previous sub-section
Chapter Two Transforming the Visible: In Catilinam 1 and 3
next sub-section

The Third Catilinarian: Urbs Amissa, Urbs Restituta

Like an overture, the carefully crafted opening lines of the third Catilinarian sound the major themes that are to be played upon throughout the speech:

Rem publicam, Quirites,

vitamque omnium vestrum,
bona, fortunas, coniuges liberosque vestros
atque hoc domicilium clarissimi imperi,
fortunatissimam pulcherrimamque urbem

hodierno die

deorum immortalium summo erga vos amore
laboribus, consiliis, periculis meis
e flamma atque ferro ac paene ex faucibus fati
ereptam et vobis conservatam ac restitutam


As shown by the manner in which it has been printed above, this first sentence is composed of two parts, divided in the middle by the phrase hodierno die . While the break is easily recognized, the sentence as a whole is knit together by the repetition throughout of the endings -am/-em/-um (e.g., rem, publicam, vitam, omnium, vestrum, domicilium, urbem, immortalium, ereptam, conservatam, restitutam ); by symmetrical construction, in which two pairs of phrases stand on either side of hodierno die; and by the suspension of the verb governing the long list of accusatives (videtis ) until the final word.

The sentence begins, significantly, with the word rem publicam, then goes on to define the elements that constitute the state for the audience: the first phrase speaks of the lives, property, and families of the listeners, while the second phrase, whose weighty superlatives force the speaker to slow and ultimately to halt, refers to "this abode of the most glorious empire, this most fortunate and beautiful city."[75] It is a momentous be-


ginning. To those of his listeners who believed that the threatened coup might have brought an amelioration of their condition, accomplished at the price of the lives of a few optimates, Cicero declares that, in fact, all that was of value to them—their lives and property and even the continued existence of the city itself—had hung in the balance at this time. The second part of the sentence begins by defining the agency through which the as-yet-unspoken event, affecting the citizens and their city, has occurred: what has happened has taken place because of the "love of the immortal gods" for the audience and because of the exertions, plans, and risks of the orator.[76] The final phrases of the sentence build to a climax. Cicero defines the danger that had threatened—fire, sword, and a mysterious fatum —then triumphantly declares the Republic now "snatched," "preserved," and "restored" from that danger. In this last phrase the central placement of vobis (picking up the earlier vestrum/vestros in the first part and vos in the second) emphasizes that all has been done in the interests of the audience.

The sentence as a whole is governed by the verb videtis: the people are told that on this day they "see . . . the city saved and restored." The use of the verb is significant, for throughout the oration as a whole Cicero continually emphasizes the importance of the visual and perceptible. This thematic development supports the avowed purpose of the third Catilinarian, which was to inform the people of the incontrovertible evidence (the so-called inartificial proofs) that had at long last been secured concerning the conspiracy. Throughout Cicero's account of how this evidence had been obtained and of what it consisted he never ceases to emphasize the objective and perceptible nature of these proofs: he begins with the statement that he will reveal to the people what had earlier been "made clear," "laid open," and "disclosed" to the Senate, promising to show his audience "how manifold and how obvious" (3: quam manifesta ) this evidence was; he states that his hope had always been that all would be able to see the crime "with their eyes" (4) and rejoices that at last the gods had brought it about that all could be "made plain to both Senate and people" (4: manifesto ); he recounts that


the force of the crime thus "detected and revealed" (11: manifesti atque deprehensi ) had completely unnerved the usually haughty Lentulus; and he speaks of how these "most definite . . . proofs and signs of crime, writing tablets, seals, handwriting, and finally, the confession of each accused man" were supported by even more certain signs of guilt on thepart of the conspirators, namely, their "blushes, glances, expressions, and their silence" (13). At the end of the first half of the speech he declares that no robbery in a private house had ever been so plainly proved (17: manifesto comprehensa ) as had the present conspiracy against the state.

It seems clear, then, that the orator's triumphant declaration at the beginning of the speech—that the audience could now see their city "saved and restored"—signaled his intent to make the city itself an integral part of the perceptible proof that formed the chief subject matter of the oration. The sight of the city rising up around them is to be a sign to his audience of Cicero's great victory over the conspirators: that he had crushed them "without slaughter, without bloodshed, without an army, and without a battle" (23) and that he had "preserved both city and citizens whole and unharmed" (25). The difficulty of this strategy consisted in the very fact that the city was indeed "whole and unharmed" and appeared no different than it would have if the conspiracy had never existed.[77] In order to make the unchanged aspect of the city meaningful to his audience, then, Cicero must impress on their minds the indelible image of the city as it might have been had the conspiracy succeeded.

Cicero accomplishes this rhetorical aim by continually referring in the speech to the horrors to be envisioned if the city were to succumb to a hostile attack. Elements of such a description were part of the stock-in-trade of an orator of Cicero's time, for the "captured city" topos was a commonplace of ancient oratory.[78] Cicero's embroidery on this theme


was a mixture of the real and the imagined: Catiline's actual plans for arson and murder were supported by images familiar from the rhetorical topos, and the orator's report of the evidence seized from the conspirators serves as the starting point for references to limitless destruction and indiscriminate murder. In the passage from the exordium quoted above, Cicero had spoken of the "fire and sword" from which the city had been rescued, and a few lines later he pictures fire "placed under and all around" the buildings and walls of the city, and the conspirators' swords at the very necks of the citizens (2–3). In another passage the orator declares that Volturcius had testified before the Senate that the conspiracy included a plan to fire the city in all its parts, to massacre the populace, and even to intercept and cut down outside the walls those who attempted to flee (8).[79] The audience is then told of the disagreement between Lentulus and Cethegus as to when "the slaughter and the burning of the city" (10) should commence. Yet another reference to "the burning of the city" is made in connection with L. Cassius, who is pictured as overseeing the planned arson (14). Cicero also carefully quotes the language of the supplicatio decreed in his name by the Senate. In it the consul is thanked for having "freed the city from fire and the citizens from slaughter" (15).

