In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cicero

  • Introduction
  • General Overview
  • Bibliographies
  • Cicero’s Speeches: Rhetoric and Argument
  • Cicero’s Speeches and Roman Elite Culture
  • Cicero and Other Orators
  • Cicero and Roman Rhetoric
  • Cicero and the Intellectual Life of the Late Republic
  • Cicero and Politics
  • Cicero, the Letter Writer
  • Cicero, the Poet
  • Cicero’s Reception

Classics Cicero
Catherine Steel, Caroline Bishop
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0012


Marcus Tullius Cicero (b. 106–d. 43 BCE) was a prominent lawyer and politician, active at Rome during the final decades of the Roman Republic and in the period of Caesar’s dictatorship. He was assassinated in November of 43 BCE on the orders of the second triumvirate (Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus) because of his opposition to Antony after Caesar’s death. His position as a politician makes him an important figure in the history of the late Republic. He reached the consulship in 63 BCE, during which year he uncovered and suppressed an attempted coup led by Catiline. His role in executing five of the conspirators without trial led some years later to his exile, and after his return from exile he struggled to reestablish his political authority in a Rome increasingly dominated by the struggle between Pompey and Caesar. He spent the period of Caesar’s dictatorship largely in retirement, but he emerged as a major figure in the chaos after Caesar’s assassination. Just as important, or perhaps even more so, he was a prolific writer in an enormous variety of genres. He disseminated versions of many of his forensic and political speeches, as well as works of political and rhetorical theory and philosophy that were enormously influential in later periods; and collections of his letters to his close friend Atticus, his brother Quintus, and a wide range of other figures survive, as well as some poetry.

General Overview

Cicero is one of the few figures from classical Antiquity whose biography can be written, owing to the quantity and nature of the evidence that survives, and biographies dominate among general works that focus on Cicero. Most of those listed in this section concentrate on politics; Rawson 1983 is particularly good on Cicero’s intellectual interests. Douglas 1968 remains an excellent and concise introduction to Cicero the writer. An exhaustive treatment of the chronology of Cicero’s career and works is found in Marinone 2004. Tempest 2011 is a very readable introduction to Cicero’s life. Steel 2005 offers a concise treatment of Cicero the writer, while the essays in Steel 2013 cover all aspects of Cicero’s career and writings.

  • Douglas, A. E. 1968. Cicero. New Surveys in the Classics 2. Oxford: Clarendon.

    Succinct introduction to Cicero’s writings, with the exception of his poetry.

  • Fuhrmann, Manfred. 1992. Cicero and the Roman Republic. Translated by W. E. Yuill. Oxford: Blackwell.

    A concise political biography.

  • Lintott, Andrew. 2008. Cicero as evidence: A historian’s companion. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199216444.001.0001

    Analysis of the value of Cicero’s writings for the historian of Rome.

  • Manuwald, Gesine. 2015. Cicero. London: I. B. Tauris

    DOI: 10.5040/9780755694198

    Relatively brief account of Cicero’s career, works, and afterlife, aimed at a more general audience.

  • Marinone, Nino. 2004. Cronologia ciceroniana. 2d ed. Bologna, Italy: Patron Editore.

    Invaluable guide to the chronology of Cicero’s life and works.

  • Mitchell, Thomas N. 1979. Cicero: The ascending years. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

    Extremely full and detailed biography, covering Cicero’s life and career up to his consulship.

  • Mitchell, Thomas N. 1991. Cicero: The senior statesman. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1xp3tcd

    The second volume of Mitchell’s biography, covering the period from 63 BCE to Cicero’s death.

  • Rawson, Elizabeth D. 1983. Cicero: A portrait. Bristol, UK: Bristol Classical Press.

    Readable biography emphasizing his intellectual interests.

  • Steel, Catherine. 2005. Reading Cicero: Genre and performance in late Republican Rome. London: Duckworth.

    Discusses Cicero’s use of writing to further his career, with coverage of every genre in which he wrote.

  • Steel, Catherine, ed. 2013. The Cambridge companion to Cicero. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Collection of essays providing thorough coverage of Cicero’s writings and career, including several essays on his reception.

  • Stockton, D. L. 1971. Cicero: A political biography. London: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Rather narrowly focused on politics at Rome, but reliable and readable.

  • Tempest, Kathryn. 2011. Cicero: Politics and persuasion in ancient Rome. London: Bloomsbury.

    Engaging account of Cicero’s life and writings (especially his speeches and letters) in the context of the tumultuous late Republic.

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