January 3, 106 BC – Birth of the Roman Lawyer Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a lawyer, orator, prolific and popular writer, and statesman of Ancient Rome. Scholars still have access to some 900 letters Cicero wrote (most of which were to his friend Atticus); many of his speeches (revised and edited by Cicero himself); and Cicero’s books on philosophy and oratory.


Cicero wrote about the political events of his day: the rise of Julius Caesar, his assassination, and subsequent maneuvering to power of Mark Anthony and Octavian (later known as Augustus). He also set out to write a definitive work covering “the whole field in detail” of every philosophical system.

Cicero was a life-long devotee to Republican government (and thus an opponent of Caesar). Ordinarily, opposing Caesar was not conducive to longevity. Cicero nevertheless lived to tell his tale for several reasons: Caesar was renown for his occasional leniency, Caesar enjoyed Cicero’s wit, and Cicero himself was a successful manipulator of people in general and alliances in particular.

Cicero longed for power, but always played a secondary role in Roman politics. He lacked the charisma of Caesar, as well as his deep understanding of politics. Nevertheless, he rarely passed by an opportunity to tout his own insight, influence, and value. Eventually Cicero was put to death after Octavian put Cicero’s name on a proscription. (A “proscription” was a posting of people wanted dead by the leadership. All property was then confiscated and turned over to the state after the killer was rewarded.)

You can find out more about Cicero in the excellent book Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt.


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