Conspiracy in Rome: Catiline The Eternal Villian?

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Cicero Denounces Catiline in the Roman Senate by Cesare Maccari (1889) (Public Domain)

Conspiracy in Rome: Catiline The Eternal Villian?

L. Sergius Catilina (106 BC to 62 BC) was a Roman soldier and politician who attempted unsuccessfully to overthrow the Roman Republic following his second defeat for consul due to the efforts of his nemesis, M. Tullius Cicero.  Catiline had been born into an ancient noble family whose luster had faded a century before his birth.  He was probably trained from childhood to restore his family’s ancient glory by attaining the ultimate goal every Roman nobleman aspired to - the consulship.  In the first century BC almost every individual who attained the consulship was a member of a family whose ancestors had attained the consulship in recent times.  The odds of Catiline succeeding in his goal were not good.

Bowls containing food distributed in electoral canvasses. The bowl to the right was commissioned by Lucius Cassius Longinus and distributed in support of Catiline's consular candidacy in 63 BC. The bowl on the left was distributed by Marcus Porcius Cato in a coeval campaign for the plebeian tribunate (CC BY-SA 1.0)

Bowls containing food distributed in electoral canvasses. The bowl to the right was commissioned by Lucius Cassius Longinus and distributed in support of Catiline's consular candidacy in 63 BC. The bowl on the left was distributed by Marcus Porcius Cato in a coeval campaign for the plebeian tribunate (CC BY-SA 1.0)

Catiline, like almost all Roman nobles of his generation, was an experienced solder who apparently spent his early adulthood in the military service where he acquired a reputation as an able soldier and a charismatic leader.   After leaving the army, Catiline became aligned with M. Licinius Crassus, the wealthiest Roman of his generation, who used his wealth to support upcoming politicians such as Catiline and Caesar.  Catiline easily won elections for the first two offices- quaestor and praetor- which  had to be held before the consulship. Winning such elections was relatively easy since each year there were 20 quaestors and eight praetors elected.  The consulship was a different cup of tea. There were only two consuls elected annually.


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