It is the year of the consulships of M. Tullius Cicero and C. Antonius Hibrida. Revolution is feared by some and a hope for others…
“Cicero denounces Catilina” by Cesare Maccari (1840–1919); Source: Wikimedia.

The Game

On the last two days of class, we will debate the fate of Cicero and the (alleged) conspirators.

In our imagined timeline, after Cicero finished his First Catilinarian, Catiline does not meekly withdraw from the Senate but defiantly stands and calls for open debate on the accusations hurled against him by Cicero (refer ad senatum!). Unlike during Cicero’s speech, this time there is first a murmur of assent, then a few applaud, growing ever more bold in showing their support for continued debate. Cicero resists at first (non referam!). But when the princeps senatus, Quintus Valerius Catulus, signals his support for continuing the debate, Cicero grudgingly introduces a relatio asking for the Senate’s advice on how he should proceed.

Your goal is to win the debate by persuading the Senate to adopt a sententia or consultum consistent with the personality and desires of your character. You will do this by writing a short speech (approximately 5 minutes in length or 3 typed pages) proposing a solution to the crisis that confronts Rome–or supporting or condemning the proposal of another senator.


To prepare for your speech, you first need to determine who you are and what the optimal outcome of the Conspiracy and its aftermath would be for you personally.

Begin by doing some research about your life (up to 691 AUC!), including the events of the conspiracy (this timeline is a good place to start). Then answer these questions about yourself:

  • How old are you? What events of import have you lived through. An 80-year old, who was a child when Tiberius Gracchus was killed, has experienced a very different Rome than someone 40 years old or younger; cf. you and your parents and/or grandparents and how you and they conceive of and speak about America, its strengths and challenges.
  • What is your family like? Current family members may influence your politics, of course; but famous (or infamous) ancestors can also be influential as well. Note that such judgements are likely to be partisan: a noble hero for one family might be a bloody-minded monster to another. Do familial ties lead you to support or oppose other characters? Are you the client of another character?
  • What experiences have you had? For some of you, the historical record is be quite extensive and will provide a rich trove of information about your experiences and personality; for others, it will be up to you to craft your character in accordance to what limited information you find in the historical record.

[Click for Biography Resources, bolded-titles are especially suggested]

    • If you are a major figure, you can probably find biographical information in the Oxford Classical Dictionary (available in the reference section of the library, DE5 .O9 2003). This is also an excellent resource for information about political offices, customs, and historical events.
    • The Magistrates of the Roman Republic by Broughton (1951-52): almost all of you will have an entry in this volume, which lists ancient sources in which further information about your life and career.
    • Oxford Encyclopedia of the Ancient World (2010): has accessible introductory articles on many people, places, customs, and events.
    • The most detailed account of the Conspiracy and the conspirators, including speeches given by Caesar and Cato appears in Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae.
    • Although generally you should shun Wikipedia as a source, on matters like this it is passable. Note, however, that you should never trust material from such a resource without verifying it from another source, preferably a print resource.
    • If you are a major figure (Cicero, Caesar, Cato, Crassus), you can read your ancient biography in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. Since the text is on-line, others might search for their names in these biographies.
    • I have also put several books and articles on later Republican history and the Catilinarian conspiracy on reserve, including:
      • C.M. Odahl, Cicero and the Catilinarian Conspiracy (New York, 2010)
      • E.S. Gruen, The Last Generation of the Roman Republic (London, 1974): a great resource for most of the characters in the game.
      • O tempora! O mores! : Cicero’s Catilinarian orations : a student edition with historical essays edited by Susan O. Shapiro (2005)
      • Wilkins, Ann T. Villain or Hero: Sallust’s Portrayal of Catiline. (New York, 1994) [We don’t have a copy of this; you might be able to ILL it]
      • W.Allen, “In defense of Catiline”, Classical Journal 34 (1938), 70-85: Catiline had a serious reform agenda
      • P.A.Brunt, “The conspiracy of Catilina”, History Today 13 (1963), 14-21: Catiline not an opportunist, not a reformer.
      • Z.Yavetz, “The failure of Catiline’s conspiracy”, Historia 12 (1963), 485-99: Catiline did not command wide support because it was recognized that he lacked a coherent reform agenda.
      • E.J.Phillips, “Catiline’s conspiracy”, Historia 25 (1976), 441-8: the conspiracy was real.
      • R.J.Seager, “Iusta Catilinae”, Historia 22 (1973), 240-8; Cicero fabricated the conspiracy.
      • K.H.Waters, “Cicero, Sallust and Catiline”, Historia 19 (1970), 195-215:Cicero fabricated the conspiracy.

