Cicero was born at Arpinum in Latium into a wealthy equestrian family. At Rome he studied law and oratory, Greek philosophy, and Greek literature. He saw military service in the Social War of 90-88BC under the father of Pompey the Great. His first important speech, in 80BC, was the successful defence of a client against a favourite of the dictator Sulla. He became a member of the Senate in 76, and was appointed to Sicily. There, his impeachment of the corrupt governor Gaius Verres made his reputation.
Cicero supported Pompey and the supremacy of the senate against Caesar and the new democracy. In 63 he held the consulship and for a brief time was the great man of the day. Then the tide turned against him. Cicero took refuge at Thessalonica. In 57 the people voted his recall. However, he was no longer a power in politics and could not decide between Pompey and Caesar. He was sent to Asia as Governor of Cilicia . In 49-48 he was with Pompey's army in Greece, but after the defeat at Pharsalia (48) he threw himself on Caesar's mercy and withdrew from public life.
In 46-44 he wrote most of his chief works on rhetoric and philosophy. In 43, after Caesar's murder, his famous speech against Marcus Antonius cost him his life. The usurpers vowed revenge. Old and feeble, he fled to his villa, but was overtaken as he was being carried in a litter. Calmly, he put his head out of the litter and bade the soldiers strike. He was in his sixty-third year.
As orator and pleader Cicero stands in the first rank. As a politician, he was one of the outstanding figures of the late Republic. He is one of the principal sources of knowledge of the politics of his time.