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24. [62]

No law had been passed respecting me. I had not been ordered to appear in court; I had not been summoned. I was absent. I was even in your own opinion a citizen with all my rights as such unimpaired, when my house on the Palatine hill, and my villa in the district of Tusculum, were transferred one a-piece to each of the consuls; decrees of the senate were flying about; marble columns from my house were carried off to the father-in-law of the consul in the sight of the Roman people; and the consul who was my neighbour at my villa had not only my stock and the decorations of my villa, but even my trees transferred to his farm; while the villa itself was utterly destroyed, not from a desire of plunder, (for what plunder could there be there?) but out of hatred and cruelty. My house on the Palatine hill was burnt, not by accident, but having been set on fire on purpose. The consuls were feasting and reveling amid the congratulations of the conspirators, while the one boasted that he had been the favourite of Catiline, and the other that he was the cousin of Cethegus. [63] This violence, O priests, this wickedness, this frenzy, I, opposing my single person to the storm, warded off from the necks of all good men, and I received on my body all the attacks of disaffection, all the long-collected violence of the wicked, which, having been long coming to a head, with silent and repressed hatred, was at last breaking out now that it had got such audacious leaders. Against me alone were directed the consular firebrands hurled from the hands of the tribunes; all the impious arrows of the conspiracy, which I had once before blunted, now stuck in me. But if, as was the advice of many most gallant men, I had determined to contend with violence and arms against violence, I should either have gained the day with a great slaughter of wicked men, who notwithstanding were citizens, or else all the good men would have been slain, to the great joy of the wicked, and I too should have perished together with the republic. [64] I saw, that if the senate and people of Rome existed, I should have a speedy return with the greatest dignity, and I did not think it possible that such a state of affairs should longer continue to exist, as for me not to be allowed to live in that republic which I myself had saved. And if I were not allowed to live there, I had heard and read that some of the most illustrious men of our country had rushed into the middle of the enemy to manifest death for the sake of the safety of their army. And could I doubt that if I were to sacrifice myself for the safety of the entire republic, I should in this point be better off than the Decii, because they could not even hear of their glory, while I should be able to be even a spectator of my own renown?

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