Cicero, De Oratore

-   Book 2 , 1-73

Translated by J.S.Watson (1860), with some minor alterations. Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section. Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.

Book 1

{1.}  [1] L   There was, if you remember, brother Quintus, a strong persuasion in us when we were boys, that Lucius Crassus had acquired no more learning than he had been enabled to gain from instruction in his youth, and that Marcus Antonius was entirely destitute and ignorant of all erudition whatsoever; and there were many who, though they did not believe that such was really the case, yet, that they might more easily deter us from the pursuit of learning, when we were inflamed with a desire of attaining it, took a pleasure in reporting what I have said of those orators; so that, if men of no learning had acquired the greatest wisdom, and an incredible degree of eloquence, all our industry might seem vain, and the earnest perseverance of our father, one of the best and most sensible of men, in educating us, might appear to be folly. [2] We used to refute these arguments with the aid of witnesses whom we had at home, our father, Gaius Aculeo our relative, and Lucius Cicero our uncle; for our father, Aculeo (who married our mother's sister, and whom Crassus esteemed the most of all his friends), and our own uncle (who went with Antonius into Cilicia, and left it at the same time with him), often told us many particulars about Crassus, relative to his studies and learning; and as we, with our cousins, Aculeo's sons, learned what Crassus approved, and were instructed by the masters whom he engaged, we had also frequent opportunities of observing (since, though boys, ** we could understand this) that he spoke Greek so well that he might have been thought not to know any other language, and he put such questions to our masters, and discoursed upon such subjects in his conversation with them, that nothing appeared to be new or strange to him. [3] But with regard to Antonius, although we had frequently heard from our uncle, a person of the greatest learning, how he had devoted himself, both at Athens and at Rhodes, to the conversation of the most learned men; yet I myself also, when quite a youth, often asked him many questions on the subject, as far as the bashfulness of my early years would permit. What I am writing will certainly not be new to you, (for at that very time you heard it from me,) namely, that from many and various conversations, he appeared to me neither ignorant nor unaccomplished in anything in those branches of knowledge of which I could form any opinion. [4] But there was such peculiarity in each, that Crassus desired not so much to be thought unlearned as to hold learning in contempt, and to prefer, on every subject, the understanding of our countrymen to that of the Greeks; while Antonius thought that his oratory would be better received by the Roman people, if he were believed to have had no learning at all; and thus the one imagined that he should have more authority if he appeared to despise the Greeks, and the other if he seemed to know nothing of them.    

[5] L   But what their object was, is certainly not relevant to our present purpose. It is pertinent, however, to the treatise which I have commenced, and to this portion of it, to remark that no man could ever excel and reach eminence in eloquence without learning, not only the art of oratory, but every branch of useful knowledge. {2.} For almost all other arts can support themselves independently, and by their own resources; but to speak well, that is, to speak with learning, and skill, and elegance, has no definite province within the limits of which it is enclosed and restricted. Everything that can possibly fall under discussion among mankind, must be effectively treated by him who professes that he can practise this art, or he must relinquish all title to eloquence. [6] For my own part, therefore, though I confess that both in our own country and in Greece itself, which always held this art in the highest estimation, there have arisen many men of extraordinary powers, and of the highest excellence in speaking, ** without this absolute knowledge of everything; yet I affirm that such a degree of eloquence as was in Crassus and Antonius, could not exist without a knowledge of all subjects that contribute to form that wisdom and that force of oratory which were seen in them. [7] On this account, I had the greater satisfaction in committing to writing that dialogue which they formerly held on these subjects; both that the notion which had always prevailed, that the one had no great learning, and that the other was wholly unlearned, might be eradicated, and that I might preserve, in the records of literature, the opinions which I thought divinely delivered by those consummate orators concerning eloquence, if I could by any means learn and fully register them; and also, indeed, that I might, as far as I should be able, rescue their fame, now upon the decline, from silence and oblivion. [8] If they could have been known from writings of their own, I should, perhaps, have thought it less necessary for me to elaborate thus; but since one left but little in writing, (at least, there is little extant,) and that was what he wrote in his youth, ** and the other almost nothing, I thought it due from me to men of such genius, while we still retain a lively remembrance of them, to render their fame, if I could, imperishable. [9] I enter upon this undertaking with the greater hopes of achieving my object, ** because I am not writing of the eloquence of Servius Galba or Gaius Carbo, concerning which I should be at liberty to invent whatever I pleased, as no one now living could confute me; but I publish an account to be read by those who have frequently heard the men themselves of whom I am speaking, so that I may commend those two illustrious men to such as have never seen either of them, from the recollection, as witnesses, of those to whom both those orators were known, and who are now alive and present among us.    

