Cicero, De Oratore

-   Book 2 , 298-367

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.

Previous sections (231-297)    

{74.} [298] L   "I will readily tell you, Caesar," replied Antonius, "what I mean; but do you, and all who are here, remember this, that I am not speaking of the divine power of the complete orator, but of my own humble efforts and practice. The remark of Crassus is indeed that of an excellent and singular genius; to whom it appeared something like a prodigy, that any orator could possibly be found, who could do any mischief in speaking, and injure him whom he had to defend. [299] For he judges from himself; as his force of intellect is such, that he thinks no man speaks what acts against himself, unless on purpose; but I am not alluding to any outstanding and illustrious power, but to common and almost universal sense. Amongst the Greeks, Themistocles the Athenian is reported to have possessed an incredible compass of understanding and genius; and a certain person of learning and singular accomplishments is said to have gone to him, and offered to teach him the art of memory, an art then first made public. When he inquired what that art could do for him, the teacher replied, that it would enable him to remember everything; but Themistocles responded, that he would oblige him much more if he could instruct him how to forget, rather than to remember, what he chose. [300] Do you conceive what force and vigour of genius, how powerful and extensive a capacity, there was in that great man? who answered in such a manner that we may understand that nothing, which had once entered his mind, could ever slip out of it; and to whom it was much more desirable to be enabled to forget what he did not wish to remember, than to remember whatever he had once heard or seen. But neither on account of this answer of Themistocles are we to forbear to cultivate our memory; nor is my precaution and timidity in pleading cases to be slighted on account of the excellent understanding of Crassus; for neither the one nor the other of them has given me any additional ability, but has merely indicated his own. [301] There are numbers of points ** in cases that call for circumspection in every part of your speech, that you may not stumble, that you may not fall over anything. Often some witness either does no mischief, or does less, if he be not provoked; my client entreats me, the advocates press me, to inveigh against him, to abuse him, or, finally, to plague him with questions; I am not moved, I do not comply, I will not gratify them; yet I gain no commendations; for ignorant people can more easily blame what you say injudiciously, than praise you for what you discreetly leave unremarked. [302] In such a case how much harm may be done if you offend a witness who is passionate, or one who is a man of sense, or of influential character? for he has the will to do you mischief from his passion, the power in his understanding, and the means in his reputation; nor, if Crassus never commits this offence, is that a reason that many are not guilty of it, and often; on which account nothing ever appears to me more ignominious, than when from any observation, or reply, or question, of a pleader, such remarks as this follow: 'He has ruined - Whom? his adversary? No truly, but himself and his client.'   

{75.} [303] L   "This Crassus thinks can never happen but through deceit; but I very frequently observe that persons by no means dishonest do mischief in cases. In regard to that particular which I mentioned before, that I am used to retreat, or, to speak more plainly, to flee from those points which would press hard on my side of the question, how much harm do others do when they neglect this, saunter in the enemy's camp, and dismiss their own guards? Do they occasion but slight detriment to their cases, when they either strengthen the supports of their adversaries or inflame the wounds which they cannot heal? [304] What harm do they cause when they pay no regard to the characters of those whom they defend? If they do not mitigate by extenuation those qualities in them that excite ill-will, but make them more obnoxious by commending and extolling them, how much mischief is caused by such management? Or what if, without any guarded language, you throw bitter and contumelious invectives upon popular persons, in favour with the judges, do you not alienate their feelings from you? [305] Or what if there be vices or bad qualities in one or more of the judges, and you, in upbraiding your adversaries with such faults, are not aware that you are attacking the judges, is it a small error which you then commit? Or what if, while you are speaking for another, you make his case your own, or, taking affront, are carried away from the question by passion, and start aside from the subject, do you occasion no harm? In this respect I am esteemed too patient and forbearing, not because I willingly hear myself abused, but because I am unwilling to lose sight of the case; as, for instance, when I reproved you yourself, Sulpicius, for attacking an agent, not me your adversary. ** From such conduct, however, I acquire this advantage, that if any one does abuse me, he is thought to be either ill-tempered or out of his wits. [306] Or if in your arguments you shall state anything either manifestly false, or contradictory to what you have said or are going to say, or foreign in its nature to the practice of trials and of the forum, do you occasion no damage to your case? Why need I say more on this subject? My whole care is constantly devoted to this objective, (for I will repeat it frequently,) to effect, if I can, some good by speaking; but if not, to do at least no harm.    

