Cicero

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Cicero : biography

January 3, 106 BC – December 7, 43 BC

While Cicero the humanist deeply influenced the culture of the Renaissance, Cicero the republican inspired the Founding Fathers of the United States and the revolutionaries of the French Revolution.De Burgh, W.G., "The legacy of the ancient world" John Adams said of him "As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero, his authority should have great weight."American republicanism: Roman Ideology in the United States Mortimer N. S. Sellers, NYU Press, 1994 Jefferson names Cicero as one of a handful of major figures who contributed to a tradition “of public right” that informed his draft of the Declaration of Independence and shaped American understandings of "the common sense" basis for the right of revolution.Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Henry Lee,” 8 May 1825, in The Political Thought of American Statesmen, eds. Morton Frisch and Richard Stevens (Itasca, Ill.: F. E. Peacock Publishers, 1973), 12. Camille Desmoulins said of the French republicans in 1789 that they were "mostly young people who, nourished by the reading of Cicero at school, had become passionate enthusiasts for liberty". Jim Powell starts his book on the history of liberty with the sentence: "Marcus Tullius Cicero expressed principles that became the bedrock of liberty in the modern world." Legitimate government protects liberty and justice according to "natural law." "Murray N. Rothbard praised Cicero as ‘the great transmitter of Stoic ideas from Greece to Rome. … Stoic natural law doctrines … helped shape the great structures of Roman law which became pervasive in Western Civilization." Government’s purpose was the protection of private property.

Likewise, no other antique personality has inspired venomous dislike as Cicero especially in more modern times.Bailey, D.R.S. "Cicero’s letters to Atticus" (1978) p.16 His commitment to the values of the Republic accommodated a hatred of the poor and persistent opposition to the advocates and mechanisms of popular representation.Letters to Atticus I & IIFriedrich Engels referred to him as "the most contemptible scoundrel in history" for upholding republican "democracy" while at the same time denouncing land and class reforms.Noted in Michael Parenti, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome, 2003:86. ISBN 1-56584-797-0 Cicero has faced criticism for exaggerating the democratic qualities of republican Rome, and for defending the Roman oligarchy against the popular reforms of Caesar. Michael Parenti admits Cicero’s abilities as an orator, but finds him a vain, pompous and hypocritical personality who, when it suited him, could show public support for popular causes that he privately despised. Parenti presents Cicero’s prosecution of the Catiline conspiracy as legally flawed at least, and possibly unlawful.Michael Parenti, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome, 2003, pp. 107–111, 93. ISBN 1-56584-797-0

Cicero also had an influence on modern astronomy. Nicolaus Copernicus, searching for ancient views on earth motion, said that he "first … found in Cicero that Hicetas supposed the earth to move."

Public career

Early political career

His first office was as one of the twenty annual Quaestors, a training post for serious public administration in a diversity of areas, but with a traditional emphasis on administration and rigorous accounting of public monies under the guidance of a senior magistrate or provincial commander. Cicero served as quaestor in western Sicily in 75 BC and demonstrated honesty and integrity in his dealings with the inhabitants. As a result, the grateful Sicilians asked Cicero to prosecute Gaius Verres, a governor of Sicily, who had badly plundered Sicily. His prosecution of Gaius Verres was a great forensic success for Cicero. Governor Gaius Verres hired the prominent lawyer of a noble family Quintus Hortensius Hortalus. After a lengthy period on Sicily collecting testimonials, evidence and persuading witnesses to come forth, Cicero returned to Rome and won the case in a series of dramatic court battles. His unique style of oratory set him apart from the flamboyant Hortalus. Upon the conclusion of this case, Cicero came to be considered the greatest orator in Rome. The view that Cicero may have taken the case for reasons of his own is viable. Quintus Hortensius Hortalus was, at this point, known as the best lawyer in Rome; to beat him would guarantee much success and prestige that Cicero needed to start his career. Cicero’s oratorical skill is shown in his character assassination of Verres and various other persuasive techniques used towards the jury. One such example is found in the speech Against Verres I, where he states "with you on this bench, gentlemen, with Marcus Acilius Glabrio as your president, I do not understand what Verres can hope to achieve".Trans. Grant, Michael. Cicero: Selected Works. London: Penguin Books. 1960. Oratory was considered a great art in ancient Rome and an important tool for disseminating knowledge and promoting oneself in elections, in part because there were no regular newspapers or mass media at the time. Cicero was neither a patrician nor a plebeian noble; his rise to political office despite his relatively humble origins has traditionally been attributed to his brilliance as an orator.