back

Cicero, De Oratore

-   Book 3 , 1-81


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


Book 2

{1.} [1] L   When I proceeded to execute my design, brother Quintus, of relating and committing to writing in this third book, the remarks which Crassus made after the discourse of Antonius, bitter remembrance renewed in my mind its former concern and regret; for the genius worthy of immortality, the learning, the virtue that were in Lucius Crassus, were all extinguished by sudden death, within ten days from the day which is comprised in this and the previous book. [2] When he returned to Rome on the last day of the theatrical entertainments, ** he was put into a violent emotion by that speech which was reported to have been delivered in an assembly of the people by Philippus, who, it was agreed, had declared, 'that he must look for another council, as he could not carry on the government with such a senate;' and on the morning of the thirteenth of September, both Crassus and a full senate came into the house on the call of Drusus. There, when Drusus had made many complaints against Philippus, he brought formally before the senate the fact that the consul had so grievously vilified their order, in his speech to the people. [3] Here, as I have often heard it unanimously said by men of the greatest judgment, although indeed it continually happened to Crassus, whenever he had delivered a speech more exquisite than ordinary, that he was always thought never to have spoken better, yet by universal consent it was then determined, that all other orators had always been excelled by Crassus, but that on that day he had been excelled by himself; for he deplored the misfortune and unsupported condition of the senate; an order whose hereditary dignity was then being torn from it by a consul, as by some lawless ruffian, a consul whose duty it was to act the part of a good parent or trusty guardian towards it; but said that it was not surprising, if, after he had ruined the commonwealth by his own counsels, he should remove the counsels of the senate from the commonwealth. [4] When he had applied these expressions, which were like firebrands, to Philippus, who was a man of violence, as well as of eloquence, and of the utmost vigour to resist opposition, he could not restrain himself, but burst forth into a furious flame, and resolved to force Crassus to comply, by confiscating his securities. ** On that occasion, many things are reported to have been uttered by Crassus with a sort of divine sublimity, refusing to acknowledge as a consul him who would not allow him to possess the senatorial dignity: 'Do you,' said he, 'who, when you thought the general authority of the whole senatorial order entrusted to you as a pledge, yet perfidiously annulled it in the view of the Roman people, imagine that I can be terrified by such petty forfeitures as those? It is not such pledges that are to be forfeited, if you would bind Lucius Crassus to silence; for that purpose you must cut out this tongue; and even if it be torn out, the freedom in my very breath will confound your audacity.'   

{2.} [5] L   It appeared that a multitude of other words were then uttered by him with the most vehement efforts of mind, thought, and spirits; and that that resolution of his, which the senate adopted in a full house, was proposed by him with the utmost magnificence and dignity of language, that the counsel and fidelity of the senate had never been lacking in regard to the commonwealth, in order to do justice to the Roman people; and he was present (as appears from the names entered in the register) at the recording of the resolution. [6] This however was the last swan-like note and speech of that divine orator; and, as if expecting to hear it again, we used, after his death, to go into the senate-house, that we might contemplate the spot on which he had last stood to speak; for we heard that he was seized at the time with a pain in his side while he was speaking, and that a copious perspiration followed; after which he was struck with a chillness, and, returning home in a fever, died the seventh day after of pleurisy. [7] O how false are the hopes of mortals, how frail is our condition, and how insignificant all our ambitious efforts, which are often broken and thrown down in the middle of their course, and overwhelmed as it were in their voyage, even before they gain a sight of the harbour! For as long as the life of Crassus was perplexed with the toils of ambition, so long was he more distinguished for the performance of private duties, and the praises due to his genius, than for any benefit that he reaped from his greatness, or for the dignified rank which he bore in the republic; but the first year which, after a discharge of all the honourable offices of the state, opened to him the entrance to supreme authority by universal consent, overthrew all his hopes, and all his future schemes of life, by death. [8] This was a melancholy occurrence to his friends, a grievous calamity to his country, and a heavy affliction to all the virtuous part of mankind; but such misfortunes afterwards fell upon the commonwealth, that life does not appear to me to have been taken away from Lucius Crassus by the immortal gods as a loss, but death to have been bestowed on him as a blessing. He did not live to behold Italy blazing with war, or the senate overwhelmed with popular odium, or the leading men of the state accused of the most heinous crimes, or the affliction of his daughter, or the banishment of his son-in-law, ** or the most calamitous flight of Gaius Marius, or that most atrocious of all slaughters after his return, or, finally, that republic in every way disgraced, in which, while it continued most flourishing, he was by far pre-eminent over all other men in glory.    

{3.} [9] L   But led away as I am by my reflections to touch upon the power and vicissitudes of fortune, my observations shall not spread too widely, but shall be confined almost to the very personages who are contained in this dialogue, which I have begun to detail. For who would not call the death of Lucius Crassus, which has been so often lamented by many, a happy one, when he calls to mind the fate of those very persons who were almost the last that held discourse with him? For we ourselves remember, that Quintus Catulus, a man distinguished for almost every type of merit, when he entreated, not the security of his fortunes, but retreat into exile, was forced to deprive himself of life. [10] It was then, too, that that illustrious head of Marcus Antonius, by whom the lives of so many citizens had been preserved, was fixed upon the very rostra on which he had so strenuously defended the republic when consul, and which he had adorned with imperial trophies when censor. Not far from his was exposed the head of Gaius Julius, (who was betrayed by his Tuscan host,) with that of Lucius Julius his brother; so that he who did not behold such atrocities may justly be thought to have prolonged his life during the existence of the constitution, and to have expired together with it. He neither beheld his near relation, Publius Crassus, a man of the greatest magnanimity, slain by his own hand, nor saw the image of Vesta sprinkled with the blood of the pontifex, his colleague; and (such were his feelings towards his country) even the cruel death of Gaius Carbo, his greatest enemy, that occurred on the same day, would have caused additional grief to him. [11] He did not behold the horrible and miserable fate of those young men who had devoted themselves to him; of whom Gaius Cotta, whom he had left in a promising condition, was expelled, through popular prejudice, from his office of tribune, a few days after the death of Crassus, and, not many months afterwards, driven from the city. And Sulpicius, who had been involved in the same popular fury, attempted in his tribuneship to deprive of all their honours those with whom, as a private individual, he had lived in the greatest familiarity; but when he was progressing to the highest glory of eloquence, his life was taken from him by the sword, and punishment was inflicted on his rashness, not without great damage to the republic. [12] I am indeed of the opinion that you, Crassus, received as well your birth as your death by the arrangement of divine providence, both on account of the distinction of your life and the timing  of your death; for, in accordance with your virtue and firmness of mind, you must either have submitted to the cruelty of civil slaughter; or if any fortune had rescued you from so barbarous a death, the same fortune would have compelled you to be a spectator of the ruins of your country; and not only the dominion of ill-designing men, but even the victory of the honourable party, would, on account of the civil massacres intermingled with it, have been an affliction to you.    

