The Ciceros of Civilization
The Sid Meier’s Civilization video game series has revolved around history’s most influential world leaders since its start in 1991. Marcus Tullius Cicero never quite rose to the status of world leader during his life in the first century B.C.E, but the Sid Meier’s Civilization series (shortened to Civ from now on) has supported his historical importance by including him in each of the franchise’s core entries since 2001. Cicero has never been a playable character in Civ, but I’ve outlined below the myriad ways he has still been able to influence these historical simulations.
Civ III (2001)
Cicero’s series debut in Civ III, from the Roman section of the Civilopedia (the franchise’s in-game encyclopedia) reads as follows: “The later stages of these civil wars encompassed the careers of the brilliant Pompey, the orator Cicero, and the consul Julius Caesar, the conqueror of Gaul (58-50 BC), who eventually was given power over Rome as its dictator” (2001).
Cicero’s public speaking is all that unfamiliar player’s would learn of him, and even then its quality and context remains mysterious.
Civ IV (2005)
Cicero earned one mention in Civ IV’s Roman Civilopedia entry: “The Late Republic witnessed the struggle between Marius and Sulla, the famous slave uprising under Spartacus, and saw the rise of figures such as the general Pompey, the orator Cicero, and the consul Julius Caesar”. Citation of Cicero’s “rise” as an orator adds new authority to his name.
Civ IV also hosts the series’ first Cicero quote. Players research technologies during games and confront quotations upon completion. When the Mysticism technology is finished, players read:
“Nature herself has imprinted on the minds of all the idea of God.”
Mysticism enables religious constructions and unlocks the path toward researching polytheism. Cicero spoke about religion at times, but this quote and his orator label may mistakenly characterize him as a religious preacher.
Civ V (2010)
Cicero was subbed out of the Roman Civilopedia entry in Civ V, but he wasn’t entirely absent. Players are presented with another of his quotes, this one an accompaniment to the discovery of Penicillin: “In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men.” These words can be found in an English translation of De Natura Deorum (The Nature of the Gods). Both this quote and that from Civ IV force Cicero from his familiar Rome. Fortunately for Cicero, the game developers did so much more gently than Clodius.
Civ Revolution (2008), Civ Revolution 2 (2014)
Civ Revolution and Civ Revolution 2, the series’ mobile platform iterations, lack depth relative to the PC game. They are deep enough to include a Cicero quote, though, a line from De Officiis accompanying the construction of a courthouse: “The strictest law most often causes the most serious wrongs.” The Roman Civilopedia entries in both games borrow the verbatim text from the Civ IV entry.
Civ VI (2016)
In Civ VI, Cicero is a part of a new game mechanic called Civics, which operates similarly to technologies in their gradual completion and eventual accompaniment by quotation. Completing the Humanism civic prompts the following: “Francessco Petrarca (better known to most as Petrarch) in the 1300s is often called the ‘Father of Humanism’: his discovery of Cicero’s lost letters into the common vernacular is also credited with initiating the Renaissance.” Credit for initiating the Renaissance is quite an outcome from a cameo appearance!
Ambiorix joined the lineup of playable leaders as the head of the Gallic civilization as DLC in Fall 2020. His Civilopedia entry includes many details about his deception of the Romans, two of which cite Cicero. The first reads in part: “Some survivors of the ambush fled back to their fort, but without the manpower needed to defend it, they committed suicide rather than be slaughtered or captured by the enemy. The other survivors escaped to a nearby garrison and warned the commander there of Ambiorix’s treachery. Even so, the word didn’t seem to spread to the rest of the Romans – namely, the Roman commander Cicero.”
The entry follows up on Cicero’s involvement: “Ambiorix and his troops killed the forces outside of Cicero’s camp. However, once again, Ambiorix couldn’t breach the walls. Rather than continue to attack the gates, he decided to try and trick the commander like he did before. But this time it didn’t work. Cicero stated it wasn’t the Roman way to accept terms from the enemy and, while he stalled for time, secretly sent for help.”
Receiving multiple mentions from a single entry broke new ground for Cicero after 19 years in the Civ franchise. Cicero is clearly still on the mind of the development team, so as the catalog of available Civ games grows, it’s likely that his list of credits will follow suit.