During the five years of Pompey's absence in the east Roman politics were as lively as ever.
Julius Caesar, the nephew of Marius and son-in-law of Cinna, was courting popularity and steadily rising in power and influence.
However, among the hot-heads of the anti-senatorial party was Lucius Sergius Catalina (ca. 106 - 62 BC) a patrician who was at least reputed to have no scruples in such matters as assassination.
On the other side the ranks of the senatorial party were joined by the most brilliant orator of the day, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 - 43 BC).
In 64 BC Catalina stood as a candidate for the consulship, having just been barely acquitted in the courts on a charge of treasonable conspiracy.
Though Cicero was not popular with the upper class senators of the old families, his party nominated him as their candidate - if only to prevent Catalina from winning the seat. Cicero's rhetoric won day and secured him the post of consul.
But Catalina was not a man to take defeat easily.
While Caesar continue to court popularity, managing even to secure election to the dignified office of pontifex maximus ahead of the most eminent senatorial candidates, Catalina began to plot.
The intrigue was afoot in 63 BC, and yet Catalina did not intend to move until he had attained the consulship. He also didn't feel sufficiently ready to strike yet.
But all should come to nothing as some information about his plans was passed on to Cicero. Cicero went to the senate and presented what evidence he had, of plans being afoot.
Catalina escaped to the north to head the intended rebellion in the provinces, leaving his accomplices to carry out the programme arranged for the city.
Cicero, by now having been granted emergency powers by the senate, obtained correspondence between Catalina and the Gallic tribe of the Allobroges. The principal conspirators named in the letter were arrested and condemned to death without trial.
Cicero told the whole story to the people gathered in the forum amid frantic applause. In the city of Rome the rebellion had been quashed without a fight.
But in the country Catalina fell fighting indomitably in early 62 BC at the head of the troops he had succeeded in raising.
For the moment at least civil war had been averted.