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Classical Interviews: Cicero

Ancient World

Classical Interviews: Cicero

Bust of Marcus Tullius Cicero


By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB

This article is one in a series of fictitious interviews with important figures from the ancient Roman and Greek worlds. The concept of made-up interviews first appeared in the writings of the Italian novelist Giuseppe Papini, though he “interviewed” people from more recent times. Today’s interview is with the greatest Roman orator and perhaps one of the greatest speech writers in the world, Marcus Tullius Cicero!


Q. Ave, Marce. Thanks for receiving us. As a Latin student and lawyer, I need to say how
much I admire your work. Could you tell us about your work as a lawyer?
A. I must say, I truly enjoy it. Defending a client is a sacred duty for me and gives me great delight. However, off the record, there are times when I get a bit tired of it. Jurisprudence is a noble science but I prefer writing philosophical essays. One day I hope to retire from my legal work and, as Horace would put it, fuge urbem [flee the city]. I would like to buy a house in the country and spend my last days recording my views on politics and philosophy. I also hope to write more about ars oratoria, the art of giving speeches. I hope there are people in your age who will recognise my clear talent as an orator.

Q. They certainly will! Or at least some of us do….For example, I often recite your speeches to practice my oratory skills. Is there another orator that you admire?
A. I admire Demosthenes tremendously. The Greeks were the first to develop ars oratoria. That’s one of the reasons I admire their culture so much. In fact, Roman nationalists sometimes criticise me, saying I’m like a Greek in a toga! Demosthenes was one of the best orators in Greece, although I’m a little skeptical of the tale about the pebbles he put in his mouth to cure his stutter. Some of my lawyer colleagues tried this and had some serious accidents! Among my own countrymen, I admire Cato the Elder. He was a source of inspiration long before I developed my own style. If you want, I can recite something for you: “Delenda Carthago…”

Q. Wait, Marce! As much as I would love to hear it, we don’t have much time. Could you tell me what your plans for the future are?
A. I’m looking forward to publishing some poetry. Still, I showed some of my pieces to my best friends and they didn’t like them at all! They think I should stick to legal and philosophical subjects. A young and bold businessman named Maecenas even told me some rubbish about cobblers and trades. But whether people like it or not, I intend to continue on this path. I have a feeling people in the future will love my poetry. If you want, I can recite my latest piece. I know you’re in a hurry, but it’s only thirty thousand verses long!

Q. I am sure your poem is splendid, but let’s please continue the interview. What was your most memorable case as a lawyer?
A. I’ll never forget the day I prosecuted Verres, the governor of Sicily. That was the case that made me famous. And then there was my speech against Catiline the traitor. I’m proud of that, but I also feel a little sorry for what happened to him. I don’t think anyone deserves death. It may sound weird, but I’m not in favor of the death penalty. On the other hand, it may be a good thing that traitor is dead. Who knows what other mischief he might have gotten up to.

Q. What are your views on contemporary politics? Do you think Caesar has been a good dictator?
A. I once admired Caesar, and I appreciate how he pacified our old enemies, the Gauls. But I wish he hadn’t killed so many people in Alesia. I often like to say “arma cedant togae”, and it pains me to see Rome commit so much bloodshed. Caesar, however, doesn’t agree with me. He’s been spending loads of taxpayer money on campaigns. In fact, I’m worried he’s become addicted to power and may even proclaim himself emperor. I realize openly opposing Caesar is trouble, but I would rather die than see Rome lose its status as a republic. To save Rome I would gladly offer my head to the executioner and say “morior in patria saepe servata”.

Q. What message would you like to leave for posterity?
A. I would like to be immortalized as a great Latin writer. I hope people in the future will study my work with diligence and that lawyers will follow my example, becoming avid learners. After all, a lawyer who knows everything about law and nothing about other subjects is still an ignoramus.


André Bastos Gurgel
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.

Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.



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