Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Cicero

Text taken from Thomas North and/or John Dryden
Study Guide by Anne White

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Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C.-43 B.C.)

Who was Cicero?

Cicero was a philosopher, historian, politician, and orator, who lived a long life (though not so long as he could have) during the final years of the Roman Republic. He had an enormous impact on language, writing, and philosophy, not only in his own world, but on Western civilization for centuries to come. When the Latin language didn't contain the words he needed, he created them. His prose style was admired above that of all other writers; and no-one (until this past century) was considered well-educated who had not studied Cicero's speeches and histories.

Strangely enough, there seems to be no P.N.E.U programme which included Plutarch's Life of Cicero, and we can only guess at possible reasons. One might be that there are several "necessary omissions," not so much about Cicero but about other people in the story. Another might be that there is some overlap with the Lives that the P.N.E.U. did cover often, such as Julius Caesar, though Cicero's own story is just as interesting and important.

Plutarch's focus, as always, is on character; but we also need to see Cicero against the background of his own time and place, and also understand how his life was affected by the actions of others. If Catiline had never attempted to overthrow the Republic, Cicero would not have had to make the hard and quick decision (like Publicola, centuries before) to execute two of the conspirators. If Clodius had not attempted to infiltrate "ladies' night" at Caesar's house (a perfect example, by the way, of acting Willfully but not with Will); and if Cicero's wife had not held a grudge against Clodius; then Cicero would not have had to deny Clodius's claim that he was out of town at the time, Caesar's marriage might have been saved, and Cicero would not have gained yet another bitter enemy and then been exiled. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

And finally there was the rise to power of Julius Caesar, and his assassination. Cicero was not one of Caesar's killers, but because of that event, and the speeches he made about it, he became an enemy of Mark Antony. Which, in those years, was not a good thing to be at all.

Cicero's Name (and Pronunciation)

How do you pronounce Cicero?In Latin, using classical pronunciation, it would be Ki-ke-ro. In English, it's acceptable to use soft C's: Si-se-ro. Cicero is sometimes referred to in English as "Tully," because of his second name, "Tullius."

Where did Cicero come from? Who were his relatives? Was he married?

Cicero was born in Arpi, about 60 miles (100 km) from the city of Rome. Some descriptions of him have taken that fact to imply that he was a bit of an outsider, so that he felt he had to strive both to succeed and to prove his "Roman-ness." In any case, although his family lived outside of the city, they were wealthy and of the quite-acceptable Equestrian social class. Both Cicero and his brother were sent to study with good teachers in Rome, and, later, Greece.

He married his first wife, Terentia, when he was 27 years old (she was about eight years younger), and they had two children, Tullia and Cicero Minor (or Junior). From Plutarch's descriptions, Terentia sounds somewhat domineering and unfriendly; but other mentions of her sound more positive; and in a letter Cicero wrote, he praised her courage and fortitude during a difficult time. Eventually, certain issues, such as a disagreement over their daughter's marriage, led to a divorce.

When a Roman couple divorced, the bride's dowry had to be repaid; and Terentia's dowry was a large one (it included tenement apartments and woodlands). This may be why Cicero soon married another wealthy woman named Pubilia; and, in fact, he insisted that he had married her for money, as that was less shameful (in his social circles) than appearing to be a foolish old man (he was sixty) in love with a young girl. This marriage, however, lasted for only about a year.

More about Tullia

Cicero's daughter Tullia was originally married to Piso (#2) (see below), but he died five years later, and she married a man named Furius Crassipes. For unknown reasons, that marriage ended, and when she wanted to marry a third time, she (and her mother) chose Publius Cornelius Dolabella, against her father's wishes. The marriage, apparently, was indeed unhappy, and their first child died in infancy. Tullia herself died while giving birth to a second child.

The World of Cicero

The first century B.C. was a period of huge growth for Rome, but also one of economic and military upheaval. Overseas conquests meant a great number of foreign captives; so small, family-run farms competed (often unsuccessfully) with larger operations based on slave labour. Small landowners had traditionally made up much of the Roman army, because they could provide their own weapons and sometimes horses; but with fewer of those landowners around, the militia now had to accept soldiers from the poorer classes, who had to be paid more so that they could afford weapons.

Rome, in Cicero's young years, also became a dangerous place, as power shifted back and forth betweenGaius Mariusand his former lieutenantLucius Cornelius Sulla, and as political enemies were often punished byproscription(seeTop Vocabulary Terms, below).

The Government of the Roman Republic

The Roman Empire did not formally exist until Octavius Caesar (later Caesar Augustus) became Emperor in 27 B.C. However, though it was still the era of theRoman Republic, Rome did have an empire because of the large amount of foreign territory it had acquired. For clarity, we will call it the small-eempire.

Social Classes

One class division was family-based, between thepatricians(the nobility) and theplebeians(common people). There were also property- or wealth-based classes such as thesenatores, who owned large amounts of land. The next level down, theequestrian class(in North's translation, the"knights of Rome"), was made up of those who could afford horses and who therefore made up the cavalry in times of war; this is the class to which Cicero's family belonged. There were also lower classes of property owners; and then, lowest of all, theproletarii (the "common people"). (Slaves didn't count as a class.)

Were thesenatoresthe same as the senators?

Often, but the two were not identical. Over the centuries, and even within the Republic era, both the size of the Senate and the requirements for membership (such as age and wealth) changed. Someplebeiansbecame senators along with thepatricians. Those elected tomagistracies(see below) were also included in the Senate.

What was an aedile, a quaestor, a consul, a censor?

The elected positions, or magistracies, in Rome included, starting at the bottom, quaestor, aedile, praetor, and consul. There were various numbers of each of these: for example, two consuls were elected each year. Ex-consuls could become censors; and a consul could become dictator if the need (usually a great emergency) arose. A quaestor was a treasurer. An aedile was the Roman official who oversaw public works (like the construction of buildings), and who was also responsible for public festivals. A praetor acted as governor of a province and also as a judge.

Censors were technically ranked below consuls and praetors, but the office was considered sacred and carried more dignity than that of the other magistracies. Two censors were elected for a period of five years, and they had to be chosen at the same time; if one censor died, the other had to step down as well, and two others would be chosen. There were often periods of time when there were no censors at all.

Who were the tribunes?

The duty of a non-military tribune (tribune of the plebeians, or tribune of the people) was to protect the common people from any individual or group (such as the nobles) who might attempt to suppress their rights. This position was not part of the junior-senior ranking of magistrates such as quaestor and consul; it was an office voted on by the common people.

People That Cicero Knew

Who was Pompey?

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, or Pompey the Great, was a Roman statesman and general, and the main rival of Julius Caesar.

Who Was Gaius Julius Caesar?

Julius Caesar was a political leader and general during the last days of the Roman Republic. Over his long career, he held every possible high civic, military, and even religious position in Rome.

Who was Young Caesar?

Gaius Octavius, or Octavian, later called Caesar Augustus, became the first roman Emperor in 27 B.C. Not on translations of his name: North uses "Octavius Caesar"; Dryden refers to him as "Young Caesar," or, later, just "Caesar." Other books, such as Genevieve Foster'sAugustus Caesar's World, say "Octavian." For consistency, I have used "Octavius."

Who was Brutus?

Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger, usually called Brutus; known for his part in the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.; the subject of Plutarch'sLife of Marcus Brutus.

People Named Piso

Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus (Piso #1) was a Roman senator, and consul in the year 58 B.C. along with Aulus Gabinius.

Gaius Calpurnius Piso Frugi (Piso #2) was the first husband of Cicero's daughter Tullia.

People named Lentulus

Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura (Lentulus #1): a political agitator, executed for his role the Catiline conspiracy

Publius Cornelius Lentulus Spinther (Lentulus #2): consul 57 B.C.

Publius Cornelius Dolabella (the third husband of Tullia) was also known by his adoptive name Lentulus (#3).

Other People whose names started with "C"

Cato:Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis, or Cato the Younger, was a Roman statesman and the subject of one of Plutarch'sLives.

Catulus:Quintus Lutatius Catulus, censor along with Crassus in 65 B.C.

(Marcus Licinius) Crassus: a Roman general and politician (115 B.C.-53 B.C.), one of the First Triumvirate with Caesar and Pompey; he was also known for his wealth.

Old School Friends

Cicero is known to have had at least three schoolmates who continued their friendship with him into adulthood. One of these early friends was Gaius Marius Minor, who was four years older than Cicero, and the son of a famous military commander—the Marius who was the chief rival to Sulla. ("Minor" is another way of saying "Junior" or "The Younger.") Marius Minor married the daughter of Crassus, and became a general himself. He was elected consul for 82 B.C., and fought against Sulla's forces, but was defeated, and committed suicide to avoid being captured by the enemy.

Another friend from school days was Servius Sulpicius Rufus, called Sulpicius, who was a year younger than Cicero. He became an expert in legal matters and was elected consul for 51 B.C. Sulpicius died while on a government mission in 43 B.C.

A third friend was Titus Pomponius, nicknamed "Atticus" (or "lover of Athens"), whose sister married Cicero's brother. Atticus was not a politician, but a businessman, first in Athens and, after 65 B.C., in Rome. He trained slaves to copy scrolls, and ran what we would call a publishing house (he published Cicero's books, among others). Atticus outlived the rest of the "gang," dying in 32 B.C.

Please note that, while all three were friends of Cicero, there is no actual evidence to suggest that they formed a close group together, during their school years or later on. But, if you can imagine that they did spend time together in their early years, this friendship is something that might have been carried on into their adult lives, and that idea is used for some of the Creative Narrations. (We might also add Cicero's younger brother, Titus Quintus Cicero, to the group.)

On the Map

Place names are listed under this heading. For consistency, I have used Dryden's spelling for places instead of North's. Charlotte Mason suggested using resources such as Dent'sAtlas of Ancient & Classical Geography, which can be found online. A newer resource I have used myself is theHistorical Atlas of Ancient Romeby Nick Constable (Checkmark Books/Thalamus Publishing, 2003).

Top Vocabulary Terms in theLife of Cicero

If you recognize these words, you are well on your way to mastering the vocabulary for thisLife. They will not be repeated in the lessons.

1. design: plot, scheme (can be a noun or a verb)

2. divers:various, several

3. drachmas, talents, myriads: units of money, sometimes measured in weight rather than by specific coins.

4. levy: This usually means to gather up or enlist people (especially for military service). A second meaning of levy is to impose something on people, such as a tax. The word can be confused with levee, which refers to something rising (either an embankment that contains a river's rising, or an early-morning gathering).

5. marketplace: The open-air site called the Forum was the center of Roman business, political, and social life.

6. meet:When used as an adjective, it means proper, suitable. Other times it is used in its more common verb form: to meet someone.

7. orator: a professional public speaker. Orators used their skills to make political speeches (orations), or to defend or accuse someone in court (see pleader).

8. pleaders, pleading, to plead: All these refer to the practice of law, and students will recognize them in terms we still use: "Plead your case." "How do you plead?" Those doing the pleading at this time were generally the lawyers and orators, like Cicero.

9. practise: This can have two meanings: to practise something professionally (in Cicero's case, to participate in public life, plead cases, and make speeches); or to scheme and plot (in the same sense as design). Both meanings are used in this story. (A further note about the spelling of practise: in British/Canadian spelling, the verb is spelled with an s, practise, and the noun with a c, practice. In the U.S., both forms are spelled with a c.

10. proscription: an official condemnation, often of a group of people who were declared to be enemies of the state. Proscription could mean a death sentence, banishment and/or seizing of property.

11. stay:stop or delay. It can also be used in its more usual sense: "He went to stay in the country."

Lesson One


In this lesson we are introduced to Cicero, who hoped "to make the name of the Ciceros noble and famous," and who signed his name with the symbol of a chickpea.


fuller's shop: fulling is part of the processing of cloth

surname: a cognomen, or personal nickname; though in some cases (as with Cicero) it might be passed on through the family. Cicero's friend Titus Pomponius Atticus apparently chose his own surname.

rich pease: A cicer is a chickpea, a garbanzo bean. According to Plutarch, an ancestor of Cicero had a chickpea-shaped wart on his nose. Another theory is that he might have grown chickpeas. It was common for the Romans to have names that were, literally, "down to earth." In this story we hear of Piso (pea), and Lentulus (lentil); and there was also Fabius (bean). Cicero mentions the Scauri and Catuli families, but those names mean "swollen ankles" and "puppy," so perhaps they were not much more elevated than the "chickpeas."

made suit for office: ran for election

quaestor: the office of treasurer (see introductory notes)

pleasantly: jokingly

renowned: famous, respected

liberal sciences: or "liberal arts"; the scholarly subjects of the time, particularly arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music. As a side note, Cicero himself is the first writer known to have used the term "liberal arts," in a handbook he wrote for orators.

apter: more inclined, better at

extant at this day: still existing in Plutarch's time

commendation: praise

hath lost the name and estimation of it: is no longer so admired

Marsic War: also called the Social War; an uprising by former tribes of Italy who were demanding full Roman citizenship and rights

to a monarchy: Cicero saw that things were tending in that direction

sold by the crier: auctioned off

procured: got hold of, persuaded

in vehemence and heat of speaking: when he got excited

New Academy: a school of philosophy in Athens, founded by the successors of Plato

Stoics: those following a school of philosophy that taught, particularly, that one should endure pain and hardship without complaint

rhetoric: the art of effective and persuasive speech and writing

frame himself to be eloquent: prepare himself to be a good speaker

declaim: to make a speech

contended: competed

commiseration: sympathy, sorrow


Volscians: an ancient tribe of Italy whose people were eventually absorbed into Rome

Philo: Philo of Larissa, head of the Academy in Athens. He came to Rome in 87 B.C., and Cicero was one of those who eagerly attended his lectures.

Mucii: A prominent family of statesmen in Rome. Quintus Mucius Scaevola Pontifex wrote an eighteen-volume work on civil law. He was murdered during the struggle between Sulla and his rival Gaius Marius (the father of Cicero's friend Gaius Marius Minor—see note in Creative Narrations).

Sulla: Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (c. 138 B.C.-78 B.C.) was a powerful Roman general and politician.

Antiochus of Ascalon: a philosopher who tried to reconcile the beliefs of the Skeptics and the Stoics.

