The Fragments of the Speech of Cicero in His White Gown (In Toga Candida), against C. Antonius and L. Catilina, His Competitors for the Consulship. Delivered in the Senate.

The Argument

This oration was delivered the year of the consuls Lucius Caesar and Gaius Figulus (64 BCE). Cicero being now in his forty-third year, and of the proper legal age, declared himself a candidate for the consulship the following year. He had six competitors, of whom two were patricians, Publius Sulpicius Galba and Lucius Sergius Catilina, and four plebeians, of whom Gaius Antonius, son of the orator Marcus Antonius, and Lucius Cassius Longinus were nobiles, and Quintus Cornificius and Gaius Licinius Sacerdos were almost the first of their families to be elected to public office. Cicero was the only novus homo among them and came from an equestrian family; his father died during the campaign. The rest of his competitors behaved in a reasonable manner: Cornificius and Galba seemed to be respectable and decent men, nothing bad was known about Sacerdos, and Cassius at that time seemed stupid rather than dangerous, although a few months later among the conspirators with Catilina he proposed really terrible things. Catilina, however, and Antonius, although their lives were the most scandalous of all, were very influential. They had formed a pact to prevent Cicero from being elected consul, with Marcus Crassus and Gaius Caesar as firm supporters. Thus this speech is directed against only Catilina and Antonius. The occasion of the oration is this: as the freedom with which electoral bribery was practiced increased day by day because of their audacity, the senate decreed that a law against bribery should be strengthened and passed with stricter penalties. But this law was vetoed by Quintus Mucius Orestinus, one of the tribunes of the people, in spite of his great obligations to Cicero, who had defended him on a criminal trial. In a debate which arose in the senate about Orestinus' abuse of this veto, Cicero rose and launched into an invective against Antonius and Catilina, in this oration, a few days before the election. It is called the oration "in a white gown," because a "white gown" was the proper habit of all candidates, from which indeed their name was derived.1

Modern commentator's advice: most, if not all, of Cicero's published orations received the attention of one or more an ancient commentator(s). The practice in writing a commentary was that the commentator (Asconius, for example), would cite a phrase or more extended passage of the oration (called a lemma) and then write what he had to say about this. That is why when we have a fragmentary oration it is usually because it survives only in the parts cited by a commentator and has no independent manuscript tradition. On this page, the part of the oration which is actually Cicero will be flush with the left margin, the commentator's notes indented. As usual, my notes are at the end of this document.

