Cicero, De Oratore

-   Book 2 , 74-145

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 (1-73)  

{18.} [74] L   "The greater and more wonderful you represent such performances," said Catulus, "the greater longing possesses me to know by what methods or precepts such power in oratory may be acquired; not that it any longer concerns me personally, (for my age does not stand in need of it, and we used to pursue a different plan of speaking, as we never extorted decisions from the judges by force of eloquence, but rather received them from their hands, after conciliating their goodwill only so far as they themselves would permit,) yet I wish to learn your thoughts, not for any advantage to myself, as I say, but from a desire for knowledge. [75] Nor do I need any Greek master to repeat his hackneyed precepts, when he himself never saw the forum, or was present at a trial; presumption similar to what is told of Phormio the Peripatetic; for when Hannibal, driven from Carthage, came to Ephesus as an exile to seek the protection of Antiochus, and, as his name was held in great honour among all men, was invited by those who entertained him to hear the philosopher whom I mentioned, if he were inclined; and when he had indicated that he was not unwilling, that copious speaker is said to have harangued some hours upon the duties of a general, and the whole military art; [76] and when the rest of the audience, who were extremely delighted, inquired of Hannibal what he thought of the philosopher, the Carthaginian is reported to have answered, not in very good Greek, but with very good sense, that 'he had seen many foolish old men, but had never seen any one more deeply foolish than Phormio." Nor did he say so, indeed, without reason; for what could have been a greater proof of arrogance, or impertinent loquacity, than for a Greek, who had never seen an enemy or a camp, or had the least concern in any public employment, to deliver instructions on the military art to Hannibal, who had contended so many years for empire with the Romans, the conquerors of all nations? In this manner all those seem to me to act, who give rules on the art of speaking; for they teach others that of which they have no experience themselves. But they are perhaps less in error in this respect, that they do not attempt to instruct you, Catulus, as he did Hannibal, but boys only, or youths."    

{19.} [77] L   "You are wrong, Catulus," said Antonius, "for I myself have met with many Phormios. Who, indeed, is there among those Greeks that seems to think any of us understand anything? To me, however, they are not so very troublesome; I easily bear with and endure them all; for they either produce something which diverts me, or make me repent less of not having learned from them. I dismiss them less disdainfully than Hannibal dismissed the philosopher, and on that account, perhaps, have more trouble with them; but certainly all their teaching, as far as I can judge, is extremely ridiculous. [78] For they divide the whole matter of oratory into two parts; the controversy about the cause and about the question. The cause they call the matter relating to the dispute or litigation affecting the persons concerned; ** the question, a matter of infinite doubt. Respecting the cause they give some precepts; on the other part of pleading they are wonderfully silent. [79] They then make five parts, as it were, of oratory; to invent what you are to say, to arrange what you have invented, to clothe it in proper language, then to commit it to memory, and at last to deliver it with due action and elocution; a task, surely, requiring no very abstruse study. For who would not understand without assistance, that nobody can make a speech unless he has settled what to say, and in what words, and in what order, and remembers it? Not that I find any fault with these rules, but I say that they are obvious to all; as are likewise those four, five, six, or even seven partitions, (since they are differently divided by different teachers,) into which every speech is by them distributed; [80] for they bid us adopt such an exordium as to make the hearer favourable to us, and willing to be informed and attentive; then to state our case in such a manner, that the detail may be probable, clear, and concise; next, to divide or propound the question; to confirm what makes for us by arguments and reasoning, and refute what makes for the adversary; after this some place the conclusion of the speech, and peroration as it were; others direct you, before you come to the peroration, to make a digression by way of embellishment or amplification, then to sum up and conclude. [81] Nor do I altogether condemn these divisions; for they are made with some nicety, though without sufficient judgment, as must of necessity be the case with men who had no experience in real pleading. For the precepts which they confine to the exordium and statement of facts are to be observed through the whole speech; [82] since I can more easily make a judge favourable to me in the progress of my speech, than when no part of the case has been heard; and desirous of information, not when I promise that I will prove something, but when I actually prove and explain; and I can best make him attentive, not by the first statement, but by working on his mind through the whole course of the pleading. [83] As to their direction that the statement of facts should be probable, and clear, and concise, they direct rightly; but in supposing that these qualities belong more peculiarly to the statement of facts than to the whole of the speech, they seem to me to be greatly in error; and their whole mistake lies assuredly in this, that they think oratory an art or science, not unlike other sciences, such as Crassus said yesterday might be formed from the civil law itself; so that the general heads of the subject must first be enumerated, when it is a fault if any head be omitted; next, the particulars under each general head, when it is a fault if any particular be either deficient or redundant; then the definitions of all the terms, in which there ought to be nothing either wanting or superfluous.    

{20.} [84] L   "But if the more learned can attain this exactness in the civil law, as well as in other studies of a small or moderate extent, the same cannot, I think, be done in an affair of this extent and magnitude. If, however, any are of the opinion that it can be done, they must be introduced to those who profess to teach these things as a science; they will find everything ready set forth and complete; for there are books without number on these subjects, neither concealed nor obscure. But let them consider what they mean to do; whether they will take up arms for sport or for real warfare; for with us a regular engagement and field of battle require one thing, the parade and school of exercise another. Yet preparatory exercise in arms is of some use both to the gladiator and the soldier; but it is a bold and ready mind, acute and quick at expedients, that renders men invincible, and certainly not less effectively if art be united with it.    

