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Three Catilinarian Dates

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2012


I. The date of the consular election in 63 B.C.—Cicero in his speech Pro Murena, which was delivered in November, 63 B.C, after Catiline quitted Rome, said that before the consular election of that year Catiline used to appear in public surrounded by troops from Faesulae and Arretium, and that in a private gathering (contione domestica) he had declared that the only true champion of the wretched was one who shared their wretchedness, that they should put no trust in the promises of the well-to-do, and that their destined leader must be utterly fearless and conspicuously miserable. The Senate, he reminded the jury, decreed therefore on his motion that the election, which had been fixed for the following day, should be postponed, in order that there might be an opportunity of discussing Catiline's conduct. On the following day, accordingly, he challenged Catiline to explain; and Catiline made the reply, which has been so often quoted, that in the State there were two bodies, one feeble with a weak head, the other strong but without a head. The Senate, Cicero thought, did not on this occasion act with sufficient vigour, for some could not realize that there was any danger, while others were too timid; and Catiline stalked triumphantly out of the House. Cicero, taking alarm at the slackness of the Senate and knowing that Catiline was bringing armed conspirators to the Field of Mars, went thither himself wearing a breastplate and accompanied by a bodyguard; whereupon all the respectable electors, seeing, as he had intended, that he was in peril, rallied round Murena. Then followed the election, in which Murena and Silanus were returned.

Research Article
Copyright ©T. Rice Holmes 1918. Exclusive Licence to Publish: The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies

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page 15 note 1 Since the appearance of C. John's famous dissertation in Jahrb. f. class. Philol. viii. Suppl. 1876 (see pp. 749–55) the view that the election was held on October 28 has been generally abandoned, at least in Germany; but as I came to the same conclusion independently before I read his pages, I let what I have written stand, because without it the paragraphs in which, differing from him, I try to establish approximately the true date would not be clear.

page 15 note 2 24–6, §§ 49–52.

page 15 note 3 cf. Pro Murena, 2. 3, 37. 79, 39. 83–4 with in cal. ii, 3, 6, Pro Sulla, 18, 52, and Sall. Cat. 32, 1.

page 15 note 4 2, 4.

page 15 note 5 See pp. 20–25.

page 15 note 6 In Pison. ed. A. C. Clark, p. 5, 16–21; p. 6, 1–8 (ed. Kiessling-Schoell, p. 5; ed. T. Stangl, 1912, p. 14).

page 16 note 1 Given the date (November 8), which I shall presently establish, of Cicero's first oration against Catiline, it has always seemed to me evident that the senatus consultum was passed on October 22; but since I wrote the rough draft of this article I have found that C. John (Philol. xlvi, 1888, pp. 663–4) fixed that date by an ingenious argument. Heretofore, he remarks, it has been almost universally believed on the combined evidence of Cicero (in Cat. i, 3, 7), Sallust (Cat. 29, 2), Plutarch (Cic. 15, 3), and Dio (xxxvii, 31, 1–2) that the date was October 21. If the reader will look up these texts, he will see the reason for the erroneous belief: Cicero, the only one of the four who mentions a date, reminds Catiline of a prophecy and a statement which he himself had made in the Senate on October 21; and the commentators jumped to the conclusion that this session of the Senate was the same as that in which the senatus consultum ultimum was passed. But John argues that Dio distinguishes between two sessions, in the first of which anonymous letters of warning about the projected massacre were read and a state of war in Italy was proclaimed, in the second the senatus consultum ultimum was passed; and he cites Dio, xli, 3, 3 to show that a distinction was drawn between the proclamation of a state of war in Italy (tumultus) and the senatus consultum ultimum. Any one who may be dissatisfied with this argument must assume that Asconius made a mistake. Dr. E. G. Hardy, to whose writings I owe much, incorrectly says (Journal of Roman Studies, vi, 1916, p. 56) that ‘All agree that, the date of the [ultimate] decree is proved by in Cat. i, 3, 7 to have been … 21st October’: evidently he has not read or has forgotten John's article. Like John, he infers (pp. 57–8) from the narrative of Dio that there were ‘two meetings of the senate, and not one only’; but he argues that ‘the first was two days earlier than the second’, for, Asconius notwithstanding, he thinks it ‘incredible … that Cicero, whatever his liking for round numbers, should have declared to a senatorial audience that its exceptional authority had been called into existence twenty days before, if every senator present knew that it was really only eighteen’. Even supposing that it is incredible, I reply that the extant speech was written by Cicero, when no senators were present, three years after he delivered his invective against Catiline (Att. ii, 1, 3); and if Cicero told the people on December 3 that Catiline had quitted Rome ‘a few days before’ (paucis ante diebus erupit ex urbe [in Cat. iii, 1, 3]), though the real date was November 8, is it incredible that he loosely said ‘the twentieth’ instead of ‘the eighteenth’? At all events Dr. Hardy is not justified in saying that ‘Cicero was making a statement which he could show to be literally true’, for he himself maintains (p. 56) that ‘Asconius is correct in asserting that Cicero's first speech in the senate was delivered on the “octavus decimus dies” after the passing of the last decree’; and the attempt which he makes (p. 58) to show that ‘the “octavus decimus dies” of Asconius and the “vicesimum diem” of Cicero’ were both ‘literally true’ will not, I think, convince his readers.