I say, Conscript Fathers,2 that last night Catilina and Antonius with their agents met at the house of some man of noble birth, one very well known from, and habituated to, gains derived from this sort of liberality.
He means either the house of Caesar, or of Crassus; for they were the most eager adversaries of Cicero, out of jealousy at the influence which he was acquiring among the citizens. Cicero makes this clear in his own account of his career. And Cicero accused Crassus of having been the original instigator of that conspiracy which, in the consulship of Cotta and Torquatus, the year before this speech was delivered, had been formed by Catilina and Piso.3
For what friend or client can that man have, who has murdered so many citizens? and who said that he would not try a cause against a foreigner on fair terms in his own city?
Cicero afterwards charges Catilina with having behaved with great personal cruelty in the civil wars between Sulla and Marius, in which he had been a partisan of Sulla. He had murdered Quintus Caecilius, Marcus Volumnius, and Lucius Tantasius; and had cut off the head of Marcus Marius Gratidianus, a man very much in favor of the people, who had been twice praetor, and had carried it through the streets of the city in his own hand, which is a deed which Cicero often reproached him with throughout this speech. This Gratidianus was a close relation of Cicero. Cicero denies, moreover, that Antonius could have any client, for he had plundered numbers of people in Achaia, using a troop of cavalry from Sulla's army. Afterwards the Greeks whom he had plundered prosecuted him before Marcus Lucullus the praetor peregrinus.4 Gaius Caesar, then quite a young man, spoke for the Greeks; and when Lucullus found in favor of the Greeks, Antonius called the tribunes and swore that he was withdrawing from the suit because he could not get a fair hearing. He had been expelled from the senate by the censors Lucius Gellius Poplicola and Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Clodianus, six years before; who had stated as their reason that he had plundered the allies, evaded a trial, and that he was so much in debt that he had mortgaged the whole of his property.
Nor did he respect the senate when he was reprimanded in his absence by your decisions, delivered in most serious terms.
After his praetorship Catilina had had Africa for his province, which he had oppressed so severely that while he was still there ambassadors were sent by the Africans to complain to the senate of his conduct, and many seriously unfavorable opinions were spoken against him in the senate.
He learnt how great is the power of the courts of justice when he was acquitted; if indeed his was to be called a trial, or his escape an acquittal.
The year before this speech was given, in the consulship of Torquatus and Cotta, Catilina had been prosecuted for extortion by Publius Clodius, then a young man, who afterwards was Cicero's enemy. He had been defended by Cicero, according to Fenestella, which I doubt, because Cicero makes no mention of it, though it would have been a good subject for him to reproach Catilina with, and as he does reproach his competitor Antonius with ingratitude on the grounds that he owed his attaining third place rather than last in the praetorian elections to Cicero's help, as he says in the next excerpt:.
Do you not know that I was elected the first praetor? but that you were only raised from your position of lowest on the list to that of third, by the concession of your competitors, by the union of the centuries, and especially by my assistance?
A man who takes credit for helping Antonius win votes would surely take credit, would he not, for protecting Catilina's life if he had defended him? This is clear from what he says next. Quintus Mucius, who is addressed in the next paragraph, was a tribune of the people, and he had interposed to prevent the law against bribery from being carried, which he was supposed to have done to gratify Catilina.
But I am indignant, Quintus Mucius, that you should have so bad an opinion of the Republic as to deny yesterday that I was worthy of the consulship. What? Is the Roman people less competent to exert due diligence in choosing a defender for itself than you are for yourself? For when Lucius Calenus was prosecuting you for robbery, you preferred having me above all men as the advocate of your fortunes. And can the Roman people be guided by your advice to reject the man as its defender in the most honorable causes, whose advice you had recourse to in the most infamous one? Unless, perhaps, you will say this, that at the time that you were prosecuted for robbery by Lucius Calenus you saw that I was able to be of very little use to you.
Cicero actually did defend Mucius, and if he had also defended Catilina, as Fenestella maintains, one must ask why he did not reproach him with it, since he does the same to Mucius, although he clearly has a poor opinion of his cause. And why does he keep speaking contemptuously of the verdict in Catilina's case? Which he surely would be less likely to do if he had been Catilina's defense attorney. And, to cut a long argument short, it seems scarcely likely that he would have said the following if, with Cicero as defense attorney, Catilina had been acquitted of extortion:
He disgraced himself by every sort of lewdness and profligacy; he dyed his hands in impious murder, he plundered the allies, he violated the laws, the courts of justice.
And a little later in the oration:
Why should I say how you polluted the province? For how you behaved there I do not dare to say, since you have been acquitted. I imagine that Roman knights must have been liars; that the documentary evidence of a most honorable city was false; that Quintus Metellus Pius told lies; that Africa told lies. I suppose that those judges who decided that you were innocent saw something or other. O wretched man, not to see that you were not acquitted by that decision, but only reserved for some more severe tribunal, and some more fearful punishment!
Is it possible that Cicero should say this if he had been Catilina's advocate when he was acquitted? A further argument occurs to me: although there are notes extant on Cicero's cases, there is nothing among his notes, even a preliminary notation, about this defense. Catilina was acquitted, moreover, in such a way that Clodius became widely suspected of collusion, for the examination and rejection of jurors appeared to be done according to the wishes of the defense.
But he showed how greatly he reverenced the people, when he beheaded an exceedingly popular man in the sight of the people.
This refers to Catilina having carried the head of Marius Gratidianus in triumph through the city.
By what insanity he has been induced to despise me, I have no idea. Did he think that I should endure it with equanimity? or did he not see by the case of his own most intimate friend that I could not endure with any patience even injuries done to strangers?
He clearly refers here to Gaius Verres.
The other having sold all the cattle, and having assigned over nearly all the pasture land, still retains the shepherds, with whom he says that he can, whenever he pleases, immediately stir up a war of runaway slaves.
He means Gaius Antonius.
The other induced one over whom he had influence, immediately to promise the Roman people gladiators, although he was not bound to provide them; whom he himself, when a candidate for the consulship, had surveyed, and picked out, and purchased; and it was done in the presence of the Roman people.
He appears to mean Quintus Gallius, whom he afterwards defended when prosecuted for bribery. For when he was a candidate for the praetorship, because he had not given any showing of wild beasts in his aedileship, he gave a show of gladiators on the pretense of exhibiting them in honor of his father.
Therefore, increase the wages, if you want to, given to Quintus Mucius to have him continue to obstruct the law, as he has begun to obstruct the senate's resolution.5 I am content with that law by which we have seen two consuls-elect convicted at one time.
