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Preparations for the Consulship, B.C. 65—64

So far Cicero had risen steadily and without serious difficulty up the official ladder. But the stress was now to come. The old families seem not to have been so ready to oppose the rise of the novus homo to the praetorship. It was the consulship on which they tried to keep a tight hand. Accordingly, immediately after the year of his praetorship, we find him anxiously looking out for support and inquiring who are likely to be his competitors. The interesting point in regard to this is his connexion with Catiline. In his speech in the senate delivered in the following year (in toga candida, B.C. 64) he denounced Catiline in the most violent language, accusing him of every conceivable crime; yet in B.C. 65 he not only contemplated being elected with him without any expression of disgust, but even considered whether he should not undertake his defence on some charge that was being brought against him—perhaps for his conduct during the Sullan proscriptions. To whitewash Catiline is a hopeless task; and it throws a lurid light upon the political and moral sentiments of the time to find Cicero even contemplating such a conjunction.

After this, for two years, there is a break in the correspondence. Atticus had probably returned to Rome, and if there were letters to others (as no doubt there were) they have been lost. A certain light is thrown on the proceedings of the year of candidature (B.C. 64) by the essay "On the duties of a candidate," ascribed to his brother Quintus, who was himself to be a candidate for the praetorship in the next year (B.C. 63). We may see from this essay that Pompey was still regarded as the greatest and most influential man at Rome; that Catiline's character was so atrocious in the eyes of most, that his opposition was not to be feared; that Cicero's "newness " was a really formidable bar to his election, and that his chief support was to be looked for from the individuals and companies for whom he had acted as counsel, and who hoped to secure his services in the future. The support of the nobles was not a certainty. There had been a taint of popularity in some of Cicero's utterances, and the writer urges him to convince the consulars that he was at one with the Optimates, while at the same time aiming at the conciliation of the equestrian order. This was, in fact, to be Cicero's political position in the future. The party of the Optimates—in spite of his disgust at the indifference and frivolity of many of them—was to be his party: his favourite constitutional object was to be to keep the equites and the senate on good terms: and his greatest embarrassment was how to reconcile this position with his personal loyalty to Pompey, and his views as to the reforms necessary in the government of the provinces.

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