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Catilina and the execution of M. Marius Gratidianus

  • Bruce Marshall (a1)

The ancient tradition is strong that the execution of M. Marius Gratidianus during the Sullan proscriptions was carried out by L. Sergius Catilina. The earliest evidence comes from several passages in Cicero's speech in toga candida, delivered just before the consular elections in 64 and designed to rake up as much prejudice as possible against his two main rival candidates, Catilina and C. Antonius (Hybrida). While in none of the passages does Cicero specifically mention the executioner or the victim, it is Asconius commenting on the passages (which are preserved for us as lemmata in his commentary on the speech) who reveals that Catilina was the executioner and Marius Gratidianus the victim. We do not have a great deal of the speech in toga candida left (and we are indebted to Asconius for what we do have of it); if we did have the whole speech, it is clear that we would have been given the name by Cicero himself.

The Ciceronian version (if that term may be used for convenience) is that the head of Gratidianus was cut off by Catilina, carried in his hands through the city from the Janiculum to the temple of Apollo, and delivered to Sulla still full of life and breath. This version is followed by Plutarch (Sull. 32.2). A variation can be found, as early as Sallust (and so for convenience it may be called the Sallustian version — not that the two versions are necessarily to be regarded as mutually exclusive). There is a fragment of the historiae which says that Gratidianus died after his arms and legs had been broken and his eyes gouged out, so that he expired as it were through each and every limb. There is nothing about his head being cut off and carried about, nor is there any mention of Catilina as the executioner. While the details of the torture and mutilation become progressively more gory, this version is followed by Livy (per. 88), Valerius Maximus (9.2.1), Lucan (2.173–93), and Florus (2.9.26 = 3.21.26).

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J. P. V. D. Balsdon , CQ n.s. 13 (1963), 249–50

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The Classical Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0009-8388
  • EISSN: 1471-6844
  • URL: /core/journals/classical-quarterly
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