{76.} [307] L   "I now return therefore to that point, Catulus, on which you a little while ago accorded me praise; the order and arrangement of facts and topics of argument. On this head, two methods may be observed; one, which the nature of cases dictates; the other, which is suggested by the orator's judgment and prudence. For, to premise something before we come to the main point; then to explain the matter in question; then to support it by strengthening our own arguments, and refuting those on the other side; next, to sum up, and come to the peroration; is a mode of speaking that nature herself prescribes. [308] But to determine how we should arrange the particulars that are to be advanced in order to prove, to inform, to persuade, more particularly belongs to the orator's discretion. For many arguments occur to him; many, that seem likely to be of service to his pleading; but some of them are so trifling as to be utterly contemptible; some, if they are of any assistance at all, are sometimes of such a nature, that there is some defect inherent in them; while that which appears to be advantageous, is not of such import that it need be advanced in conjunction with anything prejudicial. [309] And as to those arguments which are to the purpose, and deserving of trust, if they are (as it often happens) very numerous, I think that such of them as are of least weight, or as are of the same tendency with others of greater force, ought to be set aside, and excluded altogether from our pleading. I myself, indeed, in collecting proofs, make it a practice rather to weigh than to count them.    

{77.} [310] L   "Since, too, as I have often observed, we bring over people in general to our opinions by three methods, by instructing their understandings, conciliating their benevolence, or exciting their passions, one only of these three methods is to be professed by us, so that we may appear to desire nothing else but to instruct; the other two, like blood throughout the body, ought to be diffused through the whole of our pleading; for both the beginning, and the other parts a speech, on which we will later say a few words, ought to have this power in a great degree, so that they may penetrate the minds of those before whom we plead, in order to excite them. [311] But in those parts of the speech which, though they do not convince by argument, yet by solicitation and excitement produce great effect, though their proper place is chiefly in the exordium and the peroration, still, to make a digression from what you have proposed and are discussing, for the sake of exciting the passions, is often advantageous. [312] Since, after the statement of the case has been made, an opportunity often presents itself of making a digression to rouse the feelings of the audience; or this may be properly done after the confirmation of our own arguments, or the refutation of those on the other side, or in either place, or in all, if the case has sufficient copiousness and importance; and those cases are the most considerable, and most pregnant with matter for amplification and embellishment, which afford the most frequent opportunities for that kind of digression in which you may discourse on those points by which the passions of the audience are either excited or calmed. [313] In touching on this matter, I cannot but blame those who place the arguments to which they trust least in the front; and, in like manner, I think that they commit an error, who, if ever they employ several advocates, (a practice which never had my approbation,) will have him to speak first in whom they trust least, and rank the others also according to their abilities. ** For a case requires that the expectations of the audience should be met with all possible speed; and if nothing to satisfy them is offered in the commencement, much more labour is necessary in the sequel; for that case is in a bad condition which does not at the commencement of the pleading at once appear to be the better. [314] For this reason, as, in regard to pleaders, ** he who is the most able should speak first, so in regard to a speech, let the arguments of most weight be put foremost; yet so that this rule might be observed with respect to both, someone of superior efficiency should be reserved for the peroration; if any are but of moderate strength, (for to the weak no place should be given at all,) they may be thrown into the main body and into the midst of the group. [315] All these things being duly considered, it is then my custom to think last of that which is to be spoken first, namely, what exordium I shall adopt. For whenever I have felt inclined to think of that first, nothing occurs to me but what is dull, or nugatory, or vulgar and ordinary.    

{78.} "The beginnings of speeches ought always to be accurate and judicious, well furnished with thoughts, and happy in expression, as well as peculiarly suited to their respective cases. For our earliest acquaintance with a speech as it were, and the first recommendation of it to our notice, is at the commencement; which ought at once to propitiate and attract the audience. [316] In regard to this point, I cannot but feel astonished, not indeed at such as have paid no attention to the art, but at a man of singular eloquence and erudition, I mean Philippus, who generally rises to speak with so little preparation, that he knows not what word he shall utter first; and he says, that when he has warmed his arm, then it is his custom to begin to fight; but he does not consider that those from whom he takes this simile hurl their first lances gently, so as to preserve the utmost grace in their action, and at the same time to husband their strength. [317] Nor is there any doubt, that the beginning of a speech ought very seldom to be vehement and pugnacious; but if even in the combat of gladiators for life, which is decided by the sword, many passes are made previous to the actual encounter, which appear to be intended, not for mischief, but for display, how much more naturally is such prelude to be expected in a speech, in which an exhibition of force is not more required than gratification? Besides, there is nothing in the whole nature of things that is all produced at once, and that springs entire into being in an instant; and nature herself has introduced everything that is done and accomplished most energetically with a moderate beginning. [318] Nor is the exordium of a speech to be sought from without, or from anything unconnected with the subject, but to be derived from the very essence of the case. It is, therefore, after the whole case has been considered and examined, and after every argument has been thought through and prepared, that you must determine what sort of exordium to adopt; [319] for thus it will easily be settled, ** as it will be drawn from those points which are most fertile in arguments, or in those matters on which I said ** you ought often to make digressions. Thus our exordia will give additional weight, when they are drawn from the most intimate parts of our defence; and it will be shown that they are not only not common, and cannot be transferred to other cases, but that they have wholly grown out of the case under consideration.    

