Cicero : In Catilinam, 1

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.

[1.] L   [1] How much further, Catilina, will you carry your abuse of our forbearance ? How much longer will your reckless temper baffle our restraint ? What bounds will you set to this display of your uncontrolled audacity ? Have you not been impressed by the nightly guards upon the Palatine, by the watching of the city by sentinels ? Are you not affected by the alarm of the people, by the rallying of all loyal citizens, by the convening of the senate in this safely-guarded spot, by the looks and the expressions of all assembled here ? Do you not perceive that your designs are exposed ? Do you not see that your conspiracy is even now fully known and detected by all who are here assembled? What you did last night and the night before, where you were and whom you summoned, and what plans you laid, do you suppose that there is one of us here who does not know ? [2] Alas ! what degenerate days are these ! The senate is well aware of the facts, the consul can perceive them all; but the criminal still lives. Lives? Yes, lives; and even comes down to the senate, takes part in the public deliberations, and marks down with ominous glances every single one of us for massacre. And we, such is our bravery, think we are doing our duty to our country, if we merely keep ourselves out of the way of his reckless words and bloody deeds. No, Catilina, long ere now you should yourself have been led by the consul's orders to execution ; and on your own head should have been brought down the destruction which you are now devising for us.

[3] The most eminent P. Scipio, the pontifex maximus, was not actually a magistrate when he executed Ti. Gracchus for attempting some not very revolutionary changes in the constitution of the state ; and are we, the consuls now in office, to bear with Catilina, when he is thirsting to waste the whole earth with fire and sword ? I do not refer to cases too remote in date, such as the execution by C. Servilius Ahala's own hand of Spurius Spurius Maelius when he was aiming at a revolution. But it was once, it was once deemed a virtue in this state for brave men to inflict more signal punishments on a destructive citizen than on the most hostile foreign enemy. We are already armed with a resolution of the senate against you, Catilina, in terms both forcible and weighty ; we are not without the guidance of public deliberation and the decision of this noble order : we, we alone, I say it openly, we consuls are found wanting. [2.] L   [4] The senate once voted that the consul L. Opimius should provide for the protection of the state against harm : and before a single night had intervened, C. Gracchus, whose father, grandfather, and ancestors were all distinguished men, was executed on suspicion of certain treasonable aims ; with him were put to death M. Fulvius, an ex-consul, and his two sons. A similar resolution of the senate committed the protection of the state to the consuls C. Marius and L. Valerius : and did L. Saturninus, tribune of the plebs, and C. Servilius, praetor, have to wait a single day after that vote, before they received the punishment prescribed by the state ? Yet here are we waiting twenty days and allowing the senate's resolution to lose its edge. Yes, we have a formal resolution of the senate to this effect ; but it remains an unpublished document, a sword still in the sheath, though it is a resolution, Catilina, which rightly understood required your immediate execution. Yet you live; and live not to abandon but to add strength to your effrontery. I desire, conscript fathers, to be merciful ; I desire at a moment so critical to the state not to appear careless ; but I am even now convicting myself of conduct which is both remiss and wicked. [5] Even in Italy a base of operations against the Roman people has been established among the hill-passes of Etruria ; the number of our foes is increasing day by day ; but the general who controls those operations and the leader who directs those foes we see within the walls of Rome, ay and even in the senate, plotting every day some fresh device for bringing internal ruin upon our state. If then at last, Catilina, I order your arrest or your execution, I shall presumably have more reason to fear that all loyal citizens will declare my action too tardy than that a single person will pronounce it too harsh. But this particular step, which ought to have been taken long ago, I have certain reasons for not being induced to take at present. You will perish in the end ; but not till it is certain there will be no one in Rome so shameless, so desperate, so exactly the counterpart of yourself, as not to admit the justice of your execution. [6] Just so long as there is a single man who dares to defend you, you will live : but you will live as you live now, held at bay by the staunch defenders whom I have stationed everywhere to prevent any possibility of your assailing the state. Many eyes and many ears, moreover, though you perceive them not, will be vigilant, as they have been vigilant heretofore, and will keep watch over all your actions.

