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MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO
(106-43 B. C.)
Sicero's “De Oratore » ranks with the similar works of Aristotle
and Quintilian as the highest authority on everything which conShe cerns oratory as one of the fine arts. His « Brutus » deals also with oratory, but chiefly in connection with the works of classical authors whose speeches are now lost. The treatise « De Oratore » is written in the form of a dialogue, and Cicero imitates the style and methods of the Platonic dialogues, often with the happiest effect.
His claim to rank as the greatest orator since Demosthenes cannot be disputed. If we take into consideration his philosophical essays, as well as his orations, his claim to superiority over Demosthenes must be conceded, for they constitute him the greatest essayist as well as the greatest orator of Rome. His style as a prose writer still influences the best prose style of all Caucasian countries — not only French, Spanish, and Italian, the so-called Latin races,” but of German, English, and other “Teutonic » and “Gothic) peoples as well. Taine's « History of English Literature is no doubt, the best modern example of it.
Cicero was born at Arpinum, 106 B. C. He began his career in Rome at a time when Republican institutions were already a failure because of the demoralization brought on the masses of the people by their conquests of other countries. Cicero's whole career as a statesman and orator was a protest against this demoralization and an attempt to save the republic from its already inevitable overthrow. His failure was followed by his assassination in 43 B. C.
THE PARTS OF AN ORATION
W HEN Hannibal in his exile from Carthage had taken refuge with Antiochus
at Ephesus, he was invited by his hosts, in consequence of the widespread
glory of his name, to attend a lecture given by that philosopher. Having accepted the invitation, he heard him fuently harangue for some hours on the duties of a commander and the whole art of war. When the audience, in their unbounded admiration of the speaker, appealed to Hannibal for his opinion, the Carthaginian is said to have answered with great candor, though not in the very best Greek, that he had in his time seen many mad old men, but never any one so raving mad as Phormio. And richly did he merit the rebuke; for what can be conceived more arrogant or more impertinently loquacious than that a mere Greek theorist who had never faced an enemy, never even seen a camp, nor filled any public office what
pho Poios. What Greek, indeedlarly troublesome; Information, or leave me ootumeli
ever, should presume to dictate the principles of war to the man who had for so many years contested the palm of victory with the Roman people — the subjugators of the world ? Of a similar folly, in my opinion, are all those guilty who lay down rules for the art of speaking: they would teach others that of which they themselves have no practical knowledge; their presumption, however, is perhaps more excusable, since they do not profess to teach you as Phormio did the Carthaginian, but only boys or youths bordering upon manhood.
You are mistaken, Catulus, said Antonius, for I myself have met with many Phormios. What Greek, indeed, ever gives us credit for knowing anything? To me, however, they are not particularly troublesome; I easily endure and tolerate them all, for either they give me some not unpleasing information, or leave me only the more satisfied with my own ignorance. I dismiss them, however, less contumeliously than Hannibal did this philosopher, and for that reason, perhaps, I am more subject to their importunity; but really their system, as far as I can judge, is extremely ridiculous. They divide the whole art of rhetoric into two parts - viz., the controversy about the cause and about the question. The cause they designate any definite dispute or discussion; the question, anything in unlimited investigation. Certain rules are laid down by them for the cause, but on the other division they maintain a marvelous silence. Lastly, they divide the subject into five several members or ramifications – to accumulate the material for any discourse, to arrange it, to clothe it in language, then to commit it to memory, and, finally, to deliver it, with a fitting accompaniment of action and expression - certainly no very recondite process; for who does not see, by his own unaided sagacity, that no one can make a speech without knowing what he has to say — in what words, and - in what order
and without having it well fixed in his memory. Nor do I find fault with this arrangement; I only think it too obvious to require elucidation - a remark which applies also to the four, five, six, or even seven parts (for they are differently divided by different professors) into which it is customary to distribute the whole oration. The object of the Exordium, we are told, should be to conciliate the judge - to make him open to persuasion, and disposed to listen; then follows the Narration, which, we are instructed, should be plausible, clear, and brief; then the Division and Proposition; next, the enforcement of our own cause with arguments and reasons, and the refutation of those of our opponent. Here some place the Conclusion and Peroration; but by others we are instructed to make a previous digression, for the purpose of embellishment or amplification, and then to conclude. Neither have I any quarrel with this distribution; it is neat and precise, but, as could scarcely fail to be the case with men devoid of all practical knowlege, not very scientific; for those rules which they would confine to the exordium ought to extend over the whole discourse. I can more easily conciliate the favor of the judge in the course of the address than before the merits of the case have been heard by him; I can make him amenable to persuasion, not by promising to demonstrate and prove, but by actual proof and demonstration; and most assuredly his attention can be more strongly attracted by keeping his interest alive during the progress of the whole speech than by the bare announcement of the question at issue. In demanding that the Narration should be plausible, clear, and brief, they are perfectly right; but it is a grave mistake to suppose that those qualities belong more to the Narration than to the entire discourse. Their whole error consists in regarding this as a kind of art similar to what Crassus said yesterday might be molded out of the civil law first, by an exposition of the general heads of the subject, which is defective if any head be omitted; then, by the subdivisions of these general heads, which are faulty if more or less than the exact number; and, lastly, by a definition of the terms employed, in which there should be nothing wanting, nothing superfluous. But if the more learned can attain to this exactness in civil law, or the more limited arts, I do not think it possible in an art so vast and comprehensive as ours. Those, however, who think otherwise, must be referred for information to the professors of these things. They will find rules clearly set forth, and in the most attractive form; for there are an infinitude of treatises on the subject, easy of access and not difficult to comprehend. But let them clearly understand what object they propose to themselves. Are they arming for actual conflict, or merely for amusement? For war and the