Cicero, De Oratore

-   Book 1 , 1-95

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.

{1.} [1] L   As I frequently contemplate and call to mind the times of old, those men in general seem to me, brother Quintus, to have been supremely happy, who, while they were distinguished with honours and the glory of their actions in the best days of the republic, were enabled to pursue such a course of life, that they could continue either in employment without danger, or in retirement with dignity. To myself, also, there was a time ** when I thought that a season for relaxation, and for turning my thoughts again to the noble studies once pursued by both of us, would be fairly allowable, and be conceded by almost every one; if the infinite labour of forensic business and the occupations of ambition should be brought to a close, either by the completion of my course of honours, ** or by the decline of age. [2] Such expectations, with regard to my studies and designs, not only the severe calamities resulting from public events, but a variety of our own private troubles, ** have disappointed. For in that period, ** which seemed likely to offer most quiet and tranquillity, the greatest pressures of trouble and the most turbulent storms arose. Nor to our wishes and earnest desires has the enjoyment of leisure been granted, to cultivate and revive between ourselves those studies to which we have from early youth been addicted. [3] For at our first entrance into life we fell amidst the disturbance ** of all ancient order; in my consulship we were involved in struggles and the hazard of everything; ** and all the time since that consulship we have had to make opposition to those waves which, prevented by my efforts from causing a general destruction, have abundantly recoiled upon myself. Yet amidst the difficulties of affairs, and the shortness of time. I shall endeavour to gratify my love of literature; and whatever leisure the malice of enemies, the legal cases of friends, or the public service will allow me, I shall chiefly devote to writing. [4] As to you, brother, I shall not fail to obey your exhortations and entreaties; for no person can have more influence with me than you have both by authority and affection.    

{2.} Here the recollection of an old tradition must be revived in my mind, a recollection not indeed sufficiently distinct, but adapted, I think, so far to reply to what you ask, that you may understand what opinions the most famous and eloquent men entertained respecting the whole art of oratory. [5] For you wish, as you have often said to me, (since what went abroad rough and incomplete ** from our own notebooks, when we were boys or young men, is scarcely worthy of my present standing in life, and that experience which I have gained from so many and such important cases as I have pleaded,) that something more polished and complete should be offered by me on the same subjects; and you are at times inclined to dissent from me in our disputations on this matter; inasmuch as I consider eloquence to be the offspring of the accomplishments of the most learned men; ** but you think it must be regarded as independent of elegant learning, and attributable to a peculiar kind of talent and practice.    

[6] L   Often, indeed, as I review in thought the greatest of mankind, and those endowed with the highest abilities, it has appeared to me worthy of inquiry what was the cause that a greater number of persons have been admirable in every other pursuit than in speaking. For whichever way you direct your view in thought and contemplation, you will see numbers excellent in every type, not only of the humble, but even of the highest arts. [7] Who, indeed, is there, that, if he would measure the qualifications of illustrious men, either by the usefulness or magnitude of their actions, would not prefer a general to an orator? Yet who doubts that we can produce, from this city alone, almost innumerable excellent commanders, while we can number scarcely a few eminent in speaking? [8] There have been many also in our own memory, and more in that of our fathers, and even of our forefathers, who had abilities to rule and govern affairs of state by their counsel and wisdom; while for a long period no tolerable orators were found, or scarcely one in every age. But lest any one should think that the art of speaking may more justly be compared with other pursuits, which depend upon abstruse studies, and a varied field of learning, than with the merits of a general, or the wisdom of a prudent senator, let him turn his thoughts to those particular sciences themselves, and contemplate who and how many have flourished in them, as he will thus be best enabled to judge how great a scarcity of orators there is and has ever been.    

{3.} [9] L   It does not escape your observation that what the Greeks call philosophy, is esteemed by the most learned men, the originator, as it were, and parent of all the arts which merit praise; philosophy, I say, in which it is difficult to enumerate how many distinguished men there have been, and of how great knowledge, variety, and comprehensiveness in their studies, men who have not confined their labours to one province separately, but have embraced whatever they could master either by scientific investigations, or by processes of reasoning. [10] Who is ignorant in how great obscurity of matter, in how abstruse, manifold, and subtle an art they who are called mathematicians are engaged? Yet in that pursuit so many men have arrived at excellence, that not one seems to have applied himself to the science in earnest without attaining in it whatever he desired. Who has ever devoted himself wholly to music; who has ever given himself up to the learning which they profess who are called grammarians, without grasping, in knowledge and understanding, the whole substance and matter of those sciences, though almost boundless? [11] Of all those who have engaged in the most liberal pursuits and departments of such sciences, I think I may truly say that a smaller number of eminent poets have arisen than of men distinguished in any other branch of literature; and in the whole multitude of the learned, among whom there rarely appears one of the highest excellence, there will be found, if you will but make a careful review of our own list and that of the Greeks, far fewer good orators than good poets. [12] This ought to seem the more wonderful, as attainments in other sciences are drawn from obscure and hidden springs; but the whole art of speaking lies before us, and is concerned with common usage and the custom and language of all men; so that while in other things that is most excellent which is most remote from the knowledge and understanding of the illiterate, it is in speaking even the greatest of faults to vary from the ordinary kind of language, and the practice sanctioned by universal reason.    

{4.} [13] L   Yet it cannot be said with truth, either that more are devoted to the other arts, or that they are excited by greater pleasure, more abundant hope, or more ample rewards; for to say nothing of Greece, which was always desirous to hold the first place in eloquence, and Athens, that inventress of all literature, in which the utmost power of oratory was both discovered and brought to perfection, in this very city of ours, assuredly, no studies were ever pursued with more earnestness than those tending to the acquisition of eloquence. [14] For when our empire over all nations was established, and after a period of peace had secured tranquillity, there was scarcely a youth ambitious of praise who did not think that he must strive, with all his endeavours, to attain the art of speaking. For a time, indeed, as being ignorant of all method, and as thinking there was no course of exercise for them, or any precepts of art, they attained what they could by the single force of genius and thought. But afterwards, having heard the Greek orators, and gained an acquaintance with Greek literature, and procured instructors, our countrymen were inflamed with an incredible passion for eloquence. [15] The magnitude, the variety, the multitude of all kind of cases, excited them to such a degree, that to that learning which each had acquired by his individual study, frequent practice, which was superior to the precepts of all masters, was at once added. There were then, as there are also now, the highest inducements offered for the cultivation of this study, in regard to public favour, wealth, and dignity. The abilities of our countrymen (as we may judge from many particulars,) far excelled those of the men of every other nation. [16] For which reasons, who would not justly wonder that in the records of all ages, times, and states, so small a number of orators should be found ?    

