Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory
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Book 12 - Chapter 10

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Of different styles of oratory; comparison of the varieties in eloquence with those in painting and sculpture, § 1-9. Characters of several Latin orators, 10, 11. Merits of Cicero, 12-15. Styles of the Attic, Asiatic, and Rhodian orators, 16-19. Remarks on the true merits of Attic eloquence, and on those who injudiciously affected it, 20-26. The Romans were excelled by the Greeks only in delivery; cause of the inferiority of the Romans in this respect, 27-34. The Romans exhorted to cultivate force of thought and brilliancy of language, 35-39. Folly of those who would reject all ornament, 40-48. Whether a difference should be made in the styles of speaking and writing, 49-57. Of the simple, grand, and florid styles, 58-68. Many varieties and mixtures of these styles, 69-72. Of corrupt taste in eloquence, 73-76. A good style may be acquired by study and practice; but we must carry no fancied excellence to excess, 77-80.

1. IT remains for me to speak of the style of oratory. In the first division of my work, this was proposed as the third part of it, for I undertook to treat of the art, the artificer, and the work. But as oratory is the work of the art of rhetoric and of the orator, and there are, as I shall show, many forms of it, the influence of the art and the artificer is apparent in all those forms. Yet they differ very much one from another, not only in species, as one status differs from another, one picture from another, and one speech from another, but in genus, as Tuscan statues differ from Grecian, and Asiatic eloquence from Attic. 2. Yet these several kinds of work of which I am speaking have not only their artificers, but also their admirers. It is for this reason, possibly, that there has not yet appeared a perfect orator, and that perhaps no art has reached its full perfection, not only because certain qualities are more prominent in some individuals than in others, but because the same form is not to all equally attractive, partly from the influence of circumstances and countries, and partly from varieties in the judgment and objects of each particular person.

3. The first painters of eminence whose works deserve to be regarded for any other quality than their antiquity were Polygnotus and Aglaophon, whose simple coloring even now finds such ardent admirers that they prefer imperfect rudiments of an art that was, as we may say, just beginning to the performances of the greatest masters that arose after them. But this preference, as it appears to me, is given only from an affectation of superior intelligence. 4. Subsequently, Zeuxis and Parrhasius, who were very nearly contemporaries, as they both flourished about the time of the Peloponnesian war (for a dialogue of Socrates with Parrhasius is to be found in Xenophon), contributed much to the improvement of the art. Zeuxis is said to have discovered the management of light and shade, and Parrhasius to have studied outline with great accuracy. 5. Zeuxis gave the human body more than its natural fulness, thinking that he thus added to its nobleness and dignity, and, as it is supposed, adopting that idea from Homer, whose imagination delighted in the amplest figures, even in women. Parrhasius was so exact in all his figures that they call him the legislator of painting, since other painters follow, as a matter of obligation, the representations of gods and heroes just as they were given by him. 6. Painting flourished most, however, about the reign of Philip and under the successors of Alexander, but with different species of excellence, for Protogenes was distinguished for accuracy, Pamphilus and Melanthius for judgment, Antiphilus for ease, Theon of Samos for producing imaginary scenes, which the Greeks call ϕαντασίαι (phantasiai), and Apelles for genius and grace, on which he greatly prided himself. What made Euphranor remarkable was that while he was among the most eminent in other excellent attainments, he was also a great master both of painting and statuary.

7. There was similar variety in regard to sculpture. Callon and Hegesias made rude statues, like the Tuscan, Calamis produced some that were less inelegant, and Myron such as were of a softer character than those of any of his predecessors. Accuracy and grace were highly conspicuous in Polycletus, to whom preeminence in the art is allowed by most critics. Yet, that they may not grant him every excellence, they intimate that his figures were deficient in dignity, for though he gave supernatural grace to the human form, he is said not to have adequately expressed the majesty of the gods. 8. Also, he is said to have declined the representation of old age and to have attempted nothing beyond a smooth cheek. But what was wanting in Polycletus is said to have been fully exhibited in Phidias and Alcamenes. 9. Phidias, however, is thought to have been a better sculptor of gods than of men. In ivory he was certainly far beyond any rival, even if he had produced nothing more than his Minerva at Athens and his Olympian Jupiter at Elis, the majesty of which is thought to have added something to the impressiveness of the received religion, so exactly did the nobleness of that work represent the god. In adhering to nature, Lysippus and Praxiteles are said to have been most successful. As for Demetrius, he is censured for too much exactness in that respect, having been fonder of accurate likeness than of beauty.