Apollonius Molon: or Molo of Rhodes; a rhetorician

Posidonius: a Stoic philosopher

Historic Occasions

91-87 B.C.: Marsic or Social War (Cicero's early army experiences)

86 B.C.: Death of Gaius Marius (Senior), the main rival of Sulla

83-81 B.C.: Cicero began to practice as a lawyer

82 B.C.: Sulla ordered proscriptions against his enemies (see introductory notes).

82 B.C.: Death of Gaius Marius Minor (Junior)

80 B.C.: Cicero accused Chrysogonus of corruption (risking his safety under Sulla's rule)

79 B.C.: Cicero married Terentia (apparently before leaving for Greece)

79-77 B.C.: Cicero went to Greece and studied philosophy

78 B.C.: Death of Sulla, allowing Cicero to return safely to Rome

75 B.C.: Cicero was quaestor in Sicily (Plutarch is looking ahead here, as this story belongs to Lesson Two)

On the Map

Since this is an introductory lesson, it is important that students know something of Rome and its surroundings, as it was in the last years of the Republic, e.g. places such as Rome, Athens, Sicily, and Rhodes. Historical maps will show many of the (rapidly increasing) number of Roman provinces: Gaul, Syria, Asia, etc. Many of the countries as we know them did not exist, or were made up of separate kingdoms or city-states. For example, Plutarch refers to Italy, but he means the mainland area that was not considered part of Rome. Similarly, he mentions that Cicero went to Greece, and the general meaning is the same, but much of Greece, at this time, belonged to the Roman province called Achaia. Achaia was considered a rather special province: it was not only a peaceful province (and therefore a choice assignment for Roman governors), but it was also considered a seat of education. In Lesson One, we read of Cicero studying in the city of Athens; and his son was later sent there for the same reason.


Part One

As touching Cicero's mother, whose name was Helvia, it is reported she was a gentlewoman born, and lived always very honestly: but for his father, the reports of him are diverse and infinite. For some say that he was born and brought up in a fuller's shop: others report that he came of Tullius Actius [or Attius], an illustrious king of the Volscians, who waged war, not without honour, against the Romans. But surely it seems to me, that the first of that name called Cicero, was some famous man, and that for his sake his offspring continued still that surname, and were glad to keep it, though many men scorned it, because Cicer in English signifieth a rich pease. That Cicero had a thing upon the tip of his nose, as it had been a little wart, much like to a rich pease, whereupon they surnamed him Cicero. But this Cicero, whose life we write of now, nobly answered certain of his friends on a time giving him counsel to change his name, when he first made suit for office, and began to practise in matters of state: that he would endeavour himself to make the name of the Ciceros more noble and famous than the Scauri, or Catuli. And when he was quaestor in Sicily, he gave an offering of certain silver plate unto the gods, and at large engraved on it his two first names, Marcus Tullius: and in place of his third name, he pleasantly commanded the workman to cut out the form and fashion of a rich pease. Thus much they write of his name.

Now for his birth, it was said that his mother was brought abed of him without any pain, the third day of January, the same day on which now the magistrates of Rome pray and sacrifice for the emperor. It is said, also, that a vision appeared to his nurse, which foretold that he should afterwards do great good unto all the Romans. Now though such things may seem but dreams and fables unto many, yet Cicero himself shortly after proved this prophecy true. For as soon as he was of an age to begin to have lessons, he became so distinguished for his talent, and got such a name and reputation amongst the boys, that their fathers would often visit the school that they might see young Cicero, and might be able to say that they themselves had witnessed the quickness and readiness in learning for which he was renowned. But others of the rude and baser sort of men were offended with their sons, because to honour Cicero, they did always put him in the midst between them, as they went in the streets.

Cicero indeed had such a natural wit and understanding, as Plato thought meet for learning, and apt for the study of philosophy. For he gave himself to all kinds of knowledge, and there was no art, nor any of the liberal sciences, that he disdained: notwithstanding in his first young years he was apter, and better disposed to the study of poetry, than any other. There is a pretty poem of his in verses of eight staves, called "Pontius Glaucus," extant at this day, which he made when he was but a boy. After that, being given more earnestly unto this study, he was not only thought the best orator, but the best poet also of all the Romans in his time: and yet doth the excellency of his eloquence, and commendation of his tongue continue, even to this day, notwithstanding the great alteration and change of the Latin tongue. But his poetry hath lost the name and estimation of it, because there were many after him that became far more excellent therein than he.

Part Two

After he had left his childish studies, he became then a scholar of Philo, the Academic philosopher [omission]. He gave himself also to be a follower of the Mucii, who were eminent statesmen and leaders in the Senate, and acquired from them a knowledge of the laws.. He did also follow Sulla for a time, in the Marsic war. But when he saw that the commonwealth of Rome fell to civil wars, and from civil wars to a monarchy: then he returned again to his book and contemplative life, and studied with the learned men of Greece [omission].

About that time, Sulla causing the goods of one that was said to be have been put to death by proscription, to be sold by the crier: Chrysogonus, one of Sulla's freed slaves, and in great favour with his master, bought them for the sum of two thousand drachmas. And when Roscius, the son and heir of the dead, complained, and demonstrated the estate to be worth two hundred and fifty talents, Sulla took it angrily to have his actions questioned, and procured Chrysogonus to accuse him (Roscius), that he had killed his own father. Never an orator dared speak in Roscius' behalf to defend his cause, but shrunk in fear, fearing Sulla's cruelty and severity.

The young man, being thus deserted, came for refuge to Cicero. Cicero's friends encouraged him, saying he was not likely ever to have a fairer and more honourable introduction to public life. Thereupon Cicero determined to take his cause in hand, and did handle it so well, that he obtained the thing he sued for: whereby he won him great fame and credit. But fearing Sulla, he travelled into Greece, and gave it out that he did so for the benefit of his health. Indeed Cicero was dog-lean, a little eater, and would also eat late, because of the great weakness of his stomach. His voice was loud and good, but so harsh and unmanaged that in vehemence and heat of speaking he always raised it to so high a tone that there seemed to be reason to fear about his health.

When he came to Athens, he went to hear Antiochus of Ascalon, and fell in great liking with his sweet tongue, and excellent grace, though otherwise he misliked his new opinions in philosophy. For Antiochus had now fallen off from the New Academy, as they call it [omission], and in most things had embraced the doctrine of the Stoics. But Cicero rather affected and adhered to the doctrines of the New Academy; and did study that sect more than all the rest, of purpose: so that if he were forbidden to practise in the commonwealth at Rome, he would then go to Athens (leaving all pleas and orators in the commonwealth) to bestow the rest of his time quietly in the study of philosophy.

Part Three

At length, when he heard news of Sulla's death, and saw that his body was grown to good state and health by exercise, and that his voice became daily more and more to fill men's ears with a sweet and pleasant sound, and yet was loud enough for the constitution of his body; receiving letters daily from his friends at Rome, that prayed him to return home, and moreover, Antiochus himself also earnestly persuading him to practise in the commonwealth: he began again to fall to the study of rhetoric, and to frame himself to be eloquent, being a necessary thing for an orator, and did continually exercise himself in making orations upon any speech or proposition, and so frequented the chief orators and masters of eloquence that were at that time. He sailed from Athens for Asia and Rhodes [omission]; at Rhodes, he studied oratory with Apollonius Molon, and philosophy with Posidonius.

Apollonius, we are told, not understanding Latin, requested Cicero to declaim in Greek. He complied willingly, thinking that his faults would thus be better pointed out to him. And after he finished, all his other hearers were astonished, and contended who should praise him most, but Apollonius, who had shown no signs of excitement whilst he was hearing him, so also now, when it was over, sat musing for some considerable time, without any remark. And when Cicero was discomposed at this, he said, "You have my praise and admiration, Cicero, and Greece my pity and commiseration, since those arts and that eloquence which are the only glories that remain to her, will now be transferred by you to Rome."

Narration and Discussion

Describe the early life of Cicero. What were the biggest influences on his character?

What was Cicero's particular reason for studying Greek philosophy?

Creative narration #1: Have you ever made a timeline of your own life story so far? "I started school," "We moved," "I won a music prize" are things students typically include. Create a timeline of Cicero's life from birth to age 30, illustrating it as you like. (You may have to guess at some of the years.)

Creative narration #2, for older students: In the introductory notes for the study, please read the section Old School Friends, which describes three of Cicero's schoolmates and their later lives. One of them, Gaius Marius Minor, died during the period covered by this lesson. Write a letter from one of the three remaining friends to another, mentioning recent events. (Note: This, and other Old School Friends activities, are suggested for older students, not because the activities themselves are difficult, but because students wanting to find out more about people or events may land on inappropriate websites.)

For older students and further thought: Philo was an Academic Skeptic, and taught that, although truth existed, humans were not capable of fully comprehending or distinguishing it; the best one could do was form a sort of doubtful belief and act on that. Stoic philosophers, on the other hand, believed that, while not everything was true, there were nevertheless some truths which could be well grasped, often through one's senses.What do the Christian scriptures teach about our ability to discern truth? Can what we experience (see, hear, touch) in the physical world indeed help us to understand more abstract ideas? (Consider Psalm 8.)

Lesson Two


When Cicero returned to Rome, he quickly became someone to watch, as he began to move up the government ranks. He was elected to the office of quaestor, then aedile; and he had "many men daily at his gate every morning." Even Pompey the Great came to ask his advice.


full of expectations: confident; expecting to be successful

oracle: a Greek prophecy (when Cicero had not yet returned to Rome). Plutarch refers to the god of Delphi or Apollo, who was believed to be responsible for these oracles, and the Pythia or Pythoness, who was the priestess at Delphi responsible for delivering the messages.

blunted the edge of his inclination: discouraged him a bit

his own genius: This does not refer to intellectual ability, but to one's inner guide or spirit; we might say "his own calling."

backward in pretending to public offices: he held back from trying to be elected for anything; we might say he was flying under the radar

Atreus deliberating the revenge of his brother Thyestes: a story from Greek mythology

scepter: an ornamented staff, the symbol of a king (i.e. Atreus)

it did not a little contribute to render his eloquence persuasive: it actually helped his rhetorical skills quite a bit

corn: grain such as wheat or barley

fell to his lot: as quaestor, he was also expected to assist the governor of a province outside of Rome, in this case Sicily

lenity: gentleness, mercy

praetor: an official who acted as governor of a province and as a judge.

acquitted: found not guilty

ludicrous: This usually means "ridiculous," but a better word here might be simply "amusing."

artificers and craftsmen: artisans, tradespeople

negligent: neglectful

eminent: prominent, highly respected

he should not have daylight: he would not have time before the court closed (and it was the last possible day)

jointure: dowry (money given on marriage by the bride's family)

myriads of denarii: another money term (that apparently came into use due to rising inflation!)

nice and delicate: extremely careful, picky

pay court to: pay special attention to


Roscius the comedian: an actor of comic plays

Aesop the tragedian: Clodius Aesopus, an actor of tragedies

Terentia: Cicero's wife; see introductory notes

Marcus Licinius Crassus, called Crassus: see introductory notes

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, called Pompey: see introductory notes

Historic Occasions

75 B.C.: Cicero was quaestor in Sicily (An interesting point: Cicero attained each of his positions at or near the youngest allowable age; for example, the minimum age for a quaestor was 30.)

69 B.C.: Cicero became aedile

On the Map

Sicily: the large island at the toe of Italy's "boot," which was now the Roman province of Sicilia

Campania: a region of southwestern Italy; its capital city is Naples

Arpi: a city in Apulia

Pompeii: a city located near Naples (until in 79 A.D.)

near the Palatine Hill: The Palatine Hill was centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome, and one of the oldest and wealthiest parts of the city.


Part One

And now when Cicero, full of expectations, was again bent upon political affairs, a certain oracle blunted the edge of his inclination; for consulting the god of Delphi how he should attain most glory, the Pythoness answered "by making his own genius and not the opinion of the people the guide of his life"; and therefore at first he passed his time in Rome cautiously, and was very backward in pretending to public offices, so that he was at that time in little esteem, and had got the nicknames, so readily given by low and ignorant people in Rome, of "Greek" and "Scholar." But when his own desire of fame and the eagerness of his father and relations had made him take in earnest to pleading, he made no slow or gentle advance to the first place, but so soon as he fell to practise, he was immediately esteemed above all the other orators and pleaders in his time, and did excel them all.

At first, it is said, he (like Demosthenes) was defective in his delivery, and on that account he paid much attention to the instructions, sometimes of Roscius the comedian, and sometimes of Aesop the tragedian. They tell of this Aesop, that whilst he was playing Atreus deliberating the revenge of his brother Thyestes, he was so transported beyond himself in the heat of action, that he struck with his scepter one of the servants, who was running across the stage, so violently that he laid him dead upon the place. And such afterwards was Cicero's delivery that it did not a little contribute to render his eloquence persuasive. He used to ridicule loud speakers, saying that they shouted because they could not speak [omission]. Truly pleasant taunts do grace an orator, and show a fine wit: but yet Cicero used them so commonly, that they were offensive unto many, and brought him to be counted a malicious scoffer and spiteful man.

Part Two

He was appointed quaestor when there was great scarcity of corn at Rome, and the province of Sicily fell to his lot. At his first coming thither, the Sicilians misliked him very much, because he compelled them to send corn unto Rome: but after they had found his diligence, justice, and lenity, they honoured him above any governor that ever was sent from Rome. It happened, also, that some young Romans of good and noble families, charged with neglect of discipline and misconduct in military service, were brought before the praetor in Sicily. Cicero undertook their defense, which he conducted admirably, and got them acquitted.

So returning to Rome with a great opinion of himself for these things, a ludicrous incident befell him, as he tells us himself. Meeting an eminent citizen in Campania, whom he accounted his friend, he asked him what the Romans said and thought of his actions, as if the whole city had been filled with the glory of what he had done. His friend asked him again: "And where hast thou been, Cicero, all this while, that we have not seen thee at Rome?" This killed his heart straight, when he saw that the report of his name and doings, entering into the city of Rome as into an infinite sea, was so suddenly vanquished away again, without any other fame or speech. But after that, when he looked into himself, and saw that in reason he took an infinite labour in hand to attain to glory, wherein he saw no certain end whereby to attain unto it: it cut off a great part of the ambition he had in his head. And yet the great pleasure he took to hear his own praise, and continued to the very last to be passionately fond of glory: those two things continued with him even to his dying day, and did later make him swerve from justice.

Part Three

On beginning to apply himself more resolutely to public business, he thought it an ill thing that artificers and craftsmen should have many sorts of instruments and tools without life, to know the names of every one of them, the places where they should take them, and the use whereto they should employ them: and yet that a man of knowledge and quality (who doth all things with the help and service of men) should be negligent and careless in the knowledge of persons. And so he not only acquainted himself with the names, but also knew the particular places where every one of the more eminent citizens dwelt, what lands he possessed, the friends he made use of, and those that were of his neighbourhood, and when he travelled on any road in Italy, he could readily name and show the estates and seats of his friends and acquaintance.

He was not very rich, and yet he had enough to serve his turn: the which made men muse the more at him, and they loved him the better, because he took no fee nor gift for his pleading, what cause soever he had in hand, and more especially that he did not do so when he undertook the prosecution of Verres. This Verres had been praetor of Sicily, and had committed many evil practices there, for the which the Sicilians did accuse him. Cicero, taking upon him to defend their cause, made Verres to be condemned, not by speaking, but in a manner by holding his tongue. The praetors being his judges, and favouring Verres, had made so many adjournments and delays, that they had driven it off to the last day of hearing. Cicero perceiving then he should not have daylight to speak all that he had to say against him, and that thereby nothing should be done and judged: he rose up, and said there was no need of speeches; and after producing and examining witnesses, he required the judges to proceed to sentence.

