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|20. Who will now tolerate an advocate who begins by speaking of the feebleness of his constitution, as is usual in the openings of Corvinus? Who will sit out the five books against Verres? Who will endure those huge volumes, on a legal plea or form, which we have read in the speeches for Marcus Tullius and Aulus Caecina? In our day the judge anticipates the speaker, and unless he is charmed and imposed on by the train of arguments, or the brilliancy of the thoughts, or the grace and elegance of the descriptive sketches, he is deaf to his eloquence. Even the mob of bystanders, and the chance listeners who flock in, now usually require brightness and beauty in a speech, and they no more endure in the law-court the harshness and roughness of antiquity, than they would an actor on the stage who chose to reproduce the gestures of Roscius or Ambivius. So again the young, those whose studies are on the anvil, who go after the orators with a view to their own progress, are anxious not merely to hear but also to carry back home some brilliant passage worthy of remembrance. They tell it one to another, and often mention it in letters to their colonies and provinces, whether it is a reflection lighted up by a neat and pithy phrase, or a passage bright with choice and poetic ornament. For we now expect from a speaker even poetic beauty, not indeed soiled with the old rust of Accius or Pacuvius, but such as is produced from the sacred treasures of Horace, Virgil, and Lucan. Thus the age of our orators, in conforming itself to the ear and the taste of such a class, has advanced in beauty and ornateness. Nor does it follow that our speeches are less successful because they bring pleasure to the ears of those who have to decide. What if you were to assume that the temples of the present day are weaker, because, instead of being built of rough blocks and ill-shaped tiles, they shine with marble and glitter with gold?||20. Quis nunc feret oratorem de infirmitate valetudinis suae praefantem? Qualia sunt fere principia Corvini. Quis quinque in Verrem libros exspectabit? Quis de exceptione et formula perpetietur illa inmensa volumina, quae pro M. Tullio aut Aulo Caecina legimus? Praecurrit hoc tempore iudex dicentem et, nisi aut cursu argumentorum aut colore sententiarum aut nitore et cultu descriptionum invitatus et corruptus est, aversatur [dicentem]. Vulgus quoque adsistentium et adfluens et vagus auditor adsuevit iam exigere laetitiam et pulchritudinem orationis; nec magis perfert in iudiciis tristem et impexam antiquitatem quam si quis in scaena Roscii aut Turpionis Ambivii exprimere gestus velit. Iam vero iuvenes et in ipsa studiorum incude positi, qui profectus sui causa oratores sectantur, non solum audire, sed etiam referre domum aliquid inlustre et dignum memoria volunt; traduntque in vicem ac saepe in colonias ac provincias suas scribunt, sive sensus aliquis arguta et brevi sententia effulsit, sive locus exquisito et poetico cultu enituit. Exigitur enim iam ab oratore etiam poeticus decor, non Accii aut Pacuvii veterno inquinatus, sed ex Horatii et Virgilii et Lucani sacrario prolatus. Horum igitur auribus et iudiciis obtemperans nostrorum oratorum aetas pulchrior et ornatior extitit. Neque ideo minus efficaces sunt orationes nostrae, quia ad auris iudicantium cum voluptate perveniunt. Quid enim, si infirmiora horum temporum templa credas, quia non rudi caemento et informibus tegulis exstruuntur, sed marmore nitent et auro radiantur?|
21. I will frankly admit to you that I can hardly keep from laughing at some of the ancients, and from falling asleep at others. I do not single out any of the common herd, as Canutius, or Arrius, and others in the same sick-room, so to say, who are content with mere skin and bones. Even Calvus, although he has left, I think, one-and-twenty volumes, scarcely satisfies me in one or two short speeches. The rest of the world, I see, does not differ from my opinion about him; for how few read his speeches against Asitius or Drusus! Certainly his impeachment of Vatinius, as it is entitled, is in the hands of students, especially the second of the orations. This, indeed, has a finish about the phrases and the periods, and suits the ear of the critic, whence you may infer that even Calvus understood what a better style is, but that he lacked genius and power rather than the will to speak with more dignity and grace. What again from the speeches of Caelius do we admire? Why, we like of these the whole, or at least parts, in which we recognise the polish and elevation of our own day; but, as for those mean expressions, those gaps in the structure of the sentences, and uncouth sentiments, they savour of antiquity. No one, I suppose, is so thoroughly antique as to praise Caelius simply on the side of his antiqueness. We may, indeed, make allowance for Caius Julius Cæsar, on account of his vast schemes and many occupations, for having achieved less in eloquence than his divine genius demanded from him, and leave him indeed, just as we leave Brutus to his philosophy. Undoubtedly in his speeches he fell short of his reputation, even by the admission of his admirers. I hardly suppose that any one reads Cæsar's speech for Decius the Samnite, or that of Brutus for King Deiotarus, or other works equally dull and cold, unless it is some one who also admires their poems. For they did write poems, and sent them to libraries, with no better success than Cicero, but with better luck, because fewer people know that they wrote them.
