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Cicero : Brutus, a History of Famous Orators

Sections 259-333

Translated by E.Jones (1776); a few words and spellings have been changed. See key to translations for an explanation of the format.


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[259] L   "Though we were then very young, we can easily remember T. Flamininus, who was joint-consul with Q. Metellus [123 B.C.]: he was supposed to speak his native language with correctness, but was a man of no literature. As to Catulus, he was far indeed from being destitute of learning, as you have already observed: but his reputed purity of diction was chiefly owing to the sweetness of his voice, and the delicacy of his accent. Cotta, who, by his broad pronunciation, threw off all resemblance of the elegant tone of the Greeks, and affected a harsh and rustic utterance, quite opposite to that of Catulus, acquired the same reputation of correctness by pursuing a wild and unfrequented path. But Sisenna, who had the ambition to think of reforming our phraseology, could not be lashed out of his whimsical and new-fangled turns of expression, by all the raillery of C. Rusius."

[260] "What do you refer to?" said Brutus; "and who was the Caius Rusius you are speaking of?"

"He was a noted prosecutor," replied Atticus, "some years ago. When this man had supported an indictment against one C. Hirtilius, Sisenna, who was counsel for the defendant, told him, that several parts of his accusation were absolutely spitatical. 'My Lords', cried Rusius to the judges, 'I shall be cruelly over-reached, unless you give me your assistance. His charge overpowers my comprehension; and I am afraid he has some unfair design upon me. What, in the name of heaven, can he intend by spitatical? I know the meaning of spit, or spittle; but this horrid atical, at the end of it, absolutely puzzles me.' The whole audience laughed very heartily at the singular oddity of the expression: my old friend, however, was still of opinion, that to speak correctly, was to speak differently from other people. [261] L   But Caesar, who was guided by the principles of art, has corrected the imperfections of a vicious custom, by adopting the rules and improvements of a good one, as he found them occasionally displayed in the course of polite conversation. Accordingly, to the purest elegance of expression, (which is equally necessary to every well-bred citizen, as to an orator) he has added all the various ornaments of eloquence; so that he seems to exhibit the finest painting in the most advantageous point of view. As he has such extraordinary merit even in the common run of his language, I must confess that there is no person I know of, to whom he should yield the preference. Besides, his manner of speaking, both as to his voice and gesture, is splendid and noble, without the least appearance of artifice or affectation: and there is a dignity in his very presence, which bespeaks a great and elevated mind."

[262] "Indeed," said Brutus, "his orations please me highly; for I have had the satisfaction to read several of them. He has likewise written some commentaries, or short memoirs, of his own transactions;"

"... and such," said I, "as merit the highest approbation: for they are plain, correct, and graceful, and divested of all the ornaments of language, so as to appear (if I may be allowed the expression) in a kind of undress. But while he pretended only to furnish the loose materials, for such as might be inclined to compose a regular history, he may, perhaps, have gratified the vanity of a few literary embroiderers; but he has certainly prevented all sensible men from attempting any improvement on his plan. For in history, nothing is more pleasing than a correct and elegant brevity of expression. With your leave, however, it is high time to return to those orators who have quitted the stage of life.

[263] L   C. Sicinius then, who was a grandson of the censor Q. Pompeius, by one of his daughters, died after his advancement to the quaestorship. He was a speaker of some merit and reputation, which he derived from the system of Hermagoras; who, though he furnished but little assistance for acquiring an ornamental style, gave many useful precepts to expedite and improve the invention of an orator. For in this system we have a collection of fixed and determinate rules for public speaking; which are delivered indeed without any show or parade, (and, I might have added, in a trivial and homely form) but yet are so plain and methodical, that it is almost impossible to mistake the road. By keeping close to these, and always digesting his subject before he ventured to speak upon it, (to which we may add, that he had a tolerable fluency of expression) he so far succeeded, without any other assistance, as to be ranked among the pleaders of the day. [264] As to C. Visellius Varro, who was my cousin, and a contemporary of Sicinius, he was a man of great learning. He died while he was a judge of inquests, after he had held the office of curule aedile. The public, I confess, had not the same opinion of his abilities that I have; for he never passed as a man of sterling eloquence among the people. His style was excessively quick and rapid, and consequently obscure; for, in fact, it was embarrassed and blinded by the celerity of its course: and yet, after all, you will scarcely find a man who had a better choice of words, or a richer vein of sentiment. He had besides a complete fund of polite literature, and a thorough knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence, which he learned from his father Aculeo. [265] L   To proceed in our account of the dead, the next that presents himself is L. Torquatus, whom you will not so readily pronounce an orator (though he was by no means destitute of eloquence) as, what is called by the Greeks, politically astute. He had a plentiful stock of learning, not indeed of the common sort, but of a more abstruse and curious nature: he had likewise an admirable memory, and a very sensible and elegant turn of expression; all which qualities derived an additional grace from the dignity of his deportment, and the integrity of his manners. I was also highly pleased with the style of his contemporary Triarius, which expressed to perfection, the character of a worthy old gentleman, who had been thoroughly polished by the refinements of literature.- What a venerable severity was there in his look! What forcible solemnity in his language! and how thoughtful and deliberate every word he spoke!"

[266] At the mention of Torquatus and Triarius, for each of whom he had the most affectionate veneration,- "It fills my heart with anguish," said Brutus, "(to omit a thousand other circumstances) when I reflect, as I cannot help doing, on your mentioning the names of these worthy men, that your long-respected authority was insufficient to procure an accommodation of our differences. The republic would not otherwise have been deprived of these, and many other excellent citizens."