But the art of eloquence is something greater, and collected from more sciences and studies, than people imagine. {5.}  For who can suppose that, amid the greatest multitude of students, the utmost abundance of masters, the most eminent geniuses among men, the infinite variety of cases, the most ample rewards offered to eloquence, there is any other reason to be found for the small number of orators than the incredible magnitude and difficulty of the art? [17] A knowledge of a vast number of things is necessary, without which volubility of words is empty and ridiculous; speech itself is to be formed, not merely by choice, but by careful construction of words; and all the emotions of the mind, which nature has given to man, must be intimately known; for all the force and art of speaking must be employed in allaying or exciting the feelings of those who listen. To this must be added a certain portion of grace and wit, learning worthy of a well-bred man, and quickness and brevity in replying as well as attacking, accompanied with a refined decorum and urbanity. [18] Besides, the whole of antiquity and a multitude of examples is to be kept in the memory; nor is the knowledge of laws in general, or of the civil law in particular, to be neglected. And why need I add any remarks on delivery itself, which is to be ordered by action of body, by gesture, by look, and by modulation and variation of the voice, the great power of which, alone and in itself, the comparatively trivial art of actors and the stage proves, on which though all bestow their utmost labour to form their look, voice, and gesture, who knows not how few there are, and have ever been, to whom we can attend with, patience ? What can I say of that repository for all things, the memory, which, unless it be made the keeper of the matter and words that are the fruits of thought and invention, all the talents of the orator, we see, though they be of the highest degree of excellence, will be of no avail? [19] Let us then cease to wonder what is the cause of the scarcity of good speakers, since eloquence results from all those qualifications, in each of which singly it is a great merit to labour successfully; and let us rather exhort our children, and others whose glory and honour is dear to us, to contemplate in their minds the full magnitude of the object, and not to trust that they can reach the height at which they aim, by the aid of the precepts, masters, and exercises that they are all now following, but to understand that they must adopt others of a different character.    

{6.} [20] L   In my opinion, indeed, no man can be an orator possessed of every praiseworthy accomplishment, unless he has attained the knowledge of everything important, and of all liberal arts, for his language must be ornate and copious from knowledge, since, unless there be beneath the surface matter understood and felt by the speaker, oratory becomes an empty and almost puerile flow of words. [21] Yet I will not lay so great a burden upon orators, especially our own, amid so many occupations of public and private life, as to think it allowable for them to be ignorant of nothing; although the qualifications of an orator, and his very profession of speaking well, seem to undertake and promise that he can discourse gracefully and copiously on whatever subject is proposed to him. [22] But because this, I doubt not, will appear to most people an immense and infinite undertaking, and because I see that the Greeks, men amply endowed not only with genius and learning, but also with leisure and application, have made a kind of partition of the arts, and have not singly laboured in the whole circle of oratory, but have separated from the other parts of rhetoric that department of eloquence which is used in the forum on trials or in deliberations, and have left this species only to the orator; I shall not embrace in these books more than has been attributed to this kind of speaking ** by the almost unanimous consent of the greatest men, after much examination and discussion of the subject; [23] and I shall repeat, not a series of precepts drawn from the infancy of our old and boyish learning, but matters which I have heard were formerly argued in a discussion among some of our countrymen who were of the highest eloquence, and of the first rank in every kind of dignity. Not that I despise the instructions which the Greek rhetoricians and teachers have left as, but, as they are already public, and within the reach of all, and can neither be set forth more elegantly, nor explained more clearly by my interpretation, you will, I think, excuse me, my brother, if I prefer to the Greeks the authority of those to whom the utmost merit in eloquence has been allowed by our own countrymen.    

{7.} [24] L   At the time, then, when the consul Philippus was vehemently inveighing against the cause of the nobility, and the tribuneship of Drusus, undertaken to support the authority of the senate, seemed to be shaken and weakened, I was told, I remember, that Lucius Crassus, as if for the purpose of collecting his thoughts, betook himself, during the days of the Ludi Romani, to his Tusculan country-seat, whither also Quintus Mucius, who had been his father-in-law, is said to have come at the same time, as well as Marcus Antonius, a sharer in all the political enterprises of Crassus, and united in the closest friendship with him. [25] There went out with Crassus himself two young men besides, great friends of Drusus, youths of whom our ancestors then entertained sanguine hopes that they would maintain the dignity of their order; Gaius Cotta, who was then a candidate to be tribune of the people, and Publius Sulpicius, who was thought likely to stand for that office in due course. [26] These, on the first day, conferred much together until very late in the evening, concerning the condition of those times, and the whole commonwealth, for which purpose they had met. Cotta repeated to me many things then prophetically lamented and noticed by the three men of consular dignity in that conversation; so that no misfortune afterwards happened to the state which they had not perceived to be hanging over it so long before; [27] and he said that, when this conversation was finished, there was such politeness shown by Crassus, that after they had bathed and sat down to table, all the seriousness of the former discourse was banished; and there appeared so much pleasantry in him, and so much agreeableness in his humour that though the early part of the day might seem to have been passed by them in the senate-house, the banquet showed all the delights of the Tusculan villa.    

