaulters ; and so, if they cannot stand, let them collapse, but in silence, so that neither society at large nor even their own neighbours may see their fall. For I cannot understand why, if they cannot live with honour, they prefer to perish dishonourably, nor why they imagine it will be less painful to perish in and with a multitude than to perish alone.

[22] The fifth class consists of murderers, assassins, and ruffians of every sort ; and these I do not invite to desert Catilina. They cannot indeed be detached from him ; and so let them perish as brigands, since they are so numerous that the Prison is too small for them. The class last not only in order, but last and worst also in character and mode of life, is the one which is specially attached to Catilina himself; it is drawn from his chosen friends, from the recipients of his warmest embraces, men whom you see with lovelocks combed, spick and span, either beardless or well bearded, with tunics sleeved and falling down over the ankles, and dressed in things more like veils than togas ; men whose only occupations in life and only attempts to keep awake are exhibited at those dinner-parties which last till dawn. [23] In these hordes all the gamblers, all the adulterers, all impure and immodest characters have their places. These dainty and fastidious boys have learnt not only how to love and be loved, not only how to dance and sing, but also how to wield the dagger and mix the poisoned draught : and if they do not depart, if they are not destroyed, then I warn you, even if Catilina is destroyed, they will still form a seed-bed for the production of Catilinas in this commonwealth. And yet, after all, what do these miserable men want ? Do they mean to take their women with them to the camp ? If not, how will they do without them, especially on these cold nights ? And how will they endure the frosts and snows of the Apennines ? But perhaps they suppose they will find it easier to bear the cold, because they have been taught to dance at dinner-parties without their clothes !

[11.] L   [24] Oh ! how horribly we must dread this war, when we know that Catilina is going to have this infamous crew for his bodyguard ! Array forthwith, citizens of Rome, your armies and your garrisons to resist these world-famed forces of Catilina. First station your consuls and generals to confront that wounded and worn-out cut-throat : next draw up on the field the very flower and vigour of all Italy to meet that wave-tossed and battered wreckage of society. Yes, the towns of the colonial and municipal districts will answer for themselves to Catilina's rude forest-fastnesses ; nor ought I to compare the rest of your forces, your conspicuous and ample defences, with the scanty and beggarly preparations of that wretched brigand. [25] But if we leave out of our reckoning all the means of defence with which we are amply provided, and which Catilina lacks, the senate, the Roman knights, the city, the treasury, the revenues, the whole of Italy, all the provinces, and the foreign states, if, I say, we choose to put aside all these considerations, and compare the conflicting parties on their own merits, we can learn from a mere inspection of our enemies how vastly inferior they are. On this side decency is arrayed, on that insolence ; on this chastity, and on that immorality ; on this side honesty, and on that knavery ; on this patriotism, and on that crime ; here resolution, and there recklessness ; here honour, and there disgrace ; here self-control, and there licence : in a word, justice, temperance, courage, and wisdom, are fighting against injustice, intemperance, cowardice, and folly. To conclude, wealth is contending against beggary, sound principles against vicious, sanity against madness, and in short, honest hopefulness against utter desperation. In a conflict and engagement of this sort, is it not probable that, even if human ardour were to fail, the immortal gods themselves would enforce the victory of virtues so brilliant over all these heinous vices ?

[12.] L   [26] Do you, therefore, under these circumstances, citizens of Rome, as you have done previously, protect your own homes with watch and ward. I myself have taken thought and made provision for the safe defence of the city without any disturbance to you or any alarm of war. Your fellow-citizens in all the colonial and municipal districts, having been informed by me of this midnight excursion of Catilina, will easily protect their own towns and territories. The gladiators, thought by Catilina most certain to join him in large numbers (though as a matter of fact they are less disaffected than a section of the patricians), will nevertheless be submissive to our authority. Q. Metellus, whom I in anticipation of this movement sent forward to the districts of the Ager Gallicus and Picenum, will either crush the villain or will hamper all his movements and attempts. As to the determination, acceleration, and execution of other arrangements, we shall at once consult the senate, which you see is being summoned.

[27] And now I turn to those who have remained in the city, or rather, I should say, have been left in the city by Catilina to menace the safety of the city and of all of you ; and, enemies as they are, still because they are our fellow-citizens, I wish to warn them again and again. If my treatment of them hitherto has appeared to any one too mild, that leniency was only temporary, till what was concealed might emerge : for the future I cannot allow myself to forget that this is my native land, that I am consul of this people, that I must choose between surviving with my country men and dying in their cause. There are no sentries at the gates, there are no men in ambush on the road ; if any one wishes to depart, I need not see him go. But any one who lifts a finger in Rome., any one on whose part I detect any action or even any purpose or design calculated to harm our native land, shall soon feel that in this city there are watchful consuls, excellent magistrates, and brave senators, that there are men under arms, and that there is a prison in tended by our ancestors for the summary punishment of abominable and flagrant crimes.

[13.] L   [28] Furthermore, all these things shall be done, citizens of Rome, with such care as to settle matters the most momentous with the least possible disturbance, to avert the most serious dangers without an appeal to arms, to put down internal and civil warfare of the most barbarous and extensive character on record, by the guidance and under the command of one man, myself in my present civil capacity. And this I will effect, citizens, in such a manner that, if it is in any way still possible, not even one single bad man in this city shall undergo the penalty of his crime. But if the violence of flagrant villainy, if the peril which threatens our native land, forces me to abandon my policy of leniency, I will assuredly contrive what it seems hardly possible to pray for in a war so vast and so dangerous ; I will so contrive that not one honest man shall perish, but that the punishment of a few shall be sufficient to save you all. [29] All this I promise you, citizens of Rome, in reliance not on my own wisdom nor on any human devices, but on many clear intimations vouchsafed by the immortal gods, whose guidance has led me on to entertain these hopes and these ideas. The gods indeed are not now from afar, as often in time of old, defending us from a foreign and distant foe, but are truly present here to shelter with their sacred aid their own temples and the homes of this city. These deities, citizens of Rome, it is your duty to supplicate and venerate and implore, that the city, which they have willed to be the most beautiful and most prosperous in the world, they may now, by securing it the victory over all hostile forces by land and by sea, defend for us from the abominable criminality of the most degraded of our fellow-countrymen.

Following speech (In Catilinam 3)


1.   But, if true friends, they ought to prefer his voluntary exile to his junction with Manlius, which would be fatal to him.

2.   Cicero refers to some unknown measure of his own for the sale of encumbered estates.

Following speech (In Catilinam 3)

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