{79.} [320] L   "But every exordium ought either to contain a statement of the whole matter in hand, or some introduction and support to the case, or something of ornament and dignity. But, like vestibules and approaches to houses and temples, so the introductions that we prefix to cases should be suited to the importance of the subjects. In small and unimportant ** cases, therefore, it is often more advisable to commence with the subject-matter itself without any preface. [321] But, when we are to use an exordium, (as will generally be the case,) our matter for it may be derived either from the client, from the adversary, from the subject, or from those before whom we plead. From the client (I give the name of client.  to all those who are concerned in the matter) we may deduce such particulars as characterise a worthy, generous, or unfortunate man, or one deserving of compassion; or such particulars as avail against a false accusation. From the adversary we may deduce almost the contrary particulars from the same points. [322] From the subject, if the matter under consideration be cruel, or heinous, or beyond expectation, or undeserved, or pitiable, or savouring of ingratitude or indignity, or unprecedented, or not admitting restitution or satisfaction. From those before whom we plead we may draw such considerations, as to procure their benevolence and good opinion; an object better attained in the course of pleading than by direct entreaty. This object indeed is to be kept in view throughout the whole speech, and especially in the conclusion; but many exordia, however, are wholly based upon it; [323] for the Greeks recommend us to make the judge, at the very commencement, attentive and desirous of information; and such hints are useful, but not more proper for the exordium than for other parts; but they are indeed easier ** to be observed in the beginning, because the audience are then most attentive, when they are in expectation of the whole affair, and they may also, in the commencement, be more easily informed, as the particulars stated in the outset are generally of greater clarity than those which are spoken by way of argument, or refutation, in the body of the pleading. [324] But we shall derive the greatest abundance and variety of matter for exordia, either to conciliate or to arouse the judge, from those points in the case which are adapted to create emotion in the mind; yet the whole of these ought not to be brought forward in the exordium; the judge should only receive a slight impulse at the outset, so that the rest of our speech may come with full force upon him when he is already impressed in our favour.    

{80.} [325] L   "Let the exordium, also, be so connected with the sequel of the speech, that it may not appear, like a musician's prelude, to be something attached merely from imagination, but a coherent member of the whole body; for some speakers, when they have delivered their premeditated exordium, make such a transition to what is to follow, that they seem positively unwilling to have an audience. But an overture of that kind ought not to be like that of gladiators, ** who brandish spears before the fight, of which they make no use in the encounter; but should be such, that speakers may even use as weapons the thoughts which they advanced in the prelude.    

[326] L   "But as to the directions which they give to consult brevity in the narration, if that is to be called brevity where there is no word redundant, the language of Lucius Crassus is distinguished by brevity; but if that kind of brevity is intended, when only just so many words are used as are absolutely necessary, such conciseness is indeed sometimes proper; but it is often prejudicial, especially in narration; not only as it produces obscurity, but also because it destroys that which is the chief excellence of narration, that it be pleasing and adapted to persuade. For instance, the narrative,

          For he, as soon as he became of age, etc. **

how long is it! [327] The manners of the youth himself, the inquiries of the servant, the death of Chrysis, the look, figure, and affliction of the sister, and the other circumstances, are told with the utmost variety and agreeableness. But if he had been studious of such brevity as this,

          She's carried forth; we go; we reach the place
          Of sepulture; she's laid upon the pyre,

he might have comprised the whole in ten lines: although 'She's carried forth, we go,' is only so far concise, as to consult, not absolute brevity, but elegance; [328] for if there had been nothing expressed but 'she's laid upon the pyre,' the whole matter would have been easily comprehended. But a narration referring to various characters, and intersected by dialogue, affords much gratification; and what you report to have been done becomes more probable, when you describe the manner in which it was done; and it is much more clearly understood if you sometimes pause for that purpose, and do not hurry over it with affected brevity. [329] For the narrative parts of a speech, as well as the other parts, ought to be clear, and we ought to take the more pains with that part, because it is more difficult not to be obscure in stating a case, than either in an exordium, in argumentation, in refuting of an accusation, or in a peroration: and obscurity in this part of a speech is attended with greater danger than in other parts; both because, if anything be obscurely expressed in any other part, only that is lost which is so expressed; but obscurity in the narrative part spreads darkness over the whole speech; and because, as to other parts, if you have expressed anything obscurely in one place, you may explain it more clearly in another; while for the narrative part of a speech there is but one place. But your narrative will be clear, if it be given in ordinary language, with adherence to the order of time and without interruption.    

