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|10. Nor again do even reputation and fame, the only object of their devotion, the sole reward of their labours, by their own confession, cling to the poet as much as to the orator; for indifferent poets are known to none, and the good but to a few. When does the rumour of the very choicest readings penetrate every part of Rome, much less is talked of throughout our numerous provinces? How few, when they visit the capital from Spain or Asia, to say nothing of our Gallic neighbours, ask after Saleius Bassus! And indeed, if any one does ask after him, having once seen him, he passes on, and is satisfied, as if he had seen a picture or a statue. I do not wish my remarks to be taken as implying that I would deter from poetry those to whom nature has denied the orator's talent, if only they can amuse their leisure and push themselves into fame by this branch of culture. For my part I hold all eloquence in its every variety something sacred and venerable, and I regard as preferable to all studies of other arts not merely your tragedian's buskin or the measures of heroic verse, but even the sweetness of the lyric ode, the playfulness of the elegy, the satire of the iambic, the wit of the epigram, and indeed any other form of eloquence. But it is with you, Maternus, that I am dealing; for, when your genius might carry you to the summit of eloquence, you prefer to wander from the path, and though sure to win the highest prize you stop short at meaner things. Just as, if you had been born in Greece, where it is an honour to practise even the arts of the arena, and if the gods had given you the vigour and strength of Nicostratus, I should not suffer those giant arms meant by nature for combat to waste themselves on the light javelin or the throwing of the quoit, so now I summon you from the lecture-room and the theatre to the law court with its pleadings and its real battles. I do this the more because you cannot even fall back on the refuge which shelters many, the plea that the poet's pursuit is less liable to give offence than that of the orator. In truth, with you the ardour of a peculiarly noble nature bursts forth, and the offence you give is not for the sake of a friend, but, what is more dangerous, for the sake of Cato. Nor is this offending excused by the obligation of duty, or by the fidelity of an advocate, or by the impulse of a casual and sudden speech. You have, it seems, prepared your part in having chosen a character of note who would speak with authority. I foresee your possible answer. Hence, you will say, came the decisive approval; this is the style which the lecture-room chiefly praises, and which next becomes the world's talk. Away then with the excuse of quiet and safety, when you are deliberately choosing a more doughty adversary. For myself, let it be enough to take a side in the private disputes of our own time. In these, if at any time necessity has compelled us on behalf of an imperilled friend to offend the ears of the powerful, our loyalty must be approved, our liberty of speech condoned.||10. Ne opinio quidem et fama, cui soli serviunt et quod unum esse pretium omnis laboris sui fatentur, aeque poetas quam oratores sequitur, quoniam mediocris poetas nemo novit, bonos pauci. Quando enim rarissimarum recitationum fama in totam urbem penetrat? Nedum ut per tot provincias innotescat. Quotus quisque, cum ex Hispania vel Asia, ne quid de Gallis nostris loquar, in urbem venit, Saleium Bassum requirit? Atque adeo si quis requirit, ut semel vidit, transit et contentus est, ut si picturam aliquam vel statuam vidisset. Neque hunc meum sermonem sic accipi volo, tamquam eos, quibus natura sua oratorium ingenium denegavit, deterream a carminibus, si modo in hac studiorum parte oblectare otium et nomen inserere possunt famae. Ego vero omnem eloquentiam omnisque eius partis sacras et venerabilis puto, nec solum cothurnum vestrum aut heroici carminis sonum, sed lyricorum quoque iucunditatem et elegorum lascivias et iamborum amaritudinem [et] epigrammatum lusus et quamcumque aliam speciem eloquentia habeat, anteponendam ceteris aliarum artium studiis credo. Sed tecum mihi, Materne, res est, quod, cum natura tua in ipsam arcem eloquentiae ferat, errare mavis et summa adepturus in levioribus subsistis. ut si in Graecia natus esses, ubi ludicras quoque artis exercere honestum est, ac tibi Nicostrati