History for the Rest of Us

Cicero

Cicero

Dec 5, 2012

Marcus Tullius Cicero, the greatest name in Roman literature, was born near Arpinum, a town of Latium, January 3rd, B.C. 106. His father, a man of large views and liberal culture, belonged to the equites, and possessed an hereditary estate in the neighborhood of the town. Early Years To give his sons, Marcus and Quintus, that education which could not be obtained at a provincial school, he removed to Rome, where the young Ciceros were placed under the best teachers of the day. From Aelius they learned philosophy; from Archias, the mechanism of verse, though not the inspiration of poetry. A translation of the Phaenomena and Prognostics of Aratus, and a mythological poem on the fable of Pontius Glaucus were the first fruits of Cicero’s genius. On assuming the toga virilis, B.C. 89, Cicero attached himself to the jurist Scaevola, who was then in the zenith of his fame. In the following year he served a brief campaign in the Social War under Cn. Pompeius Strabo, the father of Pompey the Great. Philosophical studies had, however, more attractions for him than arms. Under Philo, the Academic, and Diodotus, the Stoic, he laid the foundation of that Eclecticism which is so observable in his philosophical works. At the age of 25 he pleaded his first cause, and in the following year he defended Sextus Roscius of Ameria, who had been accused of parricide by Chrysogonus, one of Sulla’s favourites. In this cause he acquired the acquittal of his client, but incurred the enmity of the dictator. With the ostensible object of regaining his health he went to Athens, where he studied philosophy under Antiochus, the Academic, and under Zeno and Phaedrus, both Epicureans. From Athens he traveled through Asia Minor and finally settled for a short time at Rhodes, attending there the lectures of Molo, the rhetorician. Political Career Returning home, he at once entered on that political career to which his commanding ability destined him, and was elected quaestor of Sicily. During his term of office he so endeared himself to the inhabitants of the island by his integrity that they selected him as their patron at Rome. In their behalf he subsequently conducted...