The great Roman orator and writer Cicero gave some impressive speeches addressed to the Roman senate member Catiline, who was planning a conspiracy to take over Rome. But, Cicero’s orations had not one, but many goals. First of all, he wanted to win over the senate; an easy task, because the majority of the senate was already against Catiline anyway. Second, he wanted to persuade Catiline to leave Rome. Third, he wanted to avoid a reputation of tyranny, and fourth, he wanted to eliminate a threat to the republic.
Cicero made several serious-sounding accusations against Catiline, hinted at rumors of nefarious crimes that he had committed, and made verbal attacks on his character. He presented himself as a victim, and spoke the various things Catiline had tried to do to him. He also revealed Catiline’s conspiracy to the senate and bragged of his extensive spy network. He also humiliated him by stating that the senate was against him and that that was the reason everyone had left the seats surrounding him.
However, he presented himself as restrained and did not bring formal charges against Catiline; because this was not a trial, but a speech. He asked Catiline to leave Rome either by returning to his army or by banishing himself. He invoked the gods, the republic, and the tradition of Rome. Cicero also claimed that he was speaking on behalf of Rome. He described Catiline’s movement as a dangerous disease. He also invoked nature, desire, and fortune: Which, he said, would bring his ruin.
Catiline could not respond to Cicero while he was speaking because of the setting he was in. But, if I was Catiline, what would I have done to undermine Cicero’s case?
First, I would express my devotion to Rome and its citizens and I would say what needed to be done to keep it at its great status of leading the world. I would try to portray Cicero as jealous of myself and ask him to prove his accusations against me. I would tell different stories about my actions than what Cicero put forth and I would try to put Cicero forward as a sly politician who is scheming to remove his political enemies. I would say that Cicero’s reason for being so restrained was his fear of being caught in the act of punishing an innocent man. Why else would he decide not to punish me outright? Even though he cites unpopularity as a consequence, then that means I have a lot of supporters who see my true worth and see what I can do for the republic.
I would denounce any rumors that were spread about my crimes and say that they are utterly false. I would say different stories and then say that I still had supporters in the city. I would try to gain the sympathy of the rest of senate and tell them how I would respect them if I was consul. I would talk of the historic and present greatness of Rome and how I would try to make it even greater in the future. I would say that the purpose of my army is not to bring evil upon Rome, but rather to make it greater by including the poorer people of Rome to work together with the aristocratic portions.