robur ac vires di dedissent, non paterer inmanis illos et ad pugnam natos lacertos levitate iaculi aut iactu disci vanescere, sic nunc te ab auditoriis et theatris in forum et ad causas et ad vera proelia voco, cum praesertim ne ad illud quidem confugere possis, quod plerisque patrocinatur, tamquam minus obnoxium sit offendere poetarum quam oratorum studium. Effervescit enim vis pulcherrimae naturae tuae, nec pro amico aliquo, sed, quod periculosius est, pro Catone offendis. Nec excusatur offensa necessitudine officii aut fide advocationis aut fortuitae et subitae dictionis impetu: meditatus videris [aut] elegisse personam notabilem et cum auctoritate dicturam. Sentio quid responderi possit: hinc ingentis [ex his] adsensus, haec in ipsis auditoriis praecipue laudari et mox omnium sermonibus ferri. Tolle igitur quietis et securitatis excusationem, cum tibi sumas adversarium superiorem. Nobis satis sit privatas et nostri saeculi controversias tueri, in quibus [expressis] si quando necesse sit pro periclitante amico potentiorum aures offendere, et probata sit fides et libertas excusata."|
|11. Aper having said this with his usual spirit and with vehemence of utterance, Maternus replied good-humouredly with something of a smile. I was preparing to attack the orators at as great length as Aper had praised them, for I thought that he would leave his praises of them and go on to demolish poets and the pursuit of poetry, but he appeased me by a sort of stratagem, granting permission to those who cannot plead causes, to make verses. For myself, though I am perhaps able to accomplish and effect something in pleading causes, yet it was by the public reading of tragedies that I first began to enter the path of fame, when in Nero's time I broke the wicked power of Vatinius by which even the sanctities of culture were profaned, and if at this moment I possess any celebrity and distinction I maintain that it has been acquired more by the renown of my poems than of my speeches. And so now I have resolved to throw off the yoke of my labours at the bar, and for trains of followers on my way to and from the court and for crowded receptions I crave no more than for the bronzes and busts which have invaded my house even against my will. For hitherto I have upheld my position and my safety better by integrity than by eloquence, and I am not afraid of having ever to say a word in the senate except to avert peril from another.||11. Quae cum dixisset Aper acrius, ut solebat, et intento ore, remissus et subridens Maternus "parantem" inquit "me non minus diu accusare oratores quam Aper laudaverat (fore enim arbitrabar ut a laudatione eorum digressus detrectaret poetas atque carminum studium prosterneret) arte quadam mitigavit, concedendo iis, qui causas agere non possent, ut versus facerent. Ego autem sicut in causis agendis efficere aliquid et eniti fortasse possum, ita recitatione tragoediarum et ingredi famam auspicatus sum, cum quidem [imperante] Nerone inprobam et studiorum quoque sacra profanantem Vatinii potentiam fregi, [et] hodie si quid in nobis notitiae ac nominis est, magis arbitror carminum quam orationum gloria partum. ac iam me deiungere a forensi labore constitui, nec comitatus istos et egressus aut frequentiam salutantium concupisco, non magis quam aera et imagines, quae etiam me nolente in domum meam inruperunt. Nam statum cuiusque ac securitatem melius innocentia tuetur quam eloquentia, nec vereor ne mihi umquam verba in senatu nisi pro alterius discrimine facienda sint.|
|12. As to the woods and groves and that retirement which Aper denounced, they bring such delight to me that I count among the chief enjoyments of poetry the fact that it is composed not in the midst of bustle, or with a suitor sitting before one's door, or amid the wretchedness and tears of prisoners, but that the soul withdraws herself to abodes of purity and innocence, and enjoys her holy resting-place. Here eloquence had her earliest beginnings; here is her inmost shrine. In such guise and beauty did she first charm mortals, and steal into those virgin hearts which no vice had contaminated. Oracles spoke under these conditions. As for the present money-getting and blood-stained eloquence, its use is modern, its origin in corrupt manners, and, as you said, Aper, it is a device to serve as a weapon. But the happy golden age, to speak in our own poetic fashion, knew neither orators nor