10. So it is with oratory. If we contemplate the varieties of it, we find almost as much diversity in the minds as in the bodies of orators. There were some forms of eloquence of a rude nature, in agreement with the times in which they appeared, but indicating mental power in the speakers. Among these we may number the Laelii, Africani, Catos, and Gracchi, and these we may call the Polygnoti and Callones of oratory. Of the middle kind, Lucius Crassus and Quintus Hortensius may be thought the chief representatives. 11. There may be contemplated a vast multitude of orators, all flourishing about the same time. Among them we find the energy of Caesar, the natural talent of Caelius, the subtlety of Calidius, the accuracy of Pollio, the dignity of Messala, the austerity of Calvus, the gravity of Brutus, the acuteness of Sulpicius, and the severity of Cassius. Among those we have seen ourselves, we recollect the copiousness of Seneca, the force of Julius Africanus, the mature judgment of Domitius Afer, the agreeableness of Crispus, the sonorous pronunciation of Trachalus, and the elegance of Secundus.

12. But in Cicero we have not merely a Euphranor, distinguished by excellence in several particular departments of art, but eminent in every quality that is commended in any orator whatever. Yet the men of his own time presumed to censure him as timid, Asiatic, redundant, too fond of repetition, indulging in tasteless jests, loose in the structure of his sentences, tripping in his manner, and (what is surely very far from truth) almost too effeminate in his general style for a man. 13. And after he lost his life in the proscription of triumvirs, those who had hated, envied, and rivalled him and who were anxious to pay their court to the rulers of the day attacked him from all quarters, when he was no longer able to reply to them. But this very man, who is now regarded by some as meager and dry, was censured by his personal enemies, his contemporaries, only for too flowery a style and too much exuberance of matter. Both charges are false, but for the latter there is the fairer ground.

14. But his severest critics were those who desired to be thought imitators of the Attic orators. This band of calumniators, as if they had leagued themselves in a solemn confederacy, attacked Cicero as though he had been quite of another country, neither caring for their customs nor bound by their laws. Our present dry, sapless, and frigid orators are of this same school. 15. These are the men who give their meagerness the name of health, which is the very opposite to it, and who, because they cannot endure the brighter luster of Cicero's eloquence any more than they can look at the sun, shelter themselves under the shade of the great name of Attic oratory. But because Cicero himself has fully answered such critics in many parts of his works, brevity in touching on this point will be the rather excusable in me.

16. The distinction between Attic and Asiatic orators is indeed of great antiquity, the Attics being regarded as compressed and energetic in their style, and the Asiatics as inflated and deficient in force. In the Attics, it was thought that nothing was redundant and in the Asiatics, that judgment and restraint were in a great measure wanting. Some, including Santra, believe the difference arose when the Greek tongue spread itself among the people of Asia nearest to Greece, those who had not yet acquired a thorough mastery over the language desired to attain eloquence and began to express themselves in a periphrastic style, continuing to do so afterwards. 17. To me, however, the difference in the character of the speakers and their audiences seems to have caused the difference in their styles of oratory, for the people of Attica, being polished and of refined taste, could endure nothing useless or redundant, while the Asiatics, a people in other respects vain and ostentatious, were puffed up with fondness for a showy kind of eloquence. 18. Those who made distinctions in these matters soon after added a third kind of eloquence, the Rhodian, which they defined as a middle character between the other two and partaking of each. for the orators of this school are not concise like the Attics, nor exuberant like the Asiatics, but appear to derive their styles partly from the country and partly from their founder. 19. For Aeschines, who fixed on Rhodes for his place of exile, carried there the accomplishments then studied at Athens, which, like certain plants that degenerate when they are removed to a foreign climate and soil, formed a union of the Attic flavor with that of the country to which they were transplanted. The orators of the Rhodian school are accordingly accounted somewhat deficient in vigor and spirit, though nevertheless not without force, resembling neither pure springs nor turbid torrents, but calm floods.

