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The Catilina Conspiracy

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The Catiline Conspiracy (Latin: Coniuratio Catilinae; Bellum Catilinae) is an attempt by a part of the Roman nobility to seize power as a result of an armed uprising. The event is named after the organizer of the secret agreement, Lucius Sergius Catilina. During the 60s BC, two conspiracies occurred, the most famous of which is the last one in time.

Sources have preserved scattered information about the existence of the" first conspiracy of Catiline", dating back to 66-65 BC.e. The historicity of the" first conspiracy " is not recognized by all historians, and its details are unclear. The main events of the Catiline conspiracy took place later, in 63 BC. e. In the second half of this year, after the defeat of the scion of the noble family Lucius Sergius Catiline in the election of consuls, a number of Roman nobles united around him, allegedly pursuing the goal of seizing power. Catilina's demand for a complete debt cancellation attracted to the side of Sergius not only a part of the nobility who owed creditors, but also thousands of ruined peasants and veterans. The main sources that tell about the "second conspiracy" - first of all, Cicero himself and Gaius Sallust Crispus-are hostile to Catiline and sometimes contradict each other, which complicates the reconstruction of the events of 63 BC.e. The original secret nature of the agreement (if it was in reality) hinders the reconstruction of the plot history.

The "coup attempt" was discovered and suppressed, and five active participants were executed without trial, by a special decision of the Senate. Catiline, who fled the capital, led rebel forces in Etruria and died in a battle with the government army. The suppression of the conspiracy was used by Cicero to establish himself as one of Rome's informal political leaders. Since the ancient era, Catilina and his attempted coup were evaluated extremely negatively, but from the middle of the XIX century, the image of an idealistic revolutionary began to take shape.

The first conspiracy

For a long time, it was widely believed that in late 66 — early 65 BC, the patrician Lucius Sergius Catilina was a participant in a failed attempt to seize power (in historiography, these events are known as the "first Catilina conspiracy"). However, since the 20th century, the plausibility of these events has been increasingly questioned by researchers (see the end of the section).

In 68 BC, Catilina reached the position of praetor, after which he was appointed governor of the province of Africa with the rank of propraetor. In 66 BC, when he returned to Rome, he tried to participate in the election of consuls for the following year, which was the pinnacle of the political career of Roman politicians. However, the consul Lucius Volcatius Tullus did not allow Sergius to participate in the election due to the fact that legal proceedings had begun against him for extortion and abuse of authority in his province. Because of this, according to sources, Catilina made an attempt to seize power. Another reason for organizing the first conspiracy was the removal of the elected consuls Publius Autronius Petus and Publius Cornelius Sulla for 65 BC due to massive bribery of voters. Wanting to return the purchased position, Pet planned to seize the consular power with the help of a conspiracy. Other participants in the current conspiracy are the young noble Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, as well as the unelected consul Publius Sulla.

Some sources name the richest man in Rome, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and the ambitious politician Gaius Julius Caesar among the participants or even inspirers of the "first conspiracy". It was argued that as a result of the coup, Crassus was to become dictator, and Caesar was to become commander of the cavalry. However, as the main source of information for these accusations, a not very reliable source was used — the writings of Suetonius, who, when describing these events, borrowed information from the writings of Caesar's opponents. After the discovery of the conspiracy 63 BC. many politicians have accused their opponents of having ties to Catiline in the past, which left an imprint on all reports of the events of 66-65 BC. Cicero and Sallust, contemporaries of the events described, are silent about the participation of Crassus and Caesar in the first conspiracy. Some researchers have also suggested involvement in the secret alliance of Gnaeus Pompey.

On the left is a bowl calling for voting for Cato the Younger in the election of tribunes of the people (63 BC); on the right, for Catiline in the election of consuls (66 BC).

According to Sallust, the conspirators planned to kill both consuls (Lucius Aurelius Cotta and Lucius Manlius Torquatus) on the day they took office (January 1, 65 BC), transfer the symbols of their power — the consular fasces — to Peta and Catilina (according to another version, Peta and Sulla), and give Piso an army and send him to Spain. According to the Roman historian, their action failed, but the participants of the secret agreement postponed the performance to the beginning of February, hoping to kill not only the consuls, but also a number of senators. Sallust explains the failure of the plot by the haste of Sergius: he gave the signal to start the massacre before the gathering of armed supporters. Suetonius ' version differs markedly: he does not mention Catiline at all in relation to the first conspiracy, but includes Crassus, Caesar, Petus, and Publius Sulla among its leaders. Crassus was to become dictator, Caesar was to be commander of the cavalry, and Autronius Petus and Publius Sulla were to become consuls after Crassus had relinquished his extraordinary powers. However, according to Suetonius, the plot was discovered before Caesar took office as aedile (January 1, 65 BC). Referring to his sources, Suetonius also cites the reasons for the failure of the coup attempt: the failure of Crassus to appear in the forum on the day of the speech and the lack of a signal for the start of the rebellion on the part of Caesar. Although information about the first plot became known to many Romans, the Senate investigation was never initiated due to the veto of one of the tribunes. The Senate contented itself with providing the consuls with armed guards, and Piso, one of the members of the secret alliance, was sent to Neighboring Spain with the powers of propraetor, although he reached only the junior position of Quaestor.

