Cicero’s Brutus or History of Famous Orators; also His Orator, or Accomplished Speaker.

Produced by Anne Soulard, Ted Garvin, and the Project
Online Distributed Proofreading Team



Now first translated into English by E. Jones


As the following Rhetorical Pieces have never appeared before in the
English language, I thought a Translation of them would be no unacceptable
offering to the Public. The character of the Author (Marcus Tullius
Cicero) is so universally celebrated, that it would be needless, and
indeed impertinent, to say any thing to recommend them.

The first of them was the fruit of his retirement, during the remains of
the Civil War in Africa; and was composed in the form of a Dialogue. It
contains a few short, but very masterly sketches of all the Speakers
who had flourished either in Greece or Rome, with any reputation of
Eloquence, down to his own time; and as he generally touches the principal
incidents of their lives, it will be considered, by an attentive reader,
as a concealed epitome of the Roman history. The conference is supposed
to have been held with Atticus, and their common friend Brutus, in
Cicero’s garden at Rome, under the statue of Plato, whom he always
admired, and usually imitated in his dialogues: and he seems in this to
have copied even his double titles, calling it Brutus, or the History
of famous Orators
. It was intended as a supplement, or fourth book,
to three former ones, on the qualifications of an Orator.

The second, which is intitled The Orator, was composed a very short time
afterwards (both of them in the 61st year of his age) and at the request
of Brutus. It contains a plan, or critical delineation, of what he himself
esteemed the most finished Eloquence, or style of Speaking. He calls it
The Fifth Part, or Book, designed to complete his Brutus, and the
former three
on the same subject. It was received with great approbation;
and in a letter to Lepta, who had complimented him upon it, he declares,
that whatever judgment he had in Speaking, he had thrown it all into that
work, and was content to risk his reputation on the merit of it. But it is
particularly recommended to our curiosity, by a more exact account of the
rhetorical composition, or prosaic harmony of the ancients, than is to
be met with in any other part of his works.

As to the present Translation, I must leave the merit of it to be decided
by the Public; and have only to observe, that though I have not, to my
knowledge, omitted a single sentence of the original, I was obliged, in
some places, to paraphrase my author, to render his meaning intelligible
to a modern reader. My chief aim was to be clear and perspicuous: if I
have succeeded in that, it is all I pretend to. I must leave it to abler
pens to copy the Eloquence of Cicero. Mine is unequal to the task.


When I had left Cilicia, and arrived at Rhodes, word was brought me of the
death of Hortensius. I was more affected with it than, I believe, was
generally expected. For, by the loss of my friend, I saw myself for ever
deprived of the pleasure of his acquaintance, and of our mutual
intercourse of good offices. I likewise reflected, with Concern, that the
dignity of our College must suffer greatly by the decease of such an
eminent augur. This reminded me, that he was the person who first
introduced me to the College, where he attested my qualification upon
oath; and that it was he also who installed me as a member; so that I
was bound by the constitution of the Order to respect and honour him as a
parent. My affliction was increased, that, in such a deplorable dearth of
wife and virtuous citizens, this excellent man, my faithful associate in
the service of the Public, expired at the very time when the Commonwealth
could least spare him, and when we had the greatest reason to regret the
want of his prudence and authority. I can add, very sincerely, that in
him I lamented the loss, not (as most people imagined) of a dangerous
rival and competitor, but of a generous partner and companion in the
pursuit of same. For if we have instances in history, though in studies of
less public consequence, that some of the poets have been greatly
afflicted at the death of their contemporary bards; with what tender
concern should I honour the memory of a man, with whom it is more glorious
to have disputed the prize of eloquence, than never to have met with an
antagonist! especially, as he was always so far from obstructing my
endeavours, or I his, that, on the contrary, we mutually assisted each
other, with our credit and advice.

