Speech for the Senate
O conscripted fathers of the senate, I stand here, Locus Aurelius Cotta, censor of Rome, holder of the highest dignity of the state, and yet I weep for the Republic. We sit here, we noble and just men of the senate, squabbling over non-existent differences and in our scrambling to protect our noble Republic threaten to leave her torn to pieces on the very floor of this temple. I weep for her, and her people, and her Senate.
Cicero, my dear friend, you call for the death of this man, Catiline, claiming him to be a conspirator of the grossest impiety and most unbridled audacity, and in these charges I sense a merit of truth, but what of you? What of your desire and insistence that we tear out the Republic’s heart to save her from the flames? Do you intend to drown her in the blood of her own citizen so to save her from the conspirator’s pyre? Strip her of her dignity, of her power, of her worth and excellence so that she might save herself from the dagger? By the immortal gods do you think that she, born from the loss of Lucretia would not prefer to bloody her breast than be debased as a tyranny? Shall we, so called senators of Rome bring back proscription? Shall we nail a list of men on the senate door to be torn to pieces by the populace they so claim to love, and call it justice?
I am sorry, dear Cicero, if I seem too severe. I sympathize with your opinion, and I know that you, as consul and as a fellow citizen yourself, are indeed doing what you intend is necessary in order to save the republic. Etenim, tecum, cupio in tantis rei publicae periculis non dissolutem videre, sed iam me ipse inertiae nequitiaeque condemno. I agree that we have been blind and deaf to these injustices too long, and like you I desire consequence. I simply wish that those values so exemplified by you in your case against that terrible excuse for a Roman Verres, who executed a Roman citizen without trial, should be held again here, when the tables have turned, and the price of failure seems so great.
And indeed, justice we will have, but this final declaration will not provide it. Cupio, patres conscripti, me esse clementem. Yes, I desire mercy, however undeserved, for this man Cataline, not because of his actions or his merits of mind or virtue or piety, but because he is a Roman citizen.
And thus we hear the two voices. Consul Cicero, declaring for consequence, and the ‘allies’ of Cataline calling for fairness. But, we senators, so educated in the laws and constitution of our republic, forget that she is not a simple thing. She, as Iustitia, has two arms, one offering the scales of clemency and the other clutching the gravest punishment of the sword, and I say we grasp them both, for together they are justice. And so we shall offer Cataline justice.
I propose to the Senate that Cataline be put to trial on charges of conspiracy against the Republic, and that, should he be found guilty by law, he will be executed, but as a Roman citizen rather than as a victim of tyrrany.
A trial seems appropriate to me, dear Cicero, and indeed seems almost fated. You will save the Republic this way, dear Cicero, and keep Cataline under watch in the meantime so that he not storm or set aflame our dear city. And indeed, if you commit to a trial, approved by the senate, partaken in the manner of Roman justice, there will be no chance that later, when the chance of flames dies down, and when the embers of fear are as dark as charcoal, that your friends now become your enemies future and look upon their approval with regret and wisps of punishment.
And in this way, conscripted fathers, no one will look back on you with disgrace or ignobility, but with pride that you stopped this twofold tyranny. Thus I, Lucius Aurelius Cotta, censor of Rome, declare my proposition and support for a trial befit for a Roman, if not model, citizen. Let Cataline’s fate be determined by his character and piety, and might Iustitia try him true.