1I. I imagine that you have heard, O Romans, what has been done in the senate, and what has been the opinion delivered by each individual. For the matter which has been in discussion ever since the first of January, has been just brought to a conclusion; with less severity indeed than it ought to have been, but still in a manner not altogether unbecoming. The war has been subjected to a delay, but the cause has not been removed. Wherefore, as to the question which Publius Appuleius—a man united to me by many kind offices and by the closest intimacy, and firmly attached to your interests—has asked me, I will answer in such a manner that you may be acquainted with the transactions at which you were not present.
2The cause which prompted our most fearless and excellent consuls to submit a motion on the first of January, concerning the general state of the republic, arose from the decree which the senate passed by my advice on the nineteenth of December. On that day, O Romans, were the foundations of the republic first laid. For then, after a long interval, the senate was free in such a manner that you too might become free. On which day, indeed,—even if it had been to bring to me the end of my life,—I received a sufficient reward for my exertions, when you all with one heart and one voice cried out together, that the republic had been a second time saved by me. Stimulated by so important and so splendid a decision of yours in my favour, I came into the senate on the first of January, with the feeling that I was bound to show my recollection of the character which you had imposed upon me, and which I had to sustain.
Therefore, when I saw that a nefarious war was waged against the republic, I thought that no delay ought to be interposed to our pursuit of Marcus Antonius; and I gave my vote that we ought to pursue with war that most audacious man, who, having committed many atrocious crimes before, was at this moment attacking a general of the Roman people, and besieging your most faithful and gallant colony; and that a state of civil war ought to be proclaimed; and I said further, that my opinion was that a suspension of the ordinary forms of justice should be declared, and that the garb of war should be assumed by the citizens, in order that all men might apply themselves with more activity and energy to avenging the injuries of the republic, if they saw that all the emblems of a regular war had been adopted by the senate. 3Therefore, this opinion of mine, O Romans, prevailed so much for three days, that although no division was come to, still all, except a very few, appeared inclined to agree with me. But to-day—I know not owing to what circumstance—the senate was more indulgent. For the majority decided on our making experiment, by means of ambassadors, how much influence the authority of the senate and your unanimity will have upon Antonius.
II. I am well aware, O Romans, that this decision is disapproved of by you; and reasonably too. For to whom are we sending ambassadors? Is it not to him who, after having dissipated and squandered the public money, and imposed laws on the Roman people by violence and in violation of the auspices,—after having put the assembly of the people to flight and besieged the senate, sent for the legions from Brundusium to oppress the republic? who, when deserted by them, has invaded Gaul with a troop of banditti? who is attacking Brutus? who is besieging Mutina? How can you offer conditions to, or expect equity from, or send an embassy to, or, in short, have anything in common with, this gladiator? 4although, O Romans, it is not an embassy, but a denunciation of war if he does not obey. For the decree has been drawn up as if ambassadors were being sent to Hannibal. For men are sent to order him not to attack the consul elect, not to besiege Mutina, not to lay waste the province, not to enlist troops, but to submit himself to the power of the senate and people of Rome. No doubt he is a likely man to obey this injunction, and to submit to the power of the conscript fathers and to yours, who has never even had any mastery over himself. For what has he ever done that showed any discretion, being always led away wherever his lust, or his levity, or his frenzy, or his drunkenness has hurried him? He has always been under the dominion of two very dissimilar classes of men, pimps and robbers; he is so fond of domestic adulteries and forensic murders, that he would rather obey a most covetous woman than the senate and people of Rome.
5III. Therefore, I will do now before you what I have just done in the senate. I call you to witness, I give notice, I predict beforehand, that Marcus Antonius will do nothing whatever of those things which the ambassadors are commissioned to command him to do; but that he will lay waste the lands, and besiege Mutina, and enlist soldiers, wherever he can. For he is a man who has at all times despised the judgment and authority of the senate, and your inclinations and power. Will he do what it has been just now decreed that he shall do,—lead his army back across the Rubicon, which is the frontier of Gaul, and yet at the same time not come nearer Rome than two hundred miles? will he obey this notice? will he allow himself to be confined by the river Rubicon and by the limit of two hundred miles? 6Antonius is not that sort of man. For if he had been, he would never have allowed matters to come to such a pass, as for the senate to give him notice, as it did to Hannibal at the beginning of the Punic war not to attack Saguntum. But what ignominy it is to be called away from Mutina, and at the same time to be forbidden to approach the city as if he were some fatal conflagration! what an opinion is this for the senate to have of a man! What? As to the commission which is given to the ambassadors to visit Decimus Brutus and his soldiers, and to inform them that their excellent zeal in behalf of, and services done to the republic, are acceptable to the senate and people of Rome, and that that conduct shall tend to their great glory and to their great honour; do you think that Antonius will permit the ambassadors to enter Mutina? and to depart from thence in safety? He never will allow it, believe me. I know the violence of the man, I know his impudence, I know his audacity.