{81.} [330] L   "But when we ought to introduce a statement of facts, and when we ought not, requires judicious consideration. For we ought to make no such statement, either if the matter is notorious, or if the circumstances are free from doubt, or if the adversary has related them, unless indeed we wish to contradict his statement; and whenever we do make a statement of facts, let us not insist too eagerly upon points which may create suspicion and ill-feeling, and work against us, but let us extenuate such points as much as possible; lest that should happen, which, whenever it occurs, Crassus thinks is done through treachery, not through folly, namely, that we damage our own case; for it concerns the fortune of the whole case, whether the case is stated with caution, or otherwise, because the statement of the case is the foundation of all the rest of the speech.    

[331] L   "What follows is, that the matter in question be laid down, when we must establish what is the point that comes under dispute; then the chief grounds of the case are to be laid down conjunctively, so as to weaken your adversary's supports, and to strengthen your own; for there is in cases but one method for that part of your speech, which is of efficacy to prove your arguments; and that needs both confirmation and refutation; but because what is alleged on the other side cannot be refuted unless you confirm your own statements, and your own statements cannot be confirmed unless you refute the allegations on the opposite side, these matters are in consequence united both by their nature, by their object, and by their mode of treatment. [332] The whole speech is then generally brought to a conclusion by some amplification on the different points, or by exciting or mollifying the judge; and every particular, not only in the former parts of the speech, but more especially towards the conclusion, is to be adapted to excite as much as possible the feelings of the judges, and to incline them in our favour.    

[333] L   "Nor does there now appear to be any reason, indeed, why we should make a distinct head of those precepts which are given concerning advisory or panegyric speeches; for most of them are common to all kinds of oratory; yet, to speak in favour of any important matter, or against it, seems to me to belong only to the most dignified character; for it is the part of a wise man to deliver his opinion on momentous affairs, and that of a man of integrity and eloquence, to be able to provide for others by his prudence, to confirm by his authority, and to persuade by his language.    

{82.} "Speeches are to be made in the senate with less display; for it is an assembly of wise men; ** and opportunity is to be left for many others to speak. All suspicion, too, of ostentation of ability is to be avoided. [334] A speech to the people, on the other hand, requires all the force, weight, and various colouring of eloquence. For persuading, then, nothing is more desirable than worth; for he who thinks that expediency is more desirable, does not consider what the counsellor chiefly wishes, but what he prefers upon occasion to follow; and there is no man, especially in so noble a state as this, who does not think that worth ought chiefly to be regarded; but expediency commonly prevails, there being a concealed fear, that even worth cannot be supported if expediency is digregarded. [335] But the difference between the opinions of men lies either in this question, 'which of two things is most useful?' or, if that point is agreed, it is disputed 'whether honour or expediency ought rather to be consulted.' As these seem often to oppose each other, he who is an advocate for expediency, will enumerate the benefits of peace, of plenty, of power, of riches, of settled revenues, of troops in garrison, and of other things, the enjoyment of which we estimate by their usefulness; and he will specify the disadvantages of a contrary state of things. He who exhorts his audience to regard honour, will collect examples from our ancestors, which may be imitated with glory, though attended with danger; he will expatiate on immortal fame among posterity; he will maintain that advantage arises from the observance of honour, and that it is always united with worth. [336] But what is possible, or impossible; and what is necessary or unnecessary, are questions of the greatest moment in regard to both; for all debate is at an end, if it is understood that a thing is impossible, or if any necessity for it appears; and he who shows what the case is, when others have overlooked it, sees furthest of all. [337] But for giving counsel in civil affairs the chief qualification is a knowledge of the constitution; and, to speak on such matters so as to be approved, an acquaintance with the manners of the people is required; and, as these frequently vary, the fashion of speaking must often be varied; and, although the power of eloquence is mostly the same, yet, as the highest dignity is in the people, as the concerns of the republic are of the utmost importance, and as the commotions of the multitude are of extraordinary violence, a more grand and imposing manner of addressing them seems necessary to be adopted; and the greatest part of a speech is to be devoted to the excitement of the feelings, either by exhortation, or the commemoration of some illustrious action, or by moving the people to hope, or to fear, or to ambition, or desire of glory; and often also to dissuade them from rashness, from rage, from ardent expectation, from injustice, from envy, from cruelty.    

{83.} [338] L   "But it happens that, because a popular assembly appears to the orator to be his greatest scene of action, ** he is naturally excited in it to a more magnificent species of eloquence; for a multitude has such influence, that, as the flute-player cannot play without his flutes, so the orator cannot be eloquent without a numerous audience. [339] And, as the inclinations of popular assemblies take many and various turns, an unfavourable expression of feeling from the whole people must not be incurred; an expression which may be excited by some fault in the speech, if anything appears to have been spoken with harshness, with arrogance, in a base or mean manner, or with any improper feeling whatever; or it may proceed from some offence taken, or ill-will conceived, at some particular individuals, which is either just, or arising from some calumny or bad report; or it may happen if the subject be displeasing; or if the multitude be swayed by any impulse from their own hopes or fears. To those four causes as many remedies may be applied: the severity of rebuke, if you have sufficient authority for it; admonition, which is a milder kind of rebuke; an assurance, that if they will give you a hearing, they will approve what you say; and entreaty, which is the most condescending method, but sometimes very advantageous. [340] But on no occasion is facetiousness and ready wit ** of more effect, and any smart saying that is consistent with dignity and true humorousness; for nothing is so easily diverted from gloom, and often from rancour, as a multitude, even by a single expression uttered opportunely, quickly, smartly, and with good humour.    

