CICERO (106 bce–43 bce) was a lawyer and public figure who undertook the senatorial cursus honorum, reaching the consulship in 63 bce. He was subsequently involved in the civil war between Pompey and Caesar before falling victim to the purge of the Second Triumvirate (Octavian, Lepidus, Mark Antony). In discussions of Cicero and religion one should avoid the temptation to anachronistically confuse what may be defined as the religion of the ancient Romans with the common idea of religion in modern times, and one should be careful to distinguish what might be termed ancient "personal religion" from public and private devotion and cult (sacra publica, sacra privata ). Personal religion for a man of learning such as Cicero meant philosophical speculation. For him, investigation into the nature of the gods and personal opinion on divinity belonged to the sphere of philosophy, while "religion" indicated an official institution with the purpose of paying homage to the essential values of the res publica.
If the diverse interests of Cicero converge upon everything involving public life and the public figure, religion, from his point of view, was an inalienable part of this. The laws on religion that form the opening of his ideal constitution in the work De legibus show how far from his mode of thought was the notion of the independence of the clergy from the state. But religion, consisting of sacra publica, did not require speculative thought. In De natura deorum the pontifex Cotta compares the immutable contents of the mores handed down by their parents with the transient nature of philosophical speculation regarding divinity. Religion signifies an entire collection of customs, festivals, rites, sacrifices, prayers, processions, and feasts, all serving to express the essence of productive, civic human society. For Cicero, religion was an institution, not a creed; it was an institution of protection that permitted and ensured social stability, a safeguard of law and constitutional order. Ethical values, emphasized by Cicero, are independent of religion: gods and human beings have the same rational ability. On the other hand, the problem of transcendence was discussed philosophically and without any particularly personal contribution or involvement. Cicero provides a more or less contemporary bibliography, so to speak, on the subject, and the discussion on divinity is unfolded in minute, scholarly detail.
In De natura deorum, the existence of the gods is seen as a social, political, and philosophical problem, but it does not have any bearing upon religious feeling: the problem of the existence of the gods is resolved via a patriotic list of political occurrences. A member of the pontifical college, Cotta, is entrusted with the refutation of the Stoic theory of the Pronoia. Religion is the servant of ethics and the patriotic sentiments and institutions created by the empire. But the inherently fragmentary and compartmentalized nature of ancient religion makes it inaccessible to the modern mind, which sees religion as a kind of system complete in itself.
Ancient religion is open and dynamic. The res divinae are not a complete self-contained corpus. Four centuries later, Augustine makes fun of the pedantic and muddled account of Varro. The emperor Julian counted 300,000 gods. For the ancients, religion was an uninterrupted and endless discovery of divine powers, which could be in turn individually identified and worshiped. Religion neither concerns itself with nor explains the afterlife. In Seneca, the investigation of the nature of god and the creation of the world is completely devoid of any religious content whatsoever. Again, the gods of Cicero, as simply gods of his own age, are ephemeral in character and they fall short of modern expectations, which have been formed by two millennia of subtle and detailed speculation on divinity. Christian apologists had great sport contrasting the sublime and profound nature of speculation on God with the weak and disorganized nature of the gods. The discussion of the Stoic Balbo in De natura deorum ends up as a naturalistic treatise and a doctrinal summary in which the gods are in effect everything that humanity sees and considers admirable. Besides, the ancient names of the gods are closely derived from the power they represent. Jupiter, Neptune, and Minerva are names behind which are hidden powers, made legitimate and institutionalized by pietas, via ancestral ceremonies and rites. Thus, syncretism is a defining characteristic of ancient religion. These gods do not possess ideological or philosophical depth; they are not, in effect, the subject of speculation.
