Catilinarian Conspiracy - Did it Really Happen?

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FlatAssembler
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Catilinarian Conspiracy - Did it Really Happen?

Post by FlatAssembler » Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:09 am

So, what do you guys here think, is it reasonable to believe that the Second Catilinarian Conspiracy (that the Cicero's orations "Ad Catilinam" are about) actually happened? I think it isn't. When Caesar said to Cicero he'd like to hear the other side of the story, not just the letters the Cicero's friends supposedly intercepted, people in the senate accused him of being a part of the conspiracy. That's somewhat understandable, but, if you ask me, far from justifiable.

It seems to me there are a few hypotheses that are at least as plausible as the Catiline's conspiracy really having happened:
1) Cicero made it all up for political purposes. Virtually all the information we have about it either comes from Cicero himself, or is written almost a century after the supposed event.
2) Fulvia got angry at Catiline for some reason, made up the conspiracy, and convinced Cicero that it was actually happening. Keep in mind that the contents of the letters the Cicero's friends supposedly intercepted is unknown today, so it's completely possible that:
2a) Cicero misinterpreted the contents of the letters, because he already believed there was a conspiracy targetting him, and he suffered from confirmation bias.
2b) Fulvia faked those letters.
2c) Fulvia made the Cicero's friends fake those letters.

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Re: Catilinarian Conspiracy - Did it Really Happen?

Post by Ronolio » Thu Jul 11, 2019 3:38 pm

Virtually all the information we have about it either comes from Cicero himself, or is written almost a century after the supposed event.
What about Sallust and his Bellum Catalinae? He was in his 20s when it happened and later an associate of Caesar. While of course different from Cicero's account, his work does not contradict Cicero's in most major aspects.

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Re: Catilinarian Conspiracy - Did it Really Happen?

Post by seneca2008 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:35 pm

FlatAssembler wrote:It seems to me there are a few hypotheses that are at least as plausible as the Catiline's conspiracy really having happened:
Although I think your post is a provocation it does raise a few interesting questions.

I don't find your alternative suggestions the least bit persuasive. You would be on safer ground to point out that Cicero framed the events in a particular way which owes more to the demands of republican rhetoric and his own political ends, rather than contemporary ideas of Historical narrative. Referring to letters which you admit we have no direct knowledge of doesn't seem to be a fruitful line of enquiry.

Whatever "actually happened" is irrelevant all we have are texts and our interpretation. I note that contemporary historians are less convinced that Catiline was involved in the so-called "first conspiracy".

Its interesting that in your revision of the events the motivation seems to be an angry elite woman. If I had read that in an ancient text then I would have wondered about its "truth", its too much of a topos in roman historiography.

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