Ancient historians and those who studied history later have always given the name Catiline conspiracy to the political movement in Rome that began in 63 BC and that was headed by Lucius Sergius Catilina (108-62), an impoverished patrician. The glory of Catiline began since that period when he wanted to achieve the biggest power and influence in the Roman Empire. During the civil war between Sulla and Marius, Catiline was on the side of the first one and he personally participated in the executions in the years 82-81. In 68, he was a praetor, and then in 67, Catiline was propraetor of a province in Africa. Catiline looked for the election to become a consul the next year, but he was taken by people of this province to the court for extortion. Thereby, he was barred at the request of the Consul. According to Sallust (1963), “Catiline and Publius had decided to participate in a conspiracy to seize power.” Therefore, Catiline wanted to kill the consuls Lucius Cotta and Lucius Torquatus as well as the senators and to give power to his followers.
Catiline was a cunning and wise man who created his plan to embody it in the political sphere. In 65, Catiline was brought to trial on the complaint of the African delegation. He was acquitted, but the process was delayed so much that he could not participate in the consular elections in the year 64. Therefore, Catiline failed to participate in the elections for the second time. Despite this, he began to prepare for the elections in the year 63. He promoted his main slogan, the new debt book, thereby, cancellation of old debts. It was a strong and brave step. Catiline’s name spread among all sections of Roman society, all layers of population, and it gave him the popularity among the masses. His political program included limiting the power of the Senate, the cassation debts, and the assignment of land to the urban plebs. As Sallust (1963) writes, “It was a success among the lower stratum of the population, impoverished veterans of Sulla and impoverished nobles.” The movement of Catiline was justified by the fact that at the beginning of 63, the agrarian law was adopted by Rullus Publius Servilius. The law has covered a wide distribution of land to lower stratum of the population.
Catiline’s discourses from the rostrum were energetic and persuasive to get more supporters among politicians. In the climax of the election campaign, Catiline collected his most prominent supporters in the summer of 64. According to Sallust (1963), “The both representatives of the higher senatorial and equestrian classes were attended as well as numerous representatives of municipalities and colonies.” Catiline tried to inspire the audience by promising cassation debts, proscription of the rich, public and priestly office. In conclusion, he said that Pison, who was with the army in the near Spain, and Publius Nutserin in Mauritania shared all the points of his program similarly to Guy Anthony, who was also elected as a consul. In Rome, a rumor spread about Crassus’ favorable attitude to the new plot.
Cicero and Gaius Antonius (who was an adherent of Catiline) were chosen as consuls. Cicero attracted Antonius by giving him a rich draw Macedonia; therefore, the latter was his follower because of money. Sallust (1963) claimed that “The plotters decided to act decisively: Catiline began to gather brave soldiers and weapons under the command of Gaius Manlius in Fezul, and decided to promote himself to the consulate, to kill Cicero at comitia, and to achieve the power.”
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Catiline gathered the conspirators and told them that he intended to lead the troops gathered in Etruria personally. One of his most ardent supporters was Gaius Manlius. As Sallust (1963) wrote, “Two prominent members of the conspiracy declare their readiness to deal with tomorrow Cicero.” However, this attempt failed. Cicero was warned about it and his house was surrounded by keepership. Then the conspirators came to Cicero, but the visit was declined.
Catiline got his glory at the beginning of his political career and maintained it up to that moment. He had the huge power to get an army together with the support of his followers. At the meeting, Cicero demanded that Catiline left Rome because between them, Cicero and Catiline, there should be a wall. Catiline saw the hostile reaction of the majority of the Senate and he left Rome in the evening. Sallust (1963) wrote, “Catiline was in Etruria, in the camp of Manlius.” On November 9, Cicero gave a speech against Catiline and his followers at the forum where he mentioned the last events of Catiline’s actions. The conspirators were declared the state criminals. The Senate instructed the consul Anthony and praetor Quintus Metellus and Celer to have the military action against Catiline. Direct evidence against the conspirators was found on the night of December 2-3. On December 4, the Senate declared conspirators as state criminals.
Catiline was a strong and brave person to uphold his views even knowing about his defeat. According to Sallust (1963), “On December 5, the Senate gathered in the temple of Concord for the trial of the conspirators, although the Senate did not have the judicial power.” Decimus proposed to condemn the rebels to the death penalty. The Praetor Gaius Julius Caesar called for perpetual imprisonment and the confiscation of their property. Cato’s speech persuaded the Senate to the immediate death penalty that was completed on December 5 in the evening in the dungeon of Mamertine prison.
Catiline was glorious because he wanted to change the political system and to ordain the law concerning common people. Therefore, the politician was a legend among people thanks to his honorable actions. Soon, the honorary title Father of the Fatherland was commended to the savior consul at the special meeting. Sallust (1963) mentioned that “The hasty and lawlessness penalty of five prominent members of the conspiracy was the penultimate act of the drama.”
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