Cicero

Born Marcus Tullius Cicero on 3 January 106BC, he was to become one of Rome’s greatest orators.

Cicero was well educated in his youth and studied ancient Greek philosophers, poets and historians. He spent his time translating Greek work into Latin, which opened the work up to a much wider audience.

He craved learning and became a most dedicated student. His talent for learning knew no bounds.

Cicero served in the military in 89BC, but this was not where his passion lay. He was determined to have a political career.

He began this career around 81BC and took on the defence of a controversial case; Sextus Roscius charged with patricide. The winning of this case secured his political reputation.

Cicero married 18 year old Terentia in 79BC and she was instrumental in her support of his political career. They had 2 children together. It is believed to have been a marriage of convenience, however it lasted around 30 years, before finally ending in divorce around 47BC – 50BC. Cicero did marry again, although this did not last long.

Cicero became quaestor (public administrator) in 75BC, aedile (maintenance of public buildings) in 69BC and then praetor (magistrate) in 66BC.

He attained these positions on or as close to the earliest age it was possible to do so.

What Cicero aspired to was to become Consul and he attained this in 63BC at the age of 43. He was responsible for exposing a conspiracy to take over the Roman State by force. Following this exposure, he had the major instigators of this executed without trial. He was a popular man as he had foiled this conspiracy, but he also had his enemies.

A period of uncertainty in government followed this, but in 60BC a triumvirate was to rule, consisting of Julius Caesar, Pompey Magnus and Crassus. This triumvirate wanted Cicero to join them but he refused and stayed loyal to the senate.

This refusal gave fuel to Cicero’ enemies and resulted in him being exiled from Rome in 58BC. This exile bought on a bout of depression. He wrote to his good friend Atticus ‘your pleas have prevented me from committing suicide. But what is there to live for? Don’t blame me for complaining. My afflictions surpass any you ever heard of earlier’.

Cicero lived in exile for 18 months, but returned to Rome in 57BC to a cheering crowd of Roman citizens. At this time he partook little in politics but did reluctantly support the triumvirate.

Julius Caesar was away conquering Gaul, but his relationship with Pompey Magnus who was still in Rome became strained. Caesar wanted power for himself and he marched on Rome with his army.

Pompey fled the city with his army and Cicero followed him and joined forces against Caesar.

Pompey and Caesar fought at the battle of Pharsalus and Caesar triumphed. Cicero became disenchanted with Pompey following this defeat and returned to Rome.

He was pardoned by Caesar and returned to his political life.

Caesar was assassinated on 15 March 44BC (the Ides of March) and following this Marc Antony triumphed over the ruling of Rome.

Cicero believed the republic could be restored, but his relationship with Antony which had never been good became further strained.

Cicero wanted Caesar’s adopted son Octavian to oppose Antony and Cicero made a series of speeches in the senate known as the Philippics. These were not complementary of Antony. Octavian however joined forces with Antony and Lepidus and ruled as a triumvirate.

All three rulers had enemies to eliminate and Cicero was on Antony’s list.

Cicero had helped Octavian gain power, but Octavian did not help him and Cicero fled Rome.

He was pursued on the road, and killed leaving his villa. His hands and head were returned to Rome and nailed to the Forum on the orders of Marc Antony.

His last words are said to have been ‘There is nothing proper about what you are doing soldier, but do try to kill me properly’.

Cicero died on 7 December 43BC aged 63.

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