Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE ORATOR OF M. T. CICERO. ADDRESSED TO MARCUS BRUTUS. - Orations vol. 4: The Fourteen Orations against Marcus Antonius; to which are appended the Treatise on Rhetorical Invention; The Orator; Topics; On Rhetorical Partitions, etc.
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THE ORATOR OF M. T. CICERO. ADDRESSED TO MARCUS BRUTUS. - Marcus Tullius Cicero, Orations vol. 4: The Fourteen Orations against Marcus Antonius; to which are appended the Treatise on Rhetorical Invention; The Orator; Topics; On Rhetorical Partitions, etc. 
The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, trans. C.D. Yonge (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1913-21). Vol. 4.
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THE ORATOR OF M. T. CICERO.
This work was composed by Cicero soon after the battle of Pharsalia, and it was intended by him to contain the plan of what he himself considered to be the most perfect style of eloquence. In his Epistles to his Friends (vi. 18.) he tells Lepta that he firmly believed that he had condensed all his knowledge of the art of oratory in what he had set forth in this book.
I.I have, O Brutus, hesitated a long time and often as to whether it was a more difficult and arduous business to refuse you, when constantly requesting the same favour, or to do what you desired me to do. For to refuse a man to whom I was attached above all men, and whom I knew also to be most entirely devoted to me, especially when he was only asking what was reasonable, and desiring what was honourable to me, appeared to me to be very harsh conduct; and to undertake a matter of such importance as was not only difficult for any man to have the ability to execute in an adequate manner, but hard even to think of in a way suited to its importance, appeared to me to be scarcely consistent with the character of a man who stood in awe of the reproof of wise and learned men. For what is there more important than, when the dissimilarity between good orators is so great, to decide which is the best sort and as it were the best form of eloquence?
However, since you repeat your entreaties, I will attempt the task, not so much from any hope that I entertain of accomplishing it, as from my willingness to attempt it. For I had rather that you should find fault with my prudence in thus complying with your eager desire, than with my friendship in refusing to attempt it.
You ask me then, and indeed you are constantly asking me, what kind of eloquence I approve of in the highest degree, and which sort of oratory I consider that to which nothing can be added, and which I therefore think the highest and most perfect kind. And in answering this question I am afraid lest, if I do what you wish, and give you an idea of the orator whom you are asking for, I may check the zeal of many, who, being discouraged by despair, will not make an attempt at what they have no hope of succeeding in. But it is good for all men to try everything, who have ever desired to attain any objects which are of importance and greatly to be desired. But if there be any one who feels that he is deficient either in natural power, or in any eminent force of natural genius, or that he is but inadequately instructed in the knowledge of important sciences, still let him hold on his course as far as he can. For if a man aims at the highest place, it is very honourable to arrive at the second or even the third rank. For in the poets there is room not only for Homer (to confine myself to the Greeks), or for Archilochus, or So hocles, or Pindar, but there is room also for those who are second to them, or even below the second. Nor, indeed, did the nobleness of Plato in philosophical studies deter Aristotle from writing; nor did Aristotle himself, by his admirable knowledge and eloquence, extinguish the zeal in those pursuits of all other men.
II. And it is not only the case that eminent men have not been deterred by such circumstances from the highest class of studies, but even those artists have not renounced their art, who have been unable to equal the beauty of the Talysus1 which we have seen at Rhodes, or of the Coan Venus. Nor have subsequent sculptors been so far alarmed at the statue of the Olympian Jove, or of the Shield-bearer, as to give up trying what they could accomplish, or how far they could advance; and, indeed, there has been so vast a multitude of those men, and each of them has obtained so much credit in his own particular walk, that, while we admire the most perfect models, we have also approbation to spare for those which come short of them.
But in the case of orators—I mean Greek orators—it is a marvellous thing how far one is superior to all the rest. And yet when Demosthenes flourished there were many illustrious orators, and so there were before his time, and the supply has not failed since. So that there is no reason why the hopes of those men, who have devoted themselves to the study of eloquence, should be broken, or why their industry should languish. For even the very highest pitch of excellency ought not to be despaired of; and in perfect things those things are very good which are next to the most perfect.
And I, in depicting a consummate orator, will draw a picture of such an one as perhaps never existed. For I am not asking who he was, but what that is than which nothing can be more excellent. And perhaps the perfection which I am looking for does not often shine forth, (indeed I do not know whether it ever has been seen,) but still in some degree it may at times be discoverable, among some nations more frequently, and among others more sparingly. But I lay down this position, that there is nothing of any kind so beautiful which has not something more beautiful still from which it is copied,—as a portrait is from a person’s face,—though it can neither be perceived by the eyes or ears, or by any other of the senses; it is in the mind only, and by our thoughts, that we embrace it. Therefore, though we have never seen anything of any kind more beautiful than the statues of Phidias and than those pictures which I have named, still we can imagine something more beautiful. Nor did that great artist, when he was making the statue of Jupiter or of Minerva, keep in his mind any particular person of whom he was making a likeness; but there dwelt in his mind a certain perfect idea of beauty, which he looked upon, and fixed his eyes upon, and guided his art and his hand with reference to the likeness of that model.
III. As therefore there is in forms and figures something perfect and superexcellent, the appearance of which is stamped in our minds so that we imitate it, and refer to it everything which falls under our eyes; so we keep in our mind an idea of perfect eloquence, and seek for its resemblance with our ears.
Now Plato, that greatest of all authors and teachers, not only of understanding, but also of speaking, calls those forms of things ideas; and he affirms that they are not created, but that they exist from everlasting, and are kept in their places by reason and intelligence: that all other things have their rising and setting, their ebb and flow, and cannot continue long in the same condition. Whatever there is, therefore, which can become a subject of discussion as to its principle and method, is to be reduced to the ultimate form and species of its class.
And I see that this first beginning of mine is derived not from the discussions of orators, but from the very heart of philosophy, and that it is old-fashioned and somewhat obscure, and likely to incur some blame, or at all events to provoke some surprise. For men will either wonder what all this has to do with that which is the subject of our inquiry, and they will be satisfied with understanding the nature of the facts, so that it may not seem to be without reason that we have traced their origin so far back; or else they will blame us for hunting out for unaccustomed paths, and abandoning those in ordinary use.
But I am aware that I often appear to say things which are novel, when I am in reality saying what is very old, only not generally known. And I confess that I have been made an orator, (if indeed I am one at all,) or such as I am, not by the workshops of the rhetoricians, but by the walks of the Academy. For that is the school of manifold and various discourses, in which first of all there are imprinted the footsteps of Plato. But the orator is to a great extent trained and assisted by his discussions and those of other philosophers. For all that copiousness, and forest, as it were, of eloquence, is derived from those men, and yet is not sufficient for forensic business; which, as these men themselves used to say, they left to more rustic muses. Accordingly this forensic eloquence, being despised and repudiated by philosophy, has lost many great and substantial helps; but still, as it is embellished with flowery language and well-turned periods, it has had some popularity among the people, and has had no reason to fear the judgment or prejudice of a few. And so popular eloquence has been lost to learned men, and elegant learning to eloquent ones.
IV. Let this then be laid down among the first principles, (and it will be better understood presently,)—that the eloquent man whom we are looking for cannot be rendered such without philosophy. Not indeed that there is everything necessary in philosophy, but that it is of assistance to an orator as the wrestling-school is to an actor; for small things are often compared with great ones. For no one can express wide views, or speak fluently on many and various subjects, without philosophy. Since also, in the Phædrus of Plato, Socrates says that this is what Pericles was superior to all other orators in, that he had been a pupil of Anaxagoras the natural philosopher. And it was owing to him, in his opinion, (though he had learnt also many other splendid and admirable accomplishments,) that he was so copious and imaginative, and so thoroughly aware—which is the main thing in eloquence—by what kinds of speeches the different parts of men’s minds are moved.
And we may draw the same conclusion from the case of Demosthenes; from whose letters it may be gathered what a constant pupil of Plato’s he was. Nor, indeed, without having studied in the schools of philosophers, can we discern the genus and species of everything; nor explain them by proper definitions; nor distribute them into their proper divisions; nor decide what is true and what is false; nor discern consequences, perceive inconsistencies, and distinguish what is doubtful. Why should I speak of the nature of things, the knowledge of which supplies such abundance of topics to oratory? or of life, and duty, and virtue, and manners? for what of all these things can be either spoken of or understood without a long study of those matters?
V. To these numerous and important things there are to be added innumerable ornaments, which at that time were only to be derived from those men who were accounted teachers of oratory. The consequence is, that no one applies himself to that genuine and perfect eloquence, because the study requisite for understanding those matters is different from that which enables me to speak of them; and because it is necessary to go to one class of teachers to understand the things, and to another to learn the proper language for them. Therefore Marcus Antonius, who in the time of our fathers was considered to be the most eminent of all men alive for eloquence, a manly nature very acute and eloquent, in that one treatise which he has left behind him, says that he has seen many fluent speakers, but not one eloquent orator. In truth, he had in his mind a model of eloquence which in his mind he saw, though he could not behold it with his eyes. But he, being a man of the most acute genius, (as indeed he was,) and feeling the want of many things both in himself and other men, saw absolutely no one who had fairly a right to be called eloquent. But if he did not think either himself or Lucius Crassus eloquent, then he certainly must have had in his mind some perfect model of eloquence; and as that had nothing wanting, he felt himself unable to include those who had anything or many things wanting in that class.
Let us then, O Brutus, if we can, investigate the nature of this man whom Antonius never beheld, or who perhaps has never even existed; and if we cannot imitate and copy him exactly, (which indeed Antonius said was scarcely possible for a god to do,) still we may perhaps be able to explain what he ought to be like.
VI. There are altogether three different kinds of speaking, in each of which there have been some eminent men; but very few (though that is what we are now looking for) who have been equally eminent in all. For some have been grandiloquent men, (if I may use such an expression,) with an abundant dignity of sentiments and majesty of language,—vehement, various, copious, authoritative; well adapted and prepared to make an impression on and effect a change in men’s feelings: an effect which some have endeavoured to produce by a rough, morose, uncivilized sort of speaking, not elaborated or wrought up with any care; and others employ a smooth, carefully prepared, and well rounded off style.
On the other hand, there are men neat, acute, explaining everything, and making matters clearer, not nobler, polished up with a certain subtle and compressed style of oratory; and in the same class there are others, shrewd, but unpolished, and designedly resembling rough and unskilful speakers; and some who, with the same barrenness and simplicity, are still more elegant, that is to say, are facetious, flowery, and even slightly embellished.
But there is another class, half-way between these two, and as it were compounded of both of them, endowed neither with the acuteness of the last-mentioned orators, nor with the thunder of the former; as a sort of mixture of both, excelling in neither style; partaking of both, or rather indeed (if we would adhere to the exact truth) destitute of all the qualifications of either. Those men go on, as they say, in one uniform tenor of speaking, bringing nothing except their facility and equalness of language; or else they add something, like reliefs on a pedestal, and so they embellish their whole oration with trifling ornaments of words and ideas.
VII. Now, whoever have by themselves arrived at any power in each of these styles of oratory, have gained a great name among orators; but we must inquire whether they have sufficiently effected what we want. For we see that there have been some men who have been ornate and dignified speakers, being at the same time shrewd and subtle arguers. And I wish that we were able to find a model of such an orator among the Latins. It would be a fine thing not to be forced to have recourse to foreign instances, but to be content with those of our own country. But though in that discourse of mine which I have published in the Brutus, I have attributed much credit to the Latins,—partly to encourage others, and partly out of affection for my own countrymen,—I still recollect that I by far prefer Demosthenes to all other men, inasmuch as he adapted his energy to that eloquence which I myself feel to be such, and not to that which I have ever had any experience of in any actual instance. He was an orator than whom there has never existed one more dignified, nor more wise, nor more temperate. And therefore it is well that we should warn those men whose ignorant conversation is getting to have some notoriety and weight, who wish either to be called Attic speakers, or who really wish to speak in the Attic style, to fix their admiration on this man above all others, than whom I do not think Athens itself more Attic. For by so doing they may learn what Attic means, and may measure eloquence by his power and not by their own weakness; for at present every one praises just that which he thinks that he himself is able to imitate. But still I think it not foreign to my present subject to remind those who are endowed with but a weak judgment, what is the peculiar merit of the Attic writers.
VIII. The prudence of the hearers has always been the regulator of the eloquence of the orators. For all men who wish to be approved of, regard the inclination of those men who are their hearers, and form and adapt themselves entirely to their opinions and wishes. Therefore in Caria and Phrygia and Mysia, which are nations of no very great refinement or eloquence, men have adopted a sort of fat and coarse kind of oratory, as best suited to their ears, which their neighbours the Rhodians, though separated from them by only a narrow sea, have never approved of; and the Greeks still less: and which the Athenians have utterly rejected; for they have at all times had a discerning and accurate judgment, so as to be unable to tolerate anything which was not pure and elegant. And as the orator was bound to comply with their doctrine on the subject, he never dared to make use of any unusual or ill-sounding expression.
Therefore this great man whom we call so superior to all the rest, in that oration of his in defence of Ctesiphon, which is far the finest of all his speeches, begins moderately at first; then when he argues about the laws he gets more lively; afterwards, proceeding gradually, as he saw the judges become excited, he gave himself more licence, and spoke with more and more boldness. And yet even in this very man, so carefully weighing the value of every word, Æschines finds something to reprove and to attack him for; and, laughing at him, he calls them terrible, odious, and intolerable expressions. Moreover, he asks him, (for Demosthenes had called him a beast,) whether those are words or prodigies: so that even Demosthenes himself does not seem to Æschines to be speaking in the pure Attic style. For it is easy to remark some impetuous expression, and to turn it into ridicule after the excitement of the mind has been allayed. And accordingly Demosthenes defends himself with a jest; and says that the fortunes of Greece do not depend upon whether he used this word or that word, or put out his hand in this or that direction. How then would a Mysian or a Phrygian have been listened to at Athens, when even Demosthenes is attacked as an incorrect speaker! And if such a man had begun to sing in his trembling and whining voice, as is the custom of Asiatics, who would have endured him? or who would not have ordered him to be taken away?
IX. Those people, then, who adapt themselves to the refined and scrupulous ears of an Athenian audience, are the people who deserve to be considered as speaking in an Attic manner. And though there are many kinds of orators of this sort, still the people among us who affect this style have no suspicion of the existence of more than one. For they think that a man who speaks in a brusque and fierce manner, provided only that he uses elegant and well-turned expressions, is the only Attic speaker. They are greatly mistaken if they think that the only Attic style, though not mistaken in thinking it one kind of Attic style. For if, as their opinion tends to prove, that is the only Attic style, then not even Pericles himself spoke in the Attic manner,—a man who is without all dispute in the very highest rank as an orator. But if he had employed only a neat simple style of oratory, he would never have been said by Aristophanes1 the poet, to thunder and lighten, and throw all Greece into confusion.
Let then that most beautiful and polished orator, Lysias, be said to speak in Attic style. For who can deny it? Only let us understand that what is Attic in Lysias is not his being plain and unadorned, but his never using any extraordinary or unappropriate expressions. But to speak in a highly ornamented and authoritative and copious manner is either an Attic style of oratory, or else neither Æschines nor Demosthenes were Attic speakers.
But some people—quite a new and unprecedented body of ignorant men—profess themselves imitators of Thucydides. Now those who take Lysias for their model are copying a great lawyer; not indeed the greatest and most dignified of speakers, but still subtle and elegant, and a man who may well hold his ground in all forensic discussions. But Thucydides, indeed, relates affairs of history, and battles, and wars with great dignity and excellence; but nothing can be borrowed from him for forensic or statesmanlike purposes of oratory. And those very speeches which he gives have many obscure and hard sentences in them, so as scarcely to be intelligible; and that is the greatest possible fault in an oration addressed to a man’s fellow-citizens. But how is it that there is such a perverseness of taste in men, that after they have got corn they persist in feeding on acorns? Shall we say that the food of men could be found out by the assistance of the Athenians, but that eloquence could not? Moreover, which of the Greek rhetoricians ever drew any of his rules from Thucydides? Oh, but he is praised universally. I admit that; but it is on the ground that he is a wise, conscientious, dignified relater of facts; not that he was pleading causes before tribunals, but that he was relating wars in a history. Therefore, he was never accounted an orator; nor, indeed, should we have ever heard of his name if he had not written a history, though he was a man of eminently high character and of noble birth. But no one ever imitates the dignity of his language or of his sentiments; but when they have used some disjointed and unconnected expressions, which they might have done without any teacher at all, then they think that they are akin to Thucydides. I have met men too who were anxious to resemble Xenophon; whose style is, indeed, sweeter than honey, but as unlike as possible to the noisy style of the forum.
