Книга Imperium. Содержание - Roll XVIII

“Let us take the lesser first,” continued Cicero, after both his targets had finally sunk back into their seats. “You, Hybrida, should never even have been elected praetor, and would not have been had I not taken pity on you, and recommended you to the centuries. You live openly with a courtesan, you cannot speak in public, you can barely remember your own name without the assistance of a nomenclator. You were a thief under Sulla, and a drunkard thereafter. You are, in short, a joke; but a joke of the worst sort-a joke that has gone on too long.”

The chamber was much quieter now, for these were insults which would oblige a man to be your enemy for life, and as Cicero turned toward Catilina, Atticus’s anxious grip on my arm tightened. “As for you, Catilina, is it not a prodigy and a portent of evil times that you should hope for, or even think of, the consulship? For from whom do you ask it? From the chiefs of the state, who, two years ago, refused even to allow you to stand for it? Do you ask it from the order of knights, which you have slaughtered? Or from the people, who still remember the monstrous cruelty with which you butchered their leader-my kinsman-Gratidianus, and carried his still-breathing head through the streets to the Temple of Apollo? Do you ask it from the senators, who by their own authority had almost stripped you of all your honors, and surrendered you in chains to the Africans?”

“I was acquitted!” roared Catilina, leaping back to his feet.

“Acquitted!” mocked Cicero. “You? Acquitted? You-who disgraced yourself by every sort of sexual perversion and profligacy, who dyed your hands in the wickedest murder, who plundered the allies, who violated the laws and the courts of justice? You, who married in adultery the mother of the daughter you first debauched? Acquitted? Then I can only imagine that Roman knights must have been liars; that the documentary evidence of a most honorable city was false; that Quintus Metellus Pius told lies; that Africa told lies. Acquitted! O wretched man, not to see that you were not acquitted by that decision, but only reserved for some more severe tribunal, and some more fearful punishment!”

This would have been too much even for an equable man to sit through, but in Catilina it induced nothing short of murderous insanity. He gave an animal’s bellow of primitive rage and launched himself over the bench in front of him, crashing between Hortensius and Catulus, and diving across the aisle in an effort to reach his tormentor. But of course this was precisely the reaction Cicero had been trying to goad him into. He flinched but stood his ground as Quintus and a few other ex-soldiers scrambled to form a cordon around him-not that there was any need, for Catilina, big though he was, had been seized at once by the consul’s lictors. His friends, among them Crassus and Caesar, quickly had him by the arms and started dragging him back to his seat as he writhed and roared and kicked in fury. The whole of the Senate was on its feet, trying to see what was happening, and Figulus had to suspend the session until order was restored.

When the sitting resumed, Hybrida and Catilina, as custom dictated, were given the opportunity to respond, and each man, quivering with outrage, tipped a bucketful of the usual insults over Cicero’s head-ambitious, untrustworthy, scheming, “new man,” foreigner, evader of military service, coward-while their supporters cheered them dutifully. But neither had Cicero’s flair for invective, and even their most dedicated partisans must have been dismayed by their failure to answer his central charge: that their candidacies were based on bribery by a mysterious third party. It was noticeable that Hortensius and even Catulus offered them only the most halfhearted applause. As for Cicero, he put on a professional mask and sat smiling and unconcerned throughout their shrill tirades, seemingly no more discomfited than a duck in a rainstorm. Only afterwards-after Quintus and his military friends had escorted him rapidly out of the chamber to prevent a further assault by Catilina, and only after we had reached the safety of Atticus’s house on the Quirinal and the door had been locked and barred-only then did he appear to realize the enormity of what he had done.