But as he, who had a perpetual run of felicity, left the world at a
happy moment for himself, though a most unfortunate one for his fellow-
citizens; and died when it would have been much easier for him to lament
the miseries of his country, than to assist it, after living in it as long
as he could have lived with honour and reputation;—we may, indeed,
deplore his death as a heavy loss to us who survive him. If, however, we
consider it merely as a personal event, we ought rather to congratulate
his fate, than to pity it; that, as often as we revive the memory of this
illustrious and truly happy man, we may appear at least to have as much
affection for him as for ourselves. For if we only lament that we are no
longer permitted to enjoy him, it must, indeed, be acknowledged that this
is a heavy misfortune to us; which it, however, becomes us to support
with moderation, less our sorrow should be suspected to arise from motives
of interest, and not from friendship. But if we afflict ourselves, on the
supposition that he was the sufferer;—we misconstrue an event, which to
him was certainly a very happy one.

If Hortensius was now living, he would probably regret many other
advantages in common with his worthy fellow-citizens. But when he beheld
the Forum, the great theatre in which he used to exercise his genius, no
longer accessible to that accomplished eloquence, which could charm the
ears of a Roman, or a Grecian audience; he must have felt a pang of which
none, or at least but few, besides himself, could be susceptible. Even I
am unable to restrain my tears, when I behold my country no longer
defensible by the genius, the prudence, and the authority of a legal
magistrate,—the only weapons which I have learned to weild, and to which
I have long been accustomed, and which are most suitable to the character
of an illustrious citizen, and of a virtuous and well-regulated state.

But if there ever was a time, when the authority and eloquence of an
honest individual could have wrested their arms from the hands of his
distracted fellow-citizens; it was then when the proposal of a compromise
of our mutual differences was rejected, by the hasty imprudence of some,
and the timorous mistrust of others. Thus it happened, among other
misfortunes of a more deplorable nature, that when my declining age, after
a life spent in the service of the Public, should have reposed in the
peaceful harbour, not of an indolent, and a total inactivity, but of a
moderate and becoming retirement; and when my eloquence was properly
mellowed, and had acquired its full maturity;—thus it happened, I say,
that recourse was then had to those fatal arms, which the persons who had
learned the use of them in honourable conquest, could no longer employ to
any salutary purpose. Those, therefore, appear to me to have enjoyed a
fortunate and a happy life, (of whatever State they were members, but
especially in our’s) who held their authority and reputation, either for
their military or political services, without interruption: and the sole
remembrance of them, in our present melancholy situation, was a pleasing
relief to me, when we lately happened to mention them in the course of