There are a number of contradictions and inaccuracies in the sources ' coverage of the events of the first conspiracy. Thus, a number of details in Sallust's version of events seem implausible: the very possibility of organizing a coup by a very small group of debtors and marginal nobles is questioned, and the possibility of seizing power as a result of the murder of consuls is questioned. Among the contradictions of the events of 66-65 BC. it is also called the disinterest of the person himself. Catiline's accusation of participation in the uprising, as well as the silence of Cicero, who is interested in making these events public (the first plot is mentioned by him only in passing and without details). In historiography, there are two main opinions on the reality of this coup attempt: some historians deny the existence of the first conspiracy, others believe in its historicity and try to explain the existing contradictions in the sources. An important fact for the interpretation of the first conspiracy is the absence of any punishment for its participants. Some researchers (in particular, F. Jones, E. Salmon, and H. Scullard) believe that the pardon was due to the intervention of Catiline's powerful patrons and his allies; they usually point to possible interference .Crassus. Other historians (in particular, S. L. Utchenko) consider the absence of punishment to be evidence of the insignificance of events, as well as an exaggeration of its significance and the introduction of fictional details by later authors. Since the middle of the 20th century, it has often been argued that the first conspiracy did not exist at all.: "the existence of anything that can be qualified as a 'conspiracy' [remains questionable], " and also calls for refraining from speculating when investigating these events.

Marcus Licinius Crassus. Marble bust. Louvre Museum, Paris

The conspiracy of 63 BC

In 64 BC, after being acquitted in a trial for abuse of power in Africa, Catilina ran for the consulship. He was threatened with a new prosecution — the Senate began to prosecute the performers of proscriptions-but the president of the court Gaius Julius Caesar unexpectedly obtained the acquittal of Sergius. Catilina had a good chance of being successfully elected along with Gaius Antonius Hybrida, and they worked together against Cicero, the third-most powerful candidate, pointing out that he should not hold the higher magistracy because of his low birth (he was half-contemptuously called homo novus). Cicero, in turn, publicly recalled the dark past of his opponents and, above all, Catiline. As a result of a vigorous election campaign, Cicero was chosen to replace Sergius; Antony became the second consul. Sallust attributes the emergence of the "new conspiracy" to 64 BC, but modern researchers suggest that the Roman historian was mistaken for a year.

Background and reasons for the conspiracy

The most important prerequisite for the conspiracy was the difficult economic situation in Italy. Problems in the economy and social sphere did not exist for the first year, but in 63 BC the economic situation worsened. A year earlier, Gnaeus Pompey the Great ended the Third Mithridatic War, which saw the Romans regain control of the rich province of Asia and annex new territories (primarily Syria and part of the Pontic Kingdom of Mithridates Eupator). Before that, Pompey destroyed the main bases of pirates, who caused huge damage to maritime trade. Since for many financiers, investments in the East were more profitable than operations in Italy, they began to move their capital to previously inaccessible eastern provinces due to wars and pirates. Previously, creditors preferred not to disturb large debtors in Italy; on the contrary, in the absence of more profitable ways to invest money, they preferred to wait for the accumulation of serious amounts of interest in addition to the main debt. After Pompey's victories and the opening of the Asian market, creditors began to demand repayment of debts from Italian debtors in order to invest them in more profitable Eastern enterprises. In Italy, loan rates began to change rapidly, and financiers now invested only in reliable and consistently profitable businesses. To stop the export of capital to the eastern provinces in 63 BC, the Senate was forced to temporarily ban the export of gold and silver from Italy. At the same time, the middle of the first century BC was marked by huge expenditures of individual senators both on luxury items (for example, it was during this period that the proverbial Lucullus feasts were held) and on bribery in elections. Finally, it was in the 60s that mass discontent was directed against the rich Romans from the equestrian class. In this context, Catilina's slogan for the abolition of debts, put forward at the consulship elections, received wide support.

