Political Speeches (Oxford World's Classics)

Political Speeches (Oxford World's Classics) by Cicero

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Authors: Cicero
Cicero’s name—the first time such a thing had ever been done in honour of a civilian. In addition (not part of the decree), Catulus hailed Cicero as the father of his country, and Lucius Gellius Poplicola (the consul of 72 and censor of 70, whose good judgementin expelling Lentulus from the senate had just been dramatically confirmed) declared that in his view Cicero deserved the civic crown (a decoration normally awarded only to soldiers who had saved a citizen’s life in battle). The senate certainly made amends for its failure to heed Cicero’s warnings about Catiline earlier in the year.
    By the time the meeting ended, it was evening. Cicero walked out of the temple, stepped a few paces forward into the forum, and there gave the people a full account of everything that had taken place. This speech, the
Third Catilinarian
(
In Catilinam
III), caused a complete turn-around in public opinion. Until now, the urban plebs had supported Catiline. Now, thanks largely to Cicero’s revelation of Catiline’s plans for burning parts of the city, the people cursed him and lauded Cicero to the skies. Sallust says they reacted as if they had been freed from slavery (
Cat
. 48.1–2).
    The next day, 4 December, an informer, Lucius Tarquinius, gave information in the senate incriminating Crassus, but was disbelieved and imprisoned. It is certainly inconceivable that a man of Crassus’ wealth, and an ally of the equestrian financiers, should have supported a movement for the cancellation of debts, and in any case Crassus had earlier demonstrated his loyalty by giving Cicero the letters which had been delivered to his house. Later Crassus suspected that Cicero was behind the allegation; but this is unlikely since Cicero refused to accept a false allegation made against Caesar by Catulus (whom Caesar had recently defeated in the election for
pontifex maximus
) and Gaius Calpurnius Piso (the consul of 67). The meeting also voted rewards for Volturcius and the envoys of the Allobroges. Finally, the nine conspirators whose cases were discussed the day before were declared to have acted against the interests of the state (like their earlier declaration that Catiline and Manlius were public enemies, this was a formulaic expression of disapproval, but one without generally accepted constitutional significance). While the senate was meeting, the followers of Lentulus attempted to gather a force together to set him free, and Cethegus urged his own followers to do the same for him.
    On 5 December (‘the Nones of December’) a third meeting of the senate was held, in the temple of Concord, to decide what should be done with the five conspirators who were being held in custody, and the other four, should they be caught. Cicero was later to say (at
Att
. 12.21.1, written in 45 BC ) that he had already made (i.e., presumably, expressed) a judgement on their fate before he consulted the senate on 5 December, but he does not say what judgement, or when (it has been suggested that he may have said something in the spoken version of the
Third Catilinarian
). In any case, the debate of 5 December was a full and free exchange of views, with many individual changes of mind as powerful andpersuasive speeches were made, in a situation in which there was (as modern scholarship abundantly confirms) no right answer.
    Cicero first called on Silanus, the consul-elect, for his opinion. Silanus said that the men deserved ‘the extreme penalty’, which everyone not unnaturally took to mean execution—a punishment which would certainly have had a deterrent effect on Catiline’s supporters, but would not have been legal, since citizens could not be put to death without trial, and the senate was not at this date a criminal court (the senate’s various decrees, such as the SCU, could not alter the fact that the conspirators were citizens and were entitled to citizens’ legal rights). Next Cicero called the other consul-elect, Murena: he expressed the same

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