The great orator Cicero was consul in 63 BCE, and was intimately involved every political struggle from that point until his death in 43 BCE.
He is perhaps best known for the end of the Catilinarian Conspiracy.
Marcus Tullius Cicero was born in 106 BCE in the town of Arpinum. He was educated in the theory and practice of rhetoric by the Greek poet, Archias. Though born to members of the Equestrian order, he aimed to ascend the cursus honorum. From 90-88 BCE, he served under Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo and
Lucius Cornelius Sulla during the Social War. In 79 BCE after arguing a case that indirectly threatened Sulla, Cicero left for Greece, Asia Minor, and Rhodes, where he continued to study rhetoric.
In 75 BCE, he served as quaestor in Sicily. Due to his fair treatment of the Sicilians, he earned their trust. They asked him to prosecute Gaius Verres, a governor of Sicily who had abused the province. This case, In Verrem, served to establish Cicero as one of the greatest orators in Rome at that time. The first speech was so powerful that Verres fled into exile before Cicero even had a chance to give his planned follow-up speech.
In 69 BCE, he served as aedile, and in 66 BCE, he served as praetor. In 63 BCE, he was finally elected consul, thus making him a novus homo. During his tenure, he thwarted a conspiracy, spearheaded by
Lucius Sergius Catilina. Despite the initial misgivings of the Senate, a series of four speeches - the Catiline Orations - Cicero swayed the Senate to see Catiline’s conspiracy. The conspirators were brought to the Tullianum, the Roman prison, and were strangled. He was afterwards given the honorific, Pater Patriae. Because these men were executed without trial and only by the ruling of the Senate, Cicero, thereafter, lived in fear of exile, despite viewing the foiling of Catiline’s plans as his greatest achievement.
In 58 BCE, Cicero’s fears were realized, and he was forced into exile. However, the very next year, he was recalled from exile and allowed to return from Thessalonica, a city in Macedonia.
He attempted to reenter the Roman world of politics, and he had to concede after the conference at Luca in 56 BCE and support the triumvirate of Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Gnaeus Pompeius. He served as governor of Cilicia in 51 BCE.
When the competition between Pompey and Caesar escalated, Cicero stood first behind Pompey, who represented the traditions of the Roman Republic. After the defeat of Pompey at Pharsalus, Caesar pardoned Cicero and he returned to Rome. After the Ides of March in 44 BCE and death of Caesar, he momentarily became a popular leader and stood in opposition to Mark Antony. He criticized Antony in a series of speeches called the Philippics, after Demosthenes’ denunciation of Philip II of Macedon. Though Cicero first supported Octavian and helped him to rise to power, Octavian turned against him and allied himself with Octavian and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus in the Second Triumvirate. Octavian and Antony began proscribing their enemies, and Antony fell the final blow against his opponent and listed Cicero. He was caught in December 43 BCE as he was leaving Formiae on his way to escape Italy. His head and hands were cut and nailed to the rostra, i.e., the speaker’s platform, in the Roman forum.