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This webpage reproduces a section of
Institutio Oratoria


published in Vol. IV
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. IV) Quintilian
Institutio Oratoria

 p155  Book XI

Chapter 1

1 1 After acquiring the power of writing and thinking, as described in the precede and book, and also of pleading extempore, if occasion demand, our next task will be to ensure that appropriateness of speech, which Cicero1 shows to be the fourth department of style, and which is, in my opinion, highly necessary. 2 For since the ornaments of style are varied and manifold and suited for different purposes, they will, unless adapted to the matter and the persons concerned, not merely fail to give our style distinction, but will even destroy its effect and produce an effect quite the reverse of that which our matter should produce. For what profit is it that our words should be Latin, significant and graceful, and be further embellished with elaborate figures and rhythms, unless all these qualities are in harmony with the views to which we seek to lead the judge and mould his opinions? 3 What use is it if we employ a lofty tone in cases of great moment, a cheerful tone when our matter calls for sadness, a gentle tone when it demands vehemence, threatening language when supplication, and submissive when energy is required, or fierceness and violence when our theme is one that asks for charm? Such incongruities are as unbecoming as it is for men to wear necklaces and pearls and flowing raiment which are the natural adornments of women, or for women to robe themselves  p157 in the garb of triumph, than which there can be conceived no more majestic raiment. 4 This topic is discussed by Cicero in the third book of the de Oratore,2 and, although he touches on it but lightly, he really covers the whole subject when he says, One single style of oratory is not suited to every case, nor to every audience, nor every speaker, nor every occasion. And he says the same at scarcely greater length in the Orator.3 But in the first of these works Lucius Crassus, since he is speaking in the presence of men distinguished alike for their learning and their eloquence, thinks it sufficient merely to indicate this topic to his audience for their recognition; 5 while in the latter work Cicero asserts that, as these facts are familiar to Brutus, to whom that treatise is addressed, they will be given briefer treatment, despite the fact that the subject is a wide one and is discussed at greater length by the philosophers. I, on the other hand, have undertaken the education of an orator, and, consequently, am speaking not merely those that know, but also to learners; I shall, therefore, have some claim to forgiveness if I discuss the topic in greater detail.

6 For this reason, it is of the first importance that we should know what style is most suitable for conciliating, instructing or moving the judge, and what effects we should aim at in different parts of our speech. Thus we shall eschew antique, metaphorical and newly-coined words in our exordium, statement of fact and argument, as we shall avoid flowing periods woven with elaborate grace, when the case has to be divided and distinguished under its various heads, while, on the other hand, we shall not employ mean or colloquial language, devoid of all artistic  p159 structure, in the peroration, nor, when the theme calls for compassion, attempt to dry the tears of our audience with jests. 7 For all ornament derives its effect not from its own qualities so much as from the circumstances in which it is applied, and the occasion chosen for saying anything is at least as important a consideration as what is actually said. But the whole of this question of appropriate language turns on something more than our choice of style, for it has much in common with invention. For if words can produce such an impression, how much greater must that be which is created by the facts themselves. But I have already laid down rules for the treatment of the latter in various portions of this work.

