Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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History

Cicero

"There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly." Thus were the last words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, who bowed his head in a gladiatorial gesture to ease the task of his assassination, which was ordered by the Second Triumvirate of Rome. At the time Cicero was the most popular of the Romans, and the public did their best to hide him as the Triumvirate's soldiers scoured the Italian countryside. He was finally betrayed by one of his brother's slaves while he was trying to flee to join Brutus and Cassius. It is said that Octavian Caesar argued with Mark Antony for two days to spare Cicero from proscription, but Antony would not budge. His hatred for the silver-tongued Cicero was such that he had the orator's head, hands, and tongue nailed to the doors of the Senate house--the only individual of the many murdered by the Triumvirate to suffer such a fate. It is also worth noting that in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Cicero (who, despite having few lines, is nonetheless greatly important to the plot by helping to reveal the character of both Brutus and Rome) is the only person killed by the proscriptions to be lamented by Brutus and Cassius.

The writings of Cicero had a tremendous impact on the Renaissance and the American Founding; John Adams once said, "As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined than Cicero, his authority should have great weight." Indeed. For those interested in the statesman's life, I highly recommend Anthony Everitt's Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician. Fantastic biography of he who died at the hands of Antony's henchmen on December 7, 43 BC.
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