Asinius too, though born in a time nearer our own, seems to have studied with the Menenii and Appii. At any rate he imitated Pacuvius and Accius, not only in his tragedies but also in his speeches; he is so harsh and dry. Style, like the human body, is then specially beautiful when, so to say, the veins are not prominent, and the bones cannot be counted, but when a healthy and sound blood fills the limbs, and shows itself in the muscles, and the very sinews become beautiful under a ruddy glow and graceful outline. I will not attack Corvinus, for it was not indeed his own fault that he did not exhibit the luxuriance and brightness of our own day. Rather let us note how far the vigour of his intellect or of his imagination satisfied his critical faculty.
|21. Equidem fatebor vobis simpliciter me in quibusdam antiquorum vix risum, in quibusdam autem vix somnum tenere. Nec unum de populo Canuti aut Atti . . . de Furnio et Toranio quique alios in eodem valetudinario haec ossa et hanc maciem probant: ipse mihi Calvus, cum unum et viginti, utpar puto, libros reliquerit, vix in una et altera oratiuncula satis facit. Nec dissentire ceteros ab hoc meo iudicio video: quotus enim quisque Calvi in Asitium aut in Drusum legit? At hercule in omnium studiosorum manibus versantur accusationes quae in Vatinium inscribuntur, ac praecipue secunda ex his oratio; est enim verbis ornata et sententiis, auribus iudicum accommodata, ut scias ipsum quoque Calvum intellexisse quid melius esset, nec voluntatem ei, quo [minus] sublimius et cultius diceret, sed ingenium ac vires defuisse. Quid? Ex Caelianis orationibus nempe eae placent, sive universae sive partes earum, in quibus nitorem et altitudinem horum temporum adgnoscimus. Sordes autem illae verborum et hians compositio et inconditi sensus redolent antiquitatem; nec quemquam adeo antiquarium puto, ut Caelium ex ea parte laudet qua antiquus est. Concedamus sane C. Caesari, ut propter magnitudinem cogitationum et occupationes rerum minus in eloquentia effecerit, quam divinum eius ingenium postulabat, tam hercule quam Brutum philosophiae suae relinquamus; nam in orationibus minorem esse fama sua etiam admiratores eius fatentur: nisi forte quisquam aut Caesaris pro Decio Samnite aut Bruti pro Deiotaro rege ceterosque eiusdem lentitudinis ac teporis libros legit, nisi qui et carmina eorundem miratur. fecerunt enim et carmina et in bibliothecas rettulerunt, non melius quam Cicero, sed felicius, quia illos fecisse pauciores sciunt. Asinius quoque, quamquam propioribus temporibus natus sit, videtur mihi inter Menenios et Appios studuisse. Pacuvium certe et Accium non solum tragoediis sed etiam orationibus suis expressit; adeo durus et siccus est. Oratio autem, sicut corpus hominis, ea demum pulchra est, in qua non eminent venae nec ossa numerantur, sed temperatus ac bonus sanguis implet membra et exsurgit toris ipsosque nervos rubor tegit et decor commendat. Nolo Corvinum insequi, quia nec per ipsum stetit quo minus laetitiam nitoremque nostrorum temporum exprimeret, videmus enim quam iudicio eius vis aut animi aut ingenii suffecerit.|
|22. I come now to Cicero. He had the same battle with his contemporaries which I have with you. They admired the ancients; he preferred the eloquence of his own time. It was in taste more than anything else that he was superior to the orators of that age. In fact, he was the first who gave a finish to oratory, the first who applied a principle of selection to words, and art to composition. He tried his skill at beautiful passages, and invented certain arrangements of the sentence, at least in those speeches which he composed when old and near the close of life, that is when he had made more progress, and had learnt by practice and by many a trial, what was the best style of speaking. As for his early speeches, they are not free from the faults of antiquity. He is tedious in his introductions, lengthy in his narrations, careless about digressions; he is slow to rouse himself, and seldom warms to his subject, and only an idea here and there is brought to a fitting and a brilliant close. There is nothing which you can pick out or quote, and the style is like a rough building, the wall of which indeed is strong and lasting, but not