"Not a word more," said I, on this melancholy subject, which can only aggravate our sorrow: for as the remembrance of what is already past is painful enough, the prospect of what is yet to come is still more cutting. Let us, therefore, drop our unavailing complaints, and (agreeably to our plan) confine our attention to the oratorical merits of our deceased friends. [267] L   Among those, then, who lost their lives in this unhappy war, was M. Bibulus, who, though not a professed orator, was a very accurate writer, and a solid and experienced advocate: and Appius Claudius, your father-in-law, and my colleague and intimate acquaintance, who was not only a keen student, and a man of learning, but also a practised orator, a skilful augur and jurist, with a thorogh knowledge of Roman history.- As to L. Domitius, he was totally unacquainted with any rules of art; but he spoke his native language with purity, and had a great freedom of address. [268] We had likewise the two Lentuli, men of consular dignity; one of whom, (I mean Publius) the avenger of my wrongs, and the author of my restoration, derived all his powers and accomplishments from the assistance of art, and not from the bounty of nature: but he had such a great and noble disposition, that he claimed all the honours of the most illustrious citizens, and supported them with the utmost dignity of character.- The other (L. Lentulus) was an animated speaker, for it would be saying too much, perhaps, to call him an orator- but, unhappily, he had an utter aversion to the trouble of thinking. His voice was sonorous; and his language, though not absolutely harsh and forbidding, was warm and rigorous, and carried in it a kind of terror. In a judicial trial, you would probably have wished for a more agreeable and a keener advocate: but in a debate on matters of government, you would have thought his abilities sufficient. [269] L   Even Titus Postumius had such powers of utterance, as were not to be despised: but in political matters, he spoke with the same unbridled ardour he fought with: in short, he was much too warm; though it must be owned he possessed an extensive knowledge of the laws and constitution of his country."

"Upon my word," cried Atticus, "if the persons you have mentioned were still living, I should be apt to imagine, that you were endeavouring to solicit their favour. For you introduce everybody who had the courage to stand up and speak his mind: so that I almost begin to wonder how M. Servilius has escaped your notice."

[270] "I am, indeed, very aware," replied I, "that there have been many who never spoke in public, that were much better qualified for the talk, than those orators I have taken the pains to enumerate: but I have, at least, answered one purpose by it, which is to show you, that in this populous city, we have not had very many who had the resolution to speak at all; and that even among these, there have been few who were entitled to our applause. [271] L   I cannot, therefore, neglect to take some notice of those worthy knights, and my intimate friends, very lately deceased, P. Comminius Spoletinus, against whom I pleaded in defence of C. Cornelius, and who was a methodical, a spirited, and a ready speaker; and T. Accius, of Pisaurum, to whom I replied in behalf of A. Cluentius, and who was an accurate, and a tolerably copious advocate: he was also well instructed in the precepts of Hermagoras, which, though of little service to embellish and enrich our eloquence, furnish a variety of arguments, which, like the weapons of the light infantry, may be readily managed, and are adapted to every subject of debate. [272] I must add, that I never knew a man of greater industry and application. As to C. Piso, my son-in-law, it is scarcely possible to mention any one who was blessed with a finer capacity. He was constantly employed either in public speaking, and private declamatory exercises, or, at least, in writing and thinking: and, consequently, he made such a rapid progress, that he rather seemed to fly than to run. He had an elegant choice of expression, and the structure of his periods was perfectly neat and harmonious; he had an astonishing variety and strength of argument, and a lively and agreeable turn of sentiment: and his gesture was naturally so graceful, that it appeared to have been formed (which it really was not) by the nicest rules of art. I am rather fearful, indeed, that I should be thought to have been prompted by my affection for him to have given him a greater character than he deserved: but this is so far from being the case, that I might justly have ascribed to him many qualities of a different and more valuable nature: for in continence, social piety, and every other kind of virtue, there was scarcely any of his contemporaries who was worthy to be compared with him. [273] L   M. Caelius too must not pass unnoticed, notwithstanding the unhappy change, either of his fortune or disposition, which marked the latter part of his life. As long as he was directed by my influence, he behaved himself so well as a tribune of the people, that no man supported the interests of the senate, and of all the good and virtuous, in opposition to the factious and unruly madness of a set of abandoned citizens, with more firmness than he did: a part in which he was enabled to exert himself to great advantage, by the force and dignity of his language, and his lively humour, and refined delivery. He spoke several harangues in a very sensible style, and three spirited invectives, which originated from our political disputes: and his defensive speeches, though not equal to the former, were yet tolerably good, and had a degree of merit which was far from being contemptible. After he had been advanced to the aedileship, by the hearty approbation of all the better sort of citizens, as he had lost my company (for I was then abroad in Cilicia) he likewise lost himself; and entirely sunk his credit, by imitating the conduct of those very men, whom he had before so successfully opposed.

[274] But M. Calidius has a more particular claim to our notice for the singularity of his character; which cannot so properly be said to have entitled him to a place among our other orators, as to distinguish him from the whole fraternity; for in him we beheld the most uncommon, and the most delicate sentiments, arrayed in the softest and finest language imaginable. Nothing could be so easy as the turn and compass of his periods; nothing so flexible; nothing more pliable and obsequious to his will, so that he had a greater command of it than any orator whatever. In short, the flow of his language was so pure and limpid, that nothing could be clearer; and so free, that it was never clogged or obstructed. Every word was exactly in the place where it should be, and disposed (as Lucilius expresses it) with as much nicety as in a curious piece of Mosaic-work. We may add, that he had not a single expression which was either harsh, unnatural, abject, or far-fetched; and yet he was so far from confining himself to the plain and ordinary mode of speaking, that he abounded greatly in the metaphor,- but such metaphors as did not appear to usurp a post that belonged to another, but only to occupy their own. These delicacies were displayed not in a loose and disjointed style; but in such a one as was strictly metrical, without either appearing to be so, or running on with a dull uniformity of sound. [275] L   He was likewise master of the various ornaments of language and sentiment which the Greeks call figures, whereby he enlivened and embellished his speeches as with so many dazzling decorations. We may add that he readily discovered, upon all occasions, what was the real point of debate, and where the stress of the argument lay; and that his method of ranging his ideas was extremely artful, his action genteel, and his whole manner very engaging and very sensible. [276] In short, if to speak agreeably is the chief merit of an orator, you will find no one who was better qualified than Calidius. But as we have observed a little before, that it is the business of an orator to instruct, to please, and to move the passions; he was, indeed, perfectly master of the two first; for no one could better elucidate his subject, or charm the attention of his audience. But as to the third qualification,- the moving and alarming the passions,- which is of much greater efficacy than the two former, he was wholly destitute of it. He had no force,- no exertion;- either by his own choice, and from an opinion that those who had a loftier turn of expression, and a more warm and spirited action, were little better than madmen; or because it was contrary to his natural temper, and habitual practice; or, lastly, because it was beyond the strength of his abilities. If, indeed, it is a useless quality, his want of it was a real excellence: but if otherwise, it was certainly a defect. [277] L   I particularly remember, that when he prosecuted Q. Gallius for an attempt to poison him, and pretended that he had the plainest proofs of it, and could produce many letters, witnesses, disclosures, and other pieces of evidence to put the truth of his charge beyond a doubt, interspersing many sensible and ingenious remarks on the nature of the crime;- I remember, I say, that when it came to my turn to reply to him, after urging every argument which the case itself suggested, I insisted upon it as a material circumstance in favour of my client, that the prosecutor, while he charged him with a design against his life, and assured us that he had the most indubitable proofs of it then in his hands, related his story with as much ease, and as much calmness, and indifference, as if nothing had happened."

