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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Catiline and his Plot
By Sallust (c. 86–c. 34/35 B.C.)
 
From the ‘History of Catiline’s Conspiracy’

LUCIUS CATILINE was descended of an illustrious family: he was a man of great vigor, both of body and mind, but of a disposition extremely profligate and depraved. From his youth he took pleasure in civil wars, massacres, depredations, and intestine broils; and in these he employed his younger days. His body was formed for enduring cold, hunger, and want of rest, to a degree indeed incredible: his spirit was daring, subtle, and changeable; he was expert in all the arts of simulation and dissimulation; covetous of what belonged to others, lavish of his own; violent in his passions; he had eloquence enough, but a small share of wisdom. His boundless soul was constantly engaged in extravagant and romantic projects, too high to be attempted.  1
  Such was the character of Catiline, who, after Sylla’s usurpation, was fired with a violent desire of seizing the government; and provided he could but carry his point, he was not at all solicitous by what means. His spirit, naturally violent, was daily more and more hurried on to the execution of his design by his poverty and the consciousness of his crimes: both which evils he had heightened by the practices above mentioned. He was encouraged to it by the wickedness of the State, thoroughly debased by luxury and avarice; vices equally fatal, though of contrary natures….  2
  In so great and corrupted a city, Catiline had always about him—what was no difficult matter to find in Rome—bands of profligate and flagitious wretches, like guards to his person. For all those who were abandoned to gluttony and voluptuousness, and had exhausted their fortunes by gaming, feasting, and licentiousness; all who were overwhelmed with debts (contracted to purchase pardon for their crimes); all parricides and sacrilegious persons from all quarters; [such as were already convicted criminals, or feared conviction;] nay, farther, all who lived by perjury or by shedding the blood of citizens; lastly, all whom wickedness, indigence, or a guilty conscience disquieted,—were united to Catiline in the firmest bonds of friendship and intimacy. Or if any person of blameless character became familiar with him, then by daily conversation, and the snares that were laid to corrupt him, he too soon resembled, and even equaled, the rest. But what Catiline chiefly courted was the intimacy of young men: their minds, being soft and pliable, were easily ensnared. Some of these he provided with mistresses; bought horses and dogs for others: gratifying the favorite passion of each;—in a word, he spared no expense, nor even his own honor, to engage them heartily in his interests. Some there were, I know, who thought that the youth who frequented Catiline’s house were guilty of licentiousness; but this rumor, I apprehend, was more owing to other reasons than that there was any clear evidence of the fact.  3
  As for Catiline himself, he had, when very young, been guilty of many atrocious crimes, in open contempt of all law and order: afterward he conceived a passion for Aurelia Orestilla,—one who had nothing but her beauty to recommend her; and because she scrupled to marry him, on account of his having a son who was arrived at years of maturity, it is believed as a certain fact that he destroyed that son, and made his house desolate, to open a way for so infamous an alliance. And this indeed appears to me to have been the principal cause that pushed him to the execution of the conspiracy: for his guilty soul, at enmity with gods and men, could find no rest; so violently was his mind torn and distracted by a consciousness of guilt. Accordingly, his countenance was pale, his eyes ghastly, his pace one while quick, another slow; and indeed in all his looks there was an air of distraction.  4
  As for the youth whom he had corrupted in the manner above related, they were trained up to wickedness by various methods: he taught them to be false witnesses, to forge deeds, to throw off all regard to truth, to squander their fortunes, and to slight dangers; and after he had stripped them of all reputation and shame, he pushed them on to crimes still more heinous; and even when no provocation was given, it was their practice to ensnare and murder those who had never injured them, as well as those who had. For he chose to be cruel and mischievous without any cause, rather than that the hands and spirits of his associates should lose their vigor for want of employment.  5
  Confiding in these friends and accomplices, Catiline formed a design to seize the government: he found an additional encouragement from the number of those who were oppressed with debts throughout the State, and the disposition of Sylla’s soldiers, who, having squandered away what they had lately acquired, and calling to remembrance their former conquests and depredations, longed for a civil war. Besides, there was no army in Italy; Pompey was carrying on a war in the remotest parts of the earth; he himself was in great hopes of obtaining the consulship; the Senate seemed careless of the public; and all things were quiet: a conjuncture of circumstances extremely favorable to his designs.  6
 
 
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