HomeAncient HistoryAncient RomeMarcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)



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Cicero (philosopher, lawyer, statesman and rhetorician) was born 106 BC in Arpinum (now Arpino) in Lazio, a region that was also the home of military reformer Gaius Marius. Cicero was born into the state of the so-called municipal aristocracy (ordo equestris), a socially and economically very good standing in Roman society. But Cicero in roman society was so called “homo novus” because he was not belong to upper oligarchy. According to Plutarch, Marcus Tullius Cicero was a very talented student. With his qualities, Cicero was given the opportunity to study the Roman law from his teacher Quintus Mucius Scaevola Augur. During his education Cicero met a Apollonius Molon from Rhodes who was  a famous rhetorician. In addition Cicero learned from Philosopher Philon, who belong Platonic Academy.  After completing his education, Cicero was sent to the Forum Romanum for training, where Crassus and Antonius introduced him to the higher art of rhetoric. Marcus Tullius Cicero like his teachers, was occupied with the thought of designing the Roman policy. From the year 81 BC Cicero increasingly gains practical experience in the field of law, so that he can appear in the forum a few years later as a fully trained lawyer. Young Cicero increasingly lost his will for rhetoric. Therefore, he decides to take a break in Greece, which is still considered in this era as a cultural ideal, although the Hellenic community is increasingly falling into decay. In addition to the Athenian philosophers Antiochus of Ascalon, Cicero visits the banished Publius Rutilius Rufus in Smyrna, in Asia Minor. Soon after Cicero goes to Rhodes to meet with his former teacher Apollonius Molon who train him to better understand demands of public speaking.

Shortly thereafter, Cicero returns home to his Roman homeland, where he seeks to beat his great rival, Quintus Hortensius Hortalus, with the help of his speech “pro comoedo” on a rhetorical path. On that way previously learned rhetoric skills were tested. In 75 BC  Cicero started political activity because he become quaestor who served in western Sicilian Lilybaeum.

This phase is shaped by profound, philosophical trains of thought, which are also reflected in his speeches. Cicero also considers the support of the people as important to be able to hold state offices. In times of coup attempts, conspiracies and political cliques, this remains an almost unique finding. Prior to his election to the consul, Cicero first fulfilled the duties of the aedile (69 BC), increasing his popularity in Sicily through the possibility of access to cheap grain. Cicero become praetor in 66 BC. Marcus Tullius Cicero was elected as consul in a difficult period of the Roman Republic. Already in the first round when came the election for consul, all votes of  Centuriate Assembly fell to Cicero. While others at that time were trying to seize his power, Cicero was a master of reason and selflessness. Although the defense of the existing order would have required real power, Cicero, even without it, managed to steer the Republic in difficult times. Whe

Interpretation of Cicero speech in senate against Catiline. Fresco in Madam Palace by Maccari, César
Interpretation of Cicero speech in Senate against Catiline. Fresco in Madam Palace (Rome) by artist
Cesare Maccari (1840–1919).
Source: Wikimedia

n Caesar, with the aid of the agricultural law of Rullus, a feint, ventured to seize power, the consul defeated it by disclosing to the broader people the intention of this proposed law. Another success of Cicero was the discovery Catiline conspiracy which after Catilina and his followers were sentenced to death. The execution was covered on the one hand by the existing laws and on the other hand by a senate resolution. Catilina and his followers were killed against roman troops led by Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer and Gaius Antonius Hybrida at the battle of Pistoria 62 BC. All those who saw Cicero as a counter-force to Caesar, described him as a defender of the freedom and the principle of democracy. In the 12 “orationes consulares” puts Cicero’s own person at the center and defends his official acts in free speech form. Opponents saw in it an unbearable glory.

In the year 58 BC Cicero’s longstanding competitor Publius Clodius Pulcher introduced a retroactive ostracism law into the Senate, which was clearly directed against the former consul and led to his exile because law predicted that everyone who execute Roman citizen without trial must live Rome. Cicero, having executed members of the Catiline Conspiracy four years previously without formal trial. In the year 51 BC Cicero returns to the political scene by being given the leadership as proconsul of the Cilician administration. On July 30, 50 BC plan of Cicero was broke into Rome. He managed to enter in Rome in 4 January 49 BC while Caesar occupied with fight against his rival Pompey. In the ensuing period he fights for peace between Caesar, Pompey and the Senate, since Cicero not clearly declared which party belong. Disgusted by Pompei plans for revenge, however, Cicero withdraws again from the political scene. With the help of his friend Atticus, the Roman “Elder Statesman” Cicero now focuses on rhetorical skills and thus regains some of his former self-confidence. Still in the year 46 BC Cicero hopes that the construction of an at least limited “res publica” will be existed during Caesar’s rule,  but he gives up this hope soon. In the two following years, there are serious personal shocks from the death of his daughter Tullia in February 45 BC and two divorces. In the year 44 BC Caesar was killed by senators but probably Cicero was not involved in conspiracy. Cicero became a popular leader during the period of instability in Rome after Caesars death. He had no respect for “little tyrant” (Marcus Antonius) Mark Antony, who was scheming to take revenge upon Caesar’s murderers. After establishing Second Triumvirate (personal alliance of Gaius Octavius, Marcus Antonius and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus) relation between Cicero and Antonius become worse. Marcus Antonius troops were caught Cicero on 7th December 43 BC when he left his villa, about halfway between Rome and Naples and then killed him. According to the order of Mark Antony, Cicero’s head and both hands amputated were exposed in the Roman Forum.