The Catalinarian Conspiracy and the Late Republic Essay

3527 Words 15 Pages
The Catalinarian Conspiracy and the Late Republic

In 63 b.c., while Gnaeus Pompey was conquering and reorganizing the East, and Julius Caesar was ascending the cursus honourum, a discontented noble named Lucius Sergius Catalina, anglicized to Cataline, fomented a revolution against the Roman Republic and attempted to become supreme ruler. This attempted coup d’état against the Roman state was foiled by the senior consul, Marcus Tullius Cicero.

The events surrounding what we call the Catalinarian Conspiracy are detailed by several sources, notably Cicero himself in his four orations against Cataline, and Sallust in his work, The Conspiracy of Cataline. Cicero and Sallust, in addition to other writers such as Appian and Plutarch, fail
…show more content…
Cataline and his army were defeated in battle by Roman legions and this striking vignette of life in the late republic was brought to an end.

Cicero’s orations are, as one might expect, hostile to Cataline and his followers. He uses his most venomous rhetoric in the orations to sway the opinion of the Senate and the people against the conspirators. May writes that Cicero’s portrayals of Cataline were designed to “arouse fear, hatred, and alienation in the hearts of the Roman people”[1] while providing an opportunity for Cicero to “promote his own ethos and increase his authority, glory, and dignity.”[2] To arouse fear, Cicero used hostile and vindictive rhetoric that borders on comical. For instance, he refers to the conspiracy and the conspirators as a “disease”[3] [Cat. I, xii, 30] and “bilge-water”[4] [Cat. II, iv, 7]; he groups Cataline with “all the impure and unclean rascals”[5] [Cat. II, x, 23] and describes the “lusts of these men are no longer moderate, and their wantonness is inhuman and unbearable, they think of nothing but murder, arson, and pillage”[6] [Cat. II, v, 10]. Throughout the course of the orations, Cicero never fails to point out how he saved the republic from destruction, continually congratulating himself.

Cicero also exhibits a notable tendency to simplify the situation into “good” against “evil”. He depicts his own side as the forces of good, valiantly battling against Cataline’s forces of evil. Cicero does this most clearly

Related Documents