THERE WAS NOTHING LEFT for Cicero now except to wait for the reaction of Hortensius. We passed the hours in the dry stillness of Atticus’s library, surrounded by all that ancient wisdom, under the gaze of the great philosophers, while beyond the terrace the day ripened and faded and the view over the city became yellower and dustier in the heat of the July afternoon. I should like to record that we took down the occasional volume and spent the time swapping the thoughts of Epicurus or Zeno or Aristotle, or that Cicero said something profound about democracy. But in truth no one was much in the mood for political theory, least of all Quintus, who had scheduled a campaign appearance in the busy Porticus Aemilia and fretted that his brother was losing valuable canvassing time. We relived the drama of Cicero’s speech-” You should have seen Crassus’s face when he thought I was about to name him!”-and pondered the likely response of the aristocrats. If they did not take the bait, Cicero had placed himself in a highly dangerous position. Every so often, he would ask me if I was absolutely certain that Hortensius had read his letter, and yet again I would reply that I had no doubt, for he had done so right in front of me. “Then we shall give him another hour,” Cicero would say, and resume his restless pacing, occasionally stopping to make some cutting remark to Atticus: “Are they always this punctual, these smart friends of yours?” or “Tell me, is it considered a crime against good breeding to consult a clock?”

It was the tenth hour by Atticus’s exquisite sundial when at last one of his slaves came into the library to announce that Hortensius’s steward had arrived.

“So now we are supposed to negotiate with his servants?” muttered Cicero. But he was so anxious for news that he hurried out into the atrium himself, and we all went with him. Waiting there was the same bony, supercilious fellow whom I had encountered at Hortensius’s house that morning; he was not much more polite now. His message was that he had come in Hortensius’s two-seater carriage to collect Cicero and convey him to a meeting with his master.

“But I must accompany him,” protested Quintus.

“My orders are simply to bring Senator Cicero,” responded the steward. “The meeting is highly sensitive and confidential. Only one other person is required-that secretary of his, who has the quick way with words.”

I was not at all happy about this, and nor was Quintus-I out of a cowardly desire to avoid being cross-examined by Hortensius, he because it was a snub, and also perhaps (to be more charitable) because he was worried for his brother’s safety. “What if it is a trap?” he asked. “What if Catilina is there, or intercepts you on your journey?”

“You will be under the protection of Senator Hortensius,” said the steward stiffly. “I give you his word of honor in the presence of all these witnesses.”

“It will be all right, Quintus,” said Cicero, laying a reassuring hand on his brother’s arm. “It is not in Hortensius’s interests for any injury to befall me. Besides”-he smiled-” I am a friend of Atticus here, and what better guarantee of safe passage is there than that? Come along, Tiro. Let us find out what he has to say.”

We left the relative safety of the library and went down into the street, where a smart carpentum was waiting, with Hortensius’s livery painted on its side. The steward sat up at the front next to the driver, while I sat in back with Cicero and we lurched off down the hill. But instead of turning south toward the Palatine, as we had expected, we headed north, toward the Fontinalian Gate, joining the stream of traffic leaving the city at the end of the day. Cicero had pulled the folds of his white toga up over his head, ostensibly to shield himself from the clouds of dust thrown up by the wheels, but actually to avoid any of his voters seeing him traveling in a vehicle belonging to Hortensius. Once we were out of the city, however, he pulled his hood down. He was clearly not at all happy to be leaving the precincts of Rome, for despite his brave words he knew that a fatal accident out here would be very easy to arrange. The sun was big and low, just beginning to set behind those massive family tombs which line the road. The poplars threw elongated shadows which fell jet-black across our path, like crevasses. For a while we were stuck behind a plodding bullock cart. But then the coachman cracked his whip and we raced forward, just narrowly managing to overtake it before a chariot rattled past us, heading toward the city. I guess we both must have realized by then where we were going and Cicero pulled his hood up again and folded his arms, his head down. What thoughts must have been spinning through his mind! We turned off the road and began climbing a steep hillside, following a driveway freshly laid with gravel. It took us on a winding journey over gushing brooks and through gloomy, scented pine groves where pigeons called to one another in the dusk, until eventually we came to a huge pair of open gates, and beyond them an immense villa set in its own park, which I recognized from the model Gabinius had displayed to the jealous mob in the Forum as the palace of Lucullus.

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