Catilinarian conspiracy

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The Catilinarian Conspiracy was an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Senator Lucius Sergius Catiline in 63 BC. BC, with which he wanted to seize power in the Roman Republic . The conspiracy is best known for Cicero's speeches against Catilina and Sallust's historical monograph De coniuratione Catilinae .

Cicero accuses Catiline; the fresco by Cesare Maccari shows how a history painter imagined Cicero's first Catilinarian speech in the 19th century

The conspirators

The most famous people involved in the conspiracy were:

The course of the conspiracy

The history

According to the Roman historian Sallust, the prehistory of the conspiracy began in 66 BC. BC, when Catiline was not admitted as an applicant for the consulate of the following year because of an upcoming repetition trial (procedure for abuse of office) . Instead, for 65 BC Chr. Publius Autronius Paetus and Publius Cornelius Sulla elected, but a short time later because ambitus , bribery, were tried and sentenced, so that they two new consuls, Lucius Aurelius Cotta and L. Manlius Torquatus be replaced had to. These successors in office were also the accusers of the deposed consuls. At the end of the year 66 BC As a result, a conspiracy formed with the aim of reversing the cancellation of the election. The two deposed consuls Autronius Paetus and Cornelius Sulla are said to have been involved, as well as Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Gaius Cornelius Cethegus , Lucius Vargunteius and Catilina. In research, the existence of this so-called first Catilinarian conspiracy has long been generally doubted.

The unsuccessful fight for the consulate

Because of the still pending proceedings of the Repetunde Trial, which had been brought against him, Catiline could also for the year 64 BC. Do not run for the consulate; this was only for 63 BC. BC possible again, but after violent agitation by Marcus Tullius Cicero he succumbed to this and Gaius Antonius Hybrida .

Catiline, however, had not given up hope and applied again for the next year. However, the fact that in his election campaign he promoted debtors by reducing the interest on borrowed money and making repayments easier ( tabulae novae ) hurt the interests of the creditors. Cicero used this circumstance to accuse Catiline of social revolutionary activities. Catilina's threat in the Senate that if one wanted to set fire to his existence he would not put out the fire with water, but rather by tearing down the whole building, had a negative effect . When election day came, because he feared an assassination attempt on himself and the outbreak of unrest, Cicero appeared for all to see in the tank and with a protection force made up of friends and clients . Nothing happened, however; Catiline failed, as was to be expected, and Lucius Licinius Murena and Decimus Junius Silanus were elected for the next year. The extent to which Catiline was already thinking of the use of force by this time can no longer be determined. With the lost election, however, he was running out of time, which probably made him decide to launch a coup . In doing so, he was able to exploit the latent potential for unrest that emanated from the many Sulla veterans , most of whom were in debt, and the former landowners who had been expropriated by Sulla . It was only from this point in time that one could really speak of a conspiracy.

The beginning of the conspiracy

Gaius Manlius , who had served as a centurion under Sulla , soon began to raise troops in Etruria and Gallia citerior . At the same time the same was to be done in Picenum by Gaius Septimius , in Apulia by Gaius Iulius and in Campania by Publius Sulla . The plan then provided for setting fires in Rome after the army had drawn together in order to cause confusion and to occupy the strategically important points in the city. However, as the preparations were still taking some time to complete, the date of the survey was set for October 27; On October 28, all unpopular Optimates were finally to be murdered in Rome .

The exposure of the coup preparations

In the meantime, however, Fulvia , the lover of the conspirator Quintus Curius , had informed Cicero of the events to some extent, so that on September 22nd he asked the Senate to pass a resolution on the matter. However, the Senate ruled Cicero's concerns negatively on the grounds that the news about the alleged events was dubious.

It was not until the night of October 20 to 21, 63 BC. Cicero finally came into possession of resounding evidence of unrest in the form of anonymous letters that had been given to him by Marcus Crassus , Marcus Claudius Marcellus and Metellus Scipio , warning of the assassinations of some high-ranking politicians by Catiline.

The emergency decision

Cicero then had the Senate meet the next morning and gave a lecture on the content of the letters and the other details known to him, and the Praetorian Quintus Arrius reported on the troop movements of Manlius in Etruria . The Senate thereupon decided on the state of emergency ( senatus consultum ultimum ) and shortly thereafter put the decretum tumultus into force, which made it possible to combat unrest. Levies were immediately ordered, the relevant officials and promagistrates were instructed to take over their troops, and all Italian country towns were instructed to secure their territories. The assassinations planned for October 28th by the Catilinarians and the occupation of Praeneste on November 1st could not subsequently take place, but the Manlius in Etruria was raised on October 27th as planned.

