Life of Cicero, 14

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

« Plut. Cic. 13 | Plut. Cic. 14 | Plut. Cic. 15 | About This Work »

14But Catiline and his fellow-conspirators, who at first were cowed and terrified, began once more to take courage, and assembling themselves together exhorted one another to take matters in hand more boldly before Pompey came back, and he was said to be now returning with his army. It was the old soldiers of Sulla, however, who were most of all urging Catiline on to action. These were to be found in all parts of Italy, but the greatest numbers and the most warlike of them had been scattered among the cities of Etruria, and were again dreaming of robbing and plundering the wealth that lay ready to hand. 2These men, I say, with Manlius for a leader, one of the men who had served with distinction under Sulla, associated themselves with Catiline and came to Rome to take part in the consular elections. For Catiline was again a candidate for the consulship, and had determined to kill Cicero in the very tumult of the elections. 3Moreover, even the heavenly powers seemed, by earthquakes and thunderbolts and apparitions, to foreshow what was coming to pass. And there were also human testimonies which were true, indeed, but not sufficient for the conviction of a man of reputation and great power like Catiline. For this reason Cicero postponed the day of the elections, and summoning Catiline to the senate, examined him concerning what was reported. 4But Catiline, thinking that there were many in the senate who were desirous of a revolution, and at the same time making a display of himself to the conspirators, gave Cicero the answer of a madman: “What dreadful thing, pray,” said he, “am I doing, if, when there are two bodies, one lean and wasted, but with a head,[25] and the other headless, but strong and large, I myself become a head for this?” 5Since this riddle of Catiline’s referred to the senate and the people, Cicero was all the more alarmed, and he wore a breastplate when all the nobles and many of the young men escorted him from his house to the Campus Martius. Moreover, he purposely allowed the spectators to get a glimpse of his breastplate by loosing his tunic from his shoulders, thus showing them his peril. 6The people were incensed and rallied about him; and finally, when they voted, they rejected Catiline once more, and elected Silanus and Murena consuls.[26]

« Plut. Cic. 13 | Plut. Cic. 14 | Plut. Cic. 15 | About This Work »


  • [25] Unum debile, infirmo capite (Cicero, pro Murena, 25, 51).

  • [26] For the year 62 B.C.

Version menu

Table of contents