20. Let no one doubt, then, that of the three styles, that of the Attics is by far the best. But though there is something common to all that have written in this style, namely, a keen and exact judgment, there are great varieties in the characters of their genius. 21. Therefore, I believe those very much mistaken who think that "Attic" orators are only those who are simple, clear, expressive, restricting themselves, as it were, to a certain frugality in the use of their eloquence, and always keeping their hand within their cloak. For who shall be named as such an "Attic" orator? Suppose it be Lysias, for the admirers of that style recognize him as a model of it. But may we not as well, then, go back as far as Coccus and Andocides? 22. Yet I should like to ask whether Isocrates spoke after the Attic manner, for no one can be more unlike Lysias. They will say that he did not, yet his school sent forth the most eminent of the Greek orators. Let us look, then, for someone more like Lysias. Was Hyperides Attic? Doubtless. Yet he studied agreeableness of style more than Lysias. I say nothing of many others, as Lycurgus, Aristogeiton, and their predecessors, Isaeus and Antiphon, whom, though resembling each other in kind, we should call different in species. 23. What was Aeschines, whom I just now mentioned? Was he not broader, bolder, and loftier in style than they? What, to come to a conclusion, was Demosthenes? Did he not surpass all those dry and cautious speakers in force, sublimity, animation, polish, and structure of periods? Does he not elevate his style by moral observations? Does he not delight in figures? Does he not give splendor to his language by metaphors? Does he not attribute, by figurative representations, speech to inanimate objects? 24. Does not his oath by the defenders of his country, slain at Marathon and Salamis, plainly show that Plato was his master? And shall we call Plato an Asiatic, a man comparable in so many respects to the bards of old, fired with divine inspiration? What shall we say of Pericles? Shall we pronounce him similar to the unadorned Lysias, whose energy the comic writers, even while they ridicule him, compare to thunder and lightning from heaven?

25. What is the reason, then, that they imagine the Attic taste to be apparent in those only who flow, as it were, like a slender stream of water making its way through pebbles? What is the reason that they say the odor of thyme arises only from among them? I suppose that if they find in the neighborhood of those orators any piece of ground more fertile or any crop more luxuriant than ordinary, they will deny the soil is Attic because it reproduced more than it has received, when Menander jestingly says that exact fidelity is the characteristic of Attic ground. 26. So, if any speaker shall add to the exellences of that great orator Demosthenes that which he appears to have lacked, either naturally or by law of his country, namely the power of strongly exciting the feelings, and shall display that power in himself, shall I hear some critic say, "Demosthenes never did so"? Or if any periods shall be produced more harmonious than his (perhaps none can be, but still if any should), will it be said that they are not Attic? Let these censors judge more favorably of this distinction and be convinced that to speak in the Attic style is to speak in the best style. 27. And yet I would sooner bear with Greeks than Latins persisting in this opinion.

Latin eloquence appears to me on a level with the Greek in terms of invention, arrangement, judgment, and other qualities of that kind, and seems to be, indeed, in all respects its pupil. Yet in regard to elocution, it scarcely has the power even of imitation, for first of all, it has more harshness in the sound of its words, as we are quite destitute of two of the most euphonious letters of the Greeks, one a vowel, the other a consonant, which indeed are the sweetest of their sounds and which we are in the habit of borrowing whenever we adopt any of their words. 28. When this is the case, our language, I know not how, immediately assumes a more pleasing tone, as, for example, in using the words Ephyri and Zephyri, for if these words are written in our characters, they will give something of a dull and barbarous sound, as there will be substituted in place of the agreeable letters those harsh repulsive letters with which Greece is utterly unacquainted. 29. For that which is the sixth of our letters requires to be uttered with a voice scarcely human, or rather not with a voice at all, between the lower teeth and the upper lips, a letter which, even when it takes a vowel next to it, has something of a harsh sound, and when it unites with any consonant, as in the word frangit, produces a sound still harsher. Of the Aeolic letter, also, which we use in saying servus and cervus, we reject the shape, though the sound adheres to us. 30. That letter, too, which is of use only for joining vowels that follow it, being otherwise quite superfluous, forms harsh syllables, as when we write equos and equum, especially as the two vowels give such a sound as is quite unknown to the Greeks, and accordingly cannot be expressed in Greek letters. 31. Besides we close many of our words with the letter m, which has a sound something like the lowing of an ox, and in which no Greek word terminates, since they put in place of it the v, which has an agreeable, and, especially at the end of a word, a kind of ringing sound, a letter which is rarely put at the close of a word with us. 32. Moreover, we have syllables ending in b and d, which is so disagreeable that even most of our old writers (not indeed our oldest, but still writers of antiquity) attempted to soften them, not only by saying aversus for abversus, but by adding to the b in the preposition an s, which is itself an unpleasantly sounding letter.

