Marcus Tullius Cicero (Rome character)

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Marcus Tullius Cicero
Rome character
Thesebeingthewords.jpg
Cicero (left) with his slave Tiro
Portrayed by David Bamber
Information
Gender Male
Title Equestrian Order

Marcus Tullius Cicero is a historical figure who features as a character in the HBO/BBC2 original television series Rome, played by David Bamber. He is depicted as a moderate politician and scholar, who is challenged with trying to save the traditional Republic from the ambitions of the various characters on the show. The real Cicero was a Roman politician, writer, and orator.

Personality[edit]

Cicero represents the moderates in the Senate -he believes in the traditional republican order and correctly suspects that first Caesar and later Marc Anthony are a threat to that. However, he wants to avoid a civil war and is not particularly brave. As a result he is often forced to give in to pressure or downright threats. Not shameless, he often gives in only after some face-saving measure -such as insisting on actually being threatened by Marc Anthony, refusing to give in to mere innuendo. Still, being cowed like this offends his sense of duty and drives him into self-loathing and finally into action against Marc Anthony. When he loses in the sordid politicking that follows, he eventually summons the courage to die rather bravely at the hands of Titus Pullo.

Cicero is an intelligent, cautious, eloquent, knowledgeable, clear-sighted and realistic politician, much respected by the senators of his camp and apparently loved by his own household.

Character history[edit]

Cicero is initially a political ally of Pompey Magnus. His senatorial clout is huge; according to Pompey "the moderates follow [Cicero] like sheep." Cicero is convinced by Pompey to use his influence to pass a resolution requiring Caesar to disband his armies and forgo his imperium, which would leave Caesar open to prosecution for treason by his political enemies. Cicero agrees to this assuming that the bill will be vetoed by Mark Antony, but the veto is prevented by a spontaneous outbreak of violence. When Caesar marches on Rome in response, Cicero travels with the Pompeian faction, but surrenders to Caesar after the Battle of Pharsalus and is granted amnesty along with his close friend Brutus. Because of this, Cicero comes to consider himself a coward and a turncoat. He briefly attempts to conspire against Caesar with Brutus, but is intimidated out of doing this by Antony. After this incident, Cicero refrains from any active plotting, confining himself to a (largely fruitless) political opposition to Caesar's initiatives. He is, therefore, not involved in the plot to kill Caesar.

Following Caesar's death, Cicero was forced into a mutually-displeasing working relationship with Consul Mark Antony. Despite the fact that the two hated each other, Antony needed Cicero to run the senate. Cicero was well aware of Antony's hatred and was not shy about expressing his distaste for the man.

What Antony didn't realize was that his control over Cicero was not absolute. The political leader had struck up an alliance with Octavian. Already on his way out of Rome, he left a message to Antony to be read before the Senate. However, it was not the expected proposal to grant him governorship of Gaul, but rather a mocking, scathing criticism of his character, calling him a "drink-sodden, sex-addled wreck." Antony behaved entirely as Cicero planned, killing the unfortunate Senator tasked with reading the message, in full view of the Senate. As of Testudo et Lepus, it appears Cicero has the upper hand.

However, Cicero is caught off guard when Octavian boldly uses the threat of force to coerce the Senate into naming him consul and passing a number of provocative measures, in particular the naming of Brutus and Cassius as "murderers enemies of the state". The Senate's decision to send General Lepidus north to deal with the remnants of Antony's forces also backfires when Lepidus' men defect to Antony. Cicero responds by calling on Brutus and Cassius to return home with their forces at once. Cicero later warns Octavian of their return in hopes that Octavian might give up his legions and disarm. Instead, Octavian returns north to make his peace with Antony and Lepidus, forming the Second Triumvirate.

Cicero was eventually killed by Titus Pullo, at the instigation of Antony and on the direct order of Octavian Caesar. He learns of this order beforehand, but chooses to face his death instead of run, sending a letter to Brutus and Cassius informing them of the alliance of Octavian and Mark Antony. Cicero then engages in a friendly conversation with his killer before exposing his neck to the sword, unaware of the fact that his letter has been intercepted by an oblivious Vorenus. Cicero's hands are later seen being nailed to the senate doors by Pullo, as Antony had promised would happen should Cicero turn against him.

Comparison to the historical Marcus Tullius Cicero[edit]

The historical Cicero was a courageous intellectual who, by dint of his talent, learning, and rhetorical ability, had risen through the ranks of the Republic to become the last of her novi homines. He had a history of brave public and vocal opposition to real and would-be tyrants such as Sulla and Catiline, as well as to their subordinates. The narrative of the series does little besides allude to any of these past troubles of the Roman Republic or to Cicero's role in them.

Also excluded were Cicero's attempts to reconcile Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Gaius Julius Caesar, with whom Cicero had bonds of friendship. The real Cicero was close to both, as Caesar had lent him money, and Pompey had facilitated his recall from exile.

Nevertheless, the show is accurate in depicting Cicero's reluctance to transform his courageous speeches against tyrants into courageous action against them. Plutarch tells us that although Caesar's assassins were well aware of Cicero's own opposition to Caesar, they did not include him in their plot "lest, to his own disposition, which was naturally timorous, adding now the weariness and caution of old age, by his weighing, as he would do, every particular, that he might not make one step without the greatest security, he should blunt the edge of their forwardness and resolution in a business which required all the despatch imaginable.[1]"

In addition, Cicero did not leave Italy for Greece with Pompey's army but waited longer to make up his mind. After a dinner with Julius Caesar, he slipped out of the country to join Pompey.

After Caesar's assassination, Cicero (as the most eminent senior statesman) became leader of the Senate, and organised Consuls Hirtius and Pansa against Antony, while juggling the alliances of other Roman military forces, such as Lepidus's, and those of Brutus and Cassius Longinus in the East. He was the first man in Rome until Octavianus's march on the city, and subsequent alliance with the recently defeated Antony.

The real Cicero met his death with even more bravery and charisma than Rome's Cicero. He was caught in a litter reading a book, and upon seeing his executioner, made disparaging remarks before nonchalantly extending his neck for his throat to be cut.