[278] "Would it have been possible," said I, (addressing myself to Calidius) "that you should speak with this air of unconcern, unless the charge was purely an invention of your own? and, above all, that you, whose eloquence has often vindicated the wrongs of other people with so much spirit, should speak so coolly of a crime which threatened your life? Where was that expression of resentment which is so natural to the injured? Where that ardour, that eagerness, which extorts the most pathetic language even from men of the dullest capacities? There was no visible disorder in your mind, no emotion in your looks and gesture, no smiting of the thigh or the forehead, nor even a single stamp of the foot. You were, therefore, so far from exciting our passions in your favour, that we could scarcely keep our eyes open, while you was relating the dangers you had so narrowly escaped. Thus we employed the natural defect, or if you please, the sensible calmness of an excellent orator, as an argument to invalidate his charge."

[279] L   "But is it possible to doubt," cried Brutus, "whether this was a sensible quality, or a defect? For as the greatest merit of an orator is to be able to inflame the passions, and give them such a bias as shall best answer his purpose; he who is destitute of this must certainly be deficient in the most capital part of his profession."

"I am of the same opinion," said I; "but let us now proceed to him (Hortensius) who is the only remaining orator worth noticing; after which, as you may seem to insist upon it, I shall say something of myself. I must first, however, do justice to the memory of two promising youths, who, if they had lived to a riper age, would have acquired the highest reputation for their eloquence."

[280] "You mean, I suppose," said Brutus, "C. Curio, and C. Licinius Calvus."

"The very same," replied I. "[Curio], besides his plausible manner, had such an easy and voluble flow of expression, and such an inexhaustible variety, and sometimes accuracy of sentiment, that he was one of the most ready and ornamental speakers of his time. Though he had received but little instruction from the professed masters of the art, Nature had furnished him with an admirable capacity of the practice of it. I never, indeed, discovered in him any great degree of application; but he was certainly very ambitious to distinguish himself; and if he had continued to listen to my advice, as he had begun to do, he would have preferred the acquisition of real honour to that of untimely grandeur."

"What do you mean," said Brutus? "Or in what manner are these two objects to be distinguished?"

"I distinguish them thus," replied I: [281] L   "As honour is the reward of virtue, conferred upon a man by the choice and affection of his fellow-citizens, he who obtains it by their free votes and suffrages is to be considered, in my opinion, as an honourable member of the community. But he who acquires his power and authority by taking advantage of every unhappy incident, and without the consent of his fellow-citizens, as Curio aimed to do, acquires only the name of honour, without the substance. Whereas, if he had hearkened to me, he would have risen to the highest dignity, in an honourable manner, and with the hearty approbation of all men, by a gradual advancement to public offices, as his father and many other eminent citizens had done before. I often gave the same advice to P. Crassus, the son of Marcus, who courted my friendship in the early part of his life; and recommended it to him very warmly, to consider that as the truest path to honour which had been already marked out to him by the example of his ancestors. [282] For he had been extremely well educated, and was perfectly versed in every branch of literature: he had likewise a penetrating genius, and an elegant variety of expression; and appeared grave and sententious without arrogance, and modest and diffident without dejection. But like many other young men he was carried away by the tide of ambition; and after he had served his general well as a common soldier, nothing could satisfy him but to become a general himeself,- an employment which was confined by the wisdom of our ancestors to men who had arrived at a certain age, and who, even then, were obliged to submit their pretensions to the uncertain issue of a public decision. Thus, by exposing himself to a fatal catastrophe, while he was endeavouring to rival the fame of Cyrus and Alexander, who lived to finish their desperate career, he lost all resemblance of L. Crassus, and his other worthy ancestors.

[283] L   "But let us return to Calvus whom we have just mentioned,- an orator who had received more literary improvements than Curio, and had a more accurate and delicate manner of speaking, which he conducted with great taste and elegance; but, (by being too minute and nice a critic upon himself,) while he was labouring to correct and refine his language, he suffered all the force and spirit of it to evaporate. In short, it was so exquisitely polished, as to charm the eye of every skilful observer; but it was little noticed by the common people in a crowded forum, which is the proper theatre of eloquence."

[284] "His aim," said Brutus, "was to be admired as an Attic orator: and to this we must attribute that strict bareness of style, which he constantly affected."- "This, indeed, was his professed character," replied I: "but he was deceived himself, and led others into the same mistake. It is true, whoever supposes that to speak in the Attic taste, is to avoid every awkward, every harsh, every vicious expression, has, in this sense, an undoubted right to refuse his approbation to every thing which is not strictly Attic. For he must naturally detest whatever is insipid, disgusting, or unnatural; while he considers a correctness and propriety of language as the religion, and good-manners of an orator:- and every one who pretends to speak in public should adopt the same opinion. [285] L   But if he bestows the name of Atticism on a half-starved, a dry, and a niggardly turn of expression, provided it is neat, correct, and elegant, I cannot say, indeed, that he bestows it improperly; as the Attic orators, however, had many qualities of a more important nature, I would advise him to be careful that he does not overlook their different kinds and degrees of merit, and their great extent and variety of character. The Attic speakers, he will tell me, are the models upon which he wishes to form his eloquence. But which of them does he mean to fix upon? for they are not all of the same cast. Who, for instance, could be more unlike each other than Demosthenes and Lysias? or than Demosthenes and Hypereides? Or who more different from either of them, than Aeschines? Which of them, then, do you propose to imitate? If only one, this will be a tacit implication, that none of the rest were true masters of Atticism: if all, how can you possibly succeed, when their characters are so opposite? Let me further ask you, whether Demetrius Phalereus spoke in the Attic style? In my opinion, his orations have the very smell of Athens. But he is certainly more florid than either Hypereides or Lysias; partly from the natural turn of his genius, and partly by choice.

