A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

7. M.TulliusCicero, only son of the orator and his wife Terentia, was born in the year B. C. 65, on the very day, apparently (ad Att. 1.2), on which L. Julius Caesar and C. Marcius Figulus were elected consuls. He is frequently spoken of, while a boy, in terms of the warmest affection, in the letters of his father, who watched over his education with the most earnest care, and made him the companion of his journey to Cilicia. (B. C. 51.) The autumn after their arrival he was sent along with his school-fellow and cousin, Quintus, to pay a visit to king Deiotarus (ad Att. 5.17), while the proconsul and his legati were prosecuting the war against the highlanders of Amanus. He returned to Italy at the end of B. C. 50, was invested with the manly gown at Arpinum in the course of March, B. C. 49 (ad Att. 9.6, 19), being then in his sixteenth year, passed over to Greece and joined the army of Pompey, where he received the command of a squadron of cavalry, gaining great applause from his general and from the whole army by the skill which he displayed in military exercises, and by the steadiness with which he endured the toils of a soldier's life. (De Off. 2.13.) After the battle of Pharsalia he remained at Brundisium until the arrival of Caesar from the East (ad Fam. 14.11, ad Att. 11.18), was chosen soon afterwards (B. C. 46), along with young Quintus and a certain M. Caesius, to fill the office of aedile at Arpinum (ad Fam. 13.11), and the following spring (B. C. 45) expressed a strong wish to proceed to Spain and take part in the war against his former friends. He was, however, persuaded by his father to abandon this ill-judged project (ad Att. 12.7), and it was determined that he should proceed to Athens and there prosecute his studies, along with several persons of his own age belonging to the most distinguished families of Rome. Here, although provided with an allowance upon the most liberal scale (ad Att. 12.27, 32), he fell into irregular and extravagant habits, led astray, it is said, by a rhetorician named Gorgias. The young man seems to have been touched by the remonstrances of Cicero and Atticus, and in a letter addressed to Tiro (ad Fam. 16.21), expresses great shame and sorrow for his past misconduct, giving an account at the same

time of his reformed mode of life, and diligent application to philosophy under Cratippus of Mytilene --representations confirmed by the testimony of various individuals who visited him at that period. (Ad Att. 14.16, 15.4, 6, 17, 20, 16.1, ad Fam. 12.16.) After the death of Caesar he was raised to the rank of military tribune by Brutus, gained over the legion commanded by L. Piso, the lieutenant of Antonius, defeated and took prisoner C. Antonius, and did much good service in the course of the Macedonian campaign. When the republican army was broken up by the rout at Philippi, he joined Sext. Pompeius in Sicily, and taking advantage of the amnesty in favour of exiles, which formed one of the terms of the convention between that chief and the triumvirs when they concluded a short-lived peace (B. C. 39), returned to the metropolis. Here he lived in retirement and obscurity, until Octavianus, touched perhaps with remorse on account of his former treachery to the family, caused him to be admitted into the college of augurs, and after his final rupture with Antony, assumed him as his colleague in the consulship. (B. C. 30, from 13th Sept.) By a singular coincidence, the despatch announcing the capture of the fleet of Antony, which was immediately followed by his death, was addressed to the new consul in his official capacity, and thus, says Plutarch, " the divine justice reserved the completion of Antony's punishment for the house of Cicero," for the arrival of the intelligence was immediately followed by a decree that all statues and monuments of Antony should be destroyed, and that no individual of that family should in time coming bear the name of Marcus. Middleton has fallen into the mistake of supposing that the victory thus announced was the battle of Actium, but this was fought about eleven months before the event in question. Soon after the termination of his office, Cicero was nominated governor of Asia, or, according to others, of Syria, and we hear no more of him.

Young Cicero was one of those characters whose name would never have appeared on the page of history had it not been for the fame of his father; and that fame proved to a certain extent a misfortune, since it attracted the eyes of the world to various follies and vices which might have escaped unnoticed in one enjoying a less illustrious parentage. Although naturally indolent (ad Att. 6.1), the advantages of education were by no means lost upon him, as we may infer from the style and tone of those two epistles which have been preserved (ad Fam. 16.21, 25), which prove that the praise bestowed on his compositions by his father did not proceed from mere blind partiality (ad Att. 14.7. 15.17), while his merits as a soldier seem unquestionable. Even the stories of his dissipation scarcely justify the bitterness of Seneca and Pliny, the latter of whom records, upon the authority of Tergilla, that he was able to swallow two congii of wine at a draught, and that on one occasion, when intoxicated, he threw a cup at M. Agrippa, an anecdote which Middleton, who is determined to see no fault in any one bearing the name of Cicero, oddly enough quotes as an example of courage and high spirit.

(Plin. Nat. 22.3, &c., 14.28; Senec. Suasor. 6, de Benef. 4.30; Plut. Cic. and Brut.; Appian, App. BC 4.19, 20, 5.2; D. C. 45.15, 46.3, 18, 41, 19.)