This morning, Jackie drove me to New Milton where I caught the London train. It is the first week of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Naturally the train was to have an additional stop at Wimbledon. Naturally it was a little late. Naturally it contained only four coaches. Naturally one of those was designated First Class. Naturally the other carriages were crowded.
As an introduction to to Cicero’s ‘In Catilanum’ I-IV, D.H.Berry’s article on ‘The Catiline Conspiracy’ which I read today offers a clear account of this event and Cicero’s action in opposing it. We are also told that Cicero’s speeches ‘Against Catiline’, which I went on to read, were published three years after the happenings that took place during the great orator’s consulship. This is significant because, although presented by the author as what he had said at the time, they may be construed as a later defence of his position.
Cicero was responsible for implementing the senate’s decision to execute the five captured conspirators without trial. This was not legal. The consul’s action, although praised at the time – he was honoured as the saviour of Rome – was ultimately to lead to his death in dishonour.
The four speeches deal, in order, with his exhorting Catiline to leave Rome; with warning the senate that the rebel was gathering his armies against the state; with the capture of those criminals left by their leader to act in the capital when the time came;and with the execution debate.
There were many such events in Roman history. What makes this one unique is that it occurred during the time of a man with the ability to sniff it out, to combat it so eloquently, and to write it up so cleverly to preserve the story for posterity.
From Waterloo I travelled by my now customary underground route to Preston Road, and a short walk to Norman’s. In the recreation ground through which I pass, I noticed two patient carers helping a severely disabled young woman prepare her headgear, presumably as a protection against the strong sun. They passed me on their way to the enclosure where I had seen Yaw practising his footballing skills on 19th March. I greeted them. The carers returned the greeting. The young woman took that as an invitation to sit on the bench I was occupying. With good humour she was persuaded otherwise.
The carers then began a game of catch with their charge inside the fenced off area. They were encouraging when she managed the task of grasping the basket ball, and all three seemed genuinely to be enjoying themselves. I realised that the younger person seemed without the power of speech.
I did not think it appropriate to produce my camera.
The Roman orator employed his considerable skills more than two thousand years ago. He used them to climb to a position of great power. Ultimately they caused his violent death. His name and influence have been valued throughout the world, and down the centuries.
Today’s nameless young lady will have a very different life. May it, and its ending be happier than that of the man whose name will be forever remembered.
For lunch my friend provided an excellent beef casserole with mashed potato and vegetables followed by juicy summer pudding with which we shared a superb bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape 2012. I then took the tube from Preston Road to Westminster via Finchley Road and walked on to Carol’s. From there I took my usual transport back to New Milton where Jackie was waiting to drive me home.