You led a colony to Casilinum, a place to which Caesar had previously led one. You did indeed consult me by letter about the colony of Capua (but I should have given you the same answer about Casilinum), whether you could legally lead a new colony to a place where there was a colony already. I said that a new colony could not be legally conducted to an existing colony, which had been established with a due observance of the auspices, as long as it remained in a flourishing state; but I wrote you word that new colonists might be enrolled among the old ones. But you, elated and insolent, disregarding all the respect due to the auspices, led a colony to Casilinum, whither one had been previously led a few years before; in order to erect your standard there, and to mark out the line of the new colony with a plow. And by that plow you almost grazed the gate of Capua, so as to diminish the territory of that flourishing colony. After this violation of all religious observances, you hasten off to the estate of Marcus Varro, a most conscientious and upright man, at Casinum. By what right? with what face do you do this? By just the same, you will say, as that by which you entered on the estates of the heirs of Lucius Rubrius, or of the heirs of Lucius Turselius, or of other innumerable possessions. If you got the right from any auction, let the auction have all the force to which it is entitled; let writings be of force, provided they are the writings of Caesar, and not your own; writings by which you are bound, not those by which you have released yourself from obligation.
But who says that the estate of Varro at Casinum was ever sold at all? who ever saw any notice of that auction? who ever heard the voice of the auctioneer? You say that you sent a man to Alexandria to buy it of Caesar. It was too long to wait for Caesar himself to come! But who ever heard (and there was no man about whose safety more people were anxious) that any part whatever of Varro's property had been confiscated? What? what shall we say if Caesar even wrote you that you were to give it up? What can be said strong enough for such enormous impudence? Remove for a while those swords which we see around us. You shall now see that the cause of Caesar's auctions is one thing and that of your confidence and rashness is another. For not only shall the owner drive you from that estate, but any one of his friends, or neighbors, or hereditary connections, and any agent, will have the right to do so.
But how many days did he spend reveling in the most scandalous manner in that villa! From the third hour there was one scene of drinking, gambling, and vomiting. Alas for the unhappy house itself! how different a master from its former one has it fallen to the share of! Although, how is he the master at all? but still by how different a person has it been occupied! For Marcus Varro used it as a place of retirement for his studies, not as a theatre for his lusts. What noble discussions used to take place in that villa! what ideas were originated there! what writings were composed there! The laws of the Roman people, the memorials of our ancestors, the consideration of all wisdom and all learning, were the topics that used to be dwelt on then;—but now, while you were the intruder there (for I will not call you the master), every place was resounding with the voices of drunken men; the pavements were floating with wine; the walls were dripping; nobly-born boys were mixing with the basest hirelings; prostitutes with mothers of families. Men came from Casinum, from Aquinum, from Interamna to salute him. No one was admitted. That, indeed, was proper. For the ordinary marks of respect were unsuited to the most profligate of men. When going from thence to Rome he approached Aquinum, a pretty numerous company (for it is a populous municipality) came out to meet him. But he was carried through the town in a covered litter, as if he had been dead. The people of Aquinum acted foolishly, no doubt; but still they were in his road. What did the people of Anagnia do? who, although they were out of his line of road, came down to meet him, in order to pay him their respects, as if he were consul. It is an incredible thing to say, but still it was only too notorious at the time, that he returned nobody's salutation; especially as he had two men of Anagnia with him, Mustela and Laco; one of whom had the care of his swords, and the other of his drinking-cups.
Why should I mention the threats and insults with which he inveighed against the people of Teanum Sidicinum, with which he harassed the men of Puteoli, because they had adopted Caius Cassius and the Bruti as their patrons? a choice dictated, in truth, by great wisdom, and great zeal, benevolence, and affection for them; not by violence and force of arms, by which men have been compelled to choose you, and Basilus, and others like you both,—men whom no one would choose to have for his own clients, much less to be their client himself.
In the mean time, while you yourself were absent, what a day was that for your colleague when he overturned that tomb in the forum, which you were accustomed to regard with veneration! And when that action was announced to you, you—as is agreed upon by all who were with you at the time—fainted away. What happened afterward I know not. I imagine that terror and arms got the mastery. At all events, you dragged your colleague down from his heaven; and you rendered him, not even now like yourself, at all events very unlike his own former self.