33. But we find our accents also less agreeable than those of the Greeks, as well from a certain rigidity in our pronunciation, as from want of variety. For with us, the last syllable of a word is never raised with an acute accent or flattened with a circumflex, but a word always ends with one or two grave accents. So much more pleasing, in consequence, is the Greek tongue than the Latin that our poets, whenever they wish their verse to be particularly melodious, grace it with a number of Greek words. 34. But what is a still stronger proof of the inferiority of our tongue is that many things are without proper terms, so that we are obliged to express them by metaphor or circumlocution. Even in regard to those which have names, the great poverty of our language very often forces upon us repetitions, while the Greeks have not only abundance of words, but even of dialects varying one from another.

35. Therefore, he who requires from Latin the graces of the Attic tongue must give it a similar sweetness of tone and a similar abundance of words. If this is impossible, we must adapt our thoughts to the words which we have and not clothe extremely delicate matter in phraseology which is too strong, not to say too gross, for it, lest the excellences of both be diminished by the union. 36. The less able our language is to assist us, the more efforts we must make in the production of thought. Sublime and varied conceptions must be brought forth. Every feeling must be excited, and our speech illumined by the splendor of metaphor. We cannot be so plain as the Greeks; let us be more forcible. We are excelled by them in refinement; let us surpass them in weight. Exactness of expression is more surely attained by them; let us go beyond them in fulness. 37. The Greek geniuses, even those of inferior degree, have their proper seaports; let us be impelled, in general, with larger sails, and let stronger breezes swell our canvas, but not so that we may always steer out to the deep sea, for we must sometimes coast along the land. The Greeks can easily pass through any shallows; I shall find a part somewhat, though not much deeper, in which my boat may be in no danger of sinking. 38. For if the Greeks succeed better than we in plainer and simpler subjects, so that we are beaten on such ground and accordingly, in comedy, do not even venture to compete with them, we must not altogether abandon this department of literature, but must cultivate it as far as we can. We can, at least, rival the Greeks in the temper and judgment with which we treat our subjects, while grace of style, which we have not among us by nature, must be sought from a foreign source. 39. Is not Cicero, in causes of an inferior character, acute and not inelegant, clear and not unduly elevated? Is not similar merit remarkable in Marcus Calidius? Were not Scipio, Laelius, and Cato, the Attics of the Romans, as it were, in eloquence? Surely, then, those must satisfy us in that sort of style, than whom none can be imagined more excellent in it.

40. I must observe further that some think there is no natural eloquence unless it is like the language of ordinary conversation, the language in which we address our friends, wives, children, and servants, and which is intended only to express our thoughts and requires no foreign or elaborate ornament. They say that all that is superadded to such language is mere affectation and vain ostentation of style, at variance with truth and invented only for the display of words, whose only natural purpose, they assert, is to be instrumental in expressing our thoughts. They compare an eloquent and brilliant style to the bodies of athletes, which, though they are rendered stouter by exercise and regular diet, are yet not in a natural condition or in conformity with that appearance which has been assigned to man. 41. Of what profit is it, they ask, to clothe our thoughts in circumlocution and metaphor, that is, in words unnecessarily numerous, and in unnatural words, when everything has its peculiar term appropriated to it? 42. They contend that the most ancient speakers were most in conformity with nature, and that there subsequently arose others, with a greater resemblance to the poets, who showed (less openly, indeed, than the poets, but after the same fashion) that they regarded departures from truth and nature as merits. In this argument, there is certainly some foundation of truth, and accordingly we ought not to depart so far as some speakers do from exact and ordinary language. Yet if any orator, as I have said in the part in which I spoke of composition, should add something ornamental to that which is merely a necessary minimum, he will not be deserving of censure from those who hold this opinion.

