Fall of the Roman Republic 78-31 BC

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Role and significance of Cicero
Cicero denounces Catiline before the Roman Senate

Past Trial question: 2010
Assess the role and significance of Cicero during this period.

Past HSC question: 2004
Assess the achievements and impact of EITHER Mark Antony OR Cicero during this period.

Past HSC question: 2001
Assess the significance of the career of EITHER Pompey OR Cicero.

Trial 2010
Introduction: Cicero was one of the most brilliant minds of his time. He was a staunch defender of republican institutions and fierce opponent of the forces which were undermining them. As a consequence, he had an ambivalent relationship with Pompey and Caesar, ultimately siding with Pompey and the republicans during the Civil War. His enmity towards Mark Antony brought about his death in the proscriptions of 43 BC and, with it, the final failure of the republic he championed. Scullard writes of his death: "Thus perished one of Rome's greatest sons."

(Throughout your essay, make an assessment of his role and significance in light of his desire for the survival of the republic.)

From booklet 1:
pp6-7 "The prosecution of Verres by Cicero"
pp10-12 support by Cicero for the lex Manilia
pp15-18 "Cicero's consulship and the Catilinarian conspiracy, 63"; "The importance of the Catilinarian conspiracy"; "The Bona Dea scandal"; "The return of Pompey"

  • Cicero's position as a novus homo
  • the significance of the trial of Verres
  • the impact of events during his consulship on his future career
  • his changing relationship with Pompey
  • the concordia ordinum
  • his reaction to the First Triumvirate
  • his relationship with Caesar
  • the Civil War
  • his attitude towards Caesar's death
  • his reluctant support for Octavian against Antony
  • his attacks on Antony (Philippics)
  • his death

Here is an assessment of Cicero from Scullard:

"Charged by some with irresolution or even cowardice, he showed neither failing in the first act of his public life when he stood up to the dictator Sulla in defence of Roscius, or in his final stand against Antony. His career had reached its zenith when he had thwarted Catiline during his consulship in 63. But he had no army to help him enforce his will, and as a novus homo he lacked the full backing of a faction; he therefore was unable to achieve his ideal of a Concordia ordinum between senators and knights, which later he developed into a consensus omnium bonorum to include tota Italia. Conscious that the state needed a rector, he soon realised that Pompey could not fill that role, and amid the increasing pressure that the military princeps were exerting upon the free state, Cicero withdrew from public life to ponder and write upon philosophic and political themes... But he did more than write: he took action. Though the chances of success may have been faint, he boldly struck one more blow in defence of that free state, where men would rule by persuasion and reason, and refused to admit that the choice lay only between tyranny and anarchy. His attempt to play off Octavian against Antony failed and the consequences of this policy were fatal to the Republic, but responsibility for that certainly does not rest on Cicero’s shoulders alone. He may have come forward to fight for an ideal and to try to save a Commonwealth that was past saving, but he was willing to sacrifice his life in the attempt rather than to continue to live under a tyranny. Further, besides wrestling with these practical problems, he wrote works that have had a profound influence on the course of European civilisation."
H.H. Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero, p.164-5

from Ancient Sources:

"I am obliged to record that, for twenty years past, our country has never had an enemy who has not, simultaneously, made himself an enemy of mine as well."
Cicero, "Second Philippic", in Selected Works, p.102

"You are a drink-sodden, sex-ridden wreck. Never a day passes in that ill-reputed house of yours without orgies of the most repulsive kind."
Cicero on Marcus Antonius, "Second Philippic", in Selected Works, p.105

106 Cicero born at Arpinum
104 Brother Quintus born
90 Cicero's military service in the Social War
79 Cicero travels to Athens and Rhodes to continue education (returns in 77)
77 Cicero marries Terentia
75 Cicero quaestor in Sicily
70 Cicero prosecutes Verres for corruption
69 Cicero aedile
66 Cicero praetor
65 Son Marcus born
63 Cicero consul
62 Cicero testifies against Clodius in the Bona Dea trial
58 Cicero exiled (goes to northern Greece)
57 Cicero recalled from exile
53 Tiro freed
51 Cicero proconsul of Cilicia (until middle of following year)
47 Cicero divorces Terentia
46 Cicero marries and divorces Publilia
45 Tullia dies
43 Cicero (and Quintus) proscribed and killed