Cicero’s Journal: Rivals for Consulship

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After I left office as Praetor, I quickly began designs on campaigning for the Consulship in my year, which was two years later because of a law mandating a minimum two-year gap between Praetorship and Consulship. Quintus helped me with my campaign strategy and composed several essays providing advice as to who to ally with and how to present myself in order to gain favorable public perception. It was mostly common sense principles, such as to cultivate favor with the aristocrats by persuading them that I had always been in sympathy with the conservative optimates and not with the populares, or the faction of politician in Rome that aims to further their own careers by purporting to represent plebeian, populist interests, of which Gaius Julius Caesar was a member.

Of all my rivals who also aspired to the consulship, Lucius Sergius Cataline was my most serious threat. The formerly disgraced Caius Antonius was both incopmetent and corrupt, but perhaps the first choice of the political establishment.

Nevertheless, Cataline was the real class of my rivals. He was more radical, allied himself with the populares, and made the cancellation of debts his greatest priority. I had known Cataline since my service in the War of the Allies, where we both served on Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo’s military staff. I recognized his ambition and certitude of his own righteousness even then. My suspicions were confirmed when he took part in the murder of my cousin and then Praetor, Marcus Marius Gratidianus, who had accusations against him that had never been proven. Of these accusations, I will not speak.

His unscrupulous track record did not prevent Cataline from reaching the office of Praetor, and later becoming governor of Africa. After he returned to Rome, he recruited debauchees, adulterers, and gamblers, who served as both his personal concubines and bodyguards. He favored the young when recruiting his supporters, and he often turned to disgraced men from the dregs of Roman society. What I must admit is that Cataline had a talent for inspiring his associates. He was a unique and talented man, in spite of the danger he threatened Rome with.

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