He refers to the Calpurnian law, which Gaius Calpurnius Piso had passed three years before, about bribery. The consuls he alludes to were Publius Sulla and Publius Autronius.6
And to say nothing of that man, a robber when in Sulla's army, a gladiator on his entrance into the city, a chariot-driver on his victory.
It is evident he is speaking of Antonius. He says that he was a robber in Sulla's army on account of the squadrons of cavalry with which he ravaged Achaia. The words gladiator on his entrance into the city refer to the proscription that ensued; chariot-driver on his victory, to the fact that Sulla, after his victory, exhibited games in the circus, in which men of honorable birth exhibited themselves as charioteers, and among them, Gaius Antonius.7
But is it not a prodigy and a portent, that you, Catilina, should hope for, or even think of, the consulship? For from whom do you ask it? From the chiefs of the state, who, when Lucius Volcacius held a council, did not choose you to be even allowed to stand for it?
It has been said already, that when Catilina was governor in Africa, the Africans sent ambassadors to complain to the senate of his conduct there, and many of the senators reflected on him very severely. In consequence, when he announced that he was standing for the consulship, Lucius Volcacius Tullus, the consul, convened a council to decide whether any notice ought to be taken at all of Catilina if he did offer himself. For he was at the moment under prosecution for extortion. On this, Catilina for the time withdrew from that competition.8
Do you ask it from the senators? who by their own authority had almost stripped you of all your honors, and surrendered you in chains to the Africans.
I have spoken of this already. Catilina was acquitted with prejudice (per infamiam). When he was tried for extortion, the majority of the votes in the ballot-box in which the senators voted was for his conviction; but he was acquitted by the votes of the knights and tribunes.9
Do you ask it from the order of knights, which you have slaughtered?
The equestrian order had taken the part of Cinna against Sulla, and had, on that account, been put to death in great numbers after the final victory of Sulla.
Or from the people? to whom your cruelty afforded such a spectacle that no one could behold it without grief, or can now recollect it without groaning.
He is again referring to his having carried the head of Marius Gratidianus through the streets.
Which head, while still full of life and breath, he himself carried to Sulla in his own hands all the way from the Janiculan Hill to the temple of Apollo.
Everything is clear, but, lest anyone make a mistake about the locations, this was not the temple of Apollo on the Palatine Hill, for that was erected by Augustus, after his victory at Actium. This temple was that one outside the Carmental Gate, between the vegetable market and the Flaminian Circus. That was the only temple of Apollo at Rome at this time. Next he speaks to Catilina:
What can you say in your defense that they have not said? In fact they have said many things which you will not be allowed to say.
A little after he adds:
Lastly, they could deny it, and they have denied it. You have not left your impudence room to deny it. They, therefore, will be said to have been fine judges, if, after having condemned Luscius while he denied it, they acquitted Catilina though he confessed it.
This Lucius Luscius, a noted centurion of Sulla's party, and one who had acquired more than ten million sestertii by his victory, had been condemned a little while before Cicero made this speech, for the murders of three proscribed men. Lucius Bellienus, too, had been condemned about the same time, whom Cicero calls the uncle of Catilina. He had killed Lucretius Ofella on the orders of the dictator Sulla because Ofella was running for consul against Sulla's wishes and intending to upset political affairs in Rome. Cicero says that they did not evade prosecution although they claimed to be inexperienced men obeying the orders of the dictator, and thus were in a position to deny that they had committed any crimes. Catilina was not able to make the same claim. In fact Catilina was put on trial for this very offense with which Cicero threatens him, a few months later. After the consular elections when Catilina was defeated Lucius Lucceius, a learned and well-prepared pleader who afterwards ran for consul, prosecuted him for murder (inter sicarios).
Have you this dignity which you rely on, and, therefore, despise and scorn me? or that other dignity, which you have acquired by all the rest of your life? when you have lived in such a manner that there was no place so holy that your presence did not bring suspicion of criminality into it, even when there was no guilt.
Fabia, a vestal virgin, had been prosecuted for adultery with Catilina, and had been acquitted. And she was the sister of Terentia, Cicero's wife, on which account Cicero had exerted his influence on her behalf, and it is for this reason that he adds "even when there was no guilt". Thus at the same time he spares his own family from blame while charging his opponent with a terrible offense.
When you were detected in acts of adultery, when you yourself detected adulterers, when you out of the same adultery found yourself both a wife and a daughter.
It is said that Catilina had committed adultery with a woman who was afterwards his mother-in-law; and that, after that adultery with her, he married her daughter. Lucceius also reproached him with this in the orations which he wrote against him. I have not yet learnt the names of these women.10
Why need I say how you plundered the province? though all the Roman people raised an outcry against you, and resisted you. For how you behaved there I do not venture to say, as you have been acquitted.
It has already been noted more than once that Catilina was governor of Africa after his praetorship and when Publius Clodius accused him of extortion he was acquitted.
I pass over this nefarious attempt of yours, that day so bitter and grievous to the Roman people, when, with Gnaeus Piso for your accomplice, and no one else, you intended to make a general slaughter of the nobles.
The reader will recognize what he alludes to. There was a general belief that Catilina and Gnaeus Piso, a profligate young man, had formed a conspiracy to murder the senate the year before, in the consulship of Cotta and Torquatus; and that slaughter had only been prevented from taking place because Catilina did not give the signal agreed upon. At the time of this speech Piso had been assassinated in Spain, some say by the dependents, and with the connivance, of Pompey.11
Did you forget that, when we were both standing for the praetorship, you begged me to concede the first rank to you? and do you recollect that, as you were frequently begging this of me with great earnestness, I answered you that when Boculus had not been able to obtain the same favor from you it was an impudent thing of you to make such a request?
I said above that at Sulla's victory games Gaius Antonius and various other members of the nobility drove chariots. Furthermore Antonius had some chariots purchased from the public treasury; it is permitted by law for the senate to hold such a sale. Boculus was a noted chariot-driver in the circus.12
He is speaking now of some profligate citizens
Who, after they found themselves unable to cut the sinews of the Roman citizens with that Spanish knifelet of theirs, attempted to draw two daggers against the republic at once.
By the Spanish knifelet he means Gnaeus Piso. The two daggers evidently mean Catilina and Antonius.
You know that this man had already instigated Licinius the gladiator, a partisan of Catilina's, and Quintus Curius, a man of quaestorian rank.
This Curius was a noted gambler, and put on trial and condemned afterwards. Calvus wrote an elegant epigram about him in hendecasyllable: "Curius, erudite down to his fingernails."