[omission of certain "witty sayings" made during the trial]

In the end, Verres was convicted; though Cicero, who set the fine at seventy-five myriads, lay under the suspicion of being corrupted by bribery to lessen the sum. But the Sicilians, in testimony of their gratitude, came and brought him all sorts of presents from the island, when he was aedile; of which he made no private profit himself, but used their generosity only to reduce the public price of provisions.

Part Four

Cicero had a very pleasant seat at Arpi; he had also a farm near Naples, and another about Pompeii; but neither of any great value. Afterwards also he had the jointure of his wife Terentia, which amounted to the sum of twelve myriads (Dryden says ten), and besides all this, he had a bequest valued at nine myriads of denarii; upon those he lived in a liberal but temperate style with the learned Greeks and Romans that were his familiars He rarely, if at any time, sat down to meat till sunset, and that not so much on account of business, as for his health and the weakness of his stomach. He was otherwise in the care of his body nice and delicate, appointing himself, for example, a set number of walks and rubbings. And after this manner managing the habit of his body, he brought it in time to be healthful, and capable of supporting many great fatigues and trials.

His father's house he made over to his brother, living himself near the Palatine Hill, because such as came to wait upon him to do him honour, should not take the pains to go so far to see him. For he had as many men daily at his gate every morning, as either Crassus had for his wealth, or Pompey for his estimation among the soldiers, both of them being at that time the chiefest men of Rome. Nay, even Pompey himself used to pay court to Cicero, and Cicero's public actions did much to establish Pompey's authority and reputation in the state.

Narration and Discussion

How did Cicero work to improve his speaking ability? How did he take things a bit too far?

Discuss this sentence: "And yet the great pleasure he took to hear his own praise, and continued to the very last to be passionately fond of glory: those two things continued with him even to his dying day, and did eftsoons make him swerve from justice."

For older students or those wishing to go deeper: "He used to ridicule loud speakers, saying that they shouted because they could not speak…" What did Cicero mean? Why is it sometimes more difficult to speak quietly, or write simply?

Creative narration: Choose a scene from this reading to act out (but not Aesop's portrayal of Atreus).

Lesson Three


"At that time many men practised to subvert the government, not for the benefit of the commonwealth, but to serve their own covetous minds."

The next four lessons deal with the Second Catiline (or Catilinarian) Conspiracy, an uprising that took place in 63 B.C. This was a time of economic hardship for both city dwellers and rural people. One of the problems was that public land that could have been used for family farms was being bought up by commercial growers. Many formerly rich people were in debt because of lavish personal spending and gambling. Also on the list of unhappy Romans were veteran soldiers who had fought under Sulla. But in this lesson, we hear only rumblings of trouble.


extortion: taking something, especially money, by force

quit of his accusation: found not guilty

and never rose after: it is implied that he committed suicide

peculation: stealing money

put in suit: brought to court

to despite Pompey with: to annoy or get back at Pompey

with equity and humanity: respectfully and fairly

studiously appointed: carefully chosen

he made a notable oration: This was a tricky situation, because Cicero was trying to please several different groups of people at once; but he did defend Manilius, and kept his favour with the Roman people.

preferred to: chosen for

consul: see introductory notes

subvert the government: overthrow the government

covetous: selfish, greedy

seditious: rebellious

impetus: force that sets something in motion

contention: disagreement, quarreling

a commission of ten persons, the Decemviri: a group of ten rulers

like a hired player: like an actor on the stage


Licinius Macer: a former tribune and praetor

Manilius [sometimes spelled Manlius]: Gaius Manilius, a tribune.

Lucius Sergius Catilina: also called Catiline in English; a politician of the patrician (upper) class, best known for the Catilinarian or Catiline Conspiracy, a series of attempts to overthrow the government of Rome

Gaius Antonius, called Antonius: Gaius Antonius Hybrida, co-consul with Cicero in 63 B.C.; uncle of the famous Mark Antony.

Historic Occasions

66 B.C.: Cicero became praetor; the events with Licinius Macer

65 B.C.: Cicero's friend Atticus returned to Rome from Athens

64 B.C.: Catiline ran for the office of consul (for 63 B.C.), but Cicero was elected instead

On the Map

Pontus: a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, part of present-day Turkey. It was annexed to the Roman empire in 64 B.C.

Armenia: an ancient kingdom which came under Roman rule in 66 B.C.

Tuscany: a region of central Italy

Gaul: The term "Gaul" covers, literally, a great deal of ground north of Italy, including regions on each side of the Alps.


Part One

Numerous distinguished competitors stood with him for the praetor's office, yet was he first chosen before them all; and he did so honestly behave himself in that office, that they did not so much as once suspect him of bribery or extortion. And for proof hereof, it is reported, that Licinius Macer (a man that of himself was of great power, and yet favoured and supported besides by Crassus) was accused before Cicero of theft and extortion in his office; but he, trusting much to his supposed credit, and to the great suit and labour his friends made for him, Licinius went home to his house before sentence proceeded against him (the judges being yet to give their opinions), and there speedily trimmed his beard, and put a new gown upon his back, as though he had been sure to have been quit of his accusation, and then returned again into the marketplace. But Crassus went to meet him, and told him all the judges had condemned him. Licinius Macer took such a grief and conceit upon it, that he went home to his house again, laid him down on his bed, and never rose after. This judgement won Cicero great fame, for they praised him exceedingly for the great pains he took to see justice duly executed.

[omission of another case]

Towards the end of his office, two or three days before his time expired, Manilius was brought before him, and charged with peculation. This Manilius was very well beloved of the common people, who were persuaded that he was put in suit not for any fault he had committed, but only to despite Pompey with, whose familiar friend he was. So he required certain days to answer the matter he was accused of; but Cicero would give him no further respite, but [required him] to answer it the next day. The people therewith were marvellously offended, because the other praetors in such cases were accustomed to give ten days' respite to others.

The next morning when the tribunes had brought him before the judges, and also accused him unto them: he besought Cicero to hear him patiently. Cicero said that as he had always treated the accused with equity and humanity, as far as the law allowed, so he thought it hard to deny the same to Manilius, and that he had studiously appointed that day of which alone, as praetor, he was master; and that it was not the part of those that were desirous to help him to cast the judgment of his cause upon another praetor. These words did marvellously change the peoples' opinion and affection towards him, and every man speaking well of him, they prayed him to defend Manilius' cause. He willingly granted it to them: and coming from the bench, standing at the bar like an orator to plead for him, he made a notable oration, and spoke both boldly and sharply against the chief men of the city and on those who were jealous of Pompey.

Part Two

Yet he was preferred to the consulship no less by the nobles than the common people, for the good of the city; and both parties jointly assisted his promotion upon the following reasons. The change and alteration of government, which Sulla brought in, was thought strange at the first among the people: but now men by process of time being used to it, it was thoroughly established, and no man misliked it. At that time many men practised to subvert the government, not for the benefit of the commonwealth, but to serve their own covetous minds. For Pompey being then in the east parts, made wars with the kings of Pontus and Armenia, and had not left sufficient force at Rome to oppress these seditious persons that sought nothing but rebellion. These men had made Lucius Catiline their captain: a desperate man who would attempt any great enterprise, subtle, and malicious of nature.

[a "wise and necessary omission" about the nasty vices of Catiline]

Furthermore all Tuscany began to revolt, and the most part of Gaul also, lying between the Alps and Italy. The city of Rome itself was also in great danger of an uprising, on account of the unequal distribution of wealth and property, those of highest rank and greatest spirit having impoverished themselves by shows, entertainments, ambition of offices, and sumptuous buildings, and the riches of the city having thus fallen into the hands of mean men and low-born persons. So that there wanted but a slight impetus to set all in motion, it being in the power of every daring man to overturn a sickly commonwealth.

Catiline, however, being desirous of procuring a strong position to carry out his designs, stood for the consulship, and had great hopes of success, thinking he should be appointed, with Gaius Antonius as his colleague, who was a man fit to lead neither in a good cause nor in a bad one, but might be a valuable accession to another's power. Divers noble and wise men foreseeing that, did procure Cicero to sue for the consulship. The people accepted him, and rejected Catiline. Antonius and Cicero thereupon were created consuls, although Cicero, of all the suitors for the consulship, was but only of the equestrian class and not of the senatores.

Part Three

Though the designs of Catiline were not yet publicly known, even at the beginning of Cicero's consulship there fell out great trouble and contention in the commonwealth. For, one the one side, those who were disqualified by the laws of Sulla from holding any public offices (who were no small men, neither few in number) began to creep into the people's goodwill, speaking many things truly and justly against the tyranny of Sulla, only that they disturbed the government at an improper and unseasonable time. On the other hand, the tribunes of the people proposed laws to the same purpose, constituting a commission of ten persons, with unlimited powers, in whom as supreme governors should be vested the right of selling the public lands of all Italy and Syria, and also through all the countries and provinces which Pompey had newly conquered to the empire of Rome: to sell, and release all the lands belonging to the state of Rome, to accuse any man whom they thought good, to banish any man, to restore the colonies with people, to take what money they would out of the treasury, to levy men of war, and to keep them in pay as long as they thought good.

For this great and absolute power of the Decemviri, there were many men of great account that favoured this law, but chiefly Antonius, being colleague and fellow consul with Cicero, for he had good hope to be chosen one of these ten commissioners; and furthermore, it was thought that he was privy unto Catiline's conspiracy, and that he misliked it not, because he was so much in debt. And this [his being chosen as one of the ten] was the thing that the noblemen most feared. Thereupon Cicero, [in an attempt] to prevent this danger, granted Antonius [the governorship of] Macedonia; and the province of Gaul being offered unto himself, he refused it. And this piece of favour so completely won over Antonius, that he was ready to second and respond to, like a hired player, whatever Cicero said for the good of the country. And now, having made his colleague thus tame and tractable, he could with greater courage attack the conspirators.

And therefore, in the Senate, making an oration against the law of the ten commissioners, he so confounded those who proposed it, that they had nothing to reply. And when they again endeavoured, and, having prepared things beforehand, had called the consuls before the assembly of the people, Cicero, fearing nothing, went first out, and commanded the Senate to follow him, and not only succeeded in throwing out the law, but so entirely overpowered the tribunes by his oratory [North: he struck them so dead with his eloquence] that they abandoned all thought of their other projects.

For Cicero only, of all men in Rome, made the Romans know how much eloquence doth grace and beautify that which is honest, and how invincible right and justice are, being eloquently set forth; and also how that a man that will be counted a wise governor of a commonwealth, should always in his doings rather prefer profit, than to seek to curry favour with the common people: yet so to use his words, that the thing which is profitable may not be also unpleasant.

[omission for length]

Narration and Discussion

Describe the growing threat of rebellion that began to be felt in Rome. What were some of the problems?

Why did Cicero refuse the governorship of Gaul? Wouldn't he have been pleased to be given such an honour?

Creative narration #1: Cicero wanted "to use his words, that the thing which is profitable may not be also unpleasant." Find a way in which you can do that today.

Creative narration #2: Continue the Old School Friends narration activity suggested in Lesson One. As Atticus would have recently returned to Rome, perhaps the group could have a reunion (and discuss current events). This could be a written or dramatic activity.

For further thought (for older students): Discuss this sentence: "For Cicero only of all men in Rome made the Romans know, how much eloquence doth grace and beautify that which is honest, and how invincible right and justice are, being eloquently set forth..."

Lesson Four


After an early, failed attempt at rebellion (the First Catiline Conspiracy, not described here by Plutarch), the supporters of Catiline began to rise again, with a plan that included "an unfortunate but fatal accident to Cicero." But Catiline's hope of election as consul was ended when two others were chosen. The Second Conspiracy came to a head when incriminating documents were mysteriously brought to Cicero's door, and Catiline was ejected from Rome (but not beaten yet).


cowed and disheartened : frightened and discouraged

spoil and ransack: loot, take what they pleased

the tumult and hurly burly: the chaos of the elections

manifest conjectures and proofs: many opinions and suppositions

deferring: postponing

audacious: bold. North translates it as "gentle," but that seems to be incorrect.

Field of Mars: the Campus Martius, a large open area used as a parade ground or for other public events

discovered: revealed

subscribed: signed

according to their direction: to those who were to receive the letters

bewray: divulge, betray

gaping: waiting with bated breath

refer the care of the commonwealth unto the consuls; absolute authority: giving the consuls power to do whatever they believed was necessary in this emergency situation

a time of present fear and danger: There is an interesting similarity here to the U.S. Supreme Court phrase "clear and present danger."

betimes: early

chafe and rail: make a fuss

temple of Jupiter Stator: a temple in the Campus Martius

axes and bundles of rods: the fasces, carried by Roman guards (lictors) mainly to symbolize the power of a magistrate, but occasionally for practical purposes as well.


Silanus: Decimus Junius Silanus, one of the consuls elected for 62 B.C.

Murena: Lucius Licinius Murena, the other consul

Quintus Metellus: Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer, the brother-in-law of Pompey; he became consul in 60 B.C.

Historic Occasions

63 B.C.: Cicero's year as consul.

63 B.C.: The Second Catiline Conspiracy

63 B.C.: the birth of Octavius (Caesar Augustus), which Cicero later took as a good omen

On the Map

Etruria: a region of central Italy


Part One

The conspirators with Catiline, at first cowed and disheartened, began presently to take courage again. And assembling themselves together, they exhorted one another boldly to undertake the design before Pompey's return, who was said to be on the way towards Rome with his army.

But besides them, those soldiers that had served before in the wars under Sulla, being dispersed up and down Italy (but specially the best soldiers among them dwelling in the cities of Etruria) did stir up Catiline to hasten the enterprise, persuading themselves that they should once again have goods enough at hand to spoil and ransack at their pleasure. These soldiers having Manilius as their captain, that had borne office in the field under Sulla, conspired with Catiline, and came to Rome to assist him in his suit: who purposed once again to demand the consulship, being determined at the election to kill Cicero in the tumult and hurly burly. The gods also did plainly show by earthquakes, lightning and thunder, and by vision of spirits that did appear, the secret practise and conspiracy: besides also, there fell out manifest conjectures and proofs by men that came to reveal them, though not sufficient for the conviction of the noble and powerful Catiline.

Cicero therefore deferring the day of election, called Catiline into the Senate, and there did examine him of that which was reported of him. Catiline supposing there were many in the Senate that had goodwills to rebel, and also because he would show himself ready unto them that were of his conspiracy, returned an audacious answer. "What harm," said he, "when I see two bodies, the one lean and rotten with a head, the other great and strong without one, if I put a head to that body which wants one?" He meant, under this dark answer, to signify the people and the Senate.