[286] There were likewise two others, at the time we are speaking of, whose characters were equally dissimilar; and yet both of them were truly Attic. The first (Charisius) was the author of a number of speeches, which he composed for his friends, professedly in imitation of Lysias:- and the other (Demochares, the nephew of Demosthenes) wrote several orations, and a regular History of events in Athens during his own lifetime; not so much, indeed, in the style of an historian, as of an orator. Hegesias took the former for his model, and had so vain a conceit of his own taste for Atticism, that he considered his predecessors, who were really masters of it, as mere rustics in comparison of himself. [287] L   But what can be more insipid, more frivolous, or more puerile, than that studied elegance of expression which he actually acquired?   'But still we wish to resemble the Attic speakers.'- Do so, by all means. But were not those, then, true Attic speakers, we have just been mentioning?   'Nobody denies it; and these are the men we imitate.'- But how? when they are so very different, not only from each other, but from all the rest of their contemporaries?   'True; but Thucydides is our leading pattern.'- This too I can allow, if you design to compose histories, instead of pleading causes. For Thucydides was both an exact, and a stately historian: but he never intended to write models for conducting a judicial process. I will even go so far as to add, that I have often commended the speeches which he has inserted into his history in great numbers; though I must frankly own, that I neither could imitate them, if I would, nor indeed would, if I could; like a man who would neither choose his wine so new as to have been turned off in the preceding vintage, nor so excessively old as to date its age from the consulship of Opimius [121 B.C.] or Anicius [160 B.C.].   'The latter,' you'll say, 'bears the highest price.'- Very probable; but when it has too much age, it has lost that delicious flavour which pleases the palate, and, in my opinion, is scarcely tolerable. [288]   'Would you choose, then, when you have a mind to regale yourself, to apply to a fresh, immature cask?'- By no means; but still there is a certain age, when good wine arrives at its utmost perfection. In the same manner, I would recommend neither a raw, un-mellowed style, which, (if I may so express myself) has been newly drawn off from the vat; nor the rough, and antiquated language of the grave and manly Thucydides. For even he, if he had lived a few years later, would have acquired a much softer and mellower turn of expression.   'Let us, then, imitate Demosthenes'- Good Gods! to what else do I direct all my endeavours, and my wishes! But it is, perhaps, my misfortune not to succeed.

These Atticisers, however, acquire with ease the paltry character they aim at; [289] L   not once recollecting that it is not only recorded in history, but must have been the natural consequence of his superior fame, that when Demosthenes was to speak in public, all Greece flocked in crowds to hear him. But when our Attic gentry venture to speak, they are presently deserted not only by the little throng around them who have no interest in the dispute, (which alone is a mortifying proof of their insignificance) but even by their associates and fellow-advocates. If to speak, therefore, in a dry and lifeless manner, is the true criterion of Atticism, they are heartily welcome to enjoy the credit of it: but if they wish to put their abilities to the trial, let them attend the comitia, or a judicial process of real importance. The courts demands a fuller, and more elevated tone: [290] and he is the orator for me, who is so universally admired that when he is to plead an interesting cause, all the benches are filled beforehand, the tribunal crowded, the clerks and notaries busy in adjusting their seats, the populace thronging all around, and the judge brisk, and vigilant;- he, who has such a commanding air, that when he rises up to speak, the whole audience is hushed into a profound silence, which is soon interrupted by their repeated plaudits, and acclamations, or by those successive bursts of laughter, or violent transports of passion, which he knows how to excite at his pleasure; so that even a distant observer, though unacquainted with the subject he is speaking upon, can easily discover that his hearers are pleased with him, and that a Roscius is performing his part on the stage. Whoever has the happiness to be thus followed and applauded is, beyond dispute, an Attic speaker: for such was Pericles,- such was Hypereides, and Aeschines,- and such, in the most eminent degree, was the great Demosthenes! [291] L   If indeed, these connoisseurs, who have so much dislike to every thing bold and ornamental, only mean to say that an accurate, a judicious, and a neat, and compact, but unembellished style, is really an Attic one, they are not mistaken. For in an art of such wonderful extent and variety as that of speaking, even this subtle and confined character may claim a place: so that the conclusion will be, that it is very possible to speak in the Attic taste, without deserving the name of an orator; but that all in general who are truly eloquent, are likewise Attic speakers.- It is time, however, to return to Hortensius."

[292] "Indeed, I think so," cried Brutus: "though I must acknowledge that this long digression of yours has entertained me very agreeably."

"But I made some remarks," said Atticus, "which I had several times a mind to mention; only I was loath to interrupt you. As your discourse, however, seems to be drawing towards an end, I think I may venture to out with them."

"By all means," replied I.

"I readily grant, then," said he, "that there is something very humorous and elegant in that continued irony, which Socrates employs to so much advantage in the dialogues of Plato, Xenophon, and Aeschines. For when a dispute commences on the nature of wisdom, he professes, with a great deal of humour and ingenuity, to have no pretensions to it himself; while, with a kind of concealed raillery, he ascribes the highest degree of it to those who had the arrogance to lay an open claim to it. Thus, in Plato, he extols Protagoras, Hippias, Prodicus, Gorgias, and several others, to the skies: but represents himself as a mere ignorant. This in him was peculiarly becoming; nor can I agree with Epicurus, who thinks it censurable. But in a professed History, (for such, in fact, is the account you have been giving us of the Roman orators) I shall leave you to judge, whether an application of the irony is not equally reprehensible, as it would be in giving a judicial evidence."

"Pray, what are you driving at," said I,- "for I cannot comprehend you."