{3.} [10] L   Nor do I now aim at instructing you, dearest and best of brothers, by means of rhetorical treatises, which you regard as unpolished; (for what can be more refined or graceful than your own language?) but though, whether it be, as you use to say, from judgment, or, as Isocrates, the father of eloquence, has written of himself, from a sort of bashfulness and ingenuous timidity, that you have shrunk from speaking in public, or whether, as you sometimes jokingly remark, you thought one orator sufficient, not only for one family, but almost for a whole community, I yet think that these books will not appear to you of that kind which may deservedly be ridiculed because elegant learning is lacking in those who have discussed the art of speaking; [11] for nothing seems to me to be missing in the conversation of Crassus and Antonius, that any one could imagine possible to be known or understood by men of the greatest genius, the keenest application, the most consummate learning, and the utmost experience; as you will very easily be able to judge, who have been pleased to acquire the knowledge and theory of oratory through your own exertions, and to observe the practice of it in mine. But that we may the sooner accomplish the task which we have undertaken, and which is no ordinary one, let us leave our exordium, and proceed to the conversation and arguments of the characters whom I have offered for your attention.    

[12] L   The next day, then, after the former conversation had taken place, about the second hour, ** while Crassus was yet in bed, and Sulpicius sitting by him, and Antonius walking with Cotta in the portico, suddenly Quintus Catulus ** the elder, with his brother Gaius Julius, ** arrived there; and when Crassus heard of their coming, he arose in some haste, and they were all in a state of wonder, supposing that the occasion of their arrival was of more than common importance. [13] After the parties had greeted each other with most friendly salutations, as their familiarity required, "What has brought you here at last?" said Crassus; "is it anything new?"   "Nothing, indeed," said Catulus; "for you know it is the time of the public games. But - you may think us, if you please," added he, "either foolish or impudent - when Caesar came in the evening yesterday to my Tusculan villa, from his own, he told me that he had met Scaevola going from here; and he said that he had heard from Scaevola a wonderful account, namely, that you, whom I could never entice into such conversation, though I endeavoured to prevail on you in every way, had held long discussions with Antonius on eloquence, and had disputed, as in the schools, almost in the manner of the Greeks; [14] and therefore my brother entreated me, who was myself, indeed, not averse to hearing you, but, at the same time, afraid that our visit might be troublesome visit to you, to come here with him; for he said that Scaevola had told him that a great part of the discourse had been postponed until today. If you think we have acted too presumptuously, you will lay the blame upon Caesar, if too familiarly, upon both of us; for we are delighted to have come, if we do not give you trouble by our visit." 

{4.} [15] L   Crassus replied, "Whatever object had brought you here, I should rejoice to see at my house men for whom I have so much affection and friendship; but yet, (to tell the truth,) I had rather it had been any other object than that which you mention. For I, (to speak as I think,) was never less satisfied with myself than yesterday; though this happened more through my own good nature than any other fault of mine; for, while I complied with the request of these youths, I forgot that I was an old man, and did that which I had never done even when young; I spoke on subjects that depended on a certain degree of learning. But it has happened very fortunately for me, that as my part is finished, you have come to hear Antonius. " [16] "For my part, Crassus," answered Caesar, "I am indeed desirous to hear you in that kind of fuller and continuous discussion, but yet, if I cannot have that happiness, I shall be content with your ordinary conversation. I will therefore endeavour that neither my friend Sulpicius, nor Cotta, may seem to have more influence with you than myself; and will certainly entreat you to show some of your good nature even to Catulus and me. But if you are not so inclined, I will not press you, nor cause you, while you are afraid of appearing impertinent yourself, to think me impertinent." [17] "Indeed, Caesar," replied Crassus, "I have always thought of all Latin words there was the greatest significance in that which you have just used; for he whom we call impertinent, seems to me to be called by a name that is derived from not being pertinent; and that word, according to our mode of speaking, is of very extensive meaning; for whoever either does not discern what occasion requires, or talks too much, or is ostentatious in himself, or is forgetful either of the dignity or convenience of those in whose presence he is, or is in any respect awkward or presuming, is called impertinent. [18] The most learned nation of the Greeks abounds with this fault; and, consequently, because the Greeks do not feel the influence of this evil, they have not even found a name for the foible; for though you make the most diligent inquiry, you will not find out how the Greeks describe an impertinent person. But of all their other impertinences, which are innumerable, I do not know whether there be any greater than their custom of raising the most subtle disputatious on the most difficult or unnecessary points, in whatever place, and before whatever persons they think proper. This we were compelled to do by these youths yesterday, though against our will, and though we at first declined."    