The reader is surprised by the Ciceronian passages discussing the numerous and confused nature of the gods and their realms of competence (a catalog of the various spheres of influence of the Catholic saints would be similarly disorganized). Cicero's approach is quantitative because research on divinity is either focused upon the religious principle of "manifestation" (epiphania ) or else on the popular discussion of the main findings of Greek philosophical knowledge. The theme of destiny and predestination assigns to the gods an instrumental and secondary role. As with every polytheist, so with Cicero: the divine may be broken down into an infinite number of powers and aspects, which are often ascribed by ancient traditions to legendary figures with various names, depending upon time and place.
The mystical note that Cicero introduces in Somnium Scipionis is in defense of the civic virtues of a man who goes to heaven because he has behaved on earth not as a saint but as a man of state. Even the philosophical consideration of transcendence is proposed in terms of the well-trodden path of Greek philosophy. It is a handbook on research into the divine. Prayer and interior contemplation to seek the divine within oneself are not properties of Ciceronian thought. Religious discourse is constantly and firmly linked to civic values and the merit of an active public life. Fate, of which the gods are instruments, is the subject of speculation in the light of its reflection and influences on public life. In short, there exists a preordained order or an inaccessible fate that is interested in the political events of the state and of no great relevance per se. Cicero is well aware that the gods must be invoked, not so as to become better, but for the sake of good health and prosperity. As Seneca notes (Epistulae ad Lucilium 10, 5), acknowledgment of one's own weakness to a god was not unknown to the religious sensibility of the ancient world. This form of religion was unacceptable to the nobles, however, and they criticized this attitude amongst any in their ranks who endorsed this approach. For example, the frequent attendance of Scipio Africanus to the temple of Zeus Capitolinus was regarded by Valerius Maximus (I, 2, 2) as a case of "fake religion."
There is little recent work concerning religion in Cicero (in the sense of analyzing all his works), although the numerous commentaries on the works of Cicero on this subject may be of use. See, for example, The Nature of the Gods, translated with an introduction by P. G. Walsh (Oxford, 1997). The commentary of Arthur Stanley Pease remains essential: M. T. Ciceronis: De natura deorum, I–II (Cambridge, Mass., 1955–1958; reprint, 1979). See also Pease's commentary on De divinatione (Urbana, Ill., 1923; reprint, Darmstadt, Germany, 1963) and De fato (reprint, Darmstadt, 1963). For various aspects of Cicero's concern with religious matters, see:
Auvray-Assayas, Clara. Modèles anthropologiques romains dans le De natura deorum. Paris, 1994. See pages 207–219.
Fontanella, Francesca. "L'interpretazione ciceroniana del culto degli eroi e delle virtù." Rivista storica Italiana 102 (1995): 5–19.
Guillaumont, François. Philosophe et augure: Recherches sur la théorie cicéronienne de la divination. Brussels, 1984.
Mandel, Joshua. "State Religion and Superstition as Reflected in Cicero's Philosophical Works." Euphrosyne 12 (1983–1984): 79–110.
Troiani, Lucio. "La religione e Cicerone." Rivista storica Italiana 96 (1984): 920–952.
Turpin, Jean. "Cicéron: De legibus I-II et la religion romaine." In Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II 16, no. 3. Berlin, 1986. See pages 1877–1908.
Lucio Troiani (2005)
Translated from Italian by Paul Ellis
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.) was Rome's greatest orator and a prolific writer of verse, letters, and works on philosophy, politics, and rhetoric that greatly influenced European thought.
Cicero was born on Jan. 3, 106 B.C., at Arpinum near Rome, the elder son of a wealthy landowner. At an early age Cicero saw military service during the Social War (90-89), but he managed to avoid involvement in the civil wars that followed. He wanted to follow a career in politics and decided first to gain a reputation as an advocate.
Cicero's first appearances in court were made during the dictatorship of Sulla (81-80). In one case, while defending Sextus Roscius of Ameria on a trumped-up charge of murder, he boldly made some outspoken comments on certain aspects of Sulla's regime, and in 79 he left Rome to study in Rhodes. By 76 Cicero was back in Rome, where he married Terentia, whose family was wealthy and perhaps aristocratic. In 75 he held the office of quaestor, which brought him membership in the Senate, and in 70 he scored his first great success, when he prosecuted Caius Verres for gross misgovernment in Sicily. As Verres was defended by the leading advocate of the day, Quintus Hortensius, Cicero's success in this case won him great acclaim and considerably helped his political career.
