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Catiline Conspiracy

Catiline Conspiracy

Regardless of the truth regarding Catiline's involvement in various plots, social conditions outside of Rome were again building a foundation for civil war. The great indebtedness of the Italians and other provincials was creating a situation ripe with potential disaster. In Etruria, a former Sullan centurion by name of C. Manlius was stirring up trouble by gathering weapons and recruits for a potential revolt. Cicero once again blamed Catiline, though there was no real evidence of his involvement. Cicero managed to convince the Senate of the danger and a senatus consultum ultimum was passed granting him extreme authority to deal with the threat.

Catiline, meanwhile, in order to thwart Cicero's attacks against him, organized a meeting of his supporters. In this meeting, while little real evidence existed, Cicero claimed that a plot to assassinate him was developed, as well as setting in motion the overthrow of the Senate. In a debate before the Senate, both men blistered each other in partially surviving speeches, but eventually Catiline volunteered to go into exile. While en route to his supposed destination of Massilia, however, Catiline instead joined with C. Manlius and his armed mob in Etruria.

While that move was suspicious enough regarding Catiline's various involvement in plots, another move by his supporters in Rome was even more damning. Representatives of the Gallic Allobroges tribe were in Rome discussing conditions relating to their own debt issues. The Roman conspirators sought to have the Gauls join in their rebellion, but the Gauls wanted little do with it and word reached Cicero of the conspirator's proposition. P. Cornelius Lentulus Sura was forced to admit to his own participation in the plot and a great debate over the punishment ensued. Gaius Julius Caesar, the praetor elect at the time, argued against death which was the prominent choice of the Senators. He suggested that the plot of Sura was different than the reason Cicero was granted a Senatus Consultum Ultimatum, and that the death penalty shouldn't apply. He, however, was over ruled by the veracity of M. Porcius Cato, and several conspirators were sentenced to strangulation.

In Etruria, the short lived revolt never really got off the ground. With little assistance from neighboring Italians, or the Allobreges, the plot was doomed to failure. In 62 BC, a force under M. Petreius destroyed the armed mob of Catiline and Manlius, killing Catiline in the process, and the conspiracy was over.

Cicero was hailed as the 'father of his country' for saving Rome from another rebellion. Later, however, the death sentences of various Senators would eventually be a source of much resentment. It's important to note, that Cicero's action may have been far more motivated out of fear of Pompey, than the actual conspiracy. Just as Pompey was getting set to return from his eastern conquests, with veteran legions in tow, conditions in Rome were similar to that of the Marian and Sullan civil war. In order to stabilize the situation, and not give an excuse for Pompey to march on the city, Cicero likely pushed his agenda of dealing with the potential plots as quickly and severely as possible. He would eventually pay a price of his own for it, however. Within a few years, Cicero himself would be exiled, with his actions during the conspiracy playing a prominent part. But far greater things were in store for the master orator, as he would play a major role in the coming Fall of the Republic.

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Did you know?

The first classical reference to the Allobroges is made by the Greek historian Polybius, writing sometime between 150 and 130 bc, and describing the crossing of the Alps by Hanibal in 218 bc.


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