actual shock of battle require one thing, the mimic warfare of the parade another. The merely preparatory practice of arms cannot be without its value to the soldier and gladiator; but it is the bold, the ready, the quick and versatile spirit that makes indomitable men, and not the less so when conjoined with art. I will therefore place before your eyes, as far as I am able, my idea of what the orator should be, in order to ascertain beforehand how far the pupil may be qualified to realize it. I would have him, then, well imbued with letters, not unacquainted with men and books, and thoroughly conversant with those principles of his art which I have unfolded. I will then try what becomes him best; I will test his powers of voice, of nerve, of lungs, and language. If I see that he is likely to rank with the great masters of the art, I will not merely advise, but, if he appears to me a good man, I will even adjure him to persevere; so great an ornament to the whole community do I consider him who combines the virtues of the man with the graces of the orator. If, however, it should appear that, with every aid and effort, he could not aspire beyond mediocrity, I would leave him to follow his own inclination; I should not be very urgent with him; but if utterly disqualified and calculated to excite only ridicule, I would advise him to desist, or turn his attention to some other pursuit. While the pupil destined to excel should be incessantly stimulated to exertion, the less gifted pupil must not be discouraged; for though the ability of the one is such as would seem to appertain to more than mortal genius, yet to refrain from attempting that perfection to which it cannot attain, or to aspire only to attainable mediocrity, is not beyond the compass of merely human ability, but to roar and bellow, in defiance of nature and propriety, is the part of a man who (as you, Catulus, once said of a certain declaimer) has in him. self a domestic herald, to collect as many witnesses as he can of his own absurdity. To him, therefore, who ought to be encouraged and assisted, I will impart the result of my own experience, in order that, by my guidance, he may attain to that which, without any instruction, I have myself attained to. More than this I cannot attempt
ORDER AND ARRANGEMENT OF AN ORATION
M Y PRINCIPAL care in all my pleadings, again and again I reiterate the asserI tion, has been to do all the good that I could to my cause, and, failing in
that, the least possible injury. To return, therefore, Catulus, to the consid. eration of that for the management of which you gave me so much credit, viz., the order and arrangement of the facts and topics - for which there are two methods the one suggested by the nature of the cause, the other by the judgment and skill of the orator. To introduce the subject with a few brief remarks — to explain its nature - to state our own arguments and to refute those of our opponent- and then to conclude with a peroration, is the order suggested by nature. To decide upon the most effective arrangement of the material employed for proof, illustration, or persuasion, belongs in an especial manner to the practical skill of the orator. Among the crowd of plausible arguments which occur for the support of any question, some are too insignificant for notice; others, though much more valuable, have their defective points without sufficient stamina at the same time to compensate for the danger of such connection. But when the valuable and really powerful arguments are very numerous, as is often the case, the least effective, or those closely resembling the more effective class, should be selected and carefully weeded out of the oration. Indeed, in my choice of arguments I am generally determined rather by weight than by number.
Although, as I have repeatedly asserted, there are three means of making converts to our opinions, viz., Information, Conciliation, and Persuasion, yet only one of these must be prominently put forward, as if our sole object was to inform our hearers; the other two should be diffused through the whole address, as the blood pervades and fosters every part of the body; for not the exordium only, but every part of the discourse, on which I shall say a few words hereafter, ought to be completely saturated with persuasive power, so as to maintain a continuous action on the minds of our audience. But although the exordium and peroration are the proper places for those agents, which rely, not on reasoning, but on their powers of persuasion and excitement, yet it is often of service to turn aside from the argument and address ourselves to the feelings of our hearers. Accordingly an opportunity of doing this often occurs just after the statement of the case, or after the confirmation of our own arguments, or the refutation of our opponent's - in any or in all of these places, if the subject be of sufficient importance, and abound in material for that purpose; and most replete with matter for both amplification and embellishment are those causes which afford the most numerous openings for digression to those topics, by which the impassioned feelings of our audience are excited or repressed. And in this I cannot commend the system of placing the weakest arguments first, or, what I must think the equal error of those who, after retaining a number of advocates (a practice never approved of by me), assign the introductory pleadings to the least effective speakers. For it is imperative on us to meet the expectation of our audience as soon as possible, which, if not speedily gratified, a double load of responsibility is imposed on the rest of the speech; it augurs ill for a cause when its merits are slow in developing themselves. Let the best speakers and the most powerful arguments, therefore, occupy the first place, care being taken at the same time that some portion of what is most effective in both be reserved for the close; while the weaker arguments (for the utterly worthless should be rejected) are to be massed together and thrown into the crush and throng of the reasoning. Having given due attention to these things, I consider, last of all, that which occupies the first place, viz., what exordium I should make use of; for if ever I have attempted to compose this first, nothing has occurred to me but what was meagre or trifling, or vulgar and commonplace.
The exordium ought always to be accurate and judicious, replete with matter, appropriate in expression, and strictly adapted to the cause. For the commencement, constituting the introduction and recommendation of the subject, should tend immediately to mollify the hearer and conciliate his favor; and I cannot help expressing my surprise, not at those, indeed, who have paid no attention to the art. but that a man so remarkably eloquent and erudite as Philippus should be in the habit of rising to speak as if at a loss what to say first, alleging as a reason that his arm must be well warmed into action before he can fight in good earnest, forgetting that those from whom he borrows his simile always poise their javelins deliberately at the outset, as if solely intent on displaying the grace of the evolution, while they reserve their strength for the heat of the conflict. There is no doubt but that the exordium should rarely be vehement and pugnacious; and if, in the deadly conflicts of the arena, the combatants indulge, before the encounter, in much preparatory