Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)
Cicero was born in Arpinum, a small hill town sixty miles south of Rome. There is not much known of his father, but it was said of his mother, Helvia, that she was well-to-do and lived conservatively.
At a very young age, Cicero was an excellent student who showed great promise. Then, as a young man, he went to Greece to study philosophy and oratory. Upon his return to Rome, he became a successful attorney and later a respected philosopher and statesman.
In 79 BC, he married a woman named Terentia who came from a wealthy family. Even though their marriage was a difficult one, she supported his political career over the next thirty years . A year after they were married, their daughter Tullia was born. Cicero dearly loved Tullia. Years later, in 49 BC, when he learned of Tullia’s death, he was broken-hearted, writing to his friend Atticus, ‘I have lost the one thing that bound me to life.’ It was clear to those who knew him that he became severely depressed and possibly suicidal at this time in his life.
As a politician, he had success early in his career, serving as quaestor in western Sicily in 75 BC. Cicero considered this to be the most rewarding and successful time of his political life. He believed that, because he ruled with fairness and integrity, the people came to love and respect him. This fit with his philosophical teachings about governing.
In 63 BC, he was elected consul of Rome and became a leader among the conservatives in the senate. However, because of his egocentric personality, he became alienated from others in his party. The plot to assassinate Caesar was kept a secret from him because the conspirators did not think he could keep it a secret.
After the assassination, Cicero was critical of Brutus and Cassius; their planning and their lack of political action immediately after they carried it out. He was known to have remarked to Cassius, ‘A pity you didn’t invite me to dinner on the Ides of March. Let me tell you there would’ve been no leftovers.’ What he meant by that was that they should have assassinated Mark Antony as well. But Brutus disagreed. He told Cicero that if they’d murdered Antony too, it would’ve been seen as an assassination due to rival political parties rather than the overthrow of a tyrant. Brutus said it would definitely have started another civil war.
Later that year, in 44 BC, Cicero began a series of vicious political speeches against Mark Antony in the senate which he called his Philippics. His attacks on the dangerous and murderous Antony later proved to be his undoing.