43. To me, indeed, ordinary discourse appears to be of a different nature from the language of a truly eloquent man, for if it were sufficient for an orator to express his thoughts plainly, he would have nothing to study beyond mere suitableness of words. But since he has to please, to move, and to rouse the minds of his audience to various states of feeling, he must have recourse, for those purposes, to the means which are afforded us by the same nature that supplies us with ordinary speech, just as we are led by nature to invigorate our muscles with exercise, to increase our general strength, and to acquire a healthy complexion. 44. This is why, in all nations, one man is esteemed more eloquent and more agreeable in his mode of expression than another, for if such were not the case, all would be equal in this respect, and the same way of speaking would become every man alike, but as it is, men speak in different methods and preserve a distinction of character. Thus I conceive that the greater impression a man produces by his words, the more he speaks in conformity with the natural intention of eloquence. I, therefore, have not much to say against those who think that we must accommodate ourselves in some degree to circumstances and to the ears of audiences that require something more refined and studied than ordinary language. 45. I am so far from thinking, therefore, that an orator should be restricted to the style of those who preceded Cato and the Gracchi that I do not consider he should be restricted to the style even of these. I see that it was the practice of Cicero, though he did nothing but with a view to the interest of his cause, to study in some measure the gratification of his audience, saying that he thus promoted his object and contributed in the best possible way to the success of his client. He in fact profited in proportion as he pleased. 46. To the attractions of his style I do not know, for my own part, what can be added, unless indeed we introduce, to suit modern taste, a few more brilliant thoughts. For this may certainly be done without damage to a cause and without diminution to the impressiveness of a pleader, provided that the embellishments are not too numerous and close together, so as to destroy the effects of each other. 47. But though I am thus far complaisant, let no man press for any further concession. I allow, in accordance with the fashion of the day, that the toga should not be of rough wool, but not that it should be of silk, and that the hair should not be uncut, but not that it should be dressed in stories and ringlets. Likewise, it should be considered that what is most becoming is also most elegant, provided that elegance is not carried to the extent of ostentation and extravagance. 48. But as to what we call brilliant thoughts, which were not cultivated by the ancients and not, above all, by the Greeks (I find some in Cicero), who can deny they may be of service, provided they bear upon the cause, are not redundant in number, and tend to secure success? They strike the mind of the hearer, frequently produce a great effect by one impulse, impress themselves, because they are short, more effectually on the memory, and persuade while they please.

49. But there are some, who, though they will allow an orator to utter such dazzling thoughts, consider that they are wholly to be excluded from speeches that are written. This is an opinion, accordingly, which I must not pass unnoticed, as indeed many men of great learning have thought that the modes of speaking and writing are essentially different. For this reason, some who were highly distinguished for speaking have left nothing to posterity, nothing in writing that would be at all lasting, as Pericles and Demades, and others again, who were excellent in writing, have been unfitted for speaking, as Isocrates. 50. Besides, they say that impetuosity, as well as thoughts merely intended to please and perhaps somewhat too boldly hazarded, have often the very greatest effect in speaking, as the minds of the ignorant part of an audience must frequently be excited and swayed; conversely, what is committed to writing and published as something good ought to be terse and polished, and in conformity with every law and rule of composition, because it is to come into hands of the learned and to have artists as judges of the art with which it is executed. 51. These acute teachers (as they have persuaded themselves, and many others, that they are) tell us that παράδείγμα (paradeigma), or "rhetorical induction," is better adapted for speaking and the ἐνθύμημα (enthymema), or "rhetorical syllogism," for writing. To me it appears that to speak well and to write well are but the same thing, and that a written oration is nothing but a record of an oration delivered. Written oratory must accordingly, I think, be capable of every species of excellence. I say every species of excellence, not every species of fault, for I know that what is faulty sometimes pleases the ignorant. 52. How, then, will what is written and what is spoken differ? I reply that if I were to address myself to a tribunal composed only of wise men, I would cut off much from the speeches of not only Cicero, but even Demosthenes, who is much less verbose, for in speaking to such an audience, there will be no necessity for exciting the feelings or for soothing the ear with delight (since Aristotle thinks that in such a case even exordia are superfluous), as wise men will not be moved by them, and it will be sufficient to state the subject in proper and significant words and establish proofs. 53. But when the people, or some of the people, are before us as judges, and when illiterate persons, and even ploughmen, are to pass sentence, every art must be employed that we think likely to attain the object we have in view. Such arts are to be displayed not only when we speak, but when we write, that we may show how the speech should be spoken. 54. Would Demosthenes have spoken badly in speaking exactly as he wrote, or would Cicero? Or do we know them to have been excellent orators from any other source than from their writings? Did they speak, we may ask, better than they wrote, or worse? If worse, they ought to have spoken as they wrote; if better, they ought to have written as they spoke.