[28] L   But on the next day, when the older part of the group had taken sufficient rest, and were come to their walk, he told me that Scaevola, after taking two or three turns, said, "Why should not we, Crassus, imitate Socrates in the Phaedrus of Plato ? ** for this plane-tree of yours has put me in mind of it, which diffuses its spreading boughs to overshade this place, not less widely than that did whose cover Socrates sought, and which seems to me to have grown not so much from the rivulet which is described, as from the language of Plato: and what Socrates, with the hardest of feet, used to do, that is, to throw himself on the grass, while he delivered those sentiments which philosophers say were uttered divinely, may surely, with more justice, be allowed to my feet." [29] Then Crassus replied, "Nay, we will yet further consult your convenience," and called for cushions; when they all, said Cotta, sat down on the seats that were under the plane-tree.    

{8.}  There, (as Cotta used to relate,) in order that the minds of them all might have some relaxation from their former discourse, Crassus introduced a conversation on the study of oratory. [30] After he had commenced in this manner, saying that indeed Sulpicius and Cotta did not seem to need his exhortations, but rather both to deserve his praise, as they had already attained such powers as not only to excel their equals in age, but to be admitted to a comparison with their seniors; "Nor does anything seem to me," he added, "more noble than to be able to fix the attention of assemblies of men by speaking, to fascinate their minds, to direct their passions to whatever object the orator pleases, and to dissuade them from whatsoever he desires. This particular art has constantly flourished above all others in every free state, and especially in those which have enjoyed peace and tranquillity, and has ever exercised great power. [31] For what is so admirable as that, out of an infinite multitude of men, there should arise a single individual, who can alone, or with only a few others, exert effectually that power which nature has granted to all ? Or what is so pleasant to be heard and understood as an oration adorned and polished with wise thoughts and weighty expressions? Or what is so striking, so astonishing, as that the tumults of the people, the religious feelings of judges, the gravity of the senate, should be swayed by the speech of one man? [32] Or what, moreover, is so kingly, so liberal, so munificent, as to give assistance to the suppliant, to raise the afflicted, to bestow security, to deliver from dangers, to maintain men in the rights of citizenship? What, also, is so necessary as to keep arms always ready, with which you may either be protected yourself, or defy the malicious, or avenge yourself when provoked? Or consider, (that you may not always contemplate the forum, the benches, the rostra, and the senate,) what can be more delightful in leisure, or more suited to social intercourse, than elegant conversation, betraying no want of intelligence on any subject? For it is by this one gift that we are most distinguished from brute animals, that we converse together, and can express our thoughts by speech. [33] Who therefore would not justly make this an object of admiration, and think it worthy of his utmost exertions, to surpass mankind themselves in that single excellence by which they claim their superiority over brutes? But, that we may notice the most important point of all, what other power could either have assembled mankind, when dispersed, into one place, or have brought them from wild and savage life to the present humane and civilized state of society; or, when cities were established, have described for them laws, judicial institutions, and rights? [34] And that I may not mention more examples, which are almost without number, I will conclude the subject in one short sentence: for I consider, that by the judgment and wisdom of the perfect orator, not only his own honour, but that of many other individuals, and the welfare of the whole state, are principally upheld. Go on, therefore, as you are doing, young men, and apply earnestly to the study in which you are engaged, that you may be an honour to yourselves, an advantage to your friends, and a benefit to the republic."    

{9.} [35] L   Scaevola then observed with courtesy, as was always his manner, "I agree with Crassus as to other points (that I may not detract from the art or glory of Laelius, my father-in-law, or of my son-in-law here), ** but I am afraid, Crassus, that I cannot grant you these two points; one, that states were, as you said, originally established, and have often been preserved, by orators; the other, that, setting aside the forum, the assemblies of the people, the courts of judicature, and the senate-house, the orator is, as you pronounced, accomplished in every subject of conversation and learning. [36] For who will concede to you, either that mankind, dispersed originally in mountains and woods, enclosed themselves in towns and walls, not so much from being convinced by the counsels of the wise, as from being charmed by the speeches of the eloquent? Or that other advantages, arising either from the establishment or preservation of states, were settled, not by wise and brave men, but by fluent and elegant speakers? [37] Does Romulus seem to you to have assembled the shepherds, and those that flocked to him from all parts, or to have formed marriages with the Sabines, or to have repelled the power of the neighbouring people, by eloquence, and not by counsel and eminent wisdom ? Is there any trace of eloquence apparent in Numa Pompilius, in Servius Tullius, or in the rest of our kings, from whom we have many excellent regulations for maintaining our government? After the kings were expelled (though we see that their expulsion was effected by the mind of Lucius Brutus, and not by his tongue), do we not perceive that all the subsequent transactions are full of wise counsel, but destitute of all mixture of eloquence? [38] But if I should be inclined to adduce examples from our own and other states, I could cite more instances of mischief than of benefit done to public affairs by men of eminent eloquence; but, to omit others, I think, Crassus, that the most eloquent men I ever heard, except you two, ** were the Sempronii, Tiberius and Gaius, whose father { Gracchus }, a prudent and grave man, but by no means eloquent, on several other occasions, but especially when censor, was of the utmost service to the republic; and he, not by any faultless flow of speech, but by a word and a nod, transferred the freedmen into the city tribes; ** and, if he had not done so, we should now have no republic, which we still maintain with difficulty; but his sons, who were eloquent, and qualified for speaking by all the helps of nature and of learning, having found the state in a most flourishing condition, both through the counsels of their father, and the arms of their ancestors, brought their country, by means of their oratory, that most excellent ruler of states as you call it, to the verge of ruin.    

{10.} [39] L   "Were our ancient laws, and the customs of our ancestors; were the auspices, over which you, Crassus, and I preside with great security to the republic; were the religious rites and ceremonies; were the civil laws, the knowledge of which has long prevailed in our family, (and without any praise for eloquence,) either invented, or understood, or in any way ordered by the tribe of orators? [40] I can remember that Servius Galba, a man of godlike power in speaking, as well as Marcus Aemilius Porcina, and Gnaeus Carbo himself, whom you defeated when you were but a youth, ** was ignorant of the laws, at a loss in the practices of our ancestors, and unlearned in civil jurisprudence; and, except you, Crassus, who, rather from your own inclination to study, than because it was any peculiar business of an orator, have learned the civil law from us, as I am sometimes ashamed to say, this generation of ours is ignorant of law.    

