Cicero

Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman lawyer, writer, and orator. He is famous for his orations on politics and society, as well as serving as a high-ranking consul.

Grades

9 - 12

Subjects

Anthropology, Archaeology, Social Studies, World History

Image

Marcus Tullius Cicero

This statue depicts Marcus Tullius Cicero, a famous orator and writer on the politics and society of the Roman Republic. Unfortunately, his opinions on politics were not always popular, and he was ultimately declared a public enemy and executed in 43 B.C.E.

Photograph by Augurmm, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-4.0

Marcus Tullius Cicero was born outside of Rome in 106 B.C.E. Born to a wealthy family, Cicero received a quality education. After he served in the military, Cicero studied Roman law. He went on to be elected to each of Rome’s principal offices, becoming the youngest citizen to attain the highest rank of consul without coming from a political family.

Cicero remained loyal to the Roman Republic during his career. He viewed the informal alliance known as the First Triumvirate to be in direct opposition to the principles of the republic and authority of the Senate. By refusing to join this alliance, Cicero left himself vulnerable to attacks from his political enemies. This became an issue for Cicero when he came under fire for speaking out against the political figure and tribune Publius Clodius.

When Clodius was elected as a tribune, he introduced a bill that revoked the citizenship of anyone who killed a Roman citizen without granting them a trial. This was designed to strike at Cicero for his role in putting down an uprising known as the Catalonian rebellion. Cicero ordered the execution of the revolutionaries without a trial due to the urgency that the rebellion needed to be ended. With no allies remaining to protect him from Clodius’ attacks, Cicero fled Rome and become an exile. After a year and a half, however, he was allowed to return back to Rome as a result of Pompey’s intervention following Clodius’ term as tribune.

When Cicero returned to Rome, he was forced to stay out of politics, so he turned to writing. He wrote many works relating to philosophy, such as On the Republic, On Invention, and On the Orator. He established himself as a prolific Roman author. He also made many speeches and wrote letters that have been preserved, allowing the modern world to gain knowledge of the politics and culture of Cicero’s era.

Cicero’s fate was sealed when he began speaking out against Mark Antony, who rose to power following Julius Caesar’s assassination. Once Cicero denounced Antony, he was declared a public enemy and was executed in 43 B.C.E.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Author
National Geographic Society
Producer
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

October 12, 2022

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about licensing content on this page, please contact ngimagecollection@natgeo.com for more information and to obtain a license. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. She or he will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.

Media

If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.

Text

Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.

Interactives

Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources