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Marcus Tullius Cicero (January 3, 106 BCDecember 7, 43 BC) was an orator and statesman of Ancient Rome, and is generally considered the greatest Latin prose stylist.

Cicero at about age 60, from an ancient marble bust
Cicero at about age 60, from an ancient marble bust


Cicero was born in Arpinum and killed outside of Rome, fleeing from political enemies. "It is no exaggeration", wrote Taylor (as cited in "References"), "to say that the most brilliant era of Roman public life was ushered in by Cicero and closed by his death—he stood at its cradle and he followed its hearse." His family, the Tullii Cicerones, was one of the landed gentry in Arpinum and resented the fame and fortunes of the other great Arpinate families, the Marii. Throughout his life, the conservative Cicero loathed being compared to the then more famous Marius.

Early life

According to Plutarch he was an extremely adept student, learning so well and rapidly that he attracted attention from all over Rome. He was especially fond of poetry, although he shied away from no scholarly field.

Cicero served as quaestor in Western Sicily in 75 BC. He wrote that in Sicily he saw the gravestone of Archimedes of Syracuse, on which was carved Archimedes' favorite discovery in geometry, that the ratio of the volume of a sphere to that of the smallest right circular cylinder in which it fits is 2:3. He built an extremely successful career as an advocate, and first attained prominence for his successful prosecution in August 70 BC of Gaius Verres, the former governor of Sicily. Despite his great successes as an advocate, Cicero suffered from his lack of reputable ancestry; as no Tullius Cicero had been consul before him, he was neither noble nor patrician, and his family considered unimportant. He was further hindered by the fact that the last man to have been elected to the consulate without consular ancestors (i.e., the last "New Man", or Novus Homo) had been the political radical Marius.


In 63 BC, Cicero became the first New Man in more than 30 years by being elected consul. His only significant historical accomplishment during his year in office was the suppression of the Catilinarian conspiracy, a plot to overthrow the Roman Republic led by Lucius Sergius Catilina, a disaffected patrician. Cicero procured a senatus consultum de re publica defendenda (a declaration of martial law, also called the senatus consultum ultimum) and drove Catiline out of the city by a speech known for the harsh, almost brutal, language in which he describes the debauchery of Rome and especially Catiline. Catiline fled but left behind his 'deputies' who would start the revolution from within whilst Catiline assaulted it from without with an army recruited among Sulla's veterans in Etruria. Cicero managed to have these 'deputies' of Catiline confess their crime in front of the entire Senate, after ambushing an embassy they had sent to a Gaulish tribe.

The Senate then deliberated upon the punishment to be given to the conspirators. As it was a legislative rather than a judicial body, there were limits on its power to do so; however, martial law was in effect, and it was feared that simple house arrest or exile - the standard options - would not remove the threat to the State. At first most in the Senate spoke for the 'extreme penalty'; many were then swayed by Julius Caesar who spoke decrying the precedent it would set and argued in favour of the punishment being confined to a mode of banishment. Cato then rose in defence of the death penalty and all the Senate finally agreed on the matter. Cicero had the conspirators taken to the Tulliam, the notorious Roman prison, where they were hanged. He received the honorific "Pater Patriae" for his actions in suppressing the conspiracy, but thereafter lived in fear of trial or exile for having put Roman citizens to death without trial. He also received the first public thanksgiving for a civic accomplishment; heretofore it had been a purely military honor.

Exile and return

In 58 BC, the populist Publius Clodius Pulcher introduced a law exiling any man who had put Roman citizens to death without trial. Although Cicero maintained that the sweeping senatus consultum ultimum granted him in 63 BC had indemnified him against legal penalty, he nevertheless left Italy for a year and spent his quasi-exile setting his speeches to paper.

As the struggle between Pompey and Julius Caesar grew more intense in 50 BC, Cicero favored Pompey but tried to avoid making Caesar into a permanent enemy. When Caesar invaded Italy in 49 BC, Cicero fled Rome. Caesar attempted vainly to convince him to return, and in June of that year Cicero slipped out of Italy and travelled to Salonika. He returned to Rome, however, after Caesar's victory.

In a letter to Varro on April 20 46 BC, Cicero indicated what he saw as his role under the dictatorship of Caesar: "I advise you to do what I am advising myself – avoid being seen, even if we cannot avoid being talked about... If our voices are no longer heard in the Senate and in the Forum, let us follow the example of the ancient sages and serve our country through our writings, concentrating on questions of ethics and constitutional law."

In February 45 BC Cicero's daughter Tullia died. He never entirely recovered from this shock.

Opposition to Mark Antony, and death

Cicero was taken completely by surprise when Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March 44 BC. Cicero and Caesar's subordinate, Mark Antony, became the leading men in Rome; Cicero as spokesman for the senate, and Antony as consul and as executor of Caesar's will. But the two men had never been on friendly terms, and their relationship worsened after Cicero made it clear he felt Antony to be taking unfair liberties in interpreting Caesar's wishes and intentions. When Octavian, Caesar's heir, arrived in Italy in April, Cicero formed a plan to play him against Antony. In September he began attacking Antony in a series of speeches he called the Philippics.

Cicero described his position in a letter to Cassius, one of Caesar's assassins, that same September: "I am pleased that you like my motion in the Senate and the speech accompanying it... Antony is a madman, corrupt and much worse than Caesar - whom you declared the worst of evil men when you killed him. Antony wants to start a bloodbath..."

Cicero's plan to drive out Octavian and Antony failed, however. The next year the two reconciled and allied with Lepidus to form the Triumvirate for the Constitution of the Republic. Immediately after legislating their alliance into official existence for a five-year term with consular imperium, the Triumviri began proscribing their enemies and potential rivals. Cicero and his younger brother Quintus Tullius Cicero, formerly one of Caesar's legates, were both numbered among the enemies of the state.