After that what a return was that of yours to Rome! How great was the agitation of the whole city! We recollected Cinna being too powerful; after him we had seen Sulla with absolute authority, and we had lately beheld Caesar acting as king. There were perhaps swords, but they were sheathed, and they were not very numerous. But how great and how barbaric a procession is yours! Men follow you in battle array with drawn swords; we see whole litters full of shields borne along. And yet by custom, O conscript fathers, we have become inured and callous to these things, When on the first of June we wished to come to the senate, as it had been ordained, we were suddenly frightened and forced to flee. But he, as having no need of a senate, did not miss any of us, and rather rejoiced at our departure, and immediately proceeded to those marvelous exploits of his. He who had defended the memoranda of Caesar for the sake of his own profit, overturned the laws of Caesar—and good laws too—for the sake of being able to agitate the republic. He increased the number of years that magistrates were to enjoy their provinces; moreover, though he was bound to be the defender of the acts of Caesar, he rescinded them both with reference to public and private transactions.
In public transactions nothing is more authoritative than law; in private affairs the most valid of all deeds is a will. Of the laws, some he abolished without giving the least notice; others he gave notice of bills to abolish. Wills he annulled; though they have been at all times held sacred even in the case of the very meanest of the citizens. As for the statues and pictures which Caesar bequeathed to the people, together with his gardens, those he carried away, some to the house which belonged to Pompeius, and some to Scipio's villa.
And are you then diligent in doing honor to Caesar's memory? Do you love him even now that he is dead? What greater honor had he obtained than that of having a holy cushion, an image, a temple, and a priest? As then Jupiter, and Mars, and Quirinus have priests, so Marcus. Antonius is the priest of the god Julius. Why then do you delay? why are not you inaugurated? Choose a day; select some one to inaugurate you; we are colleagues; no one will refuse. O you detestable man, whether you are the priest of a tyrant, or of a dead man! I ask you then, whether you are ignorant what day this is? Are you ignorant that yesterday was the fourth day of the Roman games in the Circus? and that you yourself submitted a motion to the people, that a fifth day should be added besides, in honor of Caesar? Why are we not all clad in the praetexta? Why are we permitting the honor which by your law was appointed for Caesar to be deserted? Had you no objection to so holy a day being polluted by the addition of supplications, while you did not choose it to be so by the addition of ceremonies connected with a sacred cushion? Either take away religion in every case, or preserve it in every case.
You will ask whether I approve of his having a sacred cushion, a temple and a priest? I approve of none of those things. But you, who are defending the acts of Caesar, what reason can you give for defending some, and disregarding others? unless, indeed, you choose to admit that you measure every thing by your own gain, and not by his dignity. What will you now reply to these arguments—(for I am waiting to witness your eloquence; I knew your grandfather, who was a most eloquent man, but I know you to be a more undisguised speaker than he was; he never harangued the people naked; but we have seen your breast, man, without disguise as you are)? Will you make any reply to these statements? will you dare to open your mouth at all? Can you find one single article in this long speech of mine, to which you trust that you can make any answer? However, we will say no more of what is past.
But this single day, this very day that now is, this very moment while I am speaking, defend your conduct during this very moment, if you can. Why has the senate been surrounded with a belt of armed men? Why are your satellites listening to me sword in hand? Why are not the folding-doors of the temple of Concord open? Why do you bring men of all nations the most barbarous, Ityrcans, armed with arrows, into the forum? He says that he does so as a guard. Is it not then better to perish a thousand times than to be unable to live in one's own city without a guard of armed men? But believe me, there is no protection in that;—a man must be defended by the affection and good will of his fellow-citizens, not by arms. The Roman people will take them from you, will wrest them from ) our hands. I wish that they may do so while we are still safe. But however you treat us, as long as you adopt those counsels it is impossible for you, believe me, to last long. In truth, that wife of yours, who is so far removed from covetousness, and whom I mention without intending any slight to her, has been too long owing[*](It has been explained before that Fulvia had been the widow of Clodius and of Curio, before she married Antonius.) her third payment to the state. The Roman people has men to whom it can entrust the helm of the state; and wherever they are, there is all the defense of the republic, or rather, there is the republic itself; which as yet has only avenged, but has not reestablished itself. Truly and surely has the republic most high-born youths ready to defend it,—though they may for a time keep in the background from a desire for tranquillity, still they can be recalled by the republic at any time.