{5.} [19] L   "The Greeks, however, Crassus," replied Catulus, "who were eminent and illustrious in their respective states, as you are, and as we all desire to be, in our own republic, bore no resemblance to those Greeks who force themselves on our ears; yet they did not in their leisure avoid this kind of discourse and disputation. [20] And if they seem to you, as they ought to seem, impertinent, who have no regard to times, places, or persons, does this place, I pray, seem ill adapted to our purpose, in which the very portico where we are walking, and this palaestra, and the seats in so many directions, prompt in some degree the remembrance of the Greek gymnasia and disputations? Or is the time unsuitable, during so much leisure as is seldom afforded us, and is now afforded at a time when it is most desirable? Or are the company unsuited to this kind of discussion, when we are all of such a character as to think that life is nothing without these studies?" [21] "I contemplate all these things," said Crassus, "in a quite different light; for I think that even the Greeks themselves originally contrived their palaestrae, and seats, and porticoes, for exercise and amusement, not for disputation; since their gymnasia were invented many generations before the philosophers began to chatter in them; and at this very day, when the philosophers occupy all the gymnasia, their audience would still rather hear the discus than a philosopher; and as soon as it begins to sound, they all desert the philosopher in the middle of his discourse, though discussing matters of the utmost weight and consequence, to anoint themselves for exercise; thus preferring the lightest amusement to what the philosophers represent to be of the utmost utility. As to the leisure which you say we have, I agree with you; [22] but the enjoyment of leisure is not exertion of mind, but relaxation. 

{6.} "I have often heard from my father-in-law, in conversation, that his father-in-law Laelius was almost always accustomed to go into the country with Scipio, and that they used to grow incredibly boyish again when they had escaped out of town, as if from a prison, into the open fields. I scarcely dare to say it of such eminent persons yet Scaevola is in the habit of relating that they used to gather shells and pebbles at Caieta and Laurentum, and to descend to every sort of pastime and amusement. [23] For such is the case, that as we see birds form and build nests for the sake of procreation and their own convenience, and, when they have completed any part, fly abroad in freedom, disengaged from their toils, in order to alleviate their anxiety; so our minds, wearied with legal business and the labours of the city, exult and long to flutter about, as it were, relieved from care and solicitude. [24] In what I said to Scaevola, therefore, in pleading for Curius, ** I said only what I thought. 'For if,' said I, 'Scaevola, no will shall be properly made except what is written by you, all of us citizens will come to you with our tablets, and you alone shall write all our wills; but then,' I continued, 'when will you attend to public business? when to that of your friends ? when to your own? when, in a word, will you do nothing' adding, 'for he does not seem to me to be a free man, who does not sometimes do nothing; ' in which opinion, Catulus, I still continue; and, when I come hither, the mere privilege of doing nothing, and of being fairly idle, delights me. [25] As to the third remark which you added, that you are of such a disposition as to think life insipid without these studies, that observation not only does not encourage me to any discussion, but even deters me from it. For as Gaius Lucilius, a man of great learning and wit, used to say, that he wished that what he wrote would be read neither by the most illiterate persons, nor by those of the greatest learning, since the one sort understood nothing, and the other perhaps more than himself; to which purpose he also wrote, I do not care to be read by Persius ** (for he was, as we know, about the most learned of all our countrymen); but I wish to be read by Laelius Decimus (whom we also knew, a man of worth and of some learning, but nothing compared with Persius); so I, if I am now to discuss these studies of ours, should not wish to do so before peasants, but much less before you; for I would prefer that my talk should not be understood than be censured."    

{7.} [26] L   "Indeed, Catulus," replied Caesar, "I think I have already gained some profit ** by coming here; for these reasons for declining a discussion have been to me a very agreeable discussion. But why do we delay Antonius, whose part is, I hear, to give a dissertation upon eloquence in general, and for whom Cotta and Sulpicius have been some time waiting?  [27] "But I,"  interposed Crassus, "will neither allow Antonius to speak a word, nor will I utter a syllable myself, unless I first obtain one favour from you."   "What is it?" said Catulus. "That you spend the day here." Then, while Catulus hesitated, because he had promised to go to his brother's house, "I," said Julius, "will answer for both. We will do so; and you would detain me even if you were not to say a single word." [28] Here Catulus smiled, and said, "My hesitation then is brought to an end; for I had left no instructions at home, and he, whose house I was to have visited, has so readily engaged us to you, without waiting for my assent."    

They then all turned their eyes upon Antonius, who cried out, "Be attentive, I say, be attentive, for you shall hear a man from the schools, a man from the professor's chair, deeply versed in Greek learning; ** and I shall on this account speak with the greater confidence, that Catulus is added to the audience, to whom not only we of the Latin tongue, but even the Greeks themselves, concede that he is refined and elegant in the Greek language. [29] But since the whole process of speaking, whether it be an art or a business, can be of no avail without the addition of assurance, I will teach you, my pupils, that which I have not learned myself, what I think of every kind of speaking." [30] When they all laughed, "It is a matter that seems to me," proceeded he, "to depend very greatly on talent, but only moderately on art; for art lies in things which are known; but all the pleading of an orator depends not on knowledge, but on opinion; for we both address ourselves to those who are ignorant, and speak of what we do not know ourselves; and consequently our hearers think and judge differently at different times concerning the same subjects, and we often take contrary sides, not only so that Crassus sometimes speaks against me, or I against Crassus, when one of us must of necessity propose what is false; but even that each of as, at different times, maintains different opinions on the same question; when more than one of those opinions cannot possibly be right. I will speak, therefore, as on a subject which is of a character to defend falsehood, which rarely arrives at knowledge, ** and which is ready to take advantage of the opinions and even errors of mankind, if you think that there is still reason why you should listen to me."    