In 69 Cicero held the office of aedile and that of praetor in 66, in which year he made his first major political speech in support of the extension of Pompey's command in the Mediterranean. During the following years he acted as a self-appointed defender of that general's interests. When Cicero stood for the consulship of 63, he reached the highest political office at the earliest legal age, a remarkable achievement for a complete outsider. His consulship involved him in a number of political problems which culminated in the conspiracy of Catiline.
Disillusion and Exile
In the years after his consulship Cicero, politically helpless, watched Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus form the dictatorial First Triumvirate. Cicero refused offers to become a fourth member of this alliance, and his publicly expressed dislike of the violent methods Caesar employed in his consulship (59) led to Cicero's exile to Macedonia. There he lived for 16 months in abject misery, until the efforts of his friends secured his recall in August 57 B.C.
During the next 8 months Cicero tried to separate Pompey from his partners, but early in the summer of 56 Pompey brusquely ordered Cicero to stop his efforts. For the next 4 years he was largely out of politics, devoting himself to writing and occasionally emerging to defend (inconsistent behavior on his part) various supporters of the Triumvirate.
In 51 Cicero was sent off to govern Cilicia for a year. He was a conscientious and unusually honest administrator, but he was bored by the whole business and hated every moment of his absence from Rome. He finally returned in December 50 B.C., too late to be able to do anything to stop the outbreak of war between Pompey and Caesar. He accepted a commission from Pompey but did little for him, and when Pompey left Italy, Cicero stayed behind.
After Pompey's death Cicero took no part in politics and devoted himself to writing works on philosophy and rhetoric. Apart from his increasing dislike of Caesar's autocratic rule, Cicero's life was made unhappy during these years by domestic sorrows. In the winter of 47/46 he divorced Terentia after 30 years' marriage, and in the following summer he was deeply grieved by the death of his much-loved daughter Tullia.
Cicero was not involved in the conspiracy against Caesar, though he strongly approved of it, and after the assassination he took a prominent part in establishing a compromise between Antony and the conspirators. But before long he concluded that Antony was as great a menace to liberty as Caesar had been. During the winter of 44/43 with a series of vigorous speeches, the "Philippics," he rallied the Senate to oppose Antony in concert with Octavian. But Octavian, having seized power at Rome by force, reached an agreement with Antony and Lepidus to set themselves up as a three-man dictatorship. They started by proscribing many of their enemies, and among the first names on the list was that of Cicero. He could perhaps have escaped, but his efforts were halfhearted, and in December 43 B.C. he met his death at the hands of Antony's agents with courage and dignity.
As a politician, Cicero was ultimately unsuccessful, since he was not able to prevent the overthrow of the republican system of government. Devoted to peace and reason, he lived in an age when political power depended more and more on sheer force. Moreover, he was blind to many of the defects of the republican system and did not realize how much it failed to meet the real needs of the provincials and even of the poorer citizens of Italy and Rome itself.
The texts of 57 speeches have survived, though 2 or 3 are not complete, and Cicero delivered at least 50 more, nearly all of which were published but have since been lost. As Cicero normally edited and polished his speeches before publication, we do not have the text of what he actually said, but in most cases a more or less close approximation.
However, five speeches against Verres were never delivered but were written by Cicero to present material not used in court; the "Second Philippic" is a political pamphlet cast in the form of an imaginary speech; and Pro Milone represents what Cicero would have said in Milo's defense in 52 if he had not been flustered by a hostile mob into making a poor and ineffective speech.
