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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 excelling 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
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first of them one of his masterpieces. His words swayed Rome, but his enemies held the sword, and Antony rid himself of his assailant by having him murdered. In oratory Cicero combined the powers of the celebrated orators of Athens, uniting the force of Demosthenes with the eloquence of Isocrates. Their classic reticence, however, was replaced by him with a florid exuberance of style which sometimes offends against good taste; but it is atoned for by his melody of language, brilliancy of expression and thorough familiarity with human nature. These give his speeches a charm which still persists, despite the passage of the centuries. THE TREASON OF CATILINE [Cicero, as is above said, saved Rome from ruin by denouncing Catiline in the Senate with such bitterness as to drive him in dismay from the city. He roused the people against the army which the traitor had collected without by equally eloquent denunciations. We append two extracts from these masterpices of the oratory of indignation.] How far, O Catiline, wilt thou abuse our patience? How long shalt thou baffle justice in thy mad career 2 To what extreme wilt thou carry thy audacity ? Art thou nothing daunted by the nightly watch, posted to secure the Palatium ? Nothing, by the city guards 2 Nothing, by the rally of all good citizens? Nothing, by the assembling of the Senate in this fortified place? Nothing, by the averted looks of all here present? Seest thou not that all thy plots are exposed ?—that thy wretched conspiracy is laid bare to every man's knowledge, here in the Senate?—that we are well aware of thy proceedings of last night; of the night before; —the place of meeting, the company convoked, the measures concerted? Alas, the times | Alas, the public morals | The Senate understands all this. The Consul sees it. Yet the traitor lives | Lives 2 Ay, truly, and confronts us here in council ; takes part in our deliberations; and, with his measuring eye, marks out each man of us for slaughter? And we, all this while, strenuous that we are, think we have amply discharged our duty to the State, if we but shun this madman's sword and fury! Long since, O Catiline, ought the Consul to have ordered thee to execution, and brought upon thy own head the ruin thou hast been meditating against others. There was that virtue once in Rome, that a wicked citizen was held more execrable than the deadliest foe. We have a law still, Catiline, for thee. Think not that we are powerless, because forbearing. We have a decree,_though it rests among our archives like a sword in its scabbard, a decree, by which thy life would be made to
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pay the forfeit of thy crimes. And, should I order thee to be instantly seized and put to death, I make just doubt whether all good men would not think it done rather too late than any man too cruelly. But, for good reasons, I will yet defer the blow long since deserved. Then will I doom thee, when no man is found, so lost, so wicked, nay, so like thyself, but shall confess that it was justly dealt.
While there is one man that dares to defend thee, live | But thou shalt liveso beset, so surrounded, so scrutinized by the vigilant guards that I have placed around thee, that thou shalt not stir a foot against the Republic without my knowledge. There shall be eyes to detect thy slightest movement, and ears to catch thy wariest whisper, of which thou shalt not dream. The darkness of night shall not cover thy treason—the walls of privacy shall not stifle its voice. Baffled on all sides, thy most secret counsels clear as noonday, what canst thou now have in view P Proceed, plot, conspire, as thou wilt; there is nothing you can contrive, nothing you can propose, nothing you can attempt, which I shall not know, hear and promptly understand. Thou shalt soon be made aware that I am even more active in providing for the preservation of the State than thou in plotting its destruction.
[The following is from a second of the orations against Catiline.]
Conscript Fathers, a camp is pitched against the Roman Republic within Italy, on the very borders of Etruria. Every day adds to the number of the enemy. The leader of those enemies, the commander of that encampment, walks within the walls of Rome, and, with venomous mischief, rankles in the inmost vitals of the commonwealth. Catiline, should I, on the instant, order my lictors to seize and drag you to the stake, some men might, even then, blame me for having procrastinated punishment; but no man could criminate me for a faithful execution of the laws. They shall be executed. But I will neither act, nor will I suffer, without full and sufficient reason. Trust me, they shall be executed, and then, even then, when there shall not be found a man so flagitious, so much a Catiline, as to say you were not ripe for execution. Was not the night before the last sufficient to convince you that there is a good genius protecting that republic, which a ferocious demoniac is laboring to destroy 2 I aver, that on that same night you and your complotters assembled. Can even your own tongue deny it?—Yet secret ! Speak out, man; for, if you do not, there are some I see around me who shall have an agonizing proof that I am true in my assertion. Good and great gods, where are we? What city do we inhabit? Under what government do we live 2 Here—here, Conscript Fathers,