{8.} [31] L   "We think, indeed, that there is very great reason," said Catulus, "and the more so, as you seem resolved to use no ostentation; for you have commenced, not boastfully, but rather, as you think, with truth, than with any fanciful notion of the dignity of your subject." [32] "As I have acknowledged then," continued Antonius, "that it is not one of the greatest of arts, so I allow, at the same time, that certain skilful directions may be given for moving the feelings and gaining the favour of mankind. If any one thinks proper to say that the knowledge how to do this is a great art, I shall not contradict him; for as many speakers speak upon cases in the forum without due consideration or method, while others, from study, or a certain degree of practice, do their business more effectively, there is no doubt, that if any one sets himself to observe what is the cause why some speak better than others, he may discover that cause; and, consequently, he who shall extend such observation over the whole field of eloquence, will find in it, if not an art absolutely, yet something resembling an art. [33] And I could wish, that as I seem to see matters as they occur in the forum, and in pleadings, so I could now set them before you just as they are conducted!    

"But I must consider my own powers. I now assert only that of which I am convinced, that although oratory is not an art, no excellence is superior to that of a consummate orator. For to say nothing of the advantages of eloquence, which has the highest influence in every well-ordered and free state, there is such delight attendant on the very power of eloquent speaking, that nothing more pleasing can be received into the ears or understanding of man. [34] What music can be found more sweet than the pronunciation of a well-ordered speech? What poem more agreeable than the skilful structure of prose? What actor has ever given greater pleasure in imitating, than an orator gives in supporting, truth? What penetrates the mind more keenly than an acute and quick succession of arguments? What is more admirable than thoughts illumined by brilliancy of expression? What nearer to perfection than a speech replete with every variety of matter? for there is no subject susceptible of being treated with elegance and effect, that may not fall under the province of the orator. {9.} [35] L   It is his, in giving counsel on important affairs, to deliver his opinion with clearness and dignity; it is his to rouse a people when they are languid, and to calm them when immoderately excited. The same power of language causes the wickedness of mankind to be destroyed, and virtue to be secured. Who can exhort to virtue more ardently than the orator? Who reclaim from vice with greater energy? Who can reprove the bad with more asperity, or praise the good with better grace? Who can break the force of unlawful desire by more effective rebukes? Who can alleviate grief with more soothing consolation? [36] By what other voice, too, than that of the orator, is history, the evidence of time, the light of truth, the life of memory, the directress of life, the herald of antiquity, committed to immortality? For if there be any other art, which professes skill in inventing or selecting words; if any one, besides the orator, is said to form a discourse, and to vary and adorn it with certain distinctions, as it were, of words and thoughts; or if any method of argument, or expression of thought, or distribution and arrangement of matter, is taught, except by this one art, let us confess that either that, of which this art makes profession, is foreign to it, or possessed in common with some other art. [37] But if such method and teaching be confined to this alone, it is not, though professors of other arts may have spoken well, the less on that account the property of this art; but as an orator can speak best of all men on subjects that belong to other arts, if he makes himself acquainted with them, (as Crassus observed yesterday,) so the professors of other arts speak more eloquently on their own subjects, if they have acquired any instruction from this art; [38] for if any person versed in agriculture has spoken or written with eloquence on rural affairs, or a physician, as many have done, on diseases, or a painter upon painting, his eloquence is not on that account to be considered as belonging to any of those arts; although in eloquence, indeed, such is the force of human genius, many men of every class and profession ** attain some proficiency even without instruction; but though you may judge what is peculiar to each art, when you have observed what they severally teach, yet nothing can be more certain than that all other arts can discharge their duties without eloquence, but that an orator cannot even acquire his name without it; so that other men, if they are eloquent, borrow something from him; while he, if he is not supplied from his own stores, cannot obtain the power of speaking from any other art."    

{10.} [39] L   Catulus then said, "Although, Antonius, the course of your remarks ought by no means to be delayed by interruption, yet you will bear with me and grant me pardon; for I cannot help crying out, as the man in the Trinummus ** says, so ably do you seem to me to have described the powers of the orator, and so copiously to have extolled them, as the eloquent man, indeed, must necessarily do; he must extol eloquence best of all men; for to praise it he has to employ the very eloquence which he praises. But proceed, for I agree with you, that to speak eloquently is all your own; and that, if any one does so on any other art, he employs an accomplishment borrowed from something else, not peculiar to him, or his own." [40] "The night," added Crassus, "has made you polite to us, Antonius, and humanised you; for in yesterday's address to us, ** you described the orator as a man who can do only one thing, like a waterman or a porter, as Caecilius ** says; a fellow void of all learning and politeness." 'Why yesterday,' replied Antonius, "I had made it my object, if I refuted you, to take your pupils from you; ** but now, as Catulus and Caesar make part of the audience, I think I ought not so much to argue against you, as to declare what I myself think. [41] It follows then, that, as the orator of whom we speak is to be placed in the forum, and in the view of the public, we must consider what employment we are to give him, and to what duties we should wish him to be appointed. For Crassus ** yesterday, when you, Catulus and Caesar, were not present, made, in a few words, the same statement, in regard to the division of the art, that most of the Greeks have made; not expressing what he himself thought, but what was said by them; that there are two principal sorts of questions about which eloquence is employed; one indefinite, the other definite. [42] He seemed to me to call that indefinite in which the subject of inquiry is general, as, Whether eloquence is desirable; whether honours should be sought; and that definite in which there is an inquiry with respect to particular persons, or any settled and defined point; of which sort are the questions discussed in the forum, and in the lawsuits and disputes of private citizens. [43] These appear to me to consist either in judicial pleadings, or in giving counsel; for that third kind, which was noticed by Crassus, and which, I hear, Aristotle ** himself, who has fully illustrated these subjects, added, is, though it be useful, less necessary."   "What kind do you mean?" said Catulus; "is it panegyric? for I observe that that is introduced as a third kind." 