{4.} [13] L   Indeed, when I reflect, brother Quintus, upon the calamities of these great men, (whose fates I have just mentioned,) and those which we ourselves have felt and experienced from our extraordinary and eminent love for our country, your opinions appear to me to be founded on justice and wisdom, as you have always, on account of such numerous, such violent, and such sudden afflictions as have happened to the most illustrious and virtuous men, dissuaded me from all civil contention and strife. [14] But, because we cannot put affairs back into the same state as if nothing had occurred, and because our extreme toils are compensated and mitigated by great glory, let us apply ourselves to those consolations, which are not only pleasant to us when troubles have subsided, but may also be salutary while they continue; let us deliver as a memorial to posterity the remaining and almost the last discourse of Lucius Crassus; and let us express the gratitude to him which he so justly merited, although in terms by no means equal to his genius, yet to the best of our endeavours; [15] for there is not any of us, when he reads the admirably written dialogues of Plato, in almost all of which the character of Socrates is represented, who does not, though what is written of him is written in a divine spirit, conceive something still greater of him about whom it is written: and it is also my request, not indeed to you, my brother, who attribute to me perfection in all things, but to others who shall take this treatise into their hands, that they would entertain a nobler conception of Lucius Crassus than any that is expressed by me. [16] For I, who was not present at this dialogue, and to whom Gaius Cotta communicated only the topics and headings of the dissertation, have endeavoured to depict in the conversation of the speakers those particular styles of oratory, in which I knew that each of them was conspicuous. But if any person shall be induced by the common opinion, to think either that Antonius was more dry, or Crassus more exuberant in style, than they have been respectively described by me, he will be among the number of those who either never heard these great men, or who have not abilities to judge; for each of them was (as I have explained before) superior to all other speakers, in application, and genius, and learning, as well as excellent in his particular style, so that embellishment in language was not lacking in Antonius, nor redundant in Crassus.    

{5.}  [17] As soon therefore as they had withdrawn before noon, and rested  themselves a little, Cotta said that he particularly observed that Crassus employed all the time about the middle of the day in the most earnest and profound meditation; and that he himself, who was well acquainted with the countenance which he assumed whenever he was going to speak in public, and the nature of his looks when he was fixed in contemplation, and had often noticed them in cases of the greatest importance, came on purpose, while the rest were asleep, into the room in which Crassus had lain down on a couch prepared for him, and that, as soon as he perceived him to be settled in a thoughtful posture, he immediately retired; and that almost two hours passed in that perfect stillness. Afterwards, when they all, as the day was now verging to the afternoon, waited upon Crassus, Caesar said, "Well, Crassus, shall we go and take our seats? though we only come to remind you of your promise, and not to demand the performance of it." [18] Crassus then replied, "Do you imagine that I have the assurance to think that I can continue longer indebted to such friends as you, especially in an obligation of this nature?"   "What place then will suit you?" said Caesar; "a seat in the middle of the wood, for that is the most shady and cool?"   "Very well," replied Crassus, "for there is in that spot a seat not at all unsuited for this discourse of ours." This arrangement being agreeable to the rest of the company, they went into the wood, and sat down there with the most earnest desire to listen.    

[19] L   Crassus then said, "Not only the influence of your authority and friendship, but also the ready compliance of Antonius, have taken from me all liberty of refusal, though I had an excellent pretext for refusing. In the partition, however, of this dissertation between us, Antonius, when he assumed to himself the part of speaking upon those matters which form the subject of the orator's speech, and left to me to explain how they should be embellished, divided things which are in their nature incapable of separation; for as every speech consists of the matter and the language, the language can have no place if you take away the matter, nor the matter receive any illustration if you take away the language. [20] Indeed, the great men of antiquity, embracing something more wide-reaching in their ideas, appear to me to have seen further into the nature of things than the visual faculties of our minds can penetrate; as they said that all these things, above and below, formed one system, and were linked together in strict union by one and the same power, and one principle of universal harmony in nature; for there is no order of things which can either of itself, if forcibly separated from the rest, preserve a permanent existence, or without which the rest can maintain their power and eternal duration.    

