December 7, 2007

December 7 | Cicero

January 3, 106 BC - December 7, 43 BC: Age 63

"It is a great thing to know our vices."

Cicero was a lawyer, statesman, political theorist and philosopher in Rome during the heady times of Caesar and Mark Anthony. Anyone who has taken classical Latin in school has read excerpts, at least, from his essays, which are beautifully written and considered the pinnacle of Latin prose style of the era.

Cicero passionately believed in the ideal of the Roman Republic when Julius Caesar began to systematically accumulate power and dismantle the traditional forms of government in order to secure his position. Cicero opposed Caesar until it became clear that resistance was futile. At that point Caesar extended the hand of peace, inviting him to return to Rome (he had prudently withdrawn). Cicero was a respected politician and citizen and his support was valuable to Caesar. Cicero acquiesced, focusing his efforts on trying to persuade Caesar to revive the Republic and on protecting what little of it remained.

He did not fare so well under Mark Anthony. After Caesar's assasination in 44 BC, a brief period of instability brought Cicero much prominence and popularity as various factions competed for his favour. Mark Anthony rose to become the other leading man in Rome as consul, and a power struggle ensued: Cicero's eloquence and influence over Anthony's control over the armies.

The outcome was inevitable. Anthony's power grew, and his paranoia along with it. He began to draw up long lists of "enemies of the state" to be hunted and murdered by his soldiers. Cicero made the list as soon as he lost the favour of Octavian, Caesar's nephew and adopted son. He tried to take ship to Macedonia, but was caught leaving his villa in Formiae.

It is said that his last words were "there is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly". They cut off his head, and later his head and hands were put on display in the Forum. Anthony's wife Fulvia is said to have taken his head, pulled out his tongue, and stabbed it repeatedly with a hairpin in rage.

Sources: Wikipedia

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