7Nor, indeed, ought we to think of him as of a human being, but as of a most ill-omened beast. And as this is the case, the decree which the senate has passed is not wholly improper. The embassy has some severity in it; I only wish it had no delay. For as in the conduct of almost every affair slowness and procrastination are hateful, so above all things does this war require promptness of action. We must assist Decimus Brutus; we must collect all our forces from all quarters; we cannot lose a single hour in effecting the deliverance of such a citizen without wickedness. 8Was it not in his power, if he had considered Antonius a consul, and Gaul the province of Antonius, to have given over the legions and the province to Antonius? and to return home himself? and to celebrate a triumph? and to be the first man in this body to deliver his opinion, until he entered on his magistracy? What was the difficulty of doing that? 9But as he remembered that he was Brutus, and that he was born for your freedom, not for his own tranquillity, what else did he do but—as I may almost say—put his own body in the way to prevent Antonius from entering Gaul? Ought we then to send ambassadors to this man, or legions? However, we will say nothing of what is past. Let the ambassadors hasten, as I see that they are about to do. Do you prepare your robes of war. For it has been decreed, that, if he does not obey the authority of the senate, we are all to betake ourselves to our military dress. And we shall have to do so. He will never obey. And we shall lament that we have lost so many days, when we might have been doing something.
IV. I have no fear, O Romans, that when Antonius hears that I have asserted, both in the senate and in the assembly of the people, that he never will submit himself to the power of the senate, he will, for the sake of disproving my words, and making me to appear to have had no foresight, alter his behaviour and obey the senate. He will never do so. He will not grudge me this part of my reputation; he will prefer letting me be thought wise by you to being thought modest himself. 10Need I say more? Even if he were willing to do so himself, do you think that his brother Lucius would permit him? It has been reported that lately at Tibur, when Marcus Antonius appeared to him to be wavering, he, Lucius, threatened his brother with death. And do we suppose that the orders of the senate, and the words of the ambassadors, will be listened to by this Asiatic gladiator? It will be impossible for him to be separated from a brother, especially from one of so much authority. For he is another Africanus among them. He is considered of more influence than Lucius Trebellius, of more than Titus Plancus * * * * a noble young man. As for Plancus, who, having been condemned by the unanimous vote of every one, amid the overpowering applause of you yourselves, somehow or other got mixed up in this crowd, and returned with a countenance so sorrowful, that he appeared to have been dragged back rather than to have returned, he despises him to such degree, as if he were interdicted from fire and water. At times he says that that man who set the senate-house on fire has no right to a place in the senate-house. 11For at this moment he is exceedingly in love with Trebellius. He hated him some time ago, when he was opposing an abolition of debts; but now he delights in him, ever since he has seen that Trebellius himself cannot continue in safety without an abolition of debts. For I think that you have heard, O Romans, what indeed you may possibly have seen, that the sureties and creditors of Lucius Trebellius meet every day. Oh confidence! for I imagine that Trebellius has taken this surname; what can be greater confidence than defrauding one’s creditors? than flying from one’s house? than, because of one’s debts, being forced to go to war? What has become of the applauses which he received on the occasion of Cæsar’s triumph, and often at the games? Where is the ædileship that was conferred on him by the zealous efforts of all good men? who is there who does not now think that he acted virtuously by accident?
* * * * * *
12V. However, I return to your love and especial delight, Lucius Antonius, who has admitted you all to swear allegiance to him. Do you deny it? is there any one of you who does not belong to a tribe? Certainly not. But thirty-five tribes have adopted him for their patron. Do you again cry out against my statement? Look at that gilt statue of him on the left: what is the inscription upon it? “The thirty-five tribes to their patron.” Is then Lucius Antonius the patron of the Roman people? Plague take him! For I fully assent to your outcry. I won’t speak of this bandit whom no one would choose to have for a client; but was there ever a man possessed of such influence, or illustrious for mighty deeds, as to dare to call himself the patron of the whole Roman people, the conqueror and master of all nations? 13We see in the forum a statue of Lucius Antonius; just as we see one of Quintus Tremulus, who conquered the Hernici, before the temple of Castor. Oh the incredible impudence of the man! Has he assumed all this credit to himself, because as a mirmillo at Mylasa he slew the Thracian, his friend? How should we be able to endure him, if he had fought in this forum before the eyes of you all? But, however, this is but one statue. He has another erected by the Roman knights who received horses from the state; and they too inscribe on that, “To their patron.” Who was ever before adopted by that order as its patron? If it ever adopted any one as such, it ought to have adopted me. What censor was ever so honoured? what imperator? “But he distributed land among them.” Shame on their sordid natures for accepting it! shame on his dishonesty for giving it!
