By Alexis Culotta

Ancient Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero was assassinated on 7 December 43 BCE. The culmination of a longstanding conflict between Cicero and Marc Antony, the popular political figure’s death in some regards marked the end of the Roman Republic and paved the way for the installation of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus (formerly Octavian)

Following the murder of Julius Caesar in March 44 BCE, both Cicero and Marc Antony rose to public political prominence, but they were diametrically opposed as to how they felt Rome should be governed. In an effort to ensure his views were supported, Cicero curried favor with Octavian, Julius Caesar’s adopted hear, while berating Marc Antony through a series of heated speeches.  

Antony retaliated by eventually gaining the confidence of Octavian through the creation of the Second Triumvirate, a governmental alliance between Antony, Octavian, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, in November 43 BCE. As a result of this alliance’s establishment, Antony drafted a list of those who were to be considered enemies and thus were subject to proscription. Among those proscribed was Cicero. 

Cicero was caught on 7 December just as he was attempting to escape his villa for a ship to Macedonia. As he purportedly said prior to submitting himself to death, “there is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly.“ Marc Antony would soon after meet a similar defeat: in the wake of Octavian’s triumph at the Battle of Actium the subsequent decade, Antony committed suicide. 

Bertol Thorvaldsen, Bust of Cicero, circa 1799-1800 (copy after a Roman original). Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen.

VIcenzo Foppa, The Young Cicero Reading, 1464. Fresco. Wallace Collection, London. 

Thomas Worlidge, Statue of Marcus Tulles Cicero, 18th century engraving. Harvard Art Museums, Massachusetts. 

Portrait of Cicero (Renaissance copy after Roman original). Vatican Museums, Rome.   

“The Death of Cicero,” from the 15th-century manuscript, The Cases of Noble Men and Women [(Rouen, perhaps Boucicot Master – ms. 1440 (f. 213v)].

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