Marcus Tullius Cicero was a statesman and lawyer known for his involvement in Roman politics toward the end of the Republic. He is also remembered as a scholar and writer whose mastery of Latin influenced subsequent generations. He was born in 106 B.C. in Arpinium and was executed in 43 B.C. for his defense of the Republic. In 63 B.C., as one of the consuls of Rome, Cicero opposed the efforts of Catiline to overthrow the government and personally oversaw the conspirators' execution. This cost him considerable political popularity, however, and he spent the years afterward either in minor posts or removed from politics. It was during two of these periods of removal from politics (55-51 and 47-44 B.C.) that most of his surviving works were composed. Cicero spent the latter part of his life fighting the rise of dictatorship. He rebuffed as unconstitutional Caesar's invitation to join with a political alliance of Crassus and Pompey (the First Triumvirate, 60 B.C.), and he opposed Caesar and later Mark Antony when both men tried to consolidate their political power. Cicero enjoyed renewed political life following Caesar's murder and attempted to use Octavian to counter the power of Antony, but he greatly overestimated Octavian. He was executed by Octavian's forces near Caieta on December 7, 43 B.C.
His importance as a defender of the Republic aside, it is Cicero's skill as a rhetorician and poet that accounts for his lasting influence on philosophy and literature. The Ciceronian style influenced Latin and later vulgate languages more than any other single source. His mastery of the language allowed his technical perfection of the hexameter and helped make the later achievements of Virgil possible.
By his own admission Cicero was an unoriginal philosopher, but his skill as a communicator brought several generations of Greek philosophy to Rome and later civilizations. His views on the importance of philosophy have been of enduring importance, and his exhortation to study philosophy is said to have profoundly influenced Saint Augustine's conversion. Despite his failure to preserve the Republic, Cicero's legacy as a defender of liberty was inspirational to later generations.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius. The Speeches: Pro T. Annio Milone, In L. Calpurnium Pisonem, Pro M. Aemilio Scauro, Pro M. Fonteio, Pro C. Rabirio Postumo, Pro M. Marcello, Pro Q. Ligario, Pro Rege Deiotaro. Translated by N. H. Watts. Harvard University Press, 1953.
The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.
Last modified April 10, 2014