accusations, while it abounded in poets and bards, men who could sing of good deeds, but not defend evil actions. None enjoyed greater glory, or honours more august, first with the gods, whose answers they published, and at whose feasts they were present, as was commonly said, and then with the offspring of the gods and with sacred kings, among whom, so we have understood, was not a single pleader of causes, but an Orpheus, a Linus, and, if you care to dive into a remoter age, an Apollo himself. Or, if you think all this too fabulous and imaginary, at least you grant me that Homer has as much honour with posterity as Demosthenes, and that the fame of Euripides or Sophocles is bounded by a limit not narrower than that of Lysias or Hyperides. You will find in our own day more who disparage Cicero's than Virgil's glory. Nor is any production of Asinius or Messala so famous as Ovid's Medea or the Thyestes of Varius.||12. Nemora vero et luci et secretum ipsum, quod Aper increpabat, tantam mihi adferunt voluptatem, ut inter praecipuos carminum fructus numerem, quod non in strepitu nec sedente ante ostium litigatore nec inter sordes ac lacrimas reorum componuntur, sed secedit animus in loca pura atque innocentia fruiturque sedibus sacris. Haec eloquentiae primordia, haec penetralia; hoc primum habitu cultuque commoda mortalibus in illa casta et nullis contacta vitiis pectora influxit: sic oracula loquebantur. Nam lucrosae huius et sanguinantis eloquentiae usus recens et ex malis moribus natus, atque, ut tu dicebas, Aper, in locum teli repertus. Ceterum felix illud et, ut more nostro loquar, aureum saeculum, et oratorum et criminum inops, poetis et vatibus abundabat, qui bene facta canerent, non qui male admissa defenderent. Nec ullis aut gloria maior aut augustior honor, primum apud deos, quorum proferre responsa et interesse epulis ferebantur, deinde apud illos dis genitos sacrosque reges, inter quos neminem causidicum, sed Orphea ac Linum ac, si introspicere altius velis, ipsum Apollinem accepimus. vel si haec fabulosa nimis et composita videntur, illud certe mihi concedes, Aper, non minorem honorem Homero quam Demostheni apud posteros, nec angustioribus terminis famam Euripidis aut Sophoclis quam Lysiae aut Hyperidis includi. Pluris hodie reperies, qui Ciceronis gloriam quam qui Virgilii detrectent: nec ullus Asinii aut Messallae liber tam inlustris est quam Medea Ovidii aut Varii Thyestes.|
|13. Look again at the poet's lot, with its delightful companionships. I should not be afraid of comparing it with the harassing and anxious life of the orator. Orators, it is true, have been raised to consulships by their contests and perils, but I prefer Virgil's serene, calm, and peaceful retirement, in which after all he was not without the favour of the di-vine Augustus, and fame among the people of Rome. We have the testimony of the letters of Augustus, the testimony too of the people themselves, who, on hearing in the theatre some of Virgil's verses, rose in a body and did homage to the poet, who happened to be present as a spectator, just as to Augustus himself. Even in our own day, Pomponius Serundus need not yield to Domitius Aper on the score of a dignified life or an enduring reputation. As for your Crispus and Marcellus, whom you hold up to me as examples, what is there in their lot to be coveted? Is it that they are in fear themselves, or are a fear to others? Is it that, while every day something is asked from them, those to whom they grant it feel indignant? Is it that, bound as they are by the chain of flattery, they are never thought servile enough by those who rule, or free enough by us? What is their power at its highest? Why, the freedmen usually have as much. For my self, as Virgil says, let "the sweet muses" lead me to their sacred retreats, and to their fountains far away from anxieties and cares, and the necessity of doing every day something repugnant to my heart. Let me no longer tremblingly experience the madness and perils of the forum, and the pallors of fame. Let me not be aroused by a tumult of morning visitors, or a freedman's panting haste, or, anxious about the future, have to make a will to secure my wealth. Let me not possess more than what I can leave to whom I please, whenever the day appointed by my own fates shall come; and let the statue over my tomb be not gloomy and scowling, but bright and laurel-crowned. As for my memory, let there be ho resolutions in the senate, or petitions to the emperor.