There were also political reasons for the conspiracy: in particular, the increased competition between candidates for magistrates in elections and the exclusion of 64 people from the Senate by censors in 70 BC. e. Catilina himself was pushed to organize the conspiracy by unrealized personal ambitions, which he failed to satisfy in a legitimate way. Various researchers suggest that the leader of the conspiracy has no far-reaching goals other than seizing power, and a primary interest in personal enrichment or even support for reform ideas in the interests of small and landless peasants. Unrealized personal ambitions prompted the preparation of a coup and many noble Romans. The main sources of information about the conspirators, Sallust and Cicero, paint them as scum of society, but in fact the social base of the rebels was much wider. First of all, among the conspirators were many nobles, including the former consul Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura, who was expelled from the Senate by the censors "for immorality". Lentulus ' involvement in the secret organization may have been prompted by the Sibyl's prophecy that the three Cornelius Romans were destined to rule Rome. The first two of them were traditionally considered to be the four-time consul Lucius Cornelius Cinna and the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla. T. A. Bobrovnikova sets out a different version of the legend: as if the Sibyl predicted power to three people with the name with the letter " K "(Latin"C"). Other nobles in Catiline's circle, on the other hand, had failed to reach the top positions held by their ancestors, and hoped to fill these magistracies by seizing power. Similar goals were pursued by some members of the wealthy, but poorly involved in politics, equestrian class. The secret union was joined by many representatives of the capital's "golden youth", who rejected the rise of the traditional career ladder (cursus honorum). There were quite a lot of large debtors attracted by the promise of cassation of debts. Often, Catilina himself is also considered a debtor. According to some versions, he was even bankrupt, but Sallust points out that during the preparation for an armed march, he was still loaned large enough sums to organize armed detachments, which was impossible in the event of bankruptcy. There is no consensus on the involvement of Crassus and Caesar in the second conspiracy. The version of Catilina's support in the elections seems more likely to historians, but there is a lack of motivation to participate in the conspiracy. Later, Crassus helped uncover the plot, and Caesar voted for life imprisonment as a punishment, agreeing with the conspirators ' guilt (see the section "Obtaining evidence, investigation, execution" below). There is also no consensus about the involvement of the second consul, Gaius Antonius Hybrida, in the secret alliance, although he is more often referred to as knowledgeable, sympathetic, or directly involved in the conspiracy.

The economic reasons mentioned earlier provided strong support for radical slogans in the Apennine Peninsula. Catiline's supporters were actively supported there by the population of Etruria, Picenum, as well as some cities in the center and south of the peninsula (in particular, Terracina and Croton); perhaps they were also supported in Apulia. First of all, the conspirators were actively supported by Sulla's veterans, who were settled by the dictator throughout Italy after the victory in the civil war. Sergius ' radical program was also understood by some of the peasants from Etruria, whose land Sulla gave to the same veterans. Among the reasons that forced Sulla's veterans to go to extreme measures are the inability or unwillingness to cultivate their plots (this point of view is criticized — many of the veterans came from peasants) or the receipt by many of the 120 thousand veterans of infertile land, which did not allow them to organize a profitable economy. Many Etrurians lost their land plots due to debt, while others retained their land, but their debts were still serious. According to Sallust, it was their debts that prompted these people to take up arms on the side of Catiline. Dion Cassius mentions the draft land law of Sergius, but modern historians find it difficult to determine the veracity of the report of this late historian. Although Catiline and many of his supporters had previously supported Sulla, the children of victims of the dictator's proscriptions also joined the conspirators: the senate still refused to rehabilitate them and restore them to full political rights. In addition to promises of debt cancellation, the peasants were promised deliverance from the arbitrariness of the Roman magistrates. Shortly before the events of 63 BC. Tribune Publius Servilius Rullus presented a rather radical bill aimed primarily at allotting land to the mass of landless peasants and the urban poor, but without expropriation. Some researchers (in particular, R. Y. Wipper) see a direct connection between the failure of the Rull bill and the Catiline conspiracy. In the framework of the assumption about the connection between Rull and Catilina, the existence of a directing "general staff of the revolution" (in the words of T. A. Bobrovnikova) consisting of Crassus and Caesar, who allegedly directed their actions completely, is also allowed.

The conspirators also counted on the support of the Roman citizens. The latter were dissatisfied with high rental rates, poor living conditions, high unemployment, the suspension of the withdrawal of colonies and the cessation of land distribution from the ager publicus state fund. However, the expectation of the support of the city's plebs was not justified: in the event of upheaval, their property and lives were in danger, and therefore they only welcomed the defeat of the conspiracy. Х. Scullard notes that Catiline's overly radical program has turned not only many senators against him, but also most of the horsemen, small merchants, and common laborers.

