To understand Cicero's life, which spanned the first two thirds of the first century BC, it is necessary to picture the world in which he lived, and especially the nature of Roman politics.
Rome in Cicero's day was a complex and sophisticated city, with up to a million inhabitants, and much of its pattern of life is recognizable familiar, even at a distance of two millennia. There were shopping malls and bars and a lively cultural scene with theater and sport. Poetry and literature thrived and new books were much talked about. Leading actors were household names. The affluent led a busy social round of dinner parties and gossip, and they owned country homes to which they could retreat from the pressures of urban living. Politics was conducted with a familiar blend of private affability and public invective. Speech was free. Everyone complained about the traffic.
-Anthony Everitt, Cicero: The Life and Time of Rome's Greatest Politician