page 16 note 2 In Cat. i, 3, 7.

page 16 note 3 Cat. 26, 5; 27, 1. 8; 29, 1. 2.

page 16 note 4 Cic. 14, 1; 15, 1.2.

page 16 note 5 xxxvii, 29–31.

page 17 note 1 Röm. Gesch. iii8, 1889, p. 184 (Eng. tr. iv, 1908, p. 475).

page 17 note 2 Gesch. Roms. v2, 1912, pp. 472–3.

page 17 note 3 There is no evidence, as the reader will have noticed, that Catiline planned to murder any one on the day of the election, except Cicero.

page 17 note 4 Röm. Alt. iii, 1871, p. 241.

page 17 note 5 Aug. 5, 1.

page 17 note 6 Aug. 94, 5.

page 18 note 1 p. xx, n. 18.

page 18 note 2 Class. Quart. vi, 1912, pp. 73–4.

page 18 note 3 Röm. Chronol. 1885, p. 333.

page 18 note 4 See my Ancient Britain, pp. 714–26. In the Classical Quarterly, xiv, 1920, pp. 46–7, I have given further reasons. On p. 47, l. 2, for 26th read 25th.

page 18 note 5 op. cit. pp. 742, 749, 758, 762–3.

page 18 note 6 ib. p. 759.

page 18 note 7 ib. p. 758.

page 19 note 1 102.

page 19 note 2 op. cit. p. 756.

page 19 note 3 Pro Mur. 25, 51.

page 19 note 4 ib.

page 19 note 5 ib. 24, 49.

page 19 note 6 xxxvii, 29, 2–5.

page 19 note 7 op. cit. p. 743.

page 19 note 8 ib. p. 744.

page 19 note 9 Boissier, G. (La conjuration de Catilina, 1905, p. 112 and n. 1)Google Scholar, whose judgement is sounder than John's, supports my view. ‘Tout ce qu'on peut croire,’ he says, ‘c'est qu'à partir de l'échec de Catilina, la conjuration dut prendre un caractère particulier de violence.’

page 20 note 1 Groebe (W. Drumann's Gesch. Roms, v2, 1912, p. 473, n. 1), who follows John, stultifies himself by affirming the coincidence of September 22, 63 B.C. with September 23, 691.

page 20 note 2 Cic. Pro Sulla, 18, 52.

page 20 note 3 In Cat. i, 1, 1.

page 20 note 4 ib. 4, 8.

page 20 note 5 John, C. (Philol. xlvi, 1888, pp. 650–65) has elaborately demomnstrated the correctness of the date which I have fixed: but it has been recently disputed (see pp. 23–5 infra); and in order to make the remainder of this paper clear, I again let what I have independently written stand.Google Scholar

page 20 note 6 Hermes, i 1866, pp. 435–7Google Scholar.

page 21 note 1 In Cat. i, 4, 9–10.

page 21 note 2 ib. ii, 6, 12.

page 21 note 3 Cat. 28, 1.

page 21 note 4 18, 52.

page 21 note 5 Proc. Amer. Philol. Assn. xxxv, 1904, pp. lxxiii–lxxvi.

page 22 note 1 Mommsen (op. cit. p. 436) characteristically urges that it was characteristic of Cicero to gloze over the interval between the mornings of November 7 and 8 (Dass er diese Zwischenzeit nach Möglichkeit in dem Schatten stellt und für die Zuhörer verschwinden lässt, ist ganz in seiner Weise). As John acutely remarks (Jahrb. f. class. Philol. viii, Suppl. 1876, p. 778, n. 50), Mommsen forgot that Cicero was addressing an audience many of whom had heard from his own lips when the attempt to murder him was made. This argument is unanswerable except on the assumption that the relevant sentence in Cicero's written version of his speech does not represent what he said.

page 22 note 2 Philol. 1888, p. 657.

page 22 note 3 Cicero's ausgewählte Reden, iii13, 1891, p. 10.

page 22 note 4 As John observes (Jahrb. f. class. Philol. etc. p. 784, note), the people whom Cicero addressed knew perfectly well when the attempt had been made to murder him, and he therefore could say Hesterno die … convocavi without the least risk of being misunderstood.

page 23 note 1 In Cat. i, 1, 1.

page 23 note 2 Jahrb. f. class. Philol. etc. pp. 784–5, note.

page 23 note 3 Philol. 1888, p. 657.

page 23 note 4 Beiträge zur catilin. Vorschwörung, 1910, pp. 1–4.

page 23 note 5 Cic. 16, 2.

page 24 note 1 See Willems, P., Le sénat, etc. ii, 1883, pp. 147–8.Google Scholar

page 25 note 1 Sall. Cat. 31, 6–7. Cf. Besser, J., De coniuratione Catilinaria, 1880, p. 32Google Scholar.

page 25 note 2 Dr.Hardy, (Journal of Roman Studies, vi, 1916, pp. 56–7)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, though he of course assumes that only one meeting, that of November 6, took place in the house of Laeca, nevertheless maintains, like Wirtz, that Cicero delivered his first oration on the following day, because, first, it is ‘inconceivable that Cicero would have waited till the 8th‘, and, secondly, ‘in i, 4, 8 … superior is equivalent to prior’, the meaning of which is ‘incontrovertible.’ The first argument has been answered by anticipation: with the statement on which the second rests I entirely agree.