This background will influence your answer to the main question of the day:

  • What do you think of Cicero and Catiline, and their political programs? Do you have past dealings with either? Are you inclined to be receptive to a novus homo, or to give a noble the benefit of the doubt? Do you think that senatorial prerogatives need to be maintained? Or do the people have legitimate grievances?

Your Speech


Brutus Addresses Roman Citizenry on the Death of Julius Caesar in “Julius Caesar” (1953) Source: Wikimedia

The game will take place ante diem quintum et quartum Idus Novembres, immediately after Cicero delivered In Catilinam I. You should be prepared to speak (in English) for around five minutes. Legally, a senator has the right to speak as long as they wish, but since you have finals to attend and summer plans, we will limit debate to no more than six minutes (depending on how fast you talk, this should be around 3 typed pages of text).

In your speech you may propose a course of action or respond to a previous speech. The order of speakers will follow standard senatorial practice (see Album Senatorum below). With this in mind, you will be well served to discuss your ideas, concerns, fears, and/or plots with Romans who are likely to support (or oppose) your designs, especially if they will be speaking before you.

Since your goal is to deliver a persuasive speech to assembled senators, you will need to conform to their expectations (and those for our class). With this in mind, your speech must:

  1. Quote at least one Latin phrase or passage from Cicero‘s In Catilinam I. Feel free to quote other sententiae we have read this year as well. This is the one place where anachronism is allowable–i.e. you can ‘quote’ a Latin text written after 63 BCE, but do not acknowledge the author, pretend like you are first person to say arma virumque cano.
  2. Make frequent use of the rhetorical devices common in Latin oratory. Examples can be found in LTRL §103 (pp. 262-264); considerably more information about ancient rhetoric, theory and devices is available at BYU’s outstanding Silvae Rhetoricae.
  3. Use at least one exemplum, i.e. refer to the actions of a) a notable ancestor or, if you do not have an ancestor whose actions are relevant to the debate, the actions of b) a notable figure from Roman history (e.g. Regulus, Fabius, Brutus, etc.). You’d be wise to reference one or more of the Roman Virtues.
  4. Be believable and consistent with the historical moment: no anachronism (nothing after November 8th, 691 AUC), no allusion to events or works that have yet to happen, no fabrication of impossibilities. Avoiding anachronism includes shunning contemporary slang or allusion to pop or literary culture. During the game, you are a Roman; “To be or not to be” is just another antithesis (and a facile one at that); “yes we can (vero possumus)” has no historical-cultural significance for you.
  5. Be consistent with the practice of Roman oratory. Fundamentally, Roman oratory is performance. You persuade through entertainment (supported by facts and reality, if possible). A dry rehearsal of law or facts should not persuade anyone. Be flamboyant, be funny, be over the top; but…
  6. Be consistent with your character. Some of you are regal; some shady; some experienced; some young and excitable; some, frankly, a little crazy.

Since Roman rhetorical training emphasized memory and improvisation, a Roman would never dream of reading his speech. Since, however, you have not have the 20 years of rhetorical training and likely 20 or more years of practice at delivering speeches, you may use notes or refer to your speech. Please, however, do not read your speech verbatim. If you anticipate this being a problem, please let me know and we can discuss the situation.

You should have questions and concerns about how you can do this effectively. Come talk to me about these as soon as possible.


Following Roman practice, you will publish your speech for posterity by emailing me a copy (in a Word doc, please) by Monday, May 3rd. But feel free to submit them as soon as you deliver your speech. These speeches will be posted on the course blog.

If you engaged in any extramural activities (contacting other Romans, meeting with them, plotting against them; coordinating speeches, etc.), please let me know about these as well.


Your game grade is the equivalent of two quiz grades. Assessment will be based on how your speech (and other behavior in the game) conforms to the parameters outlined above. Whether you win or lose is not important. What matters is that you deliver a good speech and behave in the Senate in a manner consistent with your character and the situation in Rome. If you do that, you will earn a good grade. Extramural activities by your character will also be taken into account (see above).

Victory Bonus

In a sense all of you who participate in the game are winners; but in another, more accurate sense, some of you will be winners and others will be disgraced, exiled, or dead.

If your position is victorious, the resulting increase in your auctoritas will grant you a 5 point bonus to your game grade. At the start of the game, no party has the advantage. The course of the game will be determined by what proposals are made and how you support or assail them.

Nota bene: it is possible you may pretend to support one position, but in fact have a secret goal that you work for behind the scenes. If this is the case, confess your designs to Jupiter; otherwise the position you support publicly will be assumed to be your actual position.

