polarized rome

We have seen in other contexts Cicero’s attempt to paint the characters of a speech in the sharply contrasting colors of black and white, to reduce a judicial dispute to the simple juxtaposition of antipathetic characters or ways or life, one honorable, upright, in keeping with the mos maiorum, the other its un-Roman antithesis. In this instance, Cicero has aimed his entire speech at creating such a gulf between the Roman state and Catiline and his followers; grey hues, so many of which in reality colored the Catilinarian affair, scarcely enter the picture. The contrast is nowhere more forcefully expressed than in the conclusion to this part of the speech:

“On our side fights modesty, on theirs shamelessness; on our side morality, on theirs debauchery; on ours good faith, on theirs deceit; on ours respect for right, on theirs crime; on ours steadfastness, on theirs madness; on ours honor, on theirs disgrace; on ours self-control, on theirs a surrender to passion; in short, justice, temperance, fortitude, prudence, all the virtues, contend with injustice, extravagance, cowardice, folly, all the vices. In a word, abundance fights against poverty, incorrupt principles against corrupt, sanity against insanity, well-founded hope against general desperation.”James May, Trials of Character (1988), p. 55