X. Let us then return to the subject of laying a foundation for the orator whom we desire to see, and of furnishing him with that eloquence which Antonius had never found in any one. We are, O Brutus, undertaking a great and arduous task; but I think nothing difficult to a man who is in love. But I am and always have been in love with your genius, and your pursuits, and your habits. Moreover, I am every day more and more inflamed not only with regret,—though I am worn away with that while I am wishing to enjoy again our meetings and our daily association, and your learned discourse,—but also with the admirable reputation of your incredible virtues, which, though different in their kind, are united by your prudence. For what is so different or remote from severity as courtesy? And yet who has ever been considered either more conscientious or more agreeable than you? And what is so difficult as, while deciding disputes between many people, to be beloved by all of them? Yet you attain this end, of dismissing in a contented and pacified frame of mind the very parties against whom you decide. Therefore, while doing nothing from motives of interest, you still contrive that all that you do should be acceptable. And therefore, of all the countries on earth, Gaul1 is now the only one which is not affected by the general conflagration; while you yourself enjoy your own virtues in peace, knowing that your conduct is appreciated in this bright Italy, and surrounded as you are by the flower and strength of the citizens.
And what an exploit is that, never, amid all your important occupations, to interrupt your study of philosophy! You are always either writing something yourself, or inviting me to write something. Therefore, I began this work as soon as I had finished my Cato; which I should never have meddled with, being alarmed at the aspect of the times, so hostile to virtue, if I had not thought it wicked not to comply with your wishes, when you were exhorting me and awaking in me the recollection of that man who was so dear to me; and I call you to witness that I have only ventured to undertake this subject after many entreaties on your part, and many refusals on mine. For I wish that you should appear implicated in this fault; so that if I myself should appear unable to support the weight of such a subject, you may bear the blame of having imposed such a burden on me, and I only that of having undertaken it. And then the credit of having had such a commission given me by you, will make amends for the blame which the deficiency of my judgment will bring upon me.
XI. But in everything it is very difficult to explain the form (that which is called in Greek χαρακτὴρ) of perfection, because different things appear perfection to different people. I am delighted with Ennius, says one person, because he never departs from the ordinary use of words. I love Pacuvius, says another, all his verses are so ornamented and elaborate, while Ennius is often so careless. Another is all for Attius. For there are many different opinions, as among the Greeks; nor is it easy to explain which form is the most excellent. In pictures one man is delighted with what is rough, harsh-looking, obscure, and dark; others care only for what is neat, cheerful, and brilliant. Why should you, then, give any precise command or formula, when each is best in its own kind, and when there are many kinds? However, these difficulties have not repelled me from this attempt; and I have thought that in everything there is some point of absolute perfection, even though it is not easily seen; and, that it can be decided on by a man who understands the matter.
But since there are many kinds of speeches, and those different, and as they do not all fall under one form; the form of panegyric, and of declamation, and of narration, and of such discourses as Isocrates has left us in his panegyric, and many other writers also who are called sophists; and the form also of other kinds which have no connexion with forensic discussion, and of the whole of that class which is called in Greek ἐπιδεικτικὸν, and which is made up as it were for the purpose of being looked at—for the sake of amusement, I shall omit at the present time. Not that they deserve to be entirely neglected; for they are as it were the nursery of the orator whom we wish to draw; and concerning whom we are endeavouring to say something worth hearing.
XII. From this form is derived fluency of words; from it also the combination and rhythm of sentences derives a freer licence. For great indulgence is shown to neatly turned sentences; and rhythmical, steady, compact periods are always admissible. And pains are taken purposely, not disguisedly, but openly and avowedly, to make one word answer to another, as if they had been measured together and were equal to each other. So that words opposed to one another may be frequently contrasted, and contrary words compared together, and that sentences may be terminated in the same manner, and may give the same sound at their conclusion; which, when we are dealing with actual causes, we do much more seldom, and certainly with more disguise. But, in his Panathenaic oration, Isocrates avows that he diligently kept that object in view; for he composed it not for a contest in a court of justice, but to delight the ears of his hearers.
They say that Thrasymachus of Chalcedon, and Gorgias of Leontini, were the first men who taught this science; after him Theodorus of Byzantium, and many others whom Socrates in the Phædrus calls λογοδαίδαλοι; who have said many things very tolerably clever, but which seem as if they had arisen at the moment, trifling, and like animals which change their colour, and too minutely painted. And this is what makes Herodotus and Thucydides the more admirable; for though they lived at the same time with those men whom I have named, still they kept aloof as far as possible from such amusements, or I should rather say from such follies. For one of them flows on like a tranquil river, without any attempts at facetiousness; the other is borne on in a more impetuous course, and relates warlike deeds in a warlike spirit; and they are the first men by whom, as Theophrastus says, history was stirred up to dare to speak in a more fluent and adorned style than their predecessors had ventured on.
XIII. Isocrates lived in the age next to theirs; who is at all times praised by us above all other orators of his class, even though you, O Brutus, sometimes object in a jesting though not in an unlearned spirit. But you will very likely agree with me when you know why I praise him. For as Thrasymachus appeared to him to be too concise with his closely measured rhythm, and Gorgias also, though they are the first who are said to have laid down any rules at all for the harmony of sentences; and as Thucydides was somewhat too abrupt and not sufficiently round, if I may use such an expression; he was the first who adopted a system of dilating his ideas with words, and filling them up with better sounding sentences; and as by his own practice he formed those men who were afterwards accounted the most eminent men in speaking and writing, his house got to be reckoned a perfect school of eloquence. Therefore, as I, when I was praised by our friend Cato, could easily bear to be blamed by the rest; so Isocrates appears to have a right to despise the judgment of other men, while he has the testimony of Plato to pride himself on. For, as you know, Socrates is introduced in almost the last page of the Phædrus speaking in these words:—“At present, O Phædrus, Isocrates is quite a young man; but still I delight in telling the expectations which I have of him.” “What are they?” says he. “He appears to me to be a man of too lofty a genius to be compared to Lysias and his orations: besides, he has a greater natural disposition for virtue; so that it will not be at all strange if, when he has advanced in age, he will either surpass all his contemporaries who turn their attention to eloquence, and in this kind of oratory, to the study of which he is at present devoted, as if they were only boys; or, if he is not content with such a victory, he will then feel some sort of divine inspiration prompting him to desire greater things. For there is a deep philosophy implanted by nature in this man’s mind.” This was the augury which Socrates forms of him while a young man. But Plato writes it of him when he has become an old man, and when he is his contemporary, and a sort of attacker of all the rhetoricians. And Isocrates is the only one whom he admires. And let those men who are not fond of Isocrates allow me to remain in error in the company of Socrates and Plato.
That then is a delightful kind of oratory, free, fluent, shrewd in its sentiments, sweet sounding in its periods, which is found in that demonstrative kind of speaking which we have mentioned. It is the peculiar style of sophists; more suitable for display than for actual contest; appropriate to schools and exhibitions; but despised in and driven from the forum. But because eloquence is first of all trained by this sort of food, and afterwards gives itself a proper colour and strength, it appeared not foreign to our subject to speak of what is as it were the cradle of an orator. However, all this belongs to the schools, and to display: let us now descend into the battle-field and to the actual struggle.
XIV. As there are three things which the orator has to consider; what he is saying; and in what place, and in what manner he is saying each separate thing; it seems on all accounts desirable to explain what is best as to each separate subject, though in rather a different manner from that in which it is usually explained in laying down the principles of the science. We will give no regular rules, (for that task we have not undertaken,) but we will present an outline and sketch of perfect eloquence; nor will we occupy ourselves in explaining by what means it is acquired, but only what sort of thing it appears to us to be.
And let us discuss the two first divisions very briefly. For it is not so much that they have not an important reference to the highest perfection, as that they are indispensable, and almost common to other studies also. For to plan and decide on what you will say are important points, and are as it were the mind in the body; still they are parts of prudence rather than of eloquence; and yet what matter is there in which prudence is not necessary? This orator, then, whom we wish to describe as a perfect one, must know all the topics suited to arguments and reasons of this class. For since whatever can possibly be the subject of any contest or controversy, gives rise to the inquiry whether it exists, and what it is, and what sort of thing it is; while we endeavour to ascertain whether it exists, by tokens; what it is, by definitions; what sort of thing it is, by divisions of right and wrong; and in order to be able to avail himself of these topics the orator,—I do not mean any ordinary one, but the excellent one whom I am endeavouring to depict,—always, if he can, diverts the controversy from any individual person or occasion. For it is in his power to argue on wider grounds concerning a genus than concerning a part; as, whatever is proved in the universal, must inevitably be proved with respect to a part. This inquiry, then, when diverted from individual persons and occasions to a discussion of a universal genus, is called a thesis. This is what Aristotle trained young men in, not after the fashion of ordinary philosophers, by subtle dissertations, but in the way of rhetoricians, making them argue on each side, in order that it might be discussed with more elegance and more copiousness; and he also gave them topics (for that is what he called them) as heads of arguments, from which every sort of oration might be applied to either side of the question.
XV. This orator of ours then (for what we are looking for is not some declaimer out of a school, or some pettifogger from the forum, but a most accomplished and perfect orator), since certain topics are given to him, will run through all of them; he will use those which are suitable to his purpose according to their class; he will learn also from what source those topics proceed which are called common. Nor will he make an imprudent use of his resources, but he will weigh everything, and make a selection. For the same arguments have not equal weight at all times, or in all causes. He will, therefore, exercise his judgment, and he will not only devise what he is to say, but he will also weigh its force. For there is nothing more fertile than genius, especially of the sort which has been cultivated by study. But as fertile and productive corn-fields bear not only corn, but weeds which are most unfriendly to corn, so sometimes from those topics there are produced arguments which are either trifling, or foreign to the subject, or useless; and the judgment of the orator has great room to exert itself in making a selection from them. Otherwise how will he be able to stop and make his stand on those arguments which are good and suited to his purpose? or how to soften what is harsh, and to conceal what cannot be denied, and, if it be possible, entirely to get rid of all such topics? or how will he be able to lead men’s minds away from the objects on which they are fixed, or to adduce any other argument which, when opposed to that of his adversaries, may be more probable than that which is brought against him?
And with what diligence will he marshal the arguments with which he has provided himself? since that is the second of his three objects. He will make all the vestibule, if I may so say, and the approach to his cause brilliant; and when he has got possession of the minds of his hearers by his first onset, he will then invalidate and exclude all contrary arguments; and of his own strongest arguments some he will place in the van, some he will employ to bring up the rear, and the weaker ones he will place in the centre.
And thus we have described in a brief and summary manner what this perfect orator should be like in the two first parts of speaking. But, as has been said before, in these parts, (although they are weighty and important,) there is less skill and labour than in the others.
XVI. But when he has found out what to say, and in what place he is to say it, then comes that which is by far the most important division of the three, the consideration of the manner in which he is to say it. For that is a well-known saying which our friend Carneades used to repeat:—“That Clitomachus said the same things, but that Charmadas said the same things in the same manner.” But if it is of so much consequence in philosophy even, how you say a thing, when it is the matter which is looked at there rather than the language, what can we think must be the case in causes in which the elocution is all in all? And I, O Brutus, knew from your letters that you do not ask what sort of artist I think a consummate orator ought to be, as far as devising and arranging his arguments; but you appeared to me to be asking rather what kind of eloquence I considered the best. A very difficult matter, and, indeed, by the immortal gods! the most difficult of all matters. For as language is a thing soft and tender, and so flexible that it follows wherever you turn it, so also the various natures and inclinations of men have given rise to very different kinds of speaking.
Some men love a stream of words and great volubility, placing all eloquence in rapidity of speech. Others are fond of distinct and broadly marked intervals, and delays, and taking of breath. What can be more different? Yet in each kind there is something excellent. Some labour to attain a gentle and equable style, and a pure and transparent kind of eloquence; others aim at a certain harshness and severity in their language, a sort of melancholy in their speech: and as we have just before divided men, so that some wish to appear weighty, some light, some moderate, so there are as many different kinds of orators as we have already said that there are styles of oratory.
XVII. And since I have now begun to perform this duty in a more ample manner than you did require it of me, (for though the question which you put to me has reference only to the kind of oration, I have also in my answer given you a brief account of the invention and arrangement of arguments,) even now I will not speak solely of the manner of making a speech, but I will touch also on the manner of conducting an action. And so no part whatever will be omitted: since nothing need be said in this place of memory, for that is common to many arts.
But the way in which it is said depends on two things,—on action and on elocution. For action is a sort of eloquence of the body, consisting as it does of voice and motion. Now there are as many changes of voice as there are of minds, which are above all things influenced by the voice. Therefore, that perfect orator which our oration has just been describing, will employ a certain tone of voice regulated by the way in which he wishes to appear affected himself, and by the manner also in which he desires the mind of his hearer to be influenced. And concerning this I would say more if this was the proper time for laying down rules concerning it, or if this was what you were inquiring about. I would speak also of gesture, with which expression of countenance is combined. And it is hardly possible to express of what importance these things are, and what use the orator makes of them. For even people without speaking, by the mere dignity of their action, have often produced all the effect of eloquence; and many really eloquent men, by their ungainly delivery have been thought ineloquent. So that it was not without reason that Demosthenes attributed the first, and second, and third rank to action. For if eloquence without action is nothing, but action without eloquence is of such great power, then certainly it is the most important part of speaking.
XVIII. He, then, who aims at the highest rank in eloquence, will endeavour with his voice on the stretch to speak energetically; with a low voice, gently; with a sustained voice, gravely; and with a modulated voice, in a manner calculated to excite compassion.
For the nature of the voice is something marvellous; for all its great power is derived from three sounds only, the grave sound, the sharp sound, and the moderate sound; and from these comes all that sweet variety which is brought to perfection in songs. But there is also in speaking a sort of concealed singing, not like the peroration of rhetoricians from Phrygia or Caria, which is nearly a chant, but that sort which Demosthenes and Æschines mean when the one reproaches the other with the affected modulation of his voice. Demosthenes says even more; and often declares that Æschines had a very sweet and clear voice. And in this that point appears to me worth noting, with reference to the study of aiming at sweetness in the voice. For nature of herself, as if she were modulating the voices of men, has placed in every one one acute tone, and not more than one, and that not more than two syllables back from the last; so that industry may be guided by nature when pursuing the object of delighting the ears. A good voice also is a thing to be desired; for it is not naturally implanted in us, but practice and use give it to us. Therefore, the consummate orator will vary and change his voice; and sometimes straining it, sometimes lowering it, he will go through every degree of tone.
And he will use action in such a way that there shall be nothing superfluous in his gestures. His attitude will be erect and lofty; the motion of the feet rare, and very moderate; he will only move across the tribune in a very moderate manner, and even then rarely; there will be no bending of the neck, no clenching of the fingers, no rise or fall of the fingers in regular time; he will rather sway his whole body gently, and employ a manly inclination of his side, throwing out his arm in the energetic parts of his speech, and drawing it back in the moderate ones. As to his countenance, which is of the greatest influence possible next to the voice, what dignity and what beauty will be derived from its expression! And when you have accomplished this, then the eyes too must be kept under strict command, that there may not appear to be anything unsuitable, or like grimace. For as the countenance is the image of the mind, so are the eyes the informers as to what is going on within it. And their hilarity or sadness will be regulated by the circumstances which are under discussion.
XIX. But now we must give the likeness of this perfect orator and of this consummate eloquence; and his very name points out that he excels in this one particular, that is to say, in oratory, and that other eminent qualities are kept out of sight in him. For it is not by his invention, or by his power of arrangement, or by his action, that he has embraced all these points; but in Greek he is called ῥήτωρ, and in Latin “eloquent,” from speaking. For every one claims for himself some share in the other accomplishments which belong to an orator; but the greatest power in speaking is allowed to be his alone. For although some philosophers have spoken with elegance, (since Theophrastus1 derived his name from his divine skill in speaking, and Aristotle attacked Isocrates himself, and they say that the Muses as it were spoke by the mouth of Xenophon; and far above all men who have ever written or spoken, Plato is preeminent both for sweetness and dignity,) still their language has neither the vigour nor the sting of an orator or a forensic speaker. They are conversing with learned men, whose minds they wish to tranquillize rather than to excite; and so they speak on peaceful subjects which have no connexion with any violence, and for the sake of teaching, not of charming; so that even in the fact of their aiming at giving some pleasure by their diction, they appear to some people to be doing more than is necessary for them to do.
It is not difficult, therefore, to distinguish between this kind of speaking and the eloquence which we are now treating of. For the address of philosophers is gentle, and fond of retirement; and not furnished with popular ideas or popular expressions, not fettered by any particular rhythm, but allowed a good deal of liberty. It has in it nothing angry, nothing envious, nothing energetic, nothing marvellous, nothing cunning; it is as it were a chaste, modest, uncontaminated virgin. Therefore it is called a discourse rather than an oration. For although every kind of speaking is an oration, still the language of the orator alone is distinguished by this name as its own property.