Although sources report plans to attract slaves to the rebellion, the nature of this evidence is very vague. In addition, there was no unity among the conspirators on this issue: Lentulus was the most active on this issue, but Catiline's generous promises extended only to citizens. Since the leaders of the secret union did not put forward slogans for reforming the system of slavery (E. Gruen characterizes Sergius ' goal as a political putsch, not a social revolution), there was no reason for the slaves to join the underground en masse. Yavets believes that Lentulus 'promises were prompted by the conspirators' need for soldiers, but by no means by the desire for a large-scale revision of the slave system. However, rumors of a general emancipation of slaves were widely spread. Many slaves, including fugitives from their masters (Latin fugitivi), came into contact with the conspirators on their own initiative, as a result of which Catiline's detachments were replenished with a significant number of runaway slaves. Moreover, even after Lentulus ' arrest, slaves in Rome attempted to free him. On the other hand, Cicero counted among his supporters in the struggle against the conspiracy some of the slaves who live "in any tolerable conditions": P. F. Preobrazhensky defines them as domestic slaves.

In addition to relying on the discontented population of Rome and Italy, the conspirators hoped that the uprising that had begun would be supported in the provinces, and above all in Africa. They also negotiated with some tribes allied to Rome — in particular, with the Allobroges: the population of Narbonne (Transalpine) Gaul, where the Allobroges lived, suffered not only from debts, but also from Roman governors who monitored the fulfillment of debt obligations and plundered the province. For a time, Catilina also hoped for Piso's performance in Near Spain, but soon he died and could not join the uprising.

Beginning of the conspiracy

After losing the election to Cicero and Antony, Catilina ran for the next consulship the following year. The date is unknown: the elections were held either as usual in July, or later — in September or even October 63 BC. e. Shortly before the vote, a new law against electoral irregularities (lex Tullia de ambitu) was adopted on the initiative of Cicero, aimed primarily at Catiline, who often resorted to bribery. During the election campaign, he did not hide his difficult financial situation. On the contrary, Catilina claimed that only he — a man with huge debts — could defend the interests of the poor. To attract new supporters, he put forward the slogan of full cassation of debts (tabulae novae — "new tablets"). Perhaps Sergius was supported in the election by Caesar and Crassus. At the same time, the latter's involvement could have been direct: Crassus was one of the main creditors of promising politicians, lending them money to conduct election campaigns. However, senior magistrates were chosen in the centuriate comitia, where the votes of rich citizens were decisive, and Decimus Junius Silanus and Lucius Licinius Murena became consuls.

Desperate to reach the consulship legally, Catilina finally turned to violent ways to achieve career goals. Sources differ on the timing of the secret agreement between Sergius and other desperate nobles, but give some details about the process of its execution. In particular, it mentions the ritual drinking of wine mixed with human blood. Plutarch reports that the conspirators sealed the oath by ritually killing a person and eating his meat, and Dio Cassius claims that a child was sacrificed. Some researchers consider this evidence of the performance of a ritual of some "demonic religion of the East", although many deny the historicity of the episode, recognizing these rumors as a consequence of later propaganda. In addition, contemporaries were alarmed by the secret nature of the oaths taken: according to tradition, in Ancient Rome they swore publicly.

The sequence of events at the stage of conspiracy formation and their dating are not reliably known. In particular, the date of the election of consuls in the summer months is not generally accepted: they can be postponed (perhaps even repeated), as a result of which they are sometimes dated October 20, 21, 28 or November 4. T. Mommsen refers to October 63 BC. e. not only the election of consuls, but also the final formation of the secret union. S. L. Utchenko believes that the conspiracy was formed in the summer, but even before the election of the consul. Sallust, on the other hand, clearly erroneously attributes the formation of the conspiracy to 64 BC. E., which adds additional confusion.

The conspirators have planned the main actions for the end of October, which is what both supporters of the version of the summer elections and historians who defend their holding in the fall agree on. It was expected that the conspirators would revolt in the capital and kill their opponents, that Sergius ' supporters would start riots in the cities of Italy, and that Gaius Manlius would lead a major uprising in Etruria (according to another version, Manlius acted independently; see below). The performance was scheduled for October 28. Catilina promised to cancel all existing debts, conduct new proscriptions, and distribute the main magistracies among all active participants (in particular, the leader of the conspiracy himself was finally to become a consul). The conspirators did not build far-reaching plans for reforming the state structure and social institutions (at least, there is no evidence of this). Some researchers (in particular, G. M. Livshits) doubt that Catilina seriously planned to implement his economic program, announced at the elections and attracted attention to him — it could only be used to attract disadvantaged veterans and peasants. The question of the possibility of agrarian reform is also controversial (see the section " Reasons. Social base of the conspiracy").

