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For more than a century before the Empire was established, Rome was a republic only in name, since the government was in the hands not of the people, but of the Senate. In earlier times the Senate, composed of the ablest and most experienced men in the state, had exercised a wise and beneficent control over the people. But the conquest of foreign territory, and the subsequent establishment of the provinces, had wrought a great change in the character of its members. Once they had been famous for their integrity and patriotism; now they were a selfish, sordid body of men, whose highest ambition was to enrich themselves by plundering the provinces. Their families constituted an exclusive aristocracy, as proud and arrogant as were the patricians of the early republic.

And yet, although the Senate had shown itself utterly unworthy and incompetent to rule, it took more than a hundred years to overthrow it. C. Gracchus made a vigorous attack upon it, B.c. 121, but he failed to accomplish anything permanent. In 87, the Marian party triumphed for a time, but its rule was worse than that of the Senate, and the inevitable reaction came on the return of Sulla from the far East. Then followed a period in which the Senate seemed to be possessed of all its old-time power. But beneath the surface there was an ever increasing restlessness which found occasional vent in startling plots among the people against the government.


He was,

Of the many attempts that were made to wreck the existing order of things, the conspiracy of Catiline must be regarded as by far the most daring and insidious. Its leader, Catiline, was an extraordinary character. Born B.C. 108, of a most noble but impoverished family, he early distinguished himself by his recklessness in crime. His bloodthirstiness during Sulla's proscriptions may be partly explained as the natural effect of such frightful scenes upon a fierce, revengeful disposition. But his subsequent crimes, among which was the deliberate murder of his own son, are evidences of the utter lack of any moral sense. however, a consummate actor, and could play any rôle he chose to assume. This, together with great personal magnetism, gave him a certain popularity and leadership, which encouraged him, notwithstanding his crime-stained career, to hope for the highest honors.

In 68 he was praetor, and in the following year he went as propraetor to govern the province of Africa. Not content with this, he returned before the close of his term, with the expectation of securing the consulship. But, being charged with extortion by representatives from Africa, he failed to obtain the consul's consent to his candidacy. Toward the end of the year, he took some part in the abortive "conspiracy of 66." In 65 he was again prevented from being a candidate for the consulship by the trial for extortion, which was still pending. At last, getting clear of this, he made an active canvass in 64 for the next year's consulship. Fortunately for the government, the senatorial party became alarmed at his radical programme, and cast its votes for Cicero, electing the latter by a large majority. Antonius received a few more votes than Catiline, and became Cicero's colleague. Nothing daunted, Catiline was once more a candidate in 63, but was defeated, mainly through the efforts of Cicero.


Until this last election it is not probable that Catiline had actually resolved upon anything illegal. Now, however, his case was desperate. He saw that the time was ripe for a conspiracy.

Many of the young nobles were heavily in debt and might easily be induced to turn against their own party by promises of proscriptions.

The veterans of Sulla had squandered their ill-gotten property and were longing for another dictatorship.

The people in the country districts of Italy were overwhelmed by debt, besides being thoroughly disgusted at the misrule of the Senate.

The ignorant city mob might be depended upon to favor any course, however desperate, which would embarrass or overthrow the ruling party.

To these four classes Catiline could appeal with every chance of success. He had long been a leader of the young nobility in every sort of vice and crime. He had served under Sulla, and would therefore be supported by his vet

He had made himself popular with the lower classes, both in the country and city. His determination was, therefore, soon taken. It was no longer a conspiracy, but a war that he planned, - Bellum Catilinae.

For several months he made secret preparations in Rome and throughout Italy. His design was to murder the leading citizens, set the city on fire, bring in his army, and then reign supreme, as Sulla had. Fortunately, Cicero was secretly informed of all his movements. On October 21, B.C. 63, the consul called the Senate together and laid the evidence before it. That body immediately passed the famous resolution that the consuls should see that the state suffered no harm. Catiline, however, was not to be frightened, and persisted in his plans. On the night of November 6th, the conspirators met by appointment at the house of Laeca, and two of their


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number volunteered to assassinate Cicero. But the latter was apprised of their intention and prevented the attack.

On November 8th, after taking unusual precautions against an uprising, Cicero convoked the Senate in the temple of Jupiter Stator. Catiline actually had the audacity to be present. Then Cicero, in fierce indignation at the man's effrontery, burst forth with what has been called his First Oration against Catiline. The facts which Cicero presented in regard to the conspiracy were so conclusive that Catiline thought it wise to leave Rome that very night, and hasten northward to the force which his lieutenant Manlius had gathered at Faesulae in Etruria. On the following morning, November 9th, Cicero addressed the people in the Forum in his Second Oration, exulting in the fact that the arch-conspirator had withdrawn from the city.

Toward the close of November, news came that Catiline had joined Manlius, whereupon the Senate declared them both enemies of the state and directed Antonius to suppress the insurrection.

At about the same time, Cicero defended L. Licinius Murena in a trial for bribery at the consular election, delivering his witty and effective Pro Mūrēnā Ōrātiö, a selection from which appears on page 18.

Meanwhile the conspirators in the city had not been idle. In their desire to get help from every source, they even dared to approach some ambassadors from the disaffected Allobroges, who had come to Rome to seek aid from the Senate. These men, although sorely tempted, finally informed Cicero, and were directed by him to pretend to join the plot, and to obtain, if possible, written proof against the conspirators. This they succeeded in doing, and in consequence five of the leaders were arrested and thrown into prison. On the same day, December 3d, Cicero delivered his Third Oration to the people, giving them the latest information concerning the plot.

There were rumors next day that violence would be employed in freeing the five prisoners. On December 5th, therefore, Cicero assembled the Senate in the Temple of Concord to decide what should be done in the case. At first the sentiment seemed to be in favor of putting them to death immediately, on the ground that they were dangerous traitors to the state. Caesar, however, when his turn came to speak, boldly declared that it was unconstitutional to inflict capital punishment on Roman citizens without allowing them to appeal to the people; he therefore favored life imprisonment for the conspirators. His speech produced a strong impression on the Senate. When it became evident that Caesar's motion might prevail, Cicero delivered his Fourth Oration, in which he claimed that as proven traitors the prisoners could no longer be called Roman citizens, and hence did not come under the provision of the law. He therefore urged that they be immediately sentenced to death. This oration partially turned the tide; but it was left for Cato, in a most powerful and eloquent speech, to finally persuade the Senate that the death penalty was demanded by the danger of the impending crisis. The execution of the prisoners took place immediately, and proved a death-blow to the conspiracy in the city.

For several weeks afterward, Catiline marched hither and thither in the Apennines, seeking to avoid the armies sent against him. At last, in January, B.C. 62, finding his retreat cut off in every direction, he met the legions of Antonius in battle near Pistoria. He and his followers fought desperately against an overwhelmingly superior force, but were finally defeated and slain to a man.

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