Cicero's life from his birth to the opening of his political career (B.C. 106-76).

Cicero was born at Arpinum, a city with the Roman franchise (which was also the birthplace of Marius), Jan. 3, B.C. 106, of an equestrian family. His grandfather, who had a small estate in that region, was of Volscian stock, and thus belonged to the old virile country people of the republic. His grandmother was a Gratidia, closely connected by adoption with the great Marius and with prominent Roman politicians. His father, who was the eldest son, had increased the family estate by agriculture and by the profits of a fulling-mill, so that he was among the richest of his townsmen, and possessed the census of a Roman knight. By his marriage with Helvia, a woman of the nobility, he became connected with many senatorial families. She was a woman of great economic and domestic virtues, and a strong support to her husband, who was of a somewhat weak constitution. The father was a man of cultivated mind and devoted himself to the education of his two sons, Marcus, afterwards the orator, and the younger brother Quintus. For this purpose he removed to the city. His ambition, like that of every Roman of fortune, was to have his sons enter politics and so to establish a senatorial family. He lived to see both of them succeed in this career, and the elder become one of the most distinguished men in Rome.

Cicero himself was early stimulated by the success of Marius and the general atmosphere of Roman ambition to desire a prominent place in the state. 1 His father's connections with men and women of rank brought the boy into contact with the great orators M. Antonius and L. Crassus,2 who interested themselves in his education.3 Among his companions were the sons of Aculeo, Lucius Cicero, his cousin, his intimate friend Atticus, L. Torquatus, C. Marius the younger, and L. Aelius Tubero. His instructors were Greeks; but, as he had already formed the purpose of attaining office through the power of oratory, he did not confine himself to theoretical or technical learning. He frequented the Forum to hear the great orators of his day, especially Antonius and Crassus, who discoursed with him on literary subjects, so that they became in a manner his teachers. He received instruction from Archias4; he sought the society of L. Accius, the poet, and he studied the art of delivery in the theatre, becoming intimately acquainted with the great actors Roscius and Aesopus. He practiced many kinds of composition, but his most important means of education, as he tells us, was translation from the Greek.

At the age of sixteen (B.C. 90), Cicero received the toga virilis (the "coming out" of a Roman boy), and from that time he devoted himself to law and statesmanship as well as oratory. For this purpose he was put under the charge of Mucius Scaevola, the augur, and later he attached himself to the no less celebrated Pontifex of the same name. In B.C. 89 he served one campaign in the army under Cn. Pompeius Strabo. After this short military experience, he returned with still greater vigor to his literary and political studies. He studied philosophy under Phaedrus and Philo, oratory under Molo of Rhodes, and all the branches of a liberal education under Diodotus the Stoic.

When about twenty-five years of age, Cicero began his active career. It was customary to win one's spurs by attacking some political opponent; but this was contrary to Cicero's pacific nature, and throughout his life he prided himself on always taking the side of the defence. His first oratorical efforts have not been preserved to us. The earliest of his orations which we possess is his defence of P. Quinctius in a civil action (B.C. 81). This suit involved no political question; but no case at that time could be entirely free from politics in one form or another, and nothing is more significant of Cicero's character than the skill with which he constantly used political bias for his client's advantage without seeming to take sides. To defend Quinctius was a bold undertaking for a young advocate; for the opposing counsel was the great orator Hortensius, backed by powerful influence on behalf of the plaintiff. The case, too, was a somewhat dry one; but Cicero's skill as an advocate is shown by the fact that he raises it above the ordinary business and technical level into a question of universal justice and the rights of common humanity.

Next year occurred the trial of Sextus Roscius of Ameria for parricide (B.C. 80), a case growing out of the abuses of Sulla's dictatorship. 5 Cicero showed his courage by undertaking the defence, and his forensic skill by converting his plea into a powerful attack on the accusers in the regular manner of Roman invective. In B.C. 79 he came into still more daring antagonism with Sulla in the case of a woman of Arretium. The oration has not come down to us, but from its boldness it must have added greatly to the orator's fame. The same year—either on account of his health or, less probably, from fear of Sulla—he went to Greece and the East to continue his studies; for at that time such a journey was like "going to Europe" among us. He visited the greatest orators, rhetoricians, and philosophers of the East, especially at Rhodes, then a seat of the highest culture. After an absence of two years, he returned to Rome, with an improved style of oratory, and again engaged in law cases, in which he had as opponents his two great rivals Hortensius and Cotta.

1 πολλὸν ἀριστεύειν καὶ ὑπείροχος ἔμμεναι ἄλλων. Ad Quintum Fratrem, iii. 5, 6.

2 See p. xxxvii.

3 This debt he amply repays by his tribute to them in the De Oratore. See Defence of Archias, ch. 1.

4 See p. xxxix.

5 See pp. 1, 2, below (Introduction to the Oration).

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