The corpus of the extant speeches is impressive both for its bulk and its quality. It is hard not to be impressed by their vigor, by their variety of tone, and above all by the lucidity with which Cicero could present a complicated series of facts. Of the forensic speeches, Pro Cluentio (66) is the longest and most complicated, but it gives a vivid picture of life in a small Italian town. The much shorter Pro Archia (62) is notable for its sincere and eloquent defense of a life devoted to literary pursuits, and Pro Murena (63) is an excellent example of Cicero's ability to win a case by disregarding the basic facts and concentrating with charm and wit on such irrelevancies as the Stoic beliefs of one of the prosecutors. Of the political speeches, although the "Catilinarians" are the most famous, the 14 "Philippics" are probably the finest, because in them Cicero was concentrating all his energy and skill with a directness that he did not always achieve.
Nearly all of Cicero's works on philosophy, politics, or rhetoric are in dialogue form, though Cicero had little of Plato's dramatic instinct for the genre. They are written in that elegant and sonorous Latin prose of which Cicero was such a master. Several are devoted to ethics, religion, or other philosophical subjects, but they cannot be regarded as original contributions to philosophy, for Cicero himself acknowledged, "I provide only the words, of which I have a very large stock." Nevertheless, they are extremely valuable because in them he reproduced the theories of many of the leading Greek philosophers of the post-Aristotelian schools, such as the Stoics and the Epicureans, whose own works have not survived.
Among the more attractive are the short essays on friendship and old age, De amicitia and De senectute (both 44). Of the longer works, the most important are probably De finibus (45), a systematic discussion of ethics; De natura deorum (45), a hastily written and disjointed but valuable survey of contemporary religious beliefs; and De officiis (winter 44/43), a treatise on moral duties.
Another group is concerned with political theory, especially De republica (54-51), of which barely one-third is extant, and De legibus, started in 52 but perhaps never completed. These works also are to some extent based on Greek ideas, but the theoretical basis is reinforced by the Roman practical genius for the art of government and Cicero's own considerable experience of politics.
In the works on Cicero's own art of rhetoric there is a similar blend of Greek theory and Roman practical experience. The most important are De oratore (55), which is basically a discussion of the training of the ideal orator but takes in many aspects of the art of speaking, such as humor; Brutus (45), which contains an account of Roman oratory of great historical importance, with sketches of nearly 200 speakers; and Orator (45), in which Cicero discusses the different styles of oratory and various technical aspects of rhetoric, including a detailed examination of prose rhythms.
In his youth Cicero wrote a quantity of verse, none of which has survived, and he won a considerable reputation as a poet. In later years he composed a short epic on the great soldier Marius and a longer poem on his own consulship. Of such poetry, only a few scattered lines have been preserved, in one or two cases because they are so very bad. We do have, however, several hundred lines of the Aratea, a translation of a poem on astronomy by the Alexandrian poet Aratus, and a number of shorter passages also translated from Greek originals. It is clear that Cicero had little real poetic inspiration but was a highly competent craftsman who did much for the development of the dactylic hexa-meter in Latin, and metrical analysis suggests that in this respect Virgil owed as much to him as to any other poet.
The collection of Cicero's letters is undoubtedly the most interesting and valuable part of all his enormous literary output. It includes nearly 800 letters written by him, and nearly another 100 written to him by a wide variety of correspondents. The two major collections are the letters Ad Atticum in 16 books, and Ad familiares, also in 16 books, published by his freedman secretary Tiro. This latter set includes practically all the letters written to Cicero. There are also two smaller sets, three books of Ad Quintum fratrem and two books of Ad M. Brutum, both the remains of what were at one time larger collections. Other sets of letters to his son Marcus, to Julius Caesar, to Octavian, and to others have all been lost. The surviving letters belong mainly to his last years; there are only 12 dating before his consulship, while over a quarter of the collection were written in the last 18 months of his life.
Some of the letters are as carefully composed as the speeches or dialogues, but most of them, especially those to his brother or to close friends like Atticus, have a spontaneity which is often lacking in the more calculated prose. In these intimate letters Cicero uses a very colloquial style, with frequent use of slang, ellipse, diminutive forms, and words or phrases in Greek.