[3.] L   And as a matter of fact, Catilina, for what are you waiting now, if the shades of night can no longer veil your abominable conferences, and if the walls of your private house can no longer contain the phrases used by your fellow-conspirators ? What if everything is being exposed to the light and breaking out of concealment ? Abandon your design even now ; take my warning ; forget your thoughts of fire and sword. You are hemmed in on all sides ; clearer than daylight to us are all your plans ; and you may proceed to review them with me. [7] Do you remember that I said in the senate on the 21st of October, that an army would appear on a certain day, namely the 27th of October, under the command of C. Manlius, acting as the paid agent and manager of your audacious schemes ? Was I not right then, Catilina, not only as to the nature of the affair, abominable and incredible as it was, but even, what is much more astonishing, as to the exact day ? I said moreover in the senate that you had arranged for a massacre of the aristocratic party on the 28th of October, I mean on that occasion when many of our leading men departed hurriedly from Rome, not so much to save themselves as to defeat your plots. Can you deny that on that veiy day the guards with whom I surrounded you, and the carefulness I showed, alone prevented a movement on your part against the government ? Can you deny that you said then that though the rest had withdrawn, you were quite content to massacre those of us who had stayed behind ? [8] Or again, when you were confident that you would be able to capture Praeneste by a sudden assault on the night of the 1st of November, did you not find that at my orders that important colony-town had been regularly garrisoned and furnished with sentries and watches ? There is no act, no scheme, no thought of yours, which is not heard, nay, which is not seen and accurately ascertained by me.

[4.] L   Review now with me the events of the night before last. You will learn that my watchfulness to secure the safety of the state is much more persevering than your efforts to ruin it. I assert then that on the night before last you went to the Scythe-makers' Street, nay, I will make no mystery of it, that you went to M. Laeca's house ; and that there you met several of your accomplices in this insane and criminal adventure. Do you dare to deny it ? What is the meaning of your silence ? I will prove my assertions, if you deny them. Yes, I see that there are here present in the senate certain of those who met you there. [9] Merciful heavens ! Where are we ? In what country, in what city are we dwelling ? What is the government under which we live ? There are here, here among our fellow-senators, conscript fathers, in this deliberative assembly, the most august, the most important in the world, men who are meditating the destruction of us all, the total ruin of this city and in fact of the civilised world. These persons I see before me now, and I ask them their opinions on affairs of state ; and I do not even wound by a single harsh expression men who ought to have been put to death by the sword. You were then, Catilina, at Laeca's house that night ; you divided Italy into districts ; you decided to what quarter you wished each of your friends to proceed ; you chose whom you would leave at Rome and whom you would take with you ; you assigned the different points at which the city was to be fired ; you promised that you would soon leave Rome yourself; you said that you had still a reason for a brief delay, in the fact that I was not dead ; two Roman knights volunteered to set your mind at rest on that point, and undertook to murder me in my bed that very night shortly before daybreak. [10] I on my side ascertained all these facts almost before your conference broke up ; I strengthened the defences of my house, I posted a garrison even more reliable ; I shut out those whom you had sent to greet me in the morning, the persons who came being the very men whom I had previously indicated to many distinguished friends as likely to arrive at my house at that hour.

[5.] L   Under these circumstances, Catilina, I bid you pursue the course you have begun. Quit Rome at last and soon ; the city gates are open ; depart at once : your camp under Manlius's command has too long been awaiting with anxiety the arrival of its general. Take with you all your associates ; or, at least, take as many as you can ; free the city from the infection of their presence. You will relieve me from serious apprehension by putting the city wall between yourself and me ; you cannot possibly remain in our society any longer ; I will not bear, I will not endure, I will not allow it. [11] Our hearty thanks must be rendered to the immortal gods and especially to Jupiter Stator, from the most ancient times the special protector of this city, for that we have now so often eluded this brutal man, this baneful and vindictive enemy of our country : but the supreme interests of the state must not be too frequently imperilled in the person of a single man. So long as you laid your treacherous plots against me, Catilina, when I was only consul-elect, I resorted for defence to my own private precautions, not to any public protection. When at the recent election to the consulship you intended to kill me, the presiding consul, in the Campus, and the other candidates, I baffled your abominable attempt by appealing to the protection and support of my friends, without any general summons to arms. In short, whenever you struck at me, I foiled you without public aid, although I was well aware that my destruction would necessarily have involved a great disaster to the state. [12] At the present moment you are aiming an unconcealed blow at the whole government of Rome : on the temples of the immortal gods, on the buildings of the city, on the lives of all the citizens, on the whole of Italy, you are invoking destruction and devastation.

