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Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero (Latin: Marcus Tullius Cicero) was a Roman politician of the late Republican period, orator, philosopher, and scholar. Thanks to his oratorical talent and outstanding intelligence, he managed to make a brilliant political career, despite the fact that he came from an insignificant family. He became a member of the Senate in 73 BC, and in 63 AD managed to become consul. Played a key role in uncovering and defeating the Catiline conspiracy. During the civil wars, he remained one of the most prominent and most consistent supporters of the preservation of the republican system. After the second triumvirate came to power , he was executed.

Cicero left a substantial literary and historical legacy, much of which has survived to this day. His works have already gained a reputation as a standard in terms of style in the ancient era, and now they are one of the most important sources of information about all spheres of Roman life in the 1st century BC.e. Cicero's philosophical treatises represent a unique presentation of the entire ancient Greek philosophy in Latin, which radically influenced the history of ancient Roman culture.

Birth: January 3, 106 BC, Arpinum, Roman Republic Death: December 7, 43 BC, Formia, Roman Republic

Bust of Cicero from the Capitoline Museums in Rome

Family and early years

Marcus Tullius was born in his grandfather's estate, located near the Fibren River, in close proximity to Arpinum. According to Plutarch, the birth was easy, after which the boy was handed over to a wet nurse, who claimed that Cicero would become a "blessing for the Romans". Later, Cicero moved to the nearest town where he received a primary education. Critics of that time considered Cicero unworthy and constantly mentioned his "birth in the village".

Relatives of Marcus Tullius were among respected people. For instance, the husband of his aunt, Gaius Aculeo, was closely acquainted with the orator Lucius Licinius Crassus. Cicero was inspired by his uncle, considering him a man of exceptional intelligence. Aculeo was versed in civil law, which Cicero might have also learned.

Marcus Tullius Cicero was the eldest son in his family, accordingly, his father, who was a Roman knight, was also named Marcus Tullius Cicero, and his mother was named Helvia. He had a biological brother, Quintus, with whom Cicero maintained a close relationship throughout his life. He also had warm relations with his cousin - Lucius Tullius Cicero, who accompanied him when leaving for the East in 79 BC.

The Tullius family traced their lineage to the aristocracy of Arpinum, a small town in the Volsci lands in southern Latium. From these lands also came Gaius Marius, who was related to the Tullii. Cicero's grandfather was married to Gratidia, and her brother married the sister of Gaius Marius. Thus, Gaius Marius's nephew, Marcus Marius Gratidianus, was Cicero's cousin's uncle, and Cicero's cousin Gratidia was married to Lucius Sergius Catilina.

Plutarch asserts that this family nickname, Cicero, comes from the word "chickpea". Cicero's friends, at the beginning of his career, advised him to replace this name with a more euphonious one. However, Marcus Tullius rejected this idea, stating that he would make his cognomen sound louder than the names "Scaurus and Catulus".

At the age of 15 (91 BC), Cicero's father, dreaming of a political career for his sons, moved the family to Rome to provide them with a good education.

"What kind of man is he? A spoiled youth, taught by villains? He's over forty years old. So it was prodigality, enormous debts, and uncontrollable passions that led him to this crime. He was acquitted of prodigality by Erucius, who said he hardly ever attended a feast. He never had any debts. As for passions, what passions can a man have who, as the prosecutor himself claimed, always lived in the countryside, engaged in farming? After all, such a life is far from passions and teaches a sense of duty."

— Cicero. In Defense of Sextus Roscius of Ameria, XIV, 39.

The case was won, and Cicero gained even more popularity among the people thanks to his opposition to the local aristocracy. Nevertheless, fearing Sulla's revenge, Cicero went to Athens and the island of Rhodes for two years under the pretext of the need for a deeper study of philosophy and the art of oratory. There he was again taught by Molon, who subsequently had a strong influence on Cicero's style - from this time the orator began to adhere to the "middle" style of eloquence, which combined a number of elements of the Asian and moderate Attic styles.

After Sulla's death in 78 BC, Cicero returns to Rome. Here he married Terentia, whose dowry brought him 120,000 drachmas, after which he continued his forensic oratory practice.

Beginning of a Political Career

In 75 BC, Cicero was elected quaestor and appointed to Sicily. He directly managed the export of grain during a period of bread shortage in Rome. His fair and honest leadership earned him a good reputation among the Sicilians. At the same time, according to Plutarch, his successes were not noticed in Rome, and over time he only lost his popularity. Nevertheless, the title of quaestor marked Cicero's entry into the senatorial class. The first mention of Marcus Tullius as a senator dates back to October 14, 73 BC. In subsequent years, Cicero's career developed rapidly - he participated in a number of high-profile court cases, gained recognition in the Senate, and in 70 BC he took up the position of aedile.