But however rapidly they may have been written, Cicero never loses his instinctive sense of style, and their combination of immediacy with stylishness makes them some of the most attractive reading in the whole of Latin literature, quite apart from the fascination of their subject matter, for they cover an immense range of topics. But above all, they give an incredibly vivid picture of Cicero himself: his vanity, his facile optimism and equally exaggerated despair, his timidity and his indecisiveness, but also his energy and industry, his courage, his loyalty, and his basic honesty, kindliness and humanity. Thanks to his letters, we can know Cicero as we know no other Roman, and with all his faults he was a man worth knowing.
Cicero's major works and his correspondence are available in English translation. The best brief account of his career and personality comprises the essays by H. H. Scullard, T. A. Dorey, and J. P. V. D. Balsdon in T. A. Dorey, ed., Cicero (1965), a rather uneven collection of studies by various authors. Of the numerous longer accounts, Torsten Petersson, Cicero: A Biography (1920), is balanced and reliable, and H. J. Haskell, This Was Cicero (1942), is very readable and generally sensible. R. E. Smith, Cicero the Statesman (1966), concentrates on the political side of his career and, though generally reliable on facts, is not very profound and is perhaps too favorable to Cicero. David Stockton, Cicero: A Political Biography (1971), is a straightforward account of Cicero's public career. Hartvig Frisch, Cicero's Fight for the Republic (1946), is an extremely detailed discussion of the last stage of Cicero's career. There is a good brief discussion of Cicero as a philosopher in H. A. K. Hunt, The Humanism of Cicero (1954).
For Cicero as an orator and for Roman rhetoric generally, S. F. Bonner, Roman Declamation in the Late Republic and Early-Empire (1949), and M. L. Clarke, Rhetoric at Rome (1953; rev. ed. 1963), should be consulted. The best account of the history of Rome in Cicero's lifetime is in H. H. Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero (1959; 2d ed. 1964), and a more detailed account is in T. Rice Holmes, The Roman Republic and the Founder of the Empire (1923). □
Cicero, Marcus Tullius
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Born: January 3, 106 b.c.e.
Died: December 7, 43 b.c.e.
Roman orator and writer
Marcus Tullius Cicero was Rome's greatest speaker and a productive writer of verse, letters, and works on philosophy and politics that greatly influenced European thought. His speeches and writings would become models for generations to come.
Marcus Tullius Cicero was born on January 3, 106 b.c.e., at Arpinum near Rome, the oldest son of a wealthy landowner, also named Marcus Tullius Cicero. At a young age Cicero began studying the writings in his father's library. Both Cicero and his brother Quintus became greatly interested in philosophy and public speaking. When his father noticed this interest, he decided to take his sons to Rome for the best education that could be found. Rome was also a place where the boys could increase their social standing.
At an early age Cicero saw military service during the Social War (90–89 b.c.e.), but he managed to avoid involvement in the civil wars that followed. Cicero's first appearances in court were made during the dictatorship (a form of government where one person rules with absolute power) of Sulla (81–80 b.c.e.). In one case, while defending Sextus Roscius of Ameria on a false charge of murder, he boldly made some outspoken comments on certain aspects of Sulla's regime. It would not be the last time Cicero spoke out about those of higher power.
In 79 b.c.e. Cicero left Rome to study in Rhodes. By 76 b.c.e. he was back in Rome, where he married Terentia, whose family was wealthy and perhaps part of the ruling class. In 75 b.c.e. he held the office of quaestor, which brought him membership in the Senate, the highest council in the Roman empire. In 70 b.c.e. he achieved his first great success, when he prosecuted Caius Verres for extreme mismanagement of government in Sicily.