So since I dare not yet take the most obvious course, and the course most truly consistent with my official powers and with the traditions of the past, I will take a line which is milder as regards severity, but more helpful with reference to the general safety. For if I order you to be executed, there will still remain the dregs of your conspiracy to trouble the state : but if you depart, as I have long been urging you to do, the city will be emptied of your dangerous associates, the political sewers will have been flushed. [13] How now, Catilina ? Do you hesitate to do at my command what you were intending to do of your own accord ? Merely to depart from the city this is the sole order given by the consul to a public enemy. Do I mean you, you ask me, to depart into exile ? No, I do not order you ; but, if you want my opinion, I do advise you to go.

[6.] L   What object indeed is there in this city, Catilina, in which you can feel any pleasure ? There is not a man in Rome, outside your band of desperate conspirators, who does not fear you, not a man who does not hate you. Is there any form of personal immorality which has not stained your family life ? Is there any scandal to be incurred by private conduct which has not attached itself to your reputation ? Is there any evil passion which has not glared from your eyes, any evil deed which has not soiled your hands, any outrageous vice that has not left its mark upon your whole body ? Is there any young man, once fascinated by your seductive wiles, whose violence you have not stimulated and whose lust you have not inflamed ? [14] What ? Not long ago, after having by the death of your former wife created a vacancy in your house for a second match, did you not augment that crime by another too great to be credible ? But this I pass over, and am content to leave it unnamed, lest it should be thought that in this community an outrage so brutal should either have been committed or have remained unpunished. I pass over the complete ruin of your financial position, which you will know to be inevitable on the Ides next ensuing. I turn now not to the personal infamy of your vicious life, not to your private embarrassments and iniquities, but to matters which affect the highest interests of the state and the lives and liberties of all of us. [15] Can the light of the sun, Catilina, can the breath of heaven be pleasant to you, when you know that every member of this house knows well that on the 31st of December in the consulship of Lepidus and Tullus ** you had posted yourself in the comitium with a dagger in your hand ? When they know that you had got together a band to murder the consuls and the leading men in Rome ? When they know that your criminal and reckless design was frustrated, not by any reflection or apprehension on your part, but only by the good fortune of Rome ? But I put those crimes aside : they are not unknown, nor were they isolated crimes. How many attempts you made to murder me when I was consul-elect, how many when I was actually consul! [16] How often have I avoided your thrusts, so well aimed that it seemed impossible that they should miss me, by the narrowest interval, by the veriest hairsbreadth ! Your efforts indeed are ineffective ; yet you do not abandon your attempts and intentions. How often your dagger has been wrested from your grasp ! How often has some accident made you drop it and let it fall ! Nor indeed can I tell to what deity you have dedicated and consecrated it, that you thus think it a sacred duty to plant it in a consul's heart.

[7.] L   But at the present moment what sort of life is yours ? I will address you in terms so mild that I shall be thought to feel towards you, not the indignation which I ought to feel, but a pity which you ought not to expect. A few moments ago you came into the senate-house. Did a single person in this crowded assembly, did a single one of your friends and relations here give you any welcome ? If you know that such a thing as this has never happened to any one within human memory, are you waiting for positive insults, when you are already extinguished by that impressive silence ? What do you infer from the fact that your approach emptied all the benches near where you are sitting, and that all the ex-consuls, whom you have so often destined for massacre, as soon as you sat down left the seats in that part of the house absolutely empty and bare? In what spirit do you intend to accept those intimations ? [17] Why, I protest, if my own slaves feared me in the way in which all your fellow-citizens fear you, I should feel it high time to flee from my own house. Do you not feel any impulse to flee from the city ? And if I saw myself exposed even unjustly to suspicions so grave, and giving such deep offence to my fellow-citizens, I should prefer to be deprived of the sight of those fellow-citizens to thus remaining the object of their hostile glances. And do you, when your guilty conscience forces you to recognise the universal indignation against you as justly felt and long deserved, do you hesitate to avoid the sight and presence of those whose thoughts and feelings you so bitterly offend ? If your own parents were afraid of you and hated you, and you could not conciliate them by any expedients, you would probably withdraw to some place far from their sight. At the present moment your country, which is the common mother of us all, hates you and fears you and has long been convinced that your one thought is to work some murderous treason against her. Will you not then quail before her authority, will you not submit to her decision, will you not fear her power to punish ? [18] Your country, Catilina, pleads with you thus, and appeals with mute eloquence : "For several years now no crime has been committed without your help, no scandal has arisen in which you have not been implicated ; you only have escaped scot-free and gone unpunished after killing many of my citizens, after persecuting and plundering my allies ; you have been strong enough not only to despise my legal and judicial system, but even to destroy the one and disregard the other. Your earlier crimes, intolerable as they were, I tolerated as best I could : but now it is not tolerable that I should be in a perfect fever of alarm at you alone, that even the slightest sound should arouse my fear of Catilina, and that it should appear impossible for any design to be formed against me in which your evil mind is not concerned. Quit the scene then, and deliver me from these apprehensions. If they are well-founded, withdraw that I may not be utterly destroyed ; if they are groundless, go that I may at last cease to be apprehensive."

