INTERNAL HISTORY, FROM THE CONSULSHIP OF POMPEY AND CRASSUS TO THE RETURN OF POMPEY FROM THE EAST.THE CONSPIRACY OF CATILINE. B.C. 69-61.
Notwithstanding the restoration of the Tribunate and the alteration in the judicial power in Pompey's Consulship, the popular party had received such a severe blow during Sulla's supremacy, that the aristocracy still retained the chief political influence during Pompey's absence in the East. But meantime a new leader of the popular party had been rapidly rising into notice, who was destined not only to crush the aristocracy, but to overthrow the Republic and become the undisputed master of the Roman world.
C. JULIUS CAeSAR, who was descended from an old Patrician family, was six years younger than Pompey, having been born in B.C. 100. He was closely connected with the popular party by the marriage of his aunt Julia with the great Marius, and he himself married, at an early age, Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, the most distinguished of the Marian leaders. Sulla commanded him to divorce his wife, and on his refusal he was included in the list of the proscription. The Vestal virgins and his friends with difficulty obtained his pardon from the Dictator, who observed, when they pleaded his youth and insignificance, "that that boy would some day or another be the ruin of the aristocracy, for that there were many Mariuses in him."
This was the first proof which Caesar gave of the resolution and decision of character which distinguished him throughout life. He went to Asia in B.C. 81, where he served his first campaign under M. Minucius Thermus, and was rewarded, at the siege of Mitylene, with a civic crown for saving the life of a fellow-soldier. On his return to Rome he accused (B.C. 77) Cn. Dolabella of extortion in his province of Macedonia. Dolabella was acquitted by the senatorial judges; but Caesar gained great reputation by this prosecution, and showed that he possessed powers of oratory which bade fair to place him among the foremost speakers at Rome. To render himself still more perfect in oratory, he went to Rhodes, which was then celebrated for its school of rhetoric, but in his voyage thither he was captured by pirates, with whom the seas of the Mediterranean then swarmed. In this island he was detained by them till he could obtain fifty talents from the neighboring cities for his ransom. Immediately on obtaining his liberty, he manned some Milesian vessels, overpowered the pirates, and conducted them as prisoners to Pergamus, where he shortly afterward crucified them--a punishment he had frequently threatened them with in sport when he was their prisoner. He then repaired to Rhodes, where he studied under Apollonius for a short time, but soon afterward crossed over into Asia, on the outbreak of the Mithridatic war in B.C. 74. Here, although he held no public office, he collected troops on his own authority, and repulsed the commander of the king, and then returned to Rome in the same year, in consequence of having been elected Pontiff during his absence. His affable manners, and, still more, his unbounded liberality, won the hearts of the people.
Caesar obtained the Quaestorship in B.C. 68. In this year he lost his aunt Julia, the widow of Marius, and his own wife Cornelia. He pronounced orations over both of them in the forum, in which he took the opportunity of passing a panegyric upon the former leaders of the popular party. At the funeral of his aunt he caused the images of Marius to be carried in the procession: they were welcomed with loud acclamations by the people, who were delighted to see their former favorite brought, as it were, into public again.
Caesar warmly supported the Gabinian and Manilian Laws, which bestowed upon Pompey the command against the pirates and Mithridates. These measures, as we have already seen, were opposed by the aristocracy, and widened still farther the breach between them and Pompey. In B.C. 65 Caesar was Curule Aedile along with M. Bibulus, and still farther increased his popularity by the splendid games which he exhibited. He now took a step which openly proclaimed him the leader of the Marian party. He caused the statues of Marius and the Cimbrian trophies, which had been all destroyed by Sulla, to be privately restored and placed at night in the Capitol. In the morning the city was in the highest state of excitement; the veterans of Marius cried with joy at beholding his countenance once more, and greeted Caesar with shouts of applause. Q. Catulus brought the conduct of Caesar before the notice of the Senate, but the popular excitement was so great that they thought it better to let the matter drop.
In Caesar's Aedileship the first Catilinarian conspiracy occurred, and from this time his history forms a portion of that of the times. But before passing on, the early life of another distinguished man, the greatest of Roman orators, also claims our notice.
