Lentulus and his associates were executed, and Caesar, in view of the charges and accusations made against him to the senate, took refuge with the people and was stirring up and attaching to himself the numerous diseased and corrupted elements in the commonwealth. Cato was therefore alarmed and persuaded the senate to conciliate the poor and landless multitude by including them in the distribution of grain, the annual expenditure for which was twelve hundred and fifty talents.1
By this act of humanity and kindness the threatening danger was most successfully dissipated.
Then Metellus, who hastened to take up the duties of his tribuneship, began to hold tumultuous assemblies of the people, and proposed a law that Pompey the Great should hasten with his forces to Italy2
and undertake the preservation of the city, on the ground that it was imperilled by Catiline. Now, this was a specious proposition; but the end and aim of the law was to put matters in the hands of Pompey and hand over to him the supreme power.
The senate met, and Cato did not, as was his custom, attack Metellus with vehemence, but gave him much fitting and moderate advice, and finally, resorting to entreaties, actually praised the family of Metellus for having always been aristocratic in sympathy. Metellus was therefore all the more emboldened, and, despising Cato as a yielding and timorous opponent, broke out in extravagant threats and bold speeches, intending to carry everything through in spite of the senate.
So, then, Cato changed his looks and voice and words, and concluded a vehement speech with the declaration that while he lived Pompey should not enter the city with an armed force. The senate was thus led to feel that neither man was in his right mind or using safe arguments, but that the policy of Metellus was madness, which, through excess of wickedness, was leading on to the destruction and confusion of all things, while that of Cato was a wild ebullition of virtue contending in behalf of right and justice.