particularly polished and bright. Now I would have an orator, like a rich and grand householder, not merely be sheltered by a roof sufficient to keep off rain and wind, but by one to delight the sight and the eye; not merely be provided with such furniture as is enough for necessary purposes, but also possess among his treasures gold and jewels, so that he may find a frequent pleasure in handling them and gazing on them. On the other hand, some things should be kept at a distance as being now obsolete and ill-savoured. There should be no phrase stained, so to speak, with rust; no ideas should be expressed in halting and languid periods after the fashion of chronicles. The orator must shun an offensive and tasteless scurrility; he must vary the structure of his sentences and not end all his clauses in one and the same way.||22. Ad Ciceronem venio, cui eadem pugna cum aequalibus suis fuit, quae mihi vobiscum est. Illi enim antiquos mirabantur, ipse suorum temporum eloquentiam anteponebat; nec ulla re magis eiusdem aetatis oratores praecurrit quam iudicio. primus enim excoluit orationem, primus et verbis dilectum adhibuit et compositioni artem, locos quoque laetiores attentavit et quasdam sententias invenit, utique in iis orationibus, quas senior iam et iuxta finem vitae composuit, id est, postquam magis profecerat usuque et experimentis didicerat quod optimum dicendi genus esset. Nam priores eius orationes non carent vitiis antiquitatis: lentus est in principiis, longus in narrationibus, otiosus circa excessus; tarde commovetur, raro incalescit; pauci sensus apte et cum quodam lumine terminantur. Nihil excerpere, nihil referre possis, et velut in rudi aedificio, firmus sane paries et duraturus, sed non satis expolitus et splendens. Ego autem oratorem, sicut locupletem ac lautum patrem familiae, non eo tantum volo tecto tegi quod imbrem ac ventum arceat, sed etiam quod visum et oculos delectet; non ea solum instrui supellectile quae necessariis usibus sufficiat, sed sit in apparatu eius et aurum et gemmae, ut sumere in manus et aspicere saepius libeat. Quaedam vero procul arceantur ut iam oblitterata et olentia: nullum sit verbum velut rubigine infectum, nulli sensus tarda et inerti structura in morem annalium componantur; fugitet foedam et insulsam scurrilitatem, variet compositionem, nec omnis clausulas uno et eodem modo determinet.|
|23. Phrases like "Fortune's wheel" and "Verrine soup," I do not care to ridicule, or that stock ending of every third clause in all Cicero's speeches, "it would seem to be," brought in as the close of a period. I have mentioned them with reluctance, omitting several, although they are the sole peculiarities admired and imitated by those who call themselves orators of the old school. I will not name any one, as I think it enough to have pointed at a class. Still, you have before your eyes men who read Lucilius rather than Horace, and Lucretius rather than Virgil, who have a mean opinion of the eloquence of Aufidius Bassus, and Servilius Nonianus compared with that of Sisenna or Varro, and who despise and loathe the treatises of our modern rhetoricians, while those of Calvus are their admiration. When these men prose in the old style before the judges, they have neither select listeners nor a popular audience; in short the client himself hardly endures them. They are dismal and uncouth, and the very soundness of which they boast, is the result not so much of real vigour as of fasting. Even as to health of body, physicians are not satisfied with that which is attained at the cost of mental worry. It is a small matter not to be ill; I like a man to be robust and hearty and full of life. If soundness is all that you can praise him for, he is not very far from being an invalid. Be it yours, my eloquent friends, to grace our age to the best of your ability, as in fact you are doing, with the noblest style of oratory. You, Messala, imitate, I observe, the choicest beauties of the ancients. And you, Maternus and Secundus, combine charm and finish of ex-pression with weight of thought. There is discrimination in the phrases you invent, order in the treatment of your subject, fullness, when the case demands it, conciseness, when it is possible, elegance in your style, and perspicuity in every sentence. You can express passion, and yet control an orator's licence. And so, although ill-nature and envy may have stood in the way of our good opinions, posterity will speak the truth concerning you.