{84.} "I have now stated to you generally, to the best of my abilities, what it is my practice, in both kinds of cases, to pursue, what to avoid, what to keep in view, and to what method I ordinarily adhere in my pleadings. [341] Nor is that third kind, panegyric, which I at the beginning excluded, as it were, from my rules, attended with any difficulty; but it was because there are many departments of oratory both of greater importance and power, concerning which hardly any author has given particular rules, and because we of this country are not accustomed to deal much in panegyric, that I set this topic entirely apart. For the Greek authors themselves, who are the most worthy of being read, wrote their panegyrics either for amusement, or to compliment some particular person, rather than with any desire to promote forensic eloquence; and books composed by them  are extant, in which Themistocles, Aristides, Agesilaus, Epaminondas, Philip, Alexander, and others, are the subjects of praise. Our laudatory speeches, which we deliver in the forum, have either the simple and unadorned brevity of testimony, or are written as funeral orations, which are by no means suitable for the pomp of panegyric. But as we must sometimes attempt that department, and must occasionally write panegyrics, as Gaius Laelius wrote one for Publius Tubero, when he wished to praise his uncle Africanus, and in order that we ourselves may be enabled to praise, after the manner of the Greeks, such persons as we may be inclined to praise, let that subject also form part of our discourse. [342] It is clear, then, that some qualities in mankind are desirable, and some praiseworthy. Family, beauty, strength, power, riches, and other things which fortune bestows, either amid external circumstances, or as personal endowments, carry with them no real praise, which is thought to be due to virtue alone; but, as virtue itself becomes chiefly conspicuous in the use and management of such things, these endowments of nature and of fortune are also to be considered in panegyrics; in which it is mentioned as the highest praise for a person not to have been haughty in power, or insolent in wealth, or to have assumed a pre-eminence over others from the abundance of the blessings of fortune; so that his riches and plenty seem to have afforded means and opportunities, not for the indulgence of pride and vicious appetites, but for the cultivation of goodness and moderation. [343] Virtue, too, which is of itself praiseworthy, and without which nothing can be deserving of praise, is distinguished, however, into several species, some of which are more adapted to panegyric than others; for there are some virtues which are conspicuous in the manners of men, and consist in some degree in affability and kindness; and there are others which depend on some peculiar natural genius, or superior greatness and strength of mind. Clemency, justice, goodwill, fidelity, courage in common dangers, are subjects agreeable to the audience in panegyric; [344] for all such virtues are thought beneficial, not so much to the persons who possess them, as to mankind in general; while wisdom, and that greatness of soul by which all human affairs are regarded as mean and inconsiderable, eminent power of thought, and eloquence itself, excite indeed no less admiration, but not equal delight; for they appear to be an ornament and support rather to the persons themselves whom we commend, than to those before whom we commend them; yet, in panegyric, these two kinds of virtues must be united; for the ears of men tolerate the praises not only of those parts of virtue which are delightful and agreeable, but of those which excite admiration.    

{85.} [345] L   "Since, also, there are certain duties and functions belonging to every kind of virtue, and since to each virtue its peculiar praise is due, it will be necessary to specify, in a panegyric on justice, what he who is praised performed with fidelity, or equanimity, or in accordance with any other moral duty. In other points, too, the praise of actions must be adapted to the nature, power, and name of the virtue under which they fall. [346] The praise of those acts is heard with the greatest pleasure, which appear to have been undertaken by men of spirit, without advantage or reward; but those which have been also attended with toil and danger to themselves afford the largest scope for panegyric, because they may be set forth with the greatest ornaments of eloquence, and the account of them may be heard with the utmost satisfaction; for that appears the highest virtue in a man of eminence, which is beneficial to others, but attended with danger or toil, or at least without advantage, to himself. It is commonly regarded, too, as a great and admirable merit, to have borne adversity with wisdom, not to have been vanquished by fortune, and to have maintained dignity in the worst of circumstances. [347] It is also an honour to a man that distinctions have been bestowed upon him, rewards decreed to his merit, and that his achievements have been approved by the judgment of mankind; and, on such subjects, to attribute success itself to the judgment of the immortal gods, is a part of panegyric. But such actions should be selected for praise as are either of extraordinary greatness, or unprecedented novelty, or singular in their kind; for such as are trivial, or common, or ordinary, generally appear to deserve no admiration or even commendation. [348] A comparison also with other great men has a noble effect in panegyric.    