For, not long ago, when I was walking for my amusement, in a private
avenue at home, I was agreeably interrupted by my friend Brutus, and T.
Pomponius, who came, as indeed they frequently did, to visit me;—two
worthy citizens who were united to each other in the closest friendship,
and were so dear and so agreeable to me, that, on the first sight of them,
all my anxiety for the Commonwealth subsided. After the usual
salutations,—”Well, gentlemen,” said I, “how go the times? What news have
you brought?” “None,” replied Brutus, “that you would wish to hear, or
that I can venture to tell you for truth.”—”No,” said Atticus; “we are
come with an intention that all matters of state should be dropped; and
rather to hear something from you, than to say any thing which might serve
to distress you.” “Indeed,” said I, “your company is a present remedy for
my sorrow; and your letters, when absent, were so encouraging, that they
first revived my attention to my studies.”—”I remember,” replied
Atticus, “that Brutus sent you a letter from Asia, which I read with
infinite pleasure: for he advised you in it like a man of sense, and gave
you every consolation which the warmest friendship could suggest.”—
“True,” said I, “for it was the receipt of that letter which recovered me
from a growing indisposition, to behold once more the cheerful face of
day; and as the Roman State, after the dreadful defeat near Cannae, first
raised its drooping head by the victory of Marcellus at Nola, which was
succeeded by many other victories; so, after the dismal wreck of our
affairs, both public and private, nothing occurred to me before the letter
of my friend Brutus, which I thought to be worth my attention, or which
contributed, in any degree, to the anxiety of my heart.”—”That was
certainly my intention,” answered Brutus; “and if I had the happiness to
succeed, I was sufficiently rewarded for my trouble. But I could wish to
be informed, what you received from Atticus which gave you such uncommon
pleasure.”—”That,” said I, “which not only entertained me; but, I hope,
has restored me entirely to myself.”—”Indeed!” replied he; “and what
miraculous composition could that be?”—”Nothing,” answered I; “could have
been a more acceptable, or a more seasonable present, than that excellent
Treatise of his which roused me from a state of languor and despondency.”
—”You mean,” said he, “his short, and, I think, very accurate abridgment
of Universal History.”—”The very same,” said I; “for that little Treatise
has absolutely saved me.”—”I am heartily glad of it,” said Atticus; “but
what could you discover in it which was either new to you, or so
wonderfully beneficial as you pretend?”—”It certainly furnished many
hints,” said I, “which were entirely new to me: and the exact order of
time which you observed through the whole, gave me the opportunity I had
long wished for, of beholding the history of all nations in one regular
and comprehensive view. The attentive perusal of it proved an excellent
remedy for my sorrows, and led me to think of attempting something on your
own plan, partly to amuse myself, and partly to return your favour, by a
grateful, though not an equal acknowledgment. We are commanded, it is
true, in that precept of Hesiod, so much admired by the learned, to return
with the same measure we have received; or, if possible, with a larger. As
to a friendly inclination, I shall certainly return you a full proportion
of it; but as to a recompence in kind, I confess it to be out of my power,
and therefore hope you will excuse me: for I have no first-fruits (like a
prosperous husbandman) to acknowledge the obligation I have received; my
whole harvest having sickened and died, for want of the usual manure: and
as little am I able to present you with any thing from those hidden stores
which are now consigned to perpetual darkness, and to which I am denied
all access; though, formerly, I was almost the only person who was able to
command them at pleasure. I must therefore, try my skill in a long-
neglected and uncultivated soil; which I will endeavour to improve with so
much care, that I may be able to repay your liberality with interest;
provided my genius should be so happy as to resemble a fertile field,
which, after being suffered to lie fallow a considerable time, produces a
heavier crop than usual.”—”Very well,” replied Atticus, “I shall expect
the fulfilment of your promise; but I shall not insist upon it till it
suits your convenience; though, after all, I shall certainly be better
pleased if you discharge the obligation.”—”And I also,” said Brutus,
“shall expect that you perform your promise to my friend Atticus: nay,
though I am only his voluntary solicitor, I shall, perhaps, be very
pressing for the discharge of a debt, which the creditor himself is
willing to submit to your own choice.”—”But I shall refuse to pay you,”
said I, “unless the original creditor takes no farther part in the suit.”
—”This is more than I can promise,” replied he, “for I can easily
foresee, that this easy man, who disclaims all severity, will urge his
demand upon you, not indeed to distress you, but yet very closely and
seriously.”—”To speak ingenuously,” said Atticus, “my friend Brutus, I
believe, is not much mistaken: for as I now find you in good spirits, for
the first time, after a tedious interval of despondency, I shall soon make
bold to apply to you; and as this gentleman has promised his assistance,
to recover what you owe me, the least I can do is to solicit, in my turn,
for what is due to him.”