8 Too much insistence cannot be laid upon the point that no one can be said to speak appropriately who has not considered not merely what it is expedient, but also what it is becoming to say. I am well aware that these two considerations generally go hand in hand. For whatever is becoming is, as a rule, useful, and there is nothing that does more to conciliate the good-will of the judge than the observance or to alienate it than the disregard of these considerations. 9 Sometimes, however, the two are at variance. Now, whenever this occurs, expediency must yield to the demands of what is becoming. Who is there who does not realise that nothing would have contributed more to secure the acquittal of Socrates than if he had employed the ordinary forensic methods of defence and had conciliated the minds of his judges by adopting a submissive tone and had devoted his attention to refuting the actual charge against him? 10 But such a course would have been unworthy of his character,  p161 and, therefore, he pleaded as one who would account the penalty to which he might be sentenced as the highest of honours. The wisest of men preferred to sacrifice the remnant of his days rather than to cancel all his past life. And since he was but ill understood by the men of his own day, he reserved this case for the approval of posterity and at the cost of a few last declining years achieved though all the ages life everlasting. 11 And so although Lysias, who was accounted the first orator of that time, offered him a written defence, he refused to make use of it, since, though he recognised its excellence, he regarded it as unbecoming to himself. This instance alone shows that the end which the orator must keep in view is not persuasion, but speaking well, since there are occasions when to persuade would be a blot upon his honour. The line adopted by Socrates was useless to secure his acquittal, but was of real service to him as a man; and that is by far the greater consideration. 12 In drawing this distinction between what is expedient and what is becoming, I have followed rather the usage of common speech than the strict law of truth; unless, indeed, the elder Africanus4 is to be regarded as having failed to consult his true interests, when he retired into exile sooner than wrangle over his own innocence with a contemptible tribune of the people, or unless it be alleged that Publius Rutilius5 was ignorant of his true advantage both on the occasion when he adopted a defence which may almost be compared with that of Socrates, and when he preferred to remain in exile rather than return at Sulla's bidding. 13 No, these great men regarded all those trifles that the most abject natures regard as advantageous,  p163 as being contemptible if weighed in the balance with virtue, and for this reason they have their reward in the deathless praise of all generations. Let not us, then, be so poor spirited as to regard the acts, which we extol, as being inexpedient. 14 However, it is but rarely that this distinction, such as it is, is called into play. As I have said, the expedient and the becoming will, as a rule, be identical in every kind of case. Still, there are two things which will be becoming to all men at all times and in all places, namely, to act and speak as befits a man of honour, and it will never at any time beseem any man to speak or act dishonourably. On the other hand, things of minor importance and occupying something like a middle position between the two are generally of such a nature that they may be conceded to some, but not to others, while it will depend on the character of the speaker and the circumstances of time, place and motive whether we regard them as more or less excusable or reprehensible. 15 When, however, we are speaking of our own affairs or those of others, we must distinguish between the expedient and the becoming, while recognising that the majority of the points which we have to consider will fall under neither head.

In the first place, then, all kinds of boasting are a mistake, above all, it is an error for an orator to praise his own eloquence, and, further, not merely wearies, but in the majority of cases disgusts the audience. 16 For there is ever in the mind of man a certain element of lofty and unbending pride that will not brook superiority: and for this reason we take delight in raising the humble and submissive to their feet, since such an act gives us a consciousness of our  p165 superiority, and as soon as all sense of rivalry disappears, its place is taken by a feeling of humanity. But the man who exalts himself beyond reason is looked upon as depreciating and showing a contempt for others and as making them seem small rather than himself seem great. 17 As a result, those who are beneath him feel a grudge against him (for those who are unwilling to yield and yet have not the strength to hold their own are always liable to this failing), while his superiors laugh at him and the good disapprove. Indeed, as a rule, you will find that arrogance implies a false self-esteem, whereas those who possess true merit find satisfaction enough in the consciousness of possession.

