M ARCUS TULLIUS CICERO was a prominent man at Rome for some time in the latter years of the Republic. He was a great orator—one of the greatest the world has ever known. His principal speeches have been preserved and are read and studied at the present day.
He often spoke in the Forum before large audiences, and by his wonderful eloquence delighted all who heard him. Both the nobles and plebeians admired him for his learning, his oratory, and his manly qualities.
Cicero was a tall, graceful man, with an intellectual and rather handsome face, and very bright, black eyes. He was so great a favorite that he was chosen to fill several public offices and at last was elected consul.
In the early part of his year as consul there was a mysterious plot formed in Rome by some nobles of bad character, old soldiers, and others ready for any mischief. What their real object was no one seemed to know. But it was said that the conspirators wanted to overthrow the government and set up a new one of their own.
There was a senator named Sergius Catiline, and many believed that he was at the head of the plot. He had a bad reputation, and for some time the other senators had looked upon him with suspicion. There was no proof, however, that he was engaged in any unlawful proceedings, so no charge could be made against him.
But one day a young woman, named Fulvia, came to Cicero and gave him some important information about the plot and Catiline's part in it. She said that she had a lover who was one of the plotters, and that he had told her some of their secrets. She was greatly frightened, for she thought that there might be bloodshed in Rome if the plot went on, and she felt it her duty to tell Cicero about it.
As it was in ancient times. It is now in ruins
Cicero immediately went to the Senate and made a powerful speech. He charged Catiline with being the leading person in a plot to overthrow the government. There was great excitement at his words. Catiline was present, and he boldly denied the charge and defied Cicero to prove it.
"If Consul Cicero is afraid of my doing harm in Rome," said he, "I am willing to place myself as a prisoner in the hands of any senator."
"I do not think it is safe to have you in the city," replied Cicero, "and do you expect any one to take you into his house?"
After a great deal of exciting talk the Senate laid aside the charges against Catiline for a while.
A FEW weeks later, in a city near Rome, there was an uprising of the people against the public officers. This caused a great deal of alarm, and Cicero said it was the beginning of the plot that he had charged Catiline with forming.
Then he hurried to the Senate, where Catiline was, and made a great speech against him. He called him a traitor to his country. Catiline turned pale and began to tremble. He attempted to speak, but the senators shouted, and hooted and hissed him. Those who sat near him got up in disgust and took seats in another part of the chamber, leaving the conspirator sitting by himself. At last Catiline ran out of the Senate, furious with anger, and threatening revenge. Then he mounted a horse and rode quickly out of the city.
CICERO DENOUNCING CATILINE
Shortly afterwards Cicero learned the names of nine Roman citizens who were leaders in the plot, and he had them arrested. He declared in the Senate that they had planned to murder the senators and the high officers, and to burn Rome. The senators declared at once that the nine must die, and so Cicero had them put to death.
Catiline now fled to the mountains called the Apennines and there raised a force of twenty thousand men. Two armies were sent against him from Rome. A battle took place, in which Catiline's army was defeated and he himself killed.
Thus ended what was known as the Catiline Conspiracy. Cicero's action in helping to destroy it greatly pleased the Romans. In the Senate he received much praise and honor. It was even declared that he was the "Father of his Country."
Antony did not like Cicero, and when the Triumvirate was formed, the great orator was put to death by Antony's order.