M. TULLIUS CICERO was born at Arpinum in B.C. 106, and consequently in the same year as Pompey. His father was of the Equestrian order, and lived upon his hereditary estate near Arpinum, but none of his ancestors had ever held any of the offices of state. Cicero was therefore, according to the Roman phraseology, a New Man (see p. 128)(Fourth paragraph of Chapter XVIII.--Transcriber). He served his first and only campaign in the Social War (B.C. 89), and in the troubled times which followed he gave himself up with indefatigable perseverance to those studies which were essential to his success as a lawyer and orator. When tranquillity was restored by the final discomfiture of the Marian party, he came forward as a pleader at the age of twenty-five. The first of his extant speeches in a civil suit is that for P. Quintius (B.C. 81); the first delivered upon a criminal trial was that in defense of Sex. Roscius of Ameria, who was charged with parricide by Chrysogonus, a freedman of Sulla, supported, as it was understood, by the influence of his patron. In consequence of the failure of his health, Cicero quitted Rome in B.C. 79, and spent two years in study in the philosophical and rhetorical schools of Athens and Asia Minor. On his return to the city he forthwith took his station in the foremost rank of judicial orators, and ere long stood alone in acknowledged pre-eminence; his most formidable rivals--Hortensius, eight years his senior, and C. Aurelius Cotta, who had long been kings of the bar--having been forced, after a short but sharp contest for supremacy, to yield.
Cicero's reputation and popularity already stood so high that he was elected Quaestor (B.C. 76), although, comparatively speaking, a stranger, and certainly unsupported by any powerful family interest. He served in Sicily under Sex. Peducaeus, Praetor of Lilybaeum. In B.C. 70 he gained great renown by his impeachment of Verres for his oppression of the Sicilians, whom he had ruled as Praetor of Syracuse for the space of three years (B.C. 73-71). The most strenuous exertions were made by Verres, backed by some of the most powerful families, to wrest the case out of the hands of Cicero, who, however, defeated the attempt, and having demanded and been allowed 110 days for the purpose of collecting evidence, he instantly set out for Sicily, which he traversed in less than two months, and returned attended by all the necessary witnesses. Another desperate effort was made by Hortensius, now Consul elect, who was counsel for the defendant, to raise up obstacles which might have the effect of delaying the trial until the commencement of the following year; but here again he was defeated by the promptitude and decision of his opponent, who opened the case very briefly, proceeded at once to the examination of the witnesses and the production of the depositions and other papers, which, taken together, constituted a mass of testimony so decisive that Verres gave up the contest as hopeless, and retired at once into exile without attempting any defense. The full pleadings, however, which were to have been delivered had the trial been permitted to run its ordinary course, were subsequently published by Cicero.
In B.C. 69 Cicero was Aedile, and in 66 Praetor. In the latter year he delivered his celebrated address to the people in favor of the Manilian Law. Having now the Consulship in view, and knowing that, as a new man, he must expect the most determined opposition from the Nobles, he resolved to throw himself into the arms of the popular party, and to secure the friendship of Pompey, now certainly the most important person in the Republic.
In the following year (B.C. 65) the first conspiracy of Catiline occurred. The circumstances of the times were favorable to a bold and unprincipled adventurer. A widespread feeling of disaffection extended over the whole of Italy. The veterans of Sulla had already squandered their ill-gotten wealth, and longed for a renewal of those scenes of blood which they had found so profitable. The multitudes whose estates had been confiscated and whose relations had been proscribed were eagerly watching for any movement which might give them a chance of becoming robbers and murderers in their turn. The younger nobility, as a class, were thoroughly demoralized, for the most part bankrupts in fortune as well as in fame, and eager for any change which might relieve them from their embarrassments. The rabble were restless and discontented, filled with envy and hatred against the rich and powerful. Never was the executive weaker. The Senate and Magistrates were wasting their energies in petty disputes, indifferent to the interests of the Republic. Pompey, at the head of all the best troops of the Republic, was prosecuting a long-protracted war in the East; there was no army in Italy, where all was hushed in a treacherous calm.
Of the profligate nobles at this time none was more profligate than L. SERGIUS CATILINA. He was the descendant of an ancient patrician family which had sunk into poverty, and he first appears in history as a zealous partisan of Sulla. During the horrors of the proscription he killed his brother-in-law, Q. Caecilius, and is said to have murdered even his own brother. His youth was spent in the open indulgence of every vice, and it was believed that he had made away with his first wife, and afterward with his son, in order that he might marry the profligate Aurelia Orestilla, who objected to the presence of a grown-up step-child. Notwithstanding these crimes, he acquired great popularity among the younger nobles by his agreeable address and his zeal in ministering to their pleasures. He possessed extraordinary powers of mind and body, and all who came in contact with him submitted more or less to the ascendency of his genius. He was Praetor in B.C. 68; was Governor of Africa during the following year; and returned to Rome in B.C. 66, in order to press his suit for the Consulship. The election for B.C. 65 was carried by P. Autronius Paetus and P. Cornelius Sulla, both of whom were soon after convicted of bribery, and their places supplied by their competitors and accusers, L. Aurelius Cotta and L. Manlius Torquatus. Catiline, who was desirous of becoming a candidate, had been disqualified in consequence of an impeachment for oppression in his province preferred by P. Clodius Pulcher. Exasperated by their disappointment, Autronius and Catiline formed a project, along with Cn. Calpurnius Piso, another profligate young nobleman, to murder the new Consuls upon the first of January, when offering up their vows in the Capitol, after which Autronius and Catiline were to seize the fasces, and Piso was to be dispatched with an army to occupy the Spains. This extraordinary design is said to have been frustrated solely by the impatience of Catiline, who gave the signal prematurely before the whole of the armed agents had assembled.
