chapter  4
Cicero: The Idea of the Republic
Pages 20

Marcus Tullius Cicero, philosopher, statesman, and the most famous lawyer and orator of ancient times, was born in Arpinum near Rome in 106 B.C.E., six years before the birth of Julius Caesar. His father, a country gentleman who belonged to the class of equites or knights (those citizens who were originally required to equip themselves as cavalrymen in the Roman armed forces), saw to it that his son received a proper liberal education. Cicero was brought into contact with learning at an early age through his tutor at home, the Stoic Diodotus. As a youth, he attended the lectures of the Academic philosopher Philo of Larissa in Rome, and studied philosophy in Athens and rhetoric in Rhodes. After completing a course of studies in jurisprudence and establishing himself as a leading barrister in Rome, he embarked on a lifelong career of public service. His eloquence and other talents enabled him to obtain honors that were usually conferred only upon members of the senatorial aristocracy. In 76 B.C.E. he was elected to the office of quaestor (financial officer) in Sicily, which made him a member of the Senate; in 66 he gained the praetorship (the second most important magistracy); and in 63 he became consul (the joint head of state) at the youngest legal age possible, and was the first person in many years to assume the position without having consular ancestors. During his year-long tenure as consul, he put down Catiline’s conspiracy against the Roman Republic and was awarded the title “Father of His Country.” However, Cicero, champion of republicanism and enemy of autocracy, was no match for the growing political power of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus (often referred to as the First Triumvirate), who aimed to change the constitution. In 58, Clodius, a popular tribune and supporter of Caesar, forced Cicero into exile, which he spent in Greece. His property was confiscated and his house was plundered and burned. Because of an amnesty, Cicero returned to Rome sixteen months later, but he could not return to politics. In the following years he practiced law and wrote. His major political dialogues, On the Orator , On the Republic , and On the Laws , date from the period 55-46. Cicero’s writing

was briefly interrupted in 51-50 by his appointment as governor of Cilicia in Asia Minor.