[293] L   "I mean," replied he, "in the first place, that the commendations which you have bestowed upon some of our orators, have a tendency to mislead the opinion of those who are unacquainted with their true characters. There were likewise several parts of your account, at which I could scarcely forbear laughing: as, for instance, when you compared old Cato to Lysias. He was, indeed, a great, and a very extraordinary man. Nobody, I believe, will say to the contrary. But shall we call him an orator? Shall we pronounce him the rival of Lysias, who was the most finished character of the kind? If we mean to jest, this comparison of yours would form a pretty irony: but if we are talking in real earnest, we should pay the same scrupulous regard to truth, as if we were giving evidence upon oath. [294] As a citizen, a senator, a general, and, in short, a man who was distinguished by his prudence, his activity, and every other virtue, your favourite Cato has my highest approbation. I can likewise applaud his speeches, considering the time he lived in. They exhibit the out-lines of a great genius; but such, however, as are evidently rude and imperfect. In the same manner, when you represented his Origins as replete with all the graces of oratory, and compared Cato with Philistus and Thucydides, did you really imagine, that you could persuade me and Brutus to believe you? or would you seriously degrade those, whom none of the Greeks themselves have been able to equal, into a comparison with a stiff country gentleman, who scarcely suspected that there was any such thing in being, as a copious and ornamental style? [295] L   You have likewise said much in commendation of Galba;- if as the best speaker of his age, I can so far agree with you, for such was the character he bore:- but if you meant to recommend him as an orator, produce his orations (for they are still extant) and then tell me honestly, whether you would wish your friend Brutus here to speak as he? Lepidus too was the author of several speeches, which have received your approbation; in which I can partly join with you, if you consider them only as specimens of our ancient eloquence. The same might be said of Africanus and Laelius, than whose language (you tell us) nothing in the world can be sweeter: nay, you have mentioned it with a kind of veneration, and endeavoured to dazzle our judgment by the great character they bore, and the uncommon elegance of their manners. Divest it of these adventitious graces, and this sweet language of theirs will appear so homely, as to be scarcely worth noticing. [296] Carbo too was mentioned as one of our capital orators; and for this only reason,- that in speaking, as in all other professions, whatever is the best of its kind, for the time being, howsoever deficient in reality, is always admired and applauded. What I have said of Carbo, is equally true of the Gracchi: though, in some particulars, the character you have given them was no more than they deserved. But to say nothing of the rest of your orators, let us proceed to Antonius and Crassus, your two paragons of eloquence, whom I have heard myself, and who were certainly very able speakers. To the extraordinary commendation you have bestowed upon them, I can readily give my assent; but not, however, in such an unlimited manner as to persuade myself that you have received as much improvement from the speech in support of the Servilian Law, as Lysippus said he had done by studying the famous [Doryphorus] statue of Polycleitus. What you have said on this occasion I consider as an absolute irony: but I shall not inform you why I think so, lest you should imagine I design to flatter you. [297] L   I shall therefore pass over the many fine encomiums you have bestowed upon these; and what you have said of Cotta and Sulpicius, and but very lately of your pupil Caelius. I acknowledge, however, that we may call them orators: but as to the nature and extent of their merit, let your own judgment decide. It is scarcely worth observing, that you have had the additional good-nature to crowd so many daubers into your list, that there are some, I believe, who will be ready to wish they had died long ago, that you might have had an opportunity to insert their names among the rest."

"You have opened a wide field of enquiry," said I, "and started a subject which deserves a separate discussion; but we must defer it to a more convenient time. [298] For, to settle it, a great variety of authors must be examined, and especially Cato: which could not fail to convince you, that nothing was wanting to complete his pieces, but those rich and glowing colours which had not then been invented. As to the above oration of Crassus, he himself, perhaps, could have written better, if he had been willing to take the trouble; but nobody else, I believe, could have mended it. You have no reason, therefore, to think I spoke ironically, when I mentioned it as the guide and instructor of my eloquence: for though you seem to have a higher opinion of my capacity, in its present state, you must remember that, in our youth, we could find nothing better to imitate among the Romans. [299] L   And as to my admitting so many into my list of orators, I only did it (as I have already observed) to show how few have succeeded in a profession, in which all were desirous to excel. I therefore insist upon it that you do not consider me in the present case, as an ironist; though we are informed by C. Fannius, in his History, that Africanus was a very excellent one."

"As you please about that," cried Atticus: "though, by the bye, I did not imagine it would have been any disgrace to you, to be what Africanus and Socrates have been before you."

[300] "We may settle this another time," interrupted Brutus: "but will you be so obliging," said he, (addressing himself to me) "as to give us a critical analysis of some of the old speeches you have mentioned?"

"Very willingly," replied I; "but it must be at Cumae, or Tusculum, when opportunity offers: for we are near neighbours, you know, in both places. At present, let us return to Hortensius, from whom we have digressed a second time.

[301] L   Hortensius, then, who began to speak in public when he was very young, was soon employed even in causes of the greatest moment: and though he first appeared in the time of Cotta and Sulpicius, (who were only ten years older) and when Crassus and Antonius, and afterwards Philippus and Julius, were in the height of their reputation, he was thought worthy to be compared with either of them in point of eloquence. He had such an excellent memory as I never knew in any person; so that what he had composed in private, he was able to repeat, without notes, in the very same words he had made use of at first. He employed this natural advantage with so much readiness, that he not only recollected whatever he had written or premeditated himself, but remembered every thing that had been said by his opponents, without the help of a prompter. [302] He was likewise inflamed with such a passionate fondness for the profession, that I never saw any one, who took more pains to improve himself; for he would not suffer a day to elapse, without either speaking in the forum, or composing something at home; and very often he did both in the same day. He had, besides, a turn of expression which was very far from being low and unelevated; and possessed two other accomplishments, in which no one could equal him,- an uncommon clearness and accuracy in stating the points he was to speak to; and a neat and easy manner of collecting the substance of what had been said by his antagonist, and by himself. [303] L   He had likewise an elegant choice of words, an agreeable flow in his periods, and a copious eloquence, which he was partly indebted for to a fine natural capacity, and partly acquired by the most laborious rhetorical exercises. In short, he had a most retentive view of his subject, and always divided and parcelled it out with the greatest exactness; and he very seldom overlooked any thing which the case could suggest, that was proper either to support his own allegations, or to refute those of his opponent. Lastly, he had a sweet and sonorous voice; and his gesture had rather more art in it, and was more exactly managed, than is requisite to an orator.