“Explain your meaning,” said I.—”I mean,” replied he, “that you must
write something to amuse us; for your pen has been totally silent this
long time; and since your Treatise on Politics, we have had nothing from
you of any kind; though it was the perusal of that which fired me with the
ambition to write an Abridgment of Universal History. But we shall,
however, leave you to answer this demand, when, and in what manner you
shall think most convenient. At present, if you are not otherwise engaged,
you must give us your sentiments on a subject on which we both desire to
be better informed.”—”And what is that?” said I.—”What you gave me a
hasty sketch of,” replied he, “when I saw you last at Tusculanum,—the
History of Famous Orators;—when they made their appearance, and who
and what they were; which, furnished such an agreeable train of
conversation, that when I related the substance of it to your, or I
ought rather to have said our common friend, Brutus, he expressed a
violent desire to hear the whole of it from your own mouth. Knowing you,
therefore, to be at leisure, we have taken the present opportunity to wait
upon you; so that, if it is really convenient, you will oblige us both by
resuming the subject.”—”Well, gentlemen,” said I, “as you are so
pressing, I will endeavour to satisfy you in the best manner I am able.”—
“You are able enough,” replied he; “only unbend yourself a little, or,
if you can set your mind at full liberty.”—”If I remember right,” said I,
“Atticus, what gave rise to the conversation, was my observing, that the
cause of Deiotarus, a most excellent Sovereign, and a faithful ally, was
pleaded by our friend Brutus, in my hearing, with the greatest elegance
and dignity.”—”True,” replied he, “and you took occasion from the ill
success of Brutus, to lament the loss of a fair administration of justice
in the Forum.”—”I did so,” answered I, “as indeed I frequently do: and
whenever I see you, my Brutus, I am concerned to think where your
wonderful genius, your finished erudition, and unparalleled industry will
find a theatre to display themselves. For after you had thoroughly
improved your abilities, by pleading a variety of important causes; and
when my declining vigour was just giving way, and lowering the ensigns of
dignity to your more active talents; the liberty of the State received a
fatal overthrow, and that Eloquence, of which we are now to give the
History, was condemned to perpetual silence.”—”Our other misfortunes,”
replied Brutus, “I lament sincerely; and I think I ought to lament them:—
but as to Eloquence, I am not so fond of the influence and the glory it
bestows, as of the study and the practice of it, which nothing can deprive
me of, while you are so well disposed to assist me: for no man can be an
eloquent speaker, who has not a clear and ready conception. Whoever,
therefore, applies himself to the study of Eloquence, is at the same time
improving his judgment, which is a talent equally necessary in all
military operations.”

“Your remark,” said I, “is very just; and I have a higher opinion of the
merit of eloquence, because, though there is scarcely any person so
diffident as not to persuade himself, that he either has, or may acquire
every other accomplishment which, formerly, could have given him
consequence in the State; I can find no person who has been made an orator
by the success of his military prowess.—But that we may carry on the
conversation with greater ease, let us seat ourselves.”—As my visitors
had no objection to this, we accordingly took our seats in a private lawn,
near a statue of Plato.

Then resuming the conversation,—”to recommend the study of eloquence,”
said I, “and describe its force, and the great dignity it confers upon
those who have acquired it, is neither our present design, nor has any
necessary connection with it. But I will not hesitate to affirm, that
whether it is acquired by art or practice, or the mere powers of nature,
it is the most difficult of all attainments; for each of the five branches
of which it is said to consist, is of itself a very important art; from
whence it may easily be conjectured, how great and arduous must be the
profession which unites and comprehends them all.

“Greece alone is a sufficient witness of this:—for though she was fired
with a wonderful love of Eloquence, and has long since excelled every
other nation in the practice of it, yet she had all the rest of the arts
much earlier; and had not only invented, but even compleated them, a
considerable time before she was mistress of the full powers of elocution.
But when I direct my eyes to Greece, your beloved Athens, my Atticus,
first strikes my sight, and is the brightest object in my view: for in
that illustrious city the orator first made his appearance, and it is
there we shall find the earliest records of eloquence, and the first
specimens of a discourse conducted by rules of art. But even in Athens
there is not a single production now extant which discovers any taste for
ornament, or seems to have been the effort of a real orator, before the
time of Pericles (whose name is prefixed to some orations which still
remain) and his cotemporary Thucydides; who flourished,—not in the
infancy of the State, but when it was arrived at its full maturity of