[41] L   "But what you assumed, as by a law of your own, in the last part of your speech, that an orator is able to speak fluently on any subject, I would not, if I were not here in your own estate, tolerate for a moment, but would head a party who should either oppose you by an interdict, ** or summon you to contend with them at law, for having so unceremoniously invaded the possessions of others. [42] In the first place, all the Pythagoreans, and the followers of Democritus, would institute a suit against you, with the rest of the natural philosophers, each in his own department, men who are elegant and powerful speakers, with whom you could not contend on equal terms. ** Whole troops of other philosophers would assail you besides, even down from Socrates their origin and head, and would convince you that you had learned nothing about good and evil in life, nothing about the passions of the mind, nothing about the moral conduct of mankind, nothing about the proper course of life; they would show you that you have made no due inquiry after knowledge, and that you know nothing; and, when they had made an attack upon you altogether, then every sect would bring its separate action against you. [43] The Academy would press you, and, whatever you asserted, force you to deny it. Our friends the Stoics would hold you entangled in the snares of their disputatious and questions. The Peripatetics would prove that those very aids and ornaments to speaking, which you consider the peculiar property of the orators, must be sought from themselves; and they would show you that Aristotle and Theophrastus have written not only better, but also far more copiously, on these subjects, than all the masters of the art of speaking. [44] I say nothing of the mathematicians, the grammarians, the musicians, with whose sciences this art of speaking of yours is not connected by the least affinity. I think, therefore, Crassus, that such great and numerous professions ought not to be made. What you can effect is sufficiently great; namely, that in judicial matters the case which you plead shall seem the better and more probable; that in public assemblies, and in delivering opinions, your oratory shall have the most power to persuade; that, finally, you shall seem to the wise to speak with eloquence, and even to the simple to speak with truth. If you can do more than this, it will appear to me that it is not the orator, but Crassus himself that effects it by the force of talents peculiar to himself, and not common to other orators."    

{11.} [45] L   Crassus then replied, "I am not ignorant, Scaevola, that things of this sort are commonly asserted and maintained among the Greeks; for I listened to their greatest men, when I came to Athens as quaestor from Macedonia, ** and when the Academy was in a flourishing state, as it was represented in those days, for Charmadas, and Clitomachus, and Aeschines were in possession of it. There was also Metrodorus, who, with the others, had been a diligent hearer of the famous Carneades himself, a man beyond all others, as they told me, a most spirited and copious speaker. Mnesarchus, too, was in great esteem, a hearer of your friend Panaetius, and Diodorus, a pupil of Critolaus the Peripatetic; [46] and there were many other famous men besides, highly distinguished in philosophy, by all of whom, as if with one voice, as I observed, the orator was repelled from the government of states, excluded from all learning and knowledge of great affairs, and degraded and thrust down into the courts of justice and petty assemblies, as into a workshop. [47] But I neither assented to those men, nor to the originator of these disputations, and by far the most eloquent of them all, the eminently grave and oratorical  Plato; whose Gorgias I then diligently read over at Athens with Charmadas; from which book I conceived the highest admiration of Plato, as he seemed to me to prove himself an eminent orator, even in ridiculing orators. A controversy indeed on the word orator has long disturbed the pedantic Greeks, who are fonder of argument than of truth. [48] For if any one pronounces him to be an orator who can speak fluently only on law in general, or on judicial questions, or before the people, or in the senate, he must yet necessarily grant and allow him a variety of talents; for he cannot treat even of these matters with sufficient skill and accuracy without great attention to all public affairs, nor without a knowledge of laws, customs, and equity, nor without understanding the nature and manners of mankind; and to him who knows these things, without which no one can maintain even the most minute points in judicial pleadings, how much is wanting of the knowledge even of the most important affairs? But if you allow nothing to belong to the orator but to speak aptly, ornately, and copiously, how can he even attain these qualities without that knowledge which you do not allow him? for there can be no true merit in speaking, unless what is said is thoroughly understood by him who says it. [49] If, therefore, the natural philosopher Democritus spoke with elegance, as he is reported to have spoken, and as it appears to me that he did speak, the matter on which he spoke belonged to the philosopher, but the graceful array of words is to be ascribed to the orator. And if Plato spoke divinely upon subjects most remote from civil controversies, as I grant that he did; if also  Aristotle, and Theophrastus, and Carneades, were eloquent, and spoke with sweetness and grace on those matters which they discussed; let the subjects on which they spoke belong to other studies, but their speech itself, surely, is the peculiar offspring of that art of which we are now discoursing and inquiring. [50] For we see that some have reasoned on the same subjects plainly and drily, as Chrysippus, whom they celebrate as the acutest of philosophers; nor is he on this account to be thought to have been deficient in philosophy, because he did not gain the talent of speaking from an art which is foreign to philosophy.    

{12.} "Where then lies the difference? ** Or by what term will you discriminate the fertility and copiousness of speech in those whom I have named, from the barrenness of those who use not this variety and elegance of phrase? One thing there will certainly be, which those who speak well will exhibit as their own; a graceful and elegant style, distinguished by a peculiar artifice and polish. But this kind of diction, if there be not matter beneath it clear and intelligible to the speaker, must either amount to nothing, or be received with ridicule by all who hear it. [51] For what savours so much of madness, as the empty sound of words, even the choicest and most elegant, when there is no sense or knowledge contained in them? Whatever be the subject of a speech, therefore, in whatever art or branch of science, the orator, if he has made himself master of it, as of his client's case, will speak on it better and more elegantly than even the very originator and author of it can. [52] If indeed any one shall say that there are certain trains of thought and reasoning properly belonging to orators, and a knowledge of certain things circumscribed within the limits of the forum, I will confess that our common speech is employed about these matters chiefly; but yet there are many things, in these very topics, which those masters of rhetoric, as they are called, neither teach nor understand. [53] For who is ignorant that the highest power of an orator consists in exciting the minds of men to anger, or to hatred, or to grief, or in recalling them from these more violent emotions to gentleness and compassion? which power will never be able to effect its object by eloquence, unless in him who has obtained a thorough insight into the nature of mankind, and all the passions of humanity, and those causes by which our minds are either impelled or restrained. [54] But all these are thought to belong to the philosophers, nor will the orator, at least with my consent, ever deny that such is the case; but when he has conceded to them the knowledge of things, since they are willing to exhaust their labours on that alone, he will assume to himself the treatment of oratory, which without that knowledge is nothing. For the proper concern of an orator, as I have already often said, is language of power and elegance accommodated to the feelings and understandings of mankind.    