"While he was in the height of his glory, Crassus died, Cotta was banished, our public trials were intermitted by the Marsic war, and I myself made my first appearance in the forum. [304] Hortensius joined the army, and served the first campaign as a common soldier, and the second as a military tribune: Sulpicius was made a legate; and Antonius was absent on a similar account. The only trial we had, was that upon the Varian Law; the rest, as I have just observed, having been intermitted by the war. I regularly attended the courts, (?) although L. Memmius and Q. Pompeius spoke in their own defence. They were far from being orators of the first distinction, but were yet tolerable ones, and Philippus, who spoke eloquently as a witness, displayed the full vigour and expressiveness of a prosecutor. [305] L   The rest, who were esteemed our leading speakers, were then acting as magistrates, and I had the benefit of hearing their harangues almost every day. C. Curio was chosen a tribune of the people; though he left off speaking after being once deserted by his whole audience. To him I may add Q. Metellus Celer, who, though certainly no orator, was far from being destitute of utterance: but Q. Varius, C. Carbo, and Cn. Pomponius, were men of real eloquence, and might almost be said to have lived upon the rostra. C. Julius too, who was then a curule aedile, was daily employed in making speeches to the people, which were composed with great neatness and accuracy. But while I attended these speakers with eager curiosity, my first disappointment was the banishment of Cotta: after which I continued to hear the rest with the same assiduity as before; and though I daily spent the remainder of my time in reading, writing, and private declamation, I cannot say that I much relished my confinement to these preparatory exercises. The next year Q. Varius was condemned, and banished, by his own law: [306] and I, that I might acquire a competent knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence, then attached myself to Q. Scaevola, the son of Publius, who, though he did not choose to undertake the charge of a pupil, yet by freely giving his advice to those who consulted him, he answered every purpose of instruction to such as took the trouble to apply to him. In the succeeding year, in which Sulla and Pompeius were Consuls [88 B.C.], as Sulpicius, who was elected a tribune of the people, had occasion to speak in public almost every day, I had an opportunity to acquaint myself thoroughly with his manner of speaking. At this time Philon, the leading philosopher in the Academy, with many of the principal Athenians, having deserted their native home, and fled to Rome, from the fury of Mithridates, I immediately became his pupil, and was exceedingly taken with his philosophy; and, besides the pleasure I received from the great variety and sublimity of his matter, I was still more inclined to confine my attention to that study; because there was reason to apprehend that our laws and judicial proceedings would be wholly overturned by the continuance of the public disorders. [307] L   In the same year Sulpicius lost his life; and Q. Catulus, M. Antonius, and C. Julius, three orators, who were partly contemporary with each other, were most inhumanly put to death. Then also I attended the lectures of Molon the Rhodian, who was newly come to Rome, and was both an excellent pleader, and an able teacher of the art. I have mentioned these particulars, which, perhaps, may appear foreign to our purpose, that you, my Brutus, (for Atticus is already acquainted with them) may be able to mark my progress, and observe how closely I trod upon the heels of Hortensius.

[308] The three following years the city was free from the tumult of arms; but either by the death, the voluntary retirement, or the flight of our ablest orators (for even M. Crassus, and the two Lentuli, who were then in the bloom of youth, had all left us) Hortensius, of course, was the first speaker in the courts. Antistius too was daily rising into reputation,- Piso pleaded pretty often,- Pomponius not so frequently,- Carbo very seldom,- and Philippus only once or twice. In the mean while I pursued my studies of every kind, day and night, with unremitting application. [309] L   I lodged and boarded at my own house (where he recently died) Diodotus the Stoic; whom I employed as my preceptor in various other parts of learning, but particularly in logic, which may be considered as a close and contracted species of eloquence; and without which, you yourself have declared it impossible to acquire that full and perfect eloquence, which they suppose to be an open and dilated kind of logic. Yet with all my attention to Diodotus, and the various arts he was master of, I never suffered even a single day to escape me, without some exercise of the oratorical kind. [310] I constantly declaimed in private with M. Piso, Q. Pompeius, or some other of my acquaintance; pretty often in Latin, but much oftener in Greek; because the Greek furnishes a greater variety of ornaments, and an opportunity of imitating and introducing them into the Latin; and because the Greek masters, who were far the best, could not correct and improve us, unless we declaimed in that language. [311] L   This time was distinguished by a violent struggle to restore the liberty of the Republic:- the barbarous slaughter of the three orators, Scaevola, Carbo, and Antistius;- the return of Cotta, Curio, Crassus, Pompeius, and the Lentuli;- the re-establishment of the laws and courts of judicature;- and the entire restoration of the commonwealth: but we lost Pomponius, Censorinus, and Murena, from the roll of orators.

I now began, for the first time, to undertake the management of causes, both private and public; not, as most did, with a view to learn my profession, but to make a trial of the abilities which I had taken so much pains to acquire. [312] I had then a second opportunity of attending the instructions of Molon; who came to Rome, while Sulla was dictator, to solicit the payment of what was due to his countrymen, for their services in the Mithridatic war. My defence of Sex. Roscius, which was the first cause I pleaded, met with such a favourable reception, that, from that moment, I was looked upon as an advocate of the first class, and equal to the greatest and most important causes: and after this I pleaded many others, which I pre-composed with all the care and accuracy I was master of.

[313] L   But as you seem desirous not so much to be acquainted with any incidental marks of my character, or the first sallies of my youth, as to know me thoroughly, I shall mention some particulars, which otherwise might have seemed unnecessary. At this time my body was exceedingly weak and emaciated; my neck long, and slender; a shape and habit, which I thought to be liable to great risk of life, if engaged in any violent fatigue, or labour of the lungs. And it gave the greater alarm to those who had a regard for me, that I used to speak without any remission or variation, with the utmost stretch of my voice, and a total agitation of my body. [314] When my friends, therefore, and physicians, advised me to meddle no more with legal cases, I resolved to run any hazard, rather than quit the hopes of glory, which I had proposed to myself from pleading: but when I considered, that by managing my voice, and changing my way of speaking, I might both avoid all future danger of that kind, and speak with greater ease, I took a resolution of travelling into Asia, merely for an opportunity to correct my manner of speaking. So that after I had been two years in the courts, and acquired some reputation in the forum, I left Rome. [315] L   When I came to Athens, I spent six months with Antiochus, the principal and most judicious philosopher of the Old Academy; and under this able master, I renewed those philosophical studies which I had laboriously cultivated and improved from my earliest youth. At the same time, however, I continued my rhetorical Exercises under Demetrius the Syrian, an experienced and reputable master of the art of speaking.