[85] L   "I will now, therefore, form an orator for you, if I can; commencing so as to ascertain, first of all, what he is able to do. Let him have some trace of learning; let him have heard and read something; let him have received those very instructions in rhetoric to which I have alluded. I will test what becomes him; what he can accomplish with his voice, his lungs, his breath, and his tongue. If I conceive that he may reach the level of eminent speakers, I will not only exhort him to persevere in his efforts, but, if he seem to me to be a good man, ** will entreat him; so much honour to the whole community do I think that there is in an excellent orator, who is at the same time a good man. But if it appears likely, after he has done his utmost in every way, that he will be numbered only among tolerable speakers, I will allow him to act as he pleases, and not be very troublesome to him. But if he shall be altogether unfit for the profession, and lacking in sense, I will advise him to make no attempts, or to turn himself to some other pursuit. [86] For neither is he, who can do excellently, to be left destitute of encouragement from us, nor is he, who can do some little, to be deterred; because one seems to me to be the part of a sort of divinity; the other, either to refrain from what you cannot do extremely well, or to do what you can perform not contemptibly, is the part of a reasonable human being; but the conduct of the third character, to declaim, in spite of decency and natural deficiency, is that of a man who, as you said, Catulus, of a certain ranter, collects as many witnesses as possible of his folly by a proclamation from himself. [87] Of him then, who shall prove such as to merit our exhortation and encouragement, let me so speak as to communicate to him only what experience has taught myself, that, under my guidance, he may arrive at that point which I have reached without any guide; for I can give him no better instructions.    

{21.} [88] L   "To commence then, Catulus, by taking an example from our friend Sulpicius here; I first heard him, when he was but a youth, in a case of small importance; he was possessed of a voice, figure, deportment, and other qualifications suited for the profession which we are considering. His mode of speaking was quick and hurried, which was owing to his genius; his style animated and somewhat too redundant, which was owing to his youth. I was very far from entertaining a slight opinion of him, since I like fertility to show itself in a young man; for, as in vines, those branches which have spread too luxuriantly are more easily pruned than new shoots are produced by culture if the stem is defective; so I would wish there to be that in a youth from which I may take something away. The sap cannot be enduring in that which attains maturity too soon. [89] I immediately saw his ability; nor did I lose any time, but exhorted him to consider the forum as his school for improving himself, and to choose whom he pleased for a master; if he would take my advice, Lucius Crassus. To this advice he eagerly listened, and assured me that he would act accordingly; and added also, as a compliment, that I too should be a master to him. Scarcely a year had passed from the time of this conversation and recommendation of mine, when he accused Gaius Norbanus, ** and I defended him. It is incredible what a difference there appeared to me between him as he was then and as he had been a year before; nature herself led him irresistibly into the magnificent and noble style of Crassus; but he could never have arrived at a satisfactory degree of excellence in it, if he had not directed his efforts, by study and imitation, in the same course in which nature led him, so as intently to contemplate Crassus with his whole mind and faculties.    

{22.} [90] L   "Let this, then, be the first of my precepts, to point out to the student whom he should imitate, and in such a manner that he may most carefully copy the chief excellences of him whom he takes for his model. Let practice then follow, by which he may represent in his imitation the exact resemblance of him whom he chose as his pattern; not as I have known many imitators do, who endeavour to acquire by imitation what is easy, or what is remarkable, or almost faulty; [91] for nothing is easier than to imitate any person's dress, or attitude, or deportment; or if there is anything offensive in a character, it is no very difficult matter to adopt it, and be offensive in the same way; in like manner as that Fufius, who even now, though he has lost his voice, rants on public topics, could never attain that nervous style of speaking which Gaius Fimbria had, though he succeeds in imitating his distortion of features and broad pronunciation; but he neither knew how to choose a man as a pattern whom he would chiefly resemble, and in him that he did choose, he preferred copying the blemishes. [92] But he who shall act as he ought, must first of all be very careful in making this choice, and must use the utmost diligence to attain the chief excellencies of him whom he has approved.    

