At break of day, then, he assembled the senate in the temple of Concord, read the letters aloud, and examined the informers. Silanus Junius also said that certain ones had heard Cethegus declare that three consuls and four praetors were going to be taken off. Piso, too, a man of consular dignity, brought in other reports of a like nature.
Moreover, Caius Sulpicius, one of the praetors, on being sent to the house of Cethegus, found in it many missiles and weapons, and a huge quantity of swords and knives, all newly sharpened. And finally, after the senate had voted immunity to the man of Croton on condition that he gave information, Lentulus was convicted, resigned his office (he was then praetor), and laying aside his purple-bordered toga in the senate, assumed in its place a garment suitable to his predicament. He and his associates, therefore, were handed over to the praetors for custody without fetters.1
It was now evening, and the people were waiting about the temple in throngs, when Cicero come forth and told his fellow-citizens what had been done.2
They then escorted him to the house of a friend and neighbour, since his own was occupied by the women, who were celebrating mysterious rites to a goddess whom the Romans call Bona Dea, and the Greeks, Gynaeceia.
Sacrifice is offered to her annually in the house of the consul by his wife or his mother, in the presence of the Vestal Virgins. Cicero, then, having gone into his friend's house, began to deliberate with himself—and he had only very few companions—what he should do with the men.3
For he shrank from inflicting the extreme penalty, and the one befitting such great crimes, and he hesitated to do it because of the kindliness of his nature, and at the same time that he might not appear to make an excessive use of his power and to trample ruthlessly upon men who were of the highest birth and had powerful friends in the city; and if he treated them with less severity, he was afraid of the peril into which they would bring the state.
For if they suffered any milder penalty than death, he was sure they would not be satisfied, but would break out into every extreme of boldness, having added fresh rage to their old villainy: and he himself would be thought unmanly and weak, especially as the multitude already thought him very far from courageous.