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The Catilinarian Conspiracy
A Period of Troubles
Rome was increasingly a city of division between the rich and poor.99% of the
Empires wealth was in the hands of 1% of its population
The ambition for control of this wealth was steadily overriding all other political and
social concerns.
History however only records the victories of the upper class and the rich and
powerful. Rarely do we hear about the plight of the poor or those ruined in their
attempts to gain wealth and power.
Catiline was an extremist, but probably symptomatic of the age, in which Romans ,
because of extreme political competition were forced to try alternate means of
acquiring power
The Catiline Conspiracy , its discovery and treatment in the Senate, encapsulates all
the ills of the republic, and reveals much about the politicians of the day, namely
Cicero, Caesar, Crassus and Cato.
Sallust, a politician and prominent writer of the time, describes Catiline as” elements
of greatness in both mind and body warped by a vicious and depraved nature”. He
chose to write on the conspiracy because,” it is especially memorable as being
unprecedented in itself and fraught with unprecedented dangers to Rome.”
The Story Unfolds
Once upon a time, a young Roman loses his way in the deep dark forest of Roman
politics………and then……
In 64 BC Catiline stood for the Consulship, with supposedly the support of Crassus
and Caesar. A reactionary Senate, although wary of novi hommones supported
Cicero’s candidacy.
Cicero, with Optimates support, won the election
In 63BC Catiline, again stood for the Consulship, promoting cancellation of all debts
to win support from different areas( Remember Caesar has had to borrow money
from Crassus to pay his debtors before he could take up his governorship of Spain.
This policy would have won votes amongst all classes.)
Catilines behaviour during the election gave grave cause for concern. He openly
paraded around with Sullan veterans, making open threats against Cicero. Cicero tries
to have the elections postponed, but to no avail. He therefore walks through the
streets of Rome, with bodyguards and wearing armour
Silanus and Murena were elected to the Consulship and Catiline gathers his forces.
Catiline’s support
Catiline sent subordinate’s to
muster troops from
– Etruria
– Apulia
– Picenum
Man of the Moment
And then….. Catiline remains in
Rome, presumably to allay
On the 18th October, Crassus
produces letters ,supposedly from
one of the conspirators warning
him to leave Rome
On 21st October the Senate pass
Senatus Consultum Ultimum
Since the Senate would not
prosecute without absolute proof
Cicero offers rewards for
information- for slaves and
freedmen 100,000 sesterces - for
Citizens 200, 000 sesterces. This
offer produced no traitors to the
Cicero saves the day
Cicero in his first speech against Catiline
claims that at this time he outlined the
conspirators plans:
– This speech was published some years
later and may have been embellished.
Wither way it is not known how Cicero
got this information but he may have had
informers in Catiline’s camp.
With SCU behind him Cicero acted with
all speed
Raised troops to secure Rome
Strengthened Praeneste
Sent two consular armies into Apulia.
Two Praetors were entrusted with raising
troops to deal with Picenum.
On the 8th of November the senate
convened at the temple of Jupiter at
the foot of the Palatine hill.
Remarkably Catiline appeared with
the rest of the senate although when
he sat down those around him
moved from their seats to leave him
sitting alone.
Cicero gave his first speech against
Catiline and although Catiline
responded he was shouted down by
the other senators and had to leave
the senate.
– It is at this point that it would seem
Catiline had given himself up to
revolution proper. Certainly he had
made plans but now he went beyond
the point of no return.
Interestingly those supporters who laid down
their arms were promised an amnesty but once
again this opportunity for freedom was rejected
by all of Catiline’s supporters.
Still, however, the senate needed the proof to
convict the conspirators who technically hadn’t
done anything wrong as of yet.
Then in mid December the evidence finally
came in the shape of envoys sent by the
Allobroges of Narbonese Gaul.
Envoys from the Allobroges, who had been
enticed to join the conspiracy, revealed the
story to their patron in Rome. Cicero arranged
that the Gauls would continue their support of
the plot in order to gain incriminating evidence
This they did and four of the conspiators were
arrested and confessed; Lentulus, Cethegus,
Statilius and Cassius
Cicero convenes the Senate and the fate of the
conspiators was debated.
Speaks for
the death
Citing CSU
Cato speaks
For the
Against the
Penalty on
The Aftermath
Catiline dies in fighting in northern Italy
 Cato speech sways the Senate and the
conspirators are executed
 Cicero is hailed as the saviour of Rme
 Caesar is forced to defend himself from
accusations ( by Cato ) of complicity .
Despite a lack of evidence, the Senate
remain suspicious of Caesar.
The Significance of the Conspiracy
Catiline was yet another example of a Roman ambitious to
seek power through unconstitutional means
It showed the factional nature of the Senate ie Caesar and
Crassus vs Cicero and Cato- Populares vs Optimates
Aroused the Senates suspicions of Caaser’s motives
Revealed Caesar’s powerful rhetorical ability and its affect on
a vascillating Senate.
The public outcry over Caesar’s accfused complicity showed
the Senate how much mass popularity Caesar had acquired
The Senates understanding of the urban discontent is
revealed in the subsequent law providing for the distribution
of cheap corn, presented in the Asssembly by Cato!!!!!!!!!!
The Optimates had adopted a Populare policy in order to
appease the people. On a more personel level Cato no doubt(
galled by his sisters affair with Ceasar) would hope that this
policy would undermine Caesar’s popularity with the urban