[8.] L   [19] If Rome, as I have said, should appeal to you in this fashion, ought she not to prevail with you, even if she cannot resort to force ? Or again, what of your voluntary surrender of yourself to custody ? What of your statement that for the sake of avoiding suspicion you were willing to live in M. Lepidus's house ? Yes, and when he would not receive you, you actually dared to come to me, and you asked me to keep you safe at my own house ! When you received the same answer from me, namely that I could not with safety be within the same four walls as you, since I found it sufficiently dangerous to be within the walls of the same town, you went to Q. Metellus the praetor. Rebuffed by him you tried to obtain lodgings with that worthy member of your guild, M. Marcellus, ** whom you naturally supposed would be of all men the most careful in watching you, the most wary in suspecting your movements, and the most strenuous in dealing with them ! But what do you think should be the distance between the State Prison and the man who has actually pronounced himself to be deserving of confinement in a private house ? [20] Under these circumstances, Catilina, do you hesitate, if you cannot resign yourself to death, to depart to distant lands, and there spend in lonely exile the life which you have barely saved from many justly-deserved punishments ?

No, you say, you must put the question to the senate. That is the demand you formulate ; and you assert that, if this house formally resolves that it desires you to go into exile, you will obey its wishes. But I will not put this question to the senate ; to do so would be foreign to my usual custom ; I will how ever make you understand what the senators think of your position. Yes, Catilina, quit the city ; deliver Rome from apprehension ; go indeed into exile, if you are waiting for that word. What is it, Catilina ? Do you not heed, do you not mark the silence of the house ? Their silence denotes consent. Why do you wait for them to express their sanction in words, when you can see by their silence the nature of their wishes ? [21] If I had used this language to my excellent young friend P. Sestius, or to the gallant M. Marcellus, the senate would have been amply justified in laying violent hands upon me, consul as I am, here in this very temple. But in your case, Catilina, their calmness indicates their approval, their tolerance implies their deliberate assent, and their silence is equivalent to loud denunciation of you. Nor is it only these senators, whose resolutions you of course regard with affection, though you hold their lives so cheap, who feel thus, but their feeling is shared by those honourable and virtuous Roman knights and all the other gallant citizens who stand round about the senate, whose numbers you could observe, whose enthusiasm you could mark, and whose expressions you could hear not long ago. For long past I have hardly been able to keep back their hands and their swords from your person ; and I can easily induce them when once you turn your back on all that you have long been in tending to destroy, to escort you on your way even to the gates of Rome.

