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CAIUS JULIUS CAESAR (100-44 B. C.)
A GREAT CONQUEROR AND FAMOUS ORATOR
ULIUS CÆSAR, one of the greatest generals and greatest men
the world has ever known, proved himself possessed of genius
in oratory as well as in civil and military affairs. It is not with his marvelous achievements in warfare, nor his great political skill and ability that we are here concerned, but simply with his standing in oratory, in which his supremacy was scarcely second to that in the other fields of effort in which he excelled. As an orator Cicero was the only Roman who excelled him, and many think that, if Cæsar had devoted himself specially to this art, he might have rivalled or excelled Cicero himself. Macaulay, comparing him with Cromwell and Bonaparte, says that he was master of what neither of the others possessed, “ Learning, taste, wit, eloquence, the sentiments and the manners of an accomplished gentleman.” It was through oratory, indeed, that he gained his first distinction, the civil position which opened the way to his later career, and he may be justly classed with the greatest orators of the world.
Previous to Cæsar's era of power, the stability of the Roman Republic had been threatened by two ambitious generals, Marius and Sulla. It was to the triumvirate formed by Cæsar, Pompey and Crassus that it owed its final overthrow, the military power gaining supremacy over the civil. The war with Pompey and his defeat and death left Cæsar at the head of the Roman state, imperial in station, though the name of emperor was not assumed by him, he accepting that of dictator instead. At his death he was dictator-elect for life.
THE PUNISHMENT OF CATILINE'S ASSOCIATES (Cæsar held high office in the Roman state when the dangerous conspiracy of Catiline broke out, an organization of profligate and disaffected citizens, whose
CAIUS JULIUS CÆSAR
purpose was the overthrow of the republic. Cicero, who was then consul, discovered the plot, and denounced Catiline so vehemently in the Senate that the baffled conspirator hastily left Rome. A battle followed between the army of his partisans and that of the Senate, in which Catiline's forces were defeated, and he, with some three thousand of his followers, was killed. Cæsar was suspected of complicity in this plot, and when a number of captive conspirators were tried in the Senate, his voice was the only one that did not demand for them the sentence of death. He proposed imprisonment instead, saying that men of their birth and dignity should not be put to death without an open trial. Cato the Younger followed with a speech in which he accused Cæsar of connection with the conspiracy, and their advocate narrowly escaped being included in the death sentence passed against the men on trial. Of Cæsar's speech we possess only the version given by Sallust, in his “History of the Conspiracy of Catiline.” We append an extract from this version.]
But, you will say, “Who will find fault with any punishment decreed against traitors to the State ?" I answer, time may, so may sudden conjectures; and fortune, too, that governs the world at pleasure. Whatever punishment is inflicted on these parricides will be justly inflicted. But take care, Conscript Fathers, how your present decrees may affect posterity. All bad precedents spring from good beginnings, but when the administration is in the hands of wicked or ignorant men, these precedents, at first just, are transferred from proper and deserving objects to such as are not so.
The Lacedæmonians, when they had conquered the Athenians, placed thirty governors over them ; who began their power by putting to death, without any trial, such as were remarkably wicked and universally hated. The people were highly pleased at this, and applauded the justice of such executions. But when they had by degrees established their lawless authority, they wantonly butchered both good and bad without distinction ; and thus kept the State in awe. Such was the severe punishment which the people, oppressed with slavery, suffered for their foolish joy.
In our own times, when Sulla, after his success, ordered Damasippus, and others of the like character, who raised themselves on the misfortunes of the State, to be put to death, who did not commend him for it? All agreed that such wicked and factious instruments, who were constantly embroiling the commonwealth, were justly put to death. Yet this was an introduction to a bloody massacre ; for whoever coveted his fellow-citizen's house, either in town or country, nay, even any curious vase or fine raiment, took care to have the possessor of it put on the list of the proscribed.
Thus they who had rejoiced at the punishment of Damasippus were soon after dragged to death themselves; nor was an end put to this butchery till Sulla had glutted all his followers with riches.
I do not,
CAIUS JULIUS CÆSAR
indeed, apprehend any such proceedings from Marcus Cicero, nor from these times. But in so great a city as ours there are various characters and dispositions. At another time, and under another consul, who may also have an army under his command, any falsehood may pass for fact; and when, on this precedent, the consul shall, by decree of the Senate, draw the sword, who is to set bounds to it? who to moderate the fury?
Our ancestors, Conscript Fathers, never wanted conduct nor courage; nor did they think it unworthy of them to imitate the customs of other nations, if these were useful and praiseworthy. From the Samnites they learned the exercise of arms, and borrowed from them their weapons of war; and most of their ensigns of magistracy from the Tuscans in a word, they were very careful to practice whatever appeared useful to them, whether among their allies or their enemies; choosing rather to imitate than envy what was excellent.
In those days, in imitation of the custom of Greece, they inflicted stripes on guilty citizens, and capital punishment on such as were condemned; but when the commonwealth became great and powerful, and the vast number of citizens gave rise to factions; when the innocent began to be circumvented, and other such inconveniences to take place; then the Porcian and other laws were made, which provided no higher punishment than banishment for the greatest crimes. These considerations, Conscript Fathers, appear to me of the greatest weight against our pursuing any new resolution on this occasion; for surely, their share of virtue and wisdom, who froin so small beginnings raised so mighty an empire, far exceeds ours, who are scarce able to preserve what they acquired so gloriously. “What! Shall we discharge the conspirators,'' you will say, “ to reinforce Catiline's army ?" By no means : but my opinion is this ; that their estates should be confiscated; their persons closely confined in the most powerful cities of Italy; and that no one move the Senate or the people for any favor towards them, under the penalty of being declared by the Senate an enemy to the State and the welfare of its members.
MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO (106-43 B. C.)
ROME'S NOBLEST ORATOR
EXT in fame to Demosthenes among ancient orators stands
Cicero, one of Rome's noblest and ablest sons. While excel
ling in several branches of literature, in oratory he was supreme, and few men of the past come to us with broader fame and hands freer from guile than this eloquent citizen of the “eternal city.” Cicero was born in times of trouble and turmoil. The foundations of the old republic were breaking up; the leaders of the army were becoming the autocrats of the State ; the freedom of the people was near its end and the Empire was at hand. There were two events of the time which especially aroused the indignation of the great orator. One of these was the cruelty and outrages of the infamous Caius Verres, prosecuted by the Sicilians for atrocious acts of inhumanity and rapine while governor of their island. Cicero conducted the prosecution and arraigned Verres in such overwhelming terms that the culprit fled into exile. The orations against Verres were seven in number. Later, while one of the Roman consuls, he detected and exposed the treasonable designs of Catiline, a political leader, who had conspired to seize the chief power in the State by burning the city and massacring his opponents. His designs were foiled by Cicero, who assailed him in a splendid burst of indignant eloquence, so arousing the Senate against him that Catiline fled in dismay from the city. Other orations of equal eloquence followed, and the whole scheme of treason and outrage fell through.
These are the most famous of Cicero's numerous orations, the effect of which was such as to give him unbounded influence in the city. His final outburst of oratory was against the ambitious designs of Mark Antony. There were fourteen of these orations in all, the