But at power or wealth, for the sake of which wars, and all kinds of strife, arise among mankind, we do not aim; we desire only our liberty, which no honorable man relinquishes but with life.
- Caius Manilus, rebel general, Conspiracy of Catiline XXXIII
In 62 BC, noble-born Lucius Sergius Catilina capitalized on the grievances of the agrarian class: debt, poverty, lack of voice in government, and organized these disgruntled men into an army to overthrow the Roman Senate. The plot was foiled by Cicerco (Catiline's successful rival for the consulship), and the rebel army ran around for a little until confronted. But "when the battle was over, it was plainly seen what boldness, and what energy of spirit, had prevailed throughout the army of Catiline; for, almost everywhere, every soldier, after yielding up his breath, covered with his corpse the spot which he had occupied when alive. A few, indeed, whom the praetorian cohort had dispersed, had fallen somewhat differently, but all with wounds in front," says Sallust. "Catiline was found far away from his own soldiers among the corpses of his enemies. It would have been a glorious death if he had thus fallen fighting for his country," says Florus. Historians are convinced of his bravery, but will forever be skeptical about the sincerity of his ideals.
The story etched itself into me after rushing in late to my Ancient Mediterranean discussion with a mind full of this strange leader who was his own bravest soldier, only to find all the other students denouncing him as a depraved demagogue. So what! I can't know what kind of person I would have been in those times, but with such a stale Senate in power, I would have wanted to fight together with him.
Sallust's opinion I have to account for, but Cicero is something like an asshole.
His delight, from his youth, had been in civil commotions, bloodshed, robbery, and sedition...His insatiable ambition was always pursuing objects extravagant, romantic, and unattainable.
- Sallust, historian, Conspiracy of Catiline, V
...Nor do I believe that there ever existed so strange a prodigy upon the earth, made up in such a manner of the most various, and different and inconsistent studies and desires.
- Cicero, asshole, Pro Caelio V