It appears more necessary to distinguish between it and the copy of it by the sophists, who wish to gather all the same flowers which the orator employs in his causes. But they differ from him in this, that, as their object is not to disturb men’s minds, but rather to appease them, and not so much to persuade as to delight, and as they do it more openly than we do and more frequently, they seek ideas which are neat rather than probable; they often wander from the subject, they weave fables into their speeches, they openly borrow terms from other subjects, and arrange them as painters do a variety of colours; they put like things by the side of like, opposite things by the side of their contraries, and very often they terminate period after period in similar manners.
XX. Now history is akin to this side of writing, in which the authors relate with elegance, and often describe a region, or a battle; and also addresses and exhortations are intermingled; but in them something connected and fluent is required, and not this compressed and vehement sort of speaking. And the eloquence which we are looking for must be distinguished from theirs nearly as much as it must from that of the poets.
For even the poets have given room for the question, what the point is in which they differ from the orators; formerly it appeared to be chiefly rhythm and versification; but of late rhythm has got a great footing among the orators. For whatever it is which offers the ears any regular measure, even if it be ever so far removed from verse, (for that is a fault in an oration,) is called “number” by us, being the same thing that in Greek is called ῥυθμός. And, accordingly, I see that some men have thought that the language of Plato and Democritus, although it is not verse, still, because it is borne along with some impetuosity and employs the most brilliant illustration that words can give, ought to be considered as poetry rather than the works of the comic poets; in which, except that they are written in verse, there is nothing else which is different from ordinary conversation. Nor is that the principal characteristic of a poet; although he is the more to be praised for aiming at the excellences of an orator, when he is more fettered by verse. But, although the language of some poets is grand and ornamented, still I think that they have greater licence than we have in making and combining words, and I think too that they often, in their expressions, pay more attention to the object of giving pleasure to their readers than to their subject. Nor, indeed, does the fact of there being one point of resemblance between them, (I mean judgment and the selection of words,) make it difficult to perceive their dissimilarity on other points. But that is not doubtful, and if there be any question in the matter, still this is certainly not necessary for the object which is proposed to be kept in view.
The orator, therefore, now that he has been separated from the eloquence of philosophers, and sophists, and historians, and poets, requires an explanation from us to show what sort of person he is to be.
XXI. The eloquent orator, then, (for that is what, according to Antonius, we are looking for,) is a man who speaks in the forum and in civil causes in such a manner as to prove, to delight, and to persuade. To prove, is necessary for him; to delight, is a proof of his sweetness; to persuade, is a token of victory. For that alone of all results is of the greatest weight towards gaining causes. But there are as many kinds of speaking as there are separate duties of an orator. The orator, therefore, ought to be a man of great judgment and of great ability, and he ought to be a regulator, as it were, of this threefold variety of duty. For he will judge what is necessary for every one; and he will be able to speak in whatever manner the cause requires. But the foundation of eloquence, as of all other things, is wisdom. For as in life, so in a speech, nothing is more difficult than to see what is becoming. The Greeks call this πρέπον, we call it “decorum.” But concerning this point many admirable rules are laid down, and the matter is well worth being understood. And it is owing to ignorance respecting it that men make blunders not only in life, but very often in poems, and in speeches.
But the orator must consider what is becoming not only in his sentences, but also in his words. For it is not every fortune, nor every honour, nor every authority, nor every age, or place, or time, nor every hearer who is to be dealt with by the same character of expressions or sentiments. And at all times, in every part of a speech or of life, we must consider what is becoming; and that depends partly on the facts which are the subject under discussion, and also on the characters of those who are the speakers and of those who are the hearers. Therefore this topic, which is of very wide extent and application, is often employed by philosophers in discussions on duty; not when they are discussing abstract right, for that is but one thing: and the grammarians also too often employ it when criticising the poets, to show their eloquence in every division and description of cause. For how unseemly is it, when you are pleading before a single judge about a gutter, to use high sounding expressions and general topics; but to speak with a low voice and with subtle arguments in a cause affecting the majesty of the Roman people.
XXII. This applies to the whole genus. But some persons err as to the character either of themselves, or of the judges, or of their adversaries: and not only in actual fact, but often in word. Although there is no force in a word without a fact, still the same fact is often either approved of, or rejected, according as this or that expression is employed respecting it. And in every case it is necessary to take care how far it may be right to go; for although everything has its proper limit, still excess offends more than falling short. And that is the point in which Apelles said that those painters made a blunder, who did not know what was enough.
There is here, O Brutus, an important topic, which does not escape your notice, and which requires another large volume. But for the present question this is enough; when we say that this is becoming, (an expression which we always employ in all words and actions, both great and small,)—when, I say, we say that this is becoming, and that that is not becoming, and when it appears to what extent each assertion is meant to be applicable; and when it depends on something else, and is quite another matter whether you say that a thing is becoming or proper; (for to say a thing is proper, declares the perfection of duty, which we and all men are at all times to regard; to say a thing is becoming, is to say that it is fit, as it were, and suitable to the time and person; which is often very important both in actions and words, and in a person’s countenance and gestures and gait;)—and, on the other hand, when we say that a thing is unbecoming, (and if a poet avoids this as the greatest of faults, [and he also errs if he puts an honest sentiment in the mouth of a wicked man, or a wise one in the mouth of a fool,] or if that painter saw that, when Calchas was sad at the sacrifice of Iphigenia, and Ulysses still more so, and Menelaus in mourning, that Agamemnon’s head required to be veiled altogether, since it was quite impossible to represent such grief as his with a paint brush; if even the actor inquires what is becoming, what must we think that the orator ought to do?) But as this is a matter of so much importance, the orator must take care what he does in his causes, and in the different parts of them; that is plain, that not only the different parts of an oration, but that even whole causes are to be dealt with in different styles of oratory.
XXIII. It follows that the characteristics and forms of each class must be sought for. It is a great and difficult task, as we have often said before; but it was necessary for us to consider at the beginning what we would discuss; and now we must set our sails in whatever course we are borne on. But first of all we must give a sketch of the man whom some consider the only orator of the Attic style.
He is a gentle, moderate man, imitating the usual customs, differing from those who are not eloquent in fact rather than in any of his opinions. Therefore those who are his hearers, even though they themselves have no skill in speaking, still feel confident that they could speak in that manner. For the subtlety of his address appears easy of imitation to a person who ventures on an opinion, but nothing is less easy when he comes to try it; for although it is not a style of any extraordinary vigour, still it has some juice, so that even though it is not endowed with the most extreme power, it is still, if I may use such an expression, in perfect health. First of all, then, let us release it from the fetters of rhythm. For there is, as you know, a certain rhythm to be observed by an orator, (and of that we will speak presently,) proceeding on a regular system; but though it must be attended to in another kind of oratory, it must be entirely abandoned in this. This must be a sort of easy style, and yet not utterly without rules, so that it may seem to range at freedom, not to wander about licentiously. He should also guard against appearing to cement his words together; for the hiatus formed by a concourse of open vowels has something soft about it, and indicates a not unpleasing negligence, as if the speaker were anxious more about the matter than the manner of his speech. But as to other points, he must take care, especially as he is allowed more licence in these two,—I mean the rounding of his periods, and the combination of his words; for those narrow and minute details are not to be dealt with carelessly. But there is such a thing as a careful negligence; for as some women are said to be unadorned to whom that very want of ornament is becoming, so this refined sort of oratory is delightful even when unadorned. For in each case a result is produced that the thing appears more beautiful, though the cause is not apparent. Then every conspicuous ornament will be removed, even pearls; even curling-irons will be put away; and all medicaments of paint and chalk, all artificial red and white, will be discarded; only elegance and neatness will remain. The language will be pure and Latin; it will be arranged plainly and clearly, and great care will be taken to see what is becoming.
XXIV. One quality will be present, which Theophrastus calls the fourth in his praises of oratory;—full of ornament, sweetness, and fluency. Clever sentiments, extracted from I know not what secret store, will be brought out, and will exert their power in the speeches of this perfect orator. There will be a moderate use of what I may call oratorical furniture; for there is to a certain degree what I may call our furniture, consisting of ornaments partly of things and partly of words. But the ornaments consisting of words are twofold: one kind consisting of words by themselves, the other consisting of them in combination. The simple embellishment is approved of in the case of proper and commonly employed words, which either sound very well, or else are very explanatory of the subject; in words which do not naturally belong to the subject,—it is either metaphorical, or borrowed from some other quarter; or else it is derived from the subject, whether it is a new term, or an old one grown obsolete: but even old and almost obsolete terms may be proper ones, only that we seldom employ them. But words when well arranged have great ornament if they give any neatness, which does not remain if the words are altered while the sense remains. For the embellishments of sentiments which remain, even if you alter the language in which they are expressed, are many, but still there are but few of them which are worth remarking.
Therefore a simple orator, provided he is elegant and not bold in the matter of making words, and modest in his metaphors, and sparing in his use of obsolete terms, and humble in the rest of his ornaments of words and sentences, will perhaps indulge in a tolerably frequent use of that kind of metaphor which is common in the ordinary conversation, not only of city people, but even of rustics; since they too are in the habit of saying, “that the vines sparkle with jewels,” “that the fields are thirsty,” “that the corn-fields are rejoicing,” “that the crops are luxuriant.” Now there is not one of these expressions which is not somewhat bold; but the thing is either like that which you use metaphorically; or else, if it has no name of its own, the expression which you use appears to have been borrowed for the sake of teaching, not of jesting. And this quiet sort of orator will use this ornament with rather more freedom than the rest; and yet he will not do it with as much licence as if he were practising the loftiest kind of oratory.
XXV. Therefore that unbecomingness (and what that is may be understood from the definition we have given of what is becoming) is visible here also, when some sublime expression is used metaphorically, and is used in a lowly style of oration, though it might have been becoming in a different one. But the neatness which I have spoken of, which illuminates the arrangement of language by these lights which the Greeks, as if they were some gestures of the speech, call σχήματα, (and the same word is applied by them also to the embellishments of sentences,) is employed by the refined orator (whom some men call the Attic orator, and rightly too, if they did not mean that he was the only one) but sparingly. For, as in the preparation of a feast, a man while on his guard against magnificence, is desirous to be thought not only economical but also elegant, he will choose what is best for him to use. For there are many kinds of economy suited to this very orator of whom I am speaking; for the ornaments which I have previously been mentioning are to be avoided by this acute orator,—I mean the comparing like with like, and the similarly sounding and equally measured ends of sentences, and graces hunted out as it were by the alteration of a letter; so that it may not be visible that neatness has been especially aimed at, and so that the orator may not be detected in having been hunting for means of pleasing the ears of his audience.
Again, if repetitions of the same expressions require a sort of vehemence and loudness of voice, they will then be unsuited to the simple style of oratory. The orator may use other embellishments promiscuously; only let him relax and separate the connexion of the words, and use as ordinary expressions as possible, and as gentle metaphors. Let him even avail himself of those lights of sentiments, as long as they are not too brilliant. He will not make the republic speak; nor will he raise the dead from the shades below; nor will he collect together a number of particulars in one heap, and so fold them in one embrace. Such deeds belong to more vigorous beings, nor are they to be expected or required from this man of whom we are giving a sketch; for he will be too moderate not only in his voice, but also in his style. But there are many embellishments which will suit his simple style, although he will use even them in a strict manner; for that is his character.
He will have besides this, action, not tragic, nor suited to the stage, but he will move his body in a moderate degree, trusting a great deal to his countenance; not in such a way as people call making faces, but in a manner sufficient to show in a gentlemanlike manner in what sense he means what he is saying to be understood.
XXVI. Now in this kind of speech sallies of wit are admissible, and they carry perhaps only too much weight in an oration. Of them there are two kinds,—facetiousness and raillery,—and the orator will employ both; but he will use the one in relating anything neatly, and the other in darting ridicule on his adversaries. And of this latter kind there are more descriptions than one; however, it is a different thing that we are discussing now. Nevertheless we may give this warning,—that the orator ought to use ridicule in such a way as neither to indulge in it too often, that it may not seem like buffoonery; nor in a covertly obscure manner, that it may not seem like the wit of a comedian; nor in a petulant manner, lest it should seem spiteful; nor should he ridicule calamity, lest that should seem inhuman; nor crime, lest laughter should usurp the place which hatred ought to occupy; nor should he employ this weapon when unsuitable to his own character, or to that of the judges, or to the time; for all such conduct would come under the head of unbecoming.
The orator must also avoid using jests ready prepared, such as do not arise out of the occasion, but are brought from home; for they are usually frigid. And he must spare friendships and dignities. He will avoid such insults as are not to be healed; he will only aim at his adversaries, and not even always at them, nor at all of them, nor in every manner. And with these exceptions, he will employ his sallies of wit and his facetiousness in such a manner as I have never found any one of those men do who consider themselves Attic speakers, though there is nothing more Attic than that practice.
This is the sketch which I conceive to be that of a plain orator, but still of a great one, and one of a genius very kindred to the Attic; since whatever is witty or pleasant in a speech is peculiar to the Attics. Not, however, that all of them are facetious: Lysias is said to be tolerably so, and Hyperides; Demades is so above all others. Demosthenes is considered less so, though nothing appears to me to be more well-bred than he is; but he was not so much given to raillery as to faceticusness. And the former is the quality of a more impetuous disposition; the latter betokens a more refined art.
XXVII. There is another style more fertile, and somewhat more forcible than this simple style of which we have been speaking; but nevertheless tamer than the highest class of oratory, of which I shall speak immediately. In this kind there is but little vigour, but there is the greatest possible quantity of sweetness; for it is fuller than the plain style, but more plain than that other which is highly ornamented and copious.
Every kind of ornament in speaking is suitable to this style; and in this kind of oratory there is a great deal of sweetness. It is a style in which many men among the Greeks have been eminent; but Demetrius Phalereus, in my opinion, has surpassed all the rest; and while his oratory proceeds in calm and tranquil flow, it receives brilliancy from numerous metaphors and borrowed expressions, like stars.
I call them metaphors, as I often do, which, on account of their similarity to some other idea, are introduced into a speech for the sake of sweetness, or to supply a deficiency in a language. By borrowed expressions I mean those in which, for the proper word, another is substituted which has the same sense, and which is derived from some subsequent fact. And though this too is a metaphorical usage; still Ennius employed it in one manner when he said, “You are orphaning the citadel and the city;” and he would have used it in a different manner if he had used the word “citadel,” meaning “country.” Again, when he says that “horrid Africa trembles with a terrible tumult,” he uses “Africa” for “Africans.” The rhetoricians call this “hypallage,” because one word as it were is substituted for another. The grammarians call it “metonymia,” because names are transferred. But Aristotle classes them all under metaphor, and so he does the misuse of terms which they call κατάχρησις. As when we call a mind “minute” instead of “little,” and misuse words which are near to others in sense; if there is any necessity for so doing, or any pleasure, or any particular becomingness in doing so. When many metaphors succeed one another uninterruptedly the sort of oration becomes entirely changed. Therefore the Greeks call it ἀλληγοϱἰα, rightly as to name; but as to its class he speaks more accurately who calls all such usages metaphors. Phalereus is particularly fond of these usages, and they are very agreeable; and although there is a great deal of metaphor in his speaking, yet there is no one who makes a more frequent use of the metonymia.
The same kind of oratory, (I am speaking of the moderate and temperate kind), admits of all sorts of figures of expressions, and of many also of ideas. Discussions of wide application and extensive learning are explained in it, and common topics are treated without any impetuosity. In a word, orators of this class usually come from the schools of philosophers, and unless the more vigorous orator, whom I am going to speak of presently, is at hand to be compared with them, the one whom I am now describing will be approved of. For there is a remarkable and flowery and highly-coloured and polished style of oratory, in which every possible elegance of expression and idea is connected together. And it is from the fountain of the sophist that all this has flowed into the forum; but still, being despised by the subtle arguers, and rejected by dignified speakers, it has taken its place in the moderate kind of oratory of which I am speaking.
