previous next
But previously1 to this period, a small number of persons, among whom was Catiline, had formed a design against the state: of which affair I shall here give as accurate account as I am able.

Under the consulship of Lucius Tullus and Marcus Lepidus, Publius Autronius and Publius Sylla,2 having been tried for bribery under the laws against it,3 had paid the penalty of the offense. Shortly after Catiline, being brought to trial for extortion,4 had been prevented from standing for the consulship, because he had been unable to declare himself a candidate within the legitimate number of days.5 There was at that time, too, a young patrician of the most daring spirit, needy and discontented, named Cneius Piso,6 whom poverty and vicious principles instigated to disturb the government. Catiline and Autronius,7 having concerted measures with this Piso, prepared to assassinate the consuls, Lucius Cotta and Lucius Torquatus, in the Capitol, on the first of January,8 when they, having seized on the fasces, were to send Piso with an army to take possession of the two Spains.9 But their design being discovered, they postponed the assassination to the fifth of February; when they meditated the destruction, not of the consuls only, but of most of the senate. And had not Catiline, who was in front of the senate-house, been too hasty to give the singal to his associates, there would that day have been perpetrated the most atrocious outrage since the city of Rome was founded. But as the armed conspirators had not yet assembled in sufficient numbers, the want of force frustrated the design.

1 XVIII. But previously, etc.] Sallust here makes a digression, to give an account of a conspiracy that was formed three years before that of Catiline.

2 Publius Autronius and Publius Sylla] The same who are mentioned in the preceding chapter. They were consuls elect, and some editions have the words designati consoles immediately following their names.

3 Having been tried for bribery under the laws against it] “Legibus ambitûs interrogati.” Bribery at their election, is the meaning of the word ambitus, for ambire, as Cortius observes, is circumeundo favorem et suffragia quærere. De Brosses translates the passage thus: "Autrone et Sylla, convaincus d'avoir obtenu le consulat par corruption des suffrages, avaient été punis selon la rigueur de la loi." There were several very severe Roman laws against bribery. Autronius and Sylla were both excluded from the consulship.

4 For extortion] “Pecuniarum repetundarum.” Catiline had been prætor in Africa and, at the expiration of his office, was accused of extortion by Publius Clodius, on the part of the Africans. He escaped by bribing the prosecutor and judges.

5 To declare himself a candidate within the legitimate number of days] “Prohibitus erat consulatum petere, quòd intra legitimos dies profiteri” (se candidatum, says Cortius, citing Suet. Aug. 4) nequiverit. A person could not be a candidate for the consulship, unless he could declare himself free from accusation within a certain number of days before the time of holding the comitia centuriata. That number of days was trinundinum spatium, that is, the time occupied by three market-days, tres nundinæ with seven days intervening between the first and second, and between the second and third; or seventeen days. The nundinæ (from novem and dies) were held, as it is commonly expressed, every ninth day; whence Cortius and others considered trinundinum spatium to be twenty-seven, or even thirty days; but this way of reckoning was not that of the Romans, who made the last day of the first ennead to be also the first day of the second. Concerning the nundinæ see Macrob. Sat. i. 16. " Müller and Longius most erroneously supposed the trinundinum to be about thirty days; for that it embraced only seventeen days has been fully shown by Ernesti, Clav. Cic., sub voce ; by Scheller in Lex. Ampl., p. 11, 669 ; by Nitschius Antiquitt. Romm. i. p. 623; and by Drachenborch (cited by Gerlach) ad Liv. iii. 35." Kritzius.

6 Cneius Piso] Of the Calpurnian gens. Suetonius (Vit. Cæs., c. 9) mentions three authors who related that Crassus and Cæsar were both concerned in this plot; and that, if it had succeeded, Crassus was to have assumed the dictatorship, and made Cæsar his master of the horse. The conspiracy, as these writers state, failed through the remorse or irresolution of Crassus.

7 Catiline and Autronius] After these two names, in Havercamp's and many other editions, follow the words “circiter nonas Decembres,” i.e., about the fifth of December.

8 On the first of January] “Kalendis Januariis.” On this day the consuls were accustomed to enter on their office. The consuls whom they were going to kill, Cotta and Torquatus, were those who had been chosen in the place of Autronius and Sylla.

9 The two Spains] Hither and Thither Spain. “Hispania Citerior” and “Ulterior,” as they were called by the Romans.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (Axel W. Ahlberg, 1919)
load focus Latin
load focus Latin (Axel W. Ahlberg, 1919)
hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide References (37 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: