Life of Cicero, 12

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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12The schemes of Catiline were still to remain concealed from the multitude, but great preliminary struggles awaited the consulship of Cicero. For, in the first place, those who were prevented from holding office by the laws of Sulla, and they were neither few nor weak, sued for offices and tried to win the favour of the people, making many charges against the tyranny of Sulla which were just and true, indeed, but disturbing the government at an improper and unseasonable time; 2and, in the second place, the tribunes were introducing laws to the same purpose, appointing a commission of ten men with unlimited powers, to whom was committed, as supreme masters of all Italy, of all Syria, and of all the territories which Pompey had lately added to the empire, the right to sell the public lands, to try whom they pleased, to send into exile, to settle cities, to take moneys from the public treasury, and to levy and maintain as many soldiers as they wanted. 3Therefore many of the prominent men also were in favour of the law, and foremost among them Antonius the colleague of Cicero, who expected to be one of the ten. It was thought also that he knew about the conspiracy of Catiline and was not averse to it, owing to the magnitude of his debts; and this was what gave most alarm to the nobles.

4This alarm Cicero first sought to allay by getting the province of Macedonia voted to his colleague, while he himself declined the proffered province of Gaul; and by this favour he induced Antonius, like a hired actor, to play the second rôle to him in defence of their country. Then, as soon as Antonius had been caught and was tractable, Cicero opposed himself with more courage to the innovators. 5Accordingly, he denounced the proposed law in the senate at great length, and so terrified the very promoters of it that they had no reply to make to him. And when they made a second attempt and after full preparation summoned the consuls to appear before the people, Cicero had not the slightest fear, but bidding the senate follow him and leading the way, he not only got the law rejected, but also induced the tribunes to desist from the rest of their measures, so overpowered were they by his eloquence.[23]

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  • [23] See the three orations de Lege Agraria, which have come down to us almost intact.

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