{13.} [55] L   "On these matters I confess that Aristotle and Theophrastus have written. ** But consider, Scaevola, whether this is not wholly in my favour. For I do not borrow from them what the orator possesses in common with them; but they allow that what they say on these subjects belongs to oratory. Their other treatises, accordingly, they distinguish by the name of the science on which each is written; their treatises on oratory they entitle and designate as books of rhetoric. [56] For when, in their discussions, (as often happens,) such topics present themselves as require them to speak of the immortal gods, of piety, of concord, of friendship, of the common rights of their fellow-citizens, or those of all mankind, of the law of nations, of equity, of temperance, of greatness of mind, of every kind of virtue, all the academies and schools of philosophy, I imagine, will cry out that all these subjects are their property, and that no particle of them belongs to the orator. [57] But when I have given them liberty to reason on all these subjects in corners to amuse their leisure, I shall give and assign to the orator his part, which is, to set forth with full power and attraction the very same topics which they discuss in such tame and bloodless phraseology. These points I then discussed with the philosophers in person at Athens, for Marcus Marcellus, our countryman, who is now curule aedile, obliged me to do so, and he would certainly have taken part in our present conversation, were he not now celebrating the public games; for he was then a youth marvellously given to these studies.    

[58] L   "Of the institution of laws, of war, of peace, of alliances, of tributes, of the civil law as relating to various ranks and ages respectively, ** let the Greeks say, if they will, that Lycurgus or Solon (although I think that these should be enrolled in the number of the eloquent) had more knowledge than Hypereides or Demosthenes, men of the highest accomplishments and refinement in oratory; or let our countrymen prefer, in this sort of knowledge, the decemviri who wrote the Twelve Tables, and who must have been wise men, to Servius Galba, and your father-in-law Laelius, who are allowed to have excelled in the glorious art of speaking. [59] I, indeed, shall never deny that there are some sciences peculiarly well understood by those who have applied their whole study to the knowledge and consideration of them; but the accomplished and complete orator I shall call him who can speak on all subjects with variety and copiousness. {14.} For often in those cases which all acknowledge properly to belong to orators, there is something to be drawn forth and adopted, not from the routine of the forum, which is the only knowledge that you grant to the orator, but from some of the more obscure sciences. [60] I ask whether a speech can be made for or against a general, without an acquaintance with military affairs, or often without a knowledge of certain inland and maritime countries ? whether a speech can be made to the people about passing or rejecting laws, or in the senate on any kind of public transactions, without the greatest knowledge and judgment in political matters? whether a speech can be adapted to excite or calm the thoughts and passions (which alone is a great business of the orator) without a most diligent examination of all those doctrines which are set forth on the nature and manners of men by the philosophers? [61] I do not know whether I may not be less successful in maintaining what I am going to say; but I shall not hesitate to speak that which I think. Physics, and mathematics, and those other things which you just now decided to belong to other sciences, belong to the peculiar knowledge of those who profess them; but if any one would illustrate those arts by eloquence, he must have recourse to the power of oratory. [62] Nor, if, as is said, Philon, ** the famous architect, who built an arsenal for the Athenians, gave that people an eloquent account of his work, is it to be imagined that his eloquence proceeded from the art of the architect, but from that of the orator. Or, if our friend Marcus Antonius had had to speak for Hermodorus ** on the subject of dock-building, he would have spoken, when he had learned the case from Hermodorus, with elegance and copiousness, drawn, from an art quite unconnected with dock-building. And Asclepiades, ** whom we knew as a physician and a friend, did not, when he excelled others of his profession in eloquence, employ, in his graceful elocution, the art of medicine, but that of oratory. [63] What Socrates used to say, that all men are sufficiently eloquent in that which they understand, is very plausible, but not true. It would have been nearer truth to say, that no man can be eloquent on a subject that he doers not understand; and that, if he understands a subject ever so well, but is ignorant how to form and polish his speech, he cannot express himself eloquently even about what he does understand.    

{15.} [64] L   "If, therefore, any one desires to define and comprehend the whole and peculiar power of an orator, that man, in my opinion, will be an orator, worthy of so great a name, who, whatever subject comes before him, and requires rhetorical elucidation, can speak on it judiciously, in set form, elegantly, and from memory, and with a certain dignity of action. [65] But if the phrase which I have used, 'on whatever subject,' is thought by any one too comprehensive, let him retrench and curtail as much of it as he pleases; but this I will maintain, that though the orator be ignorant of what belongs to other arts and pursuits, and understands only what concerns the discussions and practice of the forum, yet if he has to speak on those arts, he will, when he has learned what pertains to any of them from persons who understand them, discourse upon them much better than the very persons who have those arts as their particular province. [66] Thus, if our friend Sulpicius will have to speak on military affairs, he will inquire about them of my kinsman Gaius Marius, ** and when he has received information, will speak upon them in such a manner, that he shall seem to Marius to understand them better than himself. Or if he has to speak on the civil law, he will consult with you, and will excel you, though eminently wise and learned in it, in speaking on those very points which he shall have learned from yourself. [67] Or if any subject presents itself, requiring him to speak on the nature and vices of men, on desire, on moderation, on continence, on grief, on death, perhaps, if he thinks proper, (though the orator ought to have a knowledge of these things.) he will consult with Sextus Pompeius, ** a man learned in philosophy. But this he will certainly accomplish, that, of whatever matter he gains a knowledge, or from whomsoever, he will speak upon it much more elegantly than the very person from whom he gained the knowledge. [68] But, since philosophy is distinguished into three parts, inquiries into the obscurities of physics, the subtleties of logic, and the knowledge of life and manners, let us, if Sulpicius will listen to me, leave the two former, and relax; but unless we have a knowledge of the third, which has always been the province of the orator, we shall, leave him nothing in which he can distinguish himself. [69] The part of philosophy, therefore, regarding life and manners, must be thoroughly mastered by the orator; other subjects, even if he has not learned them, he will be able, whenever there is occasion, to adorn by his eloquence, if they are brought before him and made known to him.    

