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The Conspiracy of Catiline -- Discovered by Cicero -- The Conspirators arrested, and put to Death--Battle of Pistoria and Death of Catiline

AFTER the reign of Sulla, and the later operations of
Sertorius and Perpenna in Spain, other internal commotions of a similar nature took place among the Romans until Gaius Cæsar and Pompey the Great waged war against each other, and Cæsar made an end of Pompey and was himself killed in the senate-chamber because he was accused of exercising royal power. How these things came about and how both Pompey and Cæsar lost their lives, this second book of the Civil Wars will show. Pompey had
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lately cleared the sea of pirates, who were then more numerous
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than ever before, and afterward had overthrown Mithridates, king of Pontus, and regulated his kingdom and the other nations that he had subdued in the East. Cæsar was still a young man, but powerful in speech and action, daring in every way, ambitious of everything, and profuse beyond his means in the pursuit of honors. While yet ædile and prætor he had incurred great debts and had made himself wonderfully agreeable to the multitude, who always sing the praises of those who are lavish in expenditures.

[2] At this time Lucius Catiline1 was a person of importance, of great celebrity, and high birth, but a madman. It was believed that he had killed his own son because of his own love for Aurelia Orestilla, who was not willing to marry a man who had a son. He had been a friend and zealous partisan of Sulla. He had reduced himself to CICERO In the Museum at Madrid (Bernoulli)

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facts were not yet publicly known, was nevertheless fearful

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lest suspicion should increase with time. Trusting to rapidity of movement he forwarded money to Fæsulæ and directed his fellow-conspirators to kill Cicero and set the city on fire at a number of different places the same night. Then he departed to join Gaius Manlius, intending to collect additional forces and invade the city while burning. So extremely vain was he that he had the rods and axes borne before him as though he were a proconsul, and he proceeded on his journey to Manlius, enlisting soldiers as he went. Lentulus and his fellow-conspirators decided that when they should learn that Catiline had arrived at Fæsulæ, Lentulus and Cethegus should present themselves at Cicero's door early in the morning with concealed daggers, expecting to be admitted because of their rank; enter into conversation with him in the vestibule on some subject, no matter what; draw him away from his own people, and kill him; that Lucius Bestia, the tribune, should at once call an assembly of the people by heralds and accuse Cicero of timidity and of stirring up war and disturbing the city without cause, and that on the night following Bestia's speech the city should be set on fire by others in twelve places and plundered, and the leading citizens killed.

[4] Such were the designs of Lentulus, Cethegus, Statilius, and Cassius, the chiefs of the conspiracy, and they waited for the appointed time. Meanwhile ambassadors of the Allobroges, who were in the city making complaint against their magistrates, were solicited to join the conspiracy of Lentulus in order to cause an uprising against the Romans in Gaul. Lentulus sent in company with them, to Catiline, a man of Croton named Vulturcius, who carried letters without signatures. The Allobroges being in doubt communicated the matter to Fabius Sanga, the patron of their state--it was the custom of all the subject states to have patrons at Rome. Sanga communicated the facts to Cicero, who captured the Allobroges and Vulturcius on their journey and brought them straightway before the Senate.2 They confessed to their understanding with Lentulus and testified in his presence that Cornelius Lentulus had often said that it was written in the book of fate that three Cornelii should be monarchs of Rome, two of whom, Cinna and Sulla, had already been such.

[5] When they had so testified the Senate deprived Lentulus of his office. Cicero put each of the conspirators under arrest at the houses of the prætors, and returned directly to take the vote of the Senate concerning them. In the meantime there was a great tumult around the senate-house, the affair being as yet little understood, and those who did understand it being alarmed. The slaves and freedmen of Lentulus and Cethegus, reënforced by numerous artisans, made a circuit by back streets and assaulted the houses of the prætors in order to rescue their masters. When Cicero heard of this he hurried out of the senate-house and stationed the necessary guards and then came back and hastened the taking of the vote. Silanus, the consul-elect, spoke first, as it was the custom among the Romans for the one who was about to assume that office to deliver his opinion first, because, as I think, he would have most to do with the execution of the decrees, and hence would give more careful consideration and circumspection to each. It was the opinion of Silanus that the culprits should suffer the extreme penalty, and many senators agreed with him until it came Nero's turn to deliver his opinion. Nero judged that it would be best to keep them under guard until Catiline should be beaten in the field and they could obtain the most accurate knowledge of the facts.

[6] Gaius Cæsar was not free from the suspicion of complicity with these men, but Cicero did not venture to bring into the controversy one so popular with the masses. Cæsar proposed that Cicero should distribute the culprits among the towns of Italy, according to his own discretion, to be kept until Catiline should be beaten in fight, and that then they should be regularly tried, instead of inflicting an irremediable punishment upon members of the nobility in advance of argument and trial. As this opinion appeared to be just and acceptable, most of the senators changed completely, until Cato openly manifested his suspicion of Cæsar; and Cicero, who had apprehensions concerning the coming night (lest the crowd who were concerned with the conspiracy and were still in the forum in a state of suspense, fearful for themselves and the conspirators, might do something desperate), persuaded the Senate to give judgment against them without trial as persons caught in the act. Cicero immediately, while the Senate was still in session, conducted each of the conspirators from the houses where they were in custody to the prison, without the knowledge of the crowd, and saw them put to death. Then he went back to the forum and signified that they were dead. The crowd dispersed in alarm, congratulating themselves that they had not been found out. Thus the city breathed freely once more after the great fear that had weighed upon it that day.

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[7] Catiline had assembled about 20,000 troops, of whom

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one-fourth part were already armed, and was moving toward Gaul in order to complete his preparations, when Antonius, the other consul, overtook him beyond the Alps3 and easily defeated the madly conceived adventure of the man, which was still more madly put to the test without preparation. Neither Catiline nor any of the nobility who were associated with him deigned to fly, but all perished at close quarters with their enemies. Such was the end of the uprising of Catiline, which almost brought the city to the extreme of peril. Cicero, who had been hitherto distinguished only for eloquence, was now in everybody's mouth as a man of action, and was considered unquestionably the saviour of his country on the eve of its destruction, for which reason the thanks of the assembly were bestowed upon him, amid general acclamations. At the instance of Cato the people saluted him as the Father of his Country. Some think that this appellation, which is now bestowed upon those emperors who are deemed worthy of it, had its beginning with Cicero. Although they are in fact kings, it is not given to them with their other titles immediately upon their accession, but is decreed to them in the progress of time, not as a matter of course, but as a final testimonial of the greatest services.

1 All the codices say Gaius Catiline. The Latin version of Candidus says Lucius.

2 Sallust says that the Allobroges were privy to their own arrest, which took place on the Milvian bridge, and that they made no resistance, but that Vulturcius fought till he was overpowered. (Cat. 45.)

3 The battle was fought at Pistoria, at the southern base of the Apennines. The Roman army was commanded, not by the consul Antonius, but by his lieutenant Petreius, who is described by Sallust as one who had "served with great reputation for more than thirty years as military tribune, prefect, lieutenant, or prætor." Moreover it was a desperate and bloody engagement. (Cat. 57-61.)

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