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N.S. Gill

Cicero Thwarted an Assassination Attempt

By November 7, 2013

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Cicero Denounces Catiline: Fresco by Cesare Maccari (1840-1919)
This Day in Ancient History: November 7

In 63 B.C., the discontented patrician Catiline and his largely equestrian followers gathered an armed force to march on Rome. Catiline was upset because he had lost his bid for the top office (consul) after a politically charged campaign, in which he had promised debt cancellation, and an election in which Cicero wore a breastplate for personal safety

Cicero Photo © Clipart.com
-- probably, but it could have been for show. Catiline had stayed in Rome while his subordinates gathered the troops outside the city preparing for a coup, but on the 6th of November Catiline met with other conspirators still in Rome, at the house of one of them, M. Porcius Laeca. There they plotted to assassinate Cicero the following morning (November 7). Cicero was warned in advance. The next day he gave his first Catilinarian, a speech against Catiline. It begins:
When, O Catiline, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end of that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now? Do not the nightly guards placed on the Palatine Hill--do not the watches posted throughout the city--does not the alarm of the people, and the union of all good men--does not the precaution taken of assembling the senate in this most defensible place--do not the looks and countenances of this venerable body here present, have any effect upon you? Do you not feel that your plans are detected? Do you not see that your conspiracy is already arrested and rendered powerless by the knowledge which every one here possesses of it? What is there that you did last night, what the night before-- where is it that you were--who was there that you summoned to meet you--what design was there which was adopted by you, with which you think that any one of us is unacquainted?
Perseus translation

This was also the day in 8 B.C. that one of the great Roman patrons of the arts died.


An old, but possibly useful article for teachers interested in making the Orations Against Catiline relevant for students is this one from 1920:
"The Catilinarian Orations: A Milestone in the Progress of Democratic Government,: by Mildred Dean. The Classical Weekly, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Oct. 4, 1920), pp. 2-3.

If you want more on the date, try:
"Times of the Night in Cicero's First Catilinarian," by Theodore Crane. The Classical Journal, Vol. 61, No. 6 (Mar., 1966), pp. 264-267.

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