{11.} [44] L   "It is so," says Antonius; "and as to this kind of oratory, I know that I myself, and all who were present, were extremely delighted when your mother Popilia ** was honoured with a panegyric by you; the first woman, I think, to whom such honour was ever paid in this city. But it does not seem to me that all subjects on which we speak are to be included in art, and made subject to rules; [45] for from those fountains, whence all the ornaments of speech are drawn, we may also take the ornaments of panegyric, without requiring elementary instructions; for who is ignorant, though no one teach him, what qualities are to be commended in any person? For if we but look to those things which Crassus has mentioned, in the beginning of the speech which he delivered when censor in opposition to his colleague, ** that in those things which are bestowed on mankind by nature or fortune, he could contentedly allow himself to be outdone; but that in whatever men could procure for themselves, he could not suffer himself to be outdone, he who would pronounce the panegyric of any person, will understand that he must expound on the blessings of fortune; [46] and these are advantages of birth, wealth, relationship, friends, resources, health, beauty, strength, talent, and such other qualities as are either personal, or dependent on circumstances; and, if he possessed these, he must show that he made a proper use of them; if not, that he managed wisely without them; if he lost them, that he bore the loss with resignation; he must then state what he whom he praises did or suffered with wisdom, or with liberality, or with fortitude, or with justice, or with honour, or with piety, or with gratitude, or with humanity, or, in a word, under the influence of any virtue. These particulars, and whatever others are of similar kind, will easily be observed by whoever is inclined to praise any person; and the contrary will easily be observed by whoever is inclined to blame him." [47] "Why then do you hesitate," said Catulus, "to make this a third kind, since it is so in the nature of things? for if it is more easy than others, it is not, on that account, to be excluded from the number."   ". Because I am unwilling," replied Antonius, "to treat of all that falls under the province of an orator, as if nothing, however small it may be, could be uttered without regard to stated rules. [48] Evidence, for instance, is often to be given, and sometimes with great exactness, as I was obliged to give mine against Sextus Titius, ** a seditious and turbulent member of the community; when, in delivering my evidence, I explained all the proceedings of my consulate, in which I, on behalf of the commonwealth, opposed him as tribune of the people, and exposed all that I thought he had done contrary to the interest of the state; I was detained long, I listened to much, I answered many objections; but would you therefore wish, when you give precepts on eloquence, to add any instructions on giving evidence as a portion of the art of oratory?"  

{12.} [49] L   "There is, indeed," said Catulus, "no necessity."   "Or if (as often happens to the greatest men) communications are to be delivered, either in the senate from a commander in chief, or to such a commander, or from the senate to any king or people, does it appear to you that because, on such subjects, we must use a more accurate sort of language than ordinary, this kind of speaking should be counted as a department of eloquence, and he furnished with peculiar precepts?"   "By no means," replied Catulus; "for an eloquent man, in speaking on subjects of that sort, will not be at a loss for that talent which he has acquired by practice on other matters and topics." [50] "Those other kinds of subjects, therefore,' continued Antonius, "which often require to be treated with eloquence, and which, as I said just now, (when I was praising eloquence,) belong to the orator, have neither any place in the division of the parts of oratory, nor fall under any peculiar kind of rules, and yet must be handled as eloquently as arguments in pleadings; such are reproof, exhortation, consolation, all which demand the finest graces of language; yet these matters need no rules from art." [51] "I am decidedly of that opinion," said Catulus. "Well, then, to proceed," said Antonius, "what sort of orator, or how great a master of language, do you think it requires to write history?"   "If to write it as the Greeks have written, a man of the highest powers," said Catulus; "if as our own countrymen, there is no need of an orator; it is sufficient for the writer to tell truth."   "But," replied Antonius, "so that you may not despise those of our own country, the Greeks themselves too wrote at first just like our Cato, and Pictor, and Piso. [52] For history was nothing else but a compilation of annals; and accordingly, for the sake of preserving the memory of public events, the pontifex maximus used to commit to writing the occurrences of every year, from the earliest period of Roman affairs to the time of the pontifex Publius Mucius, and had them engraved on white tablets, which he set forth as a register in his own house, so that all the people were able to inspect it; and these records are still called the Great Annals. [53] This mode of writing many have adopted, and, without any ornaments of style, have left behind them simple chronicles of times, persons, places, and events. Such, therefore, as were Pherecydes, Hellanicus, Acusilas, ** and many others among the Greeks, are Cato, and Pictor, and Piso with us, who neither understand how composition is to be adorned (for ornaments of style have been but recently introduced among us), and, provided what they related can be understood, think brevity of expression the only merit. [54] Antipater, ** an excellent man, the friend of Crassus, raised himself a little, and gave history a higher tone; the others were not embellishers of facts, but mere narrators."    

