The Catalinarian Conspiracy and the Late Republic

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The Catalinarian Conspiracy and the Late Republic

In 63 b.c., while Gnaeus Pompey was conquering and reorganizing the East, and Julius Caesar was ascending the cursus honourum, a discontented noble named Lucius Sergius Catalina, anglicized to Cataline, fomented a revolution against the Roman Republic and attempted to become supreme ruler. This attempted coup d’état against the Roman state was foiled by the senior consul, Marcus Tullius Cicero.

The events surrounding what we call the Catalinarian Conspiracy are detailed by several sources, notably Cicero himself in his four orations against Cataline, and Sallust in his work, The Conspiracy of Cataline. Cicero and Sallust, in addition to other writers such as Appian and Plutarch, fail to provide a completely clear and unbiased account of the events. What is known is that Cataline was a patrician and a former Sullan partisan who had become rich during the proscriptions of Sulla. Cataline had a history of alleged immoral behaviour and was in debt; the relationship between the two will be discussed later. He ran for and lost the consulship three times and it was only after these attempts to gain control of the state by legal means that he began to plan his revolution. He attracted the support of other upper class Romans in similar financial straits as himself, as well as a significant number of lower-class Romans attracted by his call for the repudiation of all debts. After a failed attempt to assassinate Cicero, Cataline fled to Etruria where one of his supporters had been gathering an army of indebted farmers. Those of his supporters who remained in Rome, led by the former consul Lentulus Sura, tried to gain the support of a tribe of Gauls, the Allobroges. The Allobroges alerte...

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... Ibid.

[14] D.C. Earl, The Political Thought of Sallust (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert

Publishers, 1966) 87.

[15] Ibid., 30.

[16] Ibid., 15.

[17] Discussed further in Syme, Sallust (Los Angeles: University of California Press,

1964) 71-75 and 84-85.

[18] Earl, 103.

[19] Ibid., 103.

[20] Grant, 20

[21] Sallust, 199-200.

[22] Ibid., 190.

[23] Cicero, Second Oration, 65, 67, 69, 71.

[24] Sallust, 184.

[25] Plutarch, Cicero, trans. Rex Warner, in The Fall of the Roman Republic (Middlesex:

Penguin Classics, 1973) 10.

[26] Sallust, 196

[27] Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952) 89.

[28] Sallust, 189.

[29] Gruen, 420.

[30] Florus, Epitome of Roman History, Trans. Edward Seymour Forster (Cambridge, MA:

Harvard University Press, 1966) 217.

[31] Sallust, 189-190.
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