The Crisis of the Roman Republic
Julius Caesar The Age of Augustus
   Cicero was born in 106 B.C., six years before the birth of Julius Caesar, into a wealthy family, though none of his family served as senators. He received the Roman equivalent of an Ivy League education, studying rhetoric and philosophy in Rome, Athens, and Rhodes. After making a name as a lawyer in the Roman lawcourts, he was elected to the office of quaestor in 76, which made him a member of the Senate, and in 63 he was elected consul, 1 at the lowest legal age and as the first man for thirty years to gain that position from a family which had not previously held the office. During his year as consul he put down the conspiracy of Catiline, for which he was awarded the title of "Father of his Country." Cicero, however, as a champion of the traditional institutions of the Roman republic and the enemy of autocracy, was no match for the power politics of Julius Caesar and Pompey, and was never afterwards a major influence in public affairs when they erupted onto the scene. Cicero rejoiced at the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. and returned to political life with vigorous public attacks on Mark Antony, but his association with the young Octavian (later the Emperor Augustus) did not save him from Antony's revenge and he was killed in the wave of assassinations which began the triumvirate regime of Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus (43 B.C.). 2

The Punic Wars

Rome Glossary
   During the later years of his life, when he could no longer take much part in politics, Cicero devoted his time to writing a number of philosophical works. He intended to make the moral ideas of the Greek philosophers available to Roman public figures who were faced constantly with important decisions but not terribly studious in temperament; these philosophical works were immensely significant in the intellectual life of Europe until very recent times and were an essential part of the education of 18th century Americans. such as just about all the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Perhaps the most important philosophical idea for Cicero was the notion of duties. The word is a slightly misleading translation; the Latin word (officia) 3 in its narrow sense means "reciprocal personal relationships," but for Cicero means something like "what we owe to others based on our specific relationship to them." Cicero's most lasting work in the European tradition is "The Dream of Scipio," a short interlude in a longer (now lost) work on the duties various members of a republic owe to one another, De Re Publica (On Public Affairs: this is the word from which "republic" derives), which is Cicero's Stoic version of Plato's Republic. In it, Scipio Africanus, the hero of the Second Punic War, appears to his descendent, also called Scipio, and shows him the harmonies of the universe and the place just actions and just humans occupy in this universe.

Richard Hooker

World Cultures

1996, Richard Hooker

For information contact: Richard Hines
Updated 6-6-1999