{6.} [21] L   "But, if this reasoning appear to be too comprehensive to be embraced by human sense and understanding, yet that saying of Plato is true, and certainly not unknown to you, Catulus, 'that all the learning of these liberal and refined departments of knowledge is linked together in one bond of union; for when the power of that reason, by which the causes and events of things are known, is once thoroughly discerned, a certain wonderful agreement and harmony, as it were, in all the sciences is revealed. [22] But, if this also appear to be too sublime a thought for us to contemplate who are prostrate on the earth, it, however, certainly is our duty to know and remember that which we have embraced, which we profess, which we have taken upon ourselves. Since eloquence, as I observed yesterday, and Antonius indicated in some passages of his discourse this morning, is one and the same, into whatever tracts or regions of debate it may be carried: [23] for whether it discourses concerning the nature of the heavens or of the earth, whether of divine or human power, whether it speaks from a lower, or an equal, or a superior place, whether to impel an audience, or to instruct, or to deter, or to incite, or to dissuade, or to inflame, or to soothe, whether to a small or to a large assembly, whether to strangers, to friends, or alone, its language is derived through different channels, not from different sources; and, wherever it directs its course, it is accompanied by the same equipment and adornment. [24] But since we are overwhelmed by opinions, not only those of the vulgar, but those also of men imperfectly instructed, who treat of those things more easily when divided and torn asunder which they incapable of comprehending in a general view, and who sever the language from the thoughts like the body from the soul, neither of which separations can be made without destruction, I will not undertake in this discourse more than that which is imposed upon me; I will only indicate briefly, that neither can embellishments of language be found without arrangement and expression of thoughts, nor can thoughts be made to shine without the light of language. [25] But before I proceed to touch upon those particulars by which I think language is beautified and illumined, I will state briefly what I think concerning eloquence in general.    

{7.} There is no one of the natural senses, in my opinion, which does not include under its general scope many things dissimilar one to another, but which are still thought deserving of similar approbation; for we both perceive many things by the ear, which, although they all charm us with their sounds, are yet often so various in themselves, that that which we hear last appears to be the most delightful; and almost innumerable pleasures are received by the eye, which all captivate us in such a manner as to delight the same sense in different ways; and pleasures that bear no sort of resemblance to each other charm the rest of the senses in such a manner that it is difficult to determine which affords the most exquisite enjoyment. [26] But the same observation which is to be made in regard to nature may be applied also to the different kinds of art. Sculpture is a single art, in which Myron, Polyclitus, and Lysippus excelled; all of whom differed one from another, but so that you would not wish any one of them to be unlike himself. The art and science of painting is one, yet Zeuxis, Aglaophon, and Apelles are quite unlike one another in themselves, though to none of them does anything seem lacking in his particular style. And if this be wonderful, and yet true, in these, as it were, mute arts, how much more wonderful is it in language and speech? which, though employed about the same thoughts and words, yet admits of the greatest variations; and not so that some speakers are to be censured and others commended, but that those who are allowed to merit praise, merit it for different excellences. [27] This is fully exemplified in poets, who have the nearest affinity to orators: how distinct from each other are Ennius, Pacuvius, and Accius; how distinct, among the Greeks, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; though almost equal praise may be attributed to them all in different kinds of writing. [28] Then, behold and contemplate those whose art is the subject of our present inquiry; what a wide distinction there is between the accomplishments and natural abilities of orators! Isocrates possessed sweetness, Lysias delicacy, Hyperides pointedness, Aeschines sonorousness, and Demosthenes force; and which of them was not excellent? yet which of them resembled anyone but himself? Africanus had weight, Laelius smoothness, Galba asperity, Carbo something of fluency and harmony; but which of these was not an orator of the first rank in those times? and yet every one attained that rank by a style of oratory peculiar to himself.    

{8.} [29] L   "But why should I search into antiquity for examples, when I can point to present and living characters? What was ever more pleasing to the ear than the language of our friend Catulus? language of such purity, that he appears to be almost the only orator that speaks pure Latin; and of such power, that with its peculiar dignity there is yet blended the utmost urbanity and wit. In a word, when I hear him, I always think that whatever you should add, or alter, or take away, his language would be impaired and deteriorated. [30] Has not our friend Caesar here, too, introduced a new kind of oratory, and brought before us an almost peculiar style of eloquence? Who has ever, besides him, treated tragic subjects in an almost comic manner, serious subjects with pleasantry, grave subjects with gaiety, and subjects suited to the forum with a grace peculiar to the stage? in such a way that neither is the jocular style excluded by the importance of the subject, nor is the weight of the matter lessened by the humour with which it is treated. [31] Here are present with us two young men, almost of equal age, Sulpicius and Cotta; what things were ever so dissimilar as they are one to another? yet what is so excellent as they are in their respective styles? One is polished and refined, explaining things with the greatest propriety and aptitude of expression; he always adheres to his case, and, when he has discovered, with his keen discernment, what he ought to prove to the judge, he directs his whole attention and force of oratory to that point, without regarding other arguments; while Sulpicius has a certain irresistible energy of mind, a most full and powerful voice, a most vigorous action, and consummate dignity of motion, united with such weight and copiousness of language, that he appears of all men the best qualified by nature for eloquence. 