"What, let me ask, do you conceive to be the reason why almost every age has produced a peculiar style of speaking? a matter on which we cannot so easily form a judgment in regard to the orators of our own country, (because they have, to say the truth, left but few writings from which such judgment might be formed,) as those of the Greeks, from whose writings it may be understood what was the character and tendency of eloquence in each particular age. [93] The most ancient, of whom there are any works extant, are Pericles ** and Alcibiades, ** and, in the same age, Thucydides, writers perspicacious, pointed, concise, abounding more in thoughts than in words. It could not possibly have happened that they should all have the same character, unless they had proposed to themselves some one example for imitation. These were followed in order of time by Critias, Theramenes, and Lysias. There are extant many writings of Lysias, some of Critias; ** of Theramenes ** we only hear. They all still retained the vigorous style of Pericles, but had somewhat more exuberance. [94] Then behold Isocrates arose, from whose school, ** as from the Trojan horse, none but real heroes proceeded; but some of them were desirous to be distinguished on parade, some in the field of battle. {23.} Accordingly those such as Theopompus, Ephorus, Philistus, ** Naucrates, ** and many others, differ in genius, but in their manner bear a strong resemblance both to each other and to their master; and those who applied themselves to legal cases, as Demosthenes, Hyperides, Aeschines, Lycurgus, Dinarchus, and a multitude of others, although they were dissimilar in abilities one to another, yet were all engaged in imitating the same kind of natural excellence; and as long as the imitation of their manner lasted, so long did that character and system of eloquence prevail. [95] Afterwards, when these were dead, and all recollection of them grew gradually obscure, and at last vanished, more lax and remiss modes of speaking prevailed. Subsequently Demochares, who, they say, was the son of Demosthenes' sister and the famous Demetrius Phalereus, the most polished of all that class, in my opinion, and others of like talents, arose; and if we choose to pursue the list down to the present times, we shall understand, that, as at this day all Asia imitates the famous Menecles of Alabanda, and his brother Hierocles, to both of whom we have listened, so there has always been some one whom the majority desired to resemble.    

[96] L   "Whoever, then, shall seek to attain such resemblance, let him endeavour to acquire it by frequent and laborious exercise, and especially by composition; and if our friend Sulpicius would practise this, his language would be more compact; for there is now in it at times, as farmers say of their corn when in the blade, amidst the greatest fertility, a sort of luxuriance which ought to be, as it were, eaten down ** by the use of the pen." [97] Here Sulpicius observed, 'You advise me rightly, and I am obliged to you; but I think that even you, Antonius, have never written much." 'As if,' replied Antonius, "I could not direct others in matters in which I am deficient myself; but indeed, I am supposed not to write even my own accounts. But in this particular a judgment may be formed from my circumstances, and in the other from my ability in speaking, however small it be, what I do in either way. [98] We see, however, that there are many who imitate nobody, but attain what they desire by their own natural powers, without resembling any one; a fact of which an instance may be seen in you, Caesar and Cotta; for one of you has acquired a kind of pleasing humour and wit, unusual in the orators of our country; the other an extremely keen and subtle species of oratory. Nor does Curio, who is about your age, and the son of a father who was, in my opinion, very eloquent for his time, seem to me to imitate any one much; but by a certain force, elegance, and copiousness of expression, has formed a sort of style and character of eloquence of his own; of which I was chiefly enabled to judge in that case which he pleaded against me before the centumviri, on behalf of the brothers Cossi, and in which no quality was lacking in him that an orator, not merely of fluency, but of judgment, ought to possess.    

{24.} [99] L   "But to conduct, at length, him whom we are forming to the management of cases, and those in which there is considerable trouble, judicial trials, and contested suits, (somebody will perhaps laugh at the precept which I am going to give, for it is not so much sagacious as necessary, and seems rather to proceed from a monitor who is not quite a fool, than from a master of profound learning,) our first precept for him shall be, that whatever cases he undertakes to plead, he must acquire a minute and thorough knowledge of them. [100] This is not a precept laid down in the schools; for easy cases are given to boys. "The law forbids a stranger to ascend the wall; he ascends it; he beats back the enemy; he is accused." It is no trouble to understand such a case as this. They are right, therefore, in giving no precepts about learning the case; for such is generally the form of cases in the schools. But in the forum, wills, evidence, contracts, covenants, stipulations, relationship by blood, by affinity, decrees, opinions of lawyers, and even the lives and characters of those concerned in the case, are all to be investigated; and by negligence in these particulars we see many causes lost, especially those relative to private concerns, as they are often of greater intricacy. [101] Thus some, while they would have their business thought very extensive, that they may seem to fly about the whole forum, and to go from one case to another, speak upon cases which they have not mastered, whence they incur much censure; censure for negligence, if they voluntarily undertake the business, or for dishonesty, if they undertake it under any engagement; ** but such censure is assuredly of worse consequence than they imagine, since nobody can possibly speak on a subject which he does not understand, otherwise than to his own disgrace; and thus, while they despise the imputation of ignorance, which is in reality the greater fault, they incur that of stupidity also, which they more anxiously avoid.    

[102] L   "I am accustomed to endeavour, that every one of my clients may give me instructions in his own affairs himself, and that nobody else be present, so that he may speak with the greater freedom. ** I am accustomed also to plead to him the case of his adversary, in order to engage him to plead his own, and state boldly what he thinks of his own case. When he is gone, I conceive myself in three characters, my own, that of the adversary, and that of the judge. Whatever circumstance is such as to promise more support or assistance than obstruction, I resolve to speak upon it; wherever I find more harm than good, I set aside and totally reject that part entirely; [103] and thus I gain this advantage, that I consider at one time what I shall say, and say it at another; two things which most speakers, relying upon their genius, do at one and the same time; but certainly those very persons would speak considerably better, if they would but resolve to take one time for premeditation, and another for speaking.    

