Page:EB1911 - Volume 06.djvu/372

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

philosophical writings and the more elaborate letters, and with modifications to other rhythmical prose, e.g. that of Pliny and Seneca. Rhythm was avoided by Caesar who was an Atticist, and by Sallust who was an archaist. Livy’s practice is exactly opposite to that of Cicero, since he has a marked preference for the S forms, thereby exemplifying Cicero’s saying that long syllables are more appropriate to history than to oratory.[1]

(ii.) Speeches.—These were generally delivered before the senate or people, if political in character, and before jurors sitting in a quaestio, if judicial. The speech against Vatinius was an attack upon a witness under examination; that de Domo was made before the Pontifices; that pro C. Rabirio perduellionis reo in the course of a provocatio to the people; and those pro Ligario and pro rege Deiotaro before Caesar. The five orations composing the Actio Secunda in Verrem were never spoken, but written after Verres had gone into exile. The Second Philippic also was not delivered but issued as a pamphlet. Cicero’s speech for Milo at his trial was not a success, though, as Quintilian (ix. 2. 54) quotes from it, as taken down by shorthand reporters, an example of a rhetorical figure well used, it cannot have been such a failure as is alleged by later writers. The extant speech was written by Cicero at his leisure. None of the other speeches are in the exact form in which they were delivered. Cicero’s method was to construct a commentarius or skeleton of his speech, which he used when speaking. If he was pleased with a speech he then wrote it out for publication. Sometimes he omitted in the written speech a subject on which he had spoken. A record of this is sometimes preserved: e.g. “de Postumi criminibus” (Mur. 51), “de teste Fufio” (Cael. 19). These commentarii were published by his freedman Tiro and are quoted by Asconius (ad Orat. in Toga Candida, p. 87).

Cicero in his speeches must be given all the privileges of an advocate. Sometimes he had a bad client; he naïvely confesses the straits to which he was put when defending Scamander (Clu. 51; cf. Phil. xiii. 26). He thought of defending Catiline, though he says that his guilt is clear as noon-day (Att. i. 1-2 and 2. 1). Sometimes the brief which he held at the moment compelled him to take a view of facts contrary to that which he had previously advocated. Thus in the pro Caecina he alleges judicial corruption against a witness, Falcula, while in the pro Cluentio he contends that the offence was not proved (Caec. 28, Clu. 103). He says quite openly that “it is a great mistake to suppose that statements in his speeches express his real opinions” (Clu. 139). It is therefore idle to reproach him with inconsistencies, though these are sometimes very singular. Thus in the pro Cornelio he speaks with praise of Aulus Gabinius, who, when a colleague vetoed his proposal, proceeded to depose him after the precedent set by Tiberius Gracchus (Asconius in Cornel. p. 71). In the pro Cluentio, 111, he contends that nothing is easier than for a new man to rise at Rome. In the pro Caelio he says that Catiline had in him undeveloped germs of the greatest virtues, and that it was the good in him that made him so dangerous (Cael. 12-14). He sometimes deliberately puts the case upon a wrong issue. In the pro Milone he says that either Milo must have lain in wait for Clodius or Clodius for Milo, leaving out of sight the truth, that the encounter was due to chance. He used to boast that he had cast dust into the eyes of the jury in the case of Cluentius (Quintil. ii. 17-21).

