1I. You see this day, O Romans, the republic, and all your lives, your goods, your fortunes, your wives and children, this home of most illustrious empire, this most fortunate and beautiful city, by the great love of the immortal gods for you, by my labours and counsels and dangers, snatched from fire and sword, and almost from the very jaws of fate, and preserved and restored to you.
2And if those days on which we are preserved are not less pleasant to us, or less illustrious, than those on which we are born, because the joy of being saved is certain, the good fortune of being born uncertain, and because we are born without feeling it, but we are preserved with great delight; ay, since we have, by our affection and by our good report, raised to the immortal gods that Romulus who built this city, he, too, who has preserved this city, built by him, and embellished as you see it, ought to be held in honour by you and your posterity; for we have extinguished flames which were almost laid under and placed around the temples and shrines, and houses and walls of the whole city; we have turned the edge of swords drawn against the republic, and have turned aside their points from your throats. 3And since all this has been displayed in the senate, and made manifest, and detected by me, I will now explain it briefly, that you, O citizens, that are as yet ignorant of it, and are in suspense, may be able to see how great the danger was, how evident and by what means it was detected and arrested. First of all, since Catiline, a few days ago, burst out of the city, when he had left behind the companions of his wickedness, the active leaders of this infamous war, I have continually watched and taken care, O Romans, of the means by which we might be safe amid such great and such carefully concealed treachery.
II. Further, when I drove Catiline out of the city, (for I do not fear the unpopularity of this expression, when that is more to be feared that I should be blamed because he has departed alive,) but then when I wished him to be removed, I thought either that the rest of the band of conspirators would depart with him, or that they who remained would be weak and powerless without him.
4And I, as I saw that those whom I knew to be inflamed with the greatest madness and wickedness were among us, and had remained at Rome, spent all my nights and days in taking care to know and see what they were doing, and what they were contriving; that, since what I said would, from the incredible enormity of the wickedness, make less impression on your ears, I might so detect the whole business that you might with all your hearts provide for your safety, when you saw the crime with your own eyes. Therefore, when I found that the ambassadors of the Allobroges had been tampered with by Publius Lentulus, for the sake of exciting a Transalpine war and commotion in Gaul, and that they, on their return to Gaul, had been sent with letters and messages to Catiline on the same road, and that Vulturcius had been added to them as a companion, and that he too had had letters given him for Catiline, I thought that an opportunity was given me of contriving what was most difficult, and which I was always wishing the immortal gods might grant, that the whole business might be manifestly detected not by me alone, but by the senate also, and by you.
5Therefore, yesterday I summoned Lucius Flaccus and C. Pomtinus, the prætors, brave men and well-affected to the republic. I explained to them the whole matter, and showed them what I wished to have done. But they, full of noble and worthy sentiments towards the republic, without hesitation, and without any delay, undertook the business, and when it was evening, went secretly to the Mulvian bridge, and there so distributed themselves in the nearest villas, that the Tiber and the bridge was between them. And they took to the same place, without any one having the least suspicion of it, many brave men, and I had sent many picked young men of the prefecture of Reate, whose assistance I constantly employ in the protection of the republic, armed with swords. 6In the meantime, about the end of the third watch, when the ambassadors of the Allobroges, with a great retinue and Vulturcius with them, began to come upon the Mulvian bridge, an attack is made upon them; swords are drawn both by them and by our people; the matter was understood by the prætors alone, but was unknown to the rest.
III. Then, by the intervention of Pomtinus and Flaccus, the fight which had begun was put an end to; all the letters which were in the hands of the whole company are delivered to the prætors with the seals unbroken; the men themselves are arrested and brought to me at daybreak. And I immediately summoned that most worthless contriver of all this wickedness, Gabinius, as yet suspecting nothing; after him, P. Statilius is sent for, and after him Cethegus; but Lentulus was a long time in coming,—I suppose, because, contrary to his custom, he had been up a long time the night before, writing letters.
7But when those most noble and excellent men of the whole city, who, hearing of the matter, came in crowds to me in the morning, thought it best for me to open the letters before I related the matter to the senate, lest, if nothing were found in them, so great a disturbance might seem to have been caused to the state for nothing, I said I would never so act as shrink from referring matter of public danger to the public council. In truth if, O Romans, these things which had been reported to me had not been found in them, yet I did not think I ought, in such a crisis of the republic, to be afraid of the imputation of over-diligence. 8I quickly summoned a full senate, as you saw; and meantime, without any delay, by the advice of the Allobroges, I sent Caius Sulpicius the prætor, a brave man, to bring whatever arms he could find in the house of Cethegus, whence he did bring a great number of swords and daggers.