This answer being made, Cicero was more afraid than before, insomuch that he put on armour for the safety of his body, and was accompanied with the chiefest men of Rome, and a great number of young men besides, going with him from his house unto the Field of Mars, where the elections were made. Here, designedly letting his tunic slip partly off from his shoulders, he showed his armour underneath, and discovered his danger to the spectators. Every man misliked it when they saw it, and came about him to defend him, if any offered to assail him. But it so came to pass, that by voices of the people, Catiline was again rejected from the consulship, and Silanus and Murena were chosen consuls.

Part Two

Not long after this, Catiline's soldiers got together in a body in Etruria, and began to form themselves into companies, the day appointed for the design being near at hand. About midnight, there came three of the chiefest men of Rome to Cicero's house: Marcus Crassus, Marcus Marcellus, and Scipio Metellus). Knocking at his gate, they called his porter, and bade him wake his master presently, and tell him how they three were at the gate to speak with him, about a matter of importance. At night after supper, Crassus' porter had brought his master a packet of letters, delivered him by a stranger unknown, which were directed unto divers persons, among the which one of them had no name subscribed, but was only directed unto Crassus himself. The effect of his letter was, that there should be a great slaughter in Rome made by Catiline, and therefore he prayed him that he would depart out of Rome to save himself. Crassus having read his own letter, would not open the rest, but went forthwith unto Cicero, partly for fear of the danger, and partly also to clear himself of the suspicion they had of him for the friendship that was betwixt him and Catiline.

Cicero counselling with them what was to be done, the next morning assembled the Senate very early, and carrying the letters with him, he did deliver them according to their direction, and commanded they should read them out aloud. All these letters, and every one of them particularly, did bewray the conspiracy. Furthermore, Quintus Arrius, a man of authority, and that had been praetor, told openly about the soldiers and men of war collecting in companies in Etruria. And it was reported also, that Manilius was in the field with a great number of soldiers about the cities of Tuscany, gaping daily to hear news of some change at Rome. All these things being thoroughly considered, a decree passed by the Senate, that they should refer the care of the commonwealth unto the consuls [Cicero and Antonius], to the end that with absolute authority they might (as well as they could) provide for the safety and preservation thereof. Such manner of decree and authority, was not often seen concluded of in the Senate, but in a time of present fear and danger.

After Cicero had received this power, he committed all affairs outside to Quintus Metellus, but the management of the city he kept in his own hands. Such a numerous attendance guarded him every day when he went abroad, that the greatest part of the marketplace was filled with his train when he entered it.

Catiline, impatient of further delay, resolved himself to break forth and go to Manilius, where their army lay. But before he departed, he had drawn into his confederacy one Martius, and another called Cethegus, whom he commanded to go early in the morning to Cicero's house with short daggers to kill him, pretending to come to salute him, and to give him a good morrow. But there was a noblewoman of Rome, called Fulvia, who went overnight unto Cicero, and bade him beware of that Cethegus, who indeed came the next morning betimes unto him: but being denied to be let in, he began to chafe and rail before the gate. This made him the more to be suspected.

In the end Cicero coming out of his house, called the Senate to the temple of Jupiter Stator, which standeth at the upper end of the Sacred Street, going up to the Palatine. There was Catiline with others, as though he meant to clear himself of the suspicion that went of him: howbeit there was not a senator that would sit down by him, but they did all rise from the bench where Catiline had taken his place. And further, when he began to speak, he could have no audience for the great noise they made against him. So at length Cicero rose, and commanded him to leave the city: saying, that there must needs be a separation of walls between them two, considering that the one used but words, and the other force of arms. Catiline thereupon immediately departing the city with three hundred armed men, was no sooner out of the precinct of the walls, but he made his sergeants carry axes and bundles of rods before him, as if he had been a consul lawfully created, and did display his ensigns of war, and so went in this order to seek Manilius. And having got together a body of near twenty thousand men, with these he marched to the several cities, endeavouring to persuade or force them to revolt.

So it being now come to open war, Antonius (Cicero's colleague and fellow consul) was sent forth to fight him.

Narration and Discussion

If so many people suspected Catiline of conspiring to overthrow the government, why couldn't they just arrest him?

Why did the Romans "mislike" to see Cicero wearing armour under his outer clothing? Weren't they glad to see he was protected?

When the senators heard the proof of the conspiracy, how did they react?

Creative narration #1: Act as a newspaper or television reporter, and tell about what has been happening in Rome.

Creative narration #2 (for older students): Continue the Old School Friends activity suggested in Lesson One, writing a letter (or a series of letters) from one of the friends to another.

Lesson Five


Pompey's army was on its way back to Rome, meaning that any attempt to take over the government had to be carried out immediately. Catiline had been banished from the city (and was building an army elsewhere), but his supporters came up with a desperate plan involving fire, murder, and kidnapping. The plot was uncovered and the conspirators were arrested. However, this meant that Cicero had to make an on-the-spot decision about their fate.


debauchery: immorality

designed no mean or trivial matter: planned something really big

reserve for pledges: hold as hostages

Saturnalia: a Roman festival, held for several nights in December

flax and sulfur: materials for starting a fire, possibly to be used as incendiary arrows

Temple of Concord: a temple to the goddess Concordia, which was often used for Senate meetings

consorts: confederates; friends

the feast of the goddess whom the Romans call the Good: this is the same ceremony that Clodius later disrupted at Caesar's house (Lesson Seven)

their deserts: what they deserved

amend: mend their ways

timorous: fearful

dissemble: conceal the truth


Publius Cornelius Lentulus (#1), surnamed Sura: a conspirator with Catiline

Gaius Caesar: Gaius Julius Caesar

Cato: Cato the Younger, an influential statesman and orator of that time. He called Cicero "the father of his country."

Historic Occasions

75 B.C. Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura was praetor (first time)

74 B.C.: Lentulus was governor of Sicily

71 B.C.: Lentulus was consul

70 B.C.: Lentulus was expelled from the Senate

63 B.C.: Lentulus was elected praetor (second time)

December 63 B.C.: Lentulus and other conspirators were arrested

On the Map

the Allobroges: one of the tribes of Gaul (to the north)


Part One

The remainder of those in the city whom he had corrupted, Publius Cornelius Lentulus (#1) kept together and encouraged. He had the surname Sura, and was of a noble family, but for his debauchery had been turned out of the Senate. He was now holding the office of praetor for the second time, as the custom is with those who desire to regain the dignity of senator.

[Omission for length: how Lentulus got his nickname "Sura."]

This man, such in his own nature, and now inflamed by Catiline, false prophets and fortune-tellers had also corrupted with vain hopes, quoting to him fictitious verses and oracles, and proving from the Sibylline prophecies that there were three of the name Cornelius designed by fate to be monarchs of Rome; two of whom, Cinna and Sulla, had already fulfilled the decree, and that divine fortune was now advancing with the gift of monarchy for the remaining third "Cornelius"; and that therefore he ought by all means to accept it, and not lose opportunity by delay, as Catiline had done. He therefore designed no mean or trivial matter, but intended to kill the whole Senate, and as many other citizens as they could murder, and to set fire to Rome, sparing none but Pompey's sons, whom they would reserve for pledges, to make their peace afterwards with Pompey. (For the rumor was very great and certain also, that Pompey had returned from very great wars and conquests which he had made in the Eastern countries.)

The night appointed for the design was one of the Saturnalia. Swords, flax, and sulfur they carried and hid in the house of Cethegus; and providing one hundred men, and dividing the city into as many parts, they had allotted to every one singly his proper place, so that in a moment, many kindling the fire, the city might be in a flame all together. Other men also were appointed to stop the pipes and water conduits which brought water to Rome, and to kill those also that came for water to quench the fire. Whilst these plans were preparing, it happened there were two ambassadors from the Allobroges staying in Rome; a nation at that time in a distressed condition, and very uneasy under the Roman government. These Lentulus (#1) and his party judging useful instruments to move and seduce Gaul to revolt, admitted into the conspiracy, and they gave them letters to their own magistrates, and letters to Catiline; in the first they promised liberty, in the others they exhorted Catiline to set all slaves free, and to bring them along with him to Rome. They sent also to accompany them to Catiline, one Titus, a native of Croton, who was to carry those letters to him.

[These attempts to involve the ambassadors] [omission] were easily found out by Cicero: who had a careful eye upon [the conspirators], and very wisely and discreetly saw through them. For he had appointed men out of the city to spy their doings, which followed them to see what they intended. Furthermore he spoke secretly with some he trusted (the which others also took to be of the conspiracy) and knew by them that Lentulus and Cethegus had practised with the ambassadors of the Allobroges, and drawn them into their conspiracy. At length he watched them one night so narrowly, that he took the ambassadors, and Titus Crotonian with the letters he carried, by help of the ambassadors of the Allobroges, which had secretly informed him of all before.

The next morning by break of day, Cicero assembled the Senate in the Temple of Concord, and there openly read the letters, and heard the evidence of the witnesses. Further, there was one Junius Silanus, a senator that gave in evidence, that some heard Cethegus say they should kill three consuls, and four praetors. Pisa, a senator also, and that had been consul, told in manner the selfsame tale. And Gaius Sulpitius, a praetor, that was sent into Cethegus' house, reported that he had found great store of darts, armour, daggers and swords new made. Lastly [came Titus Crotonian], the Senate having promised [him] he should have no hurt, if he would tell what he knew of this conspiracy.

Lentulus thereby was convicted, and driven to give up his office of praetor before the Senate, and changing his purple gown, to take another meet for his miserable state. This being done, Lentulus and his consorts were taken to the praetors' houses, and put in their custody.

Part Two

Now growing towards evening, the people waiting about the place where the Senate was assembled, Cicero at length came out, and told them what they had done within. Thereupon he was conveyed by all the people unto the house of a friend and near neighbour; for his own house was occupied by the women, who were celebrating with secret rites the feast of the goddess whom the Romans call the Good, and the Greeks the Women's goddess. For a sacrifice is annually performed to her in the consul's house, either by his wife or mother, in the presence of the Vestal Nuns.

Now Cicero being come into his neighbour's house, began to bethink him what course he were best to take in this matter. For, to punish the offenders with severity, according to their deserts, he was afraid to do it: both because he was of a courteous nature, as also for that he would not seem to be glad to have occasion to show his absolute power and authority, to punish (as he might) with rigour, citizens that were of the noblest houses of the city, and that had besides many friends. And contrariwise also, being remiss in so weighty a matter as this, he was afraid of the danger that might ensue of their rashness, mistrusting that if he should punish them with less than death, they would not amend for it, imagining they were well rid of their trouble, but would rather become more bold and desperate than ever they were: adding moreover the sting and spite of a new malice unto their accustomed wickedness; besides that he himself should be thought a coward and a timorous man, whereas they had already not much better opinion of him.

Cicero being perplexed thus with these doubts, there appeared a miracle to the ladies doing sacrifice in his house. For on the altar, where the fire seemed wholly extinguished, a great and bright flame issued forth from the ashes of the burnt wood; at which others were affrighted. Howbeit the Vestal Nuns willed Terentia (Cicero's wife) to go straight unto her husband, and to bid him not to be afraid to execute that boldly which he had considered of, for the benefit of his country; and that the goddess had raised this great flame to show him that he should have great honour by doing of it.

Terentia, therefore, as she was otherwise in her own nature neither tender-hearted nor timorous, but a woman eager for distinction (who, as Cicero himself says, would rather thrust herself into his public affairs than communicate her domestic matters to him), told him these things, and excited him against the conspirators. The like did Quintus Cicero his brother, and also Publius Nigidius, one of his philosophical friends, whom he often made use of in his greatest and most weighty affairs of state.

Part Three

The next day, a debate arising in the Senate about the punishment of the men, Silanus, being the first who was asked his opinion, said it was fit they should be all sent to the prison, and from thence to suffer execution. Others likewise that followed him, were all of that mind, except for Gaius Caesar, that afterwards came to be dictator. He was then but a young man, and only at the outset of his career, but had already directed his hopes and policy to that course by which he afterwards changed the Roman state into a monarchy. For at that time, Cicero had vehement suspicions of Caesar, but no apparent proof to convince him. And some say, that it was brought so near, as he was almost convicted, but yet saved himself. Others write to the contrary, that Cicero wittingly dissembled that he either heard or knew any signs which were told him against Caesar, being afraid indeed of his friends and power; for it was very evident to everybody that if Caesar was to be accused with the conspirators, they were more likely to be saved with him, than he to be punished with them.

Now when Caesar came to deliver his opinion touching the punishment of these prisoners: he stood up and said that he did not think it good to put them to death, but to confiscate their goods: and as for their persons, that they should bestow them in prison, some in one place, some in another, in such cities of Italy, as pleased Cicero best, until the war of Catiline were ended. This sentence being very mild, and the author thereof marvellous eloquent to make it good: Cicero himself gave no small weight, for he stood up and, turning the scale on either side, spoke in favour partly of the former, partly of Caesar's sentence.

His friends thinking that Caesar's opinion was the safest for Cicero, because thereby he should deserve less blame for that he had not put the prisoners to death: they followed rather the second. Whereupon Sullanus also recanted that which he had spoken, and expounded his opinion: saying, that when he spoke they should be put to death, he meant nothing so, but thought the last punishment a senator of Rome could have was the prison.

But the first that contraried this opinion, was Catulus Lutatius, and after him Cato, who with vehement words enforced the suspicion of Caesar, and furthermore filled all the Senate with wrath and courage: so that even upon the instant it was decreed by most voices, that they should suffer death. But Caesar opposed the confiscation of their goods, not thinking it fair that those who rejected the mildest part of his sentence should avail themselves of the severest. And when many insisted upon it, he appealed to the tribunes, but they would do nothing; till Cicero himself yielding, remitted that part of the sentence.

Narration and Discussion

Why was Caesar's recommendation of punishment fairly mild, and why were the Senators inclined to agree with him? What changed their minds?

Did Cicero make the right choice? Did he even have a choice?

Creative narration #1: Part Three could be written as a newspaper account, or acted out with a group of students.

Creative narration #2 (for older students): Plutarch says that Cicero discussed his decision with his brother Titus Quintus Cicero, and also with a senator named PubliusNigidiusFigulus, both of whom agreed that the conspirators should be put to death. Imagine that another friend takes the opposite view. What arguments might be made?

Lesson Six


Cicero handled the aftermath of the conspiracy as calmly as he could. His courage to act had saved the city from destruction. However, his enemies were eager to turn a reason for praise into the chance to destroy him.


inauspicious: unlucky

forsook him: left him alone, disappeared

some few days before Cicero's consulate expired: Some of the Roman magistracies followed a different election schedule.

usurpation: unlawfully seizing power or position

though he was intemperately fond of his own glory: North says "though he had this worm of ambition"

covetous: envious; having a great desire for wealth or power

forgetting the many high encomiums he continually passes upon him: ignoring the frequent praise he gives to him

Philippics: see note under People. Plutarch is looking ahead here; there will be more about Cicero's "Philippics" in Lesson Eleven.