Encouraged rather than disheartened by a failure which had so nearly proved a triumph, Catiline was soon after left completely unfettered by his acquittal upon trial for extortion, a result secured by the liberal bribes administered to the accuser as well as to the jury. From this time he proceeded more systematically, and enlisted a more numerous body of supporters. In the course of B.C. 64 he had enrolled several Senators in his ranks, among others P. Cornelius Lentulus Sura, who had been Consul in B.C. 71, and C. Cornelius Cethegus, distinguished throughout by his impetuosity and sanguinary violence. He proposed that all debts should be canceled, that the most wealthy citizens should be proscribed, and that all offices of honor and emolument should be divided among his associates. He confidently anticipated that he should be elected Consul for the next year along with C. Antonius, having formed a coalition with him for the purpose of excluding Cicero. The orator, however, was supported, not only by the Equites and Pompey's friends, but even by the Senate, who, though disliking a New Man, were compelled to give him their support in order to exclude Catiline. The consequence was that Cicero and Antonius were returned, the former nearly unanimously, the latter by a small majority over Catiline. As soon as Cicero entered upon his Consulship he renounced his connection with the popular party, and became a stanch supporter of the aristocracy. He successfully opposed an agrarian law proposed by the Tribune Rullus, and defended C. Rabirius, who was now accused by the Tribune Labienus of having been concerned in the death of Saturninus nearly forty years before. Caesar took an active part in both these proceedings. But the attention of Cicero was mainly directed to Catiline's conspiracy. He gained over his colleague Antonius by resigning to him the province of Macedonia. Meantime he became acquainted with every detail of the plot through Fulvia, the mistress of Q. Curius, one of Catiline's intimate associates. Thus informed, Cicero called a meeting of the Senate on the 21st of October, when he openly denounced Catiline, charged him broadly with treason, and asserted that the 28th was the period fixed for the murder of the leading men in the Republic. The Senate thereupon invested the Consuls with dictatorial power. The Comitia for the election of the Consuls was now held. Catiline, again a candidate, was again rejected. Driven to despair by this fresh disappointment, he resolved at once to bring matters to a crisis. On the night of the 6th of November he summoned a meeting of the ringleaders at the house of M. Porcius Laeca, and made arrangements for an immediate outbreak. Cicero, being immediately informed of what took place, summoned, on the 8th of November, a meeting of the Senate in the Temple of Jupiter Stator, and there delivered the first of his celebrated orations against Catiline. Catiline, who upon his entrance had been avoided by all, and was sitting alone upon a bench from which every one had shrunk, rose to reply, but had scarcely commenced when his words were drowned by the shouts of "enemy" and "parricide" which burst from the whole assembly, and he rushed forth with threats and curses on his lips. He now resolved to strike some decisive blow before troops could be levied to oppose him, and accordingly, leaving the chief control of affairs at Rome in the hands of Lentulus and Cethegus, he set forth in the dead of night, and proceeded to join Manlius at Faesulae.
On the 9th, when the flight of Catiline was known, Cicero delivered his second speech, which was addressed to the people in the forum. The Senate proceeded to declare Catiline and Manlius public enemies, and decreed that Antonius should go forth to the war, while Cicero should remain to guard the city. Cicero was now anxious to obtain other evidence, besides that of Fulvia, which would warrant him in apprehending the conspirators within the walls. This was fortunately supplied by the embassadors of the Allobroges, who were now at Rome, having been sent to seek relief from certain real or alleged grievances. Their suit, however, had not prospered, and Lentulus, conceiving that their discontent might be made available for his own purposes, opened a negotiation with them and disclosed to them the nature of the plot. But they thought it more prudent to reveal all to Q. Fabius Sanga, the patron of their state, who in his turn acquainted Cicero. By the instructions of the latter the embassadors affected great zeal in the undertaking, and obtained a written agreement signed by Lentulus, Cethegus, and others. They quitted Rome soon after midnight on the 3d of December, accompanied by one T. Volturcius, who was charged with dispatches for Catiline. The embassadors were seized, as they were crossing the Mulvian bridge, by two of the Praetors, who had been stationed in ambush to intercept them.
