1I. Although, O conscript fathers, it seems very unbecoming for that man whose counsels you have so often adopted in the most important affairs, to be deceived and deluded, and to commit mistakes; yet I console myself, since I made the mistake in company with you, and in company also with a consul of the greatest wisdom. For when two men of consular rank had brought us hope of an honourable peace, they appeared, as being friends and extremely intimate with Marcus Antonius, to be aware of some weak point about him with which we were unacquainted. His wife and children are in the house of one; the other is known every day to send letters to, to receive letters from, and openly to favour Antonius.
2These men, then, appeared likely to have some reason for exhorting us to peace, which they had done for some time. The consul, too, added the weight of his exhortation; and what a consul! If we look for prudence, one who was not easily to be deceived; if for virtue and courage, one who would never admit of peace unless Antonius submitted and confessed himself to be vanquished; if for greatness of mind, one who would prefer death to slavery. You, too, O conscript fathers, appeared to be induced to think not of accepting but of imposing conditions, not so much because you were forgetful of your most important and dignified resolutions, as because you had hopes suggested you of a surrender on the part of Antonius, which his friends preferred to call peace. My own hopes, and I imagine yours also, were increased by the circumstance of my hearing that the family of Antonius was overwhelmed with distress, and that his wife was incessantly lamenting. And in this assembly, too, I saw that the partisans, on whose countenance my eyes are always dwelling, looked more sorrowful than usual. 3And if that is not so, why on a sudden has mention been made of peace by Piso and Calenus of all people in the world, why at this particular moment, why so unexpectedly? Piso declares that he knows nothing, that he has not heard anything. Calenus declares that no news has been brought. And they make that statement now, after they think that we are involved in a pacific embassy. What need have we, then, of any new determination, if no new circumstances have arisen to call for one?
II. We have been deceived,—we have, I say, been deceived, O conscript fathers. It is the cause of Antonius that has been pleaded by his friends, and not the cause of the public. And I did indeed see that, though through a sort of mist; the safety of Decimus Brutus had dazzled my eyesight. But if in war, substitutes were in the habit of being given, I would gladly allow myself to be hemmed in, so long as Decimus Brutus might be released. 4But we were caught by this expression of Quintus Fufius; “Shall we not listen to Antonius, even if he retires from Mutina? Shall we not, even if he declares that he will submit himself to the authority of the senate?” It seemed harsh to say that. Thus it was that we were broken; we yielded. Does he then retire from Mutina? “I don’t know.” Is he obeying the senate? “I think so,” says Calenus, “but so as to preserve his own dignity at the same time.” You then, O conscript fathers, are to make great exertions for the express purpose of losing your own dignity, which is very great, and of preserving that of Antonius, which neither has nor can have any existence; and of enabling him to recover that by your conduct, which he has lost by his own. 5“But, however, that matter is not open for consideration now; an embassy has been appointed.” But what is there which is not open for consideration to a wise man, as long as it can be remodelled? Any man is liable to a mistake; but no one but a downright fool will persist in error. For second thoughts, as people say, are best. The mist which I spoke of just now is dispelled: light has arisen: the case is plain: we see everything, and that not by our own acuteness, but we are warned by our friends.
You heard just now what was the statement made by a most admirable man. I found, said he, his house, his wife, his children, all in great distress. Good men marvelled at me, my friends blamed me for having been led by the hope of peace to undertake an embassy. And no wonder, O Publius Servilius. For by your own most true and most weighty arguments Antonius was stripped, I do not say of all dignity, but of even every hope of safety. 6Who would not wonder if you were to go as an ambassador to him? I judge by my own case; for with regard to myself I see how the same design as you conceived is found fault with. And are we the only people blamed? What? did that most gallant man speak so long and so precisely a little while ago without any reason? What was he labouring for, except to remove from himself a groundless suspicion of treachery? And whence did that suspicion arise? From his unexpected advocacy of peace, which he adopted all on a sudden, being taken in by the same error that we were.
7But if an error has been committed, O conscript fathers, owing to a groundless and fallacious hope, let us return into the right road. The best harbour for a penitent is a change of intention.