[104] L   "When I have acquired a thorough understanding of the business and the case, it immediately becomes my consideration what ground there may be for doubt. For of all points that are disputed among mankind, whether the case is of a criminal nature, as concerning an act of violence; or controversial, as concerning an inheritance; or deliberative, as on going to war; or personal, as in panegyric; or argumentative, as on modes of life; there is nothing in which the inquiry is not either what has been done, or is being done, or will be done, or of what nature a thing is, or how it should be designated.    

{25.} [105] L   "Our cases, such at least as concern criminal matters, are generally defended by the plea of not guilty; for in charges of extortion of money, which are the most important, the facts are almost all to be denied; and in those of bribery to procure offices, it is seldom in our power to distinguish munificence and liberality from corruption and criminal largess. In accusations of stabbing, or poisoning, or embezzlement of the public money, we necessarily deny the charge. On trials, therefore, the first kind of cases is that which arises from dispute as to the fact. In deliberations, the discussion generally springs from a question as to what is to be done, rarely about anything present or already done. [106] But often the question is not whether a thing is a fact or not, but of what nature it is; as when the consul, Gaius Carbo, in my hearing, defended the case of Opimius before the people, he denied no circumstance of the death of Gaius Gracchus, but maintained that it was a lawful act for the good of his country; or, as when Publius Africanus replied to the same Carbo, (then tribune of the people, engaging in political affairs with very different views, ** and asking a question about the death of Tiberius Gracchus,) 'that he seemed to have been lawfully put to death.' But every thing may be asserted to have been done lawfully, which is of such a kind that it may be said that it ought to have been done, or was properly or necessarily done, or done unawares, or by accident. [107] Then the question, 'what a thing should be called,' arises when there is a dispute by what term an act should be designated; as was the great point of dispute between myself and our friend Sulpicius in Norbanus's case; for though I admitted most of the charges made by him on the other side, I still denied that treason had been committed by Norbanus; on the signification of which word, by the Apuleian law, ** the whole case depended. [108] And in this type of cases some lay it down as a rule, that both parties should define clearly and briefly the term that gives rise to the question. This seems to me extremely puerile; for it is quite a different thing from defining words, when any dispute arises among the learned about matters relating to science; as when it is inquired, what is an art, what is a law, what is a state? On which occasions reason and learning direct, that the whole force of the thing which you define should be expressed in such a manner that there be nothing omitted or superfluous; [109] but this neither Sulpicius did in that case, nor did I attempt to do it; for each of us, to the best of our abilities, enlarged with the utmost copiousness of language upon what it was to commit treason. Since, in the first place, a definition, if one word is objectionable, or may be added or taken away, is often wrested out of our hands; and in the next, the very practice itself savours of school learning and almost puerile exercise; and besides, it cannot penetrate into the mind and understanding of the judge, for it glides off before it has made any impression.    

{26.} [110] L   "But in that kind of cases in which it is disputed of what nature any thing is, the contest often arises from the interpretation of writing; when there can be no controversy but about something that is doubtful. For even the case, in which the written letter differs from the intention, involves a type of doubt, which is cleared up when the words which are wanting are supplied; and such addition being made, it is maintained that the intention of the writing was clear; and if any doubt arises from contradictory writings, it is not a new kind of controversy that arises, but a case of the former sort is doubled; ** and this can either never be determined, or must be so determined, that by supplying the omitted words, the writing which we defend, whichever of the two it is, may be rendered complete. Thus, of those cases which arise from a controversy about a writing, when anything is expressed ambiguously, there exists but one kind. [111] But as there are many sorts of ambiguities, (which they who are called logicians seem to me to understand better than other men; while those of our profession, who ought to know them full as well, seem to be ignorant of them,) so that is the most frequent in occurrence, either in discourse or writing, when a question arises from a word or words being left out. [112] They make another mistake when they distinguish this type of cases, which consist in the interpretation of writing, from those in which it is disputed of what nature a thing is; for there is nowhere so much dispute respecting the exact nature of a thing as in regard to writing, which is totally separated from controversy concerning fact. [113] There are in all, therefore, three sorts of matters, which may possibly fall under doubt and discussion; what is now done, what has been done, or what is to be done; what the nature of a thing is, or how it should be designated; for as to the question which some Greeks add, whether a thing be rightly done, it is wholly included in the inquiry, what the nature of the thing is.    

{27.} [114] L   "But to return to my own method. When, after hearing and understanding the nature of a case, I proceed to examine the subject matter of it, I settle nothing until I have ascertained to what point my whole speech, bearing immediately on the question and case, must be directed. I then very diligently consider two other points; the one, how to recommend myself, or those for whom I plead; the other, how to sway the minds of those before whom I speak to that which I desire. [115] Thus the whole business of speaking rests upon three things for success in persuasion; that we prove what we maintain to be true; that we conciliate those who hear; that we produce in their minds whatever feeling our cause may require. [116] For the purpose of proof, two kinds of matter present themselves to the orator; one, consisting of such things as are not invented by him, but, as appertaining to the case, are judiciously treated by him, as deeds, testimonies, covenants, contracts, examinations, laws, acts of the senate, precedents, decrees, opinions of lawyers, and whatever else is not found out by the orator, but brought under his notice by the case and by his clients; the other, consisting entirely in the orator's own reasoning and arguments: [117] so that, as to the former head, he has only to handle the arguments with which he is furnished; as to the latter, to invent arguments likewise. Those who profess to teach eloquence, after dividing cases into several kinds, suggest a number of arguments for each kind; which method, though it may be better adapted to the instruction of youth, in order that when a case is proposed to them they may have something to which they may refer, and from whence they may draw forth arguments ready prepared; yet it shows a slowness of mind to pursue the rivulets, instead of seeking for the fountain-head; and it becomes our age and experience to derive what we want to know from the source, and to ascertain the spring from which everything proceeds.    

