Caesar's Senate Speech Rewritten by Sallust

Edited by Luciano Canfora and Julian Stringer

in Julius Caesar

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780748619368
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670734 | DOI:
Caesar's Senate Speech Rewritten by Sallust

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Catiline, undeterred by this defeat in the consular elections of 63 bc, persevered with his preparations for a coup. The Senate responded by granting the consuls Cicero and Antony full power to defend the city and the peninsula. Catiline fled the city on 8 November 63 bc), leaving Lentulus to win over more supporters. Lentulus, Cethegus, and their accomplices were indicted before the Senate and arrested. In the Senate debate that followed, the first to speak was the consul-elect, Decimus Julius Silanus, who demanded the death penalty and won general support. When it was the turn of Caesar, then pontifex maximus and praetor-elect for the year 62 bc, the situation seemed to change: his speech argued a case completely opposite to that of Silanus. Caesar began his speech with an extended overture, in which he stressed the need for a balanced decision rather than one made in anger, and above all the risk of creating a damaging precedent by condemning the plotters, a precedent that might one day be exploited by others to enforce political repression. He then set forth his proposal: in his view the captured conspirators should be held in those towns in which they could best be guarded; their property should be distrained, and there should be no further discussion of their fate, whether in the Senate or among the people; anyone who failed to comply would be declared a public enemy.

Keywords: Julius Caesar; speech; Sallust; Lentulus; Cethegus; Catiline; Decimus Julius Silanus; pontifex maximus

Chapter.  3196 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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