||23. Nolo inridere "rotam Fortunae" et "ius verrinum" et illud tertio quoque sensu in omnibus orationibus pro sententia positum "esse videatur." nam et haec invitus rettuli et plura omisi, quae tamen sola mirantur atque exprimunt ii, qui se antiquos oratores vocitant. Neminem nominabo, genus hominum significasse contentus; sed vobis utique versantur ante oculos isti, qui Lucilium pro Horatio et Lucretium pro Virgilio legunt, quibus eloquentia Aufidii Bassi aut Servilii Noniani ex comparatione Sisennae aut Varronis sordet, qui rhetorum nostrorum commentarios fastidiunt, oderunt, Calvi mirantur. Quos more prisco apud iudicem fabulantis non auditores sequuntur, non populus audit, vix denique litigator perpetitur: adeo maesti et inculti illam ipsam, quam iactant, sanitatem non firmitate, sed ieiunio consequuntur. porro ne in corpore quidem valetudinem medici probant quae animi anxietate contingit; parum est aegrum non esse: fortem et laetum et alacrem volo. prope abest ab infirmitate, in quo sola sanitas laudatur. Vos vero, [viri] disertissimi, ut potestis, ut facitis, inlustrate saeculum nostrum pulcherrimo genere dicendi. Nam et te, Messalla, video laetissima quaeque antiquorum imitantem, et vos, Materne ac Secunde, ita gravitati sensuum nitorem et cultum verborum miscetis, ea electio inventionis, is ordo rerum, ea, quotiens causa poscit, ubertas, ea, quotiens permittit, brevitas, is compositionis decor, ea sententiarum planitas est, sic exprimitis adfectus, sic libertatem temperatis, ut etiam si nostra iudicia malignitas et invidia tardaverit, verum de vobis dicturi sint posteri nostri."|
|24. Aper having finished speaking, Maternus said, You recognise, do you not, our friend Aper's force and passion? With what a torrent, what a rush of eloquence has he been defending our age? How full and varied was his tirade against the ancients! What ability and spirit, what learning and skill too did he show in borrowing from the very men themselves the weapons with which he forthwith proceeded to attack them! Still, as to your promise, Messala, there must for all this be no change. We neither want a defence of the ancients, nor do we compare any of ourselves, though we have just heard our own praises, with those whom Aper has denounced. Aper himself thinks otherwise; he merely followed an old practice much in vogue with your philosophical school of assuming the part of an opponent. Give us then not a panegyric on the ancients (their own fame is a sufficient panegyric) but tell us plainly the reasons why with us there has been such a falling off from their eloquence, the more marked as dates have proved that from the death of Cicero to this present day is but a hundred and twenty years.||24. Quae cum Aper dixisset, "adgnoscitisne" inquit Maternus "vim et ardorem Apri nostri? Quo torrente, quo impetu saeculum nostrum defendit! Quam copiose ac varie vexavit antiquos! Quanto non solum ingenio ac spiritu, sed etiam eruditione et arte ab ipsis mutuatus est per quae mox ipsos incesseret! Tuum tamen, Messalla, promissum immutasse non debet. Neque enim defensorem antiquorum exigimus, nec quemquam nostrum, quamquam modo laudati sumus, iis quos insectatus est Aper comparamus. Ac ne ipse quidem ita sentit, sed more vetere et a nostris philosophis saepe celebrato sumpsit sibi contra dicendi partis. Igitur exprome nobis non laudationem antiquorum (satis enim illos fama sua laudat), sed causas cur in tantum ab eloquentia eorum recesserimus, cum praesertim centum et viginti annos ab interitu Ciceronis in hunc diem effici ratio temporum collegerit."|