{9.} [32] L   "I now return to ourselves; (because there has ever been such a comparison made between us, that we are, as it were, judged as rivals, in the common conversation of mankind;) what two things can be more dissimilar than Antonius's manner of speaking and my own ? though he is such an orator that no one can possibly surpass him; and I, though I am altogether dissatisfied with myself, am yet in preference to others admitted to a comparison with him. Do you notice what the manner of Antonius is? It is bold, vehement, full of energy and action, equipped and guarded on every point of the case, spirited, acute, explicit, dwelling upon every circumstance, retiring with honour, pursuing with eagerness, terrifying, supplicating, exhibiting the greatest variety of language, yet without causing surfeit to the ear; but as to myself, whatever I am as a speaker (since I appear to you to hold some place among speakers), I certainly differ very greatly from his style. [33] What my talents are it becomes not me to say, because everyone is least known to himself, and it is extremely difficult for any person to form a judgment of his own capacity; but the dissimilitude may be easily perceived, both from the mediocrity of my action, and from the circumstance that I usually conclude in the same track in which I first set out; and that labour and care in choosing words causes me greater anxiety than choice of matter, being afraid that if my language should be a little obsolete, it may appear unworthy of the expectation and silent attention of the audience. [34] But if in us who are present there are such remarkable differences, such decided peculiarities in each of us, and in all this variety the better is distinguished from the worse by difference in ability rather than by difference in kind, and everything is praiseworthy that is perfect in its nature, what do you imagine must be the case if we should take into consideration all the orators that anywhere exist, or ever existed? Would it not happen that almost as many kinds of eloquence as of orators would be found? But from this observation of mine, it may perhaps occur to you, that if there be almost innumerable varieties and characters of eloquence, dissimilar in type, yet laudable in their kind, things of so diversified a nature can never be formed into an art by the same precepts and one single method of instruction. [35] This is not the case; and it is to be attentively considered by those who have the conduct and education of others, in what direction the natural genius of each seems principally to incline him. For we see that from the same schools of artists and masters, eminent in their respective pursuits, there have gone forth pupils very unlike each other, yet all praiseworthy, because the instruction of the teacher has been adapted to each person's natural genius; [36] a fact of which the most remarkable example (to say nothing of other sciences) is that saying of Isocrates, an eminent teacher of eloquence, that he used to apply the spur to Ephorus, but to put the rein on Theopompus; for the one, who overleaped all bounds in the boldness of his expressions, he restrained; the other, who hesitated and was bashful, as it were, he stimulated: nor did he produce in them any resemblance to each other, but gave to the one such an addition, and pruned from the other so much superfluity, as to form in both that excellence of which the natural genius of each was susceptible.    

{10.} [37] L   "I thought it necessary to start with these observations, so that if every remark of mine did not exactly adapt itself to the inclinations of you all, and to that peculiar style of speaking which each of you most admired, you might be aware that I described that character of eloquence of which I myself most approved.    

"Those matters, therefore, of which Antonius has treated so explicitly, are to be endowed with action and elocution by the orator in some certain manner. What manner of elocution can be better (for I will consider action by-and-by) than that of speaking in pure Latin, with clarity, with gracefulness, and with aptitude suitable to the subject in question? [38] Of the two which I mentioned first, purity and clearness of language, I do not suppose that any account is expected from me; for we do not attempt to teach him to be an orator who cannot speak; nor can we hope that he who cannot speak grammatical Latin will speak elegantly; nor that he who cannot speak what we can understand, will ever speak anything for us to admire. Let us, therefore, omit these matters, which are easy of attainment, though necessary in practice; for the one is taught in school-learning and the rudiments of children; the other ** is cultivated for this reason, that what every person says may be understood, a qualification which we perceive indeed to be necessary, yet that none can be held in less estimation. ** [39] But all elegance of language, though it receive a polish from the science of grammar, is yet augmented by the reading of orators and poets; for those ancients, who could not then adorn what they expressed, had almost all a kind of nobleness of diction; and those who are accustomed to their style cannot express themselves otherwise than in pure Latin, even though they desire to do so. Yet we must not make use of such of their words as our modern mode of speaking does not admit, unless sometimes for the sake of ornament, and but sparingly, as I shall explain; but he who is studious and much conversant with ancient writers, will make such use of common expressions as always to adopt the most suitable.    

{11.} [40] L   "In order to speak pure Latin, we must take care not only to use words with which nobody can justly find fault, and preserve the construction by proper cases, and tenses, and genders, and numbers, so that there may be nothing confused, or incongruous, or preposterous; but also that the tongue, and the breath, and the tone of the voice come under proper regulation. [41] I would not have letters sounded with too much affectation, or uttered imperfectly through negligence; I would not have the words dropped out without expression or spirit; I would not have them puffed and, as it were, panted forth, with a difficulty of breathing; for I do not as yet speak of those things relating to the voice which belong to oratorical delivery, but merely of that which seems to me to concern pronunciation. For there are certain faults which every one desires to avoid, such as a too delicate and effeminate tone of voice, or one that is extravagantly harsh and grating. [42] There is also a fault which some industriously strive to attain; a rustic and rough pronunciation is agreeable to some, that their language, if it has that tone, may seem to partake more of antiquity; as Lucius Cotta, an acquaintance of yours, Catulus, appears to me to take a delight in the broadness of his speech and the rough sound of his voice, and thinks that what he says will savour of the antique if it certainly savour of rusticity. But your harmony and sweetness delight me; I do not refer to the harmony of your words, which is a principal point, but one which method introduces, learning teaches, practice in reading and speaking confirms; but I mean the mere sweetness of pronunciation, which, as among the Greeks it was peculiar to the Athenians, so in the Latin tongue is chiefly remarkable in this city. [43] At Athens, learning among the Athenians themselves has long been entirely neglected; there remains in that city only the seat of the studies which the citizens do not cultivate, but which foreigners enjoy, being captivated in a manner by the very name and authority of the place; yet any illiterate Athenian will easily surpass the most learned Asiatics, ** not in his language, but in sweetness of tone, not so much in speaking well as in speaking agreeably. Our citizens ** pay less attention to letters than the people of Latium, yet among all the people that you know in the city, who have the least trace of literature, there is not one who would not have a manifest advantage over Quintus Valerius of Sora, ** the most learned of all the Latins, in softness of voice, in control of the mouth, and in the general tone of pronunciation.    

