Tullia Ciceronis, also Tulliola (as affectionately known to her father; 5 August 79 BC or 78 BC – February 45 BC) was the only daughter and first child to Roman orator and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero from his first marriage to Terentia. Her younger brother was Marcus Tullius Cicero Minor (born 65 BC), a consul of 30 BC.
What is known of Tullia's life is from Plutarch's account of Cicero and the letters that Cicero wrote to others, particularly to her mother and to his friend, Roman equestrian Titus Pomponius Atticus.
Tullia in 66 BC was betrothed to Gaius Calpurnius Piso Frugi (quaestor of 58 BC); she married him in 63 BC, but Piso died in 57 BC.
In 56 BC, Tullia was betrothed to and married Furius Crassipes. Although they had a happy marriage, they divorced in 51 BC for unknown reasons.
In the summer of 50 BC, Tullia married Publius Cornelius Dolabella, consul of 44 BC. They had an unhappy marriage. She bore him two sons. The first was born on 19 May 49 BC and died the same year.
Tullia and Dolabella divorced in November 46 BC. In February 45 BC, Tullia died at Dolabella’s house the month after giving birth to her second son (who survived).
Cicero was stricken by grief when Tullia died. His friends and political peers tried to comfort him and sent him letters of condolence, some of which have survived. His grief led him to divorce his second wife Publilia, who had been jealous of Tullia and showed little sympathy over her death.
Legend of the perpetual lamp
In the fifteenth century, a tomb was found in Rome which was identified as Tullia’s burial place. Among other things found in it (including a corpse which looked and felt like it had been buried that day) was a perpetual lamp which was supposedly still burning after more than 15 centuries. The 17th-century English poet and preacher John Donne alludes to this legend in the eleventh stanza ("The Good-Night") of his "Epithalamion, 1613. Decemb. 26" for the marriage of the Earl of Somerset to Frances Howard:
- Now, as in Tullias tombe, one lamp burnt cleare,
- Unchang'd for fifteene hundred yeare,
- May these love-lamps we here enshrine,
- In warmth, light, lasting, equall the divine. . . .
- Translated letters about tombs on Appian Way, from Pagan and Christian Rome by Rodolfo Lanciani, 1896
- Browne, ii, 57
- Lemprière, 645.
- Donne, i, 140.
- Browne, Thomas. Pseudodoxia epidemica: or, Enquiries into very many received tenants, and commonly presumed truths ["Vulgar Errors"], Book III, ch. 21. 1662. In The Works of Sir Thomas Browne, ed. Charles Sayle. 3 vols. Edinburgh: John Grant, 1927. An online text may be found through Luminarium.org. Note that Browne refers in his work to Tullia as the sister of Cicero, rather than as his daughter.
- Donne, John. The Poems of John Donne: edited from the Old Editions and Numerous Manuscripts with Introductions & Commentary by Herbert J. C. Grierson, M.A. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912. The complete "Eclogue" in modern English may be found at Luminarium.org
- Lemprière, John. "Tulliola or Tullia." A Classical Dictionary: Containing a copious account of all proper names mentioned in ancient authors . . . [Bibliotheca Classica] . 3rd American Edition. Philadelphia: J. Crissy, 1822.