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Cicero was the philosopher king Plato heralded, for he both wrote a Republic and saved one.

Cicero during his consulship in 69 B.C., overturning a threat to the republic.

Like Cincinnatus -and unlike Caesar- Cicero took the power of dictator (imperium) only long enough to overturn the threat to the republic: showing that absolute power does not corrupt absolutely. Other famous speeches of this year include his oration on the very first day upon his ascension to the consulship overturning agrarian legislation, the very legislation Caesar would later overturn the republic to achieve.

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Hello. Thanks for the interesting group. A few comments:
First, a typo: Cicero's consulship was in 63 BC, not 69
Second, Cicero was never elected Dictator. True, the Senatus Consultum Ultimum was ,in effect, a declaration of martial law against Cataline. However it did not bestow the powers of didctaor as shown by the fact that the executions of the cospirators still had to be voted on by the Senate.

Also, I read your thesis on the history of the aquarian laws and enjoyed it very much. Interesting to tie the crooked paths of the various attempts at aquarian reform to the course of the Roman Revolution and the ideals in Cicero's Republic.

I'll throw this out for comment:
I have always been skeptical of Cicero's claim to have "saved the Republic". The Cataline conspiracy seems to me to be a bit overblown and perhaps even was egged on by Cicero's histeria. What do you think?
Welcome, ontheroad! As to whether the Catilinarian conspiracy was instigated or exacerbated by Cicero, I would have to say I do not think so. Cicero received the power of the SCU in October, but it was not until December that the five conspirators were executed. Cicero seems to have spent this time shoring up his case. Also, there was that curious incident with Gaius Rabirius, who was tried for perduellio in January. As you will recall, this was an exceedingly odd case that seemed to be directed at the legitimacy of the SCU by prosecuting an old man for a supposed crime committed under the authority of the SCU some sixty years earlier. The archaic apparatus fo the court of the duumviri was resurrected, and by an amazing coincidence, Caesar was chosen by lot to be one of the two judges. Then, just as Cicero was losing the case, an arcane rule was invoked to call the whole thing a mistrial. While it seems extraordinary that Caesar or anyone else could have had such far-reaching prescience, I have always felt that it was curious that Cicero should have been involved in a trial dealing with the legitimacy of a decree that he would be voted later that same year.
Perhaps Caesar was not so prescient. Check this out:


It is an argument for placing the Rabirius trial AFTER the executions of the Cataline conspirators. According to the author, the only hard evidence of the timing of the trial that the later historians followed was a letter of Cicero to Atticus written a few years later. She claims that Cicero is not to be trusted due to the fact that he may have had ulterior motives to play down a trial that highlighted his own actions of putting citizens to death without a trial.
Anyway, there is no contemporary (63BC) evidence that places the Rabirius trial before the executions, so it certainly possible and much more logical to place it after.

What do you think?
First let me say that it has been nearly twenty years since I seriously was into this issue, so I am a little hazy on the actual historical references to the Pro Rabirio Perduellionis. That said, I am not inclined to agree quickly with Colleen McCullough. First of all, she admits that she moved the event per her right as an author. Second, her distrust of Cicero seems ill founded. Perhaps he is not to be trusted, but to distrust his account of things simply because he was a lawyer and politician, and in McCullough's experience such people are, have been, and always will be shady, is hardly sufficient grounds to make such a statement. Third, given how careful Cicero was to shore up his case against Catiline, he would surely have referenced it in the Rabirius had the Rabirius been delivered afterward. Should anyone say that he would not have done so for fear of drawing attention to his own questionably legal practices, I would have to respond this, too, does not hold water, for the Rabirius trial would have called the Catilinarian incident to mind for anyone. There would have been no avoiding the connection, and Cicero would have played it to his advantage. Finally, while I appreciate McCullough's research for her books, she is not primarily a Classical scholar. If a serious scholar puts forth thesis from more than personal bias, I would be inclined to consider it.
Well, I guess the bottom line is that we will never know. HOWEVER, it is fun to speculate!
I wouldn't put it past Cicero to 'pad' the record for his own benefit. Not because he was a politician per se, but from what I have gleaned of his personality from his letters and speeches. He was definitely vainglorious, puffed up and very conscience of his reputation. (He also had many endearing attributes, but that is not my point here)