In 69 b.c.e. Cicero held the office of aedile (public works and games) and that of praetor (judge). In 66 b.c.e., Cicero made his first major political speech in support of the extension of General Pompey's (106–48 b.c.e.) command in the Mediterranean. During the following years he acted as a self-appointed defender of that general's interests. In 63 b.c.e. Cicero became consul, or an official representing the government in a foreign land. He had reached the highest political office at the earliest legal age, a remarkable achievement for a complete outsider.
Disappointment and exile
In the years after his consulship, Cicero watched Caesar (100–44 b.c.e.), Pompey (106–48 b.c.e.), and Crassus (140–91 b.c.e.) form the First Triumvirate, a powerful allegiance within the Senate. Cicero refused offers to become a fourth member of this alliance, and he publicly expressed dislike for the violent methods Caesar used in his consulship. This led to Cicero's exile, or forced removal, to Macedonia. He lived there for sixteen months, until the efforts of his friends secured his recall in August 57 b.c.e.
During the next eight months Cicero tried to separate Pompey from his partners. Early in the summer of 56 b.c.e. Pompey ordered Cicero to stop his efforts. For the next four years he was largely out of politics, devoting himself to writing and occasionally emerging to make public appearances.
After Pompey's death Cicero took no part in politics and devoted himself to writing works on philosophy and other matters. Apart from his increasing dislike of Caesar's absolute rule, Cicero's life was made unhappy during these years by domestic sorrows. In the winter of 47–46 b.c.e. he divorced Terentia after thirty years of marriage. The following summer he was deeply grieved by the death of his much-loved daughter Tullia.
Cicero was not involved in the conspiracy against Caesar, though he strongly approved of it. After Caesar's assassination, he took a major part in establishing a compromise between Mark Antony (c. 81–30 b.c.e.) and those who killed Caesar. Before long he concluded that Antony was as great a threat to liberty as Caesar had been. But Octavian (63 b.c.e.–14 C. E.), having seized power in Rome by force, reached an agreement with Antony and Lepidus (died 152 b.c.e.) to set themselves up as a three-man dictatorship. They started by outlawing many of their enemies, and among the first names on the list was Cicero's. He could have perhaps escaped, but his efforts were half-hearted. In December 43 b.c.e. he met his death at the hands of Antony's men with courage and dignity.
As a politician Cicero was ultimately unsuccessful, since he was not able to prevent the overthrow of the republican system of government. It is in his speeches and his writings that Cicero's legacy truly lies.
The speeches and dialogues
The texts of fifty-seven speeches have survived and Cicero delivered at least fifty more, nearly all of which were published but have since been lost. The collection of the existing speeches is impressive both for its bulk and its quality. Of the legal speeches, "Pro Cluentio" (66 b.c.e.) is the longest and most complicated, but it gives a vivid picture of life in a small Italian town. The much shorter "Pro Archia" (62 b.c.e.) is notable for its sincere and persuasive defense of a life devoted to literary pursuits. Of the political speeches the "Catilinarians" are the most famous. The fourteen "Philippics" are probably the finest, however, because in them Cicero concentrated all of his energy and skill with a directness that he did not always achieve.
Nearly all of Cicero's works on philosophy, politics, or rhetoric (the study of speaking) are in dialogue form. They were written in an elegant Latin language of which Cicero was such a master. Several are devoted to ethics, religion, and other philosophical subjects. They are extremely valuable because in them he reproduced the theories of many of the leading Greek philosophers of the post-Aristotelian schools, such as the Stoics and the Epicureans, whose own works did not survive.
Another group of Cicero's work is concerned with political theory, especially "De republica" (54–51 b.c.e.), of which barely one-third survives, and "De legibus," started in 52 b.c.e. but perhaps never completed. These works were also to some extent based on Greek ideas. But the basis was reinforced by the Roman genius for the art of government and Cicero's own considerable experience of politics.
The collection of Cicero's letters is undoubtedly the most interesting and valuable part of all his enormous literary output. It includes nearly eight hundred letters written by him, and nearly another one hundred written to him by a wide variety of correspondents. The surviving letters belonged mainly to his last years. There are only twelve dating before his consulship, while more than a quarter of the collection was written in the last eighteen months of his life.