{12.} [44] L   "As there is a certain tone of voice, therefore, peculiar to the Roman people and city, in which nothing can offend, or displease, nothing can be liable to criticism, nothing sound or savour of what is foreign, let us cultivate that tone, and learn to avoid not only the asperity of rustic but the strangeness of outlandish pronunciation. [45] Indeed when I listen to my wife's mother, Laelia, ** (for women more easily preserve the ancient language unaltered, because, not having experience of the conversation of a multitude of people, they always retain what they originally learned,) I hear her with such attention that I imagine myself listening to Plautus or Naevius; she has a tone of voice so unaffected and simple, that it seems to carry in it nothing of ostentation or imitation; from whence I judge that her father and forefathers spoke in like manner; not with a rough tone, as he whom I mentioned, nor with one broad, or rustic, or too open, but with one that was close and equable and smooth. [46] Our friend Cotta, therefore, whose broad manner of speaking you, Sulpicius, sometimes imitate, so as to drop the letter I and pronounce E as full as possible, does not seem to me to resemble the ancient orators, but the modern farmers." As Sulpicius laughed at this, "I will act with you," said Crassus, "in such a manner, that, as you oblige me to speak, you shall hear something of your own faults."   "I wish we may," replied Sulpicius, "for that is what we desire; and if you do so, we shall to-day, I fancy, throw off many of our inelegances." [47] "But," said Crassus, "I cannot censure you, Sulpicius, without being in danger of censure myself; since Antouius has declared that he thinks you very similar to me." ** "But," responded Sulpicius, "as Antonius also recommended us to imitate those things which were most conspicuous in any one, ** I am afraid in consequence that I may have copied nothing from you but the stamping of your foot, and a few particular expressions, and perhaps something of your action."   "With what you have caught from me, then," said Crassus, "I find no fault, lest I should ridicule myself; (but there are many more and greater faults of mine than you mention;) of faults, however, which are evidently your own, or taken by imitation from any third person, I shall admonish you whenever opportunity may remind me of them.    

{13.} [48] L   "Let us therefore pass over the rules for speaking the Latin tongue in its purity; which the teaching given to children conveys, which refined knowledge and method in study, or the habit of daily and domestic conversation cherishes, and which books and the reading of the ancient orators and poets confirm. Nor let us dwell long upon that other point, so as to discuss by what means we may succeed in making what we say understood; [49] an object which we shall doubtless effect by speaking good Latin, adopting words in common use, and such as aptly express what we wish to communicate or explain, without any ambiguous word or phrase, not making our sentences too long, not making such observations as are drawn from other subjects, for the sake of comparison, too prolix; avoiding all incoherency of thought, reversion of the order of time, all confusion of persons, all irregularity of arrangement whatever. In short, the whole matter is so easy, that it often appears astonishing to me, that what the advocate would express should be more difficult to understand, than he who employs the advocate would be, if he were to speak on his own business; [50] for the persons themselves who bring cases to us, give us in general such instructions, that you would not desire anything to be delivered in a plainer manner; but as soon as Fufius, or your equal in age Pomponius, ** proceeds to plead those cases, I do not find them equally intelligible, unless I give an extraordinary degree of attention; their speech is so confused and ill arranged that there is nothing first, and nothing second; there is such a jumble of strange words, that language, which ought to throw a light upon things, involves them in obscurity and darkness; and the speakers, in what they say, seem in a manner to contradict themselves. [51] But, if it is agreeable, since I think that these topics must appear troublesome and distasteful, at least to you of a more advanced age, ** let us proceed to other matters which may prove still more unsatisfactory." **    

{14.} "You see," said Antonius, "how inattentive we are, and how unwillingly we listen to you, ** when we might be induced (I judge from myself) to neglect all other concerns to follow you and give you our attention; so elegant are your remarks upon unpleasing, so copious upon barren, so new upon common subjects."    

[52] L   "Those two parts indeed, Antonius," continued Crassus, "which I have just run over, or rather have almost passed by, that of speaking in pure Latin, and with clarity, were easy to treat; those which remain are important, intricate, diversified, weighty, on which depends all the admiration bestowed upon ability and all the praise given to eloquence; for nobody ever admired an orator for merely speaking good Latin; if he speaks otherwise, they ridicule him; and not only do not think him an orator, but not even a man. Nor has any one ever extolled a speaker for merely speaking in such a manner that those who were present understood what he said; though every one has despised him who was not able to do so. Whom then do men regard with awe? [53] What speaker do they behold with astonishment? At whom do they utter exclamations? Whom do they consider as a deity, if I may use the expression, amongst mortals? Him who speaks distinctly, explicitly, copiously, and luminously, both as to matter and words; who produces in his language a sort of rhythm and harmony; who speaks, as I call it, gracefully. Those also who treat their subject as the importance of things and persons requires, are to be commended for that peculiar kind of merit, which I term aptitude and congruity. [54] Antonius said that he had never seen any who spoke in such a manner, and observed that to such only was to be attributed the distinguishing title of eloquence. On my authority, therefore, deride and despise all those who imagine that from the precepts of such as are now called rhetoricians they have gained all the powers of oratory, and have not yet been able to understand what character they hold, or what they profess; for indeed, by an orator everything that relates to human life, since that is the field on which his abilities are displayed, and is the subject for his eloquence, should be examined, heard, read, discussed, handled, and considered; [55] since eloquence is one of the most eminent virtues; and though all the virtues are in their nature equal and alike, yet one type is more beautiful and noble than another; as is this power, which, encompassing a knowledge of things, expresses the thoughts and purposes of the mind in such a manner, that it can sway the audience wherever it inclines its force; and, the greater is its influence, the more necessary it is that it should be combined with probity and eminent judgment; for if we bestow the faculty of eloquence upon persons destitute of these virtues, we shall not make them orators, but give arms to madmen.    

