Cicero : biography
Marcus Tullius Cicero ( 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC; sometimes anglicized as TullyE.g. H. Jones, Master Tully: Cicero in Tudor England (Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1998).) was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.Rawson, E.: Cicero, a portrait (1975) p.303Haskell, H.J.: This was Cicero (1964)p.300–301
His influence on the Latin language was so immense that the subsequent history of prose in not only Latin but European languages up to the 19th century was said to be either a reaction against or a return to his style.Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature, "Ciceronian period" (1995) According to Michael Grant, "the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that of any other prose writer in any language".Cicero, Selected Works, 1971, pp.24 Cicero introduced the Romans to the chief schools of Greek philosophy and created a Latin philosophical vocabulary (with neologisms such as humanitas, qualitas, quantitas, and essentia)Conte, G.B.: "Latin Literature: a history" (1987) p.199 distinguishing himself as a linguist, translator, and philosopher.
Petrarch’s rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is often credited for initiating the 14th-century Renaissance.Wooton, D. "Modern political thought" (1996) p.1 According to Polish historian Tadeusz Zieliński, "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 eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and his impact on leading Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, David Hume, and Montesquieu 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.
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 the government overthrow through an attack on the city from outside forces, and Cicero suppressed the revolt by executing five conspirators without due process. During the chaotic latter half of the 1st century BC marked by civil wars and the dictatorship of Gaius Julius Caesar, Cicero championed a return to the traditional republican government. Following Julius 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 subsequently murdered in 43 BC.
Cicero was born in 106 BC in Arpinum, a hill town southeast of Rome. His father was a well-to-do member of the equestrian order and possessed good connections in Rome. However, being a semi-invalid, he could not enter public life and studied extensively to compensate. Although little is known about Cicero’s mother, Helvia, it was common for the wives of important Roman citizens to be responsible for the management of the household. Cicero’s brother Quintus wrote in a letter that she was a thrifty housewife.Rawson, E.: Cicero, a portrait (1975) p.5–6; Cicero, Ad Familiares (Quintus to Cicero)
Cicero’s cognomen, or personal surname, comes from the Latin for chickpea, cicer. Plutarch explains that the name was originally given to one of Cicero’s ancestors who had a cleft in the tip of his nose resembling a chickpea. However, it is more likely that Cicero’s ancestors prospered through the cultivation and sale of chickpeas.Trollope, Anthony. Volume 1. p. 42 Romans often chose down-to-earth personal surnames: the famous family names of Fabius, Lentulus, and Piso come from the Latin names of beans, lentils, and peas. Plutarch writes that Cicero was urged to change this deprecatory name when he entered politics, but refused, saying that he would make Cicero more glorious than Scaurus ("Swollen-ankled") and Catulus ("Puppy").Plutarch, Cicero