III. For what, in the name of the immortal gods! what good can our embassy do to the republic? What good, do I say? What will you say if it will even do us harm? Will do us harm? What if it already has done us harm? Do you suppose that that most energetic and fearless desire shown by the Roman people for recovery of their liberty has been damped and weakened by hearing of this embassy for peace? What do you think the municipal towns feel? and the colonies? What do you think will be the feelings of all Italy? Do you suppose that it will continue to glow with the same zeal with which it burnt before to extinguish this common conflagration? Do we not suppose that those men will repent of having professed and displayed so much hatred to Antonius, who promised us money and arms; who devoted themselves wholly, body, heart, and soul, to the safety of the republic? How will Capua, which at the present time feels like a second Rome, approve of this design of yours? That city pronounced them impious citizens, cast them out, and kept them out. Antonius was barely saved from the hands of that city, which made a most gallant attempt to crush him. 8Need I say more? Are we not by these proceedings cutting the sinews of our own legions; for what man can engage with ardour in a war, when the hope of peace is suggested to him? Even that godlike and divine Martial legion will grow languid at and be cowed by the receipt of this news, and will lose that most noble title of Martial; their swords will fall to the ground; their weapons will drop from their hands. For, following the senate, it will not consider itself bound to feel more bitter hatred against Antonius than the senate.
I am ashamed for this legion, I am ashamed for the fourth legion, which, approving of our authority with equal virtue, abandoned Antonius, not looking upon him as their consul and general, but as an enemy and attacker of their country. I am ashamed for that admirable army which is made up of two armies; which has now been reviewed, and which has started for Mutina, and which, if it hears a word of peace, that is to say, of our fear, even if it does not return, will at all events halt. For who, when the senate recals him and sounds a retreat, will be eager to engage in battle?
9IV. For what can be more unreasonable than for us to pass resolutions about peace without the knowledge of those men who wage the war? And not only without their knowledge, but even against their will? Do you think that Aulus Hirtius, that most illustrious consul, and that Caius Cæsar, a man born by the especial kindness of the gods for this especial crisis, whose letters, announcing their hope of victory, I hold in my hand, are desirous of peace? They are anxious to conquer; and they wish to obtain that most delightful and beautiful condition of peace, as the consequence of victory, not of some agreement. What more? With what feelings do you think that Gaul will hear of this proceeding? For that province performs the chief part in repelling, and managing, and supporting this war? Gaul, following the mere nod, for I need not say the command of Decimus Brutus, has strengthened the beginning of the war with her arms, her men, and her treasures: she has exposed the whole of her body to the cruelty of Marcus Antonius: she is drained, laid waste, attacked with fire and sword. She is enduring all the injuries of war with equanimity, contented as long as she can ward off the danger of slavery. 10And, to say nothing of the other parts of Gaul, (for they are all alike,) the people of Patavium have excluded some men who were sent to them by Antonius, and have driven out others, and have assisted our generals with money and soldiers, and with what was above all things wanting, arms. The rest have done the same; even those who formerly were of the party of Antonius, and who were believed to have been alienated from the senate by the injuries of many years. Men, who indeed there is no great reason to wonder at being faithful now, after the freedom of the republic has been shared with them, when, even before they had been admitted to those privileges, they always behaved with loyalty and good faith.
V. All these men, then, who are now sanguine of victory, we are to meet with the name of peace; that is to say, with a complete despair of victory.
11What more? What if it is even absolutely impossible for there to be any real peace at all? For what sort of peace is that in which nothing can be granted to the man with whom one is making peace? Antonius has been invited to peace by us by many circumstances; but he has preferred war. Ambassadors were sent. I opposed it, indeed, but still they were sent. Commands were taken to him: he did not obey them. He was ordered not to besiege Brutus, and to retire from before Mutina. He attacked that town even more vigorously. And shall we send an embassy to treat of peace to a man who has rejected ambassadors of peace? Do we suppose that when we talk to him face to face he will be more moderate in his demands than he was when he sent commands to the senate? But at that time he demanded things which appeared indeed unreasonable, but still such as it might have been possible to concede; he had not at that time been branded by such heavy and such numerous decisions and condemnations of yours. At present he is demanding things which we cannot by any possibility grant, unless we are willing first to confess ourselves defeated in war.