{15.} [56] L   "This faculty, I say, of thinking and speaking, this power of eloquence, the ancient Greeks named wisdom, as in  Lycurgus,  Pittacus and Solon; and, compared with them, our Coruncanius, Fabricius, Cato and Scipio were perhaps not so learned, but were certainly of a similar force and inclination of mind. Others, of equal ability, but of different attitude towards the pursuits of life, preferred ease and retirement, as Pythagoras, Democritus, Anaxagoras, and they transferred their attention entirely from civic affairs to the contemplation of nature; a mode of life which, on account of its tranquillity, and the pleasure derived from science, than which nothing is more delightful to mankind, attracted a greater number than was of advantage to the public interest. [57] Accordingly, as men of the most excellent natural talents gave themselves up to that study, in the enjoyment of the greatest abundance of free and unoccupied time, so men of the greatest learning, blessed with excess of leisure and fertility of thought, imagined it their duty to make more things than were really necessary the objects of their attention, investigation, and inquiry. That ancient learning, indeed, appears to have been at the same time the guide to living rightly and of speaking well; nor were there separate masters for those subjects, but the same teachers formed the morals and the language; as Phoenix in Homer, who says that he was appointed a companion in war to the young Achilles by his father Peleus, to make him an orator in words, and a hero in deeds. [58] But as men accustomed to constant and daily employment, when they are hindered from their occupation by the weather, betake themselves to play with ball, or dice, or counters, or even invent some new game of their own to amuse their leisure; so they, being either excluded from public employments, as from business, by the state of the times, or being idle from inclination, gave themselves up wholly, some to the poetry, some to geometry, some to music; others even, as the dialecticians, found out a new study and exercise for themselves, and consumed their whole time and lives in those arts which have been discovered to form the minds of youth to learning and to virtue.    

{16.} [59] L   "But, because there were some, and those not a few, who either were eminent in public affairs, through their double excellence in action and speech, excellences which are indeed inseparable, as Themistocles, Pericles, Theramenes; or who, though they were not employed themselves in public affairs, were teachers of others in that science, as Gorgias, Thrasymachus, Isocrates; there appeared others who, being themselves men of abundant learning and ingenuity, but averse to political business and employments, derided and despised the exercise of oratory; [60] at the head of which party was Socrates. He, who, by the testimony of all the learned, and the judgment of all Greece, was the first of all men as well in wisdom and penetration, grace and refinement, as in eloquence, variety, and copiousness of language on whatever subject he took in hand, deprived of their common name those who handled, treated, and gave instruction in those matters which are the objects of our present inquiry, when they were previously comprised under one title; as all knowledge in the best arts and sciences, and all exercise in them, was named philosophy; and he separated in his discussions the ability of thinking wisely, and speaking gracefully, though they are naturally united; Socrates, I say, whose great genius and varied conversation Plato has in his Dialogues consigned to immortality, when he himself left us nothing in writing. [61] Hence arose that divorce as it were of the tongue from the heart, a division certainly absurd, useless, and reprehensible, that one class of persons should teach us to think, and another to speak, rightly: for, as many philosophers virtually originated from Socrates, and as they caught up some one thing, some another, from his disputations, which were various, diversified, and diffusive upon all subjects, many sects as it were became propagated, dissenting one from another, and much divided and very dissimilar in opinions, though all the philosophers wished to be called, and thought that they were, Socratics.    

{17.} [62] L   "First from Plato himself came Aristotle and Xenocrates; the one of whom founded the Peripatetic sect, the other the Academy; and from Antisthenes, who was chiefly delighted with the patience and endurance recommended in the discourses of Socrates, sprang first the Cynics, afterwards the Stoics. Next, from Aristippus, for whom the dissertations on pleasure had greater charms, emanated the Cyrenaic philosophy, which he and his followers maintained in its simplicity; those who in our days measure all things by the standard of pleasure, while they act more modestly in this respect, neither satisfy virtue, which they are far from rejecting, nor adhere to pleasure, which they are inclined to embrace. There were also other sects of philosophers, who almost all in general called themselves the followers of Socrates; as those of the Eretrians, Herillians, Megarians, and Pyrrhonians; but these have long since been overthrown and extinguished by the superior arguments of the others. [63] Of those which remain, that philosophy which has undertaken the patronage of pleasure, however true it may appear to some, is very unsuitable for that personage of whom we are forming a conception, and whom we would have to be of authority in public councils, a leader in the administration of government, a consummate master of thought and eloquence, as well in the senate, as in popular assemblies, and in public causes. Yet no injury shall be done to that philosophy by us; for it shall not be repelled from the mark at which it wishes to aim, but shall repose quietly in its gardens, where it wishes, and where, reclining softly and delicately, it calls us away from the rostra, from the courts of justice, and from the senate, and perhaps wisely, especially in such times of the republic as these. [64] But my present inquiry is not which philosophy is the nearest to truth, but which is the best suited to the orator. Let us therefore dismiss those of this sect without any contumely; for they are well-meaning, and, as they seem so to themselves, happy; let us only admonish them to keep that maxim of theirs, though it be eminently true, secret however as a mystery, I mean their denial that it is the part of a wise man to concern himself with public affairs; for if they should convince us, and every man of eminent ability, of the truth of that maxim, they will be unable to remain, as they especially desire, in tranquillity.    