Antonius (#1): Gaius Antonius Hybrida, consul with Cicero in 63 B.C.

Mark Antony (or Marc Antony, or Marcus Antonius (#2)): Roman politician and general, who would be part of the Second Triumvirate.

Demosthenes: A famous Athenian orator, known for his speeches against Philip of Macedon, called the Philippics.

Historic Occasions

December 63 B.C.: Execution of Lentulus and other conspirators

January 62 B.C.: Catiline killed at the Battle of Pistoria


Part One

Cicero went with the Senate to fetch the prisoners: who were not all in one house, but every praetor had one of them. So he went first to take Lentulus (#1) from the Palatine, and brought him through the Sacred Street and the marketplace, accompanied with the chiefest men of the city, who compassed him round about, and guarded his person. The people seeing that, quaked and trembled with fear, passed by, and said never a word: and specially the young men, as if, with fear and trembling, they were undergoing a rite of initiation into some ancient sacred mysteries of aristocratic power.

So when he had passed through the marketplace, and was come to the prison, he delivered Lentulus into the hands of the hangman, and commanded him to do execution. Afterwards also Cethegus, and then all the rest one after another, whom he brought to the prison himself, and caused them to be executed. Furthermore, seeing many of the conspirators in a troop together in the marketplace, who knew nothing of what he had done, and watched only till night were come, supposing then to take away their companions by force from the place where they were, thinking they were yet alive: he called out in a loud voice, and said, "They did live"; for so the Romans, to avoid inauspicious language, name those that are dead.

When night was come, and that he was going homeward, as he came through the marketplace, the people did wait upon him no more with silence as before, but with great cries of his praise, and clapping of hands in every place he went; they called him "saviour," and "second founder of Rome." Besides all this, at every man's door there were torches lighted, so that it was as light in the streets as at noonday. The very women also did put lights out of the tops of their houses to do him honour, and also to see him so nobly brought home, with such a long train of the chiefest men of the city.

They said that the Romans were greatly bound to many captains and generals of armies in their time, for the wonderful riches, spoils, and increase of their power which they had won: howbeit that they were to thank Cicero only for their health and preservation, having saved them from so great and extreme a danger. For though it might seem no wonderful thing to prevent the design, and punish the conspirators, yet to defeat the greatest of all conspiracies with so little disturbance, trouble, and commotion, was very extraordinary. For the most part of them that were gathered together about Catiline, when they heard that Lentulus and all the rest were put to death, they presently forsook him: and Catiline himself, with his remaining forces, joining battle with Antonius (#1), was destroyed with his army.

Part Two

And yet there were some who were very ready both to speak ill of Cicero, and to do him hurt for these actions; and they had for their leaders some of the magistrates of the coming year, such as Caesar, who was one of the praetors, and Metellus and Bestia, the tribunes. These, entering upon their office some few days before Cicero's consulate expired, would not permit him to make any address to the people, but throwing the benches before the speaker's platform, hindered his speaking, telling him he might, if he pleased, make the oath of withdrawal from office, and then come down again. Cicero, accordingly, accepting the conditions, came forward to make his withdrawal; and silence being made, he recited his oath, not in the usual, but in a new and peculiar form, namely, that he had saved his country and preserved the empire; the truth of which oath all the people confirmed with theirs. Caesar and the tribunes, all the more exasperated by this, endeavoured to create him further trouble, and for this purpose proposed a law for calling Pompey home with his army, to put an end to Cicero's "usurpation."

But it was a very great advantage for Cicero and the whole commonwealth that Cato was at that time one of the tribunes. For he, being of equal power with the rest, and of greater reputation, could oppose their designs. He easily defeated their other projects, and in an oration to the people so highly extolled Cicero's consulate, that the greatest honours were decreed him, and he was publicly declared the "Father of the Country," which title he seems to have obtained, the first man who did so, when Cato gave it to him in this address to the people.

At this time, therefore, his authority was very great in the city; but he created himself much envy, and offended very many, not by any evil action, but only because he too did too much boast of himself. For he never was in any assembly of people, Senate, or judgement, but every man's head was full still to hear the sound of Catulus and Lentulus (#1) brought in for sport, and filling the books and works he compiled besides full of his own praises: the which made his sweet and pleasant style tedious, and troublesome to those that heard them, as though this misfortune ever followed him to take away his excellent grace.

Nevertheless, though he was intemperately fond of his own glory, he was very free from envying others, and was, on the contrary, most liberally profuse in commending both the ancients and his contemporaries, as anyone may see in his writings. And many such sayings of his are also remembered; as that he called Aristotle a river of flowing gold; and said of Plato's dialogues, that if Jupiter were to speak, it would be in language like theirs. Of Theophrastus, he was wont to call him his delight; and of Demosthenes' orations, when one asked him on a time which of them he liked best: "The longest," said he.

And yet some affected imitators of Demosthenes have complained of some words that occur in one of his letters, to the effect that Demosthenes sometimes falls asleep in his speeches; forgetting the many high encomiums he continually passes upon him, and the compliment he paid him when he named the most elaborate of all his own orations, those he wrote against Mark Antony, the "Philippics."

[omission for length]

Narration and Discussion

Although Cicero was officially named "Father of the Country," how did he manage to make himself unpopular?

On the other hand, how did he show magnanimity? (One definition of magnanimity is to show a generous spirit.)

Creative narration: Write or act out the following scene: Cicero is rehearsing a speech, and one of his other Old School Friends gives him some honest feedback. Cicero, however, does not seem to see the problem.

Lesson Seven


This lesson begins with examples of Cicero's wit and sarcasm, which, as Plutarch points out, could turn bitter and nasty.

The rest of the lesson is a story which appears also in the Life of Julius Caesar: the adventures of Publius Clodius Pulcher, who crashed a females-only religious ceremony at Caesar's house.


invectives: insults, abuse

fine taunts and girds: cutting humour, mean jokes

insolent: rude, disrespectful

put her away: divorced her


Vatinius: Publius Vatinius, a politician who, having been given a position in Puteoli which involved receiving money from the local people, carried out his duties with a little too much enthusiasm.

Clodius: Publius Clodius Pulcher, a Roman politician who was considered to be an agitator, or one who stirs things up.

Historic Occasions

62 B.C.: Clodius disrupts a ceremony at Caesar's house

60 B.C.: Julius Caesar invited Cicero to partner with himself, Pompey and Crassus in the First Triumvirate; but Cicero declined the offer

59 B.C.: The year that Julius Caesar was consul, referred to jestingly as "the consulship of Julius and Caesar."

On the Map

Syria: This province was another recent acquisition for Rome.


Part One

[We omit some of Cicero's witticisms as not being fit for young ears. However, a few of his milder ones follow]

When Crassus was about to go into Syria, he desired to leave Cicero rather his friend than his enemy, and, therefore, one day saluting him, told him he would come and sup with him, which the other as courteously received. Within a few days after, on some of Cicero's acquaintances interceding for Vatinius, as desirous of reconciliation and friendship, for he was then his enemy, "What," Cicero replied, "does Vatinius also wish to come and sup with me?" When Vatinius, who had swellings in his neck, was pleading a cause, he called him "the swollen orator." Having been told by someone that Vatinius was dead, (and then) hearing that he was alive, "May the rascal perish," said he, "for his news not being true."

To a young man who was suspected of having given a poisoned cake to his father, and who talked largely of the invectives he meant to deliver against Cicero, "Better these," replied he, "than your cakes."

Lucius Cotta, a lover of wine, was censor when Cicero stood for the consulship. Cicero, being thirsty at the election, his friends stood round about him while he was drinking. "You have reason to be afraid," he said, "lest the censor should be angry with me for drinking water."

When Marcus Appius, in the opening of some speech in a court of justice, said that his friend had desired him to employ industry, eloquence, and fidelity in that cause, Cicero answered, "And how have you had the heart not to accede to any one of his requests?"

Now to use fine taunts and girds to his enemies, it was a part of a good orator: but so commonly to gird every man to make the people laugh, that won him great ill-will of many.

Part Two

The great ill-will that Clodius bare him began upon this occasion. Clodius was of a noble house, a young man, and very wild and insolent. He being in love with Pompeia, Caesar's wife, found the means secretly to get into Caesar's house, in the dress and attire of a music-girl, because on that day the ladies of Rome did solemnly celebrate a secret sacrifice in Caesar's house, which is not lawful for men to be present at. So there was no man there but Clodius, who thought he should not have been known, because he was but a young man without any hair on his face, and that by this means he might come to Pompeia amongst the other women. He being gotten into this great house by night, not knowing the rooms and chambers in it: there was one of Caesar's mother's maids of her chamber called Aurelia, who seeing him wandering up and down the house in this sort, asked him what he was, and how they called him. So being forced to answer, he said he sought for Aura, one of Pompeia's maids. The maid perceived straight it was no woman's voice, and therewithal gave a great shriek, and called the other women: the which did see the gates fast shut, and then sought every corner up and down, so that at length they found him in the maid's chamber, with whom he came in. This matter being much talked about, Caesar put away his wife, Pompeia, and Clodius was prosecuted for profaning the holy rites.

Cicero was at that time [Clodius's] friend, for he had been useful to him in the conspiracy of Catiline, as one of his assistants and protectors. But when Clodius rested his defense upon this point, that he was not then at Rome, but at a distance in the country, Cicero testified that he had come to his house that day, and conversed with him on several matters; which thing was indeed true, although Cicero was thought to testify it not so much for the truth's sake, as to please his wife Terentia: for she [had a personal grudge against Clodius], and urged him on to taking a part against Clodius, and delivering his testimony.

[Necessary omission: some of the evils that Clodius was said to have committed]

Notwithstanding all this, when the common people united against the accusers and witnesses and the whole party, the judges were affrighted, and a guard was placed about them the judges for their defense; and most of them wrote their sentences on the tablets in such a way that they could not well be read. It was decided, however, that there was a majority for his acquittal, and bribery was reported to have been employed [omission for length]. Notwithstanding, in this judgement Caesar never gave evidence against Clodius: and said moreover, that he did not think his wife had committed any adultery, howbeit that he had put her away, because he would that Caesar's wife should not only be clean from any dishonesty, but also void of all suspicion.

Narration and Discussion

Do you enjoy Cicero's sense of humour, or not? How would you feel if you were on the receiving end?

Why didn't Caesar give evidence against Clodius?

For further thought: Is it better to be eloquent, or to be truthful? Can you be both?

Creative narration: Interview someone who was in Caesar's house during the Clodius incident, such as the maid, or one of the women.

Note: Some students may want to act out the story of Clodius sneaking around in Caesar's house, and it does have its lighter moments. However, it must be kept in mind that the Roman women were not having a party, but carrying out a sacred rite, so what Clodius did (apart from his attempt to visit Caesar's wife) was viewed as a religious offense. There is also the fact that Clodius was not just a foolish youth acting on a dare: he was over thirty years old, and, although he had helped defend Rome against Catiline, he was not at all a person of good morals. Perhaps this story should be remembered more for its consequences than for its comedy.

Lesson Eight


After his acquittal, Clodius pursued every bit of power he could. As a tribune, he made himself popular by proposing laws that favoured everyone from the consuls to the common people. Then he played his best card: accusing Cicero of wrongfully executing the leaders of the Catiline Conspiracy.


tribune: a Roman official concerned with matters of justice to the common people (see introductory notes)

the three men then in power: Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus; also called the First Triumvirate

indifferently made advances to both: Pompey made offers of friendship to both Crassus and Cicero, but was not especially loyal to either of them

made fair weather with him: treated him in a friendly manner

he gave up his lieutenancy unto Caesar: As Plutarch explains, Cicero had applied to go with Caesar into Gaul. His proposed absence from Rome did not please Clodius, who had just been chosen tribune and was looking forward to his opportunity to get all kinds of revenge.

to plead as he did before: went back to his public business

sued to the people; supplicating: begging their understanding and mercy

determine it by the sword: fight it out

Pompey being now Caesar's son-in-law: In 59 B.C., Pompey married Caesar's daughter Julia.

tarry: stay where he was

tumult and sedition: a state of unrest, rebellion

Minerva: the Roman goddess of wisdom and justice, similar to the Greek goddess Athena. She is represented by an owl.

caused bills of inhibition to be set up: passed an act forbidding people to shelter or aid Cicero.

fainthearted: frightened, cowardly

used him: treated him

tinctures: this usually refers to medicines, but can also refer to residue, faint tinges or traces of something


Gabinius, Piso (#1): consuls for 58 B.C.

Piso (#2): see introductory notes

Historic Occasions

58 B.C.: Cicero went into exile.

On the Map

Lucania: a region of southern Italy

Brundisium: a city in Apulia, on the Adriatic Sea, now called Brindisi

Dyrrhachium (Dyrrachium): a city on the Adriatic Sea, now called Durrës, in present-day Albania


Part One

Clodius, having escaped this danger, and having got himself chosen one of the tribunes, immediately attacked Cicero, heaping up all matters and inciting all persons against him. The common people he gained over with popular laws; to each of the consuls he decreed large provinces: to Piso (#1), Macedonia, and to Gabinius, Syria. He made many poor men free citizens, and had always about him a great number of slaves, armed.

Of the three men then in power, Crassus was Cicero's open enemy, Pompey indifferently made advances to both, and Caesar was going with an army into Gaul. To him, though not his friend (what had occurred in the time of the conspiracy having created suspicions between them), Cicero applied, requesting an appointment as one of his lieutenants in the province. Caesar accepted him, and Clodius, perceiving that by this means he (Cicero) got himself out of the danger of his (Clodius') office of tribuneship for that year, he made fair weather with him (as though he meant to reconcile himself unto him), and laid the greatest fault upon Terentia, made always a favourable mention of him, and addressed him with kind expressions, as one who felt no hatred or ill-will, but who merely wished to urge his complaints in a moderate and friendly way.

These sweet words made Cicero no more afraid, so that he gave up his lieutenancy unto Caesar, and began again to plead as he did before. At which Caesar, being exasperated, joined the party of Clodius against him, and wholly alienated Pompey from him. And Caesar himself also said, before all the people, that he thought Cicero had put Lentulus (#1), Cethegus, and the rest unjustly to death, and contrary to law, without lawful trial and condemnation. And this was the fault for the which Cicero was openly accused. And so, as an accused man, and in danger for the result, he changed his dress, and put on a mourning gown: and so suffering his beard and hair of his head to grow without any combing, he went in this humble manner, and sued to the people. But Clodius was ever about him in every place and street he went, having a band of rascals and knaves with him that shamefully mocked him Cicero for that he had changed his gown and countenance in that sort, and oftentimes they cast dirt and stones at him, breaking his talk and requests he made unto the people.