Some of the letters were as carefully composed as the speeches or dialogues. Most of them, especially those to his brother or to close friends like Atticus, have an originality that is often lacking in his more calculated work. In these intimate letters Cicero used a very informal style, with frequent use of slang and words or phrases in Greek.
The letters cover an immense range of topics, but above all, they give an incredibly vivid picture of Cicero himself. The letters demonstrate his energy and industry, his courage, his loyalty, and his basic honesty, kindliness, and humanity. Thanks to his letters, we know Cicero as we know no other Roman.
For More Information
Everett, Anthony. Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician. New York: Random House, 2002.
Forsyth, Fiona. Cicero: Defender of the Republic. New York: Rosen Central, 2002.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius
CICERO, MARCUS TULLIUS
Orator, statesman, and greatest man of letters of antiquity; b. Arpinum, Italy, Jan. 3, 106 b.c.; d. Formiae, Dec. 7, 43. He was of middle-class origin, and he received an excellent education at Rome that was completed by philosophical and rhetorical studies at Athens and Rhodes. He distinguished himself as an orator and served as quaestor in 75, as praetor in 66, and as consul in 63. His greatest political triumph was the unmasking and suppression of the conspiracy of Cataline. As an opponent of Caesar he was exiled in 58 to 57, but through Pompey's efforts he was able to return to Rome. In 51 to 50 he served as a governor of Cilicia. In the civil war he supported Pompey and the senate. Following the assassination of Caesar, he courageously defended the senatorial cause against Mark Antony. He perished as a victim, with the acquiescence of Octavian, of Antony's hatred.
Cicero was a man of peace, innately conservative in politics, who found himself deeply involved in the violence that marked the last years of the Republic. Owing to the preservation of most of his voluminous writings, especially of his letters, his life is better known than that of any other ancient personality, with the possible exception of St. augustine.
Cicero's chief extant works comprise orations, rhetorical compositions, and philosophical treatises, cast in the form of dialogues, and letters. His orations and letters, apart from their high literary place in oratory and epistolography, are invaluable sources for the history of the late Republic. His rhetorical works are primarily concerned with the theory of oratory and give precious information on the earlier Roman orators. His extant philosophical dialogues cover political theory and religion as well as philosophical themes as ordinarily understood. They are: De Republica (preserved only in part), De legibus, Academica, De finibus bonorum et malorum, Tusculanae disputationes, De natura deorum, De divinatione, De senectute, De amicitia, Paradoxa Stoicorum, and De officiis. His De consolatione and the Hortensius, which exercised such a great influence on the young Augustine, have been lost.
Cicero was not an original thinker, but as an eclectic he expounded in a beautiful literary style the basic ideas of the chief Greek schools of philosophy. In epistemology he followed the New Academy; in ethics, chiefly the Stoics. He rejected both the materialism of the Epicureans and the popular religious beliefs in the gods, but believed in a divine providence and the immortality of the soul. Cicero is the undisputed master of Latin prose style and the creator of Latin philosophical language. He was the first, for example, to employ such basic terms as essentia, qualitas, and materia in their philosophical sense.
Cicero's influence on subsequent Latin prose style was immediate and very significant because of his central place beside vergil in the ancient school tradition. Since the ancient Christian writers were trained chiefly in pagan schools, it is only natural that they should reflect Ciceronian influence in both thought and style. Cicero's treatment of Greco-Roman philosophy and religion furnished Christian apologists with arguments that were all the more effective because they were based on a universally acknowledged authority. minucius felix, arnobius the elder, and lactantius drew heavily on Cicero's De natura deorum, De divinatione, and other works. Lactantius, because of his indebtedness to Cicero for his content and style, has been called the "Christian Cicero."
