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Marcus Tullius Tiro

Marcus Tullius Tiro

104 b.c.e . - 4 b.c.e .

Slave, secretary, freedman, friend


Unfree Roots. Born a slave, Tiro was raised in the household of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the father of the famous orator. Because Tiro was only two years younger than Cicero (the orator), he likely became Cicero’s companion in childhood. That Tiro’s master had him educated in Latin and in Greek as well is evident from his service to Cicero as a secretary. Tiro assisted Cicero in his career as an orator by taking down his speeches in a special shorthand (Tironian notation) that he developed himself. Cicero often credited Tiro with the care and editing of his manuscripts. As part of the family, Tiro looked after Cicero’s children and associated with the friends of the orator on a regular basis.

A Special Client. In May or June of 53 B.C.E Cicero freed Tiro, but that did not end his association with the orator. Now as Marcus Tullius Tiro he was a client of Cicero, but more importantly he was a devoted friend. Letters between Tiro and Cicero’s son Marcus (while Marcus was away studying in Athens) suggest that the friendship extended to all generations of the family, even after he was freed. Quintus, the orator’s brother, praised Cicero’s decision to free Tiro, a man to be valued for “his literary talents, charming conversation, and wealth of knowledge.” In 51 B.C.E Tiro contracted malaria but lived for another fifty years with the affliction. After Cicero’s death in 43 B.C.E. Tiro, together with Cicero’s best friend Atticus, published volumes of Cicero’s letters to his friends and family. Tiro himself wrote a biography of Cicero, but the work has not survived.


Ernst Badian, “Marcus Tullius Tiro,” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary,edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 1564.

John Percy Vyvian Dacre Balsdon and Miriam T. Griffin, “Marcus Tullius Cicero,” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 1558-1560.

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