55. What, then, may be said—shall an orator always speak just as he will write? If possible, I answer, always. But if the shortness of time allowed by the judge prevents him from doing so, much that might have been said will be withheld, but if the speech is published, it will contain the whole. But what may have been introduced to suit the capacity of the judges will not be transmitted unaltered to posterity, lest it be thought to be the offspring of his judgment and not a concession to circumstances. 56. For it is of the greatest importance to a pleader to know to what the judge may be disposed to listen, and the judge's look, as Cicero directs, must often be the orator's guide. We must consequently dwell upon those points which we observe to give him satisfaction and touch but lightly on those to which he seems averse. The very style that is most desirable is such as will render us most easily intelligible to the judge. Nor is this at all surprising, when many things are altered in our language merely to suit the characters of witnesses. 57. Thus the orator who had asked an illiterate witness whether he knew Amphion, and he had answered that he did not, acted wisely in taking away the aspiration and shortening the second syllable of the name, when the witness replied that he knew him very well. Occurrences such as these often make us speak otherwise than we write, it being impossible to speak exactly as we write.

58. There is another mode of characterizing style, which also resolves itself into three divisions, and by which different forms of eloquence seem to be very well distinguished one from another. One style, according to this method, the Greeks call ἰσχνόν (ischnon), or "plain"; another they term ἀδρόν (hadron), or "grand and energetic"; and a third which they have added, some call a mean between these two, others the ἀνθηρόν (anthēron), or "florid" style. 59. The nature of these is such that the first seems adapted to the duty of stating facts, the second to that of moving the feelings, and the third, by whatever name it is designated, to that of pleasing or conciliating, as perspicuity seems necessary for instructing, gentleness of manner for conciliating, and energy for exciting the hearer.

Accordingly, it is in the plain sort of style that narrative and proofs will be stated, a style which is complete in its own kind, requiring no assistance from other qualities of diction. 60. The middle sort will abound more with metaphors and be rendered more attractive by figures of speech. It will seek to please by digressions and will be elegant in phraseology, with perfectly natural thoughts, but flowing gently like a clear stream overshadowed on either side by banks of green wood. 61. But the energetic style will resemble an impetuous torrent, which carries away rocks, disdains a bridge, and makes banks for itself; it will impel the judge, even though he strives against it, wherever it pleases and oblige him to take the course into which it hurries him. An orator who employs this style will evoke the dead, as Appius Caecus. In the speeches of such an orator, his country will lament and sometimes call upon him, as she calls upon Cicero in his speech against Catiline in the senate. 62. Such an orator will elevate his oratory with amplification and rise into hyperbole: "What Charybdia was ever so insatiable?" and, "The Ocean itself, assuredly," etc., for these striking passages are well known to the studious. Such an orator will bring down the gods themselves to form a portion of his audience and almost to take part in what lie says: "For you, O Alban hills and groves, you, O ruined altars of the Albans, united and coeval with the sacred rites of the Roman people," etc. Such an orator will inspire his hearers with rage or pity; he will say, "He saw you, called upon you, and wept," and the judge, excited with every variety of emotion, will follow the speaker here and there, without requiring any proof of what is stated.

63. If, then, it were necessary to choose one of these three kinds, who would hesitate to prefer to the others that which, besides being in other respects the most effective, is also best suited to the most important causes? 64. Homer has attributed to Menelaus a style of eloquence agreeably concise, appropriate (for such is the quality meant by not mistaking in words), and free from superfluity, and these are the merits of our first species of eloquence. He says that from the mouth of Nestor language sweeter than honey flowed, certainly sweeter than anything can be imagined, but desiring to give a notion of the highest power of eloquence in Ulysses, he has given him grandeur and ascribed to him language equal in copiousness and continuity of flow to showers of snow in winter. 65. With him, therefore, as he adds, no mortal will contend; such an orator men will venerate as a god. Such is the force and impetuosity which Eupolis admires in Pericles and which Aristophanes compares to thunder and lightning. Such is the power of true eloquence.

66. But neither is eloquence confined to these three kinds of style, for as a third kind has its place between the simple and the energetic, so there are degrees in each of those kinds, and between any two of those degrees there is something intermediate partaking of the nature of each. 67. There is something fuller and something simpler than the simple kind; there is something gentler and something more energetic than the energetic kind; and the middle kind both rises to what is stronger and stoops to what is weaker. Thus are found almost innumerable species, which are distinguished from each other at least by some shade of difference, just as we are told, generally, that the four winds blow from the four cardinal points of the heaven, though there are often observed many winds between those points, and many peculiar to certain countries and even to certain rivers. 68. The case, too, is similar with regard to the practice of musicians, who, after making five principal notes on the lyre, fill up the intervals between them with a great variety of other notes, and then, again, insert others between those which they have previously inserted, so that those main divisions admit many intermediate degrees of sound.