Catilina's activities in Rome

Catiline, who still believed he was safe in Rome, was meanwhile, probably together with Cornelius Cethegus, confronted with an indictment of violent political crimes ( lex Plautia de vi ) brought by Aemilius Paullus . Catiline then, since he believed he had nothing to fear, offered the consular Manius Aemilius Lepidus , the praetor Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer and even Cicero that they would take him into voluntary private custody. After all of them had refused, a certain Marcus Metellus was finally found , who, however, apparently only insufficiently carried out his guarding task, so that he was later accused by Cicero of participating in the conspiratorial activities. In spite of this "guard", Catiline succeeded in holding a meeting of the co-conspirators in the house of Marcus Porcius Laeca on the night of November 5th, in which the further course of action was discussed. Lucius Vargunteius and Gaius Cornelius , a senator and a knight , were to report to Cicero for a morning visit on November 7th and murder him in order to bring the city into the power of the conspirators. Catiline herself intended to leave for Manlius immediately after Cicero's murder . The attempted murder failed, however, as Fulvia Cicero sent another message regarding the plans.

Catiline has to leave the city

On the morning of November 7th, Cicero called the Senate under heavy guard in the Temple of Iupiter Stator to a meeting to explain the new situation and finally to wrest more resolute decisions from the Senators. Catiline also appeared at the meeting, probably to demonstrate his alleged innocence and to show that he had nothing to fear from the trial brought against him by Aemilius Paullus. As a member of the old patrician nobility, Catiline felt safe and at this point could still count on the votes of many popular senators, so that he denied all allegations directed against him and even demanded a decision by the Senate regarding his person; if the answer was negative, he offered to go into exile. Although Cicero threatened Catiline with the senatus consultum ultimum , he still had no irrefutable evidence against him and thus no effective means of handling, since the senatus consultum ultimum was primarily directed against the open revolt of Manlius. Cicero therefore tried to lure Catiline, so to speak, from her reserve with the sharp attacks in his first speech against Catiline and to persuade her to leave the city voluntarily, which finally happened on the same day.

The problem of the Senatus Consultum Ultimum

Joseph Vogt writes the following about this problem: “This speech is a brilliant rhetorical achievement, an excellent tactical move and at the same time a unique indictment of the government, which, without knowing it or wanting to, has announced the impotence of the res publica. [...] So the consul, in the general fear of jurisdiction and authority, had to try to drive Catiline to open riot and to create a fait accompli for the wavering Senate for a later statement. "Vogt already speaks here of the problem of legal interpretation des senatus consultum ultimum , which was to come to the fore at a later point, namely in the debate about the execution of the Catilinarians. In any case, Catilina left the meeting before the end of the meeting and set out for Faesulae to meet Manlius, but spread the rumor that he would go into exile in Massilia . The next morning, Cicero spoke to the people (“Second Speech against Catiline”) to report on the state of affairs and to calm the masses.

Catiline is declared an enemy of the state

Catiline, who had been declared an enemy of the state ( hostis ) with Manlius in mid-November , was no longer in Rome herself, but the conspirators he had left behind were still in the city. Since there was nothing against them other than a mere suspicion, they continued to pose a latent threat.

Furthermore, the measures of the government provided that Antonius Hybrida should take over the supreme command of the army to take action against the insurgents outside Rome, whereas Cicero should ensure peace in the city. Meanwhile, Catilina's followers stirred up the unrest in Gaul, Picenum, Bruttium and Apulia; However, these were quickly contained by the government troops. Catiline continued to attract large numbers of visitors, but refused to accept escaped slaves. Since the majority of his army was insufficiently armed, he initially avoided open combat in order to wait for the revolution in the city itself.

The arrest of the conspirators in Rome

The plans of Catiline were thwarted when an embassy of the Gallic Allobrogians turned to the consul with the information that the conspirators had asked them for assistance. Cicero then used a ruse to come into possession of irrefutable evidence. The allobrogans should seek written confirmation from the conspirators of the rewards they should receive for participating. The corresponding documents were then actually issued and intercepted by the two praetors Lucius Valerius Flaccus and Gaius Pomptinus on the night of December 3rd on the Milvian Bridge . Shortly afterwards, the conspirators Publius Gabinius Capito , Statilius , Cethegus, Lentulus and Marcus Caeparius were arrested. On the morning of December 3, Cicero had the Senate meet in the Temple of Concordia as soon as possible to present the evidence to the Senators. In order to avoid any doubts, the intercepted letters, in which the names of the conspirators were named, were only opened in the Senate and before the eyes of those present; At the same time, the meeting and the statements of those arrested were recorded by several senators. On the evening of the same day, Cicero announced the results of the meeting in the course of his third Catilinarian speech in the popular assembly. The next day, December 4th, the Senate continued its deliberations. It was during this meeting that rumors finally arose that Crassus or Caesar were behind the conspiracy; However, this turned out to be obviously unfounded.