In historiography, there is also a version that Catilina was not the organizer and active participant in the first stage of the conspiracy, but joined it already during the armed action. According to this version, put forward by K. H. Waters and Robin Seager, the story of his active participation was fabricated and replicated by Cicero. The central figure of the entire movement in this version is Gaius Manlius, who supported Catiline in the election of consuls, and after the failure began preparing an armed uprising in Etruria. However, this version is based on a large number of improbable assumptions, which causes a cautious attitude towards it.

Joseph-Marie Vienne. "The Oath of Catilina." Late 18th century, Casa Martelli, Florence. The painting illustrates the ritual oath that sealed the plot

Uncovering the conspiracy

Initially, the plot plans relied mainly on the suddenness of the speech, but this factor was lost due to numerous leaks of information: the diverse social composition of the conspirators created serious problems in organizing and managing their actions. Rumors of a secret organization were widely spread in Rome, but no one had any exact information. The senators did nothing for a long time, because they did not have strong evidence of a conspiracy.

In mid-October, three influential Romans — Crassus, Marcellus, and Metellus Scipio — received anonymous letters warning of an impending plot, which were immediately brought to Cicero. The consul asked the recipients of the letters to read them to the Senate the following morning as evidence of an impending threat. Confirming the rumours, Cicero persuaded the senators to send the troops stationed outside the walls of the city, waiting for a triumph, to Apulia and Etruria, and to pass an emergency law (senatus consultum ultimum). The exact chronology of these events is reconstructed with some differences: in particular, E. Salmon refers the transfer of letters to Cicero to the evening of October 18, and P. Grimal-to the evening of October 20; T. Mommsen in the Roman History refers the meeting of the Senate with the reading of letters and the accusation of Catiline to October 20, P. Grimal - to October 21. A number of modern researchers doubt the authenticity of the letters received by Crassus, and attribute their forgery to Cicero. According to this hypothesis, the consul not only hoped to win over the doubting senators by using forged letters, but also learned the attitude of the influential Crassus to the plot (if he was complicit, he would not have brought the letter to Cicero). Because of the exposure, the members of the secret alliance in the capital were forced to postpone their plans, but Manlius still spoke at the end of October. The beginning of the revolt in Etruria seriously strengthened Cicero's position: if earlier the consul's words were not trusted because of his bias towards Catiline and because of unfulfilled predictions about the imminent start of an uprising in the capital, then the speech of Manlius forced the senators to treat his words with increased attention. Cicero also mentions Catiline's failed plans to capture Praeneste on November 1, an important fortress near Rome, but this report is considered unlikely.

The lack of indisputable evidence made it impossible to hope for a successful prosecution of Catilina, and the Senate limited itself to launching an investigation. Nevertheless, Lucius Aemilius Paulus brought formal charges against him (this happened on November 1 or 2). Sergius replied that he was ready to remain in Rome under house arrest in the house of the Praetor Metellus Celer or the Consul until the trial began, but they refused. After that, Catilina agreed to voluntary house arrest (apparently, the organizer of the plot needed time to complete the preparations, and he decided to agree to participate in the upcoming trial). However, on the night of November 6, a secret meeting of the Catilinarii took place in Lecky's house on Serpovshchikov Street, at which they decided to kill Cicero the next morning. In addition, they have made adjustments to their plans: according to ancient sources, it was now planned to set fire to the city (the capital was allegedly planned to be divided into twelve or even a hundred sections, where fires were supposed to break out simultaneously, and the water supply system was to be damaged to complicate fire extinguishing). The fire in Rome was supposed to provoke mass riots and chaos, and the conspirators planned to take advantage of the situation so that an army of disgruntled peasants, shepherds and gladiators would capture first Italy and then Rome. In the capital, meanwhile, detachments of conspirators had to kill all their enemies, and some nobles were assigned to kill their parents. The first priority, however, was to kill Cicero. However, one of the conspirators and an informant of the consul, Quintus Curius, warned him through his mistress Fulvia. Cicero took countermeasures and escaped the assassination attempt.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, after uncovering the plot, made every effort to aggrandize himself

