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martino

The Catiline Conspiracy

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This year I have decided to set myself a challenge and have enrolled to take an A level in ancient history ( by correspondence )

I have just embarked on this and the first topic that we are being asked to cover is the Cataline conspiracy.

I have over the years acquired a number of books covering many aspects of the roman history, people, places, battles etc and tend to dip into these books from time to time. I have many of the black penguins including books on Cicero's letters, Sallust, Plutarch and some more modern takes. This is the first time that I have started to read sections of these books back to back and my coursework is requiring that I challenge some of the things I am being told.

 

I have recently read that many of the court reports and letters that Cicero wrote are the speeches and things he would have said in hindsight and that he rather over egged his account of what went on. Some of the tests I have been reading refer to Caesar and Crassus backing Cataline but withdrawing their support when Cataline failed to secure the Consulate post at his second attempt. I have also read that Sallust was one of Caesar clients and that his work could be interpretted as putting future distance between Cataline and Caesar ( albeit after the event ).

I am having some trouble in finding other sources and would welcome any other suggestions. I would also welcome any other insights into what this conspiracy was all about.

 

At the moment I am having some trouble in reconciling what appears to be a politically astute Cataline ( sitting in the Senate and rebuking Cicero accusations ) with the type of politician that would get trapped into an admission. I fully appreciate that if a full rebellion ( call it whatever ) was on the cards then it would have been essential to maximise numbers and seeking out disgruntled tribes or soldier farmers was one way to build an army. I also ask myself what the conspirators thought they would gain as by all accounts Pompey and Crassus could still call on their own legions. Could it be that Crassus and Caesar were playing Cataline?

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Could it be that Crassus and Caesar were playing Cataline?

 

I seriously doubt this. Caesar and Crassus had to have known that Cataline could not hope to raise an army capable of defeating one which the Republic could raise with Pompey. There is no other advantage to supporting the man that could have been gained.

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I guess the question is whether Catiline had a realistic shot at overthrowing the consuls. If he did, and if he could get the backing of Crassus and Caesar, he would probably have stood a better chance at winning Rome than did the earlier revolt by Lepidus and Brutus (who were defeated by Catulus and Pompey). With the addition of the near Gauls to Catiline's cause, the odds in favor of Catiline improve. If in addition Catiline could have won over some of the old Sullans (perhaps Pompey himself), the putsch would have gone from difficult to fait accompli. Granted, an alliance among Crassus, Caesar and Pompey is far-fetched...

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Thinking in terms of real-politik, the gestation of any major conspiracy almost "demands" a reaction from others - either to be sunned by them; joined; or used. look at later examples such as the July '44 plot against Hitler.

 

While any evidence is likely always to have been slight, I think it quite likely - particularly in the circumstances of the dying Republic - that figures like Caesar, Pompeius or Crassus may have sought to use Cataline, or at least hedge their bets.

 

But maybe I am just cynical. :furious:

 

 

Phil

 

PS - what is this word "Conspiratory" in the title? Do you mean "Conspiracy".

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I am surprised to have got responses so quick.

And yes phil25 is right the title should have read Conspiracy and not Conspiratory - it was past midnight I apologise.

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Just to come back on a couple of points.

 

Cataline is supposed to have been almost broke and yet he stood accused of excessive bribery. The inference in the texts is that this money came from Crassus - according to some the richest man the world has ever seen. Why would Crassus have backed Cataline? Did Cataline have the sort of reputation that would have made Crassus think Cataline would stand up to Pompey? Was it Pompey that Crassus really feared?

 

Was this a real threat to the Republic? Or is this one of a number of political squablles for power that occurred at the time distorted by Cicero and Sallust in their texts?

I do not doubt that Cataline fought and was defeated in battle but was the battle a foregone conclusion to a conspiracy to overthrow the Consuls or did the battle result from the quick executions administered by Cicero ( by all accounts Romans without trials .....and what of the evidence? Is there evidence that details this? All I have read about is that incendiary materials were found to set fires. Wouldn't most households in rome keep stocks of these? From all accounts the streets were dangerous places patrolled by organised gangs - anyone going out would have wanted to have a big enough entourage with torches or alternatively if there was a need to light up their house then sudden quantities of torches etc would have been needed ) Once the conspirators had been dennounced then Cataline card would have been marked. He would have had few alteratives, especially as such alternatives ( exile, imprisonment ) were so quickly denied the conspirators in Rome, but to stand and fight.