||13. Ac ne fortunam quidem vatum et illud felix contubernium comparare timuerim cum inquieta et anxia oratorum vita. licet illos certamina et pericula sua ad consulatus evexerint, malo securum et quietum Virgilii secessum, in quo tamen neque apud divum Augustum gratia caruit neque apud populum Romanum notitia. Testes Augusti epistulae, testis ipse populus, qui auditis in theatro Virgilii versibus surrexit universus et forte praesentem spectantemque Virgilium veneratus est sic quasi Augustum. Ne nostris quidem temporibus Secundus Pomponius Afro Domitio vel dignitate vitae vel perpetuitate famae cesserit. Nam Crispus iste et Marcellus, ad quorum exempla me vocas, quid habent in hac sua fortuna concupiscendum? Quod timent, an quod timentur? Quod, cum cotidie aliquid rogentur, ii quibus praestant indignantur? Quod adligati omni adulatione nec imperantibus umquam satis servi videntur nec nobis satis liberi? Quae haec summa eorum potentia est? tantum posse liberti solent. Ne vero "dulces," ut Virgilius ait, "Musae," remotum a sollicitudinibus et curis et necessitate cotidie aliquid contra animum faciendi, in illa sacra illosque fontis ferant; nec insanum ultra et lubricum forum famamque pallentem trepidus experiar. Non me fremitus salutantium nec anhelans libertus excitet, nec incertus futuri testamentum pro pignore scribam, nec plus habeam quam quod possim cui velim relinquere; quandoque enim fatalis et meus dies veniet: statuarque tumulo non maestus et atrox, sed hilaris et coronatus, et pro memoria mei nec consulat quisquam nec roget."|
14. Excited and, I say, full of enthusiasm, Maternus had hardly finished when Vipstanus Messala entered his room, and, from the earnest expression on each face, he conjectured that their conversation was unusually serious. Have I, he asked, come among you unseasonably, while you are engaged in private deliberation, or the preparation of some case?
By no means, by no means, said Secundus. Indeed I could wish you had come sooner, for you would have been delighted with the very elaborate arguments of our friend Aper, in which he urged Maternus to apply all his ability and industry to the pleading of causes, and then too with Maternus's apology for his poems in a lively speech, which, as suited a poet's defence, was uncommonly spirited, and more like poetry than oratory.
For my part, he replied, I should have been infinitely charmed by the discourse, and I am delighted to find that you excellent men, the orators of our age, instead of exercising your talents simply on law-business and rhetorical studies, also engage in discussions which not only strengthen the intellect but also draw from learning and from letters a pleasure most exquisite both to you who discuss such subjects and to those too whose ears your words may reach. Hence the world, I see, is as much pleased with you, Secundus, for having by your life of Julius Asiaticus given it the promise of more such books, as it is with Aper for having not yet retired from the disputes of the schools, and for choosing to employ his leisure after the fashion of modern rhetoricians rather than of the old orators.
|14. Vixdum finierat Maternus, concitatus et velut instinctus, cum Vipstanus Messalla cubiculum eius ingressus est, suspicatusque ex ipsa intentione singulorum altiorem inter eos esse sermonem, "num parum tempestivus" inquit "interveni secretum consilium et causae alicuius meditationem tractantibus?" "Minime, minime" inquit Secundus, "atque adeo vellem maturius intervenisses; delectasset enim te et Apri nostri accuratissimus sermo, cum Maternum ut omne ingenium ac studium suum ad causas agendas converteret exhortatus est, et Materni pro carminibus suis laeta, utque poetas defendi decebat, audentior et poetarum quam oratorum similior oratio." "Me vero" inquit "[et] sermo iste infinita voluptate adfecisset, atque id ipsum delectat, quod vos, viri optimi et temporum nostrorum oratores, non forensibus tantum negotiis et declamatorio studio ingenia vestra exercetis, sed eius modi etiam disputationes adsumitis, quae et ingenium alunt et eruditionis ac litterarum iucundissimum oblectamentum cum vobis, qui ista disputatis, adferunt, tum etiam iis, ad quorum auris pervenerint. Itaque hercule non minus probari video in te, Secunde, quod Iuli Africani vitam componendo spem hominibus fecisti plurium eius modi librorum, quam in Apro, quod nondum ab scholasticis controversiis recessit et otium suum mavult novorum rhetorum more quam veterum oratorum consumere."|
