(Marcus Tullius)

106–43 BC

Cicero was an important statesmen and orator during a critical and very dramatic period of Roman history, but he is chiefly known as a writer. Although his life certainly had many dramatic turns, the fact that he left a great body of writings, including personal correspondence with many of the other prominent characters of his age, is of paramount historical interest. Cicero is strongly identified with the republican or aristocratic party in Rome, and he was an important leader of this party during the age of Pompey and Julius Caesar. In many ways he represented the most noble ideals of republican Rome, and was a fierce opponent of tyranny, even in the form of a popular leader. At the same time he opposed the corruption of the nobles, for the very reason that it tended to undermine the republic.


Cicero began his public career by defending a man accused of murder by Sulla at the height of Sulla's power. Although Cicero was not in any way associated with the Marian party, it took a good deal of courage to oppose Sulla in even a small matter. He then traveled to Greece to study oratory under some of the great masters. When he returned to Rome, he started his career in public life as a quaestor, or public treasurer. He later served as an aedile and a praetor. All these positions he performed with the utmost rectitude. His prosecution of the Sicilian governor Verres for corruption was very celebrated, and established his reputation for honesty.

He was eventually elected consul and at the same time, uncovered a conspiracy that was being hatched by a senator named Catiline to overthrow the senate. If the plot had not been uncovered it would probably have led to another civil war, and the Romans were very grateful to Cicero for saving them from another political crisis. But Catiline's friends were still powerful, and in retaliation Cicero was sent into exile by his archrival, the tribune Clodius. Cicero's homes were burned down in his absence, but he returned less than two years later, when Clodius had fallen out of favor. He later went to Cilicia (in Asia Minor) as a governor, and returned to Rome about the same time that Caesar crossed the Rubicon. As a strong republican, Cicero was bound to take Pompey's side in the matter, but he lamented the fact that Caesar was the more able leader. After Pompey's defeat, Caesar greeted Cicero as a friend, and welcomed him back to Italy. Cicero then retired from public life until Caesar's assassination. At that point, he took up the cause of Caesar's assassins and made Antony his mortal enemy. Once Antony had consolidated his power, he had Cicero killed.

Key events during the life of Cicero:

80 BC
Defended Roscius Amerinus, who was accused of murder by Sulla.
  Studied oratory in Greece.
  Quaestor, sent to Sicily to procure grain; made acquaintance of Verres and some of his detractors.
70 BC
Prosecuted Verres, governor of Sicily, for corruption.
69 BC
66 BC
63 BC
Consul, put down the Catiline Conspiracy.
58 BC
Sent into exile.
51 BC
Governor of Cilicia.
48 BC
Took Pompey's side in civil war, but reconciled with Caesar after Pharsalia.
44 BC
Allied himself with Octavius after Caesar's assassination, against Antony.
43 BC
Betrayed and murdered when Octavius and Antony formed the Second Triumvirate.

Book Links
Roman Life in the Days of Cicero  by  Alfred J. Church

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Roman Magistrate  in  Roman Life in the Days of Cicero  by  Alfred J. Church
Great Conspiracy  in  Roman Life in the Days of Cicero  by  Alfred J. Church
Exile  in  Roman Life in the Days of Cicero  by  Alfred J. Church
Atticus  in  Roman Life in the Days of Cicero  by  Alfred J. Church
Tully  in  Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Conspiracy of Catiline  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Cicero  in  Famous Men of Rome  by  John H. Haaren & A. B. Poland
Marcus Tullius Cicero  in  Back Matter  by  books/horne/statesmen/_back.html
Cicero  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Cicero Discovers the Catiline Conspiracy  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Cicero, The Great Roman Orator  in  Old World Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

 in Roman Life in the Days of Cicero

Cicero denouncing Catiline
 in The Story of the Romans

 in Famous Men of Rome

Cicero denouncing Catiline, Maccari
 in Famous Men of Rome

Generals of the Roman Republic
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Cicero in Retirement at his Villa
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Fulvia with the Head of Cicero
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

 in Back Matter

The following morning, Cicero made another speech against Catiline.
 in The Story of Rome

Cicero Denouncing Cataline (From the fresco by Maccari)
 in Old World Hero Stories

Short Biography
Pompey Very renowned general. Defeated pirates. Led opposition to Caesar in civil war.
Julius Caesar Conquered Gaul, prevailed in civil war. Mastermind of Roman empire. Killed by senators.
Cato (the younger) Highly principled republican who opposed Caesar, killed self after defeat of Pompey.
Crassus Very wealthy general. Fought Spartacus. Formed triumvirate with Pompey and Caesar.
Verres Extremely corrupt governor of Sicily; was prosecuted by Cicero.
Clodius Violent enemy of Cicero. Populist rabble-rouser and demagogue.
Atticus Wealthy Private citizen. Recipient of hundreds of letters from Cicero.
Catiline Led conspiracy to overthrow Senate; discovered and put down by Cicero.