Cicero instantly summoned Lentulus, Cethegus, and the other conspirators to his presence. Lentulus being Praetor, the Consul led him by the hand to the Temple of Concord, where the Senate was already met; the rest of the accused followed closely guarded. Volturcius, finding escape impossible, agreed, upon his own personal safety being insured, to make a full confession. His statements were confirmed by the Allobroges, and the testimony was rendered conclusive by the signatures of the ringleaders, which they were unable to deny. The guilt of Lentulus, Cethegus, and seven others being thus established, Lentulus was forced to abdicate his office, and then, with the rest, was consigned to the charge of certain Senators, who became responsible for their appearance.
These circumstances, as they had occurred, were then narrated by Cicero in his Third Oration, delivered in the forum. On the nones (5th) of December the Senate was again summoned to determine upon the fate of the conspirators. Caesar, in an elaborate speech, proposed that they should be kept in confinement in the different towns of Italy, but Cato and Cicero strongly advocated that they should be instantly put to death. Their views were adopted by a majority of the Senate, and a decree passed to that effect. On the same night Lentulus and his associates were strangled by the common executioner in the Tullianum, a loathsome dungeon on the slope of the Capitol.
While these things were going on at Rome, Catiline had collected a force amounting to two legions, although not above one fourth part were fully equipped. When the news of the failure of the plot at Rome reached his camp many deserted. He thereupon attempted to cross the Apennines and take refuge in Cisalpine Gaul, but the passes were strictly guarded by Metellus Celer with three legions. Finding, therefore, that escape was cut off in front, while Antonius was pressing on his rear, Catiline determined, as a last resource, to hazard an engagement. Antonius, in consequence of real or pretended illness, resigned the command to M. Petreius, a skillful soldier. The battle was obstinate and bloody. The rebels fought with the fury of despair; and when Catiline saw that all was lost, he charged headlong into the thickest of the fight and fell sword in hand (B.C. 62).
Cicero had rendered important services to the state, and enjoyed for a time unbounded popularity. Catulus in the Senate and Cato in the forum hailed him as the "Father of his Country;" thanksgivings in his name were voted to the gods; and all Italy joined in testifying enthusiastic admiration and gratitude. Cicero's elation knew no bounds; he fancied that his political influence was now supreme, and looked upon himself as a match even for Pompey. But his splendid achievement contained the germ of his humiliation and downfall. There could be no doubt that the punishment inflicted by the Senate upon Lentulus and his associates was a violation of the fundamental principles of the Roman Constitution, which declared that no citizen could be put to death until sentenced by the whole body of the people assembled in their Comitia, and for this act Cicero, as the presiding magistrate, was held responsible. It was in vain to urge that the Consuls had been armed with dictatorial power; the Senate, in the present instance, assuming to themselves judicial functions which they had no right to exercise, gave orders for the execution of a sentence which they had no right to pronounce. Nor were his enemies long in discovering this vulnerable point. On the last day of the year, when, according to established custom, he ascended the Rostra to give an account to the people of the events of his Consulship, Metellus Celer, one of the new Tribunes, forbade him to speak, exclaiming that the man who had put Roman citizens to death without granting them a hearing was himself unworthy to be heard. But this attack was premature. The audience had not yet forgotten their recent escape; so that, when Cicero swore with a loud voice that "he had saved the Republic and the city from ruin," the crowd with one voice responded that he had sworn truly.
It was rumored that many other eminent men had been privy to Catiline's conspiracy. Among others, the names of Crassus and Caesar were most frequently mentioned; but the participation of either of these men in such an enterprise seems most improbable. The interests of Crassus were opposed to such an adventure; his vast wealth was employed in a variety of speculations which would have been ruined in a general overthrow, while he had not the energy or ability to seize and retain the helm in the confusion that would have ensued. Of Caesar's guilt there is no satisfactory evidence, and it is improbable that so keen-sighted a man would have leagued with such a desperate adventurer as Catiline. Cato, in his speech respecting the fate of the conspirators, hinted that Caesar wished to spare them because he was a partner of their guilt; and in the following year (B.C. 62), when Caesar was Praetor, L. Vettius, who had been one of Cicero's informers, openly charged him with being a party to the plot. Thereupon Caesar called upon Cicero to testify that he had of his own accord given the Consul evidence respecting the conspiracy; and so complete was his vindication that Vettius was thrown into prison.