Cicero fled, but was caught and decapitated by his pursuers on December 7, 43 BC; his head and hands were displayed on the Rostra in the Forum Romanum according to the tradition of Marius and Sulla, both of whom had displayed the heads of their enemies in the Forum. He was the only victim of the Triumvirate's proscriptions to have been so displayed after death. According to Plutarch, Antony's wife Fulvia took Cicero's head and pulled out his tongue, jabbing the tongue repeatedly with her hatpin, taking a final revenge against Cicero's power of speech.



Of his speeches, 88 are recorded, but only 58 survive. (Some of the items below are more than one speech.)

Judicial speeches

  • (81BC) Pro Quinctio (On behalf of Publius Quinctius )
  • (80BC) Pro Sex. Roscio Amerino (On behalf of Sextus Roscius of Ameria )
  • (77BC) Pro Q. Roscio Comoedo (On behalf of Quintus Roscius the Actor )
  • (70BC) Divinatio in Caecilium (Spoken against Caecilius at the inquiry concerning the prosecution of Verres)
  • (70BC) In Verrem (Against Gaius Verres, or The Verrines)
  • (69BC) Pro Tullio (On behalf of Tullius)
  • (69BC) Pro Fonteio (On behalf of Marcus Fonteius )
  • (69BC) Pro Cęcina (On behalf of Aulus Caecina)
  • (66BC) Pro Cluentio (On behalf of Aulus Cluentius )
  • (63BC) Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo (On behalf of Rabirius on a Charge of Treason)
  • (63BC) Pro Murena (On behalf of Lucius Murena )
  • (62BC) Pro Sulla (On behalf of Sulla)
  • (62BC) Pro Archia Poeta (On behalf of the poet Archias )
  • (59BC) Pro Flacco (On behalf of Flaccus)
  • (56BC) Pro Sestio (On behalf of Sestius )
  • (56BC) In Vatinium (Against Vatinius at the trial of Sestius )
  • (56BC) Pro Caelio (On behalf of Marcus Caelius Rufus)
  • (56BC) Pro Balbo (On behalf of Cornelius Balbus )
  • (54BC) Pro Plancio (On behalf of Plancius )
  • (54BC) Pro Rabirio Postumo (On behalf of Rabirius Postumus)
  • (54BC) Pro Milone (On behalf of Milo)

Political speeches

Early career (before exile)
Mid career (after exile)
  • (57BC) Post Reditum in Quirites (To the Citizens after his his recall from exile)
  • (57BC) Post Reditum in Senatu (To the Senate after his his recall from exile)
  • (57BC) De Domo Sua (On his House)
  • (57BC) De Haruspicum Responsis (On the Responses of the Haruspices)
  • (56BC) De Provinciis Consularibus (On the Consular Provinces)
  • (55BC) In Pisonem (Against Piso)
Late career
  • (46BC) Pro Marcello (On behalf of Marcellus)
  • (46BC) Pro Ligario (On behalf of Ligarius before Caesar)
  • (46BC) Pro Rege Deiotaro (On behalf of King Deiotarius before Caesar)
  • (44BC) Philippicae (consisting of the 14 philippics Philippica I-XIV against Marcus Antonius) [2]

(The "Pro Marcello", "Pro Ligario", and "Pro Rege Deiotaro" are collectively known as "The Caesarian speeches".)



  • (84BC) de Inventione (On the composition of arguments)
  • (55BC) de Oratore (On the orator)
  • (54BC) de Partitionibus Oratoriae (On the subdivisions of oratory)
  • (52BC) de Optimo Genere Oratorum (On the Best Kind of Orators)
  • (46BC) Brutus (The Brutus, a short history of Roman oratory)
  • (46BC) Orator ad M. Brutum (The Orator, also dedicated to Brutus)
  • (44BC) Topica (Topics of argumentation)
  • (??) Rhetorica ad Herennium (traditionally attributed to Cicero, but currently disputed)

Other philosophical works

  • (51BC) de Republica (On the Republic)
  • (45BC) Hortensius (Hortensius)
  • (45BC) Lucullus or Academica Priora (The Prior Academics)
  • (45BC) Academica Posteriora (The Later Academics)
  • (45BC) De Finibus, Bonorum et Malorum (About the Ends of Goods and Evils). [3] Source of Lorem ipsum
  • (45BC) Tusculanę Quaestiones (Questions debated at Tusculum)
  • (45BC) de Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods)
  • (45BC) de Divinatione (On Divination)
  • (45BC) de Fato (On Fate)
  • (44BC) Cato Maior de Senectute (Cato the Elder On Old Age)
  • (44BC) Laelius de Amicitia (Laelius On Friendship )
  • (44BC) de Officiis (On Duties)
  • (???) Paradoxa Stoicorum (Stoic Paradoxes)
  • (???) de Legibus (On the Laws)
  • (???) de Consulatu Suo (On His Consulship)
  • (???) de temporibus suis (On His Life and Times)
  • (???) Commentariolum Petitionis (Handbook of Candidacy) [4] (attributed to Cicero, but probably written by his brother Quintus)


  • (68-43BC) Epistulae ad Atticum (Letters to Atticus)
  • (59-54BC) Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem (Letters to his brother Quintus)
  • (43BC) Epistulae ad Brutum (Letters to Brutus)
  • (43BC) Epistulae ad Familiares (Letters to his friends)

See also


  • Taylor, H. (1918). Cicero: A sketch of his life and works. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co.

Further reading

External links


1- Official full name of Cicero. The meaning in English is "Marcus Tullius Cicero, son (filius) of Marcus, grandson (nepos) of Marcus, great-grandson (pronepos) of Marcus, of the tribe Cornelia".

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