{18.} [65] L   "The Stoics, too, of whom I by no means disapprove, I nevertheless dismiss; nor am I afraid that they will be angry, as they are proof against anger; and I feel grateful to them on this account, that they alone, of all the philosophers, have declared eloquence to be virtue and wisdom. But there are two peculiarities in their doctrine, which are quite unsuitable to that orator whom we are forming; one, that they pronounce all who are not wise, to be slaves, robbers, enemies, and madmen, and yet do not admit that any person is wise; (but it would be very absurd to trust the interests of an assembly of the people, or of the senate, or any other body of men, to one to whom none of those present would appear to be in their senses, none to be citizens, none to be freemen;) [66] the other, that they have a manner of speaking which is perhaps subtle, and certainly acute, but for an orator, dry, strange, unsuited to the ear of the populace, obscure, barren, dull, and altogether of that type which a speaker cannot use to a crowd. Other citizens, or rather all other people, have very different notions of good and evil from the Stoics; their estimation of honour and ignominy, revels and punishments, is entirely different; whether justly or otherwise, is nothing to the present occasion; but if we should adopt their notions, we should never be able to promote any business by speaking. [67] The remaining sects are the Peripatetic and the Academic; though of the Academics, notwithstanding there is but one name, there are two distinct systems of opinion; for Speusippus, Plato's sister's son, and Xenocrates, who had been a hearer of Plato, and Polemo, who had been a hearer of Xenocrates, and Crantor, differed in no great degree from Aristotle, who had also been a hearer of Plato; in copiousness and variety of diction, however, they were perhaps unequal to him. Arcesilas, who had been a pupil of Polemon, was the first who eagerly embraced the doctrine drawn from the various writings of Plato and the discourses of Socrates, that 'there is nothing certain to be known, either by the senses or the understanding;' he is reported to have adopted an eminently graceful manner of speaking, to have rejected all judgment of the mind and the senses, and to have established first the practice (though it was indeed greatly adopted by Socrates) of not declaring what he himself thought, but of disputing against whatever any other person said that he thought. [68] Hence the New Academy derived its origin, in which Carneades distinguished himself by a quickness of wit, that was in a manner divine, and a peculiar force of eloquence. I knew many at Athens who had been hearers of this philosopher, but I can refer for his character to two persons of undoubted authority, my father-in-law Scaevola, who heard him when a youth at Rome, and Quintus Metellus, the son of Lucius, my intimate friend, a man of high dignity, who informed me that in the early part of his life at Athens, he attended for many days the lectures of this celebrated philosopher, then almost broken with age. **    

{19.} [69] L   "But the streams of learning have flowed from the common summit of science, ** like rivers from the Apennines, in different directions, so that the philosophers have passed, as it were, into the Upper or Ionian sea, a Greek sea, abounding with harbours, but the orators have fallen into the Lower or Tuscan, a barbarian sea, infested with rocks and dangers, in which even Ulysses himself had mistaken his course. [70] If, therefore, we are content with such a degree of eloquence, and such an orator as has the common discretion to know that you ought either to deny the charge which is brought against you, or, if you cannot do that, to show that what he who is accused has committed, was either done justifiably, or through the fault or wrong of some other person, or that it is in accordance with law, or at least not contrary to any law, or that it was done without intention, or from necessity; or that it does not merit the term given it in the accusation; or that the pleading is not conducted as it ought to have been or might have been; and if you think it sufficient to have learned the rules which the writers on rhetoric have delivered, which however Antonius has set forth with much more grace and fullness than they are treated by them; if, I say, you are content with these qualifications, and those which you wished to be specified by me, you reduce the orator from a spacious and immense field of action into a very narrow compass: [71] but if you desire to emulate Pericles, or Demosthenes, who is more familiar to us from his numerous writings; and if you are captivated with this noble and illustrious idea and excellence of a perfect orator, you must include in your minds all the powers of Carneades, or those of Aristotle. [72] For, as I observed before, the ancients, until the time of Socrates, combined all knowledge and science in all things, whether they appertained to morality, to the duties of life, to virtue, or to civil government, with the faculty of speaking; but afterwards, when the eloquent was separated from the learned by Socrates (as I have already explained) and this distinction was continued by all the followers of Socrates, the philosophers disregarded eloquence, and the orators philosophy; nor did they at all encroach upon each other's provinces, except that the orators borrowed from the philosophers, and the philosophers from the orators, such things as they would have taken from the common stock if they had been inclined to remain in their former union. [73] But as the old pontiffs, on account of the multitude of religious ceremonies, appointed three officers called epulones, ** though they themselves were instituted by Numa to perform the sacrificial banquet {epulare sacrificium} at the games; so the followers of Socrates excluded the pleaders of cases from their own body, and from the common title of philosophers, though the ancients believed that there was a marvellous harmony between speaking and understanding.    

{20.} [74] L   "Such being the case, I shall crave some little indulgence for myself, and beg you to consider that whatever I say, I say not of myself, but of the complete orator. For I am a person, who, having been educated in my boyhood, with great care on the part of my father, and having brought into the forum such a portion of talent as I am aware of possessing, and not so much as I may perhaps appear to you to have, cannot claim that I learned what I now comprehend, exactly as I shall say that it ought to be learned; since I engaged in public business most early of all men, and at one-and-twenty years of age I brought to trial a man of the highest rank, and the greatest eloquence; ** and the forum has been my school, and practice, with the laws and institutions of the Roman people, and the customs of our ancestors, my instructors. [75] I got a small taste of those sciences of which I am speaking, as I felt some thirst for them, while I was quaestor in Asia; I procured a rhetorician about my own age from the Academy - that Metrodorus, of whose memory Antonius has made honourable mention; and, on my departure from Asia, at Athens, where I should have stayed longer, had I not been displeased with the Athenians, who would not repeat their mysteries, when I arrived two days too late for them. The fact, therefore, that I include within my scheme so much science, and attribute so much influence to learning, counts not only not in my favour, but rather against me, (for I am not considering what I, but what a perfect orator can do,) and against all those who put forth treatises on the art of rhetoric, and who are indeed liable to extreme ridicule; for they write merely about the several kinds of lawsuits, about exordia, and statements of facts; [76] but the real power of eloquence is such, that it embraces the origin, the influence, the changes of all things in the world, all virtues, duties, and all nature, so far as it affects the manners, minds, and lives of mankind. It can give an account of customs, laws, and rights, can govern a state, and speak on everything relating to any subject whatsoever with elegance and force. [77] In this pursuit I employ my talents as well as I can, as far as I am enabled by natural capacity, moderate learning, and constant practice; nor do I conceive myself much inferior in disputation to those who have as it were pitched their tent for life in philosophy alone.    

