The Catiline conspiracy

Oct 2019
1
Sweden
Hi! I just registered and this is my first post. I was hoping that someone could explain the Cateline cospiracy for me in a simple and easy way to understand it. I have come across it several times when reading up on ancient republican Rome but I never really understood it and it seems awefully complicated. The more I dig into it the less I understand. And was there two conspiracies? I have read from someone that there was no conspiracy at all and everything is really hard to grasp... I am no historian but I have read some about ancient Rome so I know the players (Caesar, Cicero, Crassus, Cato).

Appreciate it!
 
Oct 2015
894
Virginia
Unfortunately there is no simple, easy way to understand it. Have you tried the "Wikipedia" article(s)? They are actually pretty good.

Sallust and Cicero paint Catilina as a monster of depravity, and that is the image that has come down to us due to the survival of their works and Cicero's modern good image. But both Sallust and Cicero had biases and agendas, defamation of character was a traditional rhetorical method, and Catilina was not indicted or convicted of any of the enormities (murdering his first wife and son, killing his brother-in-law, defiling a vestal virgin etc) of which Cicero and Sallust accuse him.

As to the "First Conspiracy", there is no real evidence anything happened at all, or that Catiline was involved.

Is it possible Catilina was an "outed" aristocrat running for the consulship on a "platform" of a "clean slate" (novae tabulae -cancelling debts, redistributing land etc) an even more radical plan than the Gracchi? And that he was dealt with by the aristocracy in the same way as they dealt with the Gracchi? (senatus consultum ultimum - execution without trial). Is it credible that Catilina and the "conspirators" (most of whom were also aristocrats that had been expelled from the political mainstream for one reason or another) believed they could overthrow the Republic and seize power by incendiarism and murder of the leading senators? Or were they using a radical platform to push their way back into the mainstream?
 
Last edited:

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,572
Australia
In any event, the conspiracy was a doomed and overhyped affair. Even if his ragtag bunch army been formed, and even if it had seized Rome, he would have soon been crushed by one of the provincial governors (if not before then). Cicero liked to be called the "savior of his country" for his role in the affair, but it's perhaps the most overhyped title ever given to anyone in the history of Rome. He accused some people, executed a few people on trial, and the rest of the conspirators took the plan over and watched it fall apart (as it would have even if Cicero had done nothing, never mind executed people without trial; remind me what the urgency of doing that was again?)
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ichon