|15. Upon this Aper replied, You still persist, Messala, in admiring only what is old and antique and in sneering at and disparaging the culture of our own day. I have often heard this sort of talk from you, when, forgetting the eloquence of yourself and your brother, you argued that nobody in this age is an orator. And you did this, I believe, with the more audacity because you were not afraid of a reputation for ill-nature, seeing that the glory which others concede to you, you deny to yourself. I feel no penitence, said Messala, for such talk, nor do I believe that Secundus or Maternus or you yourself, Aper, think differently, though now and then you argue for the opposite view. I could wish that one of you were prevailed on to investigate and describe to us the reasons of this vast difference. I often inquire into them by myself. That which consoles some minds, to me increases the difficulty. For I perceive that even with the Greeks it has happened that there is a greater distance between Aeschines and Demosthenes on the one hand, and your friend Nicetes or any other orator who shakes Ephesus or Mitylene with a chorus of rhetoricians and their noisy applause, on the other, than that which separates Afer, Africanus, or yourselves from Cicero or Asinius.||15. Tum Aper: "non desinis, Messalla, vetera tantum et antiqua mirari, nostrorum autem temporum studia inridere atque contemnere. Nam hunc tuum sermonem saepe excepi, cum oblitus et tuae et fratris tui eloquentiae neminem hoc tempore oratorem esse contenderes [antiquis], eo, credo, audacius, quod malignitatis opinionem non verebaris, cum eam gloriam, quam tibi alii concedunt, ipse tibi denegares." "Neque illius" inquit "sermonis mei paenitentiam ago, neque aut Secundum aut Maternum aut te ipsum, Aper, quamquam interdum in contrarium disputes, aliter sentire credo. Ac velim impetratum ab aliquo vestrum ut causas huius infinitae differentiae scrutetur ac reddat, quas mecum ipse plerumque conquiro. Et quod quibusdam solacio est, mihi auget quaestionem, quia video etiam Graecis accidisse ut longius absit [ab] Aeschine et Demosthene Sacerdos ille Nicetes, et si quis alius Ephesum vel Mytilenas concentu scholasticorum et clamoribus quatit, quam Afer aut Africanus aut vos ipsi a Cicerone aut Asinio recessistis."|
16. The question you have raised, said Secundus, is a great one and quite worthy of discussion. But who has a better claim to unravel it than yourself, you who to profound learning and transcendent ability have added reflection and study?
I will open my mind to you, replied Messala, if first I can prevail on you to give me your assistance in our discussion. I can answer for two of us, said Maternus; Secundus and myself will take the part which we understand you have not so much omitted as left to us. Aper usually dissents, as you have just said, and he has clearly for some time been girding himself for the attack, and cannot bear with patience our union on behalf of the merits of the ancients.
Assuredly, said Aper, I will not allow our age to be condemned, unheard and undefended, by this conspiracy of yours. First, however, I will ask you whom you call ancients, or what period of orators you limit by your definition? When I hear of ancients, I understand men of the past, born ages ago; I have in my eye Ulysses and Nestor, whose time is about thirteen hundred years before our day. But you bring forward Demosthenes and Hyperides who flourished, as we know, in the period of Philip and Alexander, a period, however, which they both outlived. Hence we see that not much more than four hundred years has intervened between our own era and that of Demosthenes. If you measure this space of time by the frailty of human life, it perhaps seems long; if by the course of ages and by the thought of this boundless universe, it is extremely short and is very near us. For indeed, if, as Cicero says in his Hortensius, the great and the true year is that in which the position of the heavens and of the stars at any particular moment recurs, and if that year embraces twelve thousand nine hundred and ninety four of what we call years, then your Demosthenes whom you represent as so old and ancient, began his existence not only in the same year, but almost in the same month as ourselves.