[118] L   "But that first kind of matters which are brought before the orator, ought to be the constant subject of our contemplation for general practice in affairs of that nature. For in support of deeds and against them, for and against evidence, for and against examinations by torture, and in other subjects of that sort, we usually speak either of each kind in general and abstractedly, or as confined to particular occasions, persons, and cases; and such commonplaces (I speak to you, Cotta and Sulpicius) you ought to keep ready and prepared with much study and meditation. [119] It would occupy too much time at present to show by what means we should confirm or invalidate testimony, deeds, and examinations. These matters are all to be attained with a moderate share of capacity, though with very great practice; and they require art and instruction only so far, as they should be illustrated with certain embellishments of language. [120] So also those which are of the other kind, and which proceed wholly from the orator, are not difficult of invention, but require perspicuous and correct exposition. As these two things, therefore, are the objects of our inquiry in cases, first, what we shall say, and next, how we shall say it; the former, which seems to be wholly concerned with art, though it does indeed require some art, is yet an affair of but ordinary understanding, namely, to see what ought to be said; the latter is the department in which the divine power and excellence of the orator is seen; I mean in delivering what is to be said with elegance, copiousness, and variety of language.    

{28.} [121] L   "The former part, ** then, since you have once declared it to be your pleasure, I will not refuse to finish off and complete, (how far I shall succeed you will best judge,) and shall show from what topics a speech must be furnished in order to effect these three objects which alone have power to persuade; namely, that the minds of the audience be conciliated, informed, and moved, for these are the three; but how they should be illustrated, there is one present who can instruct us all; one who first introduced this excellence into our practice, who principally improved it, who alone has brought it to perfection. [122] For I think, Catulus, (and I will say this without any dread of a suspicion of flattery,) that there is no orator of our age, at all more eminent than ordinary, either Greek, or Roman, whom I have not heard often and attentively; and, therefore, if there is any ability in me, (as I may now presume to hope, since you, men of such talents, take so much trouble in giving me audience,) it arises from this, that no orator ever delivered anything in my hearing, which did not sink deeply into my memory; and I, such as I am, and as far as I have capacity to form a judgment, having heard all orators, without any hesitation decide and pronounce this, that none of them all had so many and such excellent accomplishments in speaking as are in Crassus. [123] On which account, if you also are of the same opinion, it will not, as I think, be an unjust partition, if, when I shall have given birth and education and strength to this orator whom I am forming, as is my design, I deliver him to Crassus to be furnished with apparel and ornaments."    

[124] L   Crassus then said, "Do you rather, Antonius, go on as you have commenced; for it is unnatural for a good or liberal parent not to clothe and adorn him whom he has bred and brought up, especially as you cannot deny that you are wealthy enough. For what grace, what power, what spirit, what dignity was lacking in that orator, who at the close of a speech did not hesitate to call forth his accused client, though of consular rank, and to tear open his garment, and to expose to the judges the scars on the breast of the old commander? ** who also, when he defended a seditious madman, ** Sulpicius here being the accuser, did not hesitate to speak in favour of sedition itself, and to demonstrate, with the utmost power of language, that many popular insurrections are just, for which nobody could be accountable? adding that many seditions had occurred to the benefit of the commonwealth, as when the kings were expelled, and when the power of the tribunes was established; and that the sedition of Norbanus, proceeding from the grief of the citizens, and their hatred to Caepio, who had lost the army, could not possibly be restrained, and was blown up into a flame by a just indignation. [125] Could this, so hazardous a topic, so unprecedented, so delicate, so new, be handled without an incredible force and power of eloquence? What shall I say of the compassion excited for Gnaeus Manlius, ** or that in favour of Quintus Rex? ** What of other innumerable instances, in which it was not that extraordinary acuteness, which everybody allows you, that was most conspicuous, but it was those very qualities which you now ascribe to me, that were always eminent and excellent in you."    