69. There are many species of eloquence, but it would be extremely foolish to inquire which of them an orator should follow, since every species, if it is of a genuine character, has its use, and all that people commonly call ways of speaking falls under the management of the orator, for he will employ every variety of speech to suit not merely any particular cause, but particular parts of any cause. 70. Thus he will not speak in the same strain in defense of a man who is accused of a capital crime, in a suit respecting an inheritance, and in cases of interdicts, sponsions, and loans. He will observe distinctions between the delivery of opinions in the senate, in the assembly of the people, and in private deliberations. He will vary his style greatly in conformity with the difference of persons, occasions, and places, and he will adopt different arts for conciliating, even in the same speech. He will not try to excite anger and pity by dwelling on similar topics. He will employ one style to state his case to the judge and another to move the judge's feelings. 71. The same color of diction will not be observable in his exordium, his statement of facts, his arguments, his digressions, and his peroration. He will be able to speak gravely, austerely, sharply, strongly, spiritedly, copiously, bitterly, affably, gently, artfully, soothingly, mildly, agreeably, succinctly, and politely. He will not be always alike, yet always consistent with himself. 72. Thus he will not only attain that object for which the use of speech was chiefly intended (I mean that of speaking to the purpose and with ability sufficient to establish that which he has in view), but he will also obtain applause, not merely from the learned, but even from the common people.

73. They indeed are greatly deceived who imagine that audience gratification and applause are to be gained by a vicious and corrupt style of eloquence that exults in a licentious kind of diction, wantons in puerile fancies, swells with inordinary tumor, expatiates on empty commonplaces, decks itself with flowers that will fall if they are in the slightest degree shaken, prefers extravagance to sublimity, or raves madly under the pretext of freedom. 74. However, I do not deny, nor do I wonder, that such a style does please many, for eloquence of any kind whatsoever is pleasing to the ear and likely to be favorably heard. All exertion of the human voice naturally draws the mind with a pleasing kind of attraction. For no other reason are there such groups of listeners in marketplaces and causeways, and it is no surprise that for every pleader, a ring of the rabble is ready. 75. But when anything more happily expressed than ordinary falls upon the ears of the illiterate, of whatever kind it be, provided that they themselves cannot hope to speak equally well, it gains their admiration, and not without reason, for even to speak just beyond the capacity of the uneducated is not easy. Such moderate excellence, however, fades and dies away when it is compared with anything better, as "wool dyed red pleases," says Ovid, "in the absence of purple, but if it is contrasted even with the purple of a common riding cloak, it will be thrown into the shade by the presence of something brighter than itself." 76. If, again, we apply the light of a keen judgment to such tasteless eloquence, as that of sulphur to inferior dye, it will immediately lose the false luster with which it had deceived the eye and grow pale with an indescribable deformity. Such eloquence will accordingly shine only in the absence of the sun, as certain small animals appear to be little fires in the darkness. In short, many admire what is bad, but none condemn what is good.

77. But the orator must do all that I have mentioned, not only in the best manner, but also with the greatest ease, for the utmost power of eloquence will deserve no admiration if unhappy anxiety perpetually attends it and harasses and wears out the orator, while he is laboriously altering his words and wasting his life in weighing and putting them together. 78. Elegant, sublime, and rich, the true orator commands copious materials of eloquence pouring in upon him from all sides. He that has reached the summit ceases to struggle up the steep. 79. Difficulty is for him who is making his way and is not far from the bottom, but the more he advances, the easier will be the ascent and the more verdant the soil. And if, with persevering efforts, he passes also these gentler slopes, fruits will spontaneously present themselves, and all kinds of flowers will spring up before him which, unless they are daily plucked, will be sure to wither. Yet even copiousness should be under the control of judgment, without which nothing will be either praiseworthy or beneficial. Elegance should have a certain manly air, and good taste should attend on invention. 80. Thus what the orator produces will be great, without extravagance; sublime, without audacity; energetic, without rashness; severe, without repulsiveness; grave, without dullness; plentiful, without exuberance; pleasing, without meretriciousness; and grand, without tumidity. Such judgment will be shown with regard to other qualities, and the path in the middle is generally the safest, because error lies on either side.

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Lee Honeycutt (honeycuttlee@gmail.com) Last modified:1/15/07
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