"On this species of eloquence I have felt inclined to say something more than I had proposed, not so much for the improvement of pleading in the forum, which has been kept in view by me through this whole discourse, as that you might see that, if panegyric be a part of the orator's business, and nobody denies that it is, a knowledge of all the virtues, without which panegyric cannot be composed, is necessary to the orator. [349] As to the rules for censuring, it is clear that they are to be deduced from the vices contrary to these virtues; and it is also obvious, that neither can a good man be praised with propriety and copiousness of matter, without a knowledge of the several virtues, nor a bad man be stigmatised and condemned with sufficient distinction and asperity, without a knowledge of the opposite vices. On these topics of panegyric and satire we must often touch in all kinds of cases.    

[350] L   "You have now heard what I think about the invention and arrangement of matter. I shall add some observations on memory, with a view to lighten the labour of Crassus, and to leave nothing for him to discuss, but the art of embellishing those departments of eloquence which I have specified."    

{86.} "Proceed," said Crassus; "for I feel pleasure in seeing you appear as a professed artist, stripped of the disguises of dissimulation, and fairly exposed to view; and, in leaving nothing for me to do or but little, you serve my convenience, and confer a favour upon me." [351] "How much I leave you to do," said Antonius, "will be in your own power; for if you are inclined to act fairly, I leave you everything to do; but if you wish to shrink from any portion of your undertaking, you must consider how you can give this company satisfaction. But to return to the point; I am not," he continued, "possessed of such intellectual power as Themistocles had, that I had rather know the art of forgetfulness than that of memory; and I am grateful to the famous Simonides of Ceos, who, as people say, first invented an art of memory. [352] For they relate, that when Simonides was at Crannon in Thessaly, at an entertainment given by Scopas, a man of rank and fortune, and had recited a poem which he had composed in his praise, in which, for the sake of embellishment, after the manner of the poets, there were many particulars introduced concerning Castor and Pollux, Scopas told Simonides, with extraordinary meanness, that he would pay him half the sum which he had agreed to give for the poem, and that he might ask the remainder, if he thought proper, from his Tyndaridae, to whom he had given an equal share of praise. [353] A short time later, they say that a message was brought in to Simonides, asking him to go out, as two youths were waiting at the gate who earnestly wished him to meet with them; so he arose, went forth, and found nobody. In the meantime the hall in which Scopas was feasting fell down, and he himself, and his company, were overwhelmed and buried in the ruins; and when their friends wanted to inter their remains, but could not possibly distinguish one from another, so much crushed were the bodies, Simonides is said, from his recollection of the place in which each had sat, to have given sufficient directions for their burial. Prompted by this occurrence, he is reported to have discovered, that it is chiefly order that gives strength to memory; [354] and that by those, therefore, who would improve this part of the understanding, certain places must be fixed upon, and that of the things which they desire to keep in memory, symbols must be conceived in the mind, and ranged, as it were, in those places; thus the order of places would preserve the order of things, and the symbols of the things would denote the things themselves; so that we should use the places as waxen tablets, and the symbols as letters.    

{87.} [355] L   "How great the benefit of memory is to the orator, how great the advantage, how great the power, what need is there for me to observe? Why should I remark how excellent a thing it is to retain the instructions which you have received with the case, and the opinion which you have formed upon it? to keep all your thoughts upon it fixed in your mind, all your arrangement of language marked out there? to listen to him from whom you receive any information, or to him to whom you have to reply, with such power of retention, that they seem not to have poured their conversation into your ears, but to have engraved it on the tablet of your mind? They alone accordingly, who have a vigorous memory, know what, and how much, and in what manner they are about to speak; to what they have replied, and what remains unanswered; and they also remember many courses that they have formerly adopted in other cases, and many which they have heard from others. [356] I must, however, acknowledge that nature is the chief author of this qualification, as of all those of which I have previously spoken; (but this whole art of oratory, or image and resemblance of an art, has the power, not of begetting and producing anything entirely of itself, of which no part previously existed in our understandings, but of being able to give education and strength to what has already sprung to birth there;) [357] yet there is scarcely any one of so strong a memory as to retain the order of his language and thoughts without a previous arrangement and observation of headings; nor is any one of so weak a memory as not to receive assistance from this practice and exercise. For Simonides, or whoever else invented the art, wisely saw, that those things are the most strongly fixed in our minds, which are communicated to them, and imprinted upon them, by the senses; that of all the senses that of seeing is the most acute; and that, accordingly, those things are most easily retained in our minds which we have received from the hearing or the understanding, if they are also recommended to the imagination by means of the mental eye; so that a kind of form, resemblance, and representation might denote invisible objects, and such as are in their nature withdrawn from the perception of sight, in such a manner, that what we are scarcely capable of comprehending by thought we may retain as it were by the aid of the visual faculty. [358] By these imaginary forms and objects, as by all those that come under our physical vision, our memory is prompted and aroused; but some place for them must be imagined; as bodily shape cannot be conceived without a place for it. That I may not, then, be prolix and tedious upon so well-known and common a subject, we must fancy many plain distinct places, at moderate distances; and such symbols as are impressive, striking, and well-marked, so that they may present themselves to the mind, and act upon it with the greatest quickness. Practice (from which proceeds habit) will provide this faculty of artificial memory, as well as the derivation of similar words converted and altered in cases, or transferred from particulars to generals, and the idea of an entire sentence from the symbol of a single word, after the manner and method of any skilful painter, who distinguishes spaces by the variety of what he depicts.    