“It is, however, supposed, that Pisistratus (who lived many years before)
together with Solon, who was something older, and Clisthenes, who survived
them both, were very able speakers for the age they lived in. But some
years after these, as may be collected from the Attic Annals, came the
above-mentioned Themistocles, who is said to have been as much
distinguished by his eloquence as by his political abilities;—and after
him the celebrated Pericles, who, though adorned with every kind of
excellence, was most admired for his talent of speaking. Cleon also (their
cotemporary) though a turbulent citizen, was allowed to be a tolerable

“These were immediately succeeded by Alcibiades, Critias, and Theramenes,
whose manner of speaking may be easily inferred from the writings of
Thucydides, who lived at the same time: their discourses were nervous and
stately, full of sententious remarks, and so excessively concise as to be
sometimes obscure. But as soon as the force of a regular and a well-
adjusted speech was understood, a sudden crowd of rhetoricians appeared,—
such as Gorgias the Leontine, Thrasymachus the Chalcedonian, Protagoras
the Abderite, and Hippias the Elean, who were all held in great esteem,—
with many others of the same age, who professed (it must be owned, rather
too arrogantly) to teach their scholars,—how the worse might be made, by
the force of eloquence, to appear the better cause
. But these were openly
opposed by the famous Socrates, who, by an adroit method of arguing which
was peculiar to himself, took every opportunity to refute the principles
of their art. His instructive conferences produced a number of intelligent
men, and Philosophy is said to have derived her birth from him;—not the
doctrine of Physics, which was of an earlier date, but that Philosophy
which treats of men, and manners, and of the nature of good and evil. But
as this is foreign to our present subject, we must defer the Philosophers
to another opportunity, and return to the Orators, from whom I have
ventured to make a sort digression.

“When the professors therefore, abovementioned were in the decline of
life, Isocrates made his appearance, whos house stood open to all Greece
as the School of Eloquence. He was an accomplished orator, and an
excellent teacher; though he did not display his talents in the Forum, but
cherished and improved that glory within the walls of his academy, which,
in my opinion, no poet has ever yet acquired. He composed many valuable
specimens of his art, and taught the principles of it to others; and not
only excelled his predecessors in every part of it, but first discovered
that a certain metre should be observed in prose, though totally
different from the measured rhyme of the poets. Before him, the
artificial structure and harmony of language was unknown;—or if there are
any traces of it to be discovered, they appear to have been made without
design; which, perhaps, will be thought a beauty:—but whatever it may be
deemed, it was, in the present case, the effect rather of native genius,
or of accident, than of art and observation. For mere nature itself will
measure and limit our sentences by a convenient compass of words; and when
they are thus confined to a moderate flow of expression, they will
frequently have a numerous cadence:—for the ear alone can decide what
is full and complete, and what is deficient; and the course of our
language will necessarily be regulated by our breath, in which it is
excessively disagreeable, not only to fail, but even to labour.

“After Isocrates came Lysias, who, though not personally engaged in
forensic causes, was a very artful and an elegant composer, and such a one
as you might almost venture to pronounce a complete orator: for
Demosthenes is the man who approaches the character so nearly, that you
may apply it to him without hesitation. No keen, no artful turns could
have been contrived for the pleadings he has left behind him, which he did
not readily discover;—nothing could have been expressed with greater
nicety, or more clearly and poignantly, than it has been already expressed
by him;—and nothing greater, nothing more rapid and forcible, nothing
adorned with a nobler elevation either of language, or sentiment, can be
conceived than what is to be found in his orations. He was soon rivalled
by his cotemporaries Hyperides, Aeschines, Lycurgus, Dinarchus, and
Demades (none of whose writings are extant) with many others that might be
mentioned: for this age was adorned with a profusion of good orators; and
the genuine strength and vigour of Eloquence appears to me to have
subsisted to the end of this period, which was distinguished by a natural
beauty of composition without disguise or affectation.