[9.] L   [22] Yet why do I speak ? Is it possible that anything can influence a man like you? Is it possible that a man like you will ever reform ? That you will ever turn your thoughts to flight ? That you will ever contemplate exile ? Would indeed that heaven might inspire you with such a thought ! Though I see clearly, if you are alarmed at my words and make up your mind to go into exile, what a storm of unpopularity it will bring down upon my head, if not at the present moment while the memory of your crimes is still fresh, at any rate in future ages : but it is well worth while, if only the disastrous consequences are confined to my private fortunes, and do not involve results which are dangerous to the state. Still one ought not to demand that you, being such as you are, should be distressed by your own vices, that you should dread the penalties of the law, and sacrifice yourself to the interests of the state ; no, Catilina, you are not the man ever to have been withheld from baseness by shame, from peril by alarm, or from recklessness by reason. [23] Therefore, as I have often told you, leave this place ; and if I am, as you proclaim, your personal enemy, and you wish to excite odium against me, proceed straightway into exile. I shall hardly be able to endure what men will say of me, if you take that step ; I shall hardly be able to bear the crushing unpopularity which will descend upon the consul at whose command you will have gone into exile. If however you prefer to promote my honour and renown, leave the city attended by your savage gang, join Manlius, call to arms the disloyal among your fellow-countrymen, separate yourself from the loyal, declare war on your fatherland, and lead on in triumph your traitorous banditti ; and you will make it clear that I did not throw you into the arms of strangers, but merely urged you to join your friends. [24] And yet why should I urge you at all, when I know that you have already sent men forward to await you under arms at the Forum of Aurelius ? When I know that you have a day settled and arranged with Manlius ? When I know that you have even sent on in front the silver eagle, which I trust will be a bird of evil and deadly omen to you and all your friends, which was enshrined in your house in the secret chamber of your crimes ? Have you sent it on that you may the longer be deprived of the idol which you always worshipped when you were bent on a murderous errand, on whose altar your unhallowed hand was often laid before it was directed against the lives of your fellow-citizens ?

[10.] L   [25] Yes, you will go at last to the place whither your unrestrained and rabid greed has long been dragging you : nor indeed does the step cause you any sorrow, but rather a sort of inconceivable gratification. For an adventure insane as this has nature produced you, your deliberate choice trained you, and fortune preserved you. Never have you fixed your affections on peace, nor even on any war that was not wholly abominable. You have obtained the aid of a disloyal gang composed of men desperate and altogether abandoned, not only by Fortune but even by Hope. [26] Among them what raptures you will enjoy ! What thrills of excitement you will feel ! In what pleasures you will revel, when you know that in the whole number of your followers you will not hear or see a single honest man ! To the promotion of your efficiency for a life like this have been devoted the laborious exertions, of which we are informed, your crouchings on the ground not only to be ready for filthy intrigues but even to perpetrate crimes, your watchings and lurkings not merely against sleeping husbands but also against the property of peaceable men. You have now a field for the display of your vaunted power to endure hunger, cold, and deprivation of all the means of life ; but you will soon find yourself succumb. [27] When I defeated your efforts to obtain the consulship, I effected this much : I obliged you to attack Rome from without as an exile rather than persecute her from within as consul : and I made your criminal schemes more correctly to be described as brigandage than as a civil war.

[11.] L   Now therefore, conscript fathers, that I may solemnly purge myself of a certain not altogether unfair accusation which my country brings against me, give, I beg you, your earnest attention to my words and commit them faithfully to your innermost hearts. If, in fact, my native land, which is much dearer to me than my life, if all Italy, if the whole state were to address me in these words: "M. Tullius, what do your actions mean? Do you intend in dealing with this man, whom you have ascertained to be a public enemy, whom you see will be the leader in the war, whom you know the enemy's forces are expecting as their general, who is the source of the crime, the head of the conspiracy, the author of the plan to raise the slaves and desperate citizens, do you intend to let this man quit the city, and so lead people to think that you have not so much set him free to quit the city as set him free to attack the city ? Will you not rather issue orders for him to be thrown into chains, led at once to execution, punished with the utmost rigour of the law ? [28] What indeed is there to hinder such a course ? The traditions of the past ? But there have been very many instances in my history in which even private persons have inflicted the penalty of death on citizens of dangerous character. Or possibly the laws which have been enacted to regulate the infliction of punishment on Roman citizens ? But never in this city have those who have forsworn their allegiance been held to retain the rights of citizens. Or are you afraid of the dislike of posterity ? If so, you are displaying exemplary gratitude to the Roman people, who raised you, a man known only by your own career and not recommended by any ancestral distinctions, with such rapidity through all the stages of official rank to the highest magisterial power, if for fear of unpopularity or some personal risk you neglect to secure the safety of your fellow-citizens. [29] But if you are afraid of unpopularity, is the unpopularity arising from a display of severity and courage more deeply to be feared than that which is earned by weakness and treachery ? Or when Italy is being devastated by war, when cities are ravaged and houses burn, do you imagine that you will not then be exposed to a very furnace of unpopularity ?"