The name of peace is sweet, the thing itself is most salutary. But between peace and slavery there is a wide difference. Peace is liberty in tranquillity; slavery is the worst of all evils,—to be repelled, if need be, not only by war, but even by death. But if those deliverers of ours have taken themselves away out of our sight, still they have left behind the example of their conduct. They have done what no one else had done. Brutus pursued Tarquinius with war; who was a king when it was lawful for a king to exist in Rome. Spurius Cassius, Spurius. Maelius, and Marcus.Manlius were all slain because they were suspected of aiming at regal power. These are the first men who have ever ventured to attack, sword in hand, a man who was not aiming at regal power, but actually reigning. And their action is not only of itself a glorious and godlike exploit, but it is also one put forth for our imitation; especially since by it they have acquired such glory as appears hardly to be bounded by heaven itself. For although in the very consciousness of a glorious action there is a certain reward, still I do not consider immortality of glory a thing to be despised by one who is himself mortal.
Recollect then, O Marcus Antonius, that day on which you abolished the dictatorship. Set before you the joy of the senate and people of Rome; compare it with this infamous market held by you and by your friends; and then you will understand how great is the difference between praise and profit. But in truth, just as some people, through some disease which has blunted the senses, have no conception of the niceness of food, so men who are lustful, avaricious, and criminal, have no taste for true glory. But if praise can not allure you to act rightly, still can not even fear turn you away from the most shameful actions? You are not afraid of the courts of justice. If it is because you are innocent, I praise you; if because you trust in your power of overbearing them by violence, are you ignorant of what that man has to fear, who on such an account as that does not fear the courts of justice?
But if you are not afraid of brave men and illustrious citizens, because they are prevented from attacking you by your armed retinue, still, believe me, your own fellows will not long endure you. And what a life is it, day and night to be fearing danger from one's own people! Unless, indeed, you have men who are bound to you by greater kindnesses than some of those men by whom he was slain were bound to Caesar; or unless there are points in which you can be compared with him.
In that man were combined genius, method, memory, literature, prudence, deliberation, and industry. He had performed exploits in war which, though calamitous for the republic, were nevertheless mighty deeds. Having for many years aimed at being a king, he had with great labor, and much personal danger, accomplished what he intended. He had conciliated the ignorant multitude by presents, by monuments, by largesses of food, and by banquets; he had bound his own party to him by rewards, his adversaries by the appearances of clemency. Why need I say much on such a subject? He had already brought a free city, partly by fear, partly by patience, into a habit of slavery.
With him I can, indeed, compare you as to your desire to reign; but in all other respects you are in no degree to be compared to him. But from the many evils which by him have been burned into the republic, there is still this good, that the Roman people has now learned how much to believe every one, to whom to trust itself, and against whom to guard. Do you never think on these things? And do you not understand that it is enough for brave men to have learned how noble a thing it is as to the act, how grateful it is as to the benefit done, how glorious as to the fame acquired, to slay a tyrant? When men could not bear him, do you think they will bear you? Believe me, the time will come when men will race with one another to do this deed, and when no one will wait for the tardy arrival of an opportunity.
Consider, I beg you, Marcus Antonius, do some time or other consider the republic: think of the family of which you are born, not of the men with whom you are living. Be reconciled to the republic. However, do you decide on your conduct. As to mine, I myself will declare what that shall be. I defended the republic as a young man, I will not abandon it now that I am old. I scorned the sword of Catiline, I will not quail before yours. No, I will rather cheerfully expose my own person, if the liberty of the city can her restored by my death.
May the indignation of the Roman people at last bring forth what it has been so long laboring with. In truth, if twenty years ago in this very temple I asserted that death could not come prematurely upon a man of consular rank, with how much more truth must I now say the same of an old man? To me, indeed, O conscript fathers, death is now even desirable, after all the honors which I have gained, and the deeds which I have done. I only pray for these two things: one, that dying I may leave the Roman people free. No greater boon than this can be granted me by the immortal gods. The other, that every one may meet with a fate suitable to his deserts and conduct toward the republic.