IV. I introduced Vulturcius without the Gauls. By the command of the senate, I pledged him the public faith for his safety. I exhorted him fearlessly to tell all he knew. Then, when he had scarcely recovered himself from his great alarm, he said: that he had messages and letters for Catiline, from Publius Lentulus, to avail himself of the guard of the slaves, and to come towards the city with his army as quickly as possible; and that was to be done with the intention that, when they had set fire to the city on all sides, as it had been arranged and distributed, and had made a great massacre of the citizens, he might be at hand to catch those who fled, and to join himself to the leaders within the city. 9But the Gauls being introduced, said that an oath had been administered to them, and letters given them by Publius Lentulus, Cethegus, and Statilius, for their nation; and that they had been enjoined by them, and by Lucius Cassius, to send cavalry into Italy as early as possible; that infantry should not be wanting; and that Lentulus had assured him, from the Sibylline oracles and the answers of soothsayers, that he was that third Cornelius to whom the kingdom and sovereignty over this city was fated to come; that Cinna and Sylla had been before him; and that he had also said that was the year destined to the destruction of this city and empire, being the tenth year after the acquittal of the virgins, and the twentieth after the burning of the Capitol. 10But they said there had been this dispute between Cethegus and the rest,—that Lentulus and others thought it best that the massacre should take place and the city be burnt at the Saturnalia, but that Cethegus thought it too long to wait.
V. And, not to detain you, O Romans, we ordered the letters to be brought forward which were said to have been given them by each of the men. First, I showed his seal to Cethegus; he recognised it: we cut the thread; we read the letter. It was written with his own hand: that he would do for the senate and people of the Allobroges what he had promised their ambassadors; and that he begged them also to do what their ambassadors had arranged. Then Cethegus, who a little before had made answer about the swords and daggers which had been found in his house, and had said that he had always been fond of fine arms, being stricken down and dejected at the reading of his letters, convicted by his own conscience, became suddenly silent. Statilius, being introduced, owned his handwriting and his seal. His letters were read, of nearly the same tenor: he confessed it. Then I showed Lentulus his letters, and asked him whether he recognised the seal? He nodded assent. But it is, said I, a well-known seal;—the likeness of your grandfather, a most illustrious man, who greatly loved his country and his fellow-citizens; and it, even though silent, ought to have called you back from such wickedness.
11Letters are read of the same tenor to the senate and people of the Allobroges. I offered him leave, if he wished to say anything of these matters: and at first he declined to speak; but a little afterwards, when the whole examination had been gone through and concluded, he rose. He asked the Gauls what he had had to do with them? why they had come to his house? and he asked Vulturcius too. And when they had answered him briefly and steadily, under whose guidance they had come to him, and how often; and when they asked him whether he had said nothing to them about the Sibylline oracles; then he on a sudden, mad with wickedness, showed how great was the power of conscience; for though he might have denied it, he suddenly, contrary to every one’s expectation, confessed it: so not only did his genius and skill in oratory, for which he was always eminent, but even, through the power of his manifest and detected wickedness, that impudence, in which he surpassed all men, and audacity deserted him.
12But Vulturcius on a sudden ordered the letters to be produced and opened which he said had been given to him for Catiline, by Lentulus. And though Lentulus was greatly agitated at that, yet he acknowledged his seal and his handwriting; but the letter was anonymous, and ran thus:—“Who I am you will know from him whom I have sent to you: take care to behave like a man, and consider to what place you have proceeded, and provide for what is now necessary for you: take care to associate to yourself the assistance of every one, even of the powerless.” Then Gabinius being introduced, when at first he had begun to answer impudently, at last denied nothing of those things which the Gauls alleged against him. 13And to me, indeed, O Romans, though the letters, the seals, the handwriting, and the confession of each individual seemed most certain indications and proofs of wickedness, yet their colour, their eyes, their countenance, their silence, appeared more certain still; for they stood so stupified, they kept their eyes so fixed on the ground, at times looking stealthily at one another, that they appeared now not so much to be informed against by others as to be informing against themselves.