|25. Messala replied, I will take the line you have prescribed for me. Certainly I need not argue long against Aper, who began by raising what I think a controversy about a name, implying that it is not correct to call ancients those whom we all know to have lived a hundred years ago. I am not fighting about a word. Let him call them ancients or elders or any other name he prefers, provided only we have the admission that the eloquence of that age exceeded ours. If again he freely admits that even in the same, much more in different periods, there were many varieties of oratory, against this part too of his argument I say nothing. I maintain, however, that just as among Attic orators we give the first place to Demosthenes and assign the next to Aeschines, Hyperides, Lysias and Lycurgus, while all agree in regarding this as pre-eminently the age of speakers, so among ourselves Cicero indeed was superior to all the eloquent men of his day, though Calvus, Asinius, Cæsar, Caelius, and Brutus may claim the right of being preferred to those who preceded and who followed them. It matters nothing that they differ in special points, seeing that they are generically alike. Calvus is the more terse, Asinius has the finer rhythm, Cæsar greater brilliancy, Caelius is the more caustic, Brutus the more earnest, Cicero the more impassioned, the richer and more forcible. Still about them all there is the same healthy tone of eloquence. Take into your hand the works of all alike and you see that amid wide differences of genius, there is a resemblance and affinity of intellect and moral purpose. Grant that they disparaged each other (and certainly there are some passages in their letters which show mutual ill-will), still this is the failing, not of the orator, but of the man. Calvus, Asinius, Cicero himself, I presume, were apt to be envious and ill-natured, and to have the other faults of human infirmity. Brutus alone of the number in my opinion laid open the convictions of his heart frankly and ingenuously, without ill-will or envy. Is it possible that he envied Cicero, when he seems not to have envied even Cæsar? As to Servius Galba, and Caius Laelius, and others of the ancients whom Aper has persistently assailed, he must not expect me to defend them, for I admit that their eloquence, being yet in its infancy and imperfectly developed, had certain defects.||25. Tum Messalla: "sequar praescriptam a te, Materne, formam; neque enim diu contra dicendum est Apro, qui primum, ut opinor, nominis controversiam movit, tamquam parum proprie antiqui vocarentur, quos satis constat ante centum annos fuisse. Nihi autem de vocabulo pugna non est; sive illos antiquos sive maiores sive quo alio mavult nomine appellet, dum modo in confesso sit eminentiorem illorum temporum eloquentiam fuisse; ne illi quidem parti sermonis eius repugno, si comminus fatetur pluris formas dicendi etiam isdem saeculis, nedum diversis extitisse. Sed quo modo inter Atticos oratores primae Demostheni tribuuntur, proximum [autem] locum Aeschines et Hyperides et Lysias et Lycurgus obtinent, omnium autem concessu haec oratorum aetas maxime probatur, sic apud nos Cicero quidem ceteros eorundem temporum disertos antecessit, Calvus autem et Asinius et Caesar et Caelius et Brutus iure et prioribus et sequentibus anteponuntur. Nec refert quod inter se specie differunt, cum genere consentiant. Adstrictior Calvus, numerosior Asinius, splendidior Caesar, amarior Caelius, gravior Brutus, vehementior et plenior et valentior Cicero: omnes tamen eandem sanitatem eloquentiae [prae se] ferunt, ut si omnium pariter libros in manum sumpseris, scias, quamvis in diversis ingeniis, esse quandam iudicii ac voluntatis similitudinem et cognationem. Nam quod invicem se obtrectaverunt et sunt aliqua epistulis eorum inserta, ex quibus mutua malignitas detegitur, non est oratorum vitium, sed hominum. Nam et Calvum et Asinium et ipsum Ciceronem credo solitos et invidere et livere et ceteris humanae infirmitatis vitiis adfici: solum inter hos arbitror Brutum non malignitate nec invidia, sed simpliciter et ingenue iudicium animi sui detexisse. An ille Ciceroni invideret, qui mihi videtur ne Caesari quidem invidisse? Quod ad Servium Galbam et C. Laelium attinet, et si quos alios antiquiorum [Aper] agitare non destitit, non exigit defensorem, cum fatear quaedam eloquentiae eorum ut nascenti adhuc nec satis adultae defuisse.|
