Catiline's War, 40–49

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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40Accordingly, he instructed one Publius Umbrenus to seek out the envoys of the Allobroges, and, if possible, entice them to an offensive alliance, thinking that they could readily be persuaded to such a course, since they were burdened with public and private debt; and besides the Gallic people is by nature prone to war. 2Umbrenus had carried on business with the Gauls and was personally acquainted with many of the leading men of their states; therefore as soon as he caught sight of the envoys in the Forum, he at once asked them a few questions about the condition of their country, and pretending grief at its lot, began to inquire what remedy they hoped to find for such great troubles. 3On learning that they had complaints to make of the avarice of the magistrates, that they reproached the senate because it rendered no aid, and looked for death as the only remedy for their wretchedness, he said: “Why, I myself, if only you will show yourselves men, will disclose a plan which will enable you to escape the great evils from which you are suffering.”

4When Umbrenus had said this, the Allobroges were filled with the greatest hope and begged him to take pity on them. They declared that nothing was so dangerous or difficult that they would not joyfully undertake it, provided it would relieve their country of debt. 5Thereupon he took them to the house of Decimus Brutus, which was not far from the Forum and not unsuitable for their plot because of the presence of Sempronia; Brutus, as it happened, was away from Rome at the time. 6He also sent for Gabinius, that what he was to say might have greater weight. When he arrived, Umbrenus disclosed the plot, named the participants, and, to give the envoys greater courage, included many guiltless men of all classes; then, after promising his assistance, he sent them home.

41The Allobroges for a long time were in doubt what course to pursue. 2On the one hand was their debt, their love of war, and the hope of great booty in the event of victory; but on the other were the senate’s greater resources, a course free from danger, and sure rewards in place of uncertain hopes. 3All these considerations they weighed, but in the end the fortune of the republic turned the scale. 4They accordingly divulged the whole affair, just as it had come to their ears, to Quintus Fabius Sanga, their nation’s principal patron. 5Cicero, on being informed of the plan through Sanga, instructed the envoys to feign a strong interest in the conspiracy, approach the other members of it,make liberal promises, and use every effort to show the guilt of the conspirators as clearly as possible.

42At about this same time there were disturbances in both Hither and Farther Gaul, as well as in the Picene and Bruttian districts and in Apulia; 2for those whom Catiline had sent on ahead were doing everything at once, acting imprudently and almost insanely. By their meetings at night, by their transportation of arms and weapons, and by their bustle and general activity they caused more apprehension than actual danger. 3The praetor Quintus Metellus Celer had brought several of their number to trial by virtue of a decree of the senate, and had thrown them into prison; and in Hither Gaul his example was followed by Gaius Murena, who was governing that province as a deputy.

43At Rome Lentulus and the other leaders of the conspiracy, having got together a great force as it appeared to them, had arranged that when Catiline arrived in the region of Faesulae with his army, Lucius Bestia, tribune of the commons, should convoke an assembly and denounce the conduct of Cicero, throwing upon that best of consuls the odium of a dangerous war. That was to be the signal for the rest of the band of conspirators to carry out their several enterprises on the following night. 2Now it is said that the parts assigned to them were the following: Statilius and Gabinius, with many followers, were to kindle fires at twelve important points in the city all at the same time, in order that in the ensuing confusion access might more easily be had to the consul and the others against whom their plots were directed. Cethegus was to beset Cicero’s door and assault him, while to others were assigned other victims. The eldest sons of several families, the greater number of whom belonged to the nobility, were to slay their fathers. Then, when the whole city was stunned by the bloodshed and the fire, they were all to rush out and join Catiline.

3During these preparations and arrangements Cethegus constantly complained of the inaction of his associates, insisting that by indecision and delay they were wasting great opportunities; that such a crisis called for action, not deliberation, and that if a few would aid him he would himself make an attack upon the senate-house, even though the rest were faint-hearted. 4Being naturally aggressive, violent, and prompt to act, he set the highest value upon dispatch.

44The Allobroges, as Cicero had recommended, were presented to the other conspirators by Gabinius. They demanded of Lentulus, Cethegus, Statilius, and also of Cassius an oath, which was to be sealed and taken to their countrymen, saying that otherwise they could not readily be induced to embark upon so serious an enterprise. 2The others complied without suspicion; Cassius, however, promised to come to Gaul shortly, and then left the city just before the envoys. 3Lentulus sent with the Allobroges a certain Titus Volturcius of Crotona, so that on their way home they might confirm the alliance by exchanging pledges of fidelity with Catiline. 4He gave Volturcius a letter for Catiline, of which the following is a copy: 5“Who I am you will learn from my messenger. See to it that you bear in mind in what peril you are, and remember that you are a man. Consider what your plans demand; seek help from all, even the lowest.” 6He also sent him a verbal message, inquiring what his idea was in refusing the aid of slaves, when he had been declared a rebel by the senate. The preparations which he had ordered in the city had been made; he should not himself hesitate to come nearer the walls.

45When arrangements had been thus perfected and the night for the departure appointed, Cicero, who had been informed of everything through the envoys, ordered the praetors Lucius Valerius Flaccus and Gaius Pomptinus to lie in wait for the Allobroges and their company at the Mulvian Bridge and arrest them. He fully explained why they were sent, but left the general course of action to their discretion. 2The praetors, who were soldiers, quietly posted their guards, according to their orders, and secretly invested the bridge. 3As soon as the envoys reached the spot with Volturcius and heard a shout on both sides of them at once, the Gauls quickly saw what was going on and immediately surrendered themselves to the praetors. 4Volturcius at first urged on his companions, and sword in hand defended himself against superior numbers; but when he was deserted by the envoys, he at first earnestly besought Pomptinus, with whom he was acquainted, to save him, but finally, being in fear and despairing of his life, surrendered to the praetors as if to enemies.