|16. "Magnam" inquit Secundus "et dignam tractatu quaestionem movisti. Sed quis eam iustius explicabit quam tu, ad cuius summam eruditionem et praestantissimum ingenium cura quoque et meditatio accessit?" Et Messalla "aperiam" inquit "cogitationes meas, si illud a vobis ante impetravero, ut vos quoque sermonem hunc nostrum adiuvetis." "Pro duobus" inquit Maternus "promitto: nam et ego et Secundus exsequemur eas partis, quas intellexerimus te non tam omisisse quam nobis reliquisse. Aprum enim solere dissentire et tu paulo ante dixisti et ipse satis manifestus est iam dudum in contrarium accingi nec aequo animo perferre hanc nostram pro antiquorum laude concordiam." "Non enim" inquit Aper "inauditum et indefensum sae- culum nostrum patiar hac vestra conspiratione damnari: sed hoc primum interrogabo, quos vocetis antiquos, quam oratorum aetatem significatione ista determinetis. Ego enim cum audio antiquos, quosdam veteres et olim natos intellego, ac mihi versantur ante oculos Ulixes ac Nestor, quorum aetas mille fere et trecentis annis saeculum nostrum antecedit: vos autem Demosthenem et Hyperidem profertis, quos satis constat Philippi et Alexandri temporibus floruisse, ita tamen ut utrique superstites essent. Ex quo apparet non multo pluris quam trecentos annos interesse inter nostram et Demosthenis aetatem. Quod spatium temporis si ad infirmitatem corporum nostrorum referas, fortasse longum videatur; si ad naturam saeculorum ac respectum inmensi huius aevi, perquam breve et in proximo est. Nam si, ut Cicero in Hortensio scribit, is est magnus et verus annus, par quo eadem positio caeli siderumque, quae cum maxime est, rursum existet, isque annus horum quos nos vocamus annorum duodecim milia nongentos quinquaginta quattuor complectitur, incipit Demosthenes vester, quem vos veterem et antiquum fingitis, non solum eodem anno quo nos, sed etiam eodem mense extitisse.|
|17. But I pass to the Latin orators. Among them, it is not, I imagine, Menenius Agrippa, who may seem ancient, whom you usually prefer to the speakers of our day, but Cicero, Caelius, Calvus, Brutus, Asinius, Messala. Why you assign them to antiquity rather than to our own times, I do not see. With respect to Cicero himself, it was in the consulship of Hirtius and Pansa, as his freedman Tiro has stated, on the 5th of December, that he was slain. In that same year the Divine Augustus elected himself and Quintus Pedius consuls in the room of Pansa and Hirtius. Fix at fifty-six years the subsequent rule of the Divine Augustus over the state; add Tiberius's three-and-twenty years, the four years or less of Caius, the twenty-eight years of Claudius and Nero, the one memorable long year of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, and the now six years of the present happy reign, during which Vespasian has been fostering the public weal, and the result is that from Cicero's death to our day is a hundred and twenty years, one man's life-time. For I saw myself an old man in Britain who declared that he was present at the battle in which they strove to drive and beat back from their shores the arms of Cæsar when he attacked their island. So, had this man who encountered Cæsar in the field, been brought to Rome either as a prisoner, or by his own choice or by some destiny, he might have heard Cæsar himself and Cicero, and also have been present at our own speeches. At the last largess of the Emperor you saw yourselves several old men who told you that they had actually shared once and again in the gifts of the divine Augustus. Hence we infer that they might have heard both Corvinus and Asinius. Corvinus indeed lived on to the middle of the reign of Augustus, Asinius almost to its close. You must not then divide the age, and habitually describe as old and ancient orators those with whom the ears of the self-same men might have made acquaintance, and whom they might, so to say, have linked and coupled together.