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Catiline

Catiline (Lucius Sergius Catilina)kătˈĭlĪn, c.108 B.C.–62 B.C., Roman politician and conspirator. At first a conservative and a partisan of Sulla, he was praetor in 68 B.C. and governor of Africa in 67 B.C. The next year he was barred from candidacy for the consulship by false accusations of misconduct in office. Feeling that he had been cheated, he concocted a wild plot to murder the consuls. He and the other conspirators were acquitted (65 B.C.). In 63 B.C. he ran again for consul, but was defeated by the incumbent, Cicero, and the conservative party. He then attempted to take the consulship by force; he sent money for the troops in Etruria and spread lavish promises in Rome. Cicero became alarmed and on Nov. 8, with facts gained from Catiline's mistress, accused him in the senate ( First Oration against Catiline ). Catiline fled to Etruria. The remaining conspirators did not cease activities but even approached some ambassadors of the Allobroges, who reported the whole plot to Cicero. The conspirators were arrested and arraigned in the senate on Dec. 3. On Dec. 5 they were condemned to death and executed, in spite of a most eloquent appeal from Julius Caesar for moderation. Cicero's haste and summary behavior led to a charge by Clodius that these Roman citizens were denied due process of law and Cicero was exiled. Catiline did not surrender; he fell in battle at Pistoia a month later. The prime sources for Catiline's conspiracy are Cicero's four orations against him and Sallust's biography of him, but both of these are prejudiced and unreliable. The affair did little credit to any concerned, except for the honest and patriotic Cato the Younger and possibly for Julius Caesar, who made a daring plea to a vindictive and ruthless majority on behalf of the conspirators whom he scorned.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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