{29.} [126] L   "For my part," said Catulus, "what I am accustomed most to admire in you both, is, that while you are totally unlike each other in your manner of speaking, yet each of you speaks so well, that nothing seems either to have been denied you by nature, or not to have been bestowed on you by learning. You, therefore, Crassus, from your obliging disposition, will neither withhold from us the illustration of whatever may have been inadvertently or purposely omitted by Antonius; nor if you, Antonius, do not speak on every point, we shall think, not that you could not speak on it, but that you preferred that it should be treated by Crassus." [127] Here Crassus said, "Do you rather, Antonius, omit those particulars which you have proposed to treat, and which no one here needs, namely, from what topics the statements made in pleadings are to be derived, which, though they would be treated by you in a new and excellent way, are in their nature very easy, and commonly set forth in books of rules; but show us those resources whence you draw that eloquence which you frequently exert, and always divinely." [128] "I will indeed show you them," said Antonius; "and that I may the more easily obtain from you what I require, I will refuse you nothing that you ask. The supports of my whole eloquence, and that power of speaking which Crassus just now extolled to the skies, are, as I observed before, three processes; the first, that of conciliating my hearers; the second, that of instructing them; and the third, that of moving them. [129] The first of these divisions requires mildness of address; the second penetration; the third energy; for it is impossible but that he, who is to determine a case in our favour, must either lean to our side from propensity of feeling, or be swayed by the arguments of our defence, or be forced by action upon his mind. But since that part, in which the opening of the case itself and the defence lie, seems to comprehend all that is laid down as doctrine on this head, I shall speak on that first, and say but few words; for I seem to have but few observations gained from experience, and imprinted as it were on my memory.    

{30.} [130] L   "We shall willingly consent to your judicious proposal, Crassus, to omit those defences for every sort of cases which the masters of rhetoric are accustomed to teach boys; and to open those sources whence all arguments for every case and speech are derived. For neither, as often as we have occasion to write any word, need the letters of that word be so often collected in our thoughts; nor, as often as we are to plead a case, need we turn to the separate arguments for that case; but we should have certain commonplaces which, like letters for forming a word, immediately occur to us to aid in stating a case. [131] But these commonplaces can be of advantage only to that orator who is conversant in business, and has that experience which age at length brings with it: or one who has so much attention and power of thought as to anticipate age by study and diligence. For if you bring to me a man of ever so deep erudition, of ever so acute and subtle an intellect, or ever so ready an elocution, if he be a stranger to the customs of civil communities, to the examples, to the institutions, to the manners and inclinations of his fellow-citizens, the common-places from which arguments are drawn will be of little benefit to him. I must have a well-cultivated genius, like a field not once ploughed only, but again and again, with renewed and repeated tillage, so that it may produce better and larger crops; and the cultivation here required is experience, attentive hearing of other orators, reading, and writing.    

[132] L   "First, then, let him examine the nature of his case, which is never obscure so far as the inquiry 'whether a thing has been done or not;' or 'of what nature it is;' or 'what name it should receive;' and when this is ascertained, it immediately occurs, with the aid of natural good sense, and not of those artifices which teachers of rhetoric inculcate, 'what constitutes the case,' that is, the point without which there would be no controversy; then, 'what is the matter for trial,' which they direct you to ascertain in this manner: Opimius slew Gracchus: what constitutes the case? 'That he slew him for the good of the republic, when he had called the people to arms, in consequence of a decree of the senate.' Set this point aside, and there will be no question for trial. But Decius denies that such a deed could be authorized contrary to the laws. The point therefore to be tried will be, 'whether Opimius had authority to do so from the decree of the senate, for the good of the commonwealth.' These matters are indeed clear, and may be settled by common sense; but it remains to be considered what arguments, relative to the point for trial, ought to be advanced, as well by the accuser as by him who has undertaken the defence.    

{31.} [133] L   "Here we must notice a serious error in those masters to whom we send our children; not that it has much to do with speaking, but that you may see how stupid and unpolished a set of men they are who imagine themselves learned. For, in distinguishing the different kinds of speaking, they make two types of cases. One they call, 'that in which the question is about a general proposition, without reference to persons and times;'   the other, 'that which is confined to certain persons and times;'   being ignorant that all controversies must be related to the force and nature of the general position; [134] for in that very case which I mentioned, the person of Opimius or Decius has nothing to do with the common arguments of the orator; since the inquiry has unrestricted reference to the question in general, 'whether he seems deserving of punishment who has slain a citizen under a decree of the senate for the preservation of his country, when such a deed was not permitted by the laws." There is indeed no case in which the point that falls under dispute is considered with reference to the parties to the suit, and not from arguments relating to such questions in general. [135] But even in those very cases where the dispute is about a fact, as 'whether Publius Decius ** has taken money contrary to law,' the arguments both for the accusation and for the defence must have reference to the general question, and the general nature of the case; as, to show that the defendant is extravagant, the arguments must refer to luxury; that he is covetous of another's property, to avarice; that he is seditious, to turbulent and ill-designing citizens in general; that he is convicted by many proofs, to the general nature of evidence: and, on the other side, whatever is said for the defendant, must of necessity be abstracted from the occasion and individual, and referred to the general notions of things and questions of the kind. [136] These, perhaps, to a man who cannot readily comprehend in his mind all that is in the nature of things, may seem extremely numerous to come under consideration when the question is about a single fact; but it is the number of charges, and not of modes of defence, or topics for them, that is infinite. **    

