Marcus Tullius Cicero

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Cicero, Marcus Tullius


Born Jan. 3, 106 B.C., in Arpinum; died Dec. 7, 43 B.C., near Caeta (modern Gaeta). Roman political figure, orator, and writer.

A member of the equites, Cicero entered political life as a novus homo, or new arrival in the ranks of the governing aristocracy; he was dependent only on himself and his oratorical talent. In his first public speech, which was made in 81 or 80 B.C., he attacked the dictatorship of Sulla. His first major success came in 70 B.C, when he acted as prosecutor in the famous trial of Verres, an appointee of Sulla’s. Cicero gave his first political speech in 66 B.C, speaking in support of G. Pompey. His greatest successes followed his election to the consulship in 63 B.C.; he exposed the Catiline conspiracy and came to play a leading role in the Senate.

With the formation of the First Triumvirate in 60 B.C, Cicero’s influenced waned; he found it necessary to live in exile in 58 and 57 B.C. and to support Pompey and Caesar from 56 to 50 B.C. After the dissolution of the Triumvirate in 49 B.C., Cicero attempted to play the role of peacemaker during the civil war of 49–47 B.C. With the victory of Caesar in 47 B.C, Cicero withdrew from politics; only after Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C did he, after a period of vacillation, again enter the political struggle, as the leader of the Senate and the republicans. It was at this time that he delivered his 14 Philippic orations against M. Antony. In 43 B.C the Senate suffered defeat in its struggle against the Second Triumvirate, which comprised Antony, Octavian Augustus, and Lepidus; Cicero was proscribed and became one of the first to perish as a result of the repressive measures instituted by Antony and Octavian.

Cicero’s political ideal was a mixed state system—that is, a state combining elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy and taking as its model the Roman republic of the third and early second centuries B.C This state was to be based on the concordia ordinum (harmony between the classes) and the consensus Italiae (unanimity throughout Italy)—in other words, on a bloc of senators and equites opposed both to democracy and to those who aspired to monarchical power, a bloc similar to the one that Cicero had formed to thwart the conspiracy of Catiline.

Cicero’s human ideal was the “first man of the republic,” “the peacemaker,” and the “keeper and guardian” in times of crisis. This ideal man would have a command of Greek philosophical theory and be experienced in Roman politics and oratory. Cicero considered himself a model of such a figure. His philosophical ideal was a combination of theoretical skepticism and practical Stoicism. His skepticism asserted the uncertainty of all knowledge and the impossibility of knowing the truth. His Stoicism required rigid adherence to moral duty, which is consonant with the public good and universal law.

In oratory, Cicero’s ideal was “abundance”: the conscious mastery of all means designed to engage, convince, and entertain the listener. These means found expression in three styles: grand, medium, and simple, each characterized by an appropriate degree of lexical purity, or freedom from such defects as archaisms and vulgarisms, and a balanced syntax, or the use of rhetorical periods. Cicero, by developing the art of rhetoric, established himself as a creator and classic author of the Latin literary language.

Cicero’s extant works, other than fragments, comprise 58 speeches, 19 treatises, and more than 800 letters. The speeches are, for the most part, connected with his work as an advocate but include political orations against such figures as Catiline and Antony. The treatises, some of which are in the form of a dialogue, deal with rhetoric, politics (On the Republic, On Laws), practical philosophy (Tusculan Disputations, On Duty), and theoretical philosophy (De Finibus, On the Nature of the Gods). Cicero’s letters constitute an important psychological record, a storehouse of the colloquial Latin language, and a source of information about the period of the civil wars in Rome.


In Russian translation:
Izbr. soch. Moscow, 1975.
Rechi, vols. 1–2. Translated by V. Gorenshtein. Moscow, 1962.
Poln. sobr. rechei, vol. 1. Translated under the editorship of T. Zielinski. St. Petersburg, 1901.
Dialogi, O gosudarstve, O zakonakh. Moscow, 1966.
O starosti, O druzhbe, Ob obiazannostiakh. Translated by V. Gorenshtein. Moscow, 1975.
Pis’ma, vols. 1–3. Translated, with a commentary, by V. Gorenshtein. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949–51.
Tri traktata ob oratorskom iskusstve. Translated under the editorship of M. Gasparov. Moscow, 1972.


Utchenko, S. L. Tsitseron i ego vremia. Moscow, 1972.
Tsitseron: Sb. statei. [Edited by F. Petrovskii.] Moscow, 1958.
Tsitseron2000 let so dnia smerti: Sb. statei. Moscow, 1959.
Bossier, G. Tsitseron i ego druz’ia. Moscow, 1914. (Translated from French.)
Zielinski, T. Cicero im Wandel der Jahrhunderte, 3rd ed. Leipzig-Vienna, 1912.
Kumaniecki, K. Cyceron ijego wspólczesni. [Warsaw] 1959.
Maffii, M. Ciceron et son drame politique. Paris, 1961.
Smith, R. E. Cicero the Statesman. Cambridge, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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