Marcus Tullius Tiro

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Marcus Tullius Tiro (died c. 4 BC) was first a slave, then a freedman of Cicero from whom he received his nomen and praenomen. He is frequently mentioned in Cicero's letters. After Cicero's death Tiro published his former master's collected works of letters and speeches. He also wrote a considerable number of books himself, and possibly invented an early form of shorthand.


The date of Tiro's birth is uncertain. According to Jerome, who claims to date his death and approximate age, it could be 104 BC,[1] which would make him only a little younger than Cicero. However, he was probably born considerably later than that: Cicero refers to him as an "excellent young man" (adulescentem probum) in 50 BC.[2]

It is possible that Tiro was born a slave in Cicero's household in Arpinum and came with his family to Rome. However, it is known for sure that he was a verna (homegrown slave). Cicero refers to Tiro frequently in his letters. His duties included taking dictation, deciphering Cicero's handwriting and managing his table,[3] as well as his garden[4] and financial affairs.[5] Cicero remarks on how useful he is to him in his work and studies.[6]

Tiro was freed with much celebration in 53 BC to become a Roman citizen under the name of Marcus Tullius Tiro,[7] and he then accompanied Cicero to Cilicia during Cicero's governorship there,[8] although he was frequently separated from his patron due to poor health; many of Cicero's letters refer with concern to his illnesses.[9]

By 43 BC, Tiro had bought an estate near Puteoli, where Jerome says he died in 4 BC in "his hundredth year".[10]


He is believed to have collected and published Cicero's work after his death, and, it seems, was a prolific writer himself: several ancient writers refer to works of Tiro, now lost. Aulus Gellius says, "[he] wrote several books on the usage and theory of the Latin language and on miscellaneous questions of various kinds," and quotes him on the difference between Greek and Latin names for certain stars.[11] Asconius Pedianus, in his commentaries on Cicero's speeches, refers to a biography of Cicero by Tiro in at least four books,[12] and Plutarch refers to him as a source for two incidents in Cicero's life.[13]

He is credited with inventing the shorthand system of Tironian notes, later used by medieval monks, among others. There is no clear evidence that he did, although Plutarch credits Cicero's clerks as the first Romans to record speeches in shorthand.[14]

Tiro in fiction[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jerome, Chronological Tables 194.1
  2. ^ Cicero, Letters to Atticus 7.2[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Cicero, Letters to Friends 11.22
  4. ^ Cicero, Letters to Friends [1]
  5. ^ Cicero, Letters to Friends 16.23, 16.24
  6. ^ Cicero, Letters to Atticus 7.5[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Beard, M. (2015). SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. Profile. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-84765-441-0.
  8. ^ Cicero, Letters to Atticus 6.7
  9. ^ e.g. Cicero, Letters to Atticus 6.7[permanent dead link]; Letters to Friends 16.8, 16.9, 16.10[permanent dead link], 16.11, 16.13, 16.15[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Cicero, Letters to Friends 16.21; Jerome, Chronological Tables 194.1; William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology vol. 3 p. 1182 Archived 2006-12-07 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 13.9 (Loeb edition, translated by John C. Rolfe, 1961)
  12. ^ Asconius Pedianus, In Milone 38
  13. ^ Plutarch, Cicero 41, 49
  14. ^ Plutarch, Cato the Younger 23.3