“When these orators were in the decline of life, they were succeeded by
Phalereus; who was then in the prime of youth. He was indeed a man of
greater learning than any of them, but was fitter to appear on the parade,
than in the field; and, accordingly, he rather pleased and entertained the
Athenians, than inflamed their passions; and marched forth into the dust
and heat of the Forum, not from a weather-beaten tent, but from the shady
recesses of Theophrastus, a man of consummate erudition. He was the first
who relaxed the force of Eloquence, and gave her a soft and tender air:
and he rather chose to be agreeable, as indeed he was, than great and
striking; but agreeable in such a manner as rather charmed, than warmed
the mind of the hearer. His greatest ambition was to impress his audience
with a high opinion of his elegance, and not, as Eupolis relates of
Pericles, to sting as well as to please.

“You see, then, in the very city in which Eloquence was born and nurtured,
how late it was before she grew to maturity; for before the time of Solon
and Pisistratus, we meet with no one who is so much as mentioned for his
talent of speaking. These, indeed, if we compute by the Roman date, may be
reckoned very ancient; but if by that of the Athenians, we shall find them
to be moderns. For though they flourished in the reign of Servius Tullius,
Athens had then subsisted much longer than Rome has at present. I have
not, however, the least doubt that the power of Eloquence has been always
more or less conspicuous. For Homer, we may suppose, would not have
ascribed such superior talents of elocution to Ulysses, and Nestor (one of
whom he celebrates for his force, and the other for his sweetness) unless
the art of Speaking had then been held in some esteem; nor could the Poet
himself have been master of such an ornamental style, and so excellent a
vein of Oratory as we actually find in him.—The time indeed in which he
lived is undetermined: but we are certain that he flourished many years
before Romulus: for he was at least of as early a date as the elder
Lycurgus, the legislator of the Spartans.

“But a particular attention to the art, and a greater ability in the
practice of it, may be observed in Pisistratus. He was succeeded in the
following century by Themistocles, who, according to the Roman date, was a
person of the remotest antiquity; but, according to that of the Athenians,
he was almost a modern. For he lived when Greece was in the height of her
power, but when the city of Rome had but lately freed herself from the
shackles of regal tyranny;—for the dangerous war with the Volsci, who
were headed by Coriolanus (then a voluntary exile) happened nearly at the
same time as the Persian war; and we may add, that the fate of both
commanders was remarkably similar. Each of them, after distinguishing
himself as an excellent citizen, being driven from his country by the
wrongs of an ungrateful people, went over to the enemy: and each of them
repressed the efforts of his resentment by a voluntary death. For though
you, my Atticus, have represented the exit of Coriolanus in a different
manner, you must give me leave to dispatch him in the way I have
mentioned.”—”You may use your pleasure,” replied Atticus with a smile:
“for it is the privilege of rhetoricians to exceed the truth of history,
that they may have an opportunity of embellishing the fate of their
heroes: and accordingly, Clitarchus and Stratocles have entertained us
with the same pretty fiction about the death of Themistocles, which you
have invented for Coriolanus. Thucydides, indeed, who was himself an
Athenian of the highest rank and merit, and lived nearly at the same time,
has only informed us that he died, and was privately buried in Attica,
adding, that it was suspected by some that he had poisoned himself. But
these ingenious writers have assured us, that, having slain a bull at the
altar, he caught the blood in a large bowl, and, drinking it off, fell
suddenly dead upon the ground. For this species of death had a tragical
air, and might be described with all the pomp of rhetoric; whereas the
ordinary way of dying afforded no opportunity for ornament. As it will,
therefore, suit your purpose, that Coriolanus should resemble Themistocles
in every thing, I give you leave to introduce the fatal bowl; and you may
still farther heighten the catastrophe by a solemn sacrifice, that
Coriolanus may appear in all respects to have been a second Themistocles.”