On November 7 or 8, Cicero called a meeting of the Senate in the temple of Jupiter Stator. The choice of location was determined by the construction of a temple in honor of the semi-legendary event when Romulus stopped the retreating Roman army. The consul was hinting that the time had come to stop Catilina. In addition, the temple was easy to defend in the event of a riot, and if necessary, you could run to the nearby house of the consul. The speech of Cicero, who did not yet possess evidence of the existence of a conspiracy, against Sergius, is known as the first speech against Catilina, or the first catilinary. The leader of the conspiracy was present at the meeting, but did not respond to the consul's accusations on the merits, but limited himself to invective about Cicero's unworthy origin. Since Catilina had almost no support, he soon left the capital. Although Catilina claimed to be leaving for Massilia, he actually joined Manlius in Fezuli. At the same time, in the Roman tradition, voluntary exile was equated with an admission of guilt. It is noted that Catilina had other reasons to flee the city besides political ones: on the 13th — in the Ides of November-the deadline for paying off debts was approaching, which threatened him with bankruptcy. On November 8 or 9, Cicero delivered a second speech against Catiline. This time he spoke at the forum, addressing the people. Perhaps the need for the consul's speech to the townspeople was caused by rumors that Cicero had illegally expelled Catiline, the favorite of many ordinary Romans, from the city.

According to Sallust, the Senate promised anyone who reported the plot a substantial reward: 100,000 sesterces and freedom if he was a slave, and 200,000 sesterces and impunity for a free man. Also, after learning of the conspirators ' plans to set fire to the city, Rome was patrolled at night by night guards under the leadership of Plebeian aediles and night tresvirs. The praetor Quintus Pompeius Rufus was sent with a detachment to quell the gladiator revolt in Capua (their connection to Catiline is unclear), and the Praetor Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer was sent to Picenum and Cisalpine Gaul. The proconsuls who had returned from the provinces with their armies and were waiting for permission to triumph also received assignments. Quintus Marcius Rex was sent to Fezuli, and Quintus Caecilius Metellus of Crete to Apulia, where the slave revolt began. Marcius Rex entered into negotiations with Manlius, but the rebels did not comply with the proconsul's demands to lay down their arms and seek justice in the usual way.

When it became known that Catilina had joined Manlius, he was declared an enemy of the state. New troops were sent to Etruria, where Sergius and Manlius had settled, and they were led by Gaius Antonius Hybrida, who was suspected of sympathizing with the conspirators. Catilina had by this time declared himself consul (thus making it clear that he did not recognize the results of the last election of consuls), but did not take decisive action, waiting for the start of the uprising in the capital. He also sent letters to many Roman nobles, perhaps to put them at odds with Cicero.

Uncovering the conspiracy

Although Catilina fled Rome, his accomplices remained in the capital, who were entrusted with the mission of organizing the speech. However, at the head of the secret organization in the capital, Sergius left not the most capable and determined conspirators, but the most famous-the indecisive former consul Lentulus Sura and the former praetors Publius Autronius Petus and Lucius Cassius. The more energetic Gaius Cornelius Cethegus, Lucius Statilius, and Publius Gabinius Capito, who had called for prompt action, were forced to submit to Lentulus because of the traditional hierarchy. The signal for the beginning of the uprising was to be the convocation of a national assembly by one of the tribunes — Lucius Bestia. They intended to kill Cicero, set fire to the city in twelve places (according to Plutarch's unlikely version, they hoped to start a hundred fires at once), and open the gates of Catiline's army in general chaos. Nevertheless, Lentulus preferred to wait for the Saturnalia (December 17), although Cethegus insisted on an immediate appearance. It was in November that the trial of Lucius Licinius Murena, who was elected consul the following year but was accused by another candidate, the lawyer Servius Sulpicius Rufus, of violating the rules of election campaigning, began. The conspirators had a chance to exploit the contradictions that were exposed during the trial: Cicero defended Morena for tactical reasons, who violated the law that he himself had carried out against Catilina (lex Tullia de ambitu), while some nobles demanded Morena's conviction without regard to the difficult internal political situation. However, the conspirators did not take this chance: perhaps Lentulus delayed the start of the speech because of Catiline's problems with recruiting supporters in Etruria.

The final plans of the conspirators were given out by the ambassadors of the Gallic tribe of Allobroges who arrived in Rome. This tribe was dissatisfied with the tax collectors and the arbitrariness of the Roman governors, but in the capital the complaints of their ambassadors were ignored. After that, Lentulus, through his agent Publius Umbrenus, told them about the upcoming performance and revealed his plans in order to persuade them to cooperate. However, the Allobrog ambassadors, who had verbally agreed to help the conspirators, changed their minds and reported their conversation to the patron of their community in Rome, Quintus Fabius Sanga. He immediately told Cicero about it. It is likely that the change in Gauls ' decision was influenced by the expectation of receiving the promised monetary reward instead of a ghostly chance to get justice as a result of a dangerous conspiracy. Cicero persuaded the envoys to pretend that they were willing to help the conspiracy, in order to gather as much material as possible that would incriminate the Catilinarii. Soon after, following Cicero's instructions, they managed to persuade the remaining conspirators in Rome to write letters stating their obligations and seal them with their personal seals. The Allobrog ambassadors promised to use these letters to persuade their fellow tribesmen. Knowing the time of the ambassadors ' departure from Rome, the praetors Lucius Valerius Flaccus and Gaius Pomptinus, at the request of Cicero, organized an ambush on the Mulvian Bridge on the night of December 3. At the same time, Titus Volturtius was detained along with the Allobroges, who accompanied them to Catiline (the way to Narbonne Gaul ran through Etruria); a letter from Lentulus to Sergius was found with him. After the letters were taken from the ambassadors, Cicero was able to present evidence of the conspirators ' intentions to the Senate (as an exception, the case was considered in the Senate, and not in court or at the people's assembly).

