photo credits: Wikimedia Commons
Roman philosopher and statesmanwd:Q1541
movement: Academic skepticism
country of citizenship: Ancient Rome
languages spoken, written or signed: Latin, Ancient Greek
occupation: philosopher, poet, political theorist, jurist, orator, writer, lawyer, Ancient Roman priest, Ancient Roman politician, Ancient Roman military personnel, politician
award received: Pater Patriae
position held: quaestor, plebeian aedile, praetor, Ancient Roman senator, Roman consul, augur, Roman governor
student of: Antiochus of Ascalon, Philo of Larissa, Apollonius Molon, Lucius Aelius Stilo Praeconinus, Tyrannion of Amisus
Marcus Tullius Cicero ( SISS-ə-roh; Latin: [ˈmaːrkʊs ˈtʊlːijʊs ˈkɪkɛroː]; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during the political crises that led to the establishment of the Roman Empire. His extensive writings include treatises on rhetoric, philosophy and politics, and he is considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and served as consul in 63 BC.
His influence on the Latin language was immense. He wrote more than three-quarters of extant Latin literature that is known to have existed in his lifetime, and it has been said that subsequent prose was either a reaction against or a return to his style, not only in Latin but in European languages up to the 19th century. Cicero introduced into Latin the arguments of the chief schools of Hellenistic philosophy and created a Latin philosophical vocabulary with neologisms such as evidentia, humanitas, qualitas, quantitas, and essentia, distinguishing himself as a translator and philosopher.
Though he was an accomplished orator and successful lawyer, Cicero believed his political career was his most important achievement. It was during his consulship that the second Catilinarian conspiracy attempted to overthrow the government through an attack on the city by outside forces, and Cicero suppressed the revolt by summarily and controversially executing five conspirators without trial. During the chaotic middle period of the 1st century BC, marked by civil wars and the dictatorship of Julius Caesar, Cicero championed a return to the traditional republican government. Following Caesar's death, Cicero became an enemy of Mark Antony in the ensuing power struggle, attacking him in a series of speeches. He was proscribed as an enemy of the state by the Second Triumvirate and consequently executed by soldiers operating on their behalf in 43 BC having been intercepted during an attempted flight from the Italian peninsula. His severed hands and head were then, as a final revenge of Mark Antony, displayed on the Rostra.
Petrarch's rediscovery of Cicero's letters is often credited for initiating the 14th-century Renaissance in public affairs, humanism, and classical Roman culture. According to Polish historian Tadeusz Zieliński, "the Renaissance was above all things a revival of Cicero, and only after him and through him of the rest of Classical antiquity." The peak of Cicero's authority and prestige came during the 18th-century Enlightenment, and his impact on leading Enlightenment thinkers and political theorists such as John Locke, David Hume, Montesquieu and Edmund Burke was substantial. His works rank among the most influential in European culture, and today still constitute one of the most important bodies of primary material for the writing and revision of Roman history, especially the last days of the Roman Republic.
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