“I am much obliged to you,” said I, “for your courtesy: but, for the
future, I shall be more cautious in meddling with History when you are
present; whom I may justly commend as a most exact and scrupulous relator
of the Roman History; but nearly at the time we are speaking of (though
somewhat later) lived the above-mentioned Pericles, the illustrious son of
Xantippus, who first improved his eloquence by the friendly aids of
literature;—not that kind of literature which treats professedly of the
art of Speaking, of which there was then no regular system; but after he
had studied under Anaxagoras the Naturalist, he easily transferred his
capacity from abstruse and intricate speculations to forensic and popular

“All Athens was charmed with the sweetness of his language; and not only
admired him for his fluency, but was awed by the superior force and the
terrors of his eloquence. This age, therefore, which may be considered
as the infancy of the Art, furnished Athens with an Orator who almost
reached the summit of his profession: for an emulation to shine in the
Forum is not usually found among a people who are either employed in
settling the form of their government, or engaged in war, or struggling
with difficulties, or subjected to the arbitrary power of Kings. Eloquence
is the attendant of peace, the companion of ease and prosperity, and the
tender offspring of a free and a well established constitution. Aristotle,
therefore, informs us, that when the Tyrants were expelled from Sicily,
and private property (after a long interval of servitude) was determined
by public trials, the Sicilians Corax and Tisias (for this people, in
general, were very quick and acute, and had a natural turn for
controversy) first attempted to write precepts on the art of Speaking.
Before them, he says, there was no one who spoke by method, and rules of
art, though there were many who discoursed very sensibly, and generally
from written notes: but Protagoras took the pains to compose a number of
dissertations, on such leading and general topics as are now called common
places. Gorgias, he adds, did the same, and wrote panegyrics and
invectives on every subject: for he thought it was the province of an
Orator to be able either to exaggerate, or extenuate, as occasion might
require. Antiphon the Rhamnusian composed several essays of the same
species; and (according to Thucydides, a very respectable writer, who was
present to hear him) pleaded a capital cause in his own defence, with as
much eloquence as had ever yet been displayed by any man. But Lysias was
the first who openly professed the Art; and, after him, Theodorus, being
better versed in the theory than the practice of it, begun to compose
orations for others to pronounce; but reserved the method of doing it to
himself. In the same manner, Isocrates at first disclaimed the Art, but
wrote speeches for other people to deliver; on which account, being often
prosecuted for assisting, contrary to law, to circumvent one or another of
the parties in judgment, he left off composing orations for other people,
and wholly applied himself to writing rules and systems.

“Thus then we have traced the birth and origin of the Orators of Greece,
who were, indeed, very ancient, as I have before observed, if we compute
by the Roman Annals; but of a much later date, if we reckon by their own:
for the Athenian State had signalized itself by a variety of great
exploits, both at home and abroad, a considerable time before she was
ravished with the charms of Eloquence. But this noble Art was not common
to Greece in general, but almost peculiar to Athens. For who has ever
heard of an Argive, a Corinthian, or a Theban Orator at the times we are
speaking of? unless, perhaps, some merit of the kind may be allowed to
Epaminondas, who was a man of uncommon erudition. But I have never read of
a Lacedemonian Orator, from the earliest period of time to the present.
For Menelaus himself, though said by Homer to have possessed a sweet
elocution, is likewise described as a man of few words. Brevity, indeed,
upon some occasions, is a real excellence; but it is very far from being
compatible with the general character of Eloquence.

“The Art of Speaking was likewise studied, and admired, beyond the limits
of Greece; and the extraordinary honours which were paid to Oratory have
perpetuated the names of many foreigners who had the happiness to excel in
it. For no sooner had Eloquence ventured to sail from the Pireaeus, but
she traversed all the isles, and visited every part of Asia; till at last
she infected herself with their manners, and lost all the purity and the
healthy complexion of the Attic style, and indeed had almost forgot her
native language. The Asiatic Orators, therefore, though not to be
undervalued for the rapidity and the copious variety of their elocution,
were certainly too loose and luxuriant. But the Rhodians were of a sounder
constitution, and more resembled the Athenians. So much, then, for the
Greeks; for, perhaps, what I have already said of them, is more than was