VI. Having produced and divulged these proofs, O Romans, I consulted the senate what ought to be done for the interests of the republic. Vigorous and fearless opinions were delivered by the chief men, which the senate adopted without any variety; and since the decree of the senate is not yet written out, I will relate to you from memory, O citizens, what the senate has decreed. 14First of all, a vote of thanks to me is passed in the most honourable words, because the republic has been delivered from the greatest dangers by my valour and wisdom, and prudence. Then Lucius Flaccus and Caius Pomtinus, the prætors, are deservedly and rightly praised, because I had availed myself of their brave and loyal assistance. And also, praise is given to that brave man, my colleague, because he had removed from his counsels, and from the counsels of the republic, those who had been accomplices in this conspiracy. And they voted that Publius Lentulus, when he had abdicated the prætorship, should be given into custody; and also, that Caius Cethegus, Lucius Statilius, Publius Gabinius, who were all present, should be given into custody: and the same decree was passed against Lucius Cassius, who had begged for himself the office of burning the city; against Marcus Caparius, to whom it had been proved that Apulia had been allotted for the purpose of exciting disaffection among the shepherds; against Publius Furius, who belongs to the colonies which Lucius Sylla led to Fæsulæ; against Quintus Manlius Chilo, who was always associated with this man Furius in his tampering with the Allobroges; against Publius Umbrenus, a freedman, by whom it was proved that the Gauls were originally brought to Gabinius.
And the senate, O citizens, acted with such lenity, that, out of so great a conspiracy, and such a number and multitude of domestic enemies, it thought that since the republic was saved, the minds of the rest might be restored to a healthy state by the punishment of nine most abandoned men. 15And also a supplication was decreed in my name, (which is the first time since the building of the city that such an honour has ever been paid to a man in a civil capacity,) to the immortal gods, for their singular kindness. And it was decreed in these words, “because I had delivered the city from conflagration, the citizens from massacre, and Italy from war.” And if this supplication be compared with others, O citizens, there is this difference between them,—that all others have been appointed because of the successes of the republic; this one alone for its preservation. And that which was the first thing to be done, has been done and executed; for Publius Lentulus, though, being convicted by proofs and by his own confession, by the judgment of the senate he had lost not only the rights of a prætor, but also those of a citizen, still resigned his office; so that, though Caius Marcius, that most illustrious of men, had no scruples about putting to death Caius Glaucius the prætor, against whom nothing had been decreed by name, still we are relieved from that scruple in the case of Publius Lentulus, who is now a private individual.
16VII. Now, since, O citizens, you have the nefarious leaders of this most wicked and dangerous war taken prisoners and in your grasp, you ought to think that all the resources of Catiline,—all his hopes and all his power, now that these dangers of the city are warded off, have fallen to pieces. And, indeed, when I drove him from the city, I foresaw in my mind, O citizens, that if Catiline were removed, I had no cause to fear either the drowsiness of Publius Lentulus, or the fat of Lucius Cassius, or the mad rashness of Cassius Cethegus. He alone was to be feared of all these men, and that, only as long as he was within the walls of the city. He knew everything, he had access to everybody. He had the skill and the audacity to address, to tempt, and to tamper with every one. He had acuteness suited to crime; and neither tongue nor hand ever failed to support that acuteness. Already he had men he could rely on, chosen and distributed for the execution of all other business; and when he had ordered anything to be done, he did not think it was done on that account. There was nothing to which he did not personally attend and see to,—for which he did not watch and toil. He was able to endure cold, thirst, and hunger.
17Unless I had driven this man, so active, so ready, so audacious, so crafty, so vigilant in wickedness, so industrious in criminal exploits, from his plots within the city to the open warfare of the camp, (I will express my honest opinion, O citizens,) I should not easily have removed from your necks so vast a weight of evil. He would not have determined on the Saturnalia to massacre you,—he would not have announced the destruction of the republic, and even the day of its doom so long beforehand,—he would never have allowed his seal and his letters, the undeniable witnesses of his guilt, to be taken, which now, since he is absent, has been so done that no larceny in a private house has ever been so thoroughly and clearly detected as this vast conspiracy against the republic. But if Catiline had remained in the city to this day, although, as long as he was so, I met all his designs and withstood them; yet, to say the least, we should have had to fight with him, and should never, while he remained as an enemy in the city, have delivered the republic from such dangers, with such ease, such tranquillity, and such silence.
