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How did triumvirs compete with Cato the Younger?

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Bust of Cato the Younger of Volubilis (Morocco)
Bust of Cato the Younger of Volubilis (Morocco). | Photo: Prioryman | Na licencji Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

In 55 BCE Cato the Younger – leader of the optimates and advocate of the return to republican virtues – has decided to run for the position of praetor. In this way, he hoped to become a consul in the future and to counteract the triumvirs.

He had serious opponents, however, such as Julius Caesar, Marcus Crassus and Gnaeus Pompey, who According to the optimists, they hijacked power in the Republic. The election was presided over by the consul Gnaeus Pompey. When, after voting centuria prerogativa (first voting tribus) – to which voters were assigned randomly from among Roman citizens belonging to the first wealth class – it was practically certain1that the office would receive a righteous and fair in the eyes of the Romans, Cato the Younger.

Pompey, wanting to avoid the final of the election, said suddenly that (1) he heard the thunder or (2) he read the bad omens from the flight of birds2and based on that he dissolved the people’s assembly. Importantly, he could do it because at that time he also held the office of augur – dealing with reading God’s signs. In Roman times, recording such events was considered a bad omen, and in such situations, it was not appropriate to make decisions, against the gods.

To make sure that Cato did not take the position this time, it was decided to bribe massively and prevent his supporters from voting. As a result of these actions, Publius Vatinius, supported by the triumvirs, was appointed to the office in the next assembly.

  1. The "privileged centuria" usually determined the outcome of the elections, as it was followed by a large proportion of successive voters.
  2. Plutarch gives two different versions of the event.
  • Plutarch, Cato the Younger, 42
  • Plutarch, Pompey the Great, 52
  • Krystyna Stebnicka, Bogowie mówią nawet niepytani, "Focus", 30 stycznia 2009

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