Marcus Tullius Tiro Analysis

Life

Marcus Tullius Tiro (MAHR-kuhs TUHL-ee-uhs TIH-roh) was a slave (and later freed) assistant to Cicero. His traditional date of birth is not directly attested but calculated from his purported lifespan of one hundred years. However, other, vaguer attestations have suggested to some that he may have been up to twenty years younger when he died. His name and national origin, as well as how he entered slavery and Cicero’s household, are all unknown.

As Cicero’s personal assistant, he worked on business and family matters but was especially important to his literary endeavors. Tiro did practical work (such as taking dictation) and served as a learned adviser. Cicero’s letters also indicate a warm personal relationship, showing particular distress during Tiro’s serious illness in 50 b.c.e. Tiro’s manumission in 53 b.c.e. did not affect his position in the household.

Even after Cicero’s death, Tiro was active in preserving and sometimes publishing his former master’s works, including notes and letters not originally intended for the public. Works in his own right include a biography of Cicero, notes on grammatical topics, and “letters” on literary topics. Few fragments of any of these survive. His work appears to have been received critically in antiquity, perhaps because of his status as a freedman.

Influence

Tiro was crucial for preserving information about and boosting the reputation of his former master.

Additional Resources

Everitt, Anthony. Cicero: A Turbulent Life. London: John Murray, 2001.

McDermott, W. C. “M. Cicero and M. Tiro.” Historia 21 (1972): 259-286.

Mitzschke, Paul Gottfried. Biography of the Father of Stenography, Marcus Tullius Tiro. Brooklyn, N.Y.: F. Hart, 1882.