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I too am takeing ancient history A level, it sounds like the same one, but im doing Augustus and Augustan propaganda for the doc study. For further reading you should take a look at the coarse book list (if you havent already) it is quite extensive.

I somehow doubt that Crassus thought Cataline would stand up to Pompey, or realy stand a chance against his legions, however from what i've read about Crassus is that he was an astute politician, so i guess he was just trying to stir things up. Crassus almost certainly was the richest man in Rome at the time, and probably the richest non-sovereign in the world.

Cicero probably was exagerating in his texts, he never let Rome forget that it was down to his efforts as Consul that the conspiracy was thwarted. it is - as far as i've read - generaly thought by people at the time (i.e. Ceasar and other writers who i cant remember) that Cicero had a largely inflated oppinion of himself.

I beleave stashes of weapons were suposed to have been found aswell as the incidentarys.

Good luck with the coarse :ph34r:

Edited by Aurelianus

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Cataline is supposed to have been almost broke and yet he stood accused of excessive bribery. The inference in the texts is that this money came from Crassus - according to some the richest man the world has ever seen. Why would Crassus have backed Cataline? Did Cataline have the sort of reputation that would have made Crassus think Cataline would stand up to Pompey? Was it Pompey that Crassus really feared?

 

Crassus had a well known habit of giving out money to all sorts of politicians. It's how he himself became such a powerful figure, by making so many men beholden to him with his loans. I'm sure Crassus recognized Cataline as someone who would indebt themselves considerably to him, and so like others gave him some loans. Does not suggest a closer tie or alternative motive, at least from nothing I have read before or can think of. I don't recall Cataline specifically attacking Pompey in any way to suggest such a thing.

 

I think in the end Cataline was a corrupt man who over played his hand, then decided to go out in a blaze of glory. His lifestyle suggests a man who took risks and lived on the edge.

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I would like to read up on Crassus. Does anybody know of a good book to recommend?

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I would like to read up on Crassus. Does anybody know of a good book to recommend?

 

 

Other than Plutarch's bio, most of the attention focussed on Crassus has only taken place as sidebars to bio's on other later Republican figures. (Caesar, Sulla, Cicero, etc.)

 

If you can find them for reasonable prices, these are options...

Crassus: A Political Biography by B. A. Marshall

Marcus Crassus and the Late Roman Republic by Allen Mason Ward

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Stuff on Crassus is hard to come by. Plutarch's description is sketchy, it jumps from Spartacus to a short description of his political life. Most of the 'Life of Crassus' is dedicated to Crassus's campaign against Parthia, with a lot of information on the battle of Carrhae.

 

I applaud any historian who attempts to write a biography on Crassus, it would seem a thankless job due to the painstaking research that you would have to do to get any substantial description of his Political life.

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I would like to read up on Crassus. Does anybody know of a good book to recommend?

 

 

Other than Plutarch's bio, most of the attention focussed on Crassus has only taken place as sidebars to bio's on other later Republican figures. (Caesar, Sulla, Cicero, etc.)

 

If you can find them for reasonable prices, these are options...

Crassus: A Political Biography by B. A. Marshall

Marcus Crassus and the Late Roman Republic by Allen Mason Ward

 

'Primus Pilus' the Ward book is a whopping $120.00 used!! and the marshall book is no where to be found, do you have any purchase options for the marshall book that you can post? I cannot find any.

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'Primus Pilus' the Ward book is a whopping $120.00 used!! and the marshall book is no where to be found, do you have any purchase options for the marshall book that you can post? I cannot find any.

 

They were both published 30 years ago. I found the Marshall book at the original publisher (Hakkert):

Crassus: A political biography

 

but the Ward book doesn't seem to be available any longer through the University of Missouri Press (original publisher). Maybe check in with Ancient World Books?

 

Check the Worldcat Library too. You never know either book may be available locally.

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Anthony Everitt's CICERO (Yes the book that inspired my name) paints Catalina as being really really popular with the young and uninhibited. He apparently also threw the wildest parties that included "deafening" music, booze and sex. This is probably the best tool for the First Triumvirate. He was popular in a way that Caesar and Crassus could never be. It also sounds like such parties would need funding (thus Crassus could control him). Its funny to think of sex drugs and rock n' roll in the Roman Republic :D

Edited by CiceroD

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