|26. After all, if I must put on one side the highest and most perfect type of eloquence and select a style, I should certainly prefer the vehemence of Caius Gracchus or the sobriety of Lucius Crassus to the curls of Maecenas or the jingles of Gallio: so much better is it for an orator to wear a rough dress than to glitter in many-coloured and meretricious attire. Indeed, neither for an orator or even a man is that style becoming which is adopted by many of the speakers of our age, and which, with its idle redundancy of words, its meaningless periods and licence of expression, imitates the art of the actor. Shocking as it ought to be to our ears, it is a fact that fame, glory, and genius are sacrificed by many to the boast that their compositions are given with the tones of the singer, the gestures of the dancer. Hence the exclamation, which, though often heard, is a shame and an absurdity, that our orators speak prettily and our actors dance eloquently. For myself I would not deny that Cassius Severus, the only speaker whom Aper ventured to name, may, if compared with his successors, be called an orator, although in many of his works he shows more violence than vigour. The first to despise arrangement, to cast off propriety and delicacy of expression, confused by the very weapons he employs, and often stumbling in his eagerness to strike, he wrangles rather than fights. Still, as I have said, compared with his successors, he is far superior to all in the variety of his learning, the charm of his wit, and the solidity of his very strength. Not one of them has Aper had the courage to mention, and, so to say, to bring into the field. When he had censured Asinius, Caelius, and Calvus, I expected that he would show us a host of others, and name more, or at least as many who might be pitted man by man against Cicero, Cæsar, and the rest. As it is, he has contented himself with singling out for disparagement some ancient orators, and has not dared to praise any of their successors, except generally and in terms common to all, fearing, I sup-pose, that he would offend many, if he selected a few. For there is scarce one of our rhetoricians who does not rejoice in his conviction that he is to be ranked before Cicero, but unquestionably second to Gabinianus.||26. Ceterum si omisso optimo illo et perfectissimo genere eloquentiae eligenda sit forma dicendi, malim hercule C. Gracchi impetum aut L. Crassi maturitatem quam calamistros Maecenatis aut tinnitus Gallionis: adeo melius est orationem vel hirta toga induere quam fucatis et meretriciis vestibus insignire. Neque enim oratorius iste, immo hercule ne virilis quidem cultus est, quo plerique temporum nostrorum actores ita utuntur, ut lascivia verborum et levitate sententiarum et licentia compositionis histrionalis modos exprimant. Quodque vix auditu fas esse debeat, laudis et gloriae et ingenii loco plerique iactant cantari saltarique commentarios suos. unde oritur illa foeda et praepostera, sed tamen frequens [sicut his clam et] exclamatio, ut oratores nostri tenere dicere, histriones diserte saltare dicantur. Equidem non negaverim Cassium Severum, quem solum Aper noster nominare ausus est, si iis comparetur, qui postea fuerunt, posse oratorem vocari, quamquam in magna parte librorum suorum plus bilis habeat quam sanguinis. primus enim contempto ordine rerum, omissa modestia ac pudore verborum, ipsis etiam quibus utitur armis incompositus et studio feriendi plerumque deiectus, non pugnat, sed rixatur. Ceterum, ut dixi, sequentibus comparatus et varietate eruditionis et lepore urbanitatis et ipsarum virium robore multum ceteros superat, quorum neminem Aper nominare et velut in aciem educere sustinuit. Ego autem exspectabam, ut incusato Asinio et Caelio et Calvo aliud nobis agmen produceret, plurisque vel certe totidem nominaret, ex quibus alium Ciceroni, alium Caesari, singulis deinde singulos opponeremus. Nunc detrectasse nominatim antiquos oratores contentus neminem sequentium laudare ausus est nisi in publicum et in commune, veritus credo, ne multos offenderet, si paucos excerpsisset. Quotus enim quisque scholasticorum non hac sua persuasione fruitur, ut se ante Ciceronem numeret, sed plane post Gabinianum? At ego non verebor nominare singulos, quo facilius propositis exemplis appareat, quibus gradibus fracta sit et deminuta eloquentia."|
27. For my own part I shall not scruple to mention men by name, that, with examples before us, we may the more easily perceive the successive steps of the ruin and decay of eloquence.