"After leaving Athens, I traversed every part of Asia, where I was voluntarily attended by the principal orators of the country with whom I renewed my rhetorical exercises. The chief of them was Menippus of Stratoniceia, the most eloquent of all the Asiatics: and if to be neither tedious nor impertinent is the characteristic of an Attic orator, he may be justly ranked in that class. [316] Dionysius also of Magnesia, Aeschylus of Cnidus, and Xenocles of Adramyttium, who were esteemed the leading rhetoricians of Asia, were continually with me. Not contented with these, I went to Rhodes, and applied myself again to Molon, whom I had heard before at Rome; and who was both an experienced pleader, and a fine writer, and particularly judicious in remarking the faults of his scholars, as well as in his method of teaching and improving them. His principal trouble with me, was to restrain the luxuriance of a juvenile imagination, always ready to overflow its banks, within its due and proper channel. Thus, after an excursion of two years, I returned to Italy, not only much improved, but almost changed into a new man. The vehemence of my voice and action was considerably abated; the excessive ardour of my language was corrected; my lungs were strengthened; and my whole constitution confirmed and settled.

[317] L   Two orators were then pre-eminent; (I mean Cotta and Hortensius) whose glory fired my emulation. Cotta's way of speaking was calm and easy, and distinguished by the flowing elegance and propriety of his language. The other was splendid, warm, and animated; not such as you, my Brutus, have seen him when he had shed the blossom of his eloquence, but far more lively and passionate both in his style and action. As Hortensius, therefore, was nearer to me in age, and his manner more agreeable to the natural ardour of my temper, I considered him as the proper object of my competition. For I observed that when they were both engaged in the same cause, (as for instance, when they defended M. Canuleius, and Cn. Dolabella, a man of consular dignity) though Cotta was generally employed to open the defence, the most important parts of it were left to the management of Hortensius. For a crowded audience, and a clamorous forum, require an orator who is lively, animated, full of action, and able to exert his voice to the highest pitch. [318] The first year, therefore, after my return from Asia, I undertook several capital causes; and in the interim I put up as a candidate for the quaestorship, Cotta for the consulate, and Hortensius for the aedileship. After I was chosen quaestor, I passed a year in Sicily, the province assigned to me by lot: Cotta went as consul [75 B.C.] into Gaul: and Hortensius, whose new office required his presence at Rome, was left of course the undisputed sovereign [of the forum]. In the succeeding year, when I returned from Sicily, my oratorical talents, such as they were, displayed themselves in their full perfection and maturity.

I have been saying too much, perhaps, concerning myself: but my design in it was not to make a parade of my eloquence and ability, which I have no temptation to do, but only to specify the pains and labour which I have taken to improve it. [319] L   After spending the five succeeding years in pleading a variety of causes, and with the ablest advocates of the time, I was elected an aedile, and undertook the patronage of the Sicilians against Hortensius, who was then one of the consuls elect. But as the subject of our conversation not only requires an historical detail of orators, but such instructive remarks as may be necessary to elucidate their characters; it will not be improper to make some observations of this kind upon that of Hortensius. [320] After his appointment to the consulship [69 B.C.] (very probably, because he saw none of consular dignity who were able to rival him, and despised the competition of others of inferior rank) he began to remit that intense application which he had hitherto persevered in from his childhood; and having settled himself in very affluent circumstances, he chose to live for the future what he thought an easy life, but which, in truth, was rather an indolent one. In the three succeeding years, the beauty of his colouring was so much impaired, as to be very perceptible to a skilful connoisseur, though not to a common observer. After that, he grew every day more unlike himself than before, not only in other parts of eloquence, but by a gradual decay of the former celerity and elegant texture of his language. [321] L   I, at the same time, spared no pains to improve and enlarge my talents, such as they were, by every exercise that was proper for the purpose, but particularly by that of writing. Not to mention several other advantages I derived from it, I shall only observe, that about this time, and but a very few years after my aedilship, I was declared the first praetor, by the unanimous suffrages of my fellow- citizens. For, by my diligence and assiduity as a pleader, and my refined way of speaking, which was rather superior to the common style, the novelty of my eloquence had engaged the attention, and secured the good wishes of the public. [322] But I will say nothing of myself: I will confine my discourse to our other speakers, among whom there is not one who has gained more than a common acquaintance with those parts of literature, which feed the springs of eloquence:- not one who has been thoroughly nurtured at the breast of philosophy, which is the mother of every excellence either in deed or speech:- not one who has acquired an accurate knowledge of the civil law, which is so necessary for the management even of private causes, and to direct the judgment of an orator:- not one who is a complete master of Roman history, which would enable us, on many occasions, to appeal to the venerable evidence of the dead:- not one who can entangle his opponent in such a neat and humorous manner, as to relax the severity of the jurors into a smile or an open laugh:- not one who knows how to dilate and expand his subject, by reducing it from the limited considerations of time, and person, to some general and indefinite topic;- not one who knows how to enliven it by an agreeable digression: not one who can rouse the indignation of the judge, or extort from him the tear of compassion;- or who can influence and bend his soul (which is confessedly the capital perfection of an orator) in such a manner as shall best suit his purpose.

[323] L   When Hortensius, therefore, the once eloquent and admired Hortensius, had almost vanished from the Forum, my appointment to the consulship [63 B.C.], which happened about six years after his own promotion to that office, revived his dying emulation; for he was unwilling that after I had equalled him in rank and dignity, I should become his superior in any other respect. But in the twelve succeeding years, by a mutual deference to each other's abilities, we united our efforts in the courts in the most amicable manner: and my consulship, which at first had given a short alarm to his jealousy, afterward cemented our friendship, by the generous candour with which he applauded my conduct. [324] But our emulous efforts were exerted in the most conspicuous manner, just before the commencement of that unhappy period, when eloquence herself was confounded and terrified by the din of arms into a sudden and a total silence: for after Pompeius had proposed and carried a law, which allowed even the party accused but three hours to make his defence, each day we appeared in new cases which were, in fact, the same as each other, or very nearly so. Most of these, my Brutus, you were present to hear, as having been my partner and fellow-advocate in many of them, though you pleaded several by yourself; and Hortensius, though he died a short time afterwards, bore his share in these limited efforts. He began to plead about ten years before the time of your birth; and in his sixty-fourth year, but a very few days before his death, he was engaged with you in the defence of Appius, your father-in-law. As to our respective talents, the orations we have published will enable posterity to form a proper judgment of them.