12We have pronounced that resolutions of the senate which have been produced by him are forged. Can we now pronounce them genuine? We have declared that laws have been carried by him by means of violence, and in a manner contrary to the auspices, and that neither the burgesses nor the common people are bound by them. Do you consider it possible that those laws should be reestablished? You have judicially decided that Antonius has embezzled seven hundred millions of sesterces of the public money. Can he now be released from the charge of peculation? Exemptions, grants of the freedom of the city, priesthoods, kingdoms have been sold by him. Can those tablets again be put up which you took down by your decrees?
VI. But if we can rescind those decrees which we have passed, can we also efface the memory of the facts? For where will any posterity forget to whose wickedness it was owing that we have been arrayed in these unseemly garments? Although the blood of the centurions of the Martial legion shed at Brundusium be washed out, can the notoriety of that inhuman act be washed out too? To pass over things which happened in the interval, what lapse of time will ever efface the foul memorials of his military works around Mutina, the tokens of his wickedness, the traces of his piratical conduct?
13What then, in the name of the immortal gods! have we which we can grant in the way of concession to this polluted and impious parricide? Are we to yield up to him the further Gaul, and an army? This is not making peace, but only deferring war. Indeed, it is not only prolonging the war, but even conceding the victory. Is it not a victory for him to enter this city with his troops, on any conditions whatever? At present we are masters of everything by our arms; we are of great influence from the authority of this order; numbers of desperate citizens are absent, following their infamous leader; and still we cannot bear the countenances or support the language of those men who are left behind in the city out of their number. What do you think will be the result when such numbers force their way into the city at one time? when we have laid aside our arms, and they have not laid aside theirs? Must we not be defeated for everlasting, in consequence of our own counsels?
14Place before your eyes Marcus Antonius, as a man of consular rank; add to him Lucius, hoping to obtain the consulship; join to them all the rest, and those too not confined to our order, who are fixing their thoughts on honours and commands. Do not despise the Tiros, and the Numisii, or the Mustellæ, or the Seii. A peace made with those men will not be peace, but a covenant of slavery. That was an admirable expression of Lucius Piso, a most honourable man, and one which has been deservedly praised by you, O Pansa, not only in this order, but also in the assembly of the people. He said, that he would depart from Italy, and leave his household gods and his native home, if (but might the gods avert such a disaster!) Antonius overwhelmed the republic.
15VII. I ask, therefore, of you, O Lucius Piso, whether you would not think the republic overwhelmed if so many men of such impiety, of such audacity, and such guilt, were admitted into it? Can you think that men whom we could hardly bear when they were not yet polluted with such parricidal treasons, will be able to be borne by the city now that they are immersed in every sort of wickedness? Believe me, we must either adopt your plan, and retire, depart, embrace a life of indigence and wandering, or else we must offer our throats to those robbers, and perish in our country. What has become, O Caius Pansa, of those noble exhortations of yours, by which the senate was roused, and the Roman people stimulated, not only hearing but also learning from you that there is nothing more disgraceful to a Roman than slavery? 16Was it for this that we assumed the garb of war, and took arms, and roused up all the youth all over Italy, in order that, while we had a most flourishing and numerous army, we might send ambassadors to treat for peace? If that peace is to be received by others, why do we not wait to be entreated for it? If our ambassadors are to beg it, what is it that we are afraid of? Shall I make one of this embassy, or shall I be mixed up with this design, in which, even if I should dissent from the rest of my colleagues, the Roman people will not know it? The result will be, that if anything be granted or conceded, it will be my danger if Antonius commits any offences, since the power to commit them will seem to have been put in his hands by me.