Alia: Census, Voting, and Money

Throughout much of the Roman Republic, the Senate was comprised of around 300 senators, but Sulla increased its membership to 600 in 81 BCE. Although in theory, attendance was mandatory for all senators, at any given time substantially fewer senators would be in attendance: some will have died (or were on their way); others will have been removed from the rolls for poverty, immoral behavior, or practicing disreputable professions; still others would be absent from Rome on public or religious business.

To qualify for membership in the Senate, an individual had to belong to the equestrian order, and so possess land valued at more than 400,000 sesterces and have successfully completed a term as quaestor. You can assume that each of you meet these formal requirements, although some may have less property than the requirement and be dreading the next census, during which you may be stricken from the rolls of the Senate.

Album Senatorum

  1. Marcus Tullius Cicero, consul and convener (Aileen Keogh)
  2. Quintus Lutatius Catulus, princeps senatus (Professor Mulligan)
  3. Decimus Junius Silanusconsul designatus (Tom Apicella)
  4. Lucius Licinius Murena, consul designatus (Sandra Tamarin)
  5. Marcus Licinius Crassus, censor (Rebecca Shaw)
  6. Gaius Antonius Hybrida, consul (Nicole Williams)
  7. Gaius Julius Caesarpontifex maximus; praetor designatus (Jim McClain)
  8. Lucius Sergius Catilina (Mara Miller)
  9. Publius Autronius Paetus (Stephen Kwak)
  10. Publius Cornelius Sulla (Kevin Goff)
  11. Lucius Cassius Longinus (Dominique De Leon)
  12. Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer, praetor (JP Bowditch)
  13. Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos Iunior, tribunus (Travis Pritchett)
  14. Marcus Porcius Cato, tribunus (Jon Lima)
  15. Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica (Jessica Weaver)
  16. Marcus Porcius Laeca (Kenny Likes)
  17. Publius Claudius Pulcher (Yumna Hamid)

Senators will speak in the order they appear in the Album, with one exception: current magistrates (i.e. praetors and consuls, whose names are italicized above) have no set place in the order of debate. Current magistrates can, however, speak without being called upon to do so, at any time, subject only to the normal rules of intercessio.

Voting Weight

For the purposes of the game, we will assume that there are 320 senators in attendance. Each of you will be considered to represent a bloc of 20 senators when it comes time to vote, with the exception of Cicero, who, because the convening magistrate cannot vote personally, controls 19 votes. This models the influence of the patron-client system in ancient Rome, which exerted a profound influence over to the arena of politics (also, there are only 14 of you in the class!).

But auctoritas can be fleeting. Based on the strength (or weakness) of your speech, you may gain (or lose) supporters–if you deliver passionate, well-styled speech while someone else speaks mutters incoherent nonsense, you are bound to convince some more of the pedarii to vote with you.


The property requirements for entry into the senate should have ensured a senator an annual income of at least 24,000 sesterces.

Republican-era Sestertius

What does this mean? Because of the development of fiat currencies, technology, and other factors, comparing the purchasing power of ancient and modern currencies is almost impossible; a sesterces is roughly the equivalent of 50 cents in 2010; but keep in mind that this income is in the context of a society in which the vast majority of citizens make the equivalent of less than a dollar a day. Therefore, don’t think think of your income as the equivalent of $12,000; but rather as 40 times the average income of a skilled worker, or functionally equivalent to $250-400,000 dollars in contemporary America–that is to say, you are filthy rich (or at least people think you are).

This money is available for political purposes (bribery of the people), to influence other senators (buy votes), and for purposes both more nefarious and salubrious. Some of you may have much (much!) more money at your disposal; others may be in debt and have almost no disposable income.

Fortuna et Nefas

At any point in the debate, events may overtake the deliberation of the Senate. That is, be prepared for the unexpected (a riot, a sign from the gods, word that a prominent Roman has returned to Italy, etc.)

Players who intend to undertake an assassination or other nefarious act must make a written dedication to Jupiter. This dedication will explain why they are attempting an assassination and how they plan to accomplish the deed; they must also demonstrate that such action is consonant with their characters’ personality and political and personal loyalties. Players must also prepare a written defense of their actions for dissemination on the class blog, if their identity as assassins is revealed. Various factors will effect your chance at success: does the target have bodyguards, is the target aware that they may be a target, is the target a tribune or have great auctoritas (increasing the likelihood that someone will have qualms about the deed and reveal the plot), do you have accomplices, what method of attack do you plan to use, and where will you strike. Fortuna will determine the success of your attempt.

Senate Procedures

These are of greatest relevance to the convener of the Senate (in this case Cicero), but as you can see, Senate tradition provides the convener a great deal of control over proceedings. You would be wise to know the rules of debate, just in case the convener tries something outside normal procedural practice.


— Some of the inspiration and material for this game is drawn
from the Ides of March Reacting to the Past game