Maternus here interrupted him. Rather prepare yourself to fulfil your promise. We do not want proof of the superior eloquence of the ancients; as far as I am concerned, it is admitted. We are inquiring into the causes, and these you told us but now you had been in the habit of discussing, when you were less excited and were not raving against the eloquence of our age, just before Aper offended you by attacking your ancestors.
I was not offended, replied Messala, by our friend Aper's argument, nor again will you have a right to be offended, if any remark of mine happens to grate on your ears, for you know that it is a rule in these discussions that we may speak out our convictions without impairing mutual good-will.
Proceed, said Maternus. As you are speaking of the ancients, avail yourself of ancient freedom, from which we have fallen away even yet more than from eloquence.
|27. "At parce" inquit Maternus "et potius exsolve promissum. Neque enim hoc colligi desideramus, disertiores esse antiquos, quod apud me quidem in confesso est, sed causas exquirimus, quas te solitum tractare [dixisti], paulo ante plane mitior et eloquentiae temporum nostrorum minus iratus, antequam te Aper offenderet maiores tuos lacessendo." "Non sum" inquit "offensus Apri mei disputatione, nec vos offendi decebit, si quid forte auris vestras perstringat, cum sciatis hanc esse eius modi sermonum legem, iudicium animi citra damnum adfectus proferre." "Perge" inquit Maternus "et cum de antiquis loquaris, utere antiqua libertate, a qua vel magis degeneravimus quam ab eloquentia."|
|28. Messala continued. Far from obscure are the causes which you seek. Neither to yourself or to our friends, Secundus and Aper, are they unknown, though you assign me the part of speaking out before you what we all think. Who does not know that eloquence and all other arts have declined from their ancient glory, not from dearth of men, but from the indolence of the young, the carelessness of parents, the ignorance of teachers, and neglect of the old discipline? The evils which first began in Rome soon spread through Italy, and are now diffusing themselves into the provinces. But your provincial affairs are best known to yourselves. I shall speak of Rome, and of those native and home-bred vices which take hold of us as soon as we are horn, and multiply with every stage of life, when I have first said a few words on the strict discipline of our ancestors in the education and training of children. Every citizen's son, the child of a chaste mother, was from the beginning reared, not in the chamber of a purchased nurse, but in that mother's bosom and embrace, and it was her special glory to study her home and devote herself to her children. It was usual to select an elderly kinswoman of approved and esteemed character to have the entire charge of all the children of the household. In her presence it was the last offence to utter an unseemly word or to do a disgraceful act. With scrupulous piety and modesty she regulated not only the boy's studies and occupations, but even his recreations and games. Thus it was, as tradition says, that the mothers of the Gracchi, of Cæsar, of Augustus, Cornelia, Aurelia, Atia, directed their children's education and reared the greatest of sons. The strictness of the discipline tended to form in each case a pure and virtuous nature which no vices could warp, and which would at once with the whole heart seize on every noble lesson. Whatever its bias, whether to the soldier's or the lawyer's art, or to the study of eloquence, it would make that its sole aim, and imbibe it in its fullness.