An Eternal Example of Your Clemency

Andrew Birrell (after Henry Fuseli), Caractacus at the Tribunal of Claudius at Rome (1792).
Andrew Birrell (after Henry Fuseli), Caractacus at the Tribunal of Claudius at Rome (1792).

If the degree of my nobility and fortune had been matched by moderation in success, I would have come to this City as a friend rather than a captive, nor would you have disdained to receive with a treaty of peace one sprung from brilliant ancestors and commanding a great many nations. But my present lot, disfiguring as it is for me, is magnificent for you. I had horses, men, arms, and wealth: what wonder if I was unwilling to lose them? If you wish to command everyone, does it really follow that everyone should accept your slavery? If I were now being handed over as one who had surrendered immediately, neither my fortune nor your glory would have achieved brilliance. It is also true that in my case any reprisal will be followed by oblivion. On the other hand, if you preserve me safe and sound, I shall be an eternal example of your clemency.

— Tacitus, Annals 12:37.

Consul videt; hic tamen vivit. Vivit?

Representation of a sitting of the Roman Senate: Cicero attacks Catiline, from a 19th century fresco in Palazzo Madama, Rome, house of the Italian Senate. It is worth noting that idealistic medieval and subsequent artistic depictions of the forum in session are almost uniformly inaccurate. Illustrations commonly show the senators arranged in a semicircle around an open space where orators were deemed to stand; in reality the structure of the existing Curia Julia building, which dates in its current form from the Emperor Diocletian, shows that the senators sat in straight and parallel lines on either side of the interior of the building. In current media depictions in film this is shown correctly in The Fall of the Roman Empire, and incorrectly in, for example, Spartacus.
Representation of a sitting of the Roman Senate: Cicero attacks Catiline, from an idealistic XIX century fresco in Palazzo Madama, Rome, house of the Italian Senate. Cicero Denounces Catiline, fresco by Cesare Maccari, 1882-1888.

Shame on the age and on its principles! The senate is aware of these things; the consul sees them; and yet this man lives. Lives! aye, he comes even into the senate. He takes a part in the public deliberations; he is watching and marking down and checking off for slaughter every individual among us. And we, gallant men that we are, think that we are doing our duty to the republic if we keep out of the way of his frenzied attacks. You ought, O Catiline, long ago to have been led to execution by command of the consul. That destruction which you have been long plotting against us ought to have already fallen on your own head.

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O tempora, o mores! Senatus haec intellegit. Consul videt; hic tamen vivit. Vivit? immo vero etiam in senatum venit, fit publici consilii particeps, notat et designat oculis ad caedem unum quemque nostrum. Nos autem fortes viri satis facere rei publicae videmur, si istius furorem ac tela vitemus. Ad mortem te, Catilina, duci iussu consulis iam pridem oportebat, in te conferri pestem, quam tu in nos [omnes iam diu] machinaris.

— Oratio in L. Catilinam Prima, ii.