Friday, July 27, 2012

The Pivotal Catiline Conspiracy

For my write-up today on Helmut Koester's History, Culture, and Religion of the Hellenistic Age, I'll use as a pivot the Catiline conspiracy.  You can read about the Catiline conspiracy here.

Essentially, Catiline was a Roman politician who sought to overthrow the Roman Republic in the first century B.C.E.  According to Koester, Cicero uncovered and thwarted this conspiracy, and so he was seen by many as the savior of Rome.  Cicero supported Pompey, but Pompey felt overshadowed by Cicero.  At the same time, Pompey was viewed as a savior in the east, and one reason may be that he defeated pirates.  Moreover, as Koester notes, Pompey sought to imitate "the Hellenistic ideal of the divine ruler" (page 296) by showing clemency to his enemies, and, rather than selling the defeated pirates into slavery, "he settled them in various sections of Greece, Asia Minor, and Italy" (page 297).  But Pompey was not as highly regarded in Rome, and so he formed an alliance (the First Triumvirate) with Crassus, the wealthiest Roman, and Julius Caesar.  The problem was that Julius Caesar had a shady reputation, for he was believed to have been involved in the Catiline conspiracy.

The Senate had problems with Caesar, and there was also chaos within its own ranks.  And estrangement occurred between Pompey and Caesar.  Caesar, who was away on a campaign, decided to cross the Rubicon and attack Rome, and he "moved so swiftly that Pompey had no chance to build up any resistance in Italy and had no chance to withdraw to the east" (pages 299-300).  Caesar gained control of the west, and Pompey was killed when he arrived at Egypt in flight.  Caesar wept when he saw Pompey's head.

I'd like to learn more about Roman history, for it does appear to contain a lot of drama, heroes, villains, etc.  Unfortunately, reading history books about the classics can easily bore me because I find those books to be dry.  But perhaps I can tough it out, and also pursue other routes.  I can read Taylor Caldwell's fictional book on Cicero, A Pillar of Iron.  I can also watch the series Rome, and I Claudius.

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