Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero)

Cicero (Roman orator)

Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) (sĬs´ərō) or Tully, 106 BC–43 BC, greatest Roman orator, famous also as a politician and a philosopher.


Cicero studied law and philosophy at Rome, Athens, and Rhodes. His political posts included those of curule aedile (69 BC), praetor (66 BC), and consul (63 BC). He was always a member of the senatorial party, and as a party leader he successfully prosecuted Catiline. Later he was unable to prove that he had legal sanction to execute five members of Catiline's group, and on the charge of illegality he was exiled (58 BC) by his personal enemy, Clodius. He was recalled by Pompey the following year and was hailed as a hero.

Strongly opposed to Julius Caesar, Cicero was a leader of the party that caused him to convene (56 BC) the triumvirate at Lucca. In 51 BC he was governor of Cilicia, and on his return he joined Pompey against Caesar. After the civil war Caesar forgave Cicero, and he lived in honor at Rome under the dictatorship. He did not take part in the assassination of Caesar, but he applauded it.

He and Marc Antony were bitter enemies, and Antony attacked Cicero in the senate. Cicero replied in the First Philippic and the Second Philippic, in which he sought to defend the republic. When the Second Triumvirate was formed, Octavian (later Augustus), who had been supported by Cicero against Antony, allowed Antony to put Cicero's name among those condemned, and Cicero was put to death on Dec. 7, 43 BC


To the modern reader probably the most interesting of Cicero's voluminous writings are his letters to Atticus, his best friend; to Quintus, his brother; to Brutus, the conspirator; to Caelius, another close friend; and to miscellaneous persons. They reveal more of Roman life and political manners than does any other source. His philosophical works, which are generally stoical, include De amicitia [on friendship]; De officiis [on duty]; De senectute [on old age], or Cato Major; De finibus [on ends], a dialogue on the good; The Tusculan Disputations; and De natura deorum [on the nature of the gods], an attack on various philosophies, especially Epicureanism.

Cicero's rhetorical works are of less general interest. De oratore, addressed to his brother, is a kind of handbook for the young orator; Brutus is an account of Roman oratory; and Orator is a discussion of the ideal orator. The most widely read of Cicero's works are his orations, which have become the standard of Latin. The most famous of these are the Orations against Catiline, on the occasion of the conspiracy, and the Philippics against Antony. Other famous speeches are Against Verres, On the Manilian Law, On Behalf of Archias, On Behalf of Balbus, and On Behalf of Roscius. Cicero's literary and oratorical style is of the greatest purity, and his reputation as the unsurpassed master of Latin prose has never waned.


See Loeb ed. of his works (28 vol., 1912–58); his letters (tr. 1969); studies by T. A. Dorey (1965), D. Stockton (1971), D. R. S. Bailey (1972), and A. Everitt (2001).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero): Selected full-text books and articles

A Written Republic: Cicero's Philosophical Politics By Yelena Baraz Princeton University Press, 2012
The Hand of Cicero By Shane Butler Routledge, 2002
On the Commonwealth By Marcus Tullius Cicero; George Holland Sabine; Stanley Barney Smith Ohio State University Press, 1929
Cicero's Social and Political Thought By Neal Wood University of California Press, 1988
The Republic and The Laws By Cicero; Niall Rudd Oxford University Press, 1998
FREE! Essay on Friendship: (Laelius de Amicitia) By Marcus Tullius Cicero; Alexander J. Inglis Newton & Cartwright, 1908
Cicero's Caesarian Speeches: A Stylistic Commentary By Harold C. Gotoff University of North Carolina Press, 1993
Cicero's Correspondence: A Literary Study By G. O. Hutchinson Clarendon Press, 1998
Cicero the Philosopher: Twelve Papers By J. G. F. Powell Clarendon Press, 1999
Cicero, Rhetoric, and Empire By C. E. W. Steel Oxford University Press, 2001
Rhetoric in Classical Historiography: Four Studies By A. J. Woodman Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Theory: Cicero"
The Roman Philosophers: From the Time of Cato the Censor to the Death of Marcus Aurelius By Mark Morford Routledge, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Cicero and His Contemporaries"
Rhetoric and Pedagogy: Its History, Philosophy, and Practice: Essays in Honor of James J. Murphy By Winifred Bryan Horner; Michael Leff Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Cicero's Response to the Philosophers in de Oratore, Book 1" and Chap. 3 "Cicero's Court Speeches: The Spoken Text versus the Published Text"
Trials of Character: The Eloquence of Ciceronian Ethos By James M. May University of North Carolina Press, 1988
Cicero's Philippics and Their Demosthenic Model: The Rhetoric of Crisis By Cecil W. Wooten University of North Carolina Press, 1983
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Author Advanced search


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.