46When all was over, the details were quickly communicated to the consul by messengers; 2but he was beset at the same time by deep anxiety as well as by great joy. For while he rejoiced in the knowledge that by the disclosure of the plot his country was saved from peril, he was also troubled, and uncertain what ought to be done, when citizens of such standing were found guilty of a heinous crime. He realized that their punishment would be a load upon his own shoulders; their impunity the ruin of the state. 3He, therefore, steeling his resolution, ordered Lentulus, Cethegus, Statilius, and Gabinius to be brought before him, as well as a certain Caeparius of Terracina, who was making ready to go to Apulia and stir the slaves to revolt. 4The others came without delay; but Caeparius, who had left his home a short time before this, heard of the discovery of the plot and had made good his escape from the city. 5The consul himself took Lentulus by the hand, because he was praetor, and led him to the temple of Concord, bidding the rest follow under guard. 6Thither he summoned the senate, and when it had assembled in full numbers he led in Volturcius and the envoys. He bade the praetor Flaccus bring to the same place the portfolio, together with the letters which he had taken from the Allobroges.

47When Volturcius was questioned about the journey and letters, and finally was asked what his design was and why he had entertained it, he at first invented another story and denied knowledge of the conspiracy. Afterwards, when invited to speak under a public pledge of pardon, he gave an exact account of the whole affair. He declared that he had been made a member of the cabal only a few days before by Gabinius and Caeparius, and knew no more than the envoys; except that he had often heard Gabinius mention Publius Autronius, Servius Sulla, Lucius Vargunteius, and many others as being in the plot. 2The Gauls gave the same testimony, and when Lentulus denied his guilt they confronted him not only with his letter, but also with statements which he was in the habit of making, to the effect that in the Sibylline books the rule of Rome by three Cornelii was foretold; that there had already been Cinna and Sulla, and that he was the third who was destined to be master of the city. Furthermore, that this was the twentieth year since the burning of the Capitol, a year which because of portents the soothsayers had often declared would be stained with the blood of a civil war. Accordingly, when the letters had been read through, each man having first acknowledged his own seal, the senate voted that after Lentulus had resigned his office he and the rest should be held in free custody. 3As a result of this, Lentulus was delivered to Publius Lentulus Spinther, who at the time was an aedile, 4Cethegus to Quintus Cornificius, Statilius to Gaius Caesar, Gabinius to Marcus Crassus, and Caeparius (for he had just been caught and brought back) to a senator called Gnaeus Terentius.

48Meanwhile, after the disclosure of the plot, the commons, who at first in their desire for a change of rulers had been only too eager for war, faced about and denounced the designs of Catiline, while they extolled Cicero to the skies, manifesting as much joy and exultation as if they had been rescued from slavery. 2For although they thought that other acts of war would lead to booty rather than to loss, they regarded a general conflagration as cruel, monstrous, and especially calamitous to themselves, since their sole possessions were their daily food and clothing.

3On the following day one Lucius Tarquinius was brought before the senate, a man who was said to have been arrested and brought back as he was making his way to Catiline. 4When he said that he would give evidence about the conspiracy if the state would promise him a pardon, and when he had been invited by the consul to tell what he knew, he gave the senate practically the same testimony as Volturcius about the intended fires, the murder of loyal men, and the march of the rebels. He added that he had been sent by Marcus Crassus to advise Catiline not to be alarmed by the arrest of Lentulus, Cethegus, and the other conspirators, but to make the greater haste to come to the city, in order that he might thereby revive the spirits of the rest, and that they might the more easily be saved from their danger.

5As soon, however, as Tarquinius named Crassus, a noble of great wealth and of the highest rank, some thought the charge incredible; others believed it to be true, but thought that in such a crisis so powerful a man ought to be propitiated rather than exasperated. There were many, too, who were under obligation to Crassus through private business relations. All these loudly insisted that the accusation was false, and demanded that the matter be laid before the senate. 6Accordingly, on the motion of Cicero, the senate in full session voted that the testimony of Tarquinius appeared to be false; that he should be kept under guard and given no further hearing until he revealed the name of the man at whose instigation he had lied about a matter of such moment. 7At the time some believed that this charge had been trumped up by Publius Autronius, in order that by naming Crassus and involving him in the danger he might shield the rest behind his influence. 8Others declared that Tarquinius had been instigated by Cicero, to prevent Crassus from taking up the cause of the wicked, after his custom, and embroiling the state. 9I heard Crassus himself assert afterwards that this grave insult was put upon him by Cicero.

49But at that very time Quintus Catulus and Gaius Piso tried in vain by entreaties, influence, and bribes to induce Cicero to have a false accusation brought against Gaius Caesar, either through the Allobroges or some other witness. 2For both these men were bitter personal enemies of Caesar, Piso because when he was on trial for extortion Caesar had charged him with unjustly executing a native of Transpadine Gaul, while the hatred of Catulus arose from his candidacy for the pontificate, because after he had attained to a ripe old age and had held the highest offices, he had been defeated by Caesar, who was by comparison a mere youth. 3Moreover, the opportunity for an attack upon Caesar seemed favourable, because he was heavily in debt on account of his eminent generosity in private life and lavish entertainments when in office. 4But when they could not persuade the consul to such an outrageous step, they took the matter into their own hands, and by circulating falsehoods which they pretended to have heard from Volturcius or the Allobroges, stirred up such hostility to Caesar that some Roman knights, who were stationed as an armed guard about the temple of Concord, carried away either by the greatness of the danger or by their own excitability, drew their swords upon Caesar as he was leaving the senate, in order to make their loyalty to their country more conspicuous.

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