Cicero has been severely censured in this connexion, although he was far more given to boasting of his political achievements than of his eloquence, at any rate, in his speeches. 18 And as a rule he had some sound reason for his self-praise. For he was either defending those who had assisted him to crush the conspiracy of Catiline, or was replying to attacks made upon him by those who envied his position; attacks which he was so far unable to withstand that he suffered exile as the penalty for having saved his country. Consequently, we may regard his frequent reference to the deeds accomplished in his consulship as being due quite as much to the necessities of defence as to the promptings of vainglory. 19 As regards his own eloquence, he never made immoderate claims for it in his pleading, while he always paid a handsome tribute to the eloquence of the advocate, who opposed him. For example, there are passages such as the following: "If there be aught of talent in me, and I am only too conscious  p167 how little it is,"6 and, "In default of talent, I turned to industry for aid."7 20 Again, in his speech against Caecilius on the selection of an accuser for Verres, despite the fact that the question as to which was the most capable pleader, was a factor of great importance, he rather depreciated his opponent's eloquence than exalted his own, and asserted that he had done all in his power to make himself an orator,8 though he knew he had not succeeded. 21 In his letters to intimate friends, it is true, and occasionally in his dialogues, he tells the truth of his own eloquence, though in the latter case he is careful always to place the remarks in question in the mouth of some other character. And yet I am not sure that open boasting is not more tolerable, owing to its sheers straightforwardness, than that perverted form of self-praise, which makes the millionaire say that he is not a poor man, the man of mark describe himself as obscure, the powerful pose as weak, and the eloquent as unskilled and even inarticulate. 22 But the most ostentatious kind of boasting takes the form of actual self-derision. Let us therefore leave it to others to praise us. For it beseems us, as Demosthenes says, to blush even when we are praised by others. I do not mean to deny that there are occasions when an orator may speak of his own achievements, as Demosthenes himself does in his defence of Ctesiphon.9 But on that occasion he qualified his statements in such a way as to show that he was compelled by necessity to do so, and to throw the odium attaching to such a proceeding on the man who had forced him to it. 23 Again, Cicero often speaks of his suppression of the Catilinarian conspiracy, but either attributes his success to the  p169 courage shown by the senate or to the providence of the immortal gods. If he puts forward stronger claims to merit, it is generally when speaking against his enemies and detractors; for he was bound to defend his actions when they were denounced as discreditable. 24 One could only wish that he had shown greater restraint in his poems, which those who love him not are never weary of criticising. I refer to passages such as:10

"Let arms before the peaceful toga yield,

Laurels to eloquence reign the field,"


"O happy Rome, born in my consulship!"

together with that "Jupiter, by whom he is summoned to the assembly of the gods," and the "Minerva that taught him her accomplishments"; extravagances which he permitted himself in imitation of certain precedents in Greek literature.

25 But while it is unseemly to make a boast of one's eloquence, it is, however, at times permissible to express confidence in it. Who, for instance, can blame the following?11 "What, then, am I to think? That I am held in contempt? I see nothing either in my past life, or my position, or such poor talents as I may possess, that Antony can afford to despise." 26 And a little later he speaks yet more openly: "Or did he wish to challenge me to a contest of eloquence? I could wish for nothing better. For what ampler or richer theme could I hope to find than to speak at once for myself and against Antony?"

27 Another form of arrogance is displayed by those who declare that they have come to a clear conviction of  p171 the justice of their cause, which they would not otherwise have undertaken. For the judges give but a reluctant hearing to such as presume to anticipate their verdict, and the orator cannot hope that his opponents will regard his ipse dixit with the veneration accorded by the Pythagoreans to that of their master. But this fault will vary in seriousness according to the character of the orator who uses such language. 28 For such assertions may to some extent be justified by age, rank, and authority of the speaker. But scarcely any orator is possessed of these advantages to such an extent as to exempt him from the duty of tempering such assertions by a certain show of modesty, a remark which also applies to all passages in which the advocate draws any of his arguments from his own person. What could have been more presumptuous than if Cicero had asserted that the fact that a man was the son of a Roman knight should never be regarded as a serious charge, in a case in which he was appearing for the defence? But he succeeded in giving this very argument a favourable turn by associating his own rank with that of the judges, and saying,12 "The fact of a man being the son of a Roman knight should never have been put forward as a charge by the prosecution when these gentlemen were in the jury-box and I was appearing for the defendant."

29 An impudent, disorderly, or angry tone is always unseemly, no matter who it be that assumes it; and it becomes all the more reprehensible in proportion to the age, rank, and experience of the speaker. But we are familiar with the sight of certain brawling advocates who are restrained neither by respect for the court nor by the recognised methods and  p173 manners of pleading. The obvious inference from this attitude of mind is that they are utterly reckless both in undertaking cases and in pleading them. 30 For a man's character is generally revealed and the secrets of his heart are laid bare by his manner of speaking, and there is good ground for the Greek aphorism that, "as a man lives, so will he speak." The following vices are of a meaner type: grovelling flattery, affected buffoonery, immodesty in dealing with things or words which are unseemly or obscene, and disregard of authority on all and every occasion. They are faults which, as a rule, are found in those who are over-anxious either to please or amuse.