18VIII. Although all these things, O Romans, have been so managed by me, that they appear to have been done and provided for by the order and design of the immortal gods; and as we may conjecture this because the direction of such weighty affairs scarcely appears capable of having been carried out by human wisdom; so, too, they have at this time so brought us present aid and assistance, that we could almost behold them without eyes. For to say nothing of those things, namely, the firebrands seen in the west in the night time, and the heat of the atmosphere,—to pass over the falling of thunderbolts and the earthquakes,—to say nothing of all the other portents which have taken place in such numbers during my consulship, that the immortal gods themselves have been seeming to predict what is now taking place; yet, at all events, this which I am about to mention, O Romans, must be neither passed over nor omitted.
19For you recollect, I suppose, when Cotta and Torquatus were consuls, that many towers in the Capitol were struck with lightning, when both the images of the immortal gods were moved, and the statues of many ancient men were thrown down, and the brazen tablets on which the laws were written were melted. Even Romulus, who built this city, was struck, which, you recollect, stood in the Capitol, a gilt statue, little and sucking, and clinging to the teats of the wolf. And when at this time the soothsayers were assembled out of all Etruria, they said that slaughter, and conflagration, and the overthrow of the laws, and civil and domestic war, and the fall of the whole city and empire was at hand, unless the immortal gods, being appeased in every possible manner, by their own power turned aside, as I may say, the very fates themselves.
20Therefore, according to their answers, games were celebrated for ten days, nor was anything omitted which might tend to the appeasing of the gods. And they enjoined also that we should make a greater statue of Jupiter, and place it in a lofty situation, and (contrary to what had been done before) turn it towards the east. And they said that they hoped that if that statue which you now behold looked upon the rising of the sun, and the forum, and the senate-house, then those designs which were secretly formed against the safety of the city and empire would be brought to light, so as to be able to be thoroughly seen by the senate and by the Roman people. And the consuls ordered it to be so placed; but so great was the delay in the work, that it was never set up by the former consuls, nor by us before this day.
21IX. Here who, O Romans, can there be so obstinate against the truth, so headstrong, so void of sense, as to deny that all these things which we see, and especially this city, is governed by the divine authority and power of the immortal gods? Forsooth, when this answer had been given,—that massacre, and conflagration, and ruin was prepared for the republic; and that, too, by profligate citizens, which, from the enormity of the wickedness, appeared incredible to some people, you found that it had not only been planned by wicked citizens, but had even been undertaken and commenced. And is not this fact so present that it appears to have taken place by the express will of the good and mighty Jupiter, that, when this day, early in the morning, both the conspirators and their accusers were being led by my command through the forum to the Temple of Concord, at that very time the statue was being erected? And when it was set up, and turned towards you and towards the senate, the senate and you yourselves saw everything which had been planned against the universal safety brought to light and made manifest.
22And on this account they deserve even greater hatred and greater punishment, for having attempted to apply their fatal and wicked fire, not only to your houses and homes, but even to the shrines and temples of the Gods. And if I were to say that it was I who resisted them, I should take too much to myself, and ought not to be borne. He—he, Jupiter, resisted them. He determined that the Capitol should be safe, he saved these temples, he saved this city he saved all of you. It is under the guidance of the immortal gods, O Romans, that I have cherished the intention and desires which I have, and have arrived at such undeniable proofs. Surely, that tampering with the Allobroges would never have taken place, so important a matter would never have been so madly entrusted, by Lentulus and the rest of our internal enemies, to strangers and foreigners, such letters would never have been written, unless all prudence had been taken by the immortal gods from such terrible audacity. What shall I say? That Gauls, men from a state scarcely at peace with us, the only nation existing which seems both to be able to make war on the Roman people, and not to be unwilling to do so,—that they should disregard the hope of empire and of the greatest success voluntarily offered to them by patricians, and should prefer your safety to their own power—do you not think that that was caused by divine interposition? especially when they could have destroyed us, not by fighting, but by keeping silence.
23X. Wherefore, O citizens, since a supplication has been decreed at all the altars, celebrate those days with your wives and children; for many just and deserved honours have been often paid to the immortal gods, but juster ones never. For you have been snatched from a most cruel and miserable destruction, and you have been snatched from it without slaughter, without bloodshed, without an army, without a battle. You have conquered in the garb of peace, with me in the garb of peace for your only general and commander.