{32.} [137] L   "But when there is no contest about facts, the questions on the nature of facts, if you reckon them from the number of the parties accused, are innumerable and intricate; if from the facts themselves, very few and clear. For if we consider the case of Mancinus ** so as referring to Mancinus alone, then, whenever a person whom the chief herald has surrendered to the enemy is not re-admitted into his country, a new case will arise. But if what gives rise to the controversy be the general question, 'whether to him whom the chief herald has surrendered, if he has not been re-admitted into his country, there seems to be a right of return,' the name of Mancinus has nothing to do with the mode of speaking upon it, or the arguments for the defence. [138] And if the merit or demerit of the person give rise to any discussion, it is wholly beside the question; and the part of the speech referring to the question must, of necessity, be adapted to such arguments in general. I do not reason upon these subjects for the purpose of confuting learned teachers: although those merit reproof, who, in their general definition, describe this sort of cases as relating to persons and times. [139] For, although times and persons are pertinent to them, yet it should be understood, that the cases depend not upon them, but upon the general question. But this is not my business; for we ought to have no contest with that sort of people; it is sufficient that this only should be known, that they have not even attained a point which they might have achieved amid so much leisure, even without any experience in affairs of the forum; that is, they might have distinguished the general natures of cases, and explained them a little more accurately. [140] But this, as I said, is not my business; it is mine, and much more yours, my friends Cotta and Sulpicius, to know, that as their artificial rules now stand, the multitude of cases is to be dreaded; for it is infinite, if they are referred to persons; so many men, so many cases; but, it they are referred to general questions, they are so limited and few, that studious orators of good memory and judgment ought to have absorbed them in their minds, and, I may almost say, learned them by heart; unless perhaps you imagine that Lucius Crassus took his notion of that famous case ** from Manius Curius personally; and thus brought many arguments to show why, though no posthumous son was born, yet Curius ought to be the heir of Coponius. [141] The name of Coponius, or of Curius, had no influence at all on the array of arguments advanced, or on the force and nature of the question; the whole controversy had regard to all affairs and events of that kind in general, not to particular occasions or names; since the writing was thus, If a son is born to me, and he die before, etc., then let him be my heir; and if a son was not born, the question was whether he ought to be heir who was appointed heir on the death of the son.    

{33.} [142] L   "A question regarding a fixed point of law, and of a general nature, requires no names of persons, but merely skill in speaking, and sources of proper argument. In this respect even the lawyers themselves are an impediment to us, and hinder us from learning; for I perceive it to be generally reported in the books of Cato and of Brutus, what answers they gave on points of law to any particular man or woman by name; that we might imagine, I suppose, some cause for consultation or doubt to have arisen from the persons, not from the thing; so that, since persons are innumerable, we might be deterred from the study of the law, and lay aside all inclination to learn it, at the same time with all hope of ever attaining a thorough knowledge of it.    

"But Crassus will some day make all these points clear to us, and set them forth arranged under general heads; for you must know, Catulus, that he promised us yesterday, that he would reduce the civil law, which is now in a state of confusion and dispersion, under certain general heads, and digest it into an easy system." [143] "And indeed," said Catulus, "that is by no means a difficult undertaking for Crassus, who has grasped all of law that can be learned, and he will supply that which was lacking in those who taught him; for he will be able to define exactly, and to illustrate eloquently, every point comprehended in the law."   "We shall then," said Antonius, "learn all these things from Crassus, when he shall have removed himself, as he intends, from the tumult of public business and the benches of the forum, to a quiet retreat, and to his throne." ** [144] "I have indeed often," observed Catulus, "heard him say that he was resolved to retire from pleading and the courts of justice; but, as I frequently tell him, it will never be in his power; for neither will he permit his assistance to be repeatedly implored in vain by persons of character, nor will the public endure his retirement patiently, as they will think that if they lose the eloquence of Lucius Crassus, they will lose one of the principal ornaments of the city."   "Indeed then," remarked Antonius, "if what Catulus says is true, Crassus, you must still live on in the same workshop with me, and we must give up that yawning and sleepy science to the tranquillity of the Scaevolae and other such happy people." [145] Here Crassus smiled a little, and said, "Finish weaving, Antonius, the web which you have begun; yet that yawning science, as you term it, when I have sheltered myself under it, will vindicate my right to liberty."    

Following sections (146-230)



(1)   Reorum. This reading is very properly adopted by Oreliius and Ellendt, in place of the old rerum. Ellendt refers to c. 43 and 79 for the sense of reus. 

(2)   Cato defined an orator vir bonus dicendi peritus. Cicero in this passage, under the character of Antonius, and in his own person, De Inv. i. 3, 4, signifies that though he thinks a good character of great importance in an orator, he does not deny that much eloquence may at times be found in a man of bad character. Cato and Cicero spoke each according to the character of his own age. Quintilian, xii. 1, goes back to the opinion of Cato. Aristotle had previously required good morals in an orator, Rhet. i. 2, 4; ii. 1. 6i5. Ellendt. 

(3)   See c. 47. 

(4)   Cicero, Brut. c. 7, says that some compositions were in circulation under the name of Pericles; and Quintilian, iii. 1, 12, looking to that observation of Cicero, tacitly assents to those who denied the genuineness of those compositions. See also Quint, x. 2, 22; 10, 49. Ellendt. 

(5)   That Alcibiades left nothing in writing, though he had great reputation as a speaker, seems to be rightly inferred by Ruhnken from Demosth. De Cor. c. 40. Thucydides is here mentioned among orators, on account of the orations which he inserted in his history. Ellendt. 