17But even if it had been proper to entertain any idea of peace with the piratical crew of Marcus Antonius, still I was the last person who ought to have been selected to negotiate such a peace. I never voted for sending ambassadors. Before the return of the last ambassadors I ventured to say, that peace itself, even if they did bring it, ought to be repudiated, since war would be concealed under the name of peace; I was the chief adviser of the adoption of the garb of war; I have invariably called that man a public enemy, when others have been calling him only an adversary; I have always pronounced this to be a war, while others have styled it only a tumult. Nor have I done this in the senate alone; I have always acted in the same way before the people. Nor have I spoken against himself only, but also against the accomplices in and agents of his crimes, whether present here, or there with him. 18In short, I have at all times inveighed against the whole family and party of Antonius. Therefore, as those impious citizens began to congratulate one another the moment the hope of peace was presented to them, as if they had gained the victory, so also they abused me as unjust: they made complaints against me; they distrusted Servilius also; they recollected that Antonius had been damaged by his avowed opinions and propositions; they recollected that Lucius Cæsar, though a brave and consistent senator, is still his uncle; that Calenus is his agent; that Piso is his intimate friend; they think that you yourself, O Pansa, though a most vigorous and fearless consul, are now become more mercifully inclined. Not that it really is so, or that it possibly can be so. But the fact of a mention of peace having been made by you, has given rise to a suspicion in the hearts of many, that you have changed your mind a little. The friends of Antonius are annoyed at my being included among these persons; and we must no doubt yield to them, since we have once begun to be liberal.
19VIII. Let the ambassadors go, with all our good wishes; but let those men go at whom Antonius may take no offence. But if you are not anxious about what he may think, at all events. O conscript fathers, you ought to have some regard for me. At least spare my eyes, and make some allowance for a just indignation. For with what countenance shall I be able to behold, (I do not say, the enemy of my country, for my hatred of him on that score I feel in common with you all,) but how shall I bear to look upon that man who is my own most bitter personal enemy, as his most furious harangues against me plainly declare him? Do you think that I am so completely made of iron as to be able unmoved to meet him, or look at him? who lately, when in an assembly of the people he was making presents to those men who appeared to him the most audacious of his band of parricidal traitors, said that he gave my property to Petissius of Urbinum, a man who, after the shipwreck of a very splendid patrimony, was dashed against these rocks of Antonius. 20Shall I be able to bear the sight of Lucius Antonius? a man from whose cruelty I could not have escaped if I had not defended myself behind the walls and gates and by the zeal of my own municipal town. And this same Asiatic gladiator, this plunderer of Italy, this colleague of Lenti and Nucula, when he was giving some pieces of gold to Aquila the centurion, said that he was giving him some of my property. For, if he had said he was giving him some of his own, he thought that the eagle itself would not have believed it. My eyes cannot—my eyes, I say, will not bear the sight of Saxa, or Capho, or the two prætors, or the tribune of the people, or the two tribunes elect, or Bestia, or Trebellius, or Titus Plancus. I cannot look with equanimity on so many, and those such foul, such wicked enemies; nor is that feeling caused by any fastidiousness of mine, but by my affection for the republic. But I will subdue my feelings, and keep my own inclinations under restraint. 21If I cannot eradicate my most just indignation, I will conceal it. What? Do you not think, O Conscript fathers, that I should have some regard for my own life? But that indeed has never been an object of much concern to me, especially since Dolabella has acted in such a way that death is a desirable thing, provided it come without torments and tortures. But in your eyes and in those of the Roman people my life ought not to appear of no consequence. For I am a man,—unless indeed I am deceived in my estimate of myself,—who by my vigilance, and anxiety, by the opinions which I have delivered, and by the dangers too of which I have encountered great numbers, by reason of the most bitter hatred which all impious men bear me, have at least, (not to seem to say anything too boastful,) conducted myself so as to be no injury to the republic. 22And as this is the case, do you think that I ought to have no consideration for my own danger?
