When the magistrates had been dispatched to these posts, the consuls mounted the Rostra and called an informal meeting1
of the people, and, when the consul had finished the regular formula of prayer which magistrates are accustomed to pronounce before they address the people, he thus began:
"Never for any assembly, citizens, has this formal prayer to the gods been not only so suitable but even so necessary, a prayer which reminds us that these are the gods whom our forefathers had appointed to be worshipped, to be venerated, to receive our prayers, not those gods
who would drive our enthralled minds with vile and alien rites, as by the scourges of the Furies, to every crime and every lust.
For my part, I do not discover what I should refrain from telling or how far I should speak out. If you [p. 261]
are left ignorant of anything, I fear that I shall2
leave room for carelessness; if I lay bare everything, that I shall scatter abroad an excess of terror.
Whatever I shall have said, be sure that my words are less than the dreadfulness and the gravity of the situation: to take sufficient precautions will be our task.
As to the Bacchanalia, I am assured that you have learned that they have long been celebrated all over Italy and now even within the City in many places, and that you have learned this not only from rumour but also from their din and cries at night, which echo throughout the City, but I feel sure that you do not know what this thing is:
some believe that it is a form of worship of the gods, others that it is an allowable play and pastime, and, whatever it is, that it concerns only a few.
As regards their number, if I shall say that there are many thousands of them, it cannot but be that you are terrified, unless I shall at once add to that who and of what sort they are.
First, then, a great part of them are women, and they are the source of this mischief; then there are men very like the women, debauched and debauchers, fanatical, with senses dulled by wakefulness, wine, noise and shouts at night.
The conspiracy thus far has no strength, but it has an immense source of strength in that they grow more numerous day by day.
Your ancestors did not wish that even you should assemble casually and without reason, except when the standard was displayed on the citadel and the army was assembled for an election,3
or the tribunes had announced a meeting of the plebeians,4
or some of the magistrates had called you to an informal gathering; and wherever there was a crowd collected they thought that there should also be a [p. 263]
legal leader of the crowd. Of what sort do you5
think are, first, gatherings held by night, second, meetings of men and women in common?6
If you knew at what ages males were initiated, you would feel not only pity for them but also
shame. Do you think, citizens, that youths initiated by this oath should be made soldiers? That arms should be entrusted to men mustered from this foul
shrine? Will men debased by their own debauchery and that of others fight to the death on behalf of the chastity of your wives and children?