The meeting was held on December 3 in the Church of Concord, where all the conspirators were brought, with the exception of Zeparius, who had fled to Apulia. Since Lentulus was an active magistrate, he was brought to the meeting personally by Cicero, the senior magistrate. The conspirators recognized the authenticity of the seals on the letters, and until further investigation, the senators decided to imprison them (custodia libera) in the homes of famous Romans; two were placed in the homes of Caesar and Crassus. The houses of the conspirators themselves were searched and large arsenals of weapons were found.

On December 4, the Senate heard the testimony of the conspirators ' courier, Lucius Tarquinius, who was captured while trying to contact Catilina. When describing the secret organization, he mentioned Marcus Licinius Crassus as one of the coordinators of the entire underground. This testimony against an influential Roman who had directly assisted in the discovery of the plot turned the senators against the witness, and even against Cicero, who for a time was suspected of wanting to slander Crassus. However, Cicero tried to remain impartial and even refused influential senators to bring Caesar to justice in the same case — he was under suspicion, but the case did not go to the prosecution.

"How long, Catiline, will you abuse our patience? How much longer will you mock us in your rage? To what extent will you be proud of your impudence, which knows no restraint? <...> Don't you realize that your intentions are open? Don't you see that your plot is already known to everyone present and discovered? How many of us do you think don't know what you did last night, what you did last night, where you were, who you called, what decision you made? Oh, the times! Oh, morals!"

Cesare Maccari. "Cicero Unmasks Catiline" 1888 A.D.

On December 5, 63 BC, a regular session of the Senate was held, the details of which are well described in the sources. Some prominent senators ignored the meeting — Crassus in particular. Since the conspirators were found guilty, the question of punishing the arrested members of the secret alliance was put on the agenda. Cicero, who presided over the meeting, invited all senators to speak. Traditionally, the first speaker was the consul of next year — Decimus Junius Silanus. According to Sallust, he proposed the death penalty, although in peacetime Roman citizens could not be put to death in an ordinary court, and for serious crimes they were usually expelled. However, there is also an assumption that Silanus evasively spoke out in favor of capital punishment. Silanus was supported by senators who spoke in turn, until it was the turn of Caesar, who was elected praetor the following year and spoke after the elected and former consuls, but before numerous former praetors and junior magistrates. He urged moderation among the senators and suggested that the conspirators be placed under life imprisonment in different cities, far from each other (an unusual suggestion, since the Romans did not practice incarceration). Caesar's suggestion proved convincing, and some of the speakers earlier, including Silanus, began to change their minds. However, Cato the Younger took the floor. He called on the senators to take decisive action in difficult times and hinted at Caesar's involvement in the underground. Cato concluded his spirited speech by demanding the death penalty for the conspirators. After his speech, senators expressed their support for his proposal. Since the Senate was sitting with its doors open, the crowd in the street tried to attack Caesar because of Cato's suspicions of sympathizing with the conspirators.

The legal basis for the death penalty was very shaky: although Cicero received extraordinary power under the senatus consultum ultimum, there was also the law of Gaius Gracchus (lex Sempronia de capite civium), according to which the execution of a Roman citizen could only be sanctioned by the national assembly. Cicero, on the other hand, considered a crime against the state to be sufficient grounds for not considering Catiline and the other participants in the conspiracy as Roman citizens in the future. However, Caesar did not agree with this interpretation, and the proposal he put forward in the Senate was directed against a possible violation of the Gracchus law. Cato, who was the last to speak, suggested that conspirators who confessed to planning a speech should be equated with performers, and appealed to the customs of their ancestors (mores maiorum), which required the death penalty for those convicted of crimes against the state. The decision was also controversial for another reason: the convicts ' right to appeal to the people's assembly (provocatio ad populum) was violated.