Cicero had a perfect mastery of all weapons wielded by a pleader in Rome. He was specially famous for his pathos, and for this reason, when several counsel were employed, always spoke last (Orat. 130). A splendid specimen of pathos is to be found in his account of the condemnation and execution of the Sicilian captains (Verr. (Act. ii.) v. 106-122). Much exaggeration was permitted to a Roman orator. Thus Cicero frequently speaks as if his client were to be put to death, though a criminal could always evade capital consequences by going into exile. His enemies scoffed at his “tear-drops.” He indulged in the more violent invective, which, though shocking to a modern reader, e.g. in his speeches against Vatinius and Piso, was not offensive to Roman taste (de Orat. ii. 216-290). He was much criticized for his jokes, and even Quintilian (ii. 17-21) regrets that he made so many in his speeches. He could never resist the temptation to make a pun. It must be remembered, however, that he was the great wit of the period. Caesar used to have a collection of Cicero’s bon-mots brought to him. Cicero complains that all the jokes of the day were attributed to himself, including those made by very sorry jesters (Fam. vii. 32. 1). A fine specimen of sustained humour is to be found in his speech pro Murena, where he rallies the jurisconsults and the Stoics. He was also criticized for his vanity and perpetual references to his own achievements. His vanity, however, as has been admirably remarked, is essentially that of “the peacock, not of the gander,” and is redeemed by his willingness to raise a laugh at his own expense (Strachan-Davidson, p. 192). Some critics have impugned his legal knowledge, but probably without justice. It is true that he does not claim to be a great expert, though a pupil of the Scaevolas, and when in doubt would consult a jurisconsult; also, that he frequently passes lightly over important points of law, but this was probably because he was conscious of a flaw in his case.

(iii.) Political and Philosophical Treatises.—These are generally written in the form of dialogues, in which the speakers sometimes belong to bygone times and sometimes to the present. The first method was known as that of Heraclides, the second as that of Aristotle (Att. xiii. 19. 4). There is no reason to suppose that the speakers held the views with which Cicero credits them, or had such literary powers as would make them able to express such views (ib. xiii. 12. 3). The political works are de Republica and de Legibus. The first was a dialogue in six books concerning the best form of constitution, in which the speakers are Scipio Africanus Minor and members of his circle. He tells us that he drew largely from Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus and writings of the Peripatetics. The famous “Dream of Scipio” recalls the “Vision of Er” in Plato’s Republic (Book x. ad fin.). The de Legibus, a sequel to this work in imitation of Plato’s Laws, is drawn largely from Chrysippus.

Cicero as a philosopher belonged to the New Academy. The followers of this school were free to hear all arguments for and against, and to accept the conclusion which for the moment appeared most probable (Acad. ii. 131). Thus in the Tusculan Disputations v. he expresses views which conflict with de Finibus iv., and defends himself on the ground that as an Academic he is free to change his mind. He was much fascinated by the Stoic morality, and it has been noticed that the Tusculan Disputations and de Officiis are largely Stoic in tone. He has nothing but contempt for the Epicureans, and cannot forgive their neglect of literary style. As Cicero’s philosophical writings have been severely attacked for want of originality, it is only fair to recollect that he resorted to philosophy as an anodyne when suffering from mental anguish, and that he wrote incredibly fast. He issued two editions of his Academics. The first consisted of two books, in which Catulus and Lucullus were the chief speakers. He then rewrote his treatise in four books, making himself, Varro and Atticus the speakers. The Romans at this time had no manuals of philosophy or any philosophical writings in Latin apart from the poem of Lucretius and some unskilful productions by obscure Epicureans. Cicero set himself to supply this want. His works are confessedly in the main translations and compilations (Att. xii. 52. 3); all that he does is to turn the discussion into the form of a dialogue, to adapt it to Roman readers by illustrations from Roman history, and to invent equivalents for Greek technical terms. This is equally true of the political treatises. Thus, when Atticus criticized a strange statement in de Republ. ii. 8, that all the cities of the Peloponnese had access to the sea, he excuses himself by saying that he found it in Dicaearchus and copied it word for word (Att. vi. 2. 3). In the same passage he used an incorrect adjective, Phliuntii for Phliasii; he says that he had already corrected his own copy, but the mistake survives in the single palimpsest in which this work has been preserved. The only merits, therefore, which can be claimed for Cicero are that he invented a philosophical terminology for the Romans, and that he produced a

  1. Orator, § 212 “cursum contentiones magis requirunt, expositiones rerum tarditatem.”