Best known for: Being the greatest speaker in the history of Rome
Cicero by Visconti
Where did Cicero grow up?
Cicero was born in 106 BC in a small town just southeast of Rome called Arpinum. He was an intelligent child from a wealthy family. He was educated by the best teachers and learned to read and write both Greek and Latin. He also learned about the Greek philosophers and poets.
As Cicero grew older, he began to get a reputation as one of the brightest youths in Rome. He continued to study Roman law and train as a speaker. At this time in Rome, being able to give a good speech (also called oratory) was considered an art. Cicero would become the greatest orator in the history of Rome.
Cicero made two lifelong friends among his fellow law students. They were Servius Rufus and Atticus. Both would play important roles advising and supporting Cicero throughout his career.
Early Political Career
Cicero was a strong believer in the Roman Republic. He wanted to climb the ladder of political office in the traditional manner called the Cursus honorum. He served for a short time in the army and then began his career as a lawyer. He quickly became famous for taking risky cases and winning them. He also incurred the wrath of the Roman dictator Sulla.
His first political office was that of Quaestor in 75 BC for the island of Sicily. He then continued up the political ladder. He became curule aedile in 69 BC, and praetor in 66 BC. Cicero became very popular. He not only won each election he entered, but always got the most votes out of the entire group of candidates. This was rarely accomplished in Ancient Rome.
Famous Law Case
When Cicero was Quaestor for Sicily, the people asked him to prosecute a case against their governor, the powerful Gaius Verres. Cicero had little chance to win. Verres was powerful and had hired the best lawyer in all of Rome, Quintus Hortensius. However, Cicero saw the case as a challenge and agreed to take it.
Cicero went to Sicily and uncovered evidence against Verres. He then proceeded to present one of the best cases ever heard in a Roman court of law. His speeches became legendary and it was during this case that he became known as the greatest orator in all of Rome. Cicero won the case making him very popular among the people of Rome.
In 63 BC, Cicero was elected to consul, the highest position in the Roman government. During his time as consul Cicero stopped a threat to overthrow the Roman republic. He was given the title Pater Patriae, meaning "Father of the Country", by the Senate for his brave efforts.
Exiled from Rome
Throughout his political career, Cicero had watched the rise of Julius Caesar. Cicero was afraid of Caesar's ambition for power. When Caesar asked him to become part of a powerful alliance, Cicero refused. By doing this he made an enemy of Caesar. Not too long later, Caesar had Cicero exiled from Rome. He left Rome for a year, returning in 57 BC.
Cicero again fled from Rome when Julius Caesar fought Pompey and took control of the city becoming dictator of Rome. Caesar, however, pardoned Cicero and allowed him to return. When Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, Cicero was not disappointed. He took control of the Senate and tried to get the Roman Republic reestablished.
Cicero became a staunch opponent of Mark Antony, one of the leading men who tried to take over for Caesar. When Mark Antony, together with Octavian and Lepidus, took control of Rome, they sought out their enemies. They tracked down Cicero and had him killed. His last words were "there is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly."
Interesting Facts about Cicero
His full name was Marcus Tullius Cicero.
The name Cicero means "chickpea".
Cicero's writings had a great influence on writers for many years to come. Historians have learned a lot about the Roman government and how Romans thought through Cicero's works.
Two common themes in Cicero's writing were "duty to country" and "duty to man".
Cicero's head and hands were cut off and nailed to the Rostra of the Forum Romanum.
His wife, Terentia, was a wealthy and powerful woman who helped him along with his political career.