IX. Even here, when I was in the city and at home, nevertheless many attempts were made against me, in a place where I have not only the fidelity of my friends but the eyes also of the entire city to guard me. What do you think will be the case when I have gone on a journey, and that too a long one? Do you think that I shall have no occasion to fear plots then? There are three roads to Mutina; a place which my mind longs to see, in order that I may behold as speedily as possible that pledge of freedom of the Roman people Decimus Brutus; in whose embrace I would willingly yield up my parting breath, when all my actions for the last many months, and all my opinions and propositions have resulted in the end which I proposed to myself. There are, as I have said, three roads; the Flaminian road, along the Adriatic; the Aurelian road, along the Mediterranean coast; the Midland road, which is called the Cassian.
23Now, take notice, I beg of you, whether my suspicion of danger to myself is at variance with a reasonable conjecture. The Cassian road goes through Etruria. Do we not know then, O Pansa, over what places the authority of Lenti Cæsennius, as a septemvir, prevails at present? He certainly is not on our side either in mind or body. But if he is at home, or not far from home, he is certainly in Etruria; that is, in my road. Who, then, will undertake to me that Lenti will be content with exacting one life alone? Tell me besides, O Pansa, where Ventidius is,—a man to whom I have always been friendly before he became so openly an enemy to the republic and to all good men. I may avoid the Cassian road, and take the Flaminian. What if, as it is said, Ventidius has arrived at Ancona? Shall I be able in that case to reach Ariminum in safety? The Aurelian road remains: and here too I shall find a protector; for on that road are the possessions of Publius Clodius. His whole household will come out to meet me; and will invite me to partake of their hospitality, on account of my notorious intimacy with their master?
24X. Shall I then trust myself to those roads—I who lately, on the day of the feast of Terminus, did not dare even to go into the suburbs and return by the same road on the same day? I can scarcely defend myself within the walls of my own house without the protection of my friends; therefore I remain in the city; and if I am allowed to do so I will remain. This is my proper place, this is my beat, this is my post as a sentinel, this is my station as a defender of the city. Let others occupy camps and kingdoms, and engage in the conduct of the war; let them show the active hatred of the enemy; we, as we say, and as we have always hitherto done, will, in common with you, defend the city and the affairs of the city. Nor do I shrink from this office; although I see the Roman people shrink from it for me. No one is less timid than I am; no one more cautious. The facts speak for themselves. This is the twentieth year that I have been a mark for the attempts of all wicked men; therefore, they have paid to the republic (not to say to me) the penalty of their wickedness. As yet the republic has preserved me in safety for itself. I am almost afraid to say what I am going to say; for I know that any accident may happen to a man; but still, when I was once hemmed in by the united force of many most influential men, I yielded voluntarily, and fell in such a manner as to be able to rise again in the most honourable manner.
25Can I, then, appear as cautious and as prudent as I ought to be if I commit myself to a journey so full of enemies and dangers to me? Those men who are concerned in the government of the republic ought at their death to leave behind them glory, and not reproaches for their fault, or grounds for blaming their folly. What good man is there who does not mourn for the death of Trebonius? Who is there who does not grieve for the loss of such a citizen and such a man? But there are men who say, (hastily indeed, but still they do say so,) that he deserves to be grieved for less because he did not take precautions against a desperately wicked man. In truth, a man who professes to be himself a defender of many men, wise men say, ought in the first place to show himself able to protect his own life. I say, that when one is fenced round by the laws and by the fear of justice, a man is not bound to be afraid of everything, or to take precautions against all imaginable designs; for who would dare to attack a man in daylight, on a military road, or a man who was well attended, or an illustrious man? 26But these considerations have no bearing on the present time, nor in my case; for not only would a man who offered violence to me have no fear of punishment, but he would even hope to obtain glory and rewards from those bands of robbers.
