From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Marcus Tullius Cicero (Classical Latin (January 3, 106 BC – December 7, 43 BC) was a Roman statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and philosopher. Cicero is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.
Cicero was a gifted and energetic writer, with an interest in a wide variety of subjects in keeping with the Hellenistic philosophical and rhetorical traditions in which he was trained. The quality and ready accessibility of Ciceronian texts favored very wide distribution and inclusion in teaching curricula. This influence increased after the Dark Ages in Europe, from which more of his writings survived than any other Latin author. Medieval philosophers were influenced by Cicero's writings on natural law and innate rights. Petrarch's rediscovery of Cicero's letters is often credited as what initiated the 14th century movement called Renaissance. His works rank among the most influential in European culture, and today still constitute one of the most important bodies of primary material for the writing and revision of Roman history.
While Cicero the humanist deeply influenced the culture of Renaissance, Cicero the republican inspired the Founding Fathers of the United States and the revolutionaries of the French Revolution. John Adams said of him "As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero, his authority should have great weight." Camille Desmoulins said of the revolutionaries that they were "mostly young people who, brought up on reading of Cicero at school, were fired by them with the passion for freedom."
Likewise, no other antique personality has inspired venomous dislike as Cicero especially in more modern times. Friedrich Engels notably referred to him as "the most contemptible scoundrel in history" for upholding republican 'democracy,' while at the same time denouncing land and class reforms. Cicero has faced criticism for exaggerating the democratic qualities of republican Rome, and for defending the Roman oligarchy against the popular reforms of Caesar. His vain, pompous personality revealed from his letters also often led to negative characterization in modern popular depictions.
Notable fictional portrayals
Cicero was portrayed on the motion picture screen by British actor Alan Napier in the 1953 film Julius Caesar, based on Shakespeare's play. He has also been played by such noted actors as Michael Hordern (in Cleopatra), and Andre Morell (in the 1970 Julius Caesar). Most recently, Cicero was portrayed by David Bamber in the HBO series Rome (2005–2007) and appeared in both seasons.
In her series of historical novels "Masters of Rome" Colleen McCullough presents an unflattering depiction of Cicero's career, showing him struggling with inferiority complex and vanity, with flexible morals and fatally indiscreet. He is portrayed as a hero in the novel A Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell (1965). He is a major recurring character in the Roma Sub Rosa series of mystery novels by Steven Saylor. Robert Harris' novels Imperium and Lustrum (Conspirata in the U.S.) are the first two parts of a planned trilogy of novels based upon the life of Cicero. He also appears several times as a peripheral character in John Maddox Roberts's SPQR series. Roberts's protagonist, Decius Metellus, admires Cicero for his erudition, but is disappointed by his lack of real opposition to Caesar, as well as puzzled by his relentless fawning on the Optimates, who secretly despise Cicero as a parvenu.
- Roman philosophy
- Caecilia Attica
- Titus Pomponius Atticus
- Quintus Tullius Cicero
- Tullia Ciceronis
- Caecilia Metella (daughter of Metellus Celer)
- Servius Sulpicius Rufus
- Marcus Tullius Tiro