The debate about the execution of the imprisoned conspirators

During the session it became known that clients of Lentulus and Cethegus were trying to get the people on their side and free the detainees, whereupon stronger security measures were decided. On December 5, the Senate met again in the Temple of Concordia to discuss what to do with the conspirators. Cicero had the senatus consultum ultimum in his hands; but as he himself, because of the risk of a revolt in the city, threatened with a liberation of the leader of the death penalty considered as the only effective way he wanted to before, the Senate majority assure to not later because of the unlawful execution of Roman citizens held responsible to become. The uncertainty of Cicero is also evident in the fact that he had the speeches of this session recorded so that everything could be documented later. The problem was that, as consul, Cicero had special dictatorial powers to combat this uprising within the framework of the emergency resolution, but these clashed with the lex Sempronia de provocatione . This law made it possible for every Roman citizen to address ( provocatio ) the people in the event of the death penalty and regulated the prosecution of the offending magistrates. To this day, researchers have disagreed as to how far the consuls' powers went in this case. This disagreement regarding the interpretation of the SCU ( senatus consultum ultimum ), which was not a codified state law, but a traditional law, i.e. a mos maiorum , seems to have existed between popular and optimistic people in antiquity as well. The different standpoints of Caesar and Cato in the Senate speeches that have come down to us arise from this fact. Caesar demanded the confiscation of the conspirators' property and a life sentence . Cicero, however, argued that an enemy of the state had lost his civil rights and that nothing stood in the way of an immediate execution. Cato demanded the execution of the conspirators as serious criminals according to the custom of the ancestors. It is obvious that Cicero and Cato, who were not interested in enabling the conspirators to address the people (provocatio), did not address the lex Sempronia de provocatione . The fact that Caesar did not refer to them, however, suggests that he did not fully represent the position of the Populares in this case. Moreover, it should be noted that Caesar's demand that the conspirators be arrested would have left enough time later to hold a proper trial. But Caesar also speaks out against this due process. As Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg observes, “on December 5th it was not a question of a judgment or the intended punishments, but rather the strictest possible measures.” In any case, Cato's speech was decisive, and the decision to execute the captured Catilinarians was decided completed the same evening.

The last fight

Due to the development in Rome, Catiline lost more and more followers in the city. He therefore tried to retreat with his army to Gaul in order to continue to operate from there. In the battle of Pistoria , however, his troops were provided by two consular armies. Despite the numerical inferiority of his army, he decided to attack, but was defeated after tough resistance and with high losses for both sides. Catiline herself was also killed in the battle.

Processing in art

Ben Jonson published his drama Catiline, His Conspiracy in 1611 .

The Catilinarian Conspiracy is the charge of a two-act dramma tragicomico by Antonio Salieri with a text by Giovanni Battista Casti . The work, written between 1790 and 1792, was never played during Salieri's lifetime because of its numerous political allusions; the premiere took place in 1994 in the Hessian State Theater in Darmstadt in a greatly abridged version and in a German translation by Josef Heinzelmann. In their parable-like music theater, Salieri and Casti show the Roman state as an autocratic machine of power, the great speaker Cicero appears satirically distorted as a stuttering bundle of nerves. Catilina sleeps through the uprising he has instigated, while Cato childishly laments the decay of morals. In the end, Cicero and Cato celebrate themselves as victorious over the revolutionaries, showered with litany-like praise from a double choir.

Henrik Ibsen published his first three-act drama Catilina under the pseudonym "Brynjolf Bjarme" in 1850 , which he wrote while preparing for his Abitur.

The Italian painter Cesare Maccari created the fresco Cicero's speech against Catiline in 1888 , which shows the scene in the Senate in which Cicero, in his first speech, pointed out to Catiline how isolated he was in the Senate.

The conspiracy is portrayed in numerous historical novels. She plays a central role in Bertolt Brecht's novel The Business of Mr. Julius Caesar , in Robert Harris ' Titan , in the SPQR series by John Maddox Roberts (Volume 2 The Catiline Conspiracy) and also in Valerij Nikolaevskij's Страшный патриций (Strašnyj patricij) .