“As to the necessity of it,” answered Brutus, “there is no occasion to
speak of it: but what you have said of them has entertained me so
agreeably, that instead of being longer, it has been much shorter than I
could have wished.”—”A very handsome compliment,” said I;—”but it is
time to begin with our own countrymen, of whom it is difficult to give any
further account than what we are able to conjecture from our Annals.—For
who can question the address, and the capacity of Brutus, the illustrious
founder of your family? That Brutus, who so readily discovered the meaning
of the Oracle, which promised the supremacy to him who should first salute
his mother? That Brutus, who concealed the most consummate abilities under
the appearance of a natural defect of understanding? Who dethroned and
banished a powerful monarch, the son of an illustrious sovereign? Who
settled the State, which he had rescued from arbitrary power, by the
appointment of an annual magistracy, a regular system of laws, and a free
and open course of justice? And who abrogated the authority of his
colleague, that he might rid the city of the smallest vestige of the
regal name?—Events, which could never have been produced without
exerting the powers of Persuasion!—We are likewise informed that a few
years after the expulsion of the Kings, when the Plebeians retired to the
banks of the Anio, about three miles from the city, and had possessed
themselves of what is called The sacred Mount, M. Valerius the dictator
appeased their fury by a public harangue; for which he was afterwards
rewarded with the highest posts of honour, and was the first Roman who was
distinguished by the surname of Maximus. Nor can L. Valerius Potitus be
supposed to have been destitute of the powers of utterance, who, after the
odium which had been excited against the Patricians by the tyrannical
government of the Decemviri, reconciled the people to the Senate, by his
prudent laws and conciliatory speeches. We may likewise suppose, that
Appius Claudius was a man of some eloquence; since he dissuaded the Senate
from consenting to a peace with King Pyrrhus, though they were much
inclined to it. The same might be said of Caius Fabricius, who was
dispatched to Pyrrhus to treat for the ransom of his captive fellow-
citizens; and of Titus Coruncanius, who appears by the memoirs of the
pontifical college, to have been a person of no contemptible genius: and
likewise of M. Curius (then a tribune of the people) who, when the
Interrex Appius the Blind, an artful Speaker, held the Comitia
contrary to law, by refusing to admit any consuls of plebeian rank,
prevailed upon the Senate to protest against the conduct: of his
antagonist; which, if we consider that the Moenian law was not then in
being, was a very bold attempt. We may also conjecture, that M. Popilius
was a man of abilities, who, in the time of his consulship, when he was
solemnizing a public sacrifice in the proper habit of his office, (for he
was also a Flamen Carmentalis) hearing of the mutiny and insurrection of
the people against the Senate, rushed immediately into the midst of the
assembly, covered as he was with his sacerdotal robes, and quelled the
sedition by his authority and the force of his elocution. I do not pretend
to have read that the persons I have mentioned were then reckoned Orators,
or that any fort of reward or encouragement was given to Eloquence: I only
conjecture what appears very probable. It is also recorded, that C.
Flaminius, who, when tribune of the people proposed the law for dividing
the conquered territories of the Gauls and Piceni among the citizens, and
who, after his promotion to the consulship, was slain near the lake
Thrasimenus, became very popular by the mere force of his address, Quintus
Maximus Verrucosus was likewise reckoned a good Speaker by his
cotemporaries; as was also Quintus Metellus, who, in the second Punic war,
was joint consul with L. Veturius Philo. But the first person we have any
certain account of, who was publicly distinguished as an Orator, and who
really appears to have been such, was M. Cornelius Cethegus; whose
eloquence is attested by Q. Ennius, a voucher of the highest credibility;
since he actually heard him speak, and gave him this character after his
death; so that there is no reason to suspect that he was prompted by the
warmth of his friendship to exceed the bounds of truth. In his ninth book
of Annals, he has mentioned him in the following terms:

  ”Additur Orator Corneliu’ suaviloquenti

  Ore Cethegus Marcu’, Tuditano collega,

  Marci Filius.

Pages: 1 | 2 | Single Page