A Defense of Cataline

Cicero, the great and renowned Latin speaker, at one time had a major political rival: Cataline.  Cataline, Cicero claimed, was a dangerous threat to the Roman republic, and should therefore be driven out of Rome lest he should succeed in crippling the republic.  Many denunciations Cicero laid on Cataline, boxing him in with multiple accusations.  The orations of Cicero are complex and downright amazing, but he never gave us a systematic set of rules to follow, though he tried to with Oratorical Partitions.

Cicero accused Cataline of his crimes and monstrosity not in a formal court, but in his speeches in front of the Senate.  Because of this fact, Cataline wasn’t able to produce retorts and defenses for himself, and had to just sit and take it.  Cicero noted in his speech that Cataline still retained supporters, and until Cataline had no supporters left, Cicero would not execute him.  Rather, he advised him to leave the city, and convinced the Senate of his treachery toward the republic.  Cicero did succeed in persuading Cataline to leave.

What would I have said to Cicero had I been Cataline to undermine his argument?  I would have started with his unrelenting accusations toward me.  Maybe all of the accusations were correct, but I would have criticized him for not letting me answer for any of them. Cicero denounced Cataline for his political instability, and over and over came repetitions and affronts about this.  I would have asked Cicero to explain directly what he thought I would do to harm the republic, not just state I was dangerous.  Being such a powerful orator, Cicero was able to use intriguing rhetoric to paint Cataline as a horrible person, one who should’ve been executed already.  Yet Cicero defended himself for not doing this because it might pose him as a cruel tyrannical leader.

Cataline probably wasn’t an enemy to the entirety of Rome, for he was running for election against Cicero, not raising an army to take Rome by force which most likely means he respected Roman tradition.  We can conclude from this that Cicero was merely erecting Cataline in his speech as an enemy of the state, when he was simply an enemy of Cicero. Additionally, Cicero uses the Senate’s silence as condemnation for Cataline, when he didn’t stop talking, giving no room for any objections a senator (or Cataline) might have had.

Cicero can be looked at as one of the most skilled rhetorical speakers of all time, but not as a just condemner.  Since the speech wasn’t delivered in a formal courtroom, but in the Senate as an unrelenting denunciation, Cataline wasn’t able to build up a defense, and we don’t know what he would have said.  No senator made any defense for Cataline which Cicero took and used against Cataline.  But Cicero didn’t cease speaking, and thus no one was able to do so.  So Cicero exaggerated Cataline as a despicable dog who ought to have been put down even as Cicero spoke.

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