{16.} "For if it is allowed amongst the learned that Aratus, a man ignorant of astronomy, has treated of heaven and the constellations in extremely polished and excellent verses; if Nicander, ** of Colophon, a man totally unconnected with the country, has written well on rural affairs, with the aid of poetical talent, and not from understanding husbandry, what reason is there why an orator should not speak most eloquently on those matters of which he shall have gained a knowledge for a certain purpose and occasion? [70] For the poet is nearly allied to the orator; being somewhat more restricted in numbers, but less restrained in the choice of words, yet in many kinds of embellishment his rival and almost equal; in one respect, assuredly, nearly the same, that he circumscribes or bounds his realm by no limits, but reserves to himself full right to range wherever he pleases with the same ease and liberty. [71] For why did you say, Scaevola, ** that you would not endure, unless you were in my estate, my assertion, that the orator ought to be accomplished in every style of speaking, and in every part of polite learning? I should certainly not have said this if I had thought myself to be the orator whom I conceive in my imagination. [72] But, as Gaius Lucilius used frequently to say (a man not very friendly to you, ** and on that account less close to me than he could wish, but a man of learning and good breeding), I am of this opinion, that no one is to be numbered among orators who is not thoroughly accomplished in all branches of knowledge requisite for a man of good breeding; and though we may not put forward such knowledge in conversation, yet it is apparent, and indeed evident, whether we are destitute of it, or have acquired it; [73] as those who play ball-games do not exhibit, in playing, the gestures of the palaestra, but their movements indicate whether they have learned those exercises or are unacquainted with them; and as those who shape out anything, though they do not then exercise the art of painting, yet make it clear whether they can paint or not; so in orations to courts of justice, before the people, and in the senate, although other sciences have no peculiar place in them, yet is it easily proved whether he who speaks has only been exercised in the parade of declamation, or has devoted himself to oratory after having been instructed in all liberal knowledge."    

{17.} [74] L   Then Scaevola, smiling, said: "I will not struggle with you any longer, Crassus; for you have, by some artifice, made good what you asserted against me, so as to grant me whatever I refused to allow to the orator, and yet so as to wrest from me those very things again I know not how, and to transfer them to the orator as his property. ** [75] When I went as praetor to Rhodes, and communicated to Apollonius, that famous instructor in this profession, what I had learned from Panaetius, Apollonius, as was his manner, ridiculed these matters, ** threw contempt upon philosophy, and made many other observations with less wisdom than wit; but your remarks were of such a kind as not to express contempt for any arts or sciences, but to admit that they are all attendants and handmaids of the orator; [76] and if ever any one should comprehend them all, and the same person should add to that knowledge the powers of supremely elegant oratory, I cannot but say that he would be a man of high distinction and worthy of the greatest admiration. But if there should be such a one, or indeed has ever been, or can possibly be, you alone would be the person; who, not only in my judgment, but in that of all men, have hardly left to other orators (I speak it with deference to this company) any glory to be acquired. [77] If, however, there is in yourself no deficiency of knowledge pertaining to judicial and political affairs, and yet you have not mastered all that additional learning which you assign to the complete orator, let us consider whether you do not attribute to him more than possibility and truth itself will allow." [78] Here Crassus responded: "Remember that I have not been speaking of my own talents, but of those of the true orator. For what have I either learned or had a possibility of knowing, who entered upon pleading before I had any instruction; whom the pressure of business overtasked amidst the occupations of the forum, of canvassing, of public affairs, and the management of the cases of friends, before I could form any true notion of the importance of such great employments? [79] But if there seem to you to be so much in me, to whom, though capacity, as you think, may not greatly have been wanting, yet to whom learning, leisure, and that keen application to study which is so necessary, have certainly been wanting, what do you think would be the case if those acquirements, which I have not gained, should be united to some greater genius than mine? How able, how great an orator, do you think, would he prove?"    

{18.} [80] L   Antonius then observed: "You prove to me, Crassus, what you propose; nor do I doubt that he will have a far greater fund of eloquence who shall have learned the reason and nature of everything and of all sciences. [81] But, in the first place, this is difficult to be achieved, especially in such a life as ours and such occupations; and next, it is to be feared that we may, by such studies, be drawn away from our exercise and practice of speaking before the people and in the forum. The eloquence of those men whom you mentioned a little before, seems to me to be of a quite different sort, though they speak with grace and dignity, as well on the nature of things as on human life. Theirs is a neat and florid kind of language, but more adapted for parade and exercise in the schools, than for these tumults of the city and forum. [82] For when I, who late in life, and then but lightly, touched upon Greek learning, was going as proconsul into Cilicia, and had arrived at Athens, I waited there several days on account of the difficulty of sailing; and as I had every day with me the most learned men, nearly the same that you have just now named, and a report, I know not how, had spread amongst them that I, like you, was involved in cases of great importance, every one, according to his abilities, took occasion to discourse upon the office and art of in orator. [83] Some of them, as Mnesarchus himself, said, that those whom we call orators were nothing but a set of mechanics with glib and well-practised tongues, but that no one could be an orator but a man of true wisdom; and that eloquence itself, as it consisted in the art of speaking well, was a kind of virtue, ** and that he who possessed one virtue possessed all, and that virtues were in themselves equal and alike; and thus he who was eloquent possessed all virtues, and was a man of true wisdom. But their phraseology was intricate and dry, and quite unsuited to my taste. [84] Charmadas indeed spoke much more diffusely on those topics; not that he delivered his own opinion (for it is the hereditary custom of every one in the Academy to take the part of opponents to all in their disputations), but what he chiefly signified was, that those who were called rhetoricians, and laid down rules for the art of speaking, understood nothing; and that no man could attain any command of eloquence who had not mastered the doctrines of the philosophers.    