Sources and Comments

Research literature

  • Heinz Bellen , Fundamentals of Roman History. From the royal era to the transition from the republic to the principality, Darmstadt 1995²
  • Klaus Bringmann , Sallust's handling of historical truth in his presentation of the Catilinarian Conspiracy, in: Philologus 116 (1972), pp. 38–113
  • Karl Büchner , Sallust, Heidelberg 1982²
  • Karl Christ , Crisis and Fall of the Roman Republic, Darmstadt 1979
  • Hans Drexler , The Catilinarian Conspiracy. A source booklet, Darmstadt 1976
  • Herbert Engemann , Catilina speaks to the conspirators. Report on an interpretation of Sallust, Coniuratio Catilinae 20.2–17, with special consideration of the political as a teaching principle, AU 5/5 (1962), pp. 27–33
  • Rudolf Fehrle , Cato Uticensis, Darmstadt 1983
  • Thomas Frigo , M. Porcius Cato (Uticensis) [I 7], in: DNP, Vol. 10, Stuttgart 2001, Col. 158-161
  • Gino Funaioli , C. Sallustius Crispus [10], in: RE II Hbd. 1, Stuttgart 1920, Col. 1913–1955
  • Matthias Gelzer , Caesar. The politician and statesman, Wiesbaden 1960
  • Matthias Gelzer, Cicero. A biographical attempt, Wiesbaden 1969
  • Thomas Gelzer , L. Sergius Catilina [23], in: RE II Hbd. 4, Stuttgart 1923, Col. 1693-1711
  • Paul Groebe , Gaius Iulius Caesar [131], in: RE I Hbd. 19, Stuttgart 1918, Sp. 186-259
  • Ingemar König , The Roman State I. The Republic, Stuttgart 1992
  • Hugh Last , Sallust and Caesar in the Bellum Catilinae, in: Sallust, ed. by Viktor Pöschl, Darmstadt 1970, pp. 206-223
  • Kurt Latte , Sallust, Darmstadt 1962²
  • Gabriele Ledworuski , Historiographical Contradictions in Sallust's Monograph on the Catilinarian Conspiracy. Studies in Classical Philology 89, ed. by Michael von Albrecht , Frankfurt am Main 1994
  • Duane A. March , "Cicero and the 'Gang of Five'" in: Classical World Vol. 82, No. 4 (1989), pp. 225-234
  • Siegfried Mendner , Videant Consules, in: Philologus 110 (1966), pp. 258-267
  • Franz Miltner , M. Porcius Cato Uticensis [16], in: RE I Hbd. 43, Stuttgart 1953, Sp. 168-211
  • Viktor Pöschl , The speeches of Caesar and Catos in Sallusts Catilina, in: Sallust, ed. by Viktor Pöschl, Darmstadt 1970, pp. 368–397
  • Stephan Schmal , Sallust, Darmstadt 2001
  • Peter L. Schmidt , C. Sallustius Crispus [II 3], in: DNP, vol. 10, Stuttgart 2001, col. 1254-1258
  • Ludwig Schmüdderich , The image of Caesar in Sallust's “Conspiracy of Catiline”, AU 5/5 (1962), pp. 43–51
  • Eduard Schwartz , The Reports on the Catilinarian Conspiracy, In: Hermes 32 (1897), pp. 554–608
  • Otto Seel , Sallust. From the letters ad Caesarem to the Coniuratio Catilinae, Erlangen 1929
  • Otto Seel, Catilina, AU 1/1 (1951), pp. 5-35
  • Wolf Steidle , Sallust historical monographs. Choice of subject and historical picture ( Historia Einzelschriften 3 ), Wiesbaden 1958
  • Ronald Syme , Sallust, Darmstadt 1975
  • Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg , The proceedings against the Catilinarians or: The avoided process, in: Great processes of Roman antiquity, ed. by Ulrich Manthe and Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg, Munich 1997, pp. 85-99
  • Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg, Catilina, in: DNP, Vol. 2, Stuttgart 1997, Sp. 1029-1031
  • Joseph Vogt , Cicero and Sallust on the Catilinarian Conspiracy, Darmstadt 1966 (ND, first Frankfurt / M. 1938)
  • Karl Vretska , The structure of the Bellum Catilinae, Hermes 72 (1937), pp. 202–222
  • Kenneth H. Waters , Cicero, Sallust and Catiline, in: Historia 19 (1970), pp. 195-215
  • Wolfgang Will , Julius Caesar. A balance sheet, Stuttgart 1992
  • Wolfgang Will, Caesar. I. Historisch, in: DNP, Vol. 2, Stuttgart 1997, Sp. 908-916
  • Walter Wimmel , The temporal anticipations in Sallusts Catilina, in: Hermes 95 (1967), pp. 192–221

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Hall. Catil. 18th
  2. ^ R. Seager, The First Catilinarian Conspiracy , in: Historia 13 (1964), pp. 338-347
  3. Ronald Syme , Sallust , University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles 1964, pp. 88 ff.