On the same day, the convicts were taken to the Mamertino prison and strangled. In total, five Romans were executed on December 5: Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura, Gaius Cornelius Cethegus, Publius Gabinius Capito, Marcus Caeparius, and Lucius Statilius. After the execution, Cicero spoke only one word to the assembled crowd — vixerunt ("[they] survived"), after which people, according to sources, greeted the consul.

Mamertino prison, where five members of the conspiracy were executed. Current status

Battle of Pistoria

After the execution of the conspirators on the Apennine Peninsula, there was only one center of resistance in Etruria, led by Manlius and Catilina. In addition, the detachments of Publius Sittius operated in North Africa for some time.

Initially, many volunteers flocked to Manlius and Catilina, and the number of their army grew, according to various estimates, to 7 or 20 thousand soldiers. However, most of those who arrived at the camp were poorly armed. After receiving news from the capital that the plot had been exposed and that five of the organization's leaders had been executed, the rebel army began to thin out. Sergius led his troops north, but there the rebels were trapped in a valley near Pistoria (modern Pistoia): Metellus ' troops were closing the road to the north, and Antony's troops were closing the road to the south. Wanting to avoid encirclement, Catilina decided to break through to the south. On the day of the battle (January 62 BC), Antony handed over command of the troops to an experienced combat officer, Marcus Petraeus; Catilina led his supporters into battle personally. Since the battle site was a narrow valley, both commanders identified the most efficient soldiers in the first ranks. The turning point of the fierce battle was the breakthrough of Petraeus ' troops in the center, followed by the encirclement of the rebel flanks. Although the situation of the latter became hopeless, the battle continued until the last rebel was killed: According to Sallust, very few surrendered. In total, about three thousand of Catiline's supporters died in the battle, including the leader of the conspiracy and Manlius.

"...many soldiers who came out of the camp to inspect the battlefield and plunder, found, turning over the bodies of enemies, one-a friend, the other-a hospitable or relative; some recognized their enemies with whom they fought. So the whole army experienced different feelings: exultation and sorrow, grief and joy.

Gaius Sallust Crispus. On the Conspiracy of Catilina, 61.8-9 (translated by V. O. Gorenstein)"

The body of Catilina, who had received many wounds, was found on the battlefield; according to Sallust, he was still alive when the Senate troops found him. Antony, who had not yet dispelled the rumors of his involvement in the plot, ordered Catilina's head to be sent to the capital as proof.


The plot significantly affected Roman political life. According to S. L. Utchenko, the supporters of Gnaeus Pompey tried to take advantage of the danger of conspiracy, replicated by Cicero, and lobbied for the idea of a military dictatorship for their patron. In particular, the Plebeian tribune Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos proposed to summon Pompey from the East with an army to defeat the detachments of Catiline and Manlius, and also to grant Gnaeus the right to be elected consul in absentia. The defeat of the conspiracy was followed by the beginning of many trials against imaginary and real conspirators, some of whom Cicero undertook to protect. Soon measures were taken that are regarded as concessions to those who sympathized with Catiline: in particular, the law of Cato in 62 BC reduced the price of state grain for citizens, and the law of Clodius in 58 BC made grain distributions free. In addition, the agrarian laws of the 50s BC, especially the legislation of Caesar in 59 BC, are considered to be a reaction to the Catiline movement.

The suppression of the conspiracy played a crucial role in Cicero's later life. Mark later repeatedly recalled his role in uncovering and suppressing the conspiracy, but eventually lost his sense of proportion:

"...[Cicero] aroused general discontent with constant self-praise and self-aggrandizement. For neither the Senate nor the court could meet without hearing him harangue Catiline and Lentulus. Even his books and writings were filled with praise for himself."

"Plutarch." 24 Cicero Street (V. V. Petukhova Lane)

Although he was granted the honorary title of "father of the fatherland" (pater patriae or parens patriae) shortly after the elimination of the threat of Catiline in an atmosphere of general jubilation, the consul's detractors did not forgive him for exceeding his authority during the execution of five conspirators. As early as the end of 63 BC, the tribune Metellus Nepos forbade him to give the traditional account of his consulship. In 58 BC, another tribune, Clodius, succeeded in passing a law expelling from Rome all magistrates who executed Roman citizens without trial. The law was retroactive, and Cicero was forced to withdraw from the capital, although the following year he was allowed to return. Finally, the execution of Lentulus laid the foundation for the hostility of the future triumvir Mark Antony, the adopted son of Lentulus, to the organizer of the execution. Twenty years later, Antony insisted on including the speaker in the proscription lists. According to legend, Cicero's head and hands were paraded after the execution in the Forum, where he spoke to the Romans.

Related topics

Roman Republic, Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, Gaius Julius Caesar, Cicero