XXVIII. The third kind of orator is the sublime, copious, dignified, ornate speaker, in whom there is the greatest amount of grace. For he it is, out of admiration for whose ornamented style and copiousness of language nations have allowed eloquence to obtain so much influence in states; but it was only this eloquence, which is borne along in an impetuous course, and with a mighty noise, which all men looked up to, and admired, and had no idea that they themselves could possibly attain to. It belongs to this eloquence to deal with men’s minds, and to influence them in every imaginable way. This is the style which sometimes forces its way into and sometimes steals into the senses; which implants new opinions in men, and eradicates others which have been long established. But there is a vast difference between this kind of orator and the preceding ones. A man who has laboured at the subtle and acute style, in order to be able to speak cunningly and cleverly, and who has had no higher aim, if he has entirely attained his object, is a great orator, if not a very great one; he is far from standing on slippery ground, and if he once gets a firm footing, is in no danger of falling. But the middle kind of orator, whom I have called moderate and temperate, if he has only arranged all his own forces to his satisfaction, will have no fear of any doubtful or uncertain chances of oratory; and even if at any time he should not be completely successful, which may often be the case, still he will be in no great danger, for he cannot fall far. But this orator of ours, whom we consider the first of orators, dignified, vehement, and earnest, if this is the only thing for which he appears born, or if this is the only kind of oratory to which he applies himself, and if he does not combine his copiousness of diction with those other two kinds of oratory, is very much to be despised. For the one who speaks simply, inasmuch as he speaks with shrewdness and sense, is a wise man; the one who employs the middle style is agreeable; but this most copious speaker, if he is nothing else, appears scarcely in his senses. For a man who can say nothing with calmness, nothing with gentleness; who seems ignorant of all arrangement and definition and distinctness, and regardless of wit, especially when some of his causes require to be treated in that matter entirely, and others in a great degree; if he does not prepare the ears of his hearers before he begins to work up the case in an inflammatory style, he seems like a madman among people in their senses, or like a drunken man among sober men.
XXIX. We have then now, O Brutus, the orator whom we are looking for; but only in our mind’s eye. For if I had had hold of him in my hand, even he himself, with all his eloquence, should never have persuaded me to let him go. But, in truth, that eloquent man whom Antonius never saw is now discovered. Who then is he? I will define him in a few words, and then describe him at length. For he is an eloquent man who can speak of low things acutely, and of great things with dignity, and of moderate things with temper.
Such a man you will say there never was. Perhaps there never was; for I am only discussing what I wish to see, and not what I have seen. And I come back to that sketch and idea of Plato’s which I mentioned before; and although we do not see it, yet we can comprehend it in our mind. For I am not looking for an eloquent man, or for any other mortal or transitory thing; but for that particular quality which whoever is master of is an eloquent man; and that is nothing but abstract eloquence, which we are not able to discern with any eyes except those of the mind. He then will be an eloquent man, (to repeat my former definition,) who can speak of small things in a lowly manner, of moderate things in a temperate manner, and of great things with dignity. The whole of the cause in which I spoke for Cæcina related to the language or an interdict: we explained some very involved matters by definitions; we praised the civil law; we distinguished between words of doubtful meaning. In a discussion on the Manilian law it was requisite to praise Pompey; and accordingly, in a temperate speech, we arrived at a copiousness of ornament. The whole question of the rights of the people was contained in the cause of Rabinius; and accordingly we indulged in every conceivable amplification. But these styles require at times to be regulated and restrained. What kind of argument is there which is not found in my five books of impeachment of Verres? or in my speech for Avitus? or in that for Cornelius? or in the other numerous speeches in defence of different men? I would give instances, if I did not believe them to be well known, and that those who wanted them could select them for themselves; for there is no effort of an orator of any kind, of which there is not in our speeches, if not a perfect example, at least some attempt at and sketch of. If we cannot arrive at perfection, at all events we see what is becoming.
Nor are we at present speaking of ourselves, but of eloquence, in which we are so far from having a high opinion of our own proficiency, that we are so hard to please and exacting, that even Demosthenes himself does not satisfy us. For he, although he is eminent above all men in every description of oratory, still he does not always satisfy my ears; so greedy and capacious are they, and so unceasingly desiring something vast and infinite.
XXX. But still, since you became thoroughly well acquainted with this orator, in company with his devoted admirer Pammenes, when you were at Athens, and as you never put him down out of your hands, though, nevertheless, you are often reading my works, you see forsooth that he accomplishes many things, and that we attempt many things;—that he has the power, we the will to speak in whatever manner the cause requires. But he was a great man, for he came after great men, and he had consummate orators for his contemporaries. We should have done a great deal if we had been able to arrive at the goal which we proposed to ourselves in a city in which, as Antonius says, no eloquent man had been ever heard before. But, if Crassus did not appear to Antonius to be eloquent, or if he did not think he was so himself, certainly Cotta would never have seemed so to him, nor Sulpicius, nor Hortensius. For Cotta never said anything sublime, Sulpicius never said anything gently, Hortensius seldom spoke with dignity. Those former men were much more suited to every style; I mean Crassus and Antonius. We feel, therefore, that the ears of the city were not much accustomed to this varied kind of eloquence, and to an oratory so equally divided among all sorts of styles. And we, such as we were, and however insignificant were our attempts, were the first people to turn the exceeding fondness of the people for listening to this kind of eloquence.
What an outcry was there when, as quite a young man, I uttered that sentence about the punishment of parricides! and even a long time afterwards we found that it had scarcely entirely worn off. “For what is so common, as breath to living people, the earth to the dead, the sea to people tossed about by the waves, or the shore to shipwrecked mariners?—they live while they are let live, in such a way as to be unable to breathe the air of heaven; they die so that their bones do not touch the earth; they are tossed about by the waves without ever being washed by them; and at last they are cast up by them in such a manner, that when dead they are not allowed a resting-place even on the rocks.” And so on. For all this is the language of a young man, extolled not on account of any real merit or maturity of judgment, as for the hopes and expectations which he gave grounds for. From the same turn of mind came that more polished invective,—“the wife of her son-in-law; the mother-in-law of her son, the invader of her daughter’s bed.” Not, however, that this ardour was always visible in us, so as to make us say everything in this manner. For that very juvenile exuberance of speech in defence of Roscius has many weak passages in it, and some merry ones, such as also occur in the speech for Avitus, for Cornelius, and many others. For no orator has ever, even in the Greek language, written as many speeches as I have. And my speeches have the variety which I so much approve of.
XXXI. Should I permit Homer, and Ennius, and the rest of the poets, and especially the tragic poets, to forbear displaying the same vehemence on every occasion, and constantly to change their language, and sometimes even to come near to the ordinary language of daily conversation; and never myself descend from that fierce style of vehement expression? But why do I cite poets of godlike genius? We have seen actors, than whom nothing could be more admirable of their kind, who have not only given great satisfaction in the representation of the most different characters, and also in their own, but we have seen even a comedian gain great applause in tragedies, and a tragedian in comedies;—and shall not I attempt the same thing? When I say I, O Brutus, I mean you also; for, as for myself, all that can be done has been done. But will you plead every cause in the same manner, or are there some kind of causes which you will reject? or will you employ the same uninterrupted vehemence in the same causes without any alteration?
Demosthenes, indeed, whose bust of brass I lately saw between the images of yourself and your ancestors, (a proof, I suppose, of your fondness for him,) when I was with you at your Tusculan villa, does not yield at all to Lysias in acuteness, nor in shrewdness and cleverness to Hyperides, nor in gentleness or brilliancy of language to Æschines. Many of his orations are very closely argued, as that against Leptines; many are wholly dignified, as some of the Philippics; many are of varied style, as those against Æschines, the one about the false embassy, and the one also, against the same Æschines in the cause of Ctesiphon. As often as he pleases he adopts the middle style, and, departing from his dignified tone, he indulges in that lower one. But when he raises the greatest outcry on the part of his hearers, and makes the greatest impression by his speech, is when he employs the topics of dignity.
However, let us leave Demosthenes for awhile, since it is a class that we are inquiring about, and not an individual. Let us rather explain the effect and nature of the thing; that is, of Eloquence. And let us recollect what we have just said, that we are not going to say anything for the sake of giving rules; but that we are going to speak so as to be thought people expressing an opinion rather than teaching. Though we often do advance further, because we see that you are not the only person who will read this; you who, in fact, know all this much better than we ourselves who appear to be teaching you; but it is quite certain that this book will be extensively known, if not from the recommendation which its being my work will give it, at all events, because of its appearing under the sanction of your name, by being dedicated to you.
XXXII. I think, then, that it belongs to a perfectly eloquent man, not only to have the ability, which is his peculiar province, of speaking copiously and with the assertion of large principles, but also to possess its neighbouring and contiguous science of dialectics: although an oration appears one thing and a discussion another; nor is talking the same thing as speaking; though each belongs to discussing. Let then the system of discussing and talking belong to the logicians; but let the province of the orators be to speak and to embellish their speeches. Zeno, that great man, who founded the school of the Stoics, was in the habit of showing with his hand what was the difference between these arts; for when he had compressed his fingers and made a fist, he said that dialectics were like that; but when he had opened his fingers and expanded his hand, he said that eloquence was like his open palm. And even before him Aristotle, in the beginning of his Rhetoric, said, that the art of eloquence in one portion of it corresponded to dialectics; so that they differ from one another in this, that the system of speaking is more wide, that of talking more contracted. I wish, then, that this consummate orator should be acquainted with the entire system of talking, as far as it can be applied to speaking; and that (as indeed you, who have a thorough acquaintance with these arts, are well aware) has a twofold method of teaching. For Aristotle himself has given many rules for arguing: and those who followed him, and who are called dialecticians, have delivered many very difficult rules. Therefore I think, that the man who is tempted by the glory of eloquence, is not utterly ignorant of those things; but that he has been brought up either in that old school, or in the school of Chrysippus. Let him first acquaint himself with the meaning and nature and classes of words, both single and combined; then let him learn in how many ways each word is used; then how it is decided, whether a thing is false or true; then what results from each proposition; then to what argument each result is a consequence, and to what it is contrary; and, as many things are stated in an ambiguous manner, he must also learn how each of them ought to be distinguished and explained. This is what must be acquired by an orator; for those things are constantly occurring; but, because they are in their own nature less attractive, it is desirable to employ some brilliancy of eloquence in explaining them.
XXXIII. And since in all things which are taught in any regular method and system, it is first of all necessary to settle what each thing is, (unless it is agreed by those who are discussing the point, what the thing really is which is being discussed; nor otherwise is it possible to discuss anything properly, or ever to get to the end of the discussion,) we must often have recourse to words to explain our meaning about each thing; and we must facilitate the understanding of an involved and obscure matter by definition; since definition is a kind of speech which points out in the most concise possible manner what that is which is the subject of discussion. Then, as you know, when the genus of each thing has been explained, we must consider what are the figures or divisions of that genus, so that our whole speech may be arranged with reference to them.
This faculty, then, will exist in the eloquent man whom we are endeavouring to describe, so that he shall be able to define a thing; and shall do it in the same close and narrow terms which are commonly employed in those very learned discussions; but he shall be more explanatory and more copious, and he shall adopt his definition more to the ordinary judgment and usual intelligence of mankind. And again, when circumstances require it, he shall divide and arrange the whole genus into certain species, so that none shall be omitted and none be superfluous. But when he shall do this, or how, is nothing to the present question; since, as I have said before, I am here only expressing an opinion, not giving a lesson.
Nor, indeed, must he be learned only in dialectics, but he must have all the topics of philosophy familiar to him and at his fingers’ ends. For nothing respecting religion, or death, or affection, or love for one’s country, or good fortune, or bad fortune, or virtues, or vices, or duty, or pain, or pleasure, or the different motions of the mind, or mistakes, all which topics frequently occur in causes, but are treated usually in a very meagre manner, can be discussed and explained in a dignified and lofty and copious manner without that knowledge which I have mentioned.
XXXIV. I am speaking at present concerning the subject matter of a speech, not about the kind of speaking requisite. For I would rather that an orator should first have a subject to speak of worthy of learned ears, before he considers in what words or in what manner he is to speak of everything; and, in order to make him grander, and in some sense loftier (as I have said above about Pericles,) I should wish him not to be utterly ignorant of physical science; and then, when he descends again from heavenly matters to human affairs, he will have all his words and sentiments of a more sublime and magnificent character: and while he is acquainted with those divine laws, I do not wish him to be ignorant of those of men. He must be a master of civil law, which forensic debates are in daily need of. For what is more shameful than for a man to undertake the conduct of legal and civil disputes, while ignorant of the statutes and of civil law? He must be acquainted also with the history of past ages and the chronology of old time, especially, indeed, as far as our own state is concerned; but also he must know the history of despotic governments and of illustrious monarchs; and that toil is made easier for us by the labours of our friend Atticus, who has preserved and made known the history of former times in such a way as to pass over nothing worth knowing, and yet to comprise the annals of seven hundred years in one book. For not to know what happened before one was born, is to be a boy all one’s life. For what is the life of a man unless by a recollection of bygone transactions it is united to the times of his predecessors? But the mention of antiquity and the citation of examples give authority and credit to a speech, combined with the greatest pleasure to the hearers.
XXXV. Let him, therefore, come to his causes prepared in this kind of way; and he will in the first place be acquainted with the different kinds of causes. For he will be thoroughly aware that nothing can be doubted except when either the fact or the language gives rise to controversy. But the fact is doubted as to its truth, or its propriety, or its name. Words give rise to dispute if they are ambiguous or inconsistent. For it ever appears to be the case, that one thing is meant and another expressed; then that is one kind of ambiguity which arises from the words which are employed; and in this we see that two things are meant, which is a property of all ambiguous sentences.
As there are not many different kinds of causes, so also the rules for arguments to be used in them are few. Two kinds of topics are given from which they may be derived; one from the circumstances themselves, the others assumed. The handling, then, of the matters themselves makes the speech better; for the matters themselves are usually easy to be acquainted with. For what remains afterwards, which at least belongs to art, except to begin the speech in such a manner that the hearer may be conciliated, or have his attention roused, or may be made eager to learn? then after that to explain with brevity, and probability, and clearness, so that it may be understood what is the question under discussion; to establish his own arguments; to overturn those of the opposite party; and to do all that, not in an irregular and confused manner, but with separate arguments, concluded in such a manner, that everything may be established which is a natural consequence of those principles which are assumed for the confirmation of each point: and after everything else is done, then to wind up with a peroration which shall inflame or cool the hearers, as the case may require.
Now, how the consummate orator handles each separate division of his subject, it is hard to explain in this place; nor, indeed, are they handled at all times in the same manner. But since I am not seeking a pupil to teach, but a model to approve of, I will begin by praising the man who sees what is becoming. For this is above all others the wisdom which the eloquent man wants, namely—to be the regulator of times and persons. For I do not think that a man ought to speak in the same manner at all times, or before all people, or against every one, or in defence of every one, or to every one.
XXXVI. He, then, will be an eloquent man who can adapt his speech to whatever is becoming. And when he has settled that point, then he will say everything as it ought to be said; nor will he speak of rich subjects in a meagre manner, nor of great subjects in a petty manner, and vice versâ; but his oration will be equal to, and corresponding to, his subject; his exordium will be moderate, not inflamed with exaggerated expressions, but acute in its sentiments, either in the way of exciting his hearers against his adversary, or in recommending himself to them. His relations of facts will be credible, explained clearly, not in historical language, but nearly in the tone of every day conversation. Then if his cause is but a slight one, so also will the thread of his argument be slight, both in asserting and in refuting. And it will be maintained in such a way, that there will be just as much force added to the speech as is added to the subject. But when a cause offers in which all the force of eloquence can be displayed, then the orator will give himself a wider scope, then he will influence and sway men’s minds, and will move them just as he pleases, that is to say, just as the nature of the cause and the occasion requires.
But all that admirable embellishment of his will be of a twofold character; on account of which it is that eloquence gains such great honour. For as every part of a speech ought to be admirable, so that no word should be let drop by accident which is not either grave or dignified; so also there are two parts of it which are especially brilliant and lively: one of which I place in the question of the universal genus, which (as I have said before) the Greeks call θέσις; the other is shown in amplifying and exaggerating matters, and is called by the same people αὔξησις. And although that ought to be spread equally over the whole body of the oration, still it is most efficacious in dealing with common topics; which are called common, because they appear to belong to many causes, but still ought to be considered as peculiar to some individual ones.
But that division of a speech which refers to the universal genus often contains whole causes; for whatever that is on which there is, as it were, a contest and dispute, which in Greek is called κρινόμενον, that ought to be expressed in such a manner that it may be transferred to the general inquiry, and be spoken of the whole genus; except when a doubt is raised about the truth; which is often endeavoured to be ascertained by conjecture. But it shall be discussed, not in the fashion of the Peripatetics (for it is a very elegant exercise of theirs, to which they are habituated ever since the time of Aristotle), but with rather more vigour; and common topics will be applied to the subject in such a manner, that many things will be said gently in behalf of accused persons, and harshly against the adversaries.
But in amplifying matters, and, on the other hand, in discarding them, there is nothing which oratory cannot effect. And that must be done amid the arguments, as often as any opportunity is afforded one, of either amplifying or diminishing: and may be done to an almost infinite extent in summing up.
