Catiline's War, 55–61

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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55After the senate had adopted the recommendation of Cato, as I have said, the consul thought it best to forestall any new movement during the approaching night. He therefore ordered the triumvirs to make the necessary preparations for the execution. 2After setting guards, he personally led Lentulus to the dungeon, while the praetors performed the same office for the others.

3In the prison, when you have gone up a little way towards the left, there is a place called the Tullianum, about twelve feet below the surface of the ground. 4It is enclosed on all sides by walls, and above it is a chamber with a vaulted roof of stone. Neglect, darkness, and stench make it hideous and fearsome to behold. 5Into this place Lentulus was let down, and then the executioners carried out their orders and strangled him. 6Thus that patrician, of the illustrious stock of the Cornelii, who had held consular authority at Rome, ended his life in a manner befitting his character and his crimes. Cethegus, Statilius, Gabinius, and Caeparius suffered the same punishment.

56While this was taking place in Rome, Catiline combined the forces which he had brought with him with those which Manlius already had, and formed two legions, 2filling up the cohorts so far as the number of his soldiers permitted. Then distributing among them equally such volunteers or conspirators as came to the camp, he soon completed the full quota of the legions, although in the beginning he had no more than two thousand men. 3But only about a fourth part of the entire force was provided with regular arms.The others carried whatever weapons chance had given them; namely, javelins or lances, or in some cases pointed stakes.

4When Antonius was drawing near with his army, Catiline marched through the mountains, moved his camp now towards the city and now in the direction of Gaul, and gave the enemy no opportunity for battle, hoping shortly to have a large force if the conspirators at Rome succeeded in carrying out their plans. 5Meanwhile he refused to enroll slaves, a great number of whom flocked to him at first, because he had confidence in the strength of the conspiracy and at the same time thought it inconsistent with his designs to appear to have given runaway slaves a share in a citizens’ cause.

57But when news reached the camp that the plot had been discovered at Rome, and that Lentulus, Cethegus, and the others whom I mentioned had been done to death, very many of those whom the hope of pillage or desire for revolution had led to take up arms began to desert. The remainder Catiline led by forced marches over rugged mountains to the neighbourhood of Pistoria, intending to escape secretly by cross-roads into Transalpine Gaul. 2But Quintus Metellus Celer, with three legions, was on the watch in the Picene district, inferring from the difficulty of the enemy’s position that he would take the very course which I have mentioned. 3Accordingly, when he learned through deserters in what direction Catiline was going, he quickly moved his camp and took up a position at the foot of the very mountains from which the conspirator would have to descend in his flight into Gaul. 4Antonius also was not far distant, since he was following the fleeing rebels over more level ground with an army which, though large, was lightly equipped. 5Now, when Catiline perceived that he was shut in between the mountains and the forces of his enemies, that his plans in the city had failed, and that he had hope neither of escape nor reinforcements, thinking it best in such a crisis to try the fortune of battle, he decided to engage Antonius as soon as possible. Accordingly he assembled his troops and addressed them in a speech of the following purport:

58“I am well aware, soldiers, that words do not supply valour, and that a spiritless army is not made vigorous, or a timid one stout-hearted, by a speech from its commander. 2Only that degree of courage which is in each man’s heart either by disposition or by habit, is wont to be revealed in battle. It is vain to exhort one who is roused neither by glory nor by dangers; the fear he feels in his heart closes his ears. 3I have, however, called you together to offer a few words of advice, and at the same time to explain the reason for my resolution.

4“You know perfectly well, soldiers, how great is the disaster that the incapacity and cowardice of Lentulus have brought upon himself and us, and how, waiting for reinforcements from the city, I could not march into Gaul. 5At this present time, moreover, you understand as well as I do in what condition our affairs stand. 6Two hostile armies, one towards Rome, the other towards Gaul, block our way. We cannot remain longer where we are, however much we may desire it, because of lack of grain and other necessities. 7Wherever we decide to go, we must hew a path with the sword. 8Therefore I counsel you to be brave and ready of spirit, and when you enter the battle to remember that you carry in your own right hands riches, honour, glory; yea, even freedom and your native land. 9If we win, complete security will be ours, supplies will abound, free towns and colonies will open their gates; but if we yield to fear, the very reverse will be true: 10no place and no friend will guard the man whom arms could not protect. 11Moreover, soldiers, we and our opponents are not facing the same exigency. We are battling for country, for freedom, for life; theirs is a futile contest, to uphold the power of a few men. 12March on, therefore, with the greater courage, mindful of your former valour.

