Monday, March 9, 2009

History, Mystery, and Writing

"Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book." Cicero

Great line, isn't it? I love this quote became it is both timely and timeless: it was true in Cicero's day and it remains true today.

But what does it have to do with blogging, you ask. Why choose "Cicero's Children" as the title for this blog site?

Well, it all has to do with my love of history, mystery, and writing.

Marcus Tullius Cicero was an orator, lawyer, and philosopher who lived back in the bad old days when intrigue ruled Roman politics and bureaucratic squabbles were often settled through assassination. As consul of Rome, Cicero made a name for himself by uncovering a conspiracy to overthrow the Roman Republic. The conspiracy was ostensibly led by his political rival, Cataline, whom Cicero denounced in a brilliant speech before the Senate.

Having reduced Cataline to the role of rogue in the eyes of his fellow Senators, Cicero immediately ordered the strangulation execution of five of the accused conspirators. This final act was a no-no that landed him in trouble with the powers-that-be. Under Roman law, no citizen of the state could be put to death without a trial; even conspirators were accorded their day in court. His political enemies took advantage of the situation and Cicero quickly became a marked man. He eventually fled to Greece where he spent a year in exile before being pardoned by the Senate.

Life was not rosy for our hero when he returned home. Julius Caesar was battling Pompey for control of the Republic, and Cicero made a poor choice by casting his lot with the losing side. Nevertheless, that old witticism, "Politics makes strange bedfellows", applied even in 48 B.C. Caesar needed Cicero's backing to lend some legitimacy to his role as dictator of Rome. At the same time, Cicero needed to keep his head -- literally! The two men were at opposite ends of the pole politically and philosophically, yet they possessed a wary respect for each other.

Cicero was present in the Senate on the Ides of March, 44 B.C. when, according to Shakespeare, Caesar uttered those famous words "Et tu, Brute?" as Marcus Junius Brutus fatally stabbed the dictator. Cicero's unabashed approval of the assassination, combined with his political machinations against Roman consul Mark Anthony, eventually led to his own murder on December 7, 43 B.C.

Murder, mayhem, and mystery. It's all present in the life story of Marcus Tullius Cicero. What I didn't mention was that Cicero was also a master of the written word. Six of his books, mainly political or philosophical in nature, have been preserved in part or whole. Fifty-eight of his speeches have also survived the ravages of time.

An orator and author. A man of influence and intrigue. Who better than Cicero to inspire a writer of mystery fiction?


  1. Well, what I didn't know about Cicero would fill several of your books! Nice article -succinct, informative, and I didn't need to do any research. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Love the blogsite name AND the pic of your new grandson! Good luck with this blog. Hugs, Lonnie!

  3. Cicero was a fascinating man. And I love reading about that ruthless period of Roman Times. There is a great mystery series called SPQR by John Maddox Roberts that incorporates many of these events in it.