A promising read
(from Michael Lind's review in the Washington Post):
With the possible exception of Jesus of Nazareth, the Roman statesman and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.) is the central figure of Western civilization. Cicero's republican political theory influenced both the American and French revolutionaries -- and through them, contemporary democracies everywhere -- far more than Greek democratic thought or practice. As a moral thinker, Cicero bequeathed the idea of natural law to both Christian theologians and secular philosophers. His influence on the ideal of liberal education is equally profound; he popularized, if he did not coin, the Latin words rendered by our terms "the humanities" and "liberal arts." The list of the cardinal virtues -- wisdom, justice, fortitude and temperance -- comes from his De Officiis (On Duties), probably the most-read secular essay on ethics in Western history. …
The United States … is a Ciceronian republic. The American founders rejected aspects of Roman republicanism such as aristocracy and militarism. Still, it was from Cicero that the major Founders learned that a republic needed a senate -- aristocratic in Rome, democratic in America -- to check popular passions. From Cicero, too, Americans learned to dread unchecked executive power based on armed force and populist demagogy -- "Caesarism." The honorific bestowed on George Washington, Father of his Country, was a translation of Pater Patriae, bestowed on Cicero by Cato. According to Carl J. Richard in The Founders and the Classics, Chief Justice John Marshall patterned the portrayal of George Washington, in his famous five-volume biography of the general, after Cicero, and told his grandsons that De Officiis was a salutary discourse on the duties and qualities proper to a republican gentleman. … Franklin quoted Cicero in Poor Richard's Almanac, and Rufus Choate, a great early American jurist, told lawyers: "Soak your mind with Cicero."
Until a few generations ago, the experience of reading Cicero in Latin was part of the education experience of the elite in societies as different as Imperial Rome, Renaissance Florence, 18th-century Britain and 19th-century Germany. …
Of Cicero, John Adams wrote that "all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united in the same character." But the greatest tributes may be those of his enemies. "Sometime towards the end of his life," Everitt writes, "Caesar remarked that Cicero had won greater laurels than those worn by a general in his Triumph, for it meant more to have extended the frontiers of Roman genius than of its empire." In his old age, Octavian -- now the Emperor Augustus -- confiscated a book of Cicero that he found in the hands of his grandson. According to Everitt, "He stood for a long time reading the entire text. He handed it back with the words: 'An eloquent man, my child, an eloquent man, and a patriot.' "
For a review of Cicero's political career see Hudgins' brief article