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Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106–43 BC)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A031-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

Cicero, pre-eminent Roman statesman and orator of the first century bc and a prolific writer, composed the first substantial body of philosophical work in Latin. Rising from small-town obscurity to the pinnacle of Rome’s staunchly conservative aristocracy, he devoted most of his life to public affairs. But he was deeply interested in philosophy throughout his life, and during two intervals of forced withdrawal from politics wrote two series of dialogues, first elaborating his political ideals and later examining central issues in epistemology, ethics and theology. Designed to establish philosophical study as an integral part of Roman culture, these works are heavily indebted to Greek philosophy, and some of the later dialogues are largely summaries of Hellenistic debates. But Cicero reworked his sources substantially, and his methodical expositions are thoughtful, judicious and, on questions of politics and morals, often creative. An adherent of the sceptical New Academy, he was opposed to dogmatism but ready to accept the most cogent arguments on topics important to him. His vigorously argued and eloquent critical discussions of perennial problems greatly enriched the intellectual and moral heritage of Rome and shaped Western traditions of liberal education, republican government and rationalism in religion and ethics. These works also afford invaluable insight into the course of philosophy during the three centuries after Aristotle.

Citing this article:
White, Stephen A.. Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106–43 BC), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A031-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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