Jorge Rico Vera
November 16, 2016
GSI: Jerilyn Sambrooke
The First Oration Against Catiline, Figurative Analysis
As Cicero begins putting Catiline on trial in front of the consul, he states “you ought, O Catiline, to be put to death this instant”. Portraying the assumption that Cicero wants to sentence Catiline to death as a result of his actions. However, Cicero then has a change of heart on purpose by actually recommending and suggesting that Catiline should rather be banished from the republic. He believes that Catiline is a “plague” in the republic who is causing fear and wickedness to all of its citizens, including to himself. The figure created of Catiline as the plague, shapes all of the arguments that Cicero uses to condemn him and to persuade the consul to agree. Throughout the trial, Cicero maintains to be a principle exemplar to decide the fate of Catiline and the plague he represents by influencing the body/consul to agree with his proposal of banishment as the best possible option.
“But if he banishes himself, and takes with him all of his friends, and collects at one point all the ruined men from every quarter, then not only will his full-grown plague of the republic be extinguished and eradicated, but also the root and seed of all future evils”, states Cicero. This particular argument by Cicero allows him to attach the figure of a plague to Catiline, a disease that needs to be dealt with in order to stop its expansion within the commonwealth. The plague represents evil, corruption, murders, robberies, sickness, wickedness, conspiracy and everything else that Catiline is associated with. These are some of major themes that Cicero uses to persuade the consul into believing Catiline to be a “plague” that has spread throughout the republic. In one of the statements by Cicero, he mentions that Catiline summons the destruction of temples and immortal gods, along with planning to murder all members of the consul and the chief of men of the state. These statements make a personal connection with the consul to provoke fear within them, thus allowing them to understand and see that Catiline does cause fear with his actions to all people within the republic and resulting as a major threat by this disease. Cicero’s arguments seem legitimately to the consul and are reinforced by their silence. No one objects the arguments being brought upon Catiline and the plague he represents; this action allows Cicero to continue condemning Catiline without any interruptions. Hence amplifying Cicero’s confidence and power of consulship during the trial.
Noticing the full attention and agreement by the consul, Cicero enhances his argument by stating that Catiline is also the root of the plague and the disease that exist in the republic. He mentions that Catiline’s power and control allowed the plague to spread throughout Italy, then to other parts of the republic. The results of this expansion have caused a tremendous amount of fear and wickedness that threatens the sustainability of the current government and that includes the consul who is taking part of the trial. This particular part of Cicero’s argument further more amplifies the image of the plague to the consulship, persuading them agree with Cicero. The real threat of Catiline exist within his body, as he carries the plague within him. The plague’s disease has been caught by his loyal followers and friends, implanting a seed of evil within them that works as a motive to carry out Catiline’s vision of taking over the government. This is a deadly effect because sentencing Catiline to death will not end the plague. Instead, the plague will continue to live within those who already have the disease. Members of republic may also not be convinced that Catiline was a threat, causing resentment towards Cicero and affecting his political power. Keeping these outcomes in mind, Cicero uses that to once again persuade the consul into agreeing to the removal of Catiline from the republic.
With the banishment from the republic, Catiline’s friends and followers will soon leave as well in order to follow the one who has created the “plague”, the one in which the poison lives within the strongest. They must be fed by this poison to continue the vision of Catiline, thus the removal of Catiline will remove all future evils and all corrupt men because they will leave along with him. Cicero states, “But the danger will settle down and lie hid in the veins and bowels of the republic…will only get worse and worse, as the rest will be still alive”, to oppose sentencing Catiline to death and reinforcing the banishment proposal. The statement once again is approved by the consul’s silence, amplifying Cicero’s power to decide the fate of Catiline. Cicero used the figure of a plague to develop his arguments and persuading the consul to agree with him. The effect of creating an image of a disease that is poisonous resulted extremely effective in enhancing Cicero’s consulship power along with influencing some of the most powerful men of the republic without any objections.