Cicero

Cicero

Cicero was born in Arpinum, near Rome in 106 BC. Cicero came from a large land­ owning family. After receiving a good education he became a successful advocate and politician.

Initially Cicero had supported the populares but later switched his support to the optimates. In 63 BC, with the support of conservative senators, he became consul. However, after Julius Caesar came to power, Cicero changed sides once again and used his famed oratorical skills against his former supporters.

Throughout his career Cicero wrote a large number of letters, and over 900 of them have survived. So have 58 speeches and several books on a variety of different subjects. Cicero was murdered in 43 BC by the supporters of Mark Antony.

Primary Sources

(1) Cicero, in a letter to a friend described a visit to the games (55 BC)

The wild-beast hunts, two a day for five days were magnificent... But what pleasure can it possibly be to a man of culture, when either a puny human being is mangled by a most powerful beast, or a splendid beast is killed with a hunting spear? The last day was that of the elephants, and on that day the mob and crowd was greatly impressed, but expressed no pleasure. Indeed the result was a certain compassion and a kind of feeling that this huge beast has a fellowship with the human race.

(2) Cicero in a letter to Cornelius Nepos (c. 50 BC)

Do you know of any man who... can speak better than Caesar? Or anyone who makes so many witty remarks? Or whose vocabulary is so varied and yet so exact?

(3) Cicero, speech (c. 43 BC)

Her (Cleopatra) way of walking... her clothes, her free way of talking, her embraces and kisses, her beachparties and dinner-parties, all show her to be a tart.

(4) Cicero describing collecting taxes in Sicily in a letter to his friend Atticus (c. 40 BC)

Everywhere I heard the same tale. People could not pay their taxes: they were forced to sell what they owned... However, the poor towns are relieved that they have had to spend nothing on me... For you must know that I not only refused to accept pay... but that none of us will take firewood or anything beyond our beds and a roof.

(5) Appian, The Civil Wars (c. AD 160)

Laena (under instructions from Antony) cut off Cicero's head... He also cut off the hand with which Cicero had written his attacks on Antony... The head and hand of Cicero were suspended for a long time from the rostra in the forum where formerly he had made speeches.