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date: 15 July 2024

Tullius Cicero, Marcus, lifelocked

Tullius Cicero, Marcus, lifelocked

  • Kathryn Tempest


Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 bce) was Rome’s greatest orator and a leading politician during the closing years of the Roman republic. Born to a wealthy equestrian family of Arpinum, he was a novus homo who made his name and networks at Rome by building on the successes of his forensic activity. As a rising politician he was appointed quaestor in western Sicily in 75 bce; otherwise, his career was spent mostly in Rome, where he served as aedile in 69 and praetor in 66. His consulship in 63 followed an exemplary rise up the cursus honorum during which he obtained every magistracy at the earliest opportunity available to him by law. His year as consul is best remembered for his handling of the Catilinarian affair and his prompt execution of its leading conspirators. Despite Cicero’s insistence that he had saved Rome, the questionable legality of his actions caused a serious blow to his political reputation when it resulted in his brief exile in 58–57 bce.

Thereafter, Cicero struggled to regain his former influence in political affairs: he found his own freedom of expression curtailed by the domination of Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus, and he attracted criticism when he eventually submitted and cooperated with the Three. Increasingly, he withdrew from politics and found refuge in literary endeavours. But events leading up to and including the Civil War caused him to re-enter the fray, and he reluctantly joined the Pompeians in Greece. Following their defeat at Pharsalus, Cicero accepted Caesar’s pardon and returned to Rome, only to find himself completely out of step with the new regime. In these years, Cicero suffered personal tragedy when his daughter Tullia died, and he turned increasingly to philosophy and other writings. Although he took great delight in Caesar’s assassination, Cicero was not involved in the conspiracy; nor was he in any hurry to return to the political scene until the friendly advances of Octavian and his own hatred of Mark Antony combined to set the stage for his final battle. From late 44 to April of 43 bce he championed an ill-conceived plan to use against Antony the popularity and army of Caesar’s young heir. This plan backfired, however, and Cicero was hunted down and murdered when his name was added to the proscription lists. He was survived by one son, Marcus Tullius Cicero the Younger, and by his freedman M. Tullius Tiro, who is generally believed responsible for the posthumous publication of Cicero’s correspondence.


  • Roman History and Historiography

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