31 Again, different kinds of eloquence suit different speakers. For example, a full, haughty, bold and florid style would be less becoming to an old man than that restrained, mild and precise style to which Cicero refers, when he says that his style is beginning to grow gray-haired.13 It is the same with their style as their clothes; purple and scarlet raiment goes ill with grey hairs. 32 In the young, however, we can endure a rich and even, perhaps, a risky style. On the other hand, a dry, careful and compressed style is unpleasing in the young as suggesting the affectation of severity, since even the authority of character that goes with age is considered as premature in young men. Soldiers are best suited by a simple style. 33 Those, again, who make ostentatious profession, as some do, of being philosophers, would do well to avoid most of the ornaments of oratory, more especially those which consist in appeals to the passions, which they regard as moral blemishes. So, too, the employment of rare words and of rhythmical structure are incongruous with their profession. 34 For  p175 their beards and gloomy brows are ill-suited not merely to luxuriance of style, such as we find in Cicero's "Rocks and solitudes answer to the voice,"14 but even to full-blooded passages as, "For on you I call, ye hills and groves of Alba; I call you to bear me witness, and ye, too, fallen altars of the Albans, that were once the peers and equals of the holy places of Rome."15 35 But the public man, who is truly wise and devotes himself not to idle disputations, but to the administration of the state, from which those who call themselves philosophers have withdrawn themselves afar, will gladly employ every method that may Canterbury to the end which he seeks to gain by his eloquence, although he will first form a clear conception in his mind as to what aims are honourable and what are not. 36 There is a form of eloquence which is becoming in the greatest men, but inadmissible in others. For example, the methods of eloquence employed by commanders and conquerors in their hour of triumph are to a great extent to be regarded as in a class apart. The comparison of the eloquence of Pompey and Cato the younger, who slew himself in the civil war, will illustrate my meaning. The former was extraordinarily eloquent in the description of his own exploits, while the latter's powers were displayed in debates in the senate. 37 Again, the same remark will seem freedom of speech in one's mouth, madness in another's, and arrogance in a third. We laugh at the words used by Thersites16 to Agamemnon; but put them in the mouth of Diomede or some other of his peers, and they will seem the expression of a great spirit. "Shall I regard you as consul," said Lucius Crassus17 to Philippus, "when you refuse to  p177 regard me as a senator?" That was honourable freedom of speech, and yet we should not tolerate such words from everybody's lips. 38 One of the poets18 says that he does not care whether Caesar be white or black. That is madness. But reverse the case. Suppose that Caesar said it of the poet? That would be arrogance. The tragic and comic poets pay special attention to character, since they introduce a great number and variety of persons. Those who wrote speeches19 for others paid a like attention to these points, and so do the declaimers; for we do not always speak as advocates, but frequently as actual parties to the suit.

39 But even in these cases in which we appear as advocates, differences of character require careful observation. For we introduce fictitious personages and speak through other's lips, and we must therefore allot the appropriate character to those to whom we lend a voice. For example, Publius Clodius will be represented in one way, Appius Caecus20 in another, while Caecilius21 makes the father in his comedy speak in quite a different manner from the father in the comedy of terence. 40 What can be more brutal than the words of Verres' lictor, "To see him you will pay so much"?22 or braver than those of the man from whom the scourge could wring but one cry, "I am a Roman citizen!"23 Again, read the words which Cicero places in the mouth of Milo in his peroration: are they not worthy of the man who to save the state had so oft repressed a seditious citizen, and had triumphed by his valour over the ambush that was laid for him?24 41 Further, it is not merely true that the very required in impersonation will be in  p179 proportion to the variety presented by the case, for impersonation demands even greater variety, since it involves the portrayal of the emotions of children, women, nations, and even of voiceless things, all of which require to be represented in character. 42 The same points have to be observed with respect to those for whom we plead: for our tone will vary with the character of our client, according as he is distinguished, or of humble position, popular or the reverse, while we must also take into account the differences in their principles and their past life. As regards the orator himself, the qualities which will most commend him are courtesy, kindliness, moderation and benevolence. But, on the other hand, the opposite of these qualities will sometimes be becoming to a good man. He may hate the bad, be moved to passion in the public interest, seek to avenge crime and wrong, and, in fine, as I said at the beginning,25 may follow the promptings of every honourable emotion.