XXXVII. There are two things, which, when well handled by an orator, make eloquence admirable. One of which is, that which the Greeks call ἠθικὸν, adapted to men’s natures, and manners, and to all their habits of life; the other is, that which they call παθητικὸν, by which men’s minds are agitated and excited, which is the especial province of oratory. The former one is courteous, agreeable, suited to conciliate good-will; the latter is violent, energetic, impetuous, by which causes are snatched out of the fire, and when it is hurried on rapidly it cannot by any means be withstood. And by the use of this kind of oratory we, who are but moderate orators, or even less than that, but who have at all times displayed great energy, have often driven our adversaries from every part of their case. That most consummate orator, Hortensius, was unable to reply to me, on behalf of one of his intimate friends; that most audacious of men, Catiline, was dumb when impeached in the senate by me. When Curio, the father, attempted in a private cause of grave importance to reply to me, he suddenly sat down, and said, that he was deprived of his memory by poison. Why need I speak of the topics used to excite pity? which I have employed to the greater extent, because, even if there were many of us employed in one cause, still all men at all times yielded me the task of summing up; and it was owing not so much to my ability as to my sensibility, that I appeared to excel so much in that part. And those qualities of mine, of whatever sort they are, and I am ashamed that they are not of a higher class, appear in my speeches: although my books are without that energy, on account of which those same speeches appear more excellent when they are delivered than when they are read.
XXXVIII. Nor is it by pity alone that it is desirable to move the minds of the judges, (though we have been in the habit of using that topic ourselves in so piteous a manner that we have even held an infant child by the hand while summing up; and in another cause, when a man of noble birth was on his trial, we lifted up his little son, and filled the forum with wailing and lamentations;) but we must also endeavour to cause the judge to be angry, to appease him, to make him feel ill-will, and favour, to move him to contempt or admiration, to hatred or love, to inspire him with desire or disgust, with hope or fear, with joy or pain; in all which variety the speeches of prosecutors will supply instances of the sterner kinds, and my speeches in defence will furnish examples of the softer ones. For there is no means by which the mind of the hearer can be either excited or softened, which has not been tried by me; I would say, brought to perfection, if I thought it was the case; nor should I fear the imputation of arrogance while speaking the truth. But, as I have said before, it is not any particular force of genius, but an exceeding energy of disposition which inflames me to such a degree that I cannot restrain myself; nor would any one who listens to a speech ever be inflamed, if the speech which reached his ears was not itself a fiery one.
I would use examples from my own works if you had not read them; I would use them from the works of others, if I could find any; or Greek examples, if it were becoming to do so. But there are very few speeches of Crassus extant, and those are not forensic speeches. There is nothing extant of Antonius’s, nothing of Cotta’s, nothing of Sulpicius’s. Hortensius spoke better than he wrote. But we must form our own opinions as to the value of this energy which we are looking for, since we have no instance to produce; or if we are still on the look out for examples, we must take them from Demosthenes, and we must cite them from that passage in the speech on the trial of Ctesiphon, where he ventures to speak of his own actions and counsels and services to the republic. That oration in truth corresponds so much to that idea which is implanted in our minds that no higher eloquence need be looked for.
XXXIX. But now there remains to be considered the form and character of the eloquence which we are searching for; and what it ought to be like may be understood from what has been said above. For we have touched upon the lights of words both single and combined, in which the orator will abound so much that no expression which is not either dignified or elegant will ever fall from his mouth. And there will be frequent metaphors of every sort; because they, on account of their resemblance to something else, move the minds of the hearers, and turn them this way and that way; and the very agitation of thought when operating in quick succession is a pleasure of itself.
And those other lights, if I may so call them, which are derived from the arrangement of words, are a great ornament to a speech. For they are like those things which are called decorations in the splendid ornamenting of a theatre or a forum; not because they are the only ornaments, but because they are the most excellent ones. The principle is the same in the case of these things which are the lights, and as one may say, the decorations of oratory: when words are repeated and reiterated, or are put down with slight alterations; or when the sentences are often commenced with the same word, or end with the same word; or both begin and end alike; or when the same word occurs in the same place in consecutive sentences; or when one word is repeated in different senses; or when sentences end with similar sounds; or when contrary circumstances are related in many contrary manners; or when the speech proceeds by gradations; or when the conjunctions are taken away and each member of the sentence is uttered unconnectedly; or when we pass over some points and explain why we do so; or when we of our own accord correct ourselves, as if we blamed ourselves; or if we use any exclamation of admiration, or complaint; or when the same noun is often repeated in different cases.
But the ornaments of sentiments are more important; and because Demosthenes employs them very frequently, some people think that that is the principal thing which makes his eloquence so admirable. And indeed there is hardly any topic treated by him without a careful arrangement of his sentences; nor indeed is speaking anything else except illuminating all, or at least nearly all, one’s sentences with a kind of brilliancy: and as you are thoroughly aware of all this, O Brutus, why need I quote names or instances? only let the place where they occur be noted.
XL. If then that consummate orator whom we are looking for, should say that he often treats one and the same thing in many different manners; and dwells a long time on the same idea; and that he often extenuates some point, and often turns something into ridicule; that he occasionally appears to change his intention and vary his sentiments; that he proposes beforehand the points which he wishes to prove; that when he has completed his argument on any subject he terminates it; that he often recals himself back, and repeats what he has already said; that he winds up his arguments with fresh reasons; that he beats down the adversary with questions; again, that he himself answers questions which as it were he himself has put; that he sometimes wishes to be understood as meaning something different from what he says; that he often doubts what he had best say, or how he had best say it; that he arranges what he has to say under different heads; that he leaves out or neglects some points; while there are some which he fortifies beforehand; that he often throws the blame on his adversary for the very thing for which he himself is found fault with; that he often appears to enter into deliberation with his hearers, and sometimes even with his adversary; that he describes the conversation and actions of men; that he introduces some dumb things, as speaking; that he diverts men’s minds from the subject under discussion; that he often turns the discussion into mirth and laughter; that he sometimes preoccupies ground which he sees is attached; that he adduces comparisons; that he cites precedents; that he attributes one thing to one person and another to another; that he checks any one who interrupts him; that he says that he is keeping back something; that he adds threatening warnings of what his hearers must beware of; that he often takes a bolder licence; that he is sometimes even angry; that he sometimes utters reproaches, deprecates calamity, uses the language of supplication, and does away with unfavourable impressions; that he sometimes departs a very little from his subject, to express wishes or to utter execrations, or to make himself a friend of those men before whom he is speaking.
He ought also to aim at other virtues, if I may so call them, in speaking; at brevity, if the subject requires it. He will often, also, by his speech, bring the matter before people’s eyes; and often extol it beyond what appears possible; his meaning will be often more comprehensive than his speech; he will often assume a cheerful language, and often give an imitation of life and nature.
XLI. In this kind of speaking, for you may look upon oratory as a vast wood, all the importance of eloquence ought to shine forth. But these qualities, unless they are well arranged and as it were built up together and connected by suitable language, can never attain that praise which we wish that it should.
And as I was aware that it would be necessary for me to speak on this point next, although I was influenced by the considerations which I had mentioned before, still I was more disturbed by those which follow. For it occurred to me, that it was possible that men should be found, I do not mean envious men, with whom all places are full, but even favourers of my glory, who did not think that it became a man with reference to whose services the senate had passed such favourable votes with the approbation of the whole Roman people, as they never did in the case of any one else, to write so many books about the method of speaking. And if I were to give them no other answer than that I was unwilling to refuse the request of Marcus Brutus, it would be a reasonable excuse, as I might well wish to satisfy a man who was my greatest friend and a most excellent man, and who only asked what was right and honourable. But if I were to profess (what I wish that I could) that I was about to give rules, and paths, as it were, to lead to eloquence those who are inclined to study oratory, what man who set a proper value on things would find fault with me? For who has ever doubted that eloquence has at all times been of the very highest estimation in our republic, among all the accomplishments of peace, and of our domestic life in the city; and that next to it is the knowledge of the law? and that the one had in it the greatest amount of influence, and credit, and protection; and the other contains rules for prosecutions and defence; and this latter would often of its own accord beg for assistance from eloquence; but if it were refused, would scarcely be able to maintain its own rights and territories.
Why then has it been at all times an honourable thing to teach civil law, and why have the houses of the most eminent professors of this science been at all times crowded with pupils? And yet if any one attempts to excite people to the study of oratory, or to assist the youth of the city in that pursuit, should he be blamed? For, if it be a vicious thing to speak in an elegant manner, then let eloquence be expelled altogether from the state. But if it not only is an ornament to those who possess it, but the whole republic also, then why is it discreditable to learn what it is honourable to know; or, why should it be anything but glorious to teach what it is most excellent to be acquainted with?
XLII. But the one is a common study, and the other a novel one. I admit that; but there is a reason for both these facts. For it was sufficient to listen to the lawyers giving their answers, so that they who acted as instructors set aside no particular time for that purpose, but were at one and the same time satisfying the wants both of their pupils and their clients. But the other men, as they devoted all their time, when at home, to acquiring a correct understanding of the causes entrusted to them, and arranging the arguments which they were to employ; all their time when in the forum to pleading the cause, and all the rest of their time in recruiting their own strength; what time had they for giving rules or lessons? and I do not know whether most of our orators have not excelled more in genius than in learning; therefore, they have been able to speak better than they could teach, while our ability is perhaps just the contrary.
But there is no dignity in teaching.—Certainly not, if it is done as if one kept a school; but if a man teaches by warning, by exhorting, by asking questions, by giving information, sometimes by reading with his pupils and hearing them read, then I do not know, if by teaching anything you can sometimes make men better, why you should be unwilling to do it. Is it honourable to teach a man what are the proper words to alienate consecrated property with, and not honourable to teach him those by which consecrated property may be maintained and defended?
“But,” men say, “many people profess law who know nothing about it; but even the very men who have acquired eloquence conceal their attainment of it, because wisdom is a thing agreeable to men, but eloquence is suspected by them.” Is it possible then for eloquence to escape notice, or does that which a man conceals cease to exist? Or is there any danger of any one thinking with respect to an important and glorious art that it is a discreditable thing to teach others that which it was very honourable to himself to learn? But perhaps others may be better hands at concealment; I have always openly avowed that I have learnt the art. For what could I have done, having left my home when very young, and crossed the sea for the sake of those studies; and having had my house full of the most learned men, and when there were perhaps some indications of learning in my conversation; and when my writings were a good deal read; could I then have concealed the fact of my having learnt it? How could I justify myself except by showing that I had made some progress in those studies?
XLIII. And as this is the case still, the things which have been already mentioned, have had more dignity in the discussion of them than those which have got to be discussed. For we are now to speak about the arrangement of words, and almost about the counting and measuring of syllables. And, although these things are, as it appears to me, necessary, yet there is more show in the execution than in the teaching of them. Now that is true of everything, but it has a peculiar force with respect to this pursuit. For in the case of all great arts, as in that of trees, it is the height which delights us, but we take no pleasure in the roots or trunks; though the one cannot exist without the other. But as for me, whether it is that that well-known verse which forbids a man
“To fear to own the art he practises,”
does not allow me to conceal that I take delight in it; or whether it is your eagerness which has extorted this volume from me; still it was worth while to make a reply to those whom I suspected of being likely to find fault with me.
But if the circumstances which I have mentioned had no existence, still who would be so harsh and uncivilised as not to grant me this indulgence, so that, when my forensic labours and my public exertions were interrupted, I might devote my time to literature rather than to inactivity of which I am incapable, or to melancholy which I resist? For it was a love of letters which formerly led me into the courts of justice and the senate-house, and which now delights me when I am at home. Nor am I occupied only with such subjects as are contained in this book, but with much more weighty and important ones; and if they are brought to perfection, then my private literary labours will correspond to my forensic exertions. However, at present let us return to the discussion we had commenced.
XLIV. Our words then must be arranged either so that the last may as correctly as possible be consistent with the first, and also so that our first expressions may be as agreeable as possible; or so that the very form of our sentences and their neatness may be well rounded off; or so that the whole period may end in a musical and suitable manner. And, in the first place, let us consider what kind of thing that is which above all things requires our diligence, so that a regular structure as it were may be raised, and yet that this may be effected without any labour. For the labour would be not only infinite, but childish. As in Lucilius, Scævola is represented as attacking Albucius very sensibly:
The care taken in the construction must not be too visible. But still a practised pen will easily perfect this manner of arranging its phrases. For as the eye does in reading, so in speaking, the eye will see beforehand what follows, so that the combination of the last words of a sentence with the first may not leave the whole sentence either gaping or harsh. For sentiments ever so agreeable or dignified offend the ears if they are set down in ill-arranged sentences; for the judgment of the ears is very fastidious. And the Latin language is so particular on this point, that no one can be so ignorant as to leave quantities of open vowels. Though this is a point on which men blame Theopompus, because he was so ostentatious in his avoidance of such letters, although his master Isocrates did the same; but Thucydides did not; nor did that other far superior writer, Plato. And he did this not only in those conversations which are called Dialogues, when it ought to have been done designedly; but even in that oration1 addressed to the people, in which it is customary at Athens for those men to be extolled who have been slain in fighting for their country. And that oration was so greatly approved of that it was, as you know, appointed to be recited every year; and in that there is a constant succession of open vowels, which Demosthenes avoided in a great degree as vicious.
XLV. However, the Greeks must judge of that matter for themselves. We are not allowed to use our words in that manner, not even if we wish to; and this is shown even by those unpolished speeches of Cato. It is shown by all the poets except those who sometimes had recourse to a hiatus in order to finish their verse; as Nævius—
“Vos, qui accolitis Istrum fluvium, atque Algidam.”
“Quam nunquam vobis Graii atque Barbari.”
But Ennius does so only once—
And we too have written,—
“Hinc motu radiantis Etesiæ in vada ponti.”
For our countrymen would not have endured the frequent use of such a liberty, though the Greeks even praise it. But why should I talk about vowels? even without counting vowels, they often used contractions for the sake of brevity, so as to say—
And what would be a greater liberty than to contract even men’s names, so as to make them more suitable to verse? For as they contracted duellum into bellum, and duis into bis, so they called Duellius (the man I mean who defeated the Carthaginians in a naval action) Bellius, though his ancestors were always called Duellii. Moreover, they often contract words, not in obedience to any particular usage, but only to please the ear. For how was it that Axilla was made Ala, except by the flight of the larger letter? and so the elegant usage of Latin conversation takes this letter x out of maxilla, and taxilla, and vexillum, and paxillum.
They also joined words by uniting them at their pleasure; so as to say—sodes for si audes, sis for si vis. And in this word capsis there are no less than three1 words. So ain for aisne, nequire for non quire, malle for magis velle, nolle for non velle. And again, we often say dein for deinde, and exin for exinde. Well, need I give any more instances? Cannot we see easily from whence it arises that we say cum illis, but we do not say cum nobis, but nobiscum? because if it were said in the other way, the letters would clash in a discordant manner; as they would have clashed a minute ago if I had not put autem between them. This is the origin of our saying mecum and tecum, not cum me, and cum te, so that they too might be like nobiscum and vobiscum.
XLVI. And some men find fault with all this; men who are rather late in mending antiquity; for they wish us, instead of saying Deûm atque hominum fidem, to say Deorum. Very likely it may be right, but were our ancestors ignorant of all this, or was it usage that gave them this liberty? Therefore the same poet who had used these uncommon contractions—
“Patris mei meûm factûm pudet,” for meorum factorum,
“Texitur: exitiûm examen rapit,” for exitiorum,
does not say liberûm, as many of us do say in such an expression as cupidos liberûm, or in liberûm loco, but, as these men approve,
“Neque tuum unquam in gremium extollas liberorum ex te genus.”
And again he says,—
“Namque Æsculapî liberorum . . . .”
And another of these poets says in his Chryses, not only
“Cives, antiqui amici majorum meûm,”
which was common enough; but he says, with a much more unmusical sound,—
“Consiliûm, auguriûm, atque extûm interpretes.”
And again he goes on—
“Postquam prodigiûm horriferûm, putentûm pavos,”
which are not at all usual contractions in a string of words which are all neuter. Nor should I much like to say armûm judicium, though the expression occurs in that same poet,—
“Nihilne ad te de judicio armûm accidit?”
instead of armorum. But I do venture (following the language of the censor’s returns) to say fabrûm and procûm, instead of fabrorum and procorum. And I actually never by any chance say duorum virorum judicium, or triumvirorum capitalium, or decemvirorum litibus judicandis.
And Attius said—
“Video sepulchra dua duorum corporum.”
And at another time he has said,—
“Mulier una duûm virûm.”
I know which is proper; but sometimes I speak according to the licence of the present fashion, so far as to say Proh Deûm, or Proh Deorum; and at other times I speak as I am forced to, when I say trium virûm, not virorum, and sestertiûm nummûm, not nummorum; because with respect to these words there is no variety of usage.
XLVII. What am I to say is the reason why they forbid us to say nôsse, judicâsse, and enjoin us to use novisse and judicavisse? as if we did not know that in words of this kind it is quite correct to use the word at full length, and quite in accordance with usage to use it in its contracted form. And so Terence does use both forms, and says,—
“Eho, tu cognatum tuum non nôras?”
