HomeAncient HistoryAncient RomeConspiracy of Lucius Sergius Catilina in Roman Republic

Conspiracy of Lucius Sergius Catilina in Roman Republic



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The main goal of conspiracy during 60s BC was attempt to obtain the highest positions in Roman Republic. Conspiracy in Roman Republic 66 BC was made in a secret society of people, which are connected by an oath of loyalty – coniuratio. One of the main initiators of the conspiracy was Lucius Sergius Catilina (108 BC – 62 BC). Catilina came from the destroyed patrician genus of Sergii. He was a Sulla’s supporter and participant of proscription. The main participants in the conspiracy were ruined nobles, while supporters were aristocratic youth of Italics colonies and municipium. Some sources mentioned as participants Crassus and Gaius Julius Caesar. The circumstances of the conspiracy were not sufficiently familiar. The conspiracy failed without any consequences because prominent senators were involved. Only Calpurnius Piso was not involved because he got quaestor mandate in Spain. In 64 BC, Catilina was unable to impose his candidacy (the process with Africans dragged on for a while) and he took an active part in the campaign for the consul. Therefore, Catilina decided to make another conspiracy in which dragged mostly young impoverished nobiles. The main rival Marcus Tullius Cicero learned of this conspiracy and he used it in the election campaign. Since senate was afraid of the Catilina’s supporter’s agitation among the plebs, they decided to dismiss quarterly colleagues which were consisted of demographic elements. In the elections, for Cicero voted besides knights also populares and some senators, which were afraid that it will be riots if Catilina’s people won. Cicero became the first consul, and Gaius Antonius Hybrida (Cataline’s supporter) was the second consul. Cicero immediately tried to obtain Gaius Antonius to move on his side. Cicero even gave Macedonian province in favor of Gaius Antonius. Catilina who also participate in election for consul again not elected. During 64 BC and 63 BC, political influence of Caesar in Rome has become stronger and stronger. Caesar was undoubtedly involved in Catilina’s conspiracy while at the same time he continued to fight against the remnants of the Sulla’s regime and the rule of optimates.

In 62 BC, Catiiline again decided to candidate for the consul. Initially, Catilina supported Sulla and optimates, while during this period Catilina became defender of the poor Roman citizens. Catilina agitation had some success. He was supported by ruined nobiles and aristocracy in debt. His agitation was eager to get the highest positions in Rome and in municipium (towns). Catilina decided to conduct agitation among ruined Sulla’s veterans. Catilina and his supporters intended to remove Cicero from Roman political life by violent. Cicero very closely kept an eye on the work of the conspirators.

At the consulate elections which were conducted by Cicero, Cicero came in an armor which was hidden under toga. He was accompanied by a guard of young knights in order to demonstrate to the peaceful citizens that consuls and country was in danger. However, because of many prominent protectors it was not possible to take decisive measures against Catilina. At the conspiratorial meeting where it was established deadline for the overturn, Cicero managed to achieve passing of the senate decision about exceptional powers of the consuls.

Cicero’s demonstrations and bribery of the voters have played its part. A circle of slave owners was afraid of the uprising and Catilina again failed to win in elections. In Rome, news about uprisings started to spread in many places, especially about the uprising of Gaius Manlius in Etruria. Catilina decided to stay a little longer in Rome, where he had a large number of supporters in the senate.  In a secret meeting, Catilina and his supporters decided to join Gaius Manlius and his troops to take advantage, and to lead the offensive. In that way they intended to conquer the Rome and brutally fight with Cicero and his supporters.  Cicero decided to act and openly accused Catilina for preparing armed uprising. Senators openly expressed their solidarity with Cicero. That same night Catilina decided to flee from Rome in Etruria, to Manlius. After Catilina left Rome, conspirators  elected new leader Publius Cornelius Lentulus. The conspirators made a new plan for the overturn for the holiday of Saturnalia. In negotiations with the deputies of the Galic tribes Allobroges (at that time in Rome) conspirators promised them in case of a success rich rewards. Gaul tribe Allobroges told about conspirators to Cicero. In his speech, to the senate, Cicero accused conspirators and prisoners that they wanted to start a slave uprising in Italy, and that they wanted to set the city on fire and to almost completely exterminate the population.

At the beginning of 62 BC, Catilina was at the head of veterans’ army and was beaten in Etruria, at the battle of Pistoria. In this battle Catilina lost his life. Although Catilina program carried mass character, it did not look like the earlier action of democracy. In the programs of Gracchus brothers, Saturninus, Livius Drusus and even Sulpicius Rufus, a central place was a particular legislative project. In contrast, Catilina was at the forefront tried to gain power. Five years after the death of Catilina, Cicero was banished from Rome because of an illegal killing of Catilina’s supporters. Catilina’s squads, after the death of their leader, fought together with the remnants of Spartacus army.