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6. [11]

Wherefore, if you decide on this you give me a companion in my address, dear and acceptable to the Roman people; or if you prefer to adopt the opinion of Silanus, you will easily defend me and yourselves from the reproach of cruelty, and I will prevail that it shall be much lighter. Although, O conscript fathers, what cruelty can there be in chastising the enormity of such excessive wickedness? For I decide from my own feeling. For so may I be allowed; to enjoy the republic in safety in your company, as I am not moved to be somewhat vehement in this cause by any severity of disposition, (for who is more merciful than I am?) but rather by a singular humanity and mercifulness. For I seem to myself to see this city, the light of the world and the citadel of all nations, falling on a sudden by one conflagration. I see in my mind's eye miserable and unburied heaps of cities in my buried country; the sight of Cethegus and his madness raging amid your slaughter is ever present to my sight. [12] But when I have set before myself Lentulus reigning, as he himself confesses that he had hoped was his destiny, and this Gabinius arrayed in the purple and Catiline arrived with his army, then I shudder at the lamentation of matrons, and the flight of virgins and of boys and the insults of the vestal virgins; and because these things appear to me exceedingly miserable and pitiable, therefore I show myself severe and rigorous to those who have wished to bring about this state of things. I ask, forsooth, if any father of a family, supposing his children had been slain by a slave, his wife murdered, his house burnt, were not to inflict on his slaves the severest possible punishment would he appear clement and merciful or most inhuman and cruel? To me he would seem unnatural and hard-hearted who did not soothe his own pain and anguish by the pain and torture of the criminal. And so we, in the case of these men who desired to murder us, and our wives, and our children,—who endeavoured to destroy the houses of every individual among us, and also the republic, the home of all,—who designed to place the nation of the Allobroges on the relics of this city, and on the ashes of the empire destroyed by fire;—if we are very rigorous, we shall be considered merciful; if we choose to be lax, we must endure the character of the greatest cruelty, to the damage of our country and our fellow-citizens.

[13] Unless, indeed, Lucius 1 Caesar, a thoroughly brave man and of the best disposition towards the republic, seemed to any one to be too cruel three, days ago, when he said that the husband of his own sister, a most excellent woman, (in his presence and in his hearing,) ought to be deprived of life,— when he said that his grandfather had been put to death by command of the consul and his youthful son, sent as an ambassador by his father, had been put to death in prison. And what deed had they done like these men? had they formed any plan for destroying the republic? At that time great corruption was rife in the republic, and there was the greatest strife between parties. And, at that time, the grandfather of this Lentulus, a most illustrious man, put on his armour and pursued Gracchus; he even received a severe wound that there might be no diminution of the great dignity of the republic. But this man, his grandson, invited the Gauls to overthrow the foundations of the republic; he stirred up the slaves, he summoned Catiline, he distributed us to Cethegus to be massacred, and the rest of the citizens to Gabinius to be assassinated, the city he allotted to Cassius to burn, and the plundering and devastating of all Italy he assigned to Catiline. You fear, I think, lest in the case of such unheard of and abominable wickedness you should seem to decide anything with too great severity; when we ought much more to fear lest by being remiss in punishing we should appear cruel to our country, rather than appear by the severity of our irritation too rigorous to its most bitter enemies.

1 The brother-in-law of Lucius Caesar was Marcus Fulvius, whose death, at the command of Opimius the consul, is referred to at Cat. 2. chap1. He sent his son to the consul to treat for his surrender, whom Opimius sent back the first time, and forbade to return to him; when he did return, he put him to death.

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    • Cicero, Against Catiline, 2.1
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