13“You might have passed your life in exile and in utter infamy, at Rome some of you might look to others for aid after losing your estates; 14but since such conditions seemed base and intolerable to true men, you decided upon this course. 15If you wish to forsake it, you have need of boldness; none save the victor exchanges war for peace. 16To hope for safety in flight when you have turned away from the enemy the arms which should protect your body, is surely the height of madness. 17In battle the greatest danger always threatens those who show the greatest fear; boldness is a bulwark.

18“When I think on you, my soldiers, and weigh your deeds, I have high hopes of victory. 19Your spirit, youth, and valour give me heart, not to mention necessity, which makes even the timid brave. 20In this narrow defile the superior numbers of the enemy cannot surround us. 21But if Fortune frowns upon your bravery, take care not to die unavenged. Do not be captured and slaughtered like cattle, but, fighting like heroes, leave the enemy a bloody and tearful victory.”

59When he had thus spoken, after a brief pause he ordered the trumpets to sound and led his army in order of battle down into the plain. Then, after sending away all the horses, in order to make the danger equal for all and thus to increase the soldiers’ courage, himself on foot like the rest he drew up his army as the situation and his numbers demanded. 2Since, namely, the plain was shut in on the left by mountains and on the right by rough, rocky ground, he posted eight cohorts in front and held the rest in reserve in closer order. 3From these he took the centurions, all the picked men and reservists, as well as the best armed of the ordinary soldiers, and placed them in the front rank. He gave the charge of the right wing to Gaius Manlius, and that of the left to a man of Faesulae. He himself with his freedmen and the camp-servants took his place beside the eagle, which, it was said, had been in the army of Gaius Marius during the war with the Cimbri.

4On the other side Gaius Antonius, who was ill with the gout and unable to enter the battle, entrusted his army to Marcus Petreius, his lieutenant. 5Petreius placed in the van the veteran cohorts which he had enrolled because of the outbreak, and behind them the rest of his army in reserve. Riding up and down upon his horse, he addressed each of his men by name, exhorted him, and begged him to remember that he was fighting against unarmed highwaymen in defence of his country, his children, his altars, and his hearth. 6Being a man of military experience, who had served in the army with high distinction for more than thirty years as tribune, prefect, lieutenant, or commander, he personally knew the greater number of his soldiers and their valorous deeds of arms, and by mentioning these he fired the spirits of his men.

60When Petreius, after making all his preparations, gave the signal with the trumpet, he ordered his cohorts to advance slowly; the army of the enemy followed their example. 2After they had reached a point where battle could be joined by the skirmishers, the hostile armies rushed upon each other with loud shouts, then threw down their pikes and took to the sword. 3The veterans, recalling their old-time prowess, advanced bravely to close quarters; the enemy, not lacking in courage, stood their ground, and there was a terrific struggle. 4Meanwhile Catiline, with his light-armed troops, was busy in the van, aided those who were hard pressed, summoned fresh troops to replace the wounded, had an eye to everything, and at the same time fought hard himself, often striking down the foe—thus performing at once the duties of a valiant soldier and of a skilful leader.

5When Petreius saw that Catiline was making so much stronger a fight than he had expected, he led his praetorian cohort against the enemy’s centre, threw them into confusion, and slew those who resisted in various parts of the field; then he attacked the rest on both flanks at once. 6Manlius and the man from Faesulae were among the first to fall, sword in hand. 7When Catiline saw that his army was routed and that he was left with a mere handful of men, mindful of his birth and former rank he plunged into the thickest of the enemy and there fell fighting, his body pierced through and through.

61When the battle was ended it became evident what boldness and resolution had pervaded Catiline’s army. 2For almost every man covered with his body, when life was gone, the position which he had taken when alive at the beginning of the conflict. 3A few, indeed, in the centre, whom the praetorian cohort had scattered, lay a little apart from the rest, but the wounds even of these were in front. 4But Catiline was found far in advance of his men amid a heap of slain foemen, still breathing slightly, and showing in his face the indomitable spirit which had animated him when alive. 5Finally, out of the whole army not a single citizen of free birth was taken during the battle or in flight, 6showing that all had valued their own lives no more highly than those of their enemies.

7But the army of the Roman people gained no joyful nor bloodless victory, for all the most valiant had either fallen in the fight or come off with severe wounds. 8Many, too, who had gone from the camp to visit the field or to pillage, on turning over the bodies of the rebels found now a friend, now a guest or kinsman; some also recognized their personal enemies. 9Thus the whole army was variously affected with sorrow and grief, rejoicing and lamentation.

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