43 The character of the speaker and of the person on whose behalf he speaks are, however, not the only points which it is important to take into account: the character of those before whom we have to speak calls for serious consideration. Their power and rank will make no small difference; we shall employ different methods according as we are speaking before the emperor, a magistrate, a senator, a private citizen, or merely a free man, while a different tone is demanded by trials in the public courts, and in cases submitted to arbitration. 44 For while a display of care and anxiety, and the employment of every device available for the amplification of our style are becoming when we are  p181 pleading for a client accused on a capital charge, it would be useless to employ the same methods in cases and trials of minor importance, and the speaker who, when speaking from his chair before an arbitrator on some trivial question, should make an admission like that made by Cicero, to the effect that it was not merely his soul that was in a state of commotion, but that his whole body was convulsed with shuddering,26 would meet with well-deserved ridicule. 45 Again, who does not know what different styles of eloquence are required when speaking before the grave assembly of the senate and before the fickle populace, since even when we are pleading before single judges the same style will not be suitable for use before one of weighty character and another of a more frivolous disposition, while a learned judge must not be addressed in the same tone that we should employ before a soldier or a rustic, and our style must at times be lowered and simplified, for fear that he may be unable to take it in or to understand it.

46 Again, circumstances of time and place demand special consideration. The occasion may be one for sorrow or for rejoicing, the time at our disposals may be ample or restricted, and the orator must adapt himself to all these circumstances. 47 It, likewise, makes no small difference whether we are speaking in public or in private, before a crowded audience or in comparative seclusion, in another city or our own, in the camp or in the forum: each of these places will require its own style and peculiar form of oratory, since even in other spheres of life the same actions are not equally suited to the forum, the senate-house, the Campus Martius, the theatre  p183 or one's own house, and there is much that is not in itself reprehensible, and may at times be absolutely necessary, which will be regarded as unseemly if done in some place where it is not sanctioned by custom. 48 I have already pointed out27 how much more elegance and ornament is allowed by the topics of demonstrative oratory, whose main object is the delectation to audience, than is permitted by deliberative or forensic themes which are concerned with action and argument.

To this must be added the fact that certain qualities, which are in themselves merits of a high order, may be rendered unbecoming by the special circumstances of the case. 49 For example, when a man is accused on a capital charge, and, above all, if he is defending himself before his conqueror or his sovereign, it would be quite intolerable for him to indulge in frequent metaphors, antique or newly-coined words, rhythms as far removed as possible from the practice of every-day speech, rounded periods, florid commonplaces and ornate reflexions. Would not all these devices destroy the impression of anxiety which should be created by a man in such peril, and rob him of the succour of pity, on which even the innocent are forced to rely? 50 Would any man be moved by the sad plight of one who revealed himself as a vainglorious boaster, and ostentatiously flaunted the airs and graces of his eloquence at a moment when his fate hung in suspense? Would he not rather hate the man who, dispute his position as accused, hunted for fine words, showed himself concerned for his reputation as a clever speaker, and found time at such a moment to display his eloquence? 51 I consider that  p185 Marcus Caelius, in the speech in which he defended himself against a charge of breach of the peace, showed a wonderful grasp of these facts, when he said: "I trust that none of you gentlemen, or of all those who have come to plead against me, will find offence in my mien or insolence in my voice, or, though that is a comparative trifle, any trace of arrogance in my gesture." 52 But there are some cases where the success of the pleader depends on apology, entreaties for mercy, or confession of error. Or will enthymemes28 or epiphonemata29 avail to win the judge's mercy? Will not all embellishment of pure emotion merely impair its force and dispel compassion by such a display of apparent unconcern? 53 Or, suppose that a father has to speak of his son's death, or of some wrong that is word than death, will he, in making his statement of facts, seek to achieve that grace in exposition which is secured by purity and lucidity of language, and content himself with setting forth his case in due order with brevity and meaning? Or will he count over the heads of his argument upon his fingers, aim at niceties of division and proposition, and speak without the least energy of feeling as is usual in such portions of a speech? 54 Whither will his grief have fled while he is thus engaged? Where has the fountain of his tears been stayed? How came this callous attention to the rules of text-books to obtrude itself? Will he not rather, from his opening words to the very last he utters, maintain a continuous voice of lamentation and a mien of unvaried woe, if he desires to transplant his grief to the hearts of his audience? For if he once remits aught of his passion of grief, he  p187 will never be able to recall it to the hearts of them that hear him. 55 This is a point which declaimers, above all, must be careful to bear in mind: I mention this because I have no compunction in referring to a branch of the art which was once also my own, or in reverting to the consideration of the youthful students such as once were in my charge: the declaimer, I repeat, must bear this in mind, since in the schools we often feign emotions that affect us not as advocates, but as the actual sufferers. 56 For example, we even imagine cases where persons, either because of some overwhelming misfortune or repentance for some sin, demand from the senate the right to make an end of their lives;30 and in these cases it is obviously unbecoming not merely to adopt a chanting intonation,31 a fault which has also become almost universal, or to use extravagant language, but even to argue without an admixture of emotional appeal, so managed as to be even more prominent than the proof which is advanced. For the man who can lay aside his grief for a moment while he is pleading, seems capable even of laying it aside altogether.

