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Marcus Tullius Cicero
Author of (probably poor) poetry;
seven works on rhetoric;
seventeen works on philosophy;
fifty-eight extant speeches from his legal career.
The most influential prose author of the
Roman world, whose works influenced virtually
every European (and American) writer after his
Marcus Tullius Cicero
b. Jan. 3, 106 B.C. in Arpinum
d. Dec. 7, 43 B.C. at Formiae
Cicero was born in the town of Arpinum about 60
miles south-east of Rome. He was a novus homo, the
first in his family to engage in politics.
91 B.C. – he assumed the toga virilis, and was
apprenticed to Quintus Mucius Saevola, the
leading orator in Rome at that time.
Toga virilis
89 B.C. – served in the Social War, under the command
of the father of Pompey the Great.
(In this decade, there was a civil war between the Roman generals Marius and
Sulla…Cicero managed to avoid becoming involved.)
80 B. C. – at 26, delivered his first criminal speech, in
support of Roscius, accused of murder by supporters of
Sulla – a bold move, since Sulla had a proscription list,
whereby his political enemies were put to death –
Cicero won the case!
79-77 B.C. – he studied rhetoric in Greece. On his return
to Rome, he married Terentia.
Cicero Declaiming
Rome, Palace of Justice
Cursus Honorum – the sequence of offices in a Roman’s
political career. Cicero was elected to the offices suo
anno, at the youngest allowable age.
76 B.C. – at 31, Cicero was elected quaestor, and in 75
B.C. managed the finances of Sicily. He was so fair in his
management that the Sicilians hired him in 71 B.C. to
prosecute Verres (propraetor of Sicily 73-71 B.C.) for
corruption. Verres was defended by the famous lawyer
Hortensius (and he bribed the judges)…but Cicero’s
opening speech was so well-researched and so forceful
that Verres immediately fled from Rome.
69 B.C. – as aedile, Cicero provided Greek plays and
cheap meat from Sicily.
66 B.C. – he was elected praetor, and delivered a speech
supporting Pompey’s expanded power in the
Mediterranean, including the war against Mithridates.
65 B.C. – Cicero campaigned for the consulship.
64 B.C. – he was elected consul, with Gaius Antonius
Hybrida (uncle of Marc Antony) as co-consul.
Catiline came in third.
Lucius Sergius Catilina
Born in a noble family, Catiline had climbed the cursus
honorum – in 66 B.C., on his return from a
propraetorship in Africa, he faced charges of misrule.
He tried to run for consul that summer, but his
candidacy was not allowed.
Again, in 65 B.C., he could not run because he was still
on trial.
64 B.C. – he ran against Cicero, Antonius and others.
The optimate, Catiline lost to the equestrian novus homo,
Catiline then gathered conspirators from among others
who had political and financial problems, and planned
a revolt against the government.
The Conspirators with Catiline
Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura
Gaius Cornelius Cethegus
Lucius Statilius
Publius Gavinius Capito
Marcus Caeparius
Gaius Manlius was enrolling an army in Etruria
63 B.C.
October 19 – Cicero called the Senate together and
presented vague evidence that Manlius was preparing a
revolt at Faesulae.
October 20 (?) – Quintus Arrius brought real evidence of
the planned revolt.
October 21 – the Senate passed a senatus consultum
ultimum – a decree that the consul should take any
action necessary to stave off a threat to the state.
November 6 – Catiline held a meeting to
apportion commands in Rome and Italy and to
arrange for the murder of Cicero on Nov. 7.
November 8 – Cicero called a meeting of the
Senate at the Temple of Jupiter Stator and
delivered his First Oration against Catiline. That
night, Catiline left Rome to join Manlius and his
November 9 - Cicero delivered the Second
Oration against Catiline to the people of Rome.
Cicero denounces Catiline
fresco by Cesare Maccari (1840-1919)
Mid-November – the Senate declared Catiline and
Manlius hostes – official enemies of the state.
Early December – the conspirators asked envoys of the
Allobroges for their support…the envoys pretended to
help, but got written plans from the conspirators
which they handed over to Cicero on December 3.
Weapons were found in Cethegus’s house, and the five
chief conspirators were arrested.
Cicero revealed the evidence to the Senate and gave the
Third Oration against Catiline, showing what had
been done, to the people of Rome.
December 5 – The Senate debated the fate of the
conspirators – most favored immediate
execution without trial. Julius Caesar spoke
against this position. Cato supported the
execution, and Cicero’s Fourth Catilinarian
Oration also supported it. The five
conspirators who had been arrested were
garroted in the Tullianum.
For saving the republic, Cicero was given the title
Pater Patriae – Father of the Country.
December 10 – Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos was
elected tribune of the plebs. He decreed that anyone
who had executed a Roman citizen without trial should
not be allowed to speak before the people. So Cicero
was not able to give a farewell speech when his term as
consul was over.
January 6, 62 B.C. – The Senate passed a resolution that
those who had acted against the conspirators were to
be held guiltless. Nepos left Rome in protest – Caesar
did not dispute the ruling.
Mid-January 62 B.C. – Antonius led an army against
Manlius’s legion and defeated it near Pistoria.
62 B.C. – Cicero testified against Clodius in the scandal
of the Bona Dea.
60 B.C. – Cicero spoke against the First Triumvirate of
Caesar, Crassus and Pompey.
59 B.C. – Caesar, as consul, allowed Clodius to become
a plebeian, so that he could be elected a tribune of the
plebs…and when he was elected, he exiled anyone who
had put a citizen to death without a trial…e.g., Cicero.
58 B.C. – Cicero left Rome for Greece and Clodius had
a mob burn Cicero’s house on the Palatine.
57 B.C. – the triumvirs supported a decree of the
Senate recalling Cicero, and he returned to
50’s – Caesar was in Gaul, Crassus was killed by
the Parthians and Pompey became more
powerful in Rome.
51 B.C. – Cicero held a proconsulship in Cilicia
in Asia Minor. On his return to Rome in 49
B.C., civil war between Caesar and Pompey was
Cicero supported Pompey in the war and was with him
in Greece when Pompey was defeated by Caesar at
Pharsalus in August, 48 B.C.
Pardoned by Caesar, Cicero retired and wrote treatises
on philosophy.
46 B.C. – Cicero divorced Terentia and married Publilia,
a young heiress for whom he was guardian.
45 B.C. – Cicero’s daughter Tullia died, and he divorced
Publilia…and wrote more philosophy.
Following the the death of Julius Caesar, Cicero’s name was
eventually put on a proscription list by Marc Antony and
Octavian, (Lepidus was the third member of this second
triumvirate) and he was killed at Formiae by their agents on
Dec. 7, 43 B.C. His head and hands were nailed to the rostra
in the Forum, and the wife of Antony stuck pins in his tongue
as punishment for the Philippics, speeches which he had
made against Antony.
Julius Caesar
Marc Antony
“Tomb of Cicero” at Formiae