Biographies: Cicero (106-43 BC)

Figure 1.--

Cicero was the greatest Roman orator, but is noted today as a statesman and philosopher. He witnessed the decline and of his beloved Roman Republic, and struggles herocally, but unsucessfully to save it. As a statesman he is seen to have been more honest than effective. He was an important participant in the significant political events of his time. His writings are now a valuable source of information on the political events of the era. It is his writings, however, that have powerfully influenced Western Civilization--perhaps thecgreatest single voice.


Most of our HBC biographies provide information on important persons to provide an insight into clothing trends over times. We have also added a few biographies people of towering importance in the development of Westrern civilization, even though we have no information concerning fashion and clothing. Cicero is one of those individuals.


Cicero's father was a Roman knight.


Cicero born at Arpinum in 106 BC. His brother Quintus was born in 104 BC. As a youth he saw the Republic and Roman spciety devouveing itself in ftaticidal struggles.


Cicero studied oratory, law, and philosophy at Rome. He traveled to Athens and Rhodes to continue education . His mentors included the poet Archias, Diodotus the stoic, Philo, Molo of Rhodes, and Quintus Mucius Scaevola. After several years defending private clients in the Forum he travels to Greece and Asia to further his education. He returned to Rome in (77 BC) to begin a political career.

Military Service

Cicero as a young man saw military service under Lucius Cornelius Sulla in the Social War (89 BC) and supported Sulla against Gaius Marius.

Family Life

His son Marcus was born (65 BC) He divorces Terentia (47 BC). He marries and divorces Publilia (46 BC).

Political Career

Cicero was a self-made man in a society controlled by patricians. As a statesman he is seen to nbe more honest than effective. Cicero's primary goal was to breath life into the Roman Republic. [Everitt] He became quaestor with the respnsibility of supervising the Scilian corn supply (75 BC). He was elected curule aedile (69 BC), procecuting Gaius Verres, the former governor of Sicily for corruption. He was made praetor (66 BC). He ran for Consul against Lucius Sergius Catiline. Despite his humble origins, he was always a member of the senatorial (aristocratic) party. Many of the rich supported him as they distrusted Catiline. Cicero won the election and became consul (63 BC). The disgruntled Catiline staged a coup, but was defeated (63 BC). Cicero as party leader prosecuted Catiline. It was at this time that Ceasar's influence began to increase. Cicero clashed with him, sensing a threat tonthe Republic. Cicero was unable to prove that he had the required legal sanction to execute five members of Catiline’s group and was exiled, largely due to Ceasar's intrigues (58 B.C.) He was recalled by Pompey the following year and was hailed as a hero in Rome. Strongly opposed to Julius Caesar, Cicero was a leader of the party that caused him to convene (56 BC) the triumvirate at Lucca. Cicero was governor of Cilicia and on his return he attempted to mediate between Pompey and Ceasar, but when this failed he joined Pompey against Caesar (50 BC). After Ceasar emerged victorious in the ensuing civil war, he magnamously forgave Cicero. Cicero was allowed to live in honor at Rome under the dictatorship. Cicero stayed out of politics and and devoted himself to literature.


Cicero did not participate in the plot to assassinate Caesar (44 BC), but he approved of it once done. Brutus had not involved Cicero in the plot, but shouted his name over Ceasar's body. Cicero returned to power, making one last chance to save the Republic. He attempted to prevent Marc Anthony from seizing power and they became bitter enemies. Antony attacked Cicero in the senate. Cicero replied in some of his most notable essays, the First Philippic and the Second Philippic, in which defended the Republic. When Octavian (later Augustus Ceasar) took Rome, he joined with Anthony and Lepidus to form the triumverate. Octavian permitted Antony to put Cicero’s name on the list of those condemned. Cicero and his brother Quintus were proscribed and killed in 43 BC. His head and hands were brought to the Forum where Fulvia (Anthony's wife) pierced the tounge that denounced her husband with hair pins.


As a writer, Cicero wrote in a rich style that is seen as a standard or ideal from which other Roman's writers are judged. He added many imaginative and picturesqe words to the language. He addressed many topics including Greek philosophy which he discussed much more lucidly than the Greeks themselves. His writings preserve ther thoughts of many Greek thinkers who may have otherwise been largely lost. His political writings in defense of the Republic were a major influence on 18th century thinkers who fashioned institutiojs of democratic giovernment in America, Britain, and France. Cicero's writing were especially influential with the American Revolitiuonary War founding fathers. Until the 20th century, the experience of reading Cicero in the original Latin was a cornerstone of any classical education.

De Officiis (On Duties)

De Officiis is a brilliant treatise on the values of a republican gentleman. It was the last important work before his murder. Cicero wrote it as a letter to his son Marcus who was in his late teens and at the time wisely studying philosophy in Athens away from Rome. It seems, however, from the letters that he was not all that sereious a student. Cicero used the letter format to reach a wider audience. He addresses the topic of duty at length. In this he discusses the question of the final purpose of life, from which duties must defined. One of the key issues he raises is how to determine what is honorable, including how to set priorities when one must decide nort between good and bad, but two honorable alternatives. He similarly addresses expediency as well as conflicts between honor and expediency. Cicero contends that the two can only seem to conflict and that in reality they never conflict. Apparent connflicts simply mean that the issue is imperfevtly understood. Cicero insists that the honorable action is the expedient measure and vice-versa. Then Cicero discusses the bonds among all human beings and urges his son follow nature and wisdom, along with whatever political activity might still be possible. He advises against pleasure and indolence.


Cicero, Marcus T. "De Oratore".

Clarke, M. L. The Roman Mind. New York: W. W. Norton and Inc., 1968.

Covino and Jolliffe. Rhetoric. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995.

Everitt, Anthony. Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician (Random House, 2002), 359p.

Hiz, H. "Cicero". The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. P. Edwards. New York: Macmillan Co. and the Free Press, 1967: 113-114.

Rolfe. Cicero and His Influence. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1932.

Siegel, Jerrold. Rhetoric and Philosophy in Renaissance Humanism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968.

Christopher Wagner

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main biography page]
[Return to the Main biography C page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [Essays] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: July 4, 2002
Last updated: July 4, 2002