{13.} "It is," rejoined Catulus, "as you say; but Antipater himself neither diversified his narrative by variety of thoughts, nor polished his style by an apt arrangement of words, or a smooth and equal flow of language, but rough-hewed it as he could, being a man of no learning, and not extremely well qualified for an orator; yet he excelled, as you say, his predecessors." [55] "It is far from being wonderful," said Antonius, "if history has not yet achieved distinction in our language; for none of our countrymen study eloquence, unless that it may be displayed in lawsuits and in the forum; whereas among the Greeks, the most eloquent men, wholly unconnected with public pleading, applied themselves as well to other honourable studies as to writing history; for of Herodotus himself, who first embellished this kind of writing, we hear that he was never engaged in pleading; yet his eloquence is so great as to delight me extremely, as far as I can understand Greek writing. [56] After him, in my opinion, Thucydides has certainly surpassed all historians in the art of composition; for he is so abundant in matter, that he almost equals the number of his words by the number of his thoughts; and he is so happy and judicious in his expressions, ** that you are at a loss to decide whether his facts are set off by his style, or his style by his thoughts; and of him too we do not hear, though he was engaged in public affairs, that he was of the number of those who pleaded cases, and he is said to have written his books at a time when he was far removed from civic life, and, as usually happened to every eminent man at Athens, was driven into banishment. [57] He was followed by Philistus ** of Syracuse, who, living in great familiarity with the tyrant Dionysius, spent his leisure in writing history, and, as I think, principally imitated Thucydides But afterwards, two men of great genius, Theopompus and Ephorus, coming from what we may call the noblest school of rhetoric, applied themselves to history at the prompting of their master Isocrates, and were never involved in pleading at all. 

{14.} [58] L   "At last historians arose also among the philosophers; first Xenophon, the follower of Socrates, and afterwards Callisthenes, the pupil of Aristotle and companion of Alexander. The latter wrote in an almost rhetorical manner; the former used a milder strain of language, which has not the animation of oratory, but, though perhaps less energetic, is, as it seems to me, much more pleasing. Timaeus, the last of all these, but, as far as I can judge, by far the most learned, and abounding most with richness of matter and variety of thought, and not unpolished in style, brought a large store of eloquence to this kind of writing, but no experience in pleading cases."    

[59] L   When Antonius had spoken thus, "What is this, Catulus ?" said Caesar. "Where are they who say that Antonius is ignorant of Greek? how many historians has he named! and how learnedly and judiciously has he spoken of each!"   "On my word," said Catulus, "while I wonder at this, I cease to wonder at what I regarded with much greater wonder before, namely, that he, being unacquainted with these matters, should have such power as a speaker."   "But, Catulus," said Antonius, "my custom is to read these books, and some others, when I have leisure, not to hunt for anything that may improve me in speaking, but for my own amusement. [60] What profit is there from it then? I own that there is not much; yet there is some: for as, when I walk in the sun, though I may walk for another purpose, yet it naturally happens that I gain a deeper colour; so when I have read those books attentively at Misenum, ** (for at Rome I have scarcely opportunity to do so,) I can perceive that my language acquires a complexion, ** as it were, from my familiarity with them. But, that you may not take what I say in too wide a sense, I only understand such of the Greek writings as their authors wished to be understood by the majority of people. [61] If I ever fall in with the philosophers, deluded by the titles to their books, as they generally profess to be written on well-known and plain subjects, as virtue, justice, probity, pleasure, I do not understand a single word of them; so restricted are they to minute and exact arguments. The poets, as speaking in a different language, I never attempt to touch at all; but amuse myself, as I said, with those who have written history, or their own speeches, ** or who have adopted such a style that they seem to wish to be familiar to us who are not of the deepest erudition. 