XI. These dangers I can guard against in the city; it is easy for me to look around and see where I am going out from, whither I am going, what there is on my right hand, and on my left. Shall I be able to do the same on the roads of the Apennines? in which, even if there should be no ambush, as there easily may be, still my mind will be kept in such a state of anxiety as not to be able to attend to the duties of an embassy. But suppose I have escaped all plots against me, and have passed over the Apennines; still I have to encounter a meeting and conference with Antonius. What place am I to select? If it is outside the camp, the rest may look to themselves,—I think that death would come upon me instantly. I know the frenzy of the man; I know his unbridled violence. The ferocity of his manners and the savageness of his nature is not usually softened even by wine. Then, inflamed by anger and insanity, with his brother Lucius, that foulest of beasts, at his side, he will never keep his sacrilegious and impious hands from me. 27I can recollect conferences with most bitter enemies, and with citizens in a state of the most bitter disagreement.
Cnæus Pompeius, the son of Sextus, being consul, in my presence, when I was serving my first campaign in his army, had a conference with Publius Vettius Scato, the general of the Marsians, between the camps. And I recollect that Sextus Pompeius, the brother of the consul, a very learned and wise man, came thither from Rome to the conference. And when Scato had saluted him, “What,” said he, “am I to call you?”—“Call me,” said he, “one who is by inclination a friend, by necessity an enemy.” That conference was conducted with fairness; there was no fear, no suspicion; even their mutual hatred was not great; for the allies were not seeking to take our city from us, but to be themselves admitted to share the privileges of it. Sylla and Scipio, one attended by the flower of the nobility, the other by the allies, had a conference between Cales and Teanum, respecting the authority of the senate, the suffrages of the people, and the privileges of citizenship; and agreed upon conditions and stipulations. Good faith was not strictly observed at that conference; but still there was no violence used, and no danger incurred.
XII. But can we be equally safe among Antonius’s piratical crew? We cannot; or, even if the rest can, I do not believe that I can. 28What will be the case if we are not to confer out of the camp? What camp is to be chosen for the conference? He will never come into our camp;—much less will we go to his. It follows then, that all demands must be received and sent to and fro by means of letters. We then shall be in our respective camps. On all his demands I shall have but one opinion; and when I have stated it here, in your hearing, you may think that I have gone, and that I have come back again.—I shall have finished my embassy. As far as my sentiments can prevail I shall refer every demand which Antonius makes to the senate. For, indeed, we have no power to do otherwise; nor have we received any commission from this assembly, such as, when a war is terminated, is usually, in accordance with the precedents of your ancestors, entrusted to the ambassadors. Nor, in fact, have we received any particular commission from the senate at all.
And, as I shall pursue this line of conduct in the council, where some, as I imagine, will oppose it, have I not reason to fear that the ignorant mob may think that peace is delayed by my means? 29Suppose now that the new legions do not disapprove of my resolution. For I am quite sure that the Martial legion and the fourth legion will not approve of anything which is contrary to dignity and honour. What then? have we no regard for the opinion of the veterans? For even they themselves do not wish to be feared by us.—Still, how will they receive my severity? For they have heard many false statements concerning me; wicked men have circulated among them many calumnies against me. Their advantage indeed, as you all are most perfect witnesses of, I have always promoted by my opinion, by my authority, and by my language. But they believe wicked men, they believe seditious men, they believe their own party. They are, indeed, brave men; but by reason of their exploits which they have performed in the cause of the freedom of the Roman people and of the safety of the republic they are too ferocious and too much inclined to bring all our counsels under the sway of their own violence. 30Their deliberate reflection I am not afraid of, but I confess I dread their impetuosity.
If I escape all these great dangers too, do you think my return will be completely safe? For when I have, according to my usual custom, defended your authority, and have proved my good faith towards the republic, and my firmness; then I shall have to fear, not those men alone who hate me, but those also who envy me. Let my life then be preserved for the republic, let it be kept for the service of my country as long as my dignity or nature will permit; and let death either be the necessity of fate, or, if it must be encountered earlier, let it be encountered with glory.
This being the case, although the republic has no need (to say the least of it) of this embassy, still if it be possible for me to go on it in safety, I am willing to go. Altogether, O conscript fathers, I shall regulate the whole of my conduct in this affair, not by any consideration of my own danger, but by the advantage of the republic. And, as I have plenty of time, I think that it behoves me to deliberate upon that over and over again, and to adopt that line of conduct which I shall judge to be most beneficial to the republic.