Who Is Cicero?

There is nothing so absurd that it has not been said by some philosopher.

- Cicero, On Divination (44 BC), II, 58

Podcast of the Day

Cicero’s philosophical works are invaluable records of Hellenistic thought. But what kind of philosopher was Cicero himself?

Listen to the History of Philosophy With Any Gaps episode: Rhetorical Questions: Cicero

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Short Article of the Day

In 58 BC, Roman politics was paralyzed by the coalition of Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar, known as the First Triumvirate. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator, who had successfully climbed the political ranks to reach the level of consul, struggled to maintain his independence while on occasion lending reluctant oratorical support to their projects and associates. He also started to put his excess energy, stylistic brilliance, and superabundant vocabulary into philosophy, a new domain for Latin literature. Cicero turned first to rhetorical and political theory, congenial subjects which would keep him before the public as a leading statesman. To this period we owe the monumental dialogues On the Orator and On the Republic...

Continue reading Miriam T. Griffin's short article: Cicero's On Life and Death

Further Reading

Marcus Tullius Cicero was born on January 3, 106 B.C.E. and was murdered on December 7, 43 B.C.E. His life coincided with the decline and fall of the Roman Republic, and he was an important actor in many of the significant political events of his time, and his writings are now a valuable source of information to us about those events. He was, among other things, an orator, lawyer, politician, and philosopher. Making sense of his writings and understanding his philosophy requires us to keep that in mind. He placed politics above philosophical study; the latter was valuable in its own right but was even more valuable as the means to more effective political action. The only periods of his life in which he wrote philosophical works were the times he was forcibly prevented from taking part in politics.

While Cicero is currently not considered an exceptional thinker, largely on the (incorrect) grounds that his philosophy is derivative and unoriginal, in previous centuries he was considered one of the great philosophers of the ancient era, and he was widely read well into the 19th century...

Continue reading the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Cicero by Edward Clayton

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