And afterwards he has,—
“Stilphonem, inquam, noveras?”
Siet is the word at full length; sit is the contracted form.
One may use either; and so we find in the same passage,—
Nor should I find fault with
“Scripsere alii rem.”
I am aware that scripserunt is the more correct form; but I willingly comply with a fashion which is agreeable to the ears.
“Idem campus habet,”
says Ennius; and in another place he has given us,—
“In templis îsdem;”
but eisdem would be more regular; but yet it would not have been so musical: and iisdem would have sounded ill. But custom has sanctioned our departing from strict rules for the sake of euphony; and I should prefer saying pomeridianas quadrigas to postmeridianas, and mehercule to mehercules. Non scire already appears a barbarism; nescire is sweeter. The word meridiem itself, why is it not medidiem? I suppose because it sounded worse. There is one preposition, abs, which has now only an existence in account books; but in all other conversation of every sort is changed: for we say amovit, and abegit, and abstulit, so that you cannot now tell whether ab is the correct form or abs. What shall we say if even abfugit has seemed inadmissible, and if men have discarded abfer and preferred aufer? and that preposition is found in no word whatever except these two verbs. There were the words noti, and navi, and nari, and when in was forced to be prefixed to them, it seemed more musical to say ignoti, ignavi, ignari, than to adhere to the strict rules. Men say ex usu and e republicâ, because in the one phrase a vowel followed the preposition, and in the other there would have been great harshness if you had not removed the consonant, as in exegit, edixit, effecit, extulit, edidit. And sometimes the preposition has sustained an alteration, regulated by the first letter of the verb to which it is added, as suffugit, summutavit, sustulit.
XLVIII. What are we to say of compound words? How neat is it to say insipientem, not insapientem; iniquum, not inæquum; tricipitem, not tricapitem; concisum, not concæsum! and, because of this last instance, some people wish also to say pertisum; but the same fashion which regulates the other changes, has not sanctioned this one. But what can be more elegant than this, which is not caused by nature, but by some regular usage?—we say inclytus, with the first letter short; insanus, with the first letter long; inhumanus, with a short letter; infelix, with a long one: and, not to detain you with many examples, in those words in which the first letters are those which occur in sapiente and felice, it is used long; in all others it is short. And so, too, we have composuit, consuevit, concrepuit, confecit. Consult the truth, it will reprove you; refer the matter to your ears, they will sanction the usage. Why so? Because they will say that that sound is the most agreeable one to them; and an oration ought to consult that which gives pleasure to the ears. Moreover, I myself, as I knew that our ancestors spoke so as never to use an aspirate except before a vowel, used to speak in this way: pulcros, Cetegos, triumpos, Cartaginem; when at last, and after a long time, the truth was forced upon me by the admonition of my own ears, I yielded to the people the right of settling the rule of speaking; and was contented to reserve to myself the knowledge of the proper rules and reasons for them. Still we say Orcivii, and Matones and Otones, Cæpiones, sepulchra, coronas, lacrymas, because that pronunciation is always sanctioned by the judgment of our ears.
Ennius always used Burrum, never Pyrrhum: he says,—
“Vi patefecerunt Bruges;”
not Phryges; and so the old copies of his poems prove, for they had no Greek letters in them. But now those words have two; and though when they wanted to say Phrygum and Phrygibus, it was absurd either to use a Greek character in the barbarous cases only, or else in the nominative case alone to speak Greek, still we say Phrygum and Phrygibus for the sake of harmonizing our ears. Moreover (at present it would seem like the language of a ploughman, though formerly it was a mark of politeness) our ancestors took away the last letter of those words in which the two last letters were the same as they are in optumus, unless the next word began with a vowel. And so they avoided offending the ear in their verse; as the modern poets avoid it now in a different manner. For we used to say,—
“Qui est omnibu’ princeps,” not “omnibus princeps;”
“Vitâ illâ dignu’ locoque,” not “dignus.”
But if unlettered custom is such an artist of euphony, what must we think is required by scientific art and systematic learning?
I have put all this more briefly than if I were discussing this matter by itself; (for this topic is a very extensive one, concerning the use and nature of words;) but still I have been more prolix than the plan I originally proposed to myself required.
XLIX. But because the choice of subjects and words is in the department of prudence, but of sounds and rhythm it is the ears that are the judges; because the one is referable to one’s understanding, the other only to one’s pleasure; therefore in the one case it is reason and in the other sensation that has been the inventor of the system. For it was necessary for us either to disregard the pleasure of those men by whom we wished to be approved of; or else it was necessary to discover a system by which to gain their good-will.
There are then two things which soothe the ears; sound and rhythm. Concerning rhythm we will speak presently; at this moment we are inquiring into sound. As I said before, words must be selected which as much as possible shall sound well; but they must not be, like the words of a poet, sought purely for sound, but taken from ordinary language.
“Qua ponto a Helles”
is an extravagant expression; but
“Auratus aries Colchorum”
is a verse illuminated with splendid names. But the next verse is polluted by ending with a most inharmonious letter;
“Frugifera et ferta arva Asiæ tenet.”
Let us therefore use the propriety of words of our own language, rather than the brilliancy of the Greeks; unless perchance we are ashamed of speaking in such a way as this—
“Quâ tempestate Paris Helenam,”
and the rest of that sentence. Let us, I say, pursue that plan and avoid harshness of sound.
Nor is it enough to have one’s words arranged in a regular system, but the terminations of the sentences must be carefully studied, since we have said that that is a second sort of judgment of the ears. But the harmonious end of a sentence depends on the arrangement itself, which is so of its own accord, if I may so express myself, or on some particular class of words in which there is a certain neatness; and whether such words have cases the terminations of which are similar, or whether one word is matched with another which resembles it, or whether contrary words are opposed to one another, they are harmonious of their own nature, even if nothing has been done on purpose. In the pursuit of this sort of neatness Gorgias is reported to have been the leader; and of this style there is an example in our speech in defence of Milo: “For this law, O judges, is not a written one, but a natural one; one which we have not learnt, or received from others, or gathered from books; but which we have extracted, and pressed out, and imbibed from nature itself; it is one in which we have not been educated, but born; we have not been brought up in it, but imbued with it.” For these sentences are such that, because they are referred to the principles to which they ought to be referred, we see plainly that harmony was not the thing that was sought in them, but that which followed of its own accord. And this is also the case when contraries are opposed to one another; as those phrases are by which not only a harmonious sentence, but even a verse is made.
“Eam, quam nihil accusas, damnas.”
A man would say condemnas if he wished to avoid making a verse.
The very relation of the contrary effects makes a verse That would be harmonious in a narration.
“Quod scis, nihil prodest; quod nescis, multum obest.”
These things, which the Greeks call ἀντίθετα, as in them contraries are opposed to contraries, of sheer necessity produce oratorical rhythm; and that too without any intention on the part of the orator that they should do so.
This was a kind of speaking in which the ancients used to take delight, even before the time of Isocrates; and especially Gorgias; in whose orations his very neatness generally produces an harmonious rhythm. We too frequently employ this style; as in the fourth book of our impeachment of Verres:—“Compare this peace with that war; the arrival of this prætor with the victory of that general; the debauched retinue of this man, with the unconquerable army of the other; the lust of this man with the continence of that one; and you will say that Syracuse was founded by the man who in reality took it; and was stormed by this one, who in reality received it in an admirable and settled condition.”
This sort of rhythm then must be well understood.
L. We must now explain that third kind of an harmonious and well-arranged speech, and say of what character it is; and what sort of ears those people have who do not understand its character, or indeed what there is in them that is like men at all, I do not know. My ears delight in a well-turned and properly finished period of words, and they like consciseness, and disapprove of redundancy. Why do I say my ears? I have often seen a whole assembly raise a shout of approval at hearing a musical sentence. For men’s ears expect that sentences shall be strung together of well-arranged words. This was not the case in the time of the ancients. And indeed it was nearly the only thing in which they were deficient: for they selected their words carefully, and they gave utterance to dignified and sweet sounding ideas; but they paid little attention to arranging them or filling them up. “This is what delights me,” one of them would say. What are we to say if an old primitive picture of few colours delights some men more than this highly finished one? Why, I suppose, the style which succeeds must be studied again; and this latter style repudiated.
People boast of the names of the ancients. But antiquity carries authority with it in precedents, as old age does in the lives of individuals; and it has indeed very great weight with me myself. Nor am I more inclined to demand from antiquity that which it has not, than to praise that which it has; especially as I consider what it has as of more importance than what it has not. For there is more good in well chosen words and ideas in which they excel, than in the rounding off of phrases in which they fail. It is after their time that the working up of the termination of a sentence has been introduced; which I think that those ancients would have employed, if it had been known and employed in their day; as since it has been introduced we see that all great orators have employed it.
LI. But it looks like envy when what we call “number,” and the Greeks ῥυθμὸς, is said to be employed in judicial and forensic oratory. For it appears like laying too many plots for the charming of people’s ears if rhythm is also aimed at by the orator in his speeches. And relying on this argument those critics themselves utter broken and abrupt sentences, and blame those men who deliver well rounded and neatly turned discourses. If they blame them because their words are ill adapted and their sentiments are trifling, they are right; but if their arguments are sound, their language well chosen, then why should they prefer a lame and halting oration to one which keeps pace with the sentiments contained in it? For this rhythm which they attack so has no other effect except to cause the speaker to clothe his ideas in appropriate language; and that was done by the ancients also, not unusually by accident, and often by nature; and those speeches of theirs which are exceedingly praised, are so generally because they are concisely expressed. And it is now near four hundred years since this doctrine has been established among the Greeks; we have only lately recognised it. Therefore was it allowable for Ennius, despising the ancient examples, to say:—
and shall it not be allowed me to speak of the ancients in the same manner? especially as I am not going to say, “Before this man . . .” as he did; nor to proceed as he did, “We have ventured to open . . .” For I have read and heard of some speakers whose orations were rounded off in an almost perfect manner. And those who cannot do this are not content with not being despised; they wish even to be praised for their inability. But I do praise those men, and deservedly too, whose imitators they profess to be; although I see something is wanting in them. But these men I do not praise at all, who imitate nothing of the others except their defects, and are as far removed as possible from their good qualities.
But if their own ears are so uncivilised and barbarous, will not the authority of even the most learned men influence them? I say nothing of Isocrates, and his pupils Ephorus and Naucrates; although those men who are themselves consummate orators ought also to be the highest authorities on making and ornamenting a speech. But who of all men was ever more learned, or more acute, or a more accurate judge of the discovery of, or decision respecting all things than Aristotle? Moreover, who ever took more pains to oppose Isocrates? Aristotle then, while he warns us against letting verses occur in our speeches, enjoins us to attend to rhythm. His pupil Theodectes, one of the most polished of writers, (as Aristotle often intimates,) and a great artist, both felt and enjoined the same thing. And Theophrastus is more distinct still in laying down the same rule.
Who then can endure those men who do not agree with such authorities as these? Unless indeed they are ignorant that they ever gave any such rules. And if that is the case, (and I really believe it is,) what then? Have they no senses of their own to be guided by? Have they no natural idea of what is useless? None of what is harsh, cramped, lame, or superfluous? When verses are being repeated, the whole theatre raises an outcry if there is one syllable too few or too many. Not that the mob knows anything about feet or metre; nor do they understand what it is that offends them, or know why or in what it offends them. But nevertheless nature herself has placed in our ears a power of judging of all superfluous length and all undue shortness in sounds, as much as of grave and acute syllables.
LII. Do you wish then, O Brutus, that we should give a more accurate explanation of this whole topic, than those men themselves have done who have delivered these and other rules to us? Or may we be content with those which have been delivered by them? But why do I ask whether you wish this? when I know from your letters, written in a most scholar-like spirit, that you wish for it above all things. First of all, then, the origin of a well-adapted and rhythmical oration shall be explained, then the cause of it, then its nature, and last of all its use.
For they who admire Isocrates above all things, place this among his very highest panegyrics, that he was the first person who added rhythm to prose writing. For they say that, as he perceived that orators were listened to with seriousness, but poets with pleasure, he then aimed at rhythm so as to use it in his orations both for the sake of giving pleasure, and also that variety of sound might prevent weariness. And this is said by them in some degree correctly, but not wholly so. For we must confess that no one was ever more thoroughly skilled in that sort of learning than Isocrates; but still the original inventor of rhythm was Thrasymachus; all whose writings are even too carefully rhythmical. For, as I said a little while ago, the principle of things like one another being placed side by side, sentence after sentence being ended in a similar manner, and contraries being compared with contraries, so that, even if one took no pains about it, most sentences would end musically, was first discovered by Gorgias; but he used it without any moderation. And that is as I have said before one of the three divisions of arrangement.
Both of these men were predecessors of Isocrates; so that it was in his moderation, not in his invention, that he is superior to them. For he is more moderate in the way in which he inverts or alters the sense of words; and also in his attention to rhythm. But Gorgias is a more insatiable follower of this system, and (even according to his own admission) abuses these elegances in an unprecedented way; but Isocrates (who while a young man had heard Gorgias when he was an old man in Thessaly) put all these things under more restraint. Moreover he himself, as he advanced in age, (and he lived nearly a hundred years,) relaxed in his ideas of the exceeding necessity for rhythm; as he declares in that book which he wrote to Philip of Macedon, when he was a very old man, in which he says that he is less attentive to rhythm than he had formerly been. And so he had corrected not only his predecessors, but himself also.
LIII. Since, then, we have those men whom we have mentioned as the authors and originators of a well-adapted oration, and since its origin has been thus explained, we must now seek for the cause. And that is so evident, that I marvel that the ancients were not influenced by it; especially when, as is often the case, they often by chance made use of well-rounded and well-arranged periods. And when they had produced their impression on the minds and ears of men, so as to make it very plain that what chance had effected had been received with pleasure, certainly they ought to have taken note of what had been done, and have imitated themselves; for the ears, or the mind by the report of the ears, contains in itself a natural measurement of all sounds. That is how it distinguishes between long and short sounds; and always watches for well-wrought and moderate periods. It feels that some are mutilated and curtailed, as it were, and with those it is offended, as if it were defrauded of its due; others it feels to be too long, and running out to an immoderate length, and those the ears reject even more than the first; for as in most cases, so especially in this kind of thing, it happens that what is in excess is much more offensive than that which errs on the side of deficiency.
As, therefore, poetry and verse was invented by the nicety of the ear, and the careful observation of clever men; so it has been noticed in oratory, much later, indeed, but still in deference to the promptings of the same nature, that there are [Editor: illegible word] certain rules and bounds, within which words and paragraphs ought to be confined.
Since, therefore, we have thus shown the cause, we will now, if you please, explain the nature of it; for that was the third division; and that involves a discussion which has no reference to the original plan of this treatise, but which belongs rather to the arcana of the art. For the question may be asked, what is the rhythm of a speech; and where it is placed; and in what it originates; and whether it is one thing, or two, or more; and on what principles it is arranged; and for what purpose; and how and in what part it is situated, and in what way it is employed so as to give any pleasure.
But as in most cases, so also in this one, there are two ways of looking at the question; one of which is longer, the other shorter, and at the same time plainer.
LIV. But in the longer way the first question is, whether there actually is any such thing as a rythmical oration at all; (for some persons do not think that there is, because there is not in oratory any positive rule, as there is in verses, and because the people who assert that there is that rhythm cannot give any reason why there is.) In the next place, if there is rhythm in an oration, what sort of rhythm it is; and whether it is of more than one kind; and whether it consists of poetical rhythm, or of some other kind; and if it consists of poetical rhythm, of which poetical rhythm, (for some think that there is but one sort of poetical rhythm, while others think there are many kinds.) In the next place, the question arises, whether sorts of rhythm there may be, whether one or more, whether they are common to every kind of oratory, (since there is one kind used in narrating, another kind in persuading, and another in teaching,) or whether the different kinds are all adapted equally to every sort of oratory. If the different kinds are common to each kind of oratory, what are they? If there is a difference, then what is the difference, and why is the rhythm less visible in a speech than in a verse? Besides, there is a question whether what is rhythmical in a speech is made so solely by rhythm, or also by some especial arrangement of words, or by the kind of words employed; or whether each division has its component parts, so that rhythm consists of intervals, arrangement of words, while the character of the words themselves is visible being a sort of shape and light of the speech; and whether arrangement is not the principal thing of all, and whether it is not by that that rhythm is produced, and those things which I have called the forms and light of a speech, and which, as I have said, the Greeks call σχήματα. But that which is pleasant when uttered by the voice, and that which is made perfect by careful regulation, and brilliant by the nature of the words employed, are not one and the same thing, although they are both akin to rhythm, because each is perfect of itself; but an arrangement differs from both, and is wholly dependent on the dignity or sweetness of the language employed.
These are the main questions which arise out of an inquiry into the nature of oratory.