[325] L   But if we mean to inquire, why Hortensius was more admired for his eloquence in the younger part of his life, than in his latter years, we shall find it owing to the following causes. The first was, that an Asiatic style is more allowable in a young man than in an old one. Of this there are two different kinds. The former is sententious and sprightly, and abounds in those turns of sentiment which are not so much distinguished by their weight and solidity as by their neatness and elegance; of this cast was Timaeus the historian, and the two orators so much talked of in our younger days, Hierocles of Alabanda, and his brother Menecles, but particularly the latter; both whose orations may be reckoned master-pieces of the kind. The other sort is not so remarkable for the plenty and richness of its sentiments, as for its rapid volubility of expression, which at present is the ruling taste in Asia; but, besides it's uncommon fluency, it is recommended by a choice of words which are peculiarly delicate and ornamental:- of this kind were Aeschylus the Cnidian, and my contemporary Aeschines the Milesian; for they had an admirable command of language, with very little elegance of sentiment. [326] These showy kinds of eloquence are agreeable enough in young people; but they are entirely destitute of that gravity and composure which befits a riper age. As Hortensius therefore excelled in both, he was heard with applause in the earlier part of his life. For he had all that fertility and graceful variety of sentiment which distinguished the character of Menecles: but, as in Menecles, so in him, there were many turns of sentiment which were more delicate and entertaining than really useful, or indeed sometimes convenient. His language also was brilliant and rapid, and yet perfectly neat and accurate; but by no means agreeable to men of riper years. I have often seen it received by Philippus with the utmost derision, and, upon some occasions, with a contemptuous indignation: but the younger part of the audience admired it, and the populace were highly pleased with it. [327] L   In his youth, therefore, he met the warmest approbation of the public, and maintained his post with ease as the leading orator. For the style he chose to speak in, though it has little weight, or authority, appeared very suitable to his age: and as it revealed in him the most visible marks of genius and application, and was recommended by the rhythmical cadence of his periods, he was heard with universal applause. But when the honours he afterwards rose to, and the dignity of his years required something more serious and composed, he still continued to appear in the same character, though it no longer became him: and as he had, for some considerable time, intermitted those exercises, and relaxed that laborious attention which had once distinguished him, though his former neatness of expression, and luxuriance of sentiment still remained, they were stripped of those brilliant ornaments they had been used to wear. For this reason, perhaps, my Brutus, he appeared less pleasing to you than he would have done, if you had been old enough to hear him, when he was fired with emulation and flourished in the full bloom of his eloquence."

[328] "I am perfectly aware," said Brutus, "of the justice of your remarks; and yet I have always looked upon Hortensius as a great orator, but especially when he pleaded for Messala, in the time of your absence."

"I have often heard of it," replied I, "and his oration, which was afterwards published, they say, in the very same words in which he delivered it, is no way inferior to the character you give it. Upon the whole, then, his reputation flourished from the year when Crassus was consul with Scaevola [95 B.C.] until the consulship of Paullus and Marcellus [50 B.C.]: and I held out in the same career of glory from the dictatorship of Sulla, to the period I have last mentioned. Thus the eloquence of Hortensius was extinguished by his own death, and mine by that of the commonwealth."

[329] L   "Give a more favourable omen, I beg of you," cried Brutus.

"As favourable as you please," said I, "and that not so much upon my own account, as yours. But his death was truly fortunate, who did not live to behold the miseries, which he had long foreseen. For we often lamented, between ourselves, the misfortunes which hung over the state, when we recognised the seeds of a civil war in the insatiable ambition of a few private citizens, and saw every hope of an accommodation excluded by the rashness and precipitancy of our public counsels. But the felicity which always marked his life, seems to have exempted him, by a seasonable death, from the calamities that followed. [330] But, as after the decease of Hortensius, we seem to have been left, my Brutus, as the sole guardians of an orphan eloquence, let us cherish her, within our own walls at least, with a generous fidelity: let us discourage the addresses of her worthless, and impertinent suitors; let us preserve her pure and unblemished in all her virgin charms, and secure her, to the utmost of our ability, from the lawless violence of every armed ruffian. I must own, however, though I am heartily grieved that I entered so late upon the road of life, as to be overtaken by a gloomy night of public distress, before I had finished my journey; that I am not a little relieved by the tender consolation which you administered to me in your very agreeable letters;- in which you tell me I ought to recollect my courage, since my past transactions are such as will speak for me when I am silent, and survive my death,- and such as, if the Gods permit, will bear an ample testimony to the prudence and integrity of my public counsels, by the final restoration of the republic:- or, if otherwise, by burying me in the ruins of my country.

[331] L   But when I look upon you, my Brutus, it fills me with anguish to reflect that, in the vigour of your youth, and when you were making the most rapid progress in the road to fame, your career was suddenly stopped by the fatal overthrow of the commonwealth. This unhappy circumstance has stung me to the heart; and not me only; but my worthy friend here, who has the same affection for you, and the same esteem for your merit which I have. We have the warmest wishes for your happiness, and heartily pray that you may reap the rewards of your excellent virtues, and live to find a republic in which you will be able, not only to revive, but even to add to the fame of your illustrious ancestors. For the forum was your birth-right, your native theatre of action; and you were the only person that entered it, who had not only formed his eloquence by a rigorous course of private practice, but enriched his oratory with the furniture of philosophy, and thus united the highest virtue to the most consummate eloquence. [332] Your situation, therefore, wounds us with the double anxiety, that you are deprived of the republic, and the republic of you.

But still continue, my Brutus, (notwithstanding the career of your genius has been checked by the rude shock of our public distresses) continue to pursue your favourite studies, and endeavour (what you have almost, or rather entirely effected already) to distinguish yourself from the general crowd of pleaders, with which I have filled the little history I have been giving you. For it would ill befit you, (richly furnished as you are with those liberal arts, which, unable to acquire at home, you imported from that celebrated city [Athens] which has always been revered as the seat of learning) to pass after all as an ordinary pleader. For to what purposes have you studied under Pammenes, the most eloquent man in Greece; or what advantage have you derived from the discipline of the Old Academy, and its successor Aristus (my guest, and very intimate acquaintance) if you still rank yourself in the common class of orators? [333] L   Have we not seen that a whole age could scarcely furnish two speakers who really excelled in their profession? Among a crowd of contemporaries, Galba, for instance, was the only orator of distinction: for old Cato (we are informed) was obliged to yield to his superior merit, as were likewise his two juniors Lepidus and Carbo. But, in a public harangue, the style of his successors the Gracchi was far more easy and lively: and yet, even in their time, the Roman eloquence had not reached its perfection. Afterwards came Antonius, and Crassus; and then Cotta, Sulpicius, Hortensius, and- but I say no more: I can only add, that if I had been so fortunate, . . . . .

{a few lines are missing at the end}


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