{15.} [62] L   "But I return to my subject. Do you see how far the study of history is the business of the orator? I know not whether it is not his most important business, for flow and variety of diction; yet I do not find it anywhere treated separately under the rules of the rhetoricians. Indeed, all rules respecting it are obvious to common view; for who is ignorant that it is the first law in writing history, that the historian must not dare to tell any falsehood, and the next, that he must be bold enough to tell the whole truth? Also, that there must be no suspicion of partiality in his writings, or of personal animosity? [63] These fundamental rules are doubtless universally known. The superstructure depends on facts and style. The course of facts requires attention to order of time, and descriptions of countries; and since, in great affairs, and such as are worthy of remembrance, first the designs, then the actions, and afterwards the results, are expected, it demands also that it should be shown, in regard to the designs, what the writer approves, and that it should be told, in regard to the actions, not only what was done or said, but in what manner; and when the result is stated, that all the causes contributing to it should be set forth, whether arising from accident, wisdom, or rashness; and of the characters concerned, not only their acts, but, at least of those eminent in reputation and dignity, the life and mariners of each. [64] The sort of language and character of style to be observed must be regular and continuous, flowing with a kind of equable smoothness, without the roughness of judicial pleadings, and the sharp-pointed sentences used at the bar. Concerning all these numerous and important points, there are no rules, do you observe, to be found in the treatises of the rhetoricians.    

"In the same silence have lain many other duties of the orator; exhortation, consolation, precept, admonition, all of which are subjects for the highest eloquence, and yet have no place in those treatises on the art which are in circulation. [65] Under this heading, too, there is an infinite field of matter; for as Crassus observed, most writers assign to the orator two kinds of subjects on which he may speak; the one concerning stated and defined questions, such as are treated in judicial pleadings or political debates, to which he that will may add panegyrics; the other, what all writers call - though none give any explanation - questions unlimited in their kind, without reference to time or person. When they speak of this sort of subjects, they do not appear to know the nature and extent of it; [66] for if it is the business of an orator to be able to speak on whatever subject is proposed without limitation, he will have to speak on the magnitude of the sun, and on the shape of the earth; nor will he be able, when he has undertaken such a task, to refuse to speak on mathematical and musical subjects. In short, for him who professes it to be his business to speak not only on those questions which are confined to certain times and persons, (that is, on all judicial questions,) but also on such as are unlimited in their kinds, there can be no subject for oratory to which he can take exception.    

{16.} [67] L   "But if we are disposed to assign to the orator that sort of questions, also, which are undefined, unsettled, and of extreme breadth, so as to suppose that he must speak of good and evil, of things to be desired or avoided, honourable or dishonourable, profitable or unprofitable; of virtue, justice, temperance, prudence, magnanimity, liberality, piety, friendship, fidelity, duty, and of other virtues and their opposite vices, as well as on state affairs, on government, on military matters, on politics, on morality; let us take upon us that sort of subjects also, but so that it be circumscribed by moderate limits. [68] I think, indeed, that all matters relative to intercourse between fellow-citizens, and the transactions of mankind in general, every thing that concerns habits of life, administration of public affairs, civil society, the common sense of mankind, the law of nature, and moral duties, falls within the province of an orator, if not to such an extent that he may answer on every subject separately, like the philosophers, yet so at least that he may interweave them judiciously into his pleadings; and may speak upon such topics as those who established laws, statutes, and commonwealths, have spoken upon them, with simplicity and clarity, without any strict order of discussion, or dry contention about words. [69] That it may not seem wonderful that no rules on so many topics of such importance are here laid down by me, I give this as my reason: as, in other arts, when the most difficult parts of each have been taught, other particulars, as being easier, or similar, are not necessary to be taught: for example, in painting, he who has learned to paint the figure of a man, can paint one of any shape or age without special instruction; and as there is no danger that he who excels in painting a lion or a bull, will be unable to succeed in painting other quadrupeds; (for there is indeed no art whatever, in which everything capable of being effected by it is taught by the master; but they who have learned the general principles regarding the chief and fixed points, accomplish the rest of themselves without any trouble;) [70] so I conceive that in oratory, whether it be an art, or an attainment from practice only, he who has acquired such ability, that he can, at his pleasure, influence the understandings of those listeners who have some power to decide, on questions concerning public matters, or his own private affairs, or concerning those for or against whom he speaks, will, on every other kind of oratorical subject, be no more at a loss what to say than the famous Polyclitus, when he formed his Hercules, was at a loss how to execute the lion's skin, or the hydra, although he had never been taught to form them separately."    

{17.} [71] L   Catulus then observed, "You seem to me, Antonius, to have set clearly before us what he who designs to be an orator ought to learn, and what he may assume from that which he has learned without particular instruction; for you have reduced his whole business to two kinds of cases only, and have left particulars, which are innumerable, to practice and comparison. But take care lest the hydra and lion's skin be included in those two kinds, and the Hercules, and other greater works be left among the matters which you omit. For it does not seem to me to be less difficult to speak on the nature of things in general, than on the cases of particular persons, and it seems even much more difficult to discourse on the nature of the gods, than on matters that are disputed amongst men." [72] "It is not so," replied Antonius; "for to you, Catulus, I will speak, not so much like a person of learning, as, what is more, one of experience. To speak on all other subjects is, believe me, mere play to a man who does not lack sense or practice, and is not destitute of common literature or liberal education; but, in contested cases, the business is of great difficulty; I know not whether it be not the greatest by far of all human efforts, where the abilities of the orator are, by the unlearned, estimated according to the result and success; where an adversary presents himself armed at all points, who is to be at once attacked and repelled; where he, who is to decide the question, is unsympathetic, or offended, or even friendly to your adversary, and hostile to yourself; when he is either to be instructed or undeceived, restrained or incited, or managed in every way, by force of argument, according to the case and the occasion; when his benevolence is often to be turned to hostility, and his hostility to benevolence; when he is to be moved, as by some machinery, to severity or to indulgence, to sorrow or to merriment, [73] you must exert your whole power of thought, and your whole force of language; with which must be joined a delivery varied, energetic, full of life, full of spirit, full of feeling, full of nature. If any one, in such efforts as these, shall have mastered the art to such a degree, that, like Phidias, he can make a statue of Minerva, he will, like that great artist, find no difficulty in learning how to execute the smaller figures upon the shield."      

