28 January 2021

Students studying Latin in the Fourth Year have been recording themselves delivering the opening of one of Cicero’s most famous speeches. This is the First Catilinarian, delivered in the senate in late 63 BC, during Cicero’s own consulship, in which he was attempting to drive the allegedly rebellious noble Catiline out of the city before he could accomplish his planned ‘insurrection’ against the established order. In that sense it is a very topical speech for politics across the Atlantic, not least as Cicero refers to the specially fortified place – the Temple of Jupiter Stator – where the senate meeting was being held to underline the threat of violence to the Roman constitution.

It is quite a skill to read, getting the stresses in all the right places on the words, and getting the length of the vowels correct. These four recitals were the most accurate in achieving this.

The full translation of the extract the students are reading is below:

‘Just how long will you abuse, Catiline, our patience? For how long also will this madness of yours mock us? To what limit will your unbridled audacity strut around? Has not the night-time garrison of the Palatine, have not the watches of the city, has not the fear of the people, has not the gathering of all good men, has not this most fortified place for holding the senate, have not the faces and expressions of these men moved you at all? Do you not realise that your plans lie revealed? Do you not see that your conspiracy is now held fast by the knowledge of all these men? Which of us do you think is ignorant of what you did last night, what the night before, where you were, whom you called together, what plan you adopted? O times, O customs! the senate understands this. The consul sees it: and yet this man still lives.’

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