Both Catilina and Antonius made insulting replies to this speech of Cicero and went on counter-attack using the only argument they had, that he was a new man. There are orations extant published in their names, not written by them themselves but by Cicero's enemies; it's probably best not to pay attention to them. In the end, Cicero was elected consul by a unanimous vote of the centuries. Antonius defeated Catilina by a very few centuries, since on account of his father's reputation his supporters were a little more distinguished than Catilina's.

1 Candidates for office wore a toga specially whitened with chalk.
2 The Conscript Fathers are the senators; in manuscripts this is usually abbreviated P.C. (patres conscripti). Scholars do not all agree on why the senators were called by this term.
3 The so-called First Conspiracy of Catilina, which Sallust also describes. It is not clear that there ever was such a conspiracy.
4 The praetor in charge of disputes between Romans and non-citizens.
5 Cicero refers to the law the senate wanted to have passed concerning electoral bribery, which the tribune Mucius was obstructing.
6 In fact, Cicero had defended P. Cornelius Sulla on this charge and got him acquitted, although Sulla (nephew of the dictator) was not allowed to be consul.
7 It was considered a disgrace for a free-born person, let alone a member of the senatorial nobility, to compete as a gladiator or drive a chariot in the races; those who performed such feats were slaves. Cicero often uses the word gladiator as an insult against an opponent whom he accuses of violent activities.
8 This would have been the elections held in 65 for the consulship of 64.
9 In accordance with a law passed in 70, the senate lost control of the juries. Only a third of jurors were chosen from among senators, a third from the equestrian order, and a third from the tribuni aerarii, literally, tribunes of the treasury, evidently people belonging to a property class not quite as rich as equestrians.
10 The name of Catilina's wife at the time of the election was Aurelia Orestilla.
11 See Sallust BC 18-19 (pp. 13-14) for more about this alleged conspiracy.
12 The point of the insult is twofold: first, to remind the senators once again that Antonius had driven a chariot, and also to make a comparison between Antonius' request of Cicero in election for public office and a request which Cicero pretends a real chariot-driver made of Antonius back in the year 81, to let him go first in the show.

Last updated: 30 September 2009
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