This notwithstanding, almost the whole equestrian order changed their dress with him, and of them there were commonly twenty thousand young gentlemen of noble house which followed him, with their hair also untrimmed, and supplicating with him to the people. Furthermore, the Senate assembled to decree that the people should mourn in blacks, as in a common calamity; but the consuls were against it. And Clodius, on the other side, was with a band of armed men about the Senate, so that many of the senators ran out of the Senate, crying and tearing their clothes for sorrow. But this sight moved neither shame nor pity: Cicero must either fly, or determine it by the sword with Clodius.

Part Two

Then went Cicero to entreat Pompey to aid him: but he (Pompey) absented himself of purpose out of the city, because he would not be entreated, and lay at one of his houses in the country, near unto the city of Alba; and first he sent his son-in-law Piso (#2) to intercede with him, and afterwards set out to go himself. Of which Pompey being informed, would not stay to look him in the face: for he had been past all shame to have refused the request of so worthy a man, who had before shown him such pleasure, and also done and said so many things in his favour. But Pompey being now Caesar's son-in-law, at his instance he had set aside all former kindness, and, slipping out at another door, avoided the interview.

So Cicero seeing himself betrayed of him, and now having no other refuge to whom he might repair unto: he put himself into the hands of the two consuls. Gabinius was rough with him, as usual; but Piso (#1) spoke more courteously, desiring him to yield and give place for a little while to Clodius' fury, and patiently to bear the change of the time: for in so doing, he might come again another time to be the preserver of his country, which was now for his sake in tumult and sedition.

Cicero, receiving this answer, consulted with his friends. Lucullus advised him to stay, as being sure to prevail at last; others [counselled him] to flee, because the people would soon desire him again, when they had once been beaten with Clodius' fury and folly. Cicero liked best to follow this counsel. But first he took a statue of Minerva, which had been long set up and greatly honoured in his house, and carrying it to the Capitol, there dedicated it, with the inscription, "To Minerva, Patroness of Rome.") And receiving an escort from his friends, about the middle of the night he left the city, and went by land through Lucania, intending to reach Sicily.

Part Three

When it was known in Rome that he was fled, Clodius did presently banish him by decree of the people, and caused bills of inhibition to be set up, that no man should secretly receive him within five hundred miles' compass of Italy. Most people, out of respect for Cicero, paid no regard to this edict, offering him every attention, and escorting him on his way. But at Hipponium (a city of Lucania now called Vibo), one Vibius, a Sicilian by birth, who, amongst many other instances of Cicero's friendships had been made head of the state engineers when he was consul, would not receive him into his house, but promised him he would appoint him a place in the country that he might go unto. And Gaius Vergilius also, at that time praetor and governor of Sicily, who before had shown himself his very great friend, wrote then unto him, that he should not come near unto Sicily.

At these things Cicero, being disheartened, went to Brundisium, whence putting forth with a prosperous wind, a contrary gale blowing from the sea carried him back to Italy the next day. He put again to sea, and having reached Dyrrhachium, on his coming to shore there, it is reported that an earthquake and a convulsion in the sea happened at the same time, signs whereby the soothsayers interpreted that his exile should not be long, because both the one and the other was a token of change.

Yet Cicero, notwithstanding that many men came to see him for the goodwill they bore him, and that the cities of Greece contended who should most honour him, he was always sad, and could not be merry, but cast his eyes still towards Italy, as passioned lovers do towards the women they love: showing himself fainthearted, and took this adversity more basely than was looked for of one so well studied and learned as he. And yet he oftentimes prayed his friends, not to call him orator, but rather philosopher, because he had made philosophy his business, and had only used rhetoric as an instrument for attaining his objects in public life. . But the desire of glory has great power in washing the tinctures of philosophy out of the souls of men, and in imprinting the passions of the common people, by custom and conversation, in the minds of those that take a part in governing them, unless the politician be very careful so to engage in public affairs as to interest himself only in the affairs themselves, but not participate in the passions that are consequent to them.

Narration and Discussion

How did Clodius win the favour of the people as tribune?

Why did Pompey refuse to help Cicero when he was in trouble?

Plutarch says that the few friends that Cicero had left (possibly including his Old School Friends) gave him conflicting advice about how to handle his sudden unpopularity. What was Lucullus' reasoning on it? What would you have done?

Creative narration: When Cicero was exiled, "…he was always sad, and could not be merry…showing himself fainthearted, and took this adversity more basely than was looked for of one so well studied and learned as he." Do you agree that Cicero, being a "philosopher at heart," might have shown a bit more stamina? Write or act out a conversation, or write a letter from a friend, discussing this point.

Lesson Nine


Cicero's power struggle with Clodius continued for five years after he returned from exile, and ended only with the death of Clodius (by the orders of a political enemy). Surprisingly, this gave Cicero a "reboot" on his political career, and he was appointed as governor in Cilicia.

But his return to Rome in 50 B.C. marked the end of an era, and not only for himself: the Republic was about to be rocked by change.


exposed to sale by daily proclamation: put up for auction

overthrown and razed: destroyed

took away the tables, and broke them: (Dryden says he "tore and defaced" them.) Cicero destroyed the public record of Clodius's acts as tribune, saying that those acts were illegal, since Clodius should technically not have been allowed to even be a tribune. Tribunes were supposed to be elected from the common people, although occasionally there were exceptions.

Cato was offended: This story is also told in the Life of Cato the Younger.

six hundred: North says five hundred

not sumptuously but liberally: generously, but not to excess

porter: a servant in charge of the entrance

rent: torn

reviled: attacked, condemned

many things: Dryden refers to money, rather than other stolen goods

Imperator, that is to say, "chief captain": The term Imperator is sometimes translated "emperor," but in this context it is more like "great commander."


Lentulus (#2): Publius Cornelius Lentulus Spinther, the consul for 57 B.C. (not to be confused with Lentulus the conspirator)

Publius: Publius Licinius Crassus (86 or 82 B.C.-53 B.C.), son of Marcus Licinius Crassus. It shows something of his character that he was a friend and loyal supporter of Cicero, since Cicero and his father were often not on good terms. Cicero seems to have admired Publius in return, although not so much his military ambitions).

Historic Occasions

57 B.C.: Cicero returned from exile

53 B.C.: Deaths of Crassus and his son Publius (in battle against the Parthians)

52 B.C.: Death of Clodius

51-50 B.C.: Cicero was governor in Cilicia

On the Map

Cyprus: the third-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It was annexed by the Romans in 58 B.C.

Byzantium: the ancient city later known as Constantinople/Istanbul

Parthia (Parthians): a region which is part of present-day Iran

Cilicia, Cappadocia: regions of present-day Turkey, which had become Roman provinces. Cilicia, at that time, included the island of Cyprus.

Caria: a region of western Anatolia, part of present-day Turkey


Part One

Clodius, having thus driven away Cicero, fell to burning his farms and villas, and afterwards his city house; and built on the site of it a temple to Liberty. The rest of Cicero's property he exposed to sale by daily proclamation, but nobody came to buy. The chiefest men of the city beginning to be afraid of these violent parts, and having the common people at his commandment, whom he had made very bold and insolent: he began to inveigh against Pompey, and spoke ill of his doings in the time of his wars, the which every man else but himself did commend. Pompey; then was very angry with himself that he had so forsaken Cicero, and repented him of it; and by his friends procured all the means he could to call him home again from his banishment. And when Clodius opposed it, the Senate made vote that no public measure should be ratified or passed by them till Cicero was recalled. But when Lentulus (#2) was consul, the commotions grew so high upon this matter, that the tribunes were wounded in the Forum, and Quintus, Cicero's brother, was left as dead, lying unobserved amongst the slain.

Then the people began to change their minds. And Titus Annius Milo, one of the tribunes, was the first who took confidence to summon Clodius to trial for acts of violence. Pompey himself also having gotten a great number of men about him, as well of the city of Rome as of other towns adjoining to it, being strongly guarded with them: he came out of his house, and compelled Clodius to get him out of the Forum, and then called the people to give their voices for the calling home again of Cicero. It is reported that the people never passed a thing with so great goodwill, nor so wholly together, as the return of Cicero. And the Senate for their parts also, in the behalf of Cicero, ordained that the cities which had honoured and received Cicero in his exile, should be greatly commended: and that his houses which Clodius had overthrown and razed, should be rebuilt at the charge of the commonwealth.

So Cicero returned in the sixteenth month after his banishment, and the towns and cities he came by, showed themselves so joyful of his return, that all manner of men went to meet and honour him, with so great love and affection, that Cicero's report thereof afterwards came indeed short of the very truth as it was. For he said, that Italy brought him into Rome upon their shoulders. And Crassus himself, who had been his enemy before his exile, went then voluntarily to meet him, and was reconciled, to please his son Publius, as he said, who was Cicero's affectionate admirer.

Part Two

Now Cicero being returned, he found a time when Clodius was out of the city, and went with a good company of his friends unto the Capitol, and there took away the tables, and broke them, in the which Clodius had written all his acts that he had passed and done in the time of his tribuneship. Clodius would afterwards have accused Cicero for it: but Cicero answered him, that he was not lawfully created tribune, because he was of the patricians, and therefore nothing done by him was valid. Therewith Cato was offended, and spoke against him, not for that he liked any of Clodius' doings: (but to the contrary, utterly misliked all that he did), but because he thought it out of all reason that the Senate should cancel all those things which he had done and passed in his tribuneship, and specially, because amongst the rest that was there which he himself had done in the isle of Cyprus, and in the city of Byzantium. Hereupon there grew some strangeness betwixt Cicero and Cato, which, though it came not to open enmity, yet made a more reserved friendship between them.

[omitted for length: Titus Annius Milo's killing of Clodius]

Part Three

Cicero was made one of the priests, whom the Romans call augurs, in place of Crassus the Younger, who was dead in Parthia. Then he was appointed by lot to the province of Cilicia, and set sail thither with twelve thousand foot soldiers, and two thousand six hundred horse. He had orders to bring back Cappadocia to its allegiance to Ariobarzanes, its king; which settlement he effected very completely without recourse to arms. And perceiving the Cilicians, by the great loss the Romans had suffered in Parthia, and the commotions in Syria, to have become disposed to attempt a revolt, by a gentle course of government he soothed them back into fidelity.

He would accept none of the presents that were offered him by the kings. Furthermore, he did disburden the provinces of the feasts and banquets they were wont to make other governors before him. On the other side also, he would ever have the company of good and learned men at his table, and would treat them well, not sumptuously but liberally. His house had no porter, nor was he seen by any man in his bed: for he would always rise at the break of day, and would walk or stand before his door. He would courteously receive all them that came to salute and visit him. Further, they report of him that he never caused any of those under his command to be beaten with rods, or to have their garments rent. In his anger he never reviled any man, neither did despitefully set a fine upon any man's head.

Finding many things also belonging to the commonwealth, which private men had stolen and embezzled to their own use: he restored them again unto the cities, whereby they grew very rich and wealthy: and yet did he save their honour and credit that had taken them away, and did them no other hurt, but only constrained them to restore that which was the commonwealth's. He made a little war also, and drove away the thieves that kept about Mount Amanus, for the which exploit his soldiers called him Imperator, that is to say, "chief captain."

To Caecilius the orator, who asked him to send him some panthers from Cilicia, to be exhibited in the theater at Rome, he wrote, in commendation of his own actions, that there were no panthers in Cilicia, for they were all fled to Caria, in anger that, seeing all things quiet in Cilicia, the Cilicians had leisure now to hunt them.

Narration and Discussion

"It is reported that the people never passed a thing with so great goodwill, nor so wholly together, as the return of Cicero." Tell the story of his homecoming.

Creative narration #1: Interview someone living in Cilicia at that time, and ask their opinion of Governor Cicero.

Creative narration #2 (for older students): Did you find it surprising that, at this time of his life, Cicero "made a little war also," and, apparently, did it so well that he was called Imperator? Write a letter from one of the Old School Friends to another, sharing this news.

Lesson Ten


When Cicero returned from Cilicia, he found Rome on the brink of civil war. Which side should he take, Caesar's or Pompey's? Maybe, he thought, he could convince them to settle their differences.

A great deal of history happens in this lesson and in those that follow. To make things very short, Julius Caesar came into Rome, and Pompey went out (and was killed in battle soon afterwards). Cicero, having joined Pompey's camp, was given a pardon by Caesar; however, he felt it prudent at that time to retire from his public life.

How old was Cicero?

The question of Cicero's advanced age was raised in a rather rude letter suggesting that he might want to get himself somewhere safe during the war. He would have been about fifty-seven in 49 B.C. Pompey was the same age, and Julius Caesar was six years younger.


in a flame, breaking out into a civil war: see note under Historic Occasions

decreed him a triumph: Military heroes were given an official parade through Rome, called a triumph.

epistles: letters

reproved: scolded, criticized

depreciating Pompey's resources: scoffing at how poorly outfitted and prepared Pompey's army seemed to be

Battle of Pharsalus (Pharsalia): see note under Historic Occasions

tarried: lingered, stayed

he was driven against his will to set Ligarius at liberty: Caesar's pardoning of Ligarius allowed him to return to Rome, but Ligarius continued his hatred of Caesar and became involved in the plot to assassinate him.

kingdom: under the rule of one person

Cicero leaving to practice…: he ended his public activities

all the Greek words which are proper unto logic and natural causes: philosophical and scientific terms

he exercised his dexterity: he kept his skills and his mind occupied

"the life of Laertes": a life of ease


the younger Pompey: one of the two sons of Pompey

Pericles and Theramenes: famous Athenian statesmen

Quintus Ligarius: a Roman general, one of the conspirators against Julius Caesar

Historic Occasions

January, 49 B.C.: Caesar crossed the Rubicon into Italy, an act of defiance which began a civil war

February, 49 B.C.: Pompey fled to Greece along with most of the Senate

August 48 B.C.: Battle of Pharsalus, in which Caesar defeated Pompey (and Pompey died soon afterwards)

On the Map

Tarentum: a city in Apulia

Tusculum: a city in the Latium region of Italy


Part One

On leaving his province, he came by Rhodes: and stayed a few days at Athens, with great delight, to remember how pleasantly he lived there before, at what time he studied there. Thither came to him the chiefest learned men of the city, and his friends also, with whom he was acquainted at his first being there; and after receiving in Greece the honours that were due to him, returned to Rome, where everything was now just as it were in a flame, breaking out into a civil war.