I tend to agree with McCullough. There are a few other holes in her argument, however. First, Cicero places the timing of the trial in a letter to his friend Atticus. It’s hard to see how lying in a candid, private letter to his friend who would know the truth would benefit Cicero.

You are right that is hard to believe that, if the Rabirius trial happened after, that there are no references to Cataline in it. There are 2 possible explanations that would still place Rabirius after the executions. 1. There are potions of Cicero’s oration that are not extant, so perhaps the Cataline references were in that portion. (I know that one cannot prove a negative, but we are just having fun here, right?) 2. It would certainly be awkward for Cicero, having just participated in executing citizens without a trial, to bring up that fact in a trial of a man charged with the same actions. He certainly would have known (if indeed the trial does take place after Cataline) that the real point of the trial was his own actions, not Rabirius. Perhaps he decided that discretion is the better part of valor!

Either way, it is an interesting side alley in the history of Cicero. Thanks for your opinions!
You are right that this is an interesting area in which to speculate. Another that has always intrigued me is the relationships among Caesar, Cicero, and Pompey. It always seemed that Cicero pursued Pompey, who grudgingly at best reciprocated. Caesar, on the other hand, seemed more than gracious toward Cicero, and Cicero always spurned him. I have often wondered how things would have played differently had Cicero and Caesar been allies.
But could Cicero and Caesar be allies? From recent biographies of both men, the main sticking point between them is that Cicero had a greater reverence for the traditions of Rome, whereas Caesar had a greater interest in fulfilling his destiny.
The only drawback from the example of Cicero and Cincinnatus is that they were motivated by love of and respect for tradition. When someone, like Caesar rolls along and asks "Why should I be forced to do X?", there is very little to stop him or her.
Yes, but having been decapitated upon the orders of Marc Antony he might be more justly compared to Socrates than to a philosopher king. For Dictator, as indeed he truly was (since he had the Senatus Consultum Ultimum the fact that he was Dictator is beyond dispute. The question being: as Dictator did he rule by dicta?)

But I think the real question that ought to be answered (to our own selves) is whether or not one should seek to become like him? In other words, should one seek to become like Cicero? IMO becoming like Sallust would be wiser.

Or looking at the end, as Solon suggested we do in juding whether or not someone had a happy life (Cf. Herodotus 1.30.4-1.33.1) Did Cicero come to an excellent end?

Looking at the end, did Cicero have a happy life?

The fact that the Senate voted to execute the conspirators does not, in my opinion, show that Cicero was not dictatorbut that Cicero: consulente Cicerone frequens "followed his usual practice and deliberated."

Itaque consulente Cicerone frequens senatus decernit Tarquini indicium falsum videri eumque in vinculis retinendum neque amplius potestatem faciundam, nisi de eo indicaret, cuius consilio tantam rem esset mentitus.

Accordingly, the Senate, as Cicero usually advised, decided: the evidence of Tarquinius appeared false, and he in prison be restrained, not furthermore having the ability to do anything, unless he revealed upon the advice of whom, about him, he had been caused to lie. (Bellum Catilinae 48.6)
From a Roman standpoint, I should think that Cicero's life, according to Solon, was a happy one. He employed his powers to their fullest, he achieved great honor, and when he died, he did not die in a craven fashion, but as a result of confronting his enemies in the Phillipics.

Anthony Everitt does a good job of sketching out Cicero's character. While not "heroic" in a bellicose fashion, I don't think that Cicero was by any stretch a coward.

What would be a Roman attitude about being executed by slaves? Was there any inherent dishonor in that?




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