(6)   He wrote not only orations, which are mentioned by Dionys. Halicarn. de Lysia iud. c. 2, cf. de Isaeo, c. 2, by Phrynichus, ap. Phot, cod. 158, and by others, but also tragedies, elegies, and other works. That he was eloquent and learned we are told by Cicero, De Or. iii. 34, Brut. c. 7. Henrichsen. The remains of his writings were collected by Bach, 1827. Ellendt. 

(7)   The eloquence of Theramenes is mentioned by Cicero, iii. 16, Brut. c. 7. The writings which Suidas enumerates as being his were doubtless spurious. See Ruhnken, Hist. Crit. Or. Gr. p. xl. Ellendt. 

(8)   The words magister istorum omnium, which, though retained by Orellius, are pronounced spurious by Lambinus, Ernesti, Ruhnken, Schutz, and Ellendt, are left untranslated. 'They cannot be Cicero's words,' says Ellendt, 'even though they are found quoted by Nonius, p. 344.' 

(9)   Henrichsen and Ellendt read Philisci. Philistus, apparently, from the way in which he is mentioned in c. 13, has, as Ellendt observes, no place here. 'Philiscus of Miletus, a disciple of Isocrates (see Anon. Vit. Isocr.), and master of Timaeus the historian (see Suidas, under Philiscus and Timaeus), wrote a treatise on rhetoric, orations, and a life of Lycurgus, noticed by Olympiodorus in Comment. ad Plat. Gorg. and other works. See Ruhnken, Hist. Crit. Gr. Or. p. lxxxiii. Goell. de Situ et Orig. Syracus. p. 114.' Henrichsen. 

(10)   Naucrates, a native of Erythrae, called Isokratous hetairos by Dionysius Halicarnassensis, Rhet. vi. 1, was distinguished for the composition of funeral orations. He seems also to have written on rhetoric. See Cicero, De Orat. iii. 44; Brut. 51; Quintil. iii. 6, 3; also Taylor, Lectt. Lys. c. 3, p. 232; Ruhnk. Hist. Crit. Or. Gr. p. lxxxiv. Henrichsen. 

(11)   This is one of Virgil's directions to the farmer in the first Georgic, where he gives the reason for it,  
Quid, qui ne gravidis procumbat culmus aristis,  
Luxuriem segetum tenera depascit in herba,  
Cum primum sulcos sequant sata? - Georg. i. 114.  
  And Pliny, l. 18: 'Luxuries segetum castigatur dente pecoris, in herba duntaxat, et depastae quidem vel saepius nullam in spica iniuriam sentiunt: ita iuvenilis ubertas et luxuries orationis stylo et assiduitate scribendi quasi absumitur et reprimitur.' B. 

(12)   Magna offensio vel negligentiae, susceptis rebus, vel perfidiae, receptis. Recipere is used with a reference to others, by whom we allow some duty to be laid upon us; suscipere regards only ourselves. Ellendt. 

(13)   Inertia. This passage puzzled Lambinus and others, who did not see how the reproach of inertia in an orator could be greater than that of tarditas, or stupidity. But inertia here signifies artis ignorantia, ignorance of his art, which is doubtless the greatest fault in an orator Verburg. 

(14)   Because he was then attached to the party of the Gracchi. Proust. 

(15)   A law of Lucius Apuleius Saturninus, tribune of the people, 102 B.C.   It is also mentioned in c. 49, But neither the cause nor subject of it is at all known. Ellendt. 

(16)   Superioris generis causa duplicatur. Ellendt explains these words thus: 'in the same cause, the allegations of the two parties are judged as two separate questions of the same kind. ' 

(17)   Which shows what a speaker ought to say, and what is effective is persuading an audience. Proust. 

(18)   Martius Aquilius, who, after the termination of the servile war in Sicily, was brought to trial on a charge of extortion. As he was unwilling to entreat the pity of the judges, Antonius, who pleaded for him, tore open his tunic in front, and showed the scars of the honourable wounds which he had received in battle. He was acquitted. Livy, Epit. Proust. 

(19)   Norbanus the tribune. See note on c. 47. Ellendt. 

(20)   He was consul with Publius Rutilius, 105 B.C.; and having refused to unite his troops with those of Quintus Caepio, the proconsul, was defeated by the Cimbri, and lost his army. Livy, Ep. lxvii. For this miscarriage he was, with Caepio, brought to trial, and must have been defended by Antonius. Ellendt. 

(21)   Of the trial of Quintus Marcius Rex nothing is known. Ellendt. 

(22)   He was accused of having been bribed to bring Opimius to trial for having caused the death of Gaius Gracchus. See Smith's Dict. of Biog. and Mythol. Art. Decius, n. 4. 

(23)   Innumerable accusations may be brought against a person, as against Verres by Cicero; but the loci, common topics or grounds, on which the attack or defence will rest, (respecting, for instance, avarice, luxury, violence, treason,) will be but few. Ellendt. 

(24)   See i. 40. 

(25)   See i. 39. 

(26)   See i. 45; also iii. 33; ii 55; and De Legg. i. 3. 

Following sections (146-230)

Attalus' home page   |   01.07.19   |   Any comments?