{19.} [85] L   "Certain men of eloquence at Athens, versed in public affairs and judicial pleadings, disputed on the other side; among whom was Menedemus, lately my guest at Rome; but when he had observed that there is a sort of wisdom which is employed in inquiring into the methods of settling and managing governments, he, though a ready speaker, was promptly attacked by the other, ** a man of abundant learning, and of an almost incredible variety and copiousness of argument; who maintained that every portion of such wisdom must be derived from philosophy, and that whatever was established in a state concerning the immortal gods, the discipline of youth, justice, patience, temperance, moderation in everything, and other matters, without which states would either not subsist at all, or be corrupt in morals, was nowhere to be found in the petty treatises of the rhetoricians. [86] For if those teachers of rhetoric included in their art such a multitude of the most important subjects, why, he asked, were their books crammed with rules about proems and perorations, and such trifles (for so he called them), while about the modelling of states, the composition of laws, about equity, justice, integrity, about mastering the appetites, and forming the morals of mankind, not one single syllable was to be found in their pages? [87] Their precepts he ridiculed in such a manner, as to show that the teachers were not only destitute of the knowledge which they arrogated to themselves, but that they did not even know the proper art and method of speaking; for he thought that the principal business of an orator was, that he might appear to those to whom he spoke to be such as he would wish to appear (that this was to be attained by a life of good reputation, on which those teachers of rhetoric had laid down nothing in their precepts); and that the minds of the audience should be affected in such a manner as the orator would have them to be affected, an object, also, which could by no means be attained, unless the speaker understood by what methods, by what arguments, and by what sort of language the minds of men are moved in any particular direction; but that these matters were involved and concealed in the profoundest doctrines of philosophy, which these rhetoricians had not touched even with the extremity of their lips. [88] These assertions Menedemus endeavoured to refute, but rather by authorities than by arguments; for, repeating from memory many noble passages from the orations of Demosthenes, he showed that that orator, while he swayed the minds of judges or of the people by his eloquence, was not ignorant by what means he attained his end, which Charmadas denied that any one could know without philosophy.    

{20.} [89] L   "To this Charmadas replied, that he did not deny that Demosthenes was possessed of consummate ability and the utmost energy of eloquence; but whether he had these powers from natural genius, or because, as was acknowledged, he diligently listened to the teachings of Plato, it was not what Demosthenes could do, but what the rhetoricians taught, that was the subject of inquiry. [90] Sometimes too he was carried so far by the drift of his discourse, as to maintain that there was no art at all in speaking; and having shown by various arguments that we are so formed by nature as to be able to flatter, and to insinuate ourselves, as suppliants, into the favour of those from whom we wish to obtain anything, as well as to terrify our enemies by menaces, to relate matters of fact, to confirm what we assert, to refute what is said against us, and, finally, to use entreaty or lamentation; particulars in which the whole faculties of the orator are employed; and that practice and exercise sharpened the understanding, and produced fluency of speech, he rested his argument, in conclusion, on a multitude of examples that he adduced; [91] for first, as if stating an indisputable fact, ** he affirmed that no writer on the art of rhetoric was ever even moderately eloquent, going back as far as some men called Corax and Tisias, ** who, he said, appeared to be the inventors and first authors of rhetorical science; and then named a vast number of the most eloquent men who had neither learned, nor cared to understand the rules of art, and amongst whom, (whether in jest, or because he thought, or had heard something to that effect,) he instanced me as one who had received none of their instructions, and yet, as he said, had some abilities as a speaker; of which two observations I readily granted the truth of one, that I had never been instructed, but thought that in the other he was either joking with me, or was under some mistake. [92] But he denied there was any art, except such as lay in things that were known and thoroughly understood, things tending to the same object, and never misleading; but that everything treated by the orators was doubtful and uncertain; as it was uttered by those who did not fully understand it, and was heard by them to whom knowledge was not meant to be communicated, but merely false, or at least obscure notions, intended to live in their minds only for a short time. [93] In short, he seemed bent on convincing me that there was no art of speaking, and that no one could speak skilfully, or so as fully to illustrate a subject, but one who had attained that knowledge which is delivered by the most learned of the philosophers. On which occasions Charmadas used to say, with a passionate admiration of your genius, Crassus, that I appeared to him very easy in listening, and you most pertinacious in disputation.    

{21.} [94] L   "Then it was that I, swayed by this opinion, remarked in a little treatise ** which got circulated, and into people's hands, without my knowledge and against my will, that I had known many good speakers, but never yet any one that was truly eloquent; for I accounted him a good speaker, who could express his thoughts with accuracy and perspicuity, according to the ordinary judgment of mankind, before an audience of moderate capacity; but I considered him alone eloquent, who could in a more admirable and noble manner amplify and adorn whatever subjects he chose, and who embraced in thought and memory all the principles of everything relating to oratory. This, though it may be difficult to us, who, before we begin to speak in public, are overwhelmed by canvassings for office and by the business of the forum, is yet within the range of possibility and the powers of nature. [95] For I, as far as I can divine by conjecture, and as far as I can estimate the abilities of our countrymen, do not despair that there may arise at some time or other a person, who, when, with a keener devotion to study than we feel, or have ever felt, with more leisure, with better and more mature talent for learning, and with superior labour and industry, he shall have given himself up to hearing, reading, and writing, may become such an orator as we desire to see, one who may justly be called not only a good speaker, but truly eloquent; and such a character, in my opinion, is our friend Crassus, or some one, if such ever was, of equal genius, who, having heard, read, and written more than Crassus, shall be able to make some little addition to it."   

Following sections (96-184)


(1)   After his consulship, 63 B.C., in the forty-fourth year of his age. 