The first surviving speech of Cicero is "In defense of Quinctius" of 81 BC. e. Its purpose was to return illegally seized property, the success of which brought him the first rays of fame.

The second, even greater success, is considered to be the speech of the speaker "In defense of Roscius", in which he was forced to talk about the state of affairs in a state where, according to him,"they forgot not only to forgive offenses, but also to investigate crimes." This was not an easy case for a native of the province of Roscia, who was unjustly accused by his relatives of murdering his own father. Cicero personally visited Ameria and investigated the circumstances of the crime on the spot, after which he asked the court for 108 days to prepare the trial. Cicero's prepared speech was structured according to all the rules of oratory — with complaints about the youth and inexperience of the defense lawyer, admonitions of the judges, direct speeches on behalf of the accused, as well as refutations of the prosecution's arguments. To refute the position of the accuser Gaius Erucius, who tried to prove that Roscius was a parricide, Cicero used the Greek art of etopea, which was based on the characterization of the accused, who could not commit such crimes:

"What kind of person is he? A spoiled brat trained by scoundrels? He's over forty years old. Then, of course, he was driven to this crime by extravagance, huge debts and indomitable passions. On the charge of extravagance, he was acquitted by Erucius, who said that he had scarcely been to a single party. He never had any debts. As for passions, what kind of passions can a person have who, as the prosecutor himself stated, has always lived in the country, engaged in agriculture? After all, such a life is very far from passions and teaches a sense of duty."

The trial was won, and Cicero became even more popular with the people due to his opposition to the local aristocracy. Nevertheless, fearing Sulla's vengeance, Cicero went to Athens and Rhodes for two years, under the pretext that he needed to study philosophy and elocution more deeply. There he again studied under Molon, who later had a strong influence on the style of Cicero — from this time the orator began to adhere to the" middle " style of eloquence, combining a number of elements of the Asian and moderate Attic styles.

After Sulla's death in 78 BC, Cicero returns to Rome. Here he married Terentia, whose marriage brought him a dowry of 120,000 drachmas, after which he continued his judicial oratorical practice.

Beginning of a political career

In 75 BC, Cicero was elected quaestor and appointed to Sicily. He directly managed the export of grain during a period of bread shortage in Rome. With his fair and honest leadership, he earned a good reputation among the Sicilians. At the same time, according to Plutarch, his successes went unnoticed in Rome, and over time he only lost his popularity. Nevertheless, the title of quaestor meant for Cicero entry into the senatorial class. The first mention of Marcus Tullius as a senator dates back to October 14, 73 BC. In the following years, Cicero's career rapidly developed - he took part in a number of high-profile court cases, gained recognition in the Senate, and in 70 BC, he took the position of aedile.

In August 70 BC, Cicero delivered a series of speeches against the propraetor of Sicily, a former supporter of Sulla, Gaius Verres, who had looted the province and executed many of its inhabitants during his three years of governorship (73-71 BC). The difficulty of the case lay in the fact that Gaius Verres had the support of many influential nobles, including both consuls of the following year (Hortensius, a famous orator who agreed to act as a defender at the trial, and Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus). In addition, Cicero's opponent was also supported by the presiding judge, praetor-designate Marcus Caecilius Metellus.

"Gaius Verres has often said... that there is a powerful man behind him, relying on whom he can plunder the province, and he does not collect money for himself alone; that he has distributed the income from his three-year praetorship in Sicily in the following way: he will be very pleased if he can turn the first year's income to his advantage; he will give the second year's income to his patrons and defenders; the income from the third year, the most profitable and promising the greatest profits, he will fully keep for the judges."

— Cicero's Speech Against Gaius Verres (first session), XIV, 40.

Cicero managed to win this case against corruption at all levels of government. The speeches of Marcus Tullius, written for this trial, had great political significance, as Cicero essentially opposed the senatorial oligarchy and achieved a crushing victory over it. The orator's arguments in favor of Verres' guilt were so indisputable that the famous Hortensius refused to defend the accused. Verres was forced to pay a heavy fine of 40 million sesterces and go into exile.

After this, Cicero was elected praetor for 66 BC. At the same time, he continued to practice law, and also delivered the speech "On the Appointment of Gnaeus Pompey as Commander," in which he supported the bill of Gaius Manilius to grant Gnaeus Pompey the Great unlimited powers in the fight against Pontus King Mithridates VI Eupator.

Cicero during the First and Second Triumvirates

In 60 BC, Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus formed the first triumvirate with the aim of seizing power. Recognizing Cicero's talents and popularity, they made several attempts to attract him to their side. Cicero declined their offers, wishing to remain loyal to the Senate and the ideals of the Republic. This decision made him vulnerable to opponents, among which was the popular tribune Clodius, who had a grudge against Cicero since the orator testified against him in court.

