Cicero Essay, Research Paper
Marcus Tullius Cicero, is remembered in modern times as the greatest Roman orator and innovator of what became known as Ciceronian rhetoric. He was the son of a wealthy family of Arpinium. He made his first appearance in the courts in 81. His brilliant defense, in 80 or early 79, of Sextus Roscius against a fabricated charge of parricide established his reputation at the bar.
After his election as consul for 63 his chief concern was to discover and make public the seditious intentions of his rival Catiline, who, defeated in 64, appeared again at the consular elections in 63 (over which Cicero presided, wearing armour beneath his toga). Catiline lost and planned to carry out armed uprisings in Italy and arson in Rome. Evidence incriminating the conspirators was secured and they were executed on Cicero’s responsibility. Cicero, announcing their death to the crowd with the single word vixerunt (”they are dead”), received a tremendous ovation from all classes. He was hailed by Catulus as pater patriae, “father of his country”. This was the climax of his career.
At the end of 60, Cicero declined Caesar’s invitation to join the political alliance of Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey, and also Caesar’s offer in 59 of a place on his staff in Gaul. When Publius Clodius, whom Cicero had antagonized, became tribune in 58, Cicero was in danger, and in March fled Rome. In 57, thanks to the activity of Pompey and particularly the tribune Milo, he was recalled on August 4. Cicero landed at Brundisium on that day and was acclaimed all along his route to Rome, where he arrived a month later. Pompey renewed his compact with Caesar and Crassus at Luca in April 56. Cicero then agreed, under pressure from Pompey, to align himself with the three in politics. He was obliged to accept a number of distasteful defenses, and he abandoned public life.
In 51 he was persuaded to govern the province of Cilicia, in south Asia Minor, for a year. By the time Cicero returned to Rome, Pompey and Caesar were struggling for complete power. He disapproved of Caesar’s dictatorship; yet he realized that he would have been one of the first victims of Caesar’s enemies, had they triumphed. Cicero was not involved in the conspiracy to kill Caesar on March 15, 44, and was not present in the Senate when he was murdered. On March 17 he spoke in the Senate in favour of a general amnesty, but then he returned to his philosophical writing and contemplated visiting his son, who was studying in Athens. But instead he returned to Rome at the end of August. It was in May that Octavian learned of Cicero’s unfortunate remark that “the young man should be given praise, distinctions… and then be disposed of”. The triumvirate of Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus was formed at the end of October, and Cicero was soon being sought for execution. He was captured and killed near Caieta on December 7. His head and hands were displayed on the rostra, the speakers’ platform at the Forum, at Rome.
From Cicero’s correspondence between 67 and July 43 BC more than 900 letters survive, and, of the 835 written by Cicero himself, 416 were addressed to his friend, financial adviser, and publisher, Titus Pomponius Atticus, and 419 to one or other of some 94 different friends, acquaintances, and relatives. The number constitutes only a small portion of the letters that Cicero wrote and received. Many letters were suppressed for political reasons after Cicero’s death.
Cicero made his reputation as an orator in politics and in the law courts, where he preferred appearing for the defense and generally spoke last because of his emotive powers. Trained by Molon of Rhodes he believed that an orator should command and blend a variety of styles. He made a close study of the rhythms that were likely to appeal to an audience. His fullness revolutionized the writing of Latin; he is the real creator of the “periodic” style, in which phrase is balanced against phrase, with subordinate clauses woven into a complex but seldom obscure whole. Of the speeches, 58 have survived, some in an incomplete form; it is estimated that about 48 have been lost.
The bulk of his philosophical writings belong to the period between February 45 and November 44. Cicero lays no claim to originality in these works. Writing to Atticus, he says of them “They are transcripts; I simply supply words, and I’ve plenty of those.” His importance in the history of philosophy is as a transmitter of Greek thought. In the course of this role, he gave Rome and, therefore, Europe its philosophical vocabulary.