24Remember, O citizens, all civil dissensions, and not only those which you have heard of, but these also which you yourselves remember and have seen. Lucius Sylla crushed Publius Sulpicius; he drove from the city Caius Marius the guardian of this city; and of many other brave men some he drove from the city, and some he murdered. Cnæus Octavius the consul drove his colleague by force of arms out of the city; all this place was crowded with heaps of carcases and flowed with the blood of citizens; afterwards Cinna and Marius got the upper hand; and then most illustrious men were put to death, and the lights of the state were extinguished. Afterwards Sylla avenged the cruelty of this victory; it is needless to say with what a diminution of the citizens, and with what disasters to the republic. Marcus Lepidus disagreed with that most eminent and brave man Quintus Catulus. His death did not cause as much grief to the republic as that of the others.
25And these dissensions, O Romans, were such as concerned not the destruction of the republic, but only a change in the constitution. They did not wish that there should be no republic, but that they themselves should be the chief men in that which existed; nor did they desire that the city should be burnt, but that they themselves should flourish in it. And yet all those dissensions, none of which aimed at the destruction of the republic, were such that they were to be terminated not by a reconciliation and concord, but only by internecine war among the citizens. But in this war alone, the greatest and most cruel in the memory of man,—a war such as even the countries of the barbarians have never waged with their own tribes,—a war in which this law was laid down by Lentulus, and Catiline, and Cassius, and Cethegus, that every one, who could live in safety as long as the city remained in safety, should be considered as an enemy,—in this war I have so managed matters, O Romans, that you should all be preserved in safety; and though your enemies had thought that only such a number of the citizens would be left as had held out against an interminable massacre, and only so much of the city as the flames could not devour, I have preserved both the city and the citizens unhurt and undiminished.
26XI. And for these exploits, important as they are, O Romans, I ask from you no reward of virtue, no badge of honour, no monument of my glory, beyond the everlasting recollection of this day. In your minds I wish all my triumphs, all my decorations of honour, the monuments of my glory, the badges of my renown, to be stored and laid up. Nothing voiceless can delight me, nothing silent,—nothing, in short, such as even those who are less worthy can obtain. In your memory, O Romans, my name shall be cherished, in your discourses it shall grow, in the monuments of your letters it shall grow old and strengthen; and I feel assured that the same day which I hope will be for everlasting, will be remembered for ever, so as to tend both to the safety of the city and the recollection of my consulship; and that it will be remembered that there existed in this city at the same time two citizens, one of whom limited the boundaries of your empire only by the regions of heaven, not by those of the earth, while the other preserved the abode and home of that same empire.
27XII. But since the fortune and condition of those exploits which I have performed is not the same with that of those men who have directed foreign wars—because I must live among those whom I have defeated and subdued, they have left their enemies either slain or crushed,—it is your business, O Romans, to take care, if their good deeds are a benefit to others, that mine shall never be an injury to me. For that the wicked and profligate designs of audacious men shall not be able to injure you, I have taken care; it is your business to take care that they do not injure me. Although, O Romans, no injury can be done to me by them,—for there is a great protection in the affection of all good men, which is procured for me for ever; there is great dignity in the republic, which will always silently defend me; there is great power in conscience, and those who neglect it, when they desire to attack me will destroy themselves.
28There is moreover that disposition in me, O Romans, that I not only will yield to the audacity of no one, but that I always voluntarily attack the worthless. And if all the violence of domestic enemies being warded off from you turns itself upon me alone, you will have to take care, O Romans, in what condition you wish those men to be for the future, who for your safety have exposed themselves to unpopularity and to all sorts of dangers. As for me, myself, what is there which now can be gained by me for the enjoyment of life, especially when neither in credit among you, nor in the glory of virtue, do I see any higher point to which I can be desirous to climb?
29That indeed I will take care of, O Romans, as a private man to uphold and embellish the exploits which I have performed in my consulship: so that, if there has been any unpopularity incurred in preserving the republic, it may injure those who envy me, and may tend to my glory. Lastly, I will so behave myself in the republic as always to remember what I have done, and to take care that they shall appear to have been done through virtue, and not by chance. Do you, O Romans, since it is now night, worship that Jupiter, the guardian of this city and of yourselves, and depart to your homes; and defend those homes, though the danger is now removed, with guard and watch as you did last night. That you shall not have to do so long, and that you shall enjoy perpetual tranquillity, shall, O Romans, be my care.