Such images culminate in a section that occurs towards the end of the speech. Here Cicero compares the aims of the conspirators with those of past instigators of civil strife. In the past, men did not wish that the Republic cease to exist, but rather that they should be the chief men in it. They did not desire to burn down the city, says Cicero, but wished that they might flourish in it (25). Only in this "war," which the orator calls the greatest and cruelest in human memory, have the opponents of the state held the opinion that any who were able to be safe while the city was intact should be considered their enemies. The section ends with Cicero's declaration that while the enemy had supposed that only that part of the city that fire was unable to destroy would remain, he had preserved the city and the citizens intact and unharmed (25). The hyperbole of this passage would have been supported by images of recent bloodshed and destruction still fresh in the audience's minds. When Cicero declares that Catiline would have exceeded past instigators of civil war in cruelty, he speaks to an audience who had themselves lived


through the horrors of the struggle between Marius and Sulla, and reminds them of the days when the Forum was strewn with "heaps of corpses" and "flowed with the blood of citizens" (24).[80]

Cicero further reinforces these images of destruction and murder by references to prophecy, omen, and the concept of an evil destiny that had threatened the city. The word fatum is introduced in the opening lines when Cicero declares the city to have been "snatched from the jaws of fate," and the same term reappears in the Gauls' account to the Senate of Lentulus's conversation with them. Lentulus had at that time told them that, according to the soothsayers, that very year would prove "fateful" for the destruction of the city and its imperium since it was the tenth since the acquittal of the Vestals and the twentieth since the burning of the Capitolium (9). The omens of 65 B.C. , when a number of monuments on the Capitol had been struck by lightning, are also mentioned. The soothsayers from Etruria had reported at that time the imminent danger of "murder, fire, the destruction of the laws, civil war, and the fall of the whole city and its imperium " (19).

Cicero's emphasis on the danger through which the city had passed was calculated not only to induce his audience to see their surroundings with new eyes; it also represented a celebration of his own actions at this time. The greater the peril in which Rome had stood, the more exalted ought to be the status of the man who had saved the city. It has already been noted that, in the opening line of the speech, Cicero had declared that the citizens now saw the Republic "snatched" (ereptam ) from imminent danger, "saved" (conservatam ), and "restored" (restitutam ). The last of these participles, restitutam, means literally "having been caused to stand again," and its conjunction with conservatam joins the idea of the salvation of the state with its restoration or reestablishment. While in this sentence Cicero states that the "saving and restitution" of the city has occurred both through the love of the gods and through his own "exertions, plans, and dangers," in the following lines he expands only on the latter theme. Here the happiness of the present day is compared with that on the day on which the city was founded, thereby reinforcing the suggestion contained in the joining of servatam and restitutam that this day was to be looked upon as a kind of refoundation. Not only are the founding of the city by Romulus and the saving of it by Cicero presented as commensurate events, but the consul seems


to have surpassed the deified hero, since Romulus had founded a city of uncertain future, while Cicero had saved one that had grown great (2: hanc urbem conditam amplificatamque servavit ).[81]

Cicero's subsequent allusions in the speech to Romulus and to the foundation of Rome are, at least in part, attempts to keep this comparison of founder and "refounder" alive. We note, in this regard, that the orator twice more repeats the phrase hanc urbem condidit, by which he had referred to Romulus in the exordium (2). In his announcement of the supplicatio decreed in his honor he states that it was the first such public thanksgiving made on behalf of a private citizen "since the city was founded" (15). The phrase is again used in the description of the objects on the Capitol struck by lightning (19: et tactus etiam ille qui hanc urbem condidit Romulus ). In this second passage Cicero's use of etiam marks the importance ascribed to the statue of Romulus above those listed previously, in spite of the fact that the destruction of a statue of Jupiter is the ostensible basis for alluding to the event at all; and the phrase hanc urbem condidit again points to a notional connection between the events of the present and the time of the foundation of the city.[82]

Cicero's aim in all this is clear: to make it appear that Rome had passed through a crisis so grave that its salvation was a new beginning and its unchanged aspect was a testament to Cicero, its savior and "refounder." Not only is Romulus invoked in this strategy, but we may assume that the image of Camillus, whose statue stood on the Rostra, was also meant to suggest itself. Camillus had saved Rome after the Gauls had burnt most of the city and murdered those left outside the walls of the Arx; Cicero, as he repeatedly asserts, had not only rescued the city but had done so before any bloodshed or destruction could occur. According to Livy, Camillus was hailed for his deeds as "Romulus," "the father of his country," and "a second founder of the city" (5.49.7: Romulus ac parens patriae conditorque alter urbis ); in the third Catilinarian Cicero too wished his audience to see him as pater patriae (an honor later voted him by the Senate), conditor alter urbis, and alter Romulus .


previous sub-section
Chapter Two Transforming the Visible: In Catilinam 1 and 3
next sub-section