First Oration Against Catiline

Author: Marcus Tullius Cicero  | Date: 63 BC


Lucius Catiline, a man of noble extraction, and who had already been praetor, had been a competitor of Cicero’s for the consulship; the next year he again offered himself for the office, practising such excessive and open bribery that Cicero published a new law against it, with the additional penalty of ten years’ exile; prohibiting likewise all shows of gladiators from being exhibited by a candidate within two years of the time of his suing for any magistracy, unless they were ordered by the will of a person deceased. Catiline, who knew this law to be aimed chiefly at him, formed a design to murder Cicero and some others of the chief men of the Senate, on the day of election, which was fixed for the twentieth of October. But Cicero had information of his plans, and laid them before the Senate, on which the election was deferred, that they might have time to deliberate on an affair of so much importance. The day following, when the Senate met, he charged Catiline with having entertained this design, and Catiline’s behavior had been so violent, that the Senate passed the decree to which they had occasionally recourse in times of imminent danger from treason or sedition: "Let the consuls take care that the republic suffers no harm." This decree invested the consuls with absolute power, and suspended all the ordinary forms of law, till the danger was over. On this Cicero doubled his guards, introduced some additional troops into the city, and when the elections came on, he wore a breast-plate under his robe for his protection; by which precaution he prevented Catiline from executing his design of murdering him and his competitors for the consulship, of whom Decius Junius Silanus and Lucius Licinius Murena were elected.

Catiline was rendered desperate by this his second defeat, and resolved without farther delay to attempt the execution of all his schemes. His greatest hopes lay in Sylla’s veteran soldiers, whose cause he had always espoused. They were scattered about in the different districts and colonies of Italy; but he had actually enlisted a considerable body of them in Etruria, and formed them into a little army under the command of Manlius, a centurion of considerable military experience, who was only waiting for his orders. He was joined in his conspiracy by several senators of profligate lives and desperate fortunes, of whom the chiefs were Publius Cornelius Lentulus, Caius Cethegus, Publius Autronius, Lucius Cassius Longinus, Marcus Porcius Lecca, Publius Sylla, Servilius Sylla, Quintus Curius, Lucius Vargunteius, Quintus Annius, and Lucius Bestia. These men resolved that a general insurrection should be raised throughout all Italy; that Catiline should put himself at the head of the troops in Etruria; that Rome should be set on fire in many places at once; and that a general massacre should be made of all the Senate, and of all their enemies, of whom none were to be spared but the sons of Pompey, who were to be kept as hostages, and as a check upon their father, who was in command in the East. Lentulus was to be president of their councils, Cassius was to manage the firing of the city, and Cethegus the massacre. But, as the vigilance of Cicero was the greatest obstacle to their success, Catiline desired to see him slain before he left Rome; and two knights, parties to the conspiracy, undertook to visit him early on pretence of business, and to kill him in his bed. The name of one of them was Caius Cornelius.

Cicero, however, had information of all the designs of the conspirators, as by the intrigues of a woman called Fulvia, the mistress of Curius, he had gained him over, and received regularly from him an account of all their operations. He sent for some of the chief men of the city, and informed them of the plot against himself, and even of the names of the knights who were to come to his house, and of the hour at which they were to come. When they did come they found the house carefully guarded and all admission refused to them. He was enabled also to disappoint an attempt made by Catiline to seize on the town of Praeneste, which was a very strong fortress, and would have been of great use to him. The meeting of the conspirators had taken place on the evening of the sixth of November. On the eighth Cicero summoned the Senate to meet in the temple of Jupiter in the Capitol, a place which was only used for this purpose on occasions of great danger. (There had been previously several debates on the subject of Catiline’s treasons and design of murdering Cicero, and a public reward had actually been offered to the first discoverer of the plot. But Catiline had nevertheless continued to dissemble; had offered to give security for his behavior, and to deliver himself to the custody of anyone whom the Senate chose to name, even to that of Cicero himself.) Catiline had the boldness to attend this meeting, and all the Senate, even his own most particular acquaintance, were so astonished at his impudence that none of them would salute him; the consular senators quitted that part of the house in which he sat, and left the bench empty; and Cicero himself was so provoked at his audacity, that, instead of entering on any formal business, he addressed himself directly to Catiline in the following invective.


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Chicago: Marcus Tullius Cicero, "The Argument," First Oration Against Catiline, trans. Charles Duke Yonge, A.B. Original Sources, accessed April 24, 2024,

MLA: Cicero, Marcus Tullius. "The Argument." First Oration Against Catiline, translted by Charles Duke Yonge, A.B., Original Sources. 24 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Cicero, MT, 'The Argument' in First Oration Against Catiline, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 24 April 2024, from