Since the setting and much of the subject-matter of the speeches of Cicero comprised in these volumes are very closely interwoven with the political history of the previous seven years, some account of events in Rome from the breaking of the Second Catilinarian Conspiracy to Cicero’s return from exile may be attempted as a preliminary.
In Cicero’s consulship (63 b.c) the Second Catilinarian Conspiracy, organized by an impoverished and ambitious patrician noble for the overthrow of the constitution, was broken by a combination of good fortune and good management. While its repercussions were to be felt in Roman public life for many years, it had immediate results for several leading men in the State. The antagonism which it induced between Caesar and Cato was to become an important determinant of Roman politics. Pompey was disappointed at being denied an opportunity of rounding-off his feats overseas by a commission to end the Catilinarian movement at home. Cicero, whose execution of the conspirators left in the city had received the moral, but not the legal, support of the Senate, was quick to see the significance of
his enlistment against Catiline of those elements in Roman society that had nothing to gain from anarchy. Internal stability, in his view, could be secured by making permanent the temporary alliance of all loyal citizens (boni), senators, equites and commons, who had supported him as consul, and the commonwealth could be saved from the menace of military adventurers by setting up Pompey, then at the height of his prestige, as its defender. Having championed Pompey’s interests during his long absence in the Near East, Cicero, shortly before Pompey’s return, sedulously devoted himself to the task of winning the general to the cause of his concordia ordinum, an alliance of senators and equites. In one of the most important of his early letters (Epp. ad Fam. v. 7, of 62 b.c.) Cicero cast for Pompey the part of Scipio Aemilianus, the great conqueror of the mid-second century b.c. who practised a conservative policy, and for himself that of a joint-leader with Pompey of a coalition of all loyal citizens.
By the summer of 60 b.c. Cicero’s concordia lay in ruins, the victim of political misfortunes and private animosities.a Two episodes of the year 61 b.c. opened up a rift between senators and equites which had grave consequences.
In December 62 b.c. a young patrician, P. Clodius, disguised as a female slave, broke into the house of Julius Caesar, Pontifex Maximus and a praetor of the year, where the worship of an archaic deity, Bona Dea, whose rites were forbidden to men, was being celebrated. Clodius was suspected of an intrigue with Pompeia, Caesar’s wife. As even Cicero