The Characterization of Catiline as a Monstrum in Cicero’s Pro Caelio

Sarah Nash Ph.D. Candidate in Classical Archaeology at the University of Alberta


On two occasions, the Roman consul Marcus Tullius Cicero refers to the conspirator Lucius Sergius Catalina as a monstrum. Cicero’s molding of the traitor Catiline into a monstrum could not, however, have been more diverse in each instance, and was allegedly designed to suit the occasion. In the earlier oration, Catiline is seen as unambiguously evil, whereas in the later oration, the monstrum is suddenly characterized as a remarkable mixture of virtue and vice. It seems that in order to make the threat of the latter monstrum comprehensible to the audience, Cicero draws on the cultural conception of a hermaphrodite, one of the most common prodigies of the late Republic.