LV. It is, then, not hard to know that there is a certain rhythm in a speech: for the senses decide that. And it is absurd not to admit an evident fact, merely because we cannot find out why it happens. And verse itself was not invented by à priori reasoning, but by nature and the senses, and these last were taught by carefully digested reason what was the fact; and accordingly it was the careful noticing and observation of nature which produced art.
But in verses the matter is more evident. For although there are some kinds of verse which, if they be not chanted, appear but little to differ from prose; and this is especially the case in all the very best of those poets who are called λυρικοὶ by the Greeks; for when you have stripped them of the singing, the language remains almost naked. And some of our countrymen are like them. Like that line in Thyestes:—
“Quemnam te esse dicam, qui tarda in senectute” . . .
And so on; for except when the flute-player is at hand to accompany them, those verses are very like prose. But the iambics of the common poets are, on account of their likeness to ordinary conversation, very often in such a very low style, that sometimes it is hardly possible to discover any metre, or even rhythm in them. And it may easily be understood that there is more difficulty in discovering the rhythm in an oration than in verses.
Altogether there are two things which season oratory—the sweetness of the language, and the sweetness of the rhythm. In the language is the material, and in the rhythm the polish. But, as in other things, the older inventions are the children of necessity rather than of pleasure; so also has it happened in this, that oratory was for many ages naked and unpolished, aiming only at expressing the meaning conceived in the mind of the speaker, before any system of rhythm for the sake of tickling the ears was invented.
LVI. Therefore Herodotus also, and his age, and the age preceding him, had no idea of rhythm, except at times by chance, as it seems. And the very ancient writers have left us no rules at all about rhythm, though they have given us many precepts about oratory. For that which is the more easy and the more necessary will always be the first thing known. Therefore, words used in a metaphorical sense, or inverted, or combined, were easily invented because they were derived from ordinary use, and from daily conversation. But rhythm was not drawn from a man’s own house, nor had it any connexion of relationship to oratory. And therefore it was later in being noticed and observed, bringing as it did the last touch and lineaments to oratory. But if there is one style of oratory narrow and concise, and another more vague and diffuse, that must clearly be owing, not to the nature of letters, but to the difference between long and short paragraphs; because an oration made up and compounded of these two kinds is sometimes steady, sometimes fluent, and so each character must be kept up by corresponding rhythm. For that circuitous way of speaking, which we have often mentioned already, goes on more impetuously, and hurries along, until it can arrive at its end, and come to a stop. It is quite plain, therefore, that oratory ought to be confined to rhythm, and kept clear of metre.
But the next question is, whether this rhythm is poetical, or whether it is of some other kind. There is, then, no rhythm whatever that is not poetical; because the different kinds of rhythm are clearly defined. For all rhythm is one of three kinds. For the foot which is employed in rhythm is divided into three classes; so that it is necessary that one part of the foot must be either equal to the other part, or as large again, or half as large again. Accordingly, the dactyl is of the first class, the pæon of the last, the iambic of the second. And how is it possible to avoid such feet in an oration? And then when they are arranged with due consideration rhythm is unavoidably produced.
But the question arises, what rhythm is to be employed; either absolutely, or in preference to others. But that every kind of rhythm is at times suitable to oratory, may be seen from this,—that in speaking we often make a verse without intending it, (which, however, is a great fault, but we do not notice it, nor do we hear what we say ourselves;) and as for iambics, whether regular or Hipponactean, those we can scarcely avoid. For our common conversation often consists of iambics. But still the hearer easily recognises those verses, for they are the most usual ones. But at times we unintentionally let fall others which are less usual, but which still are verses; and that is a faulty style of oratory, and one which requires to be guarded against with great care.
Hieronymus, a Peripatetic of the highest character, out of all the numerous compositions of Isocrates, picked out about thirty verses, chiefly iambics, but some also anapæsts. And what can be worse? Though in picking them out he acted in an unfair manner, for he took away sometimes the first syllable in the first word of a sentence; and again, he sometimes added to the last word the first syllable of the following sentence. And in this way he made that sort of anapæst which is called the Aristophanic anapæst. And such accidents as these cannot be guarded against, nor do they signify. But still this critic, in the very passage in which he finds this fault with him, (as I noticed when I was examining his work very closely,) himself makes an iambic without knowing it. This, then, may be considered as an established point, that there is rhythm also in prose, and that oratorical is the same as the poetical rhythm.
LVII. It remains, therefore, for us to consider what rhythm occurs most naturally in a well-arranged oration. For some people think that it is the iambic rhythm, because that is the most like a speech, on which account it happens that it is most frequently employed in fables, because of its resemblance to reality—because the dactylic hexameter rhythm is better suited to a lofty and magniloquent subject. But Ephorus himself, an inconsiderable orator, though coming from an excellent school, inclines to the pæon, or dactyl, but avoids the spondee and trochee. For because the pæon has three short syllables and the dactyl two, he thinks that the words come more trippingly off on account of the shortness and rapidity of utterance of the syllables; and that a contrary effect is produced by the spondee and trochee, because the one consists of long syllables and the other of short ones; so that a speech made up of the one is too much hurried, if made up of the other is too slow; and neither is well regulated. But those ancients are all in the wrong, and Ephorus is wholly in fault. For those who pass over the pæon, do not perceive that a most delicate, and at the same time most dignified rhythm is passed over by them. But Aristotle’s opinion is very different, for he considers that the heroic rhythm is a grander one than is admissible in prose, and that an iambic is too like ordinary conversation. Accordingly, he does not approve of a style which is lowly and abject, or of one which is too lofty and, as it were, on stilts: but still he wishes for one full of dignity, in order to strike those who hear it with the greater admiration. But he calls a trochee, which occupies the same time as a choreus, κόρδαξ, because its contracted and brief character is devoid of dignity. Accordingly, he approves of the pæon; and says that all men employ it, but that all men are not themselves aware when they do employ it; and that there is a third or middle way between those two, but that those feet are formed in such a way, that in every one of them there is either a time, or a time and a half, or two times. Therefore, those men of whom I have spoken have considered convenience only, and disregarded dignity. For the iambic and the dactyl are those which are most usually employed in verse; and, therefore, as we avoid verses in making speeches, so also a recurrence of these feet must be avoided. For oratory is a different thing from poetry, nor are there any two things more contrary to one another than that is to verses. But the pæon is that foot which, of all others, is least adapted to verse, on which account oratory admits it the more willingly. But Ephorus will not even admit that the spondee, which he condemns, is equivalent to the dactyl, which he approves of. For he thinks that feet ought to be measured by their syllables, not by their quantity; and he does the same in regard to the trochee, which in its quantity and times is equivalent to an iambic; but which is a fault in an oration, if it be placed at the end, because a sentence ends better with a long syllable.
And all this, which is also contained in Aristotle, is said by Theophrastus and Theodectes about the pæon. But my opinion is, that all feet ought to be jumbled together and confused, as it were, in an oration; and that we could not escape blame if we were always to use the same feet; because an oration ought to be neither metrical, like a poem, nor inharmonious, like the conversation of the common people. The one is so fettered by rules that it is manifest that it is designedly arranged as we see it; the other is so loose as to appear ordinary and vulgar; so that you are not pleased with the one, and you hate the other.
Let oratory then be, as I have said above, mingled and regulated with a regard to rhythm; not prosaic, nor on the other hand sacrificed wholly to rhythm; composed chiefly of the pæon, (since that is the opinion of the wisest author on the subject,) with many of the other feet which he passes over intermingled with it.
LVIII. But what feet ought to be mingled with others, like purple, must be now explained; and we must also show to what kind of speech each sort of foot and rhythm is the best adapted. For the iambic is most frequent in those orations which are composed in a humble and lowly style; but the pæon is suited to a more dignified style; and the dactyl to both. Therefore, in a varied and long-continued speech these feet should be mingled together and combined. And in this way the fact of the orator aiming at pleasing the senses, and the careful attempt to round off the speech, will be the less visible, and they will at all times be less apparent if we employ dignified expressions and sentiments. For the hearers observe these two things, and think them agreeable: (I mean, expressions and sentiments.) And while they listen to them with admiring minds, the rhythm escapes their notice; and even if it were wholly wanting they would still be delighted with those other things.
Nor indeed is the rhythm, I mean in a speech, (for the case as to verse is very different,) so exacting that nothing may ever be expressed except according to rule; for then it would be a poem. But every oration which does not halt, or if I may so say, fluctuate, and which proceeds on with an equal and consistent pace, is considered rhythmical. And it is considered rhythmical in the delivery; not because it consists wholly of some regular rhythm; but because it comes as near to a musical rhythm as possible: on which account it is more difficult to make a speech than to make verses; because these last have certain definite rules which it is necessary to follow; but, in speaking, there is nothing settled, except that the speech must not be intemperate, or too compressed, or prosaic, or too fluent. Therefore there are no regular bars in it as a flute-player has; but the whole principle and system of an oration is regulated by general rules of universal application; and they are judged of on the principle of pleasing the ear.
LIX. But people often ask, whether in every portion of a paragraph it is necessary to have a regard to rhythm, or whether it is sufficient to do so at the beginning and end of a sentence. For many people think that it is sufficient for a sentence to end and be wound up in a rhythmical manner. But although that is the main point, it is not the only one; for the sounding of the periods is only to be laid aside, not to be thrown away. And therefore, as men’s ears are always on the watch for the end of a sentence, and are greatly influenced by that, that certainly ought never to be devoid of rhythm; but harmony ought to pervade the whole sentence from beginning to end; and the whole ought to proceed from the beginning so naturally that the end shall be consistent with every previous part. But that will not be difficult to men who have been trained in a good school, who have written many things, and who have made also all the speeches which they have delivered without written papers like written speeches. For the sentence is first composed in the mind; and then words come immediately: and then they are immediately sent forth by the mind, than which nothing is more rapid in its movements; so that each falls into its proper place. And then their regular order is settled by different terminations in different sentences; and all the expressions at the beginning and in the middle of the sentence ought to be composed with reference to the end. For sometimes the torrent of an oration is rapid; sometimes its progress is moderate; so that from the very beginning one can see how one wishes to come to the end. Nor is it in rhythm more than in the other embellishments of a speech that we behave exactly as poets do; though still, in an oration, we avoid all resemblance to a poem.
LX. For there is in both oratory and poetry, first of all the material, then the execution. The material consists in the words, the execution in the arrangement of the words. But there are three divisions of each,—of words there is the metaphorical, the new, and the old-fashioned; for of appropriate words we say nothing at present; but of arrangement there are those which we have mentioned, composition, neatness, and rhythm. But the poets are the most free and frequent in the use of each; for they use words in a metaphorical sense not only more frequently, but also more daringly; and they use old-fashioned words more willingly, and new ones more freely. And the case with respect to rhythm is the same; in which they are obliged to comply with a kind of necessity: but still these things must be understood as being neither too different, nor yet in any respect united. Accordingly we find that rhythm is not the same in an oration as in a poem; and that that which is pronounced to be rhythmical in an oration is not always effected by a strict attention to the rules of rhythm; but sometimes either by neatness, or by the casual arrangement of the words.
Accordingly, if the question is raised as to what is the rhythm of an oration, it is every sort of rhythm; but one sort is better and more suitable than another. If the question is, what is the place of this rhythm? it is in every portion of the words. If you ask where it has arisen; it has arisen from the pleasure of the ears. If the principle is sought on which the words are to be arranged; that will be explained in another place, because that relates to practice, which was the fourth and last division which we made of the subject. If the question is, when; always: if, in what place; it consists in the entire connexion of the words. If we are asked, What is the circumstance which causes pleasure? we reply, that it is the same as in verse; the method of which is determined by art; but the ears themselves define it by their own silent sensations, without any reference to principles of art.
LXI. We have said enough of the nature of it. The practice follows; and that we must discuss with greater accuracy. And in this discussion inquiry has been made, whether it is in the whole of that rounding of a sentence which the Greeks call περίοδος, and which we call “ambitus,” or “circuitus,” or “comprehensio,” or “continuatio,” or “circumscriptio,” or in the beginning only, or in the end, or in both, that rhythm must be maintained? And, in the next place, as rhythm appears one thing and a rhythmical sentence another, what is the difference between them? and again, whether it is proper for the divisions of a sentence to be equal in every sort of rhythm, or whether we should make some shorter and some longer; and if so, when, and why, and in what parts; whether in many or in one; whether in unequal or equal ones; and when we are to use one, and when the other; and what words may be most suitably combined together, and how; or whether there is absolutely no distinction; and, what is most material to the subject of all things, by what system oratory may be made rhythmical. We must also explain from whence such a form of words has arisen; and we must explain what periods it may be becoming to make, and we must also discuss their parts and sections, if I may so call them; and inquire whether they have all one appearance and length, or more than one; and if many, in what place; or when we may use them, and what kinds it is proper to use; and, lastly, the utility of the whole kind is to be explained, which indeed is of wider application; for it is adapted not to any one particular thing, but to many.
And a man may, without giving replies on each separate point, speak of the entire genus in such a way that his answer may appear sufficient as to the whole matter. Leaving, therefore, the other kinds out of the question, we select this one, which is conversant with actions and the forum, concerning which we will speak.
Therefore in other kinds, that is to say, in history and in that kind of argument which we call ἐπιδεικτικὸν, it seems good that everything should be said after the example of Isocrates and Theopompus, with that sort of period and rounding of a sentence that the oration shall run on in a sort of circle, until it stops in separate, perfect, and complete sentences. Therefore after this circumscriptio, or continuatio, or comprehensio, or ambitus, if we may so call it, was once introduced, there was no one of any consideration who ever wrote an oration of that kind which was intended only to give pleasure, and unconnected with judicial proceedings or forensic contests, who did not reduce almost all his sentences to a certain set form and rhythm. For, as his hearers are men who have no fear that their own good faith is being attempted to be undermined by the snare of a well-arranged oration, they are even grateful to the orator for studying so much to gratify their ears.
LXII. But this kind of oratory is neither to be wholly appropriated to forensic causes, nor is it entirely to be repudiated. For if you constantly employ it, when it has produced weariness then even unskilful people can recognise its character. Besides, it takes away the indignation which is intended to be excited by the pleading; it takes away the manly sensibility of the pleader; it wholly puts an end to all truth and good faith. But since it ought to be employed at times, first of all, we should see in what place; secondly, how long it is to be maintained; and lastly, in how many ways it may be varied. We must, then, employ a rhythmical oratory, if we have occasion either to praise anything in an ornate style,—as we ourselves spoke in the second book of our impeachment of Verres concerning the praise of Sicily; and in the senate, of my own consulship; or a narration must be delivered which requires more dignity than indignation,—as in the fourth book of that same impeachment we spoke concerning the Ceres of Enna, the Diana of Segeste, and the situation of Syracuse. Often also when employed in amplifying a case, an oration is poured forth harmoniously and volubly with the approbation of all men. That perhaps we have never quite accomplished; but we have certainly very often attempted it; as our perorations in many places show that we have, and indeed that we have been very eager to effect it. But this is most effective when the hearer is already blockaded, as it were, and taken prisoner by the speaker. For he then no longer thinks of watching and guarding against the orator, but he is already on his side; and wishes him to proceed, admitting the force of his eloquence, and never thinking of looking for anything with which to find fault.
But this style is not to be maintained long; I do not mean in the peroration which it concludes, but in the other divisions of the speech. For when the orator has employed those topics which I have shown to be admissible, then the whole of his efforts must be transferred to what the Greeks call, I know not why, κόμματα and κῶλα, and which we may translate, though not very correctly, “incisa” and “membra.” For there cannot be well-known names given to things which are not known; but when we use words in a metaphorical sense, either for the sake of sweetness or because of the poverty of the language, this result takes place in every art, that when we have got to speak of that which, on account of our ignorance of its existence, had no name at all previously, necessity compels us either to coin a new word, or to borrow a name from something resembling it.
LXIII. But we will consider hereafter in what way sentences ought to be expressed in short clauses or members. At present we must explain in how many ways those different conclusions and terminations may be changed. Rhythm flows in from the beginning, at first more rapidly, from the shortness of the feet employed, and afterwards more slowly as they increase in length. Disputes require rapidity; slowness is better suited to explanations. But a period is terminated in many ways; one of which has gained especial favour in Asia, which is called the dichoreus, when the two last feet are chorei, consisting each of one long and one short syllable; for we must explain that the same feet have different names given them by different people. Now that dichoreus is not inherently defective as part of a clause, but in the rhythm of an orator there is nothing so vicious as to have the same thing constantly recurring. By itself now and then it sounds very well, on which account we have the more reason to guard against satiety. I was present when Caius Carbo, the son of Caius, a tribune of the people, uttered these words in the assembly of the people:
“O Marce Druse, patrem appello.”
Here are two clauses, each of two feet. Then he gave us some more periods:
“Tu dicere solebas, sacram esse rempublicam.”