Moreover, the military tribunes who were in the army of Cæsar have erected him a statue. * * * * What order is that? There have been plenty of tribunes in our numerous legions in so many years. 14Among them he has distributed the lands of Semurium. The Campus Martius was all that was left, if he had not first fled with his brother. But this allotment of lands was put an end to a little while ago, O Romans, by the declaration of his opinion by Lucius Cæsar a most illustrious man and a most admirable senator. For we all agreed with him and annulled the acts of the septemvirs. So all the kindness of Nucula goes for nothing; and the patron Antonius is at a discount. For those who had taken possession will depart with more equanimity. They had not been at any expense; they had not yet furnished or stocked their domains, partly because they did not feel sure of their title, and partly because they had no money.
15But as for that splendid statue, concerning which, if the times were better, I could not speak without laughing, “To Lucius Antonius, patron of the middle of Janus.” Is it so? Is the middle of Janus a client of Lucius Antonius? Who ever was found in that Janus who would have lent Lucius Antonius a thousand sesterces?
VI. However, we have been spending too much time in trifles. Let us return to our subject and to the war. Although it was not wholly foreign to the subject for some characters to be thoroughly appreciated by you, in order that you might in silence think over who they were against whom you were to wage war.
But I exhort you, O Romans, though perhaps other measures might have been wiser, still now to wait with calmness for the return of the ambassadors. Promptness of action has been taken from our side; but still some good has accrued to it. 16For when the ambassadors have reported what they certainly will report, that Antonius will not submit to you nor to the senate, who then will be so worthless a citizen as to think him deserving of being accounted a citizen? For at present there are men, few indeed, but still more than there ought to be, or than the republic deserves that there should be, who speak in this way,—“Shall we not even wait for the return of the ambassadors?” Certainly the republic itself will force them to abandon that expression and that pretence of clemency. On which account, to confess the truth to you, O Romans, I have less striven to-day, and laboured all the less to-day, to induce the senate to agree with me in decreeing the existence of a seditious war, and ordering the apparel of war to be assumed. I preferred having my sentiments applauded by every one in twenty days’ time, to having it blamed to-day by a few. 17Wherefore, O Romans, wait now for the return of the ambassadors, and devour your annoyance for a few days. And when they do return, if they bring back peace, believe me that I have been desirous that they should; if they bring back war, then allow me the praise of foresight. Ought I not to be provident for the welfare of my fellow-citizens? Ought I not day and night to think of your freedom and of the safety of the republic? For what do I not owe to you, O Romans, since you have preferred for all the honours of the state a man who is his own father to the most nobly born men in the republic? Am I ungrateful? Who is less so? I, who, after I had obtained those honours, have constantly laboured in the forum with the same exertions as I used while striving for them. Am I inexperienced in state affairs? Who has had more practice than I, who have now for twenty years been waging war against impious citizens?
18VII. Wherefore, O Romans, with all the prudence of which I am master, and with almost more exertion than I am capable of, will I put forth my vigilance and watchfulness in your behalf. In truth, what citizen is there, especially in this rank in which you have placed me, so forgetful of your kindness, so unmindful of his country, so hostile to his own dignity, as not to be roused and stimulated by your wonderful unanimity? I, as consul, have held many assemblies of the people; I have been present at many others; I have never once seen one so numerous as this one of yours now is. You have all one feeling, you have all one desire, that of averting the attempts of Marcus Antonius from the republic, of extinguishing his frenzy and crushing his audacity. All orders have the same wish. The municipal towns, the colonies, and all Italy are labouring for the same end. Therefore you have made the senate, which was already pretty firm of its own accord, firmer still by your authority. 19The time has come, O Romans, later altogether than for the honour of the Roman people it should have been, but still so that the things are now so ripe that they do not admit of a moment’s delay. There has been a sort of fatality, if I may say so, which we have borne as it was necessary to bear it. But hereafter if any disaster happens to us it will be of our own seeking. It is impossible for the Roman people to be slaves; that people whom the immortal gods have ordained should rule over all nations. Matters are now come to a crisis. We are fighting for our freedom. Either you must conquer, O Romans, which indeed you will do if you continue to act with such piety and such unanimity, or you must do anything rather than become slaves. Other nations can endure slavery. Liberty is the inalienable possession of the Roman people.