St. ambrose's De officiis shows the obvious influence of Cicero in its title and in its division into three books, but in actual content it is much less dependent on its model than is usually assumed. St. jerome's dream and the style of his treatises and letters furnish ample testimony for his familiarity with the great Roman writer. The reading of the Hortensius, as already noted, marked a turning point in the life of the young Augustine. Later, Augustine found Cicero and Varro invaluable sources for his apologetic in the De civitate Dei. His definition of the pagan state, for example, is taken from Cicero. Book four of his De doctrina Christiana, a treatise on Christian rhetoric, is based essentially on Cicero's theory of rhetoric and education. boethius reflects Ciceronian influence in his style of writing rather than in his thought.
The influence of Cicero continued throughout the Middle Ages, but it was confined largely to the knowledge and use of a limited number of his philosophical works, his rhetorical treatise De inventione, and the Auctor ad Herennium, which was regarded as a Ciceronian production. Few scholars in the Middle Ages were as familiar with Cicero as Lupus of Ferrières, john of salisbury, and Peter of Blois. From the beginning of the Renaissance, with the recovery and study of his extant works, Cicero became the universally recognized, and for a time the exclusive, master of Latin prose style.
The cultivation of Ciceronian Latin in the European school tradition exercised a marked effect on the development of vernacular prose style in general. In the late 19th century Pope leo xiii gave Ciceronian Latin a basic place in his reform of papal chancery style; his own encyclicals, especially, and those of his successors exhibit the deliberate use of Ciceronian language and stylistic devices. Ciceronian thought exercised some influence throughout the modern period, but his influence in modern times has been primarily in the field of rhetorical theory and style.
Bibliography: g. c. richards, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. m. cary et al. (Oxford 1949) 188–191, with bibliog. k. bÜchner, "M. Tullius Cicero, der Redner (29)," Paulys Realenzkopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al. 7A.1 (1939) 827–1274. c. becker, Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, ed. t. klauser (Stuttgart 1941–50) 3:86–127, with bibliog. j. w. duff, A Literary History of Rome from the Origins to the Close of the Golden Age, ed. a. m. duff (3d ed. London 1953) 255–290, with bibliog. 501–503. j. e. sandys History of Classical Scholarship (Cambridge, Eng.), v.1 (3d ed. 1921), v.2, 3 (2d ed. 1906–08); repr. (New York 1958), indices s.v. "Cicero." m. manitius, Geschischte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelaters (Munich 1911–31) indices s.v. "Cicero." g. highet, The Classical Tradition (New York 1949), index s.v. "Cicero." r. r. bolgar, The Classical Heritage and Its Beneficiaries (Cambridge, Eng.1954), index s.v. "Cicero." h. hagendahl, Latin Fathers and the Classics (Göteborg 1958), index s.v. "Cicero." m. van de bruwaine, La Théologie de Cicéron (Louvain 1937). t. a. dorey, ed., Cicero (London 1965).
[m. r. p. mcguire]
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Orator, statesman, philosopher
Indispensable Man. Cicero was born in 106 B.C.E. in the town of Arpinum, north of Rome. His family’s connections in the Roman nobility secured him a rhetorical education and an apprenticeship in law and practical politics. His exceptional skills as a public speaker became apparent in his career as a courtroom advocate. This ability allowed him to run for and win a series of magistracies, all the way up to the consulship in 63 B.C.E. (he was only the second person in a century to reach the highest office without having an ancestor who had held any office). His greatest public achievement was putting down an attempted coup during his consulship. During the course of this coup, however, he executed some of the conspirators without trial, and he was later (58 B.C.E.-57 B.C.E.) briefly exiled for having done so. His legal career continued, but he was overshadowed in politics for the rest of his life. In 43 B.C.E. he spoke out strongly against Marc Antony, who seized power after the assassination of Caesar, and was one of many of Antony’s opponents who was executed. Fifty-eight of his orations and more than nine hundred of his letters are extant.
Paul MacKendrick, The Speeches of Cicero (London: Duckworth, 1995).
Ann Vasaly, Representations: Images in the World of Ciceronian Oratory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).