“A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious, but it cannot survive treason from within,” the great Roman statesman Cicero opined before the Senate. That warning is as applicable today as it was 2,000 years ago.
In 1965, best-selling historical novelist Taylor Caldwell published her great work on Marcus Tullius Cicero, A Pillar of Iron. A central focus of her meticulously researched study was Cicero’s political combat with, and triumph over, the treasonous conspiracy led by Roman Senator Lucius Sergius Catilina, known in English as Catiline. While Rome’s wealthiest and ablest citizens timidly evaded their duties to defend the commonweal against the impending mortal danger, Cicero, the incomparable rhetoretician, aided by Cato the Younger, dauntlessly exposed and opposed the Catiline conspiracy, which had penetrated all levels of the government. Prominent senators and aristocrats in the conspiracy included Lentulus, Cethegus, Longinus, and Paetus.