Here each clause consists of three feet. Then comes the conclusion:
“Quicunque eam violavissent ab omnibus esse ei pœnas persolutas.”
Here is the dichoreus;—for it does not signify whether the last syllable is long or short. Then comes,
“Patris dictum sapiens, temeritas filii comprobavit.”
And this last dichoreus excited such an outcry as to be quite marvellous. I ask, was it not the rhythm which caused it? Change the order of the words; let them stand thus:
“Comprobavit filii temeritas:”
there will be no harm in that, though temeritas consists of three short syllables and one long one; which Aristotle considers as the best sort of word to end a sentence, in which I do not agree with him. But still the words are the same, and the meaning is the same. That is enough for the mind, but not enough for the ears. But this ought not to be done too often. For at first rhythm is acknowledged; presently it wearies; afterwards, when the ease with which it is produced is known, it is despised.
LXIV. But there are many little clauses which sound rhythmically and agreeably. For there is the cretic, which consists of a long syllable, then a short one, then a long; and there is its equivalent the pæon; which is equal in time, but longer by one syllable; and which is considered a very convenient foot to be used in prose, as it is of two kinds. For it consists either of one long syllable and three short ones, which rhythm is admirable at the beginning of a sentence, but languid at the end; or of three short syllables and then the long one, which the ancients consider the most musical foot of the two: I do not object to it; though there are other feet which I prefer. Even the spondee is not utterly to be repudiated; although, because it consists of two long syllables, it appears somewhat dull and slow; still it has a certain steady march not devoid of dignity; but much more is it valuable in short clauses and periods; for then it makes up for the fewness of the feet by its dignified slowness. But when I am speaking of these feet as occurring in clauses, I do not speak of the one foot which occurs at the end; I add (which however is not of much consequence) the preceding foot, and very often even the foot before that. Even the iambic, which consists of one short and one long syllable; or that foot which is equal to the choreus, having three short syllables, being therefore equal in time though not in the number of syllables; or the dactyl, which consists of one long and two short syllables, if it is next to the last foot, joins that foot very trippingly, if it is a choreus or a spondee. For it never makes any difference which of these two is the last foot of a sentence. But these same three feet end a sentence very badly if one of them is placed at the end, unless the dactyl comes at the end instead of a cretic; for it does not signify whether the dactyl or the cretic comes at the end, because it does not signify even in verse whether the last syllable of all is long or short. Wherefore, whoever said that that pæon was more suitable in which the last syllable was long, made a great mistake; since it has nothing to do with the matter whether the last syllable is long or not. And indeed the pæon, as having more syllables than three, is considered by some people as a rhythm, and not a foot at all. It is, as is agreed upon by all the ancients, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Theodectes, and Ephorus, the most suitable of all for an oration, either at the beginning or in the middle; they think that it is very suitable for it at the end also; in which place the cretic appears to me to be better. But a dochmiac consists of five syllables, one short, two long, one short, and one long; as thus:—Ămīcōs tĕnēs; and is suitable for any part of the speech, as long as it is used only once. If repeated or often renewed it then makes the rhythm conspicuous and too remarkable. If we use these changes, numerous and varied as they are, it will not be seen how much of our rhythm is the result of study, and we shall avoid wearying our hearers.
LXV. And because it is not only rhythm which makes a speech rhythmical, but since that effect is produced also by the arrangement of the words, and by a kind of neatness, as has been said before, it may be understood by the arrangement when words are so placed that rhythm does not appear to have been purposely aimed at, but to have resulted naturally, as it is said by Crassus:—
“Nam ubi libido dominatur innocentiæ leve præsidium est.”
For here the order of the words produces rhythm without any apparent design on the part of the orator. Therefore, the suitable and rhythmical sentences which occur in the works of the ancients, I mean Herodotus, and Thucydides, and all the writers of that age, were produced, not by any deliberate pursuit of rhythm, but by the arrangement of the words For there are some forms of oratory in which there is so much neatness, that rhythm unavoidably follows. For when like is referred to like, or contrary opposed to contrary, or when words which sound alike are compared to other words, whatever sentence is wound up in that manner must usually sound rhythmically. And of this kind of sentence we have already spoken and given instances, so that this abundance of kinds enables a man to avoid always ending a sentence in the same manner.
Nor are these rules so strict and precise that we are unable to relax them when we wish to. It makes a great difference whether an oratior is rhythmical—that is to say, like rhythm—or whether it consists of nothing but rhythm. If it is the latter, that is an intolerable fault; if it is not the former, then it is unconnected, and barbarous, and languid.
LXVI. But since it is not only not a frequent occurrence, but actually even a rare one, that we ought to speak in compressed and rhythmical periods, in serious or forensic causes, it appears to follow that we ought to consider what these clauses and short members which I have spoken of are. For in serious causes they occupy the greater part of the speech. For a full and perfect period consists of four divisions, which we call members, so as to fill the ears, and not be either shorter or longer than is just sufficient. Although each of those defects does happen sometimes, or indeed often, so that it is necessary either to stop abruptly, or else to proceed further, lest our brevity should appear to have cheated the ears of our hearers, or our prolixity to have exhausted them. But I prefer a middle course; for I am not speaking of verse, and oratory is not so much confined. A full period, then, consists of four divisions, like hexameter verses. In each of these verses, then, there are visible the links, as it were, of the connected series which we unite in the conclusion. But if we choose to speak in a succession of short clauses, we stop, and when it is necessary, we easily and frequently separate ourselves from that sort of march which is apt to excite dislike; but nothing ought to be so rhythmical as this, which is the least visible and the most efficacious. Of this kind is that sentence which was spoken by Crassus:—
“Missos faciant patronos; ipsi prodeant.”
If he had not paused before “ipsi prodeant,” he would have at once seen that an iambic had escaped him,—“prodeant ipsi” would sound in every respect better. But at present I am speaking of the whole kind.
“Cur clandestinis consiliis nos oppugnant? Cur de perfugis nostris copias comparant inter nos?”
The first two are such sentences as the Greeks call κόμματα, and we “incisa.” The third is such as they term κῶλον, and we “membrum.” Then comes a short clause; for a perfect conclusion is made up of two verses, that is to say members, and falls into spondees. And Crassus was very much in the habit of employing this termination, and I myself have a good opinion of this style of speaking.
LXVII. But those sentiments which are delivered in short clauses, or members, ought to sound very harmoniously, as in a speech of mine you will find:—
“Domus tibi deerat? at habebas. Pecunia superabat? at egebas.”
These four clauses are as concise as can be; but then come the two following sentences uttered in members:—
“Incurristi amens in columnas: in alienos insanus insanîsti.”
After these clauses everything is sustained by a longer class of sentences, as if they were erected on these as their pedestal:—
“Depressam, cæcam, jacentem domum pluris, quam te, et quam fortunas tuas, æstimâsti.”
It is ended with a dichoreus; but the next sentence terminates with a double spondee. For in those feet which speakers should use at times like little daggers, the very brevity makes the feet more free. For we often must use them separately, often two together, and a part of a foot may be added to each foot, but not often in combinations of more than three. But an oration when delivered in brief clauses and members, is very forcible in serious causes, especially when you are accusing or refuting an accusation, as in my second Cornelian speech:—
“O callidos homines! O rem excogitatam! O ingenia metuenda!”
Hitherto this is spoken in members. After that we spoke in short clauses. Then again in members:—
“Testes dare volumus.”
At last comes the conclusion, but one made up of two members, than which nothing can be more concise:—
“Quem, quæso, nostrûm fefellit, ita vos esse facturos?”
Nor is there any style of speaking more lively or more forcible than that which strikes with two or three words, sometimes with single words; very seldom with more than two or three, and among these various clauses there is occasionally inserted a rhythmical period. And Hegesias, who perversely avoided this usage, while seeking to imitate Lysias, who is almost a second Demosthenes, dividing his sentences into little bits, was more like a dancer than an orator. And he, indeed, errs not less in his sentences than in his single words, so that a man who knows him has no need to look about for some one whom he may call foolish. But I have cited those sentences of Crassus’s and my own, in order that whoever chose might judge by his own ears what was rhythmical even in the most insignificant portions of a speech. And since we have said more about rhythmical oratory than any one of those who have preceded us, we will now speak of the usefulness of that style.
LXVIII. For speaking beautifully and like an orator is, O Brutus, nothing else (as you, indeed, know better than any one) except speaking with the most excellent sentiments and in the most carefully selected language. And there is no sentiment which produces any fruit to an orator, unless it is expressed in a suitable and polished manner. Nor is there any brilliancy of words visible unless they are carefully arranged; and rhythm it is which sets off both these excellences. But rhythm (for it is well to repeat this frequently) is not only not formed in a poetical manner, but even avoids poetry, and is as unlike it as possible. Not but that rhythm is the same thing, not only in the writings of orators and poets, but even in the conversation of every one who speaks, and in every imaginable sound which we can measure with our ears. But it is the order of the feet which makes that which is uttered appear like an oration or like a poem. And this, whether you choose to call it composition, or perfection, or rhythm, must be employed if a man wishes to speak elegantly, not only (as Aristotle and Theophrastus say) that the discourse may not run on interminably like a river, but that it may come to a stop as it ought, not because the speaker wants to take breath, or because the copyist puts down a stop, but because it is compelled to do so by the restrictions of rhythm, and also because a compact style has much greater force than a loose one. For as we see athletes, and in a similar manner gladiators, act cautiously, neither avoiding nor aiming at anything with too much vehemence, (for over-vehement motions can have no rule;) so that whatever they do in a manner advantageous for their contest, may also have a graceful and pleasing appearance; in like manner oratory does not strike a heavy blow, unless the aim was a well-directed one; nor does it avoid the attack of the adversary successfully, unless even when turning aside the blow it is aware of what is becoming. And therefore the speeches of those men who do not end their sentences rhythmically seem to me like the motions of those whom the Greeks call ἀπαλαίστρους. And it is so far from being the case, (as those men say who, either from a want of proper instructors, or from the slowness of their intellect, or from an unwillingness to exert due industry, have not arrived at this skill,) that oratory is enervated by too much attention to the arrangement of words, that without it there can be no energy and no force.
LXIX. But the matter is one which requires much practice, lest we should do anything like those men who, though they have aimed at this style, have not attained it; so that we must not openly transpose our words in order to make our language sound better; a thing which Lucius Cœlius Antipater, in the opening of his history of the Punic War, promises not to do unless it should be absolutely necessary. Oh the simple man! to conceal nothing from us; and at the same time wise, inasmuch as he is prepared to comply with necessity. But still this is being too simple. But in writing or in sober discussion the excuse of necessity is not admissible, for there is no such thing as necessity; and if there were, it would still be necessary not to admit it. And this very man who demands this indulgence of Lælius, to whom he is writing, and to whom he is excusing himself, uses this transposition of words, and yet does not fill up and conclude his sentences any the more skilfully. Among others, and especially among the Asiatics, who are perfect slaves to rhythm, you may find many superfluous words inserted, as if on purpose to fill up vacancies in rhythm. There are men also, who through that fault, which originated chiefly with Hegesias, by breaking up abruptly, and cutting short their rhythm, have fallen into an abject style of speaking, very much like that of the Sicilians. There is a third kind adopted by those brothers, the chiefs of the Asiatic rhetoricians, Hierocles and [Editor: illegible word] men who are not at all to be despised, in my opinion at least. For although they do not quite keep to the real form of oratory and to the principles of the Attic orators, still they make amends for this fault by their ability and fluency. Still there was no variety in them, because nearly all their sentences were terminated in one manner.
But a man who avoids all these faults, so as neither to transpose words in such a manner that every one must see that it is done on purpose, nor cramming in unnecessary words, as if to fill up leaks, nor aiming at petty rhythm, so as to mutilate and emasculate his sentences, and who does not always stick to one kind of rhythm without any variation, such a man avoids nearly every fault. For we have said a good deal on the subject of perfections, to which these manifest defects are contrary.
LXX. But how important a thing it is to speak harmoniously, you may know by experience if you dissolve the carefully-contrived arrangement of a skilful orator by a transposition of his words; for then the whole thing would be spoilt, as in this instance of our language in the Cornelian oration, and in all the following sentences:—
“Neque me divitiæ movent, quibus omnes Africanos et Lælios multi venalitii mercatoresque superârunt.”
Change the order a little, so that the sentence shall stand,
“Multi superârunt mercatores venalitiique,”
and the whole effect is lost. And the subsequent sentences:
“Neque vestis, aut cælatum aurum et argentum, quo nostros veteres Marcellos Maximosque multi eunuchi e Syriâ Ægyptoque vicerunt.”
Alter the order of the words, so that they shall stand,
“Vicerunt eunuchi e Syriâ Ægyptoque.”
Take this third sentence:—
“Neque vero ornamenta ista villarum, quibus Lucium Paullum et Lucium Mummium, qui rebus his urbem Italiamque omnem referserunt, ab aliquo video perfacile Deliaco aut Syro potuisse superari.”
Place the words thus:—
“Potuisse superari ab aliquo Syro aut Deliaco.”
Do you not see that by making this slight change in the order of the words, the very same words (though the sense remains as it was before) lose all their effect the moment they are disjoined from those which were best suited to them?
Or if you take any carelessly-constructed sentence of any unpolished orator, and reduce it into proper shape, by making a slight alteration in the order of his words, then that will be made harmonious which was before loose and unmethodical. Come now, take a sentence from the speech of Gracchus before the censors:—
“Obesse non potest, quin ejusdem hominis sit, probos improbare, qui improbos probet.”
How much better would it have been if he had said,
“Quin ejusdem hominis sit, qui improbos probet, probos improbare!”
No one ever had any objection to speaking in this manner; and no one was ever able to do so who did not do it. But those who have spoken in a different manner have not been able to arrive at this excellence. And so on a sudden they have set up for orators of the Attic school. As if Demosthenes was a man of Tralles; but even his thunderbolts would not have shone so if they had not been pointed by rhythm.
LXXI. But if there be any one who prefers a loose style of oratory, let him cultivate it; keeping in view this principle,—if any one were to take to pieces the shield of Phidias, he would destroy the beauty of the collective arrangement, not the exquisite workmanship of each fragment: and as in Thucydides I only miss the roundness of his periods; all the graces of style are there. But these men, when they compose a loose oration, in which there is no matter, and no expression which is not a low one, appear to me to be taking to pieces, not a shield, but, as the proverb says, (which, though but a low one, is still very apt,) only a broom. And in order that there may be no mistake as to their contempt of this style which I am praising, let them write something either in the style of Isocrates, or in that which Æschines or Demosthenes employs, and then I will believe that they have not shrunk from this style out of despair of being able to arrive at it, but that they have avoided it deliberately on account of their bad opinion of it: or else I will find a man myself who may be willing to be bound by this condition,—either to say or write, in whichever language you please, in the style which those men prefer. For it is easier to disunite what is connected than to connect what is disjointedly strung together.
However, the fact is, (to be brief in explaining my real opinion,) to speak in a well-arranged and suitable manner without good ideas is to act like a madman. But to speak in a sententious manner, without any order or method in one’s language, is to behave like a child: but still it is childishness of that sort, that those who employ it cannot be considered stupid men, and indeed may often be accounted wise men. And if a man is contented with that sort of character, why let him speak in that way. But the eloquent man, who, if his subject will allow it, ought to excite not only approbation, but admiration and loud applause, ought to excel in everything to such a degree, that he should think it discreditable that anything should be beheld or listened to more gladly than his speech.
You have here, O Brutus, my opinion respecting an orator. If you approve of it, follow it; or else adhere to your own, if you have formed any settled opinion on the subject. And I shall not be offended with you, nor will I affirm that this opinion of mine which I have asserted so positively in this book is more correct than yours; for it is possible not only that my opinion should be different from yours, but even that my own may be different at different times. And not only in this matter, which has reference to gaining the assent of the common people and to the pleasure of the ears, which are two of the most unimportant points as far as judgment is concerned; but even in the most important affairs, I have never found anything firmer to take hold of, or to guide my judgment by, than the extremity of probability as it appeared to me, when actual truth was hidden or obscure.
But I wish that you, if you do not approve entirely of the things which I have urged in this treatise, would believe either that I proposed to myself a work of too great difficulty for me to accomplish properly, or else that, while wishing to comply with your request, I undertook the impudent task of writing this, from being ashamed to refuse you.
[1 ]The Talysus was a hunter at Rhodes, of whom Protogenes had made an admirable picture; which was afterwards brought to Rome, and placed in the temple of Peace.
[1 ]Aristophanes says—
[1 ]Brutus was at present proprætor in Gaul.
[1 ]Theophrastus’s real name was Tyrtamus; but Aristotle, whose pupil he was, surnamed him Theophrastus, from the Greek words Θεὸς, God, and ϕράζω, to speak.
[1 ]He refers to the Menexenus.
[1 ]Cape si vis.