[12.] L   To this most sacred appeal from my country and to the unexpressed thoughts of those individuals whose feelings are the same, I will give my answer briefly. For my part, if I judged it the best policy, conscript fathers, to punish Catilina with death, I would not have allowed that ruffian the enjoyment of another hour of life. In fact, if men of the highest rank and reputation incurred no stain of guilt from the blood of Saturninus and the Gracchi and Flaccus and many more before them, nay, if they even ennobled themselves by shedding it, I certainly had no reason to fear that the execution of this murderous traitor would transmit any feeling of hatred against me to future ages : and even if I were imminently threatened with such odium, I was always inclined to regard the unpopularity which is the result of virtuous conduct as distinction and not unpopularity. [30] Though it is true there were some persons even in this house, who either do not see the dangers which threaten us or else pretend not to see what they do in fact perceive ; men who encouraged Catilina's aims by the feebleness of their sentiments, and strengthened the growing conspiracy by declining to believe in its existence : men under whose influence many persons, the inexperienced as well as the disaffected, if I had proceeded against the traitor, would have called my action cruel and despotic. Now however I am convinced that if the wretch finds his way to his intended destination, the camp of Manlius, no one will be so foolish as to be blind to the fact that a conspiracy has been formed, no one will be so disloyal as not to admit it. If however only this one man is executed, I am convinced that the plague can be stayed for a short time but not absolutely suppressed. But if he flings out of Rome and takes his associates with him, and if he can collect together his worn and wave-tossed crew from all quarters, we shall then stamp out and utterly destroy not only this fully-developed infection but also the whole source and seed-bed of all our troubles.

[13.] L   [31] Too long already, conscript fathers, have we been environed by the perils of this treasonable conspiracy ; but it has chanced that all these crimes, this ancient recklessness and audacity has matured at last and burst in full force upon the year of my consulship. If then out of the whole gang this single villain only is removed, perhaps we shall think ourselves for a brief period freed from care and alarm; but the real danger will only have been driven under the surface, and will continue to infect the veins and vital organs of the state. As men stricken with a dangerous disease, when hot and tossing with fever, often seem at first to be relieved by a draught of cold water, but afterwards are much more gravely and severely afflicted ; so this disease, which has seized the state, may be temporarily relieved by the punishment of Catilina, but will return with greater severity if his associates are allowed to survive. [32] Let the disloyal then withdraw, let them separate themselves from the loyal, let them herd together in one place, let there be a wall, as I have often said, to sunder them from us. Let them cease to lay plots to assassinate the consul in his own house, let them cease to crowd menacingly round the City Praetor's judgment-seat, let them cease to beleaguer the senate-house with drawn swords and prepare their grenades and matches for firing the city : in short, let the political principles of every man be visibly written upon his forehead. I promise you this, conscript fathers, that in me and my colleague there shall be found such energy, in you yourselves such resolution, in the Roman knights such courage, in all loyal men such unanimity, that at Catilina's departure from Rome you shall see everything that is evil exposed and brought to light, sternly repressed and adequately punished.

[33] With these ominous words of warning, Catilina, to the true preservation of the state, to the mischief and misfortune of yourself and to the destruction of those attached to you by every sort of crime and treason, get you gone to your unholy and abominable campaign. Then shall you, great Jupiter, who have been established with the same rites as this city, whom we name rightly the Sustainer of this city and empire, keep this man and his associates far from your shrines and from the other temples, far from the buildings and the walls of the city, far from the lives and fortunes of the citizens; and these men - who hate the loyal, who make war on their country and pillage Italy like brigands, who are linked together by bonds of guilt and by complicity in abominable crimes - you shall grievously afflict in life and in death with punishments that shall never cease.

Following speech (In Catilinam 2)


1.   This refers to the plot made by Catilina, Autronius, and Cn. Piso in 66 B.C. to assassinate Cotta and Torquatus, the newly-elected consuls for 65 B.C.

2.   Obviously not the M. Marcellus of § 21. Others read M. Metellus.

Following speech (In Catilinam 2)

Attalus' home page   |   10.11.23   |   Any comments?