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Non nobis solum nati sumus ortusque nostri partem patria vindicat, partem amici.

—Cicero, On Duties, Book I, section 22

We are not born for ourselves alone; a part of us is claimed by our nation, another part by our friends.

—Cicero, De Officiis, I.22

Parallel – Demosthenes

Cicero lived and died as a political failure. In what ways, then, is his failure worth studying. In what ways did he succeed? In many ways, he and Vergil become the teachers of Western Europe all the way down to the present day. Can we declare Cicero a victor in the long-run, or should we study only his failures as a warning?

Cicero, still delivering speeches in front of the Roman courthouse.


Cicero’s Early Political Rise

  • Military tribune under Sulla in Italy
  • Pro Rosciō – defends a political enemy of Sulla’s
  • Flees to Greece
    • Delphic advice
    • Fluent in Greek, studying Greek philosophy

Cursus Honorum

  • Quaestor in Sicily
    • Fights corruption
    • Breadbasket of Italy (before the Romans conquered Egypt)
  • Praetor in Rome
  • Consul – height of Cicero’s powers
    • Conspiracy of Catiline
      • Catiline not elected consul
      • Turns to force and fire to overthrow the Senate and the city of Rome
    • Trial before the Senate?
    • Death Penalty?
      • Caesar’s speech – clementia
      • Cato’s speech – treason deserves death, always has.
    • Vixerunt – they have lived! (i.e. they’re dead)
    • Cato declares Cicero pater patriae “father of the fatherland”
    • Cicero later reminisces about the event as “arma togae cedunt” (De Officiis I.77)
      • Arms yield to the toga (On duties I.77)

Bona Dea Scandal and Exile

  • Publius Clodius Pulcher changes from friend to enemy
  • Cicero flees, then Clodius officially banishes him
    • Depressed in Greece (cf. Demosthenes depressed in Troezen)

Civil War – Round One

  • Return from Exile
    • Welcomed like a hero
    • Forgiven by Caesar (cf. Demosthenes forgiven by Alexander)
    • Not included in Brutus and Cassius’ conspiracy
      • Brutus says “He will never follow any thing / That other men begin”
    • Plutarch’s Life of Brutus contains the most detail about the aftermath of Caesar’s death.

Civil War – Round Two

  • The Philippics – consciously comparing the tyranny of Philip with the tyranny of Antony
    • Attacks Mark Antony explicitly
    • Antony retaliates with proscription (etym.)
    • Octavian not strong enough to save Cicero

History – Written by the Victors?

  • Augustus later sees his nephew reading a book of Cicero… how does he react?
  • Octavian eventually removes statues and honors of Mark Antony, but Cicero’s writing is preserved.
  • One of the best-preserved authors from pagan antiquity
    • Thanks to Tiro and Atticus
  • Influenced:
    • St. Jerome
    • St. Augustine
    • Erasmus
    • Luther
    • Locke
    • Hume
    • Jefferson
    • Adams
  • Strongest influence in bringing together Latin and Greek thought
    • Much like Plutarch
    • Wanted to “teach philosophy to speak Latin” (Tusc. 2.3)
      • philosophia nascatur Latinis quidem litteris ex his temporibus

Important People

  • Sulla
  • Catiline
  • Clodius
  • Caesar
  • Pompey
  • Cato the Younger

Important Places

  • Rome
  • Sicily
  • Bithynia
  • Battle of Pharsalus

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