||28. Et Messalla "non reconditas, Materne, causas requiris, nec aut tibi ipsi aut huic Secundo vel huic Apro ignotas, etiam si mihi partis adsignatis proferendi in medium quae omnes sentimus. Quis enim ignorat et eloquentiam et ceteras artis descivisse ab illa vetere gloria non inopia hominum, sed desidia iuventutis et neglegentia parentum et inscientia praecipientium et oblivione moris antiqui? Quae mala primum in urbe nata, mox per Italiam fusa, iam in provincias manant. Quamquam vestra vobis notiora sunt: ego de urbe et his propriis ac vernaculis vitiis loquar, quae natos statim excipiunt et per singulos aetatis gradus cumulantur, si prius de severitate ac disciplina maiorum circa educandos formandosque liberos pauca praedixero. Nam pridem suus cuique filius, ex casta parente natus, non in cellula emptae nutricis, sed gremio ac sinu matris educabatur, cuius praecipua laus erat tueri domum et inservire liberis. Eligebatur autem maior aliqua natu propinqua, cuius probatis spectatisque moribus omnis eiusdem familiae suboles committeretur; coram qua neque dicere fas erat quod turpe dictu, neque facere quod inhonestum factu videretur. Ac non studia modo curasque, sed remissiones etiam lususque puerorum sanctitate quadam ac verecundia temperabat. Sic Corneliam Gracchorum, sic Aureliam Caesaris, sic Atiam Augusti [matrem] praefuisse educationibus ac produxisse principes liberos accepimus. Quae disciplina ac severitas eo pertinebat, ut sincera et integra et nullis pravitatibus detorta unius cuiusque natura toto statim pectore arriperet artis honestas, et sive ad rem militarem sive ad iuris scientiam sive ad eloquentiae studium inclinasset, id solum ageret, id universum hauriret.|
|29. But in our day we entrust the infant to a little Greek servant-girl who is attended by one or two, commonly the worst of all the slaves, creatures utterly unfit for any important work. Their stories and their prejudices from the very first fill the child's tender and uninstructed mind. No one in the whole house cares what he says or does before his infant master. Even parents themselves familiarise their little ones, not with virtue and modesty, but with jesting and glib talk, which lead on by degrees to shamelessness and to contempt for themselves as well as for others. Really I think that the characteristic and peculiar vices of this city, a liking for actors and a passion for gladiators and horses, are all but conceived in the mother's womb. When these occupy and possess the mind, how little room has it left for worthy attainments! Few indeed are to be found who talk of any other subjects in their homes, and whenever we enter a class-room, what else is the conversation of the youths. Even with the teachers, these are the more frequent topics of talk with their scholars. In fact, they draw pupils, not by strictness of discipline or by giving proof of ability, but by assiduous court and cunning tricks of flattery.||29. At nunc natus infans delegatur Graeculae alicui ancillae, cui adiungitur unus aut alter ex omnibus servis, plerumque vilissimus nec cuiquam serio ministerio adcommodatus. Horum fabulis et erroribus [et] virides [teneri] statim et rudes animi imbuuntur; nec quisquam in tota domo pensi habet, quid coram infante domino aut dicat aut faciat. Quin etiam ipsi parentes non probitati neque modestiae parvulos adsuefaciunt, sed lasciviae et dicacitati, per quae paulatim impudentia inrepit et sui alienique contemptus. Iam vero propria et peculiaria huius urbis vitia paene in utero matris concipi mihi videntur, histrionalis favor et gladiatorum equorumque studia: quibus occupatus et obsessus animus quantulum loci bonis artibus relinquit? Quotum quemque invenies qui domi quicquam aliud loquatur? Quos alios adulescentulorum sermones excipimus, si quando auditoria intravimus? Ne praeceptores quidem ullas crebriores cum auditoribus suis fabulas habent; colligunt enim discipulos non severitate disciplinae nec ingenii experimento, sed ambitione salutationum et inlecebris adulationis.|