(2)   There was a certain course of honours through which the Romans passed. After attaining the quaestorship, they aspired to the aedileship, and then to the praetorship and consulate. Cicero was augur, quaestor, aedile, praetor, consul, and proconsul of Asia. Proust. 

(3)   He refers to his exile, and the proposed union between Caesar and Pompey to make themselves masters of the whole commonwealth, a matter to which he was unwilling to allude more plainly. Ellendt. 

(4)   Qui locus. Quae vitae pars. Proust. 

(5)   The civil wars of Marius and Sulla. Ellendt. 

(6)   Alluding to the conspiracy of Catiline. 

(7)   The two books De Inventione Rhetorica. 

(8)   Prudentissimorum. Equivalent to doctissimorum. Pearce. Some manuscripts have eruditissimorum. 

(9)   Deliberative and judicial oratory; omitting the epideictic or demonstrative kind. 

(10)   P. 229. Compare Ruhnken ad Lex. Timaei, v. amphilaphes, and Manutius ad Cic. Div. ii. 11, p. 254. Cicero aptly refers to that dialogue of Plato, because much is said about eloquence in it. The plane-tree was greatly admired by the Romans for its wide-spreading shade. See I. H. Vossius ad Virg. Georg. ii. 70; Plin. H. N. xii. 1; xvii, 15; Hor. Od. ii. 15. 5; Gronov. Obss. i. 5. Ellendt. 

(11)   Crassus. 

(12)   Crassus and Antonius. 

(13)   Livy, xlv. 15, says that the freedmen were previously dispersed among all the four city tribes, and that Gracchus included them all in the Esquiline tribe. The object was to allow the freedmen as little influence as possible in voting. 

(14)   Gaius Papirius Carbo, after having been a very seditious tribune, went over in his consulship to the side of the patricians, and highly extolled Lucius Opimius for killing Gaius Gracchus. But, at the expiration of his consulship, being impeached by Crassus, on what grounds we do not know, he put himself to death. Cic. Orat. iii. 20, 74; Brut. 27, 103. Ellendt. 

(15)   An edict of the praetor forbidding something to be done, in contradistinction to a decree, which ordered something to be done. Ellendt refers to Gaius, iv. 139, 160. 

(16)   Iusto sacramento. The sacramentum was a deposit of a certain sum of money laid down by two parties who were going to law; and when the decision was made, the victorious party received his money back, while that of the defeated party went into the public treasury Varro, L. L. v. 180. 

(17)   Crassus was quaestor in Asia, 109 B.C., and, on his return, at the expiration of his office, passed through Macedonia. Ellendt. 

(18)   See Quintilian, ii. 21. 

(19)   Though they are philosophers, and not orators or rhetoricians. 

(20)   De iure civili generatim in ordines aetatesque descripto. Instead of civili, the old reading was civium, in accordance with which Lambinus altered descripto into descriptorum. Civili was an innovation of Ernesti, which Ellendt condemns, and retains civium; observing that Cicero means iura civium publica singulis ordinibus et aetatibus assignata. 'By ordines,' says Ernesti, 'are meant patricians and plebeians, senators, knights, and classes in the census; by aetates, younger and older persons.' 

(21)   He is frequently mentioned by the ancients; the passages relating to him have been collected by Junius de Pictura in Catal. Artif. Ernesti. See Plin. H. N. vii. 38; Plut. Sull. c. 14; Val. Max. vii. 12. 

(22)   A Roman shipbuilder. See Turneb. Advers. xi. 2. 

(23)   See Plin. H. N. vii. 37. Celsus often refers to his authority as the founder of a new party. Ellendt. 

(24)   The son of the great Gaius Marius, seven times consul, had married Mucia, the daughter of the augur Scaevola. In Cicero's Oration for Balbus, also, c. 21, 49, where the merits of that eminent commander are celebrated, Crassus is called his affinis, relation by marriage. Henrichsen. 

(25)   The uncle of Gnaeus Pompey the Great, who had devoted excellent talents to the attainment of a thorough knowledge of civil law, geometry, and the doctrines of the Stoics. See Cic. Brut. 47; Philipp. xii. 11; Beier, ad Off. i. 6, 19. Ellendt. 

(26)   Nicander, a physician, grammarian, and poet, flourished in the time of Attalus, the second king of Pergamus, about (?) fifty years before Christ. His Theriaca and Alexipharmaca are extant; his Georgica, to which Cicero here alludes, has perished. Henrichsen. 

(27)   See c. x. 

(28)   It is Lucilius the Satirist that is meant. What cause there had been for unfriendliness between him and Scaevola is unknown; perhaps he might have spoken too freely, or made some satirical remark on the accusation of Scaevola by Albucius for bribery, on which there are some verses in b. iii. c. . 43. Ellendt. 

(29)   You granted me all that I desired when you said that all arts and sciences belong, as it were, respectively to those who have invented, or profess, or study them; . . . but when you said that those arts and sciences are necessary to the orator, and that he can speak upon them, if he wishes, with more elegance and effect than those who have made them their peculiar study, you seemed to take them all from me again, and to transfer them to the orator as his own property. Proust. 

(30)   Orellius reads Haec--irrisit, where the reader will observe that the pronoun is governed by the verb. Ellendt and some others read Quae instead of Haec. Several alterations have been proposed, but none of them bring the sentence into a satisfactory state. 

(31)   The Stoics called eloquence one of their virtues, See Quintilian, ii. 20. 

(32)   Charmadas. 

(33)   Quasi dedita opera. As if Charmadas himself had collected all the writers on the art of rhetoric, that he might be in a condition to prove what he now asserted; or, as if the writers on the art of rhetoric themselves had purposely abstained from attempting to be eloquent. But Charmadas was very much in the wrong; for Gorgias, Isocrates, Protagoras, Theophrastus, and other teachers of rhetoric were eminent for eloquence. Proust. 

(34)   Two Sicilians, said to have been the most ancient writers on rhetoric. See Quintilian, iii. 1. 

(35)   See c. 47. Cicero speaks of it as exilis, poor and dry, Brut. 44; Orat. 5. 

Following sections (96-184)

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