Following sections (74-145)



(1)   The words cum essemus eiusmodi in this parenthesis, which all commentators regard as corrupt, are left untranslated. 

(2)   Multos et ingeniis et magna laude dicendi. This passage, as Ellendt observes, is manifestly corrupt. He proposes ingeniis magnos et laude dicendi; but this seems hardly Ciceronian. Aldus Manutius noticed that an adjective was apparently wanting to ingeniis, but other editors have passed the passage in silence. 

(3)   See Brut. c. 43, 44. 

(4)   Spe aggredior maiore ad probandum. That ad probandum is to be joined with spe, not with aggredior it shown by Ellendt on b. i. c. 4. 

(5)   The second hour of the morning, answering to our eight o'clock. 

(6)   The same that was consul with Gaius Marius, when they obtained, in conjunction, the famous victory over the Cimbri. 

(7)   He was the brother of Quintus Catulus, by the mother's side, and about twenty years his junior. Their mother's name was Popilia. Ellendt. See c. 11. He was remarkable for wit, but his oratory is said to have wanted nerve. Brut. c. 48. Cicero with great propriety makes Sulpicius sit with Crassus, and Cotta walk with Antonius; for Sulpicius wished to resemble Crassus in his style of oratory; Cotta preferred the manner of Antonius. Brutus, c. 55. 

(8)   In the speech which he made on behalf of Curius, on the occasion mentioned in book i. c. 39. Proust. 

(9)   A learned orator, who wrote in the time cf the Gracchi, and who is mentioned by Cicero, Brut. c. 26. Proust. Of Decimus nothing is known. Ellendt. 

(10)   Navasse operam; that is, bene collocasse. Ernesti.  

(11)   Ironically spoken.  

(12)   Quae ad scientiam non saepe perveniat. Ellendt encloses these words in brackets as spurious, regarding them as a gloss on the preceding phrase that has crept into the text. Their absence is desirable. 

(13)   The reader will observe that the construction in the text is multi omnium generum atque artium, as Ellendt observes, referring to Matthiae. 

(14)   iii. 2, 7. 

(15)   See b. i. c. 62. 

(16)   The writer of Comedies. Vincere Caecilius gravitate, Terentius arte. Hor. 

(17)   I wished to refute you yesterday, that I might draw Scaevola and Cotta from you. This is spoken in jest. Proust. 

(18)   B. i. c. 31. 

(19)   Rhet. i. 3, 1. 

(20)   See note on c. 3. 

(21)   Domitius Ahenobarbus. Plin. H. N. xvii. 1. 

(22)   A tribune of the people, 99 B.C., whom Antonius opposed about the Agrarian law. He is mentioned also in c. 66, and appears to be the same that is said to have played vigorously at ball, ii. 62, iii 23. Ellendt. See also Cic. Brut. c. 62. 

(23)   Of these, Acusilas or Acusilaus, a native of Argos, was the most ancient, according to Suidas. Ellendt. The others are better known. 

(24)   Lucius Coelius Antipater published a history of the Punic Wars, as Cicero says in his Orator, and was the master of Crassus, the speaker in these dialogues, as appears from Cic. Brut. c. 26. Proust. 

(25)   Aptus et pressus. A scriptor, or orator aptus, will be one 'structa et rotunda compositione verborum utens'; and pressus will be, 'in verborum circuitione nec superfluens nec claudicans.' Ellendt. 

(26)   He is called Pusillus Thucydides by Cicero, Ep. ad Q. Fratr. xii. 

(27)   A promontory of Campania, where Antonius had a country house. 

(28)   Ruhnken, in a note on Timaeus's Lex. p. 78, expresses a suspicion that Cicero, when he wrote this, was thinking of a passage in Plato's Letters, Ep. vii. p. 718, F. Greenwood. Orellius very judiciously inserts tactu, the conjecture of Ernesti, in his text, instead of the old reading cantu, which, though Ellendt retains and attempts to defend it, cannot be made to give any satisfactory sense. 

(29)   Cicero means orators. The speeches which historians have written are not given as their own, but put into the mouths of others. Ellendt. 

Following sections (74-145)

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