Skidmore College
Classics 201:  The Oratory of Cicero
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Anatomy of a conspiracy
 
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Diary of a conspiracy
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   October
   November
   December
   January (62 BCE)
   References

O tempora!  O mores!
The seeds of conspiracy
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In October of 63 BCE the second Catilinarian conspiracy went into action, with (if we can believe the accounts) Catiline and Cicero embroiled in a complicated cat-and-mouse game—the one acting, the other reacting, and vice versa.

What follows is the fruit of student research into the movements of both men in the latter months of 63.  The sections are arranged side by side.

The sections on October were written by A. Cencini and L. Berenson (Cicero) and Hanna Liverant (Catiline).  The sections on November were written by D. Benincasa and M. Mucha (Cicero) and C. Dunn and B. Vancik (Catiline).  S. Stuart (Catiline) and E. Levy (Cicero) wrote on December-January.

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October
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Cicero
Catiline
20
An anonymous letter, presumably drafted by Catiline or one of his conspirators, made its way to the doorstep of Crassus and many members of the Senate. This letter contained a warning to the recipients to leave the city, threatening death and destruction to the whole city—and mentioned the date of October 27th, which was to be the day the attacker's forces would strike the city. 
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Cicero presented the letters to the members of the senate as proof that Catiline was indeed a real threat to the safety of the Roman people.  Cicero also argued that Manlius would initiate a rebellion on the 27th and that Catiline would massacre the nobles burn   the city on the following day. These chargeswere verified by Quintus Arrius, who stated that he had witnessed Manlius mustering troops in the areaaround Etruturia.  Cicero was charged with protecting the city of Rome through the senatus consultum ultimum (ultimate decree of the Senate), which made Cicero responsible for striking down the terrible conspiracy that threatened the city, and gave him ultimate responsibility and latitude with which to deal with the impending problem. He then gave Metellus the job of protecting Rome from external threat and put himself in control of internal affairs.
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When the 27th rolled by without event, the Roman people became suspicious of Cicero, surmising that this may have been a simple plot on his part to rally support and power from the people, inventing a time of need by means of which he could strengthen his political power. 
28
The Roman people's faith in Cicero was renewed, as reports came in from the countryside warning of the buildup of troops.  At this point, under the auspices of the lex Plautia de vi, Cicero ordered the indictment of Catiline, which was executed by Lucius Aemilius Paulus. Following reports of military activity in the country but still playing the stunned innocent, Catiline offered himself to the care of Cicero or Metullus (custodia libera) as a sign of his "good faith."  Naturally, neither man wanted the scourge of Catiline to befall his house, and they both declined his offer. 
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November
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Cicero
Catiline
 1
Catiline tried and failed to seize  Praeneste.
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A meeting of the conspirators was called in the evening at the house of M. Porcius Laeca.  It was decided that Catiline would leave Rome and head for Etruria in order to prepare to march on Rome with his army.  Catiline and his men also decided how to split up Italy, choosing certain sections to be attacked by specific men.  The conspirators would also try to enlist the help of the gladiators at Capua. The final plan of action was to have two men greet Cicero the following morning and assassinate him, which also failed.
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Cicero avoided an morning assassination attempt made by the conspirators.  He had been informed of the attempt by Fulvia, the aristocratic mistress of one of Catiline’s supporters, and had his house well fortified.
8
The next day Cicero convened the Senate and delivered his First Catilinarian, in which he charged him with certain crimes and urged him to flee Rome Catiline showed up and sat in the senate that day as if nothing was wrong, but he ended up sitting alone.  He gave a speech in response to Cicero, calling for the senators to look at his ancestry, which was extremely ancient and powerful, and to look as well at the lack of proof that Cicero had.  However, the Senate, angry at his actions, shouted him down.

Catiline fled Rome.  Some of his fellow conspirators stayed in Rome, while others, such as Tongilius, Publicius, and Minucius, traveled with him to Etruria.  Along the way he stopped in Forum Aurelium, and then in Arctium, and gave out weapons to the people.  Catiline took up the insignia of the consul, and also carried with him the silver eagle standard of Rome. 

9
Cicero delivered his Second Catilinarian to the general public.  He talked about how great a victory it was to have Catiline out of Rome.  He also assured the public that everything was under control, and that the common people had nothing in common with Catiline and his conspirators.  He emphasized that he was on the side of the people and Catiline was not, and said that he (Cicero) had sacrificed his popularity with certain nobles in order to protect the common people from Catiline’s plots.
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Catiline and his army arrived in Faesulae, where they discovered that they had been declared hostes, or public enemies.
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Toward the end of November a few of Catiline's lieutenants started some small uprisings on the countryside, but they were captured, tried, and imprisoned.  Only Catiline's army in Eturia was large enough to march on Rome, but only one quarter of it was armed.  He had to wait.

Also at the end of November, the conspiracy had sought the help of the Allbroges, a tribe from Gaul.  Approached for support because they were in financial debt to Rome, the Allbroges agreed to help by creating a diversion in Gaul, but secretly decided that it would be more beneficial to act as spies for the government.

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December
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Cicero
Catiline
2
After the Gauls reneged on their offer to aid the conspirators, they contacted the patron of their tribe in Rome, Quintus Fabius Sanga, who notified Cicero immediately. Cicero instructed the beserkers to continue playing along with the conspirators, but to ask for written information on the plot. An envoy was created to meet with Catiline leaving the city on December 2, and two letters were sent from Lentulus. Cicero, learning this, notified two praetors who formed an attack squadron to ambush the posse on the Mulvian bridge that night. As soon as the Gauls realized who the ambushers were, they surrendered themselves and the letters, the necessary evidence.
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The next morning the letters were delivered to Cicero. He brought the "big five" conspirators remaining in the city, Lentulus, Cethegus, Statilius, Gabinius, and Caeparius to the temple of Concord, where he and the patres conscripti had already gathered, and conducted an inquisition that found the conspirators to be guilty.  Cicero was hailed as a hero;  he launched his Third Catilinarian to the expectant masses, and the city rejoiced. On the same day, the house of C. Cornelius Cethegus, a conspiracy leader, was searched and arms for the rebel army were found, and both the leaders of the conspiracy and the Allbroges testified against Catiline in the temple of Concord.
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The majority of senators agreed with the death penalty for the currently incarcerated prisoners as well as those still to be apprehended until Caesar spoke, warning against the implications of the oligarchy taking such drastic measures against the populace.  He argued against a rash decision while the senators were still full of passion and instead suggested property confiscations and life imprisonments in Roman towns.  Cicero delivered the Fourth Catilinarian, followed by a rousing speech from the young Marcus Cato.  The senators were then fully persuaded that a harsh sentence would dissuade Catiline from marching against Rome on the 17th. Those conspirators who had been arrested were hanged.  Lentulus had to resign as praetor and he was defrocked. Catiline's conspiracy in Rome had failed.  The original plan was to rise up and assassinate both Cicero and other senators on the seventeenth, but he was forced to delay once more.
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January (62)
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Cicero
Catiline
early
Catiline tried to move his troops through the Apennines but was met there by Metellus Celer, with Antonius and his army coming from the rear.  Catiline was a proud man and could not surrender.  That day every single Catilinarian soldier fought to his death. 
After the death of Catiline on the battlefield, Cicero left his office "at the peak of his political power and popularity."  He was honored with the title pater patriae for having saved the country from ruin with his flowing oratory and swift action.
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References.

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Last modified 21 March 1999