Clodius pushed for the adoption of a law that banished an official who executed a Roman citizen without trial. This law was primarily aimed at Cicero. Marcus Tullius himself sought Pompey's support but did not receive it. At the same time, he writes that he refused Caesar's help, who offered his friendship, then an embassy in Alexandria and later the position of legate in his army in Gaul. The formal reason for the refusal was unwillingness to flee from danger. According to Plutarch, however, Cicero himself asked Caesar for a legate position, got it, and then rejected it due to Clodius's feigned friendliness.

Sources note Cicero's faint-hearted behavior after the law was passed. He humbly asked for help from the current consul Piso and the triumvir Pompey, even falling at the latter's feet, but in both cases received a categorical refusal. Dressed in poor and dirty clothes, Cicero accosted random passers-by on the streets of Rome, even those who didn't know him at all. Eventually, in April 58 BC, Cicero had to go into exile and leave Italy. After that, his property was confiscated, and his houses burned down.

In September 57 BC, Gnaeus Pompey took a hard line against Clodius: he drove the tribune from the forum and secured Cicero's return from exile with the help of Titus Annius Milo Papianus. Marcus Tullius's house and estates were rebuilt at the state's expense. As a result, Cicero found himself in a difficult position: he owed his return personally to Pompey, the Senate's power significantly weakened amid open skirmishes between Milo's and Clodius's supporters, and the strengthening of the triumvirs' positions. Cicero had to accept the actual patronage of the first triumvirate and give speeches in their support, meanwhile mourning the state of the Republic.

Gradually, Cicero withdrew from active political life and devoted himself exclusively to legal and literary activity. In 55 BC, he wrote the dialogue "On the Orator", and the next year he began working on the composition "On the State".

Maccari Cesare's painting "Cicero Denounces Catiline"

The assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC was a complete surprise to Cicero. It delighted and inspired him greatly: he thought that with the death of the dictator, the Republic could be restored. However, his hopes for a return of power to the Senate did not come true. Brutus and Cassius had to leave Italy, and in Rome the positions of Caesar's follower, Mark Antony, who hated Cicero, were significantly strengthened. Mostly because eighteen years earlier, Cicero had arranged for his stepfather Lentulus, a supporter of Catiline, to be executed without trial.

For a while, Cicero planned to go to Greece. However, learning that Antony was willing to cooperate with the Senate, he decides to return to Rome. But the very next day after his return (September 1, 44 BC), an open conflict occurred. On September 2, Cicero delivered a speech against Antony, which the author called "philippic" (by analogy with the speeches of Demosthenes against the strengthening of Philip of Macedon). In response, Antony stated that Marcus Tullius was involved in the murder of Caesar, the massacre of Catiline's supporters, the murder of Clodius and provoking disputes between Caesar and Pompey. After these events, Cicero, fearing for his life, retreated to his home in Campania and started writing the second Philippic, the treatises "On Duties" and "On Friendship".

The second Philippic was published at the end of November. Antony went to Cisalpine Gaul, which was assigned to him as a province. At the same time, Cicero became the de facto head of the republic. He formed an alliance against Antony with Decimus Junius Brutus, who refused to hand Gaul over to him, with both consuls (former Caesar's followers), and with Caesar's heir Octavian. Already on December 20, Cicero delivered the third and fourth Philippics, where he compared Antony with Catiline and Spartacus.

Cicero was confident in his victory, as he failed to anticipate the alliance of Octavian with the already defeated Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, as well as the formation of the Second Triumvirate (autumn 43 BC). The troops of the triumvirs occupied Rome, and Antony managed to include the name of Cicero in the proscription lists of "enemies of the people", which the triumvirs announced immediately after the formation of the alliance.

Fulvia with the head of Cicero, painting by P. Svedomsky

Cicero tried to flee to Greece, but the assassins caught up with him on December 7, 43 BC, near his villa in Formia. As soon as Cicero noticed the pursuing killers, he ordered his slaves to put down the litter. Then, sticking his head out from behind the curtain, he exposed his neck to the sword of the centurion. Cicero's severed head and hands were delivered to Antony and then placed on the speaker's rostrum of the forum. According to legend, Antony's wife Fulvia stuck pins in the tongue of Cicero's dead head, after which, as Plutarch recounts, "they ordered the head and hands to be displayed on the speaker's platform, above the ship's bows, to the horror of the Romans, who seemed to see not the face of Cicero, but the image of Antony's soul...".

Related topics

First Triumvirate, Second Triumvirate, Roman Republic, State structure of the Republican Rome, Mark Antony, Marcus Licinius Crassus, Catiline Conspiracy, Mithridates Eupator


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