When the Senate would have decreed him a triumph, he told them he had rather, so differences were accommodated, follow the triumphal chariot of Caesar. In private, he gave advice to both Caesar and Pompey, writing many letters to Caesar, and personally entreating Pompey; doing his best to soothe and bring to reason both the one and the other. But when matters became incurable, and Caesar was approaching Rome, Pompey dared not abide it, but, with many honest citizens, left the city. Cicero would not follow him when he fled, and therefore men thought he would take part with Caesar; but this is certain, that he was in a marvellous perplexity, and could not easily determine what way to take.

Whereupon he wrote in his epistles:

"To which side should I turn? Pompey has the fair and honourable plea for war; and Caesar, on the other hand, has managed his affairs better, and is more able to secure himself and his friends. So that I know whom I should fly (from), not whom I should fly to."

But when Trebatius, one of Caesar's friends, by letter signified to him that Caesar thought it was his most desirable course to join his party, and partake his hopes, but if he considered himself too old a man for this, then he should retire into Greece, and stay quietly there, out of the way of either party; Cicero, wondering that Caesar had not written himself, gave an angry reply, that he should not do anything unbecoming his past life. Such is the account to be collected from his letters.

Part Two

Now Caesar being gone into Spain, Cicero embarked immediately to go to Pompey. So when he came unto him, every man was very glad of his coming, but Cato. Howbeit Cato secretly reproved him for coming unto Pompey. As for himself, he said, it had been indecent to forsake that part in the commonwealth which he had chosen from the beginning; but Cicero might have been more useful to his country and friends, if, remaining neutral, he had attended and used his influence to moderate the result, instead of coming hither to make himself, without reason or necessity, an enemy to Caesar, and a partner in such great dangers.

These persuasions of Cato overthrew all Cicero's purpose and determination, besides that Pompey himself did not employ him in any matter of service or importance. Although, indeed, he was himself the cause of it, by his not denying that he was sorry he had come, by his depreciating Pompey's resources, finding fault underhand with his counsels, and continually indulging in jests and sarcastic remarks on his fellow-soldiers. Though he went about in the camp with a gloomy and melancholy face himself, he was always trying to raise a laugh in others, whether they wished it or not.

[omission: Cicero's jokes, because you really had to be there]

Part Three

After the Battle of Pharsalia, where Cicero was not present for want of health: Pompey being fled, and Cato at that time at Dyrrhachium, where he had gathered a great number of men of war, and had also prepared a great navy: he would have had Cicero commander-in-chief, according to law and the precedence of his consular dignity. And on his refusing the command, and wholly declining to take part in their plans for continuing the war, he was in the greatest danger of being killed, the younger Pompey and his friends called him traitor, and drew their swords upon him to kill him, which they would had done, had not Cato stepped between them and him; and yet had he (Cato) much ado to save him, and to convey him safely out of the camp.

Afterwards, arriving at Brundisium, he tarried there some time in expectation of Caesar, who was delayed by his affairs in Asia and Egypt. Howbeit news being brought at length that Caesar was arrived at Tarentum, and that he came by land unto Brundisium: Cicero departed thence to go meet him, not mistrusting that Caesar would not pardon him, but rather being ashamed to come to his enemy being a conqueror, before such a number of men as he had about him. Yet he was not forced to do or speak anything unseemly to his calling. For Caesar seeing him coming towards him far before the rest that came with him: he lighted from his horse, and embraced him, and walked a great way afoot with him, still talking with him only. And from that time forward he continued to treat him with honour and respect; so that, when Cicero wrote an oration in praise of Cato, Caesar in writing an answer to it, took occasion to commend Cicero's own life and eloquence, comparing him to Pericles and Theramenes. Cicero's oration was entitled Cato, and Caesar's Anti-Cato.

They say further, that Quintus Ligarius being accused to have been in the field against Caesar, Cicero took upon him to defend his cause: and that Caesar said unto his friends about him,

"What hurt is it for us to hear Cicero speak, whom we have not heard of long time? For otherwise Ligarius (in my opinion) standeth already a condemned man, for I know him to be a vile man, and mine enemy."

But when Cicero had begun his oration, he moved Caesar marvellously, he had so sweet a grace, and such force in his words: that it is reported Caesar changed divers colours, and showed plainly by his countenance, that there was a marvellous alteration in all the parts of him. For, in the end when the orator came to touch on the Battle of Pharsalia, then was Caesar so troubled, that his body shook withal, and some of the papers he held fell out of his hands; and he was driven against his will to set Ligarius at liberty.

Part Four

Afterwards, when the commonwealth of Rome came to be a kingdom, Cicero leaving to practise any more in the state, he gave himself to read philosophy to the young men that came to hear him: by whose access unto him (because they were the chiefest of the nobility in Rome) he came again to bear as great sway and authority in Rome, as ever he had done before. His study and endeavour was to write matters of philosophy dialogue-wise, and to translate out of Greek into Latin, taking pains to bring all the Greek words which are proper unto logic and natural causes, into Latin. For he it was, as it is said, who first or principally gave Latin names to phantasia, syncatathesis, epokhe, catalepsis, atamon, ameres, kenon, and other such technical terms, which [omission] he succeeded in making intelligible and expressible to the Romans. For his recreation, he exercised his dexterity in poetry, and when he was set to it would make five hundred verses in a night.

He spent the greatest part of his time at his country-house near Tusculum. He wrote to his friends that he "led the life of Laertes," either jestingly, as his custom was, or rather from a feeling of ambition for public employment, which made him impatient under the present state of affairs. He rarely went to the city, unless to pay his court to Caesar.

He was commonly the first amongst those who voted him honours, and sought out new terms of praise for himself and for his actions. As, for example, what he said of the statues of Pompey, which had been thrown down, and were afterwards by Caesar's orders set up again; that Caesar, by this act of humanity, had indeed set up Pompey's statues, but he had fixed and established his own.

Narration and Discussion

"Pompey hath the juster and honester cause of war, but Caesar can better execute," wrote Cicero (North's translation). Might, or right? What would you have done?

Why did Cato say that Cicero had put himself in unnecessary danger by coming to Pompey's camp? How did Cicero react?

Creative narration: Write a letter from Cicero to one of his Old School Friends, telling what he has been doing lately.

Lesson Eleven


Now in his sixties, Cicero had his share of personal troubles; but the assassination of Julius Caesar brought him out of retirement, and he suddenly found himself competing for power and popularity against Mark Antony.

What did Cicero do after Caesar's assassination?

Julius Caesar had appointed his friends to government positions (magistracies) that should have been elected by the people. After his death, those in those positions were understandably worried that they would lose their jobs. Caesar's assassins were fearful that they would be prosecuted as murderers for what they viewed as an act of patriotism. Cicero persuaded the Senate to leave the magistracies as they were until election time, and to grant an "amnesty" for the assassins. This brought at least a temporary pause to the unrest.

When did Cicero deliver the "Philippics?"

Cicero made the first of the fourteen speeches in September of 44 B.C., which criticized the way that the consuls Dolabella and Mark Antony had miscarried Caesar's will. He urged them to get back to the business of looking after the Roman people.

The "Philippics" continued through April of 43 B.C., and we do not need to go into all of them and their results. Much of the content was against Mark Antony, and in support of "Young Caesar"/Octavius.

The "Ninth Philippic," delivered in February of that year, was a request that the Senate honour Cicero's Old School Friend Servius Sulpicius Rufus, who had died while carrying out an embassy to Mark Antony. Here is an excerpt of that speech:

If all the men of all ages, who have ever had any acquaintance with the law in this city, were got together into one place, they would not deserve to be compared to Servius Sulpicius. Nor was he more skillful in explaining the law than in laying down the principles of justice. Those maxims which were derived from laws, and from the common law, he constantly referred to the original principles of kindness and equity. Nor was he more fond of arranging the conduct of lawsuits than of preventing disputes altogether. Therefore he is not in want of this memorial which a statue will provide; he has other and better ones. For this statue will be only a witness of his honorable death; those actions will be the memorial of his glorious life. So that this will be rather a monument of the gratitude of the Senate, than of the glory of the man.


having no necessary thing with him...: he was not well-equipped for the journey

furniture: equipment, supplies

satisfy his creditors: pay off his debts

the "Philippics": Cicero's orations against Antony

of his age: see note in Lesson Ten

the conspiracy being executed: Caesar being assassinated

convened the Senate, and made a short address…: see the note "What did Cicero do?" Plutarch says that it was Antony who generally proposed "concord," but that it was Cicero who asked the Senate to grant amnesty to the assassins; and other sources add the clause about not removing those whom Caesar had appointed to various magistracies.

an amnesty: a general pardon

But neither of these things took effect: Plutarch's version of the story calls to mind (and actually inspired) the scenes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, in which events pile nonstop on top of each other; however, in actual history things moved a bit more slowly, and the attempt at "concord" did last longer than it would seem here.

firebrands: torches

undertaking: intending

some let: some delay

his person: his presence

had contention with Antonius…: Those who have read Genevieve Foster's Augustus Caesar's World will remember this dispute over Caesar's estate, and how Octavius asked Cicero for help.

Brutus was highly displeased: This was after the assassination of Julius Caesar, but before the Battle of Philippi.


Lentulus (#3) / Dolabella: Publius Cornelius Dolabella, consul in 44 B.C., was the third husband of Cicero's daughter Tullia. He is sometimes called Lentulus because he was adopted into that family.

Cassius: conspirator against Julius Caesar

Hirtius and Pansa: Aulius Hirtius and Gaius Vibius Pansa Caetronianus, the consuls elected for 43 B.C.

young Caesar: Gaius Octavius or Octavian, called later Caesar Augustus; great-nephew of Julius Caesar; and the first ruler of the Roman Empire

Philippus: Lucius Marcius Philippus, a senator who was the stepfather of Octavius. (His name has nothing to do with Cicero's "Philippics.")

Marcellus: Gaius Claudius Marcellus, a friend of Cicero

Cicero's son: Brutus and his co-conspirator Cassius were in Greece, attempting to get an army together to fight Mark Antony's Roman forces. While they were there, they tutored Cicero's son, who was there at the time studying philosophy and needed help with his Latin and Greek declamations (see Lesson One).

Historic Occasions

44 B.C.: Julius Caesar and Mark Antony were consuls

March 44 B.C.: the assassination of Julius Caesar

September 44 B.C.: Cicero delivered his first "Philippic"

Early in 43 B.C.: Death of Cicero's friend Sulpicius


Part One

Cicero had a design, it is said, of writing the history of his country, combining with it much of that of Greece, and incorporating in it all the stories and legends of the past that he had collected. But his purposes were interfered with by various public and various private unhappy occurrences and misfortunes; for most of which he was himself in fault.

For first of all, he did put away his wife Terentia, because she had made but small account of him in all the wars: so that he departed from Rome having no necessary thing with him to entertain him out of his country, and yet when he came back again into Italy, she never showed any spark of love or goodwill towards him. For she never came to Brundisium to him, where he remained a long time: and worse than that, his daughter having the heart to take so long a journey in hand to go to him, she (Terentia) neither gave her company to conduct her, nor money or other furniture convenient for her; besides, she left him bare walls in his house and nothing in it, and yet greatly brought in debt besides. And these were the causes alleged for their divorce.

But besides that Terentia denied all these, Cicero himself gave her a good occasion to clear herself, because he shortly after married a young maiden, being fallen in fancy with her (as Terentia said) for her beauty: or, as Tyro his servant wrote, for her riches, to the end that with her goods he might pay his debts. For she was very rich, and Cicero also was appointed her guardian, she being left sole heir. Now, because he owed a marvellous sum of money, his parents and friends did counsel him to marry this young maiden, notwithstanding he was too old for her, because that with her goods he might satisfy his creditors. But Mark Antony, who mentions this marriage in his answer to the "Philippics", reproaches him for putting away a wife with whom he had lived to older age; adding some happy strokes of sarcasm on Cicero's domestic, inactive, unsoldier-like habits.

Shortly after that he had married his second wife, his daughter Tullia died in child-bed, in Lentulus' (#3) house, whose second wife she was, (being before married unto Piso (#2)). So the philosophers and learned men came of all sides to comfort him: but he took her death so sorrowfully, that he put away his second wife, because he thought she did rejoice at the death of his daughter. And thus much touching the state and troubles of his house.

Part Two

He had no concern in the design that was now forming against Caesar, although, in general, he was Brutus' most principal confidant, and one who was as aggrieved at the present, and albeit also he wished for the time past, as much as any other man did. But indeed the conspirators were afraid of his nature, that lacked hardiness; and of his age, the which oftentimes maketh the stoutest and most hardiest natures fainthearted and cowardly.

Notwithstanding, the conspiracy being executed by Brutus and Cassius, Caesar's friends being gathered together, every man was afraid that the city would again fall into civil wars. And Antony also, who was consul at that time, convened the Senate, and made a short address recommending concord. And Cicero following with various remarks such as the occasion called for, persuaded the Senate to imitate the Athenians, and decree an amnesty for what had been done in Caesar's case, and to bestow provinces on Brutus and Cassius. But neither of these things took effect. For the people of themselves were sorry, when they saw Caesar's body brought through the marketplace. And when Antony also did show them his gown all bebloodied, cut, and thrust through with swords: then they were like madmen for anger, and sought up and down the marketplace if they could meet with any of them that had slain him: and taking firebrands in their hands, they ran to their houses to set them afire. The conspirators saved themselves: but fearing that if they tarried at Rome, they should have many such alarms, they forsook the city.

Part Three

Antony on this was at once in exultation, and everyone was in alarm with the prospect that he would make himself sole ruler, and Cicero in more alarm than anyone. For Antony, seeing his influence reviving in the commonwealth and knowing how closely he was connected with Brutus, was ill-pleased to have him in the city. Besides, there had been some former jealousy between them, occasioned by the difference of their manners. Cicero, fearing the event, was inclined to go as lieutenant with Dolabella into Syria. But Hirtius and Pansa, consuls elect as successors of Antony, good men and friends of Cicero, entreated him not to leave them, undertaking to put down Antony if he would stay in Rome. And he, neither distrusting wholly, nor trusting them, let Dolabella go without him, promising Hirtius that he would go and spend his summer at Athens, and return again when he entered upon his office.

So he set out on his journey; but some delay occurring in his passage, new intelligence, as often happens, came suddenly from Rome, that Antony had made an astonishing change, and was doing all things and managing all public affairs at the will of the Senate, and that there wanted nothing but his (Cicero's) presence to bring things to a happy settlement. And therefore, blaming himself for his cowardice, he returned again to Rome, and was not deceived in his hopes, at the beginning.. For there came such a number of people out to meet him, that he could do nothing all day long but take them by the hands, and embrace them: who to honour him, came to meet him at the gate of the city, as also by the way to bring him to his house.

Part Four

The next morning Antony assembled the Senate, and called for Cicero by name. Cicero refused to go, and kept his bed, feigning that he was weary with his journey and pains he had taken the day before: but indeed, the cause why he went not, was, for fear and suspicion of an ambush that was laid for him by the way, if he had gone, as he was informed by one of his very good friends. Antony was marvellously offended that they did wrongfully accuse him for laying of any ambush for him: and therefore sent soldiers to his house, and commanded them to bring him by force, or else to set his house afire.