||17. Sed transeo ad Latinos oratores, in quibus non Menenium, ut puto, Agrippam, qui potest videri antiquus, nostrorum temporum disertis anteponere soletis, sed Ciceronem et Caesarem et Caelium et Calvum et Brutum et Asinium et Messallam: quos quid antiquis potius temporibus adscribatis quam nostris, non video. Nam ut de Cicerone ipso loquar, Hirtio nempe et Pansa consulibus, ut Tiro libertus eius scribit, septimo idus [Decembris] occisus est, quo anno divus Augustus in locum Pansae et Hirtii se et Q. Pedium consules suffecit. Statue sex et quinquaginta annos, quibus mox divus Augustus rem publicam rexit; adice Tiberii tris et viginti, et prope quadriennium Gai, ac bis quaternos denos Claudii et Neronis annos, atque illum Galbae et Othonis et Vitellii longum et unum annum, ac sextam iam felicis huius principatus stationem, qua Vespasianus rem publicam fovet: centum et viginti anni ab interitu Ciceronis in hunc diem colliguntur, unius hominis aetas. Nam ipse ego in Britannia vidi senem, qui se fateretur ei pugnae interfuisse, qua Caesarem inferentem arma Britanniae arcere litoribus et pellere adgressi sunt. Ita si eum, qui armatus C. Caesari restitit, vel captivitas vel voluntas vel fatum aliquod in urbem pertraxisset, aeque idem et Caesarem ipsum et Ciceronem audire potuit et nostris quoque actionibus interesse. Proximo quidem congiario ipsi vidistis plerosque senes, qui se a divo quoque Augusto semel atque iterum accepisse congiarium narrabant. Ex quo colligi potest et Corvinum ab illis et Asinium audiri potuisse; nam Corvinus in medium usque Augusti principatum, Asinius paene ad extremum duravit, ne dividatis saeculum, et antiquos ac veteres vocitetis oratores, quos eorundem hominum aures adgnoscere ac velut coniungere et copulare potuerunt.|
|18. I have made these preliminary remarks to show that any credit reflected on the age by the fame and renown of these orators is common property, and is in fact more closely connected with us than with Servius Galba or Caius Carbo, and others whom we may rightly call "ancients." These indeed are rough, unpolished, awkward, and ungainly, and I wish that your favourite Calvus or Caelius or even Cicero had in no respect imitated them. I really mean now to deal with the subject more boldly and confidently, but I must first observe that the types and varieties of eloquence change with the age. Thus Caius Gracchus compared with the elder Cato is full and copious; Crassus compared with Gracchus is polished and ornate; Cicero compared with either is lucid, graceful, and lofty; Corvinus again is softer and sweeter and more finished in his phrases than Cicero. I do not ask who is the best speaker. Meantime I am content to have proved that eloquence has more than one face, and even in those whom you Call ancients several varieties are to be discovered. Nor does it at once follow that difference implies inferiority. It is the fault of envious human nature that the old is always the object of praise, the present of contempt. Can we doubt that there were found critics who admired Appius Caecus more than Cato? We know that even Cicero was not without his disparagers, who thought him inflated, turgid, not concise enough, but unduly diffuse and luxuriant, in short anything but Attic. You have read of course the letters of Calvus and Brutus to Cicero, and from these it is easy to perceive that in Cicero's opinion Calvus was bloodless and attenuated, Brutus slovenly and lax. Cicero again was slightingly spoken of by Calvus as loose and nerveless, and by Brutus, to use his own words, as "languid and effeminate." If you ask me, I think they all said what was true. But I shall come to them separately after a while; now I have to deal with them collectively.||18. Haec ideo praedixi, ut si qua ex horum oratorum fama gloriaque laus temporibus adquiritur, eam docerem in medio sitam et propiorem nobis quam Servio Galbae aut C. Carboni quosque alios merito antiquos vocaverimus; sunt enim horridi et inpoliti et rudes et informes et quos utinam nulla parte imitatus esset Calvus vester aut Caelius aut ipse Cicero. Agere enim fortius iam et audentius volo, si illud ante praedixero, mutari cum temporibus formas quoque et genera dicendi. Sic Catoni seni comparatus C. Gracchus plenior et uberior, sic Graccho politior et ornatior Crassus, sic utroque distinctior et urbanior et altior Cicero, Cicerone mitior Corvinus et dulcior et in verbis magis elaboratus. Nec quaero quis disertissimus: hoc interim probasse contentus sum, non esse unum eloquentiae vultum, sed in illis quoque quos vocatis antiquos pluris species deprehendi, nec statim deterius esse quod diversum est, vitio autem malignitatis humanae vetera semper in laude, praesentia in fastidio esse. Num