{88.} [359] L   "But the memory of words, which, however, is less necessary for us, ** is to be distinguished by a greater variety of symbols; for there are many words which, like joints, connect the limbs of our speech, that cannot possibly be represented by anything similar to them; and for these we must invent symbols that we may invariably use. The memory of things is the proper business of the orator; this we may be enabled to impress on our memory by the creation of imaginary figures, aptly arranged, to represent particular heads, so that we may recollect thoughts by images, and their order by place. [360] Nor is that true which is said by people unskilled in this artifice, that the memory is oppressed by the weight of these symbols, and they even obscure what unassisted nature might have clearly kept in view; for I have seen men of consummate abilities, and an almost divine faculty of memory, as Charmadas at Athens, and Metrodorus of Scepsis in Asia, who is said to be still living, each of whom used to say that, as he wrote with letters on wax, so he wrote with symbols as it were, whatever he wished to remember, on these places which he had conceived in imagination. Though, therefore, a memory cannot be entirely formed by this practice, if there is none given by nature; yet certainly, if there is a latent natural ability, it may be called forth.    

[361] L   "You have now had a very long lecture from a person whom I wish you may not think impudent, but who is certainly not over-modest, in having spoken, so copiously as I have done, upon the art of eloquence, in your hearing, Catulus, and that of Lucius Crassus; for of the rest of the company the age might perhaps reasonably make less impression upon me; but you will certainly excuse me, if you but listen to the motive which impelled me to loquacity so unusual with me."    

{89.} [362] L   "We indeed," said Catulus, "(for I make this answer for my brother and myself,) not only excuse you, but feel love and great gratitude to you for what you have done; and, as we acknowledge your politeness and good-nature, so we admire your learning and copious store of matter. Indeed I think that I have reaped this benefit, that I am freed from a great mistake, and relieved from that astonishment which I used always to feel, in common with many others, as to the source from which that divine power of yours in pleading was derived; for I never imagined that you had even slightly touched upon those matters, of which I now perceive that you possess an exact knowledge, gathered from all quarters, and which, taught by experience, you have partly corrected and partly approved. [363] Nor have I now a less high opinion of your eloquence, while I have a far higher one of your general merit and diligence; and I am pleased, at the same time, that my own judgment is confirmed, inasmuch as I always laid it down as a maxim, that no man can attain a character for wisdom and eloquence without the greatest study, industry, and learning. But what was it that you meant, when you said that we should excuse you if we knew the motive which had impelled you to this discourse? What other motive could there be but your inclination to oblige us, and to satisfy the desire of these young gentlemen, who have listened to you with the utmost attention?"    

[364] L   "I wished," replied Antonius, "to take away from Crassus every pretence for refusal, who would, I was sure, engage in such a kind of talk either a little too modestly, or too reluctantly, for I would not apply the word disdainfully to a man of his affability. But what excuse will he now be able to make? That he is a person of consular and censorial dignity? I might have made the same excuse. Will he plead his age? He is four years younger than I. Can he say that he is ignorant of these matters, of which I indeed have snatched some knowledge late in life, cursorily, and, as people say, at spare times, while he has applied to them from his youth with the most diligent study, under the most able masters? I will say nothing of his genius, in which no man was ever his equal; for no one that hears me speak, has so contemptible an opinion of himself, as not to hope to speak better, or at least as well; but while Crassus is speaking, no one is so conceited as to have the presumption to think that he shall ever speak like him. Lest persons, therefore, of so much dignity as the present company, should have come to you in vain, let us at length, Crassus, hear you speak."    