After that time, Cicero and he were always at jar, but yet coldly enough, one of them taking heed of another: until that the young Caesar returning from the city of Apollonia, came as lawful heir unto Julius Caesar (the late dictator), and had contention with Antony for the sum of two thousand five hundred myriads, the which Antony kept in his hands of his father's goods. Thereupon, Philippus, who had married the mother of this young Caesar, and Marcellus, who had also married his sister, went with young Caesar unto Cicero, and there they agreed together, that Cicero should help young Caesar with the favour of his authority and eloquence, as well towards the Senate, as also to the people: and that Caesar in recompense of his goodwill should stand by Cicero with his money and soldiers. For this young Caesar had many of his father's old soldiers about him, that had served under him.

[Omitted for length: Cicero had a special friendship with Octavius ("young Caesar") ever since dreaming about a child who showed great promise, then meeting Octavius and recognizing him as the boy from his dream.]

But in truth, first of all the great malice Cicero bore unto Antony, and secondly his nature that was ambitious of honour, were (in my opinion) the chiefest causes why he became young Caesar's friend: knowing that the force and power of his soldiers would greatly strengthen his authority and countenance in managing the affairs of the state, besides that the young man could flatter him so well, that he called him "father"; at which Brutus was highly displeased [omission]. Notwithstanding, Brutus took Cicero's son, then studying philosophy at Athens, gave him a command, and employed him in various ways, with a good result.

Narration and Discussion

Plutarch skims over the assassination of Julius Caesar. What do you know of these events? How did Cicero fit into the story, and what might that mean for him in the events that followed?

Why did Antony really want Cicero to come back to Rome, rather than going to serve under Dolabella in Syria, or even just to visit Athens for the summer? Would you have gone?

Creative narration: Act out an interview or conversation based on this sentence: "Antony on this was at once in exultation, and everyone was in alarm with the prospect that he would make himself sole ruler, and Cicero in more alarm than anyone."

Lesson Twelve and Examination Questions


This lesson includes a long list of Historic Occasions, which may seem unusual for a final lesson. They are there for reference, and to help with some of the questions that students may have about this rapidly changing scene. For instance, in April of 43 B.C., Mark Antony was declared an "enemy of the state," so how was it that Cicero was put to death only months later by his doing? The answer is that by October of that year, Mark Antony had formed an alliance with Octavius and Lepidus. (They may not have liked each other much, but each of them had something that the others wanted.) A month later, their Triumvirate was recognized as, more or less, a three-person dictatorship over Rome.

The Triumvirs had one pressing problem: a lack of funds. Following Sulla's earlier example, they declared proscriptions: all "enemies of Caesar" were to be banished or put to death, and their property seized. Cicero was, of course, on the top of Mark Antony's list; and Octavius, however reluctantly, yielded to that demand.


the lictors and ensigns…: the bodyguards and ceremonial equipment of an army commander

Antony had lost the battle, and both the consuls were slain: see Historic Occasions

finely served his turn by Cicero's ambition: underhandedly used Cicero's ambitious nature to serve his own purposes

an old man: see note in Lesson Ten

a boy: Octavius was about twenty at this time.

he saw that he had the consulship upon him: see the note under Historic Occasions

agreed with Antony and Lepidus: formed the Second Triumvirate

Such place took wrath in them as they regarded no kindred nor blood: Dryden, "They let their anger and fury take from them the sense of humanity"

litter: a curtained chair or bed that can be carried

hundred furlongs: 100 furlongs would be 12.5 miles (about 20 km).

he made Cicero's son his colleague and fellow consul with him: Cicero Minor became a replacement consul partway through 30 B.C., and later became governor of Syria and proconsul of Asia.

Etesian winds: the north winds of the Aegean Sea

pulpit for orations: the place where speeches were made

vanquished: conquered, beaten


Quintus Pedius: (Not directly named in this text) Nephew of Julius Caesar. As consul, he passed the Lex Pedia, an act calling for the death of all those involved in or approving of the death of Caesar. Pedius was expecting a list of only seventeen people, but the Second Triumvirate used the opportunity to rid themselves of hundreds of enemies. This took such a toll on Pedius that he died soon afterwards.

Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus, or Decimus: Roman general, cousin of Marcus Junius Brutus, and governor of Cisalpine Gaul, which Mark Antony decided should be his province instead.

Historic Occasions

43 B.C.: Mark Antony besieged Mutina (headquarters of Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus)

April, 43 B.C.: Death of the consuls Hirtius and Pansa at the Battle of Mutina; Antony withdrew the siege.

April 21, 43 B.C.: Cicero delivered his final "Philippic," proposing that Mark Antony be declared an enemy of the State. (The Senate agreed.)

May, 43 B.C.: Octavius began secret negotiations with Antony (who had already aligned his forces with those of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus) to create a "united Caesarian party"

July, 43 B.C.: Octavius demanded that he be made consul in place of Hirtius and Pansa, and that the "enemy of the State" proclamation against Mark Antony be removed. (The Senate refused.)

August, 43 B.C.: Octavius marched on Rome, and was "elected" consul, along with Quintus Pedius (see note under People).

October, 43 B.C.: The Second Triumvirate (Octavius, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus) met near Bononia

November, 43 B.C.: The Senate formally recognized the Second Triumvirate

43-42 B.C.: The Wars of the Second Triumvirate

December, 43 B.C.: Deaths of Marcus Tullius Cicero and Quintus Tullius Cicero

October, 42 B.C.: The Battle of Philippi and the death of Brutus

31 B.C.: Death of Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium, which confirmed Octavius's uncontested power in Rome

27 B.C.: Octavius wanted to retire from active politics, but the government instead gave him lifelong powers, and the title of Augustus, the "elevated" or "divine" one. This also marked the beginning of the Roman Empire.

On the Map

Bononia: now Bologna; a city in northern Italy

Astura: or Torre Astura; formerly an island, now a peninsula on the coast of Latium


Part One

Now Cicero's great authority and power grew again to be so great in Rome, as ever it was before. For he did what he thought good, and completely overpowered and drove out Antony, and sent the two consuls, Hirtius and Pansa, with an army, to reduce him; and caused the Senate also to decree that young Caesar should have the lictors and ensigns of a praetor, as though he were his country's defender.

But after Antony had lost the battle, and both the consuls were slain, both the armies came unto Caesar. The Senate then being afraid of this young man that had so great good fortune, they practised by honours and gifts to call the armies from him, which he had about him, and so to diminish the greatness of his power: saying that their country now stood in no need of force, nor fear of defense, since her enemy Antony was fled and gone.

Caesar, fearing this, privately sent some friends to entreat and persuade Cicero to procure that they two together might be chosen consuls, saying he should manage the affairs as he pleased, should have the supreme power, and govern the young man who was only desirous of name and glory. And Caesar himself confessed that, in fear of ruin, and in danger of being deserted, he had finely served his turn by Cicero's ambition, having persuaded him to require the consulship, through the help and assistance that he would give him.

And now, more than at any other time, Cicero let himself be carried away and deceived, though he was an old man, by the persuasion of a boy. He joined him in soliciting votes, and procured the goodwill of the Senate, not without blame at the time on the part of his friends; and he, too, saw soon enough after that he had ruined himself, and betrayed the liberty of his country.

For this young man Octavius Caesar being grown to be very great by his means and procurement: when he saw that he had the consulship upon him, he forsook Cicero, and agreed with Antony and Lepidus. Then, joining his army with theirs, he divided the empire of Rome with them, as if it had been lands left in common between them: and besides that, there was a bill made of two hundred men and upwards, whom they had appointed to be slain. But the greatest difficulty and difference that fell out between them, was about the outlawing of Cicero. For Antony would hearken to no peace between them, unless Cicero were slain first of all: Lepidus was also in the same mind with Antony: but Caesar was against them both.

Their meeting was by the city of Bononia, where they continued three days together, they three only secretly consulting in a place environed about with a little river. Some say that Caesar stuck hard with Cicero the two first days, but at the third, that he yielded and forsook him. The exchange they agreed upon between them, was this. Caesar forsook Cicero: Lepidus, his own brother Paulus: and Antony, Lucius Caesar, his uncle by the mother's side. Such place took wrath in them, as they regarded no kindred nor blood, and to speak more properly, they showed that no brute or savage beast is so cruel as man when possessed with power answerable to his rage.

Part Two

While these matters were a-brewing, Cicero was at a house of his in the country, near Tusculum, having at home with him also his brother Quintus Cicero. News being brought them of these proscriptions or outlawries, appointing men to be slain: they determined to go to Astura, a place by the seaside where Cicero had another house, there to take sea, and from thence to go into Macedon, unto Brutus, of whose strength in that province news had already been heard. So, they caused themselves to be conveyed thither in two litters, both of them being so weak with sorrow and grief, that they could not otherwise have gone their ways. As they were on their way, both their litters going as near to each other as they could, they bewailed their miserable estate: but Quintus chiefly, who took it most grievously. For, remembering that he took no money with him when he came from his house, and that Cicero his brother also had very little for himself: he thought it best that Cicero should hold on his journey, whilst he himself made an errand home to fetch such things as he lacked, and so to make haste again to overtake his brother. They both thought it best so, and then tenderly embracing one another, the tears falling from their eyes, they took leave of each other.

Within a few days after, Quintus Cicero being betrayed by his own servants, unto them that made search for him: he was cruelly slain, and his son with him. But Marcus Tullius Cicero being carried unto Astura, and there finding a ship ready, embarked immediately, and sailed alongst the coast unto Circaeum, having a good gale of wind. There the mariners determining forthwith to make sail again, he came ashore, either for fear of the sea, or for that he had some hope that Caesar had not altogether forsaken him: and therewithal returning towards Rome by land, he had gone about a hundred furlongs thence. But then being at a strait how to resolve, and suddenly changing his mind he would needs be carried back again to the sea, where he continued all night marvellous sorrowful, and full of thoughts. Sometimes he resolved to go into Caesar's house privately, and there kill himself upon the altar of his household gods, to bring divine vengeance upon him; but the fear of torture put him off this course.

And after passing through a variety of confused and uncertain counsels, at last he let his servants carry him by sea to Portus Caietae. There he had a very proper pleasant summer house, where the Etesian winds do give a trim fresh air in the summer season.

In that place also there is a little temple dedicated unto Apollo, not far from the seaside. From thence there came a great shoal of crows, making a marvellous noise, that came flying towards Cicero's ship, which rowed upon the shoreside. This shoal of crows came and lighted upon the yard of their sail, some crying, and some pecking the cords with their bills: so that every man judged straight, that this was a sign of ill luck at hand. Cicero notwithstanding this, came ashore, and went into his house, and laid him down to see if he could sleep. But the most part of these crows came and lighted upon the chamber window where he lay, making a wonderful great noise: and some of them got unto Cicero's bed where he lay, the clothes being cast over his head, and they never left him, till by little and little they had with their bills plucked off the clothes that covered his face. His servants, seeing this, blamed themselves that they should stay to be spectators of their master's murder, and do nothing in his defense, whilst the brute creatures came to assist and take care of him in his undeserved affliction; so partly by entreaty, and partly by force, they put him again into his litter to carry him to the sea.

Part Three

But in the meantime came the murderers appointed to kill him: Herennius, a centurion, and Popilius Laena, tribune of the soldiers, whom Cicero had formerly defended when prosecuted for the murder of his father. So Cicero's gate being shut, they entered the house by force, and missing him, they asked them of the house what was become of him. They answered, they could not tell. Howbeit there was a young boy in the house called Philologus, who had been educated by Cicero in the liberal arts and sciences, and an emancipated slave of his brother Quintus. He told Herennius that Cicero's servants carried him in a litter towards the sea, through dark narrow lanes, shadowed with wood on either side.

The tribune taking a few with him, ran to the place where he was to come out. And Cicero, perceiving Herennius running in the walks, commanded his servants to set down the litter; and taking his beard in his left hand, as his manner was, he stoutly looked the murderers in the faces, his head and beard being all white, and his face lean and wrinkled, for the extreme sorrows he had taken: divers of them that were by, held their hands before their eyes, whilst Herennius did cruelly murder him. So Cicero, being sixty-four years of age, thrust his neck out of the litter, and had his head cut off by Antony's commandment, and his hands also, which wrote "the Philippics" against him [omission].

Part Four

When these members of Cicero were brought to Rome, Antony by chance was busily occupied at that time about the election of certain officers: who when he heard of them and saw them, he cried out aloud that now all his outlawries and proscriptions were executed: and thereupon commanded that Cicero's head and his hands should straight be set up over the pulpit for orations. This was a sight which the Roman people shuddered to behold, and they believed they saw there, not the face of Cicero, but the image of Antony's own soul.

[short and gruesome omission about the punishment of Philologus]

Howbeit I understood that Caesar Augustus, a long time after that, went one day to see one of his nephews, who had a book in his hand of Cicero's; and he, fearing lest his uncle would be angry to find that book in his hands, thought to hide it under his gown. Caesar saw it, and took it from him, and read the most part of it standing, and then delivered it to the young boy, and said unto him: "He was a wise man indeed, my child, and loved his country well." And immediately after he had vanquished Antony, being then consul, he made Cicero's son his colleague in the office; and under that consulship the Senate took down all the statues of Antony, and abolished all the other honours that had been given him, and decreed that none of that family should thereafter bear the name of Marcus.

So God's justice made the extreme revenge and punishment of Antony to fall into the house of Cicero. [Dryden: Thus the final acts of the punishment of Antony were, by the divine powers, devolved upon the family of Cicero.]

Narration and Discussion

In later years, Augustus Caesar said that Cicero "was a wise man and loved his country well." Do you agree? Why or why not?

For older students: "they showed that no brute or savage beast is so cruel as man when possessed with power answerable to his rage." Do you agree?

For older students and further thought: Plutarch refers to "God's justice" or "the divine powers." Was there a divine punishment being carried out, and if so, to whom?

Creative narration: There are many possibilities for dramatic presentations in this lesson. If you have only two actors, you might choose the scene between Caesar Augustus and his nephew. News interviews are another possibility.

Examination Questions

For Younger Students

1. Tell the story of how Cicero saved the government (and the city) of Rome from those who wanted to destroy it.

2. "It is reported that the people never passed a thing with so great goodwill, nor so wholly together, as the return of Cicero." Tell the story of his homecoming from banishment.

For Older Students

1. When Cicero was a boy, he hoped "to make the name of the Ciceros noble and famous." Tell one of the ways that he did so.

3. (High School) "For Cicero only of all men in Rome made the Romans know, how much eloquence doth grace and beautify that which is honest, and how invincible right and justice are, being eloquently set forth..." Explain and give examples.

AmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:

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