dubitamus inventos qui prae Catone Appium Caecum magis mirarentur? satis constat ne Ciceroni quidem obtrectatores defuisse, quibus inflatus et tumens nec satis pressus, sed supra modum exsultans et superfluens et parum Atticus videretur. legistis utique et Calvi et Bruti ad Ciceronem missas epistulas, ex quibus facile est deprehendere Calvum quidem Ciceroni visum exsanguem et aridum, Brutum autem otiosum atque diiunctum; rursusque Ciceronem a Calvo quidem male audisse tamquam solutum et enervem, a Bruto autem, ut ipsius verbis utar, tamquam "fractum atque elumbem." si me interroges, omnes mihi videntur verum dixisse: sed mox ad singulos veniam, nunc mihi cum universis negotium est.|
|19. While indeed the admirers of the ancients fix as the boundary, so to say, of antiquity, the period up to Cassius Severus who was the first, they assert, to deviate from the old and plain path of the speaker, I maintain that it was not from poverty of genius or ignorance of letters that he adopted his well known style, but from preference and intellectual conviction. He saw, in fact, that, as I was just now saying, the character and type of oratory must change with the circumstances of the age and an altered taste in the popular ear. The people of the past, ignorant and uncultured as they were, patiently endured the length of a very confused speech, and it was actually to the speaker's credit, if he took up one of their days by his speech-making. Then too they highly esteemed long preparatory introductions, narratives told from a remote beginning, a multitude of divisions ostentatiously paraded, proofs in a thousand links, and all the other directions prescribed in those driest of treatises by Hermagoras and Apollodorus. Any one who was supposed to have caught a scent of philosophy, and who introduced some philosophical commonplace into his speech, was praised up to the skies. And no wonder; for this was new and unfamiliar, and even of the orators but very few had studied the rules of rhetoricians or the dogmas of philosophers. But now that all these are common property and that there is scarce a bystander in the throng who, if not fully instructed, has not at least been initiated into the rudiments of culture, eloquence must resort to new and skilfully chosen paths, in order that the orator may avoid offence to the fastidious ear, at any rate before judges who decide by power and authority, not by law and precedent, who fix the speak-er's time, instead of leaving it to himself, and, so far from thinking that they ought to wait till he chooses to speak on the matter in question, continually remind him of it and recall him to it when he wanders, protesting that they are in a hurry.||19. Nam quatenus antiquorum admiratores hunc velut terminum antiquitatis constituere solent, qui usque ad Cassium * * * * * , quem reum faciunt, quem primum adfirmant flexisse ab illa vetere atqueirecta dicendi via, non infirmitate ingenii nec inscitia litterarum transtulisse se ad aliud dicendi genus contendo, sed iudicio et intellectu. Vidit namque, ut paulo ante dicebam, cum condicione temporum et diversitate aurium formam quoque ac speciem orationis esse mutandam. facile perferebat prior ille populus, ut imperitus et rudis, impeditissimarum orationum spatia, atque id ipsum laudabat, si dicendo quis diem eximeret. Iam vero longa principiorum praeparatio et narrationis alte repetita series et multarum divisionum ostentatio et mille argumentorum gradus, et quidquid aliud aridissimis Hermagorae et Apollodori libris praecipitur, in honore erat; quod si quis odoratus philosophiam videretur et ex ea locum aliquem orationi suae insereret, in caelum laudibus ferebatur. Nec mirum; erant enim haec nova et incognita, et ipsorum quoque oratorum paucissimi praecepta rhetorum aut philosophorum placita cognoverant. At hercule pervulgatis iam omnibus, cum vix in cortina quisquam adsistat, quin elementis studiorum, etsi non instructus, at certe imbutus sit, novis et exquisitis eloquentiae itineribus opus est, per quae orator fastidium aurium effugiat, utique apud eos iudices, qui vi et potestate, non iure et legibus cognoscunt, nec accipiunt tempora, sed constituunt, nec exspectandum habent oratorem, dum illi libeat de ipso negotio dicere, sed saepe ultro admonent atque alio transgredientem revocant et festinare se testantur.|