{21.} [78] L   "For what can my friend Gaius Velleius ** allege, to show why pleasure is the chief good, which I cannot either maintain more fully, if I were so inclined, or refute, with the aid of those common-places which Antonius has set forth, and that habit of speaking in which Velleius himself is unexercised, but every one of us experienced? What is there that either Sextus Pompeius, or the two Balbi, ** or my acquaintance Marcus Vigellius, who lived with Panaetius, all men of the Stoic sect, can maintain concerning virtue, in such a manner that either I, or any one of you, should yield to them in debate?  [79] For philosophy is not like other arts or sciences; since what can he do in geometry, or in music, who has never learned? He must be silent, or be thought a madman; but the principles of philosophy are discovered by such minds as have acuteness and penetration enough to extract what is most probable concerning any subject, and are elegantly expressed with the aid of exercise in speaking. On such topics, a speaker of ordinary abilities, if he has no great learning, but has had practice in declaiming, will, by virtue of such practice, common to others as well as to him, beat our friends the philosophers, and not suffer himself to be despised and held in contempt; [80] but if ever a person shall arise who shall have abilities to deliver opinions on both sides of a question on all subjects, after the manner of Aristotle, and, from a knowledge of the precepts of that philosopher, to deliver two contradictory speeches on every conceivable topic, or shall be able, after the manner of Arcesilas or Carneades, to dispute against every proposition that can be laid down, and shall unite with those powers rhetorical skill, and practice and exercise in speaking, he will be the true, the perfect, the only orator. For neither without the vigorous eloquence of the forum, can an orator have sufficient weight, dignity, and force; nor, without variety of learning, sufficient elegance and judgment. [81] Let us allow that old Corax of yours, ** therefore, to hatch his young birds in the nest, so that they may fly out as disagreeable and troublesome bawlers; and let us allow Pamphilus, whoever he was, ** to depict a science of such consequence upon banners, as if for an amusement for children; while we ourselves describe the whole business of an orator, in so short a conversation as that of yesterday and today; admitting, however, that it is of such extent as to be spread through all the books of the philosophers, into which none of those rhetoricians ** has ever dipped."  

Following sections (82-170)



FOOTNOTES

  

(1)   Which accompanied the public games. Compare i. 7. 

(2)   Pignoribus ablatis. The senators and others were obliged to attend the senate when they were summoned, and to be submissive to the superior magistrates, or they might be punished by fine and distraint of their property. See Livy, iii. 38; xliii. 16; Plin. Ep. iv. 29; Cic. Phil. i. 5; Suet. Jul. c. 17; Adam's Roman Antiquities, p. 2. 

(3)   His daughter Licinia was married to Publius Scipio, the grandson of Serapion, who was instrumental in the death of Tiberius Gracchus. Cic. Brut 58. Ellendt. 

(4)   Clarity. 

(5)   This seems to be speaking rather too lightly of the merit of clarity, which Quintilian pronounces the chief virtue of language. 

(6)   The Asiatic Greeks. 

(7)   Those who are born at Rome apply themselves to the liberal sciences leas than the rest of the people of Latium. Proust. 

(8)   See Brut. c. 46. 

(9)   The daughter of Gaius Laelius Sapiens, who was married to Quintus Mucius Scaevola, the augur. See Brut. c. 58; Quint, i. 1. 6. Ellendt. 

(10)   See ii. 21; Brut. c. 55. 

(11)   See ii. 22. 

(12)   See i. 39; Brut. c. 57, 62, 90. Ellendt. 

(13)   Antonius and Catulus. 

(14)   Odiosiora. Auditoribus odiosiora. Schutz. 

(15)   Ironically. 

(16)   Qui illum a se adolescente Athenis iam affectum senectute multos dies auditum esse dicebat. 'Who said that he had been heard by him when a young man for many days at Athens (where he was) now affected with old age.' 

(17)   Ex communi sapientium iugo. I read sapientiae with Ellendt. It is a comparison, as he observes, of Socrates to a hill. 

(18)   See Liv. xxxiii. 42. 

(19)   Carbo. See note on i. 10. 

(20)   The same that speaks, in the dialogue De Natura Deorum, on the tenets of the Epicureans. 

(21)   One Balbus is a speaker in the De Nat. Deorum, on the doctrines of the Stoics. The other, says Ellendt, is supposed to be the lawyer who is mentioned by Cicero, Brut. c. 42, and who was the master of Servius Sulpicius. Of Vigellius nothing is known. 

(22)   See i. 20. He jokes on the name of Corax, which signifies a crow. 

(23)   Pamphilum nescio quem. Some suppose him to be the painter who is mentioned as the instructor of Apelles by Pliny, H. N. xxxv. 36. 8. He seems, whoever he was, to have given some fanciful map-like view of the rules of rhetoric. But it is not intimated by Pliny that the Pamphilus of whom he speaks was, though a learned painter, anything more than a painter. A Pamphilus is mentioned by Quintilian, iii. 6. 34; xii. 10. 6; and by Aristotle, Rhet. ii. 23. By infulae in the text, which I have rendered 'banners', Ellendt supposes that something similar to our printed cotton handkerchiefs, or flags hung out at booths at fairs, is meant. Talaeus thinks that the tables of rules might have been called infulae in ridicule, from their shape. 

(24)   Such 'disagreeable and troublesome bawlers,' as those from the nest of Corax just mentioned. Ernesti. 



Following sections (82-170)



Attalus' home page   |   01.07.19   |   Any comments?