To the modern reader probably the most interesting of Cicero's voluminous writings are his letters to Atticus, his best friend; to Quintus, his brother; to Brutus, the conspirator; to Caelius, another close friend; and to miscellaneous persons. They reveal more of Roman life and political manners than does any other source. His philosophical works, which are generally stoical, include De amicitia [on friendship]; De officiis [on duty]; De senectute [on old age], or Cato Major; De finibus [on ends], a dialogue on the good; The Tusculan Disputations ; and De natura deorum [on the nature of the gods], an attack on various philosophies, especially Epicureanism.
Cicero's rhetorical works are of less general interest. De oratore, addressed to his brother, is a kind of handbook for the young orator; Brutus is an account of Roman oratory; and Orator is a discussion of the ideal orator. The most widely read of Cicero's works are his orations, which have become the standard of Latin. The most famous of these are the Orations against Catiline, on the occasion of the conspiracy, and the Philippics against Antony. Other famous speeches are Against Verres, On the Manilian Law, On Behalf of Archias, On Behalf of Balbus, and On Behalf of Roscius. Cicero's literary and oratorical style is of the greatest purity, and his reputation as the unsurpassed master of Latin prose has never waned.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.