{90.}  [365] "If I should grant you, Antonius," replied Crassus, "that these things are so, which however are far otherwise, what have you left for me this day, or for any man, that he can possibly say? For I will speak, my dearest friends, what I really think: I have often heard men of learning, (why do I say often? I should rather say sometimes; for how could I have that opportunity often, when I entered the forum quite a youth, and was never absent from it longer than during my quaestorship?) but I have heard, as I said yesterday, both while I was at Athens, men of the greatest learning, and in Asia that famous rhetorician Metrodorus,of Scepsis, discoursing upon these very subjects; but no one of them ever appeared to me to have engaged in such a talk with greater extent of knowledge, or greater penetration, than our friend has shown to-day; but if it were otherwise, and if I thought anything had been omitted by Antonius, I should not be so impolite, nay so almost churlish, as to think that it was a trouble, when I perceived it to be your desire." [366] "Have you then forgotten, Crassus," said Sulpicius, "that Antonius made such a division with you, that he should explain the equipment and implements of the orator, and leave it to you to speak of decoration and embellishment?"   "In the first place," replied Crassus, "who gave Antonius leave either to make such a partition, or to choose first that part which he liked best? In the next, if I rightly comprehended what I heard with the utmost pleasure, he seemed to me to treat of both these matters in conjunction."   "But," observed Cotta, "he said nothing of the embellishments of language, or on that excellence from which eloquence derives its very name."   "Antonius then," said Crassus, "left me nothing but words, and took the substance for himself." [367] "Well," remarked Caesar, "if he has left you the more difficult part, we have reason to desire to hear you; if that which is the easier, you have no reason to refuse."   "And in regard to what you said, Crassus," interposed Catulus, "that if we would stay and pass the day with you here, you would comply with our wishes, do you not think it binding on your honour?" Cotta then smiled, and said, "I might, Crassus, excuse you; but take care that Catulus has not made it a matter of religious faith; it is a point for the attention of a censor; and you see how disgraceful it would be for a person of censorial dignity ** to render himself liable to such censure."   "Do as you please, then," replied Crassus; 'but for the present, as it is time, I think we must rise, and take some repose; in the afternoon, if it is then agreeable to you, I will say something on these points, unless perchance you may wish to put me off till tomorrow." They all replied that they were ready to hear him either at once, or in the afternoon if he preferred - however, as soon as possible. 

Book 3



(1)   Antonius mentions seven ways by which the indiscretion of the orator may be of prejudice to the case, to illustrate his last observation: 1. By irritating a witness, who would not have injured his client without provocation. 2. By not giving way when the arguments press too hard upon him, he may lose his cause. 3. By extolling those qualities in his client which ought to be extenuated, he may do mischief. 4. By throwing invectives upon those who are entitled to the esteem and favour of the judges. 5. By upbraiding his adversary with the same defects that are in some of the judges; of which Philip's derision of a dwarfish evidence, before Lucius Aurifex, who was still lower in stature, was an instance mentioned before. 6. He may plead his own case rather than that of his client; which blame Cicero seems to have incurred in his oration for Publius Sextius, a case in which he was warmly and specially interested. Whoever has any inclination to read the history of that trial, may find it in Dr. Middleton's Life of Cicero, vol. ii. p. 45, &c. 7. By the use of false or repugnant arguments, or such as are foreign to the usage of the bar and judicial proceedings. B.  

(2)   Quod ministratorem peteres, non adversarium. The ministrator was a witness, from whose evidence Antonius had drawn arguments. Ellendt. Whether by adversarius he meant Antonius or not, is, as Henrichsen says, uncertain. Ellendt thinks that Antonius is not meant. I have however differed from him, as the context seems to indicate that Antonius is meant. 

(3)   Ut in quoque eorum minimum putant esse, ita eum primum volunt dicere. 'As in each of them they think that there is least, so they wish him to speak first.' 

(4)   Ut in oratore. Schutz conjectures in oratoribus, but he had better, as Ellendt observes, have conjectured ex oratoribus. But the text may be correct. 

(5)   Reperientur . . . sumentur. These words are plural in Orellius's text, but Ellendt and others seem rightly to determine that they should be singular. 

(6)   C. 77. 

(7)   Infrequentibus causis. Infrequens causa is a cause at the pleading of which few auditors are likely to attend. Ernesti. 

(8)   Faciliora etiam in principiis. Ellendt justly observes that etiam must be corrupt, and that autem should probably be substituted for it. 

(9)   Samnitium. A kind of gladiators so called, that fought with Samnite arms. They had their origin among the Campanians. Liv. ix. 40. 

(10)   Terence, Andr. Act I. Sc. 1. 

(11)   Sapiens enim est consilium. These words I regard as a scholium that has crept into the text. Ernesti. 

(12)   Quid maxima quasi oratori scena videtur concionis. 'Because the greatest stage, as it were, for an orator, appears [to be that] of a public assembly.' 

(13)   Celeritas. The same word is used in c. 54: hoc quod in celeritate atque dicto est. Schutz conjntured hilaritas. 

(14)   Because words are at the command of the practised orator, and, when matter is supplied, easily occur. Ernesti. 

(15)   A man who has been censor, as you have been. Proust.

Book 3

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