Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106-43 B.C.)Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.) - Roman statesman and politician who is considered one of the greatest orators in Rome's history. He lived at the time of Julius Caesar and became one of his most outspoken critics. He is also one of the primary reasons so much is known from this era, as some 900 of his letters and speeches survive. These documents are critical in shedding light on one of the most turbulent periods in Roman history, the transition from Republic to Empire. Obviously his writings are biased due to his penchant for portraying himself in the best possible light, and there is far less surviving material which counters his perspective; nonetheless, his work shows him to be a reasonable and rational individual, and much can be learned about the fall of the Republic from his insights. Indeed, the fact that Cicero's writings survive in abundance, whereas, those of most of his contemporaries do not, is an indication of how highly regarded he was in Roman society. Much of his background is based on his study of Greek philosophy, which he viewed as central in the ability to persuade others. Plato, in particular, was a figure whom he greatly admired. However, for all his influence in the Senate, words were relatively powerless compared to Caesar's charisma and ability to command an army. An unintended effect of Cicero's work was the elevation of Latin as an "intellectual" language. Greek had always been considered superior due to the writings of the great Athenians of the fifth century; but thanks to Cicero (and Virgil as well), Latin had come to be considered more than just colloquial.


After serving as consul in 63 B.C., Caesar invited Cicero in 60 B.C. to be the fourth member of the political structure that would become known as the First Triumvirate. Caesar knew the influence he wielded and tried to make him an ally. Cicero, however, declined (thus the word "TRI-umvirate" because there were three) on the opinion that it would undermine the Republic (which it did). His refusal put the two men on opposite sides of the power struggle between Caesar and the senate. One of Cicero's letters in particular sheds revealing light on Caesar's populist tactics. Under his direction, the first public move of the triumvirate was the proposal for the redistribution of state lands to the poor, and to implement it by force if necessary. Pompey and Crassus backed the plan, and Pompey ordered the deployment of soldiers into the city in a move meant to intimidate opponents. The proposal was adopted. Though he survived Caesar's short-lived dictatorship, Cicero did not fare so well in the aftermath. He viewed Marc Antony as a potential successor of Caesar's and denounced him as an enemy of the state before he could attain that level of power. As a result, he was assassinated by two of Antony's operatives in 43 B.C..