Sergius Catilina, Lucius

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Of patrician, but not recently distinguished, family, served with Pompey and Cicero under Pompeius Strabo in the Social War. He next appears as a lieutenant of Sulla both in the fighting after Sulla's invasion of Italy and in the proscriptions. After his praetorship (68 bc), he governed Africa for two years. Prosecuted for extortion on his return, he was prevented from standing for the consulship for 65 and 64, but was finally acquitted with the help of his prosecutor Clodius Pulcher. Frustrated ambition now became his driving force. In the elections for 63 he made a compact with Antonius ‘Hybrida’ and gained the support of Caesar and Licinius Crassus, but was defeated by Cicero. He then began to champion the cause of the poor and dispossessed. Again defeated for 62, he organized a widespread conspiracy with ramifications throughout Italy. Cicero, kept informed by his spies but lacking support, could not take decisive action, for Catiline—an old Sullan, a patrician, and now a demagogue—was both popular and well connected. In November Cicero succeeded in frightening Catiline into leaving Rome to join a force of destitute veterans in Etruria. Soon afterwards, some Allobrogan envoys, carelessly given letters by conspirators in Rome, provided Cicero with the written evidence he needed. The leaders of the conspiracy in Rome were arrested and, after a long debate and a vote in the senate, executed. The consul Antonius marched out against Catiline, who was caught between two armies and was defeated by Petreius and killed. Cicero was hailed as saviour of Rome, but was open to the charge of having executed citizens without trial.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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