57 I am not sure, however, that it is not in our attitude towards our opponents that this care for decorum, which we are now discussing, should be most rigorously maintained. For there can be no doubt, that in all accusations our first aim should be to give the impression that it is only with the greatest reluctance that we have consented to undertake the rôle of accuser. Consequently, I strongly disapprove of such remarks as the following which was made by Cassius Severus:32 "Thank Heaven, I am still alive; and that I may find some savour in  p189 life, I see Asprenas arraigned for his crimes." For, after this, it is impossible to suppose that he had just or necessary reasons for accusing Asprenas, and we cannot help suspecting that his motive was sheer delight in accusation. 58 But, beside this consideration, which applies to all cases, there is the further point that certain cases demand special moderation. Therefore, a man who demands the appointment of a curator for his father's property, should express his grief at his father's affliction; and, however grave be the charges that a father may be going to bring against his son, he should emphasize the painful nature of the necessity that is imposed upon him.33 And this he should do not merely in a few brief words, but his emotion should colour his whole speech, so that it may be felt not merely that he is speaking, but that he is speaking the truth. 59 Again, if a ward make allegations against his guardian, the latter must never give way to such anger that no trace is left of his former love or of a certain reverent regard for the memory of his opponent's father. I have already spoken, in the seventh book, I think,34 of the way in which a case should be pleaded against a father who disinherits his son, or a wife who brings a charge of ill-treatment against her husband, while the fourth book,35 in which I prescribed certain rules for the exordium, contains my instructions as to when it is becoming that the parties should speak themselves, and when they should employ an advocate to speak for them.

60 It will be readily admitted by everyone that words may be becoming or offensive in themselves. There is therefore a further point, which presents the most serious difficulty, that requires notice in  p191 this connexion: we must consider by what means things which are naturally unseemly and which, had we been given the choice, we should have preferred not to say, may be uttered without indecorum. 61 What at first sight can be more unpleasing and what more revolting to the ears of men than a case in which a son or his advocate has to speak against his mother? And yet sometimes it is absolutely necessary, as, for example, in the case of Cluentius Habitus.36 But it is not always desirable to employ the method adopted by Cicero against Sasia, not because he did not make most admirable use of it, but because in such cases it makes the greatest difference what the point may be and what the manner in which the mother seeks to injure her son. 62 In the case of Sasia she had openly sought to procure the destruction of her son, and consequently vigorous methods were justified against her. But there were two points, the only points which remained to be dealt with, that were handled by Cicero with consummate skill: in the first place, he does not forget the reverence that is due to parents, and in the second, after a thorough investigation of the history of the crime, he makes it clear that it was not merely right, but a positive necessity that he should say what he proposed to say against the mother. 63 And he placed this explanation in the forefront of his case,37 although it had really nothing to with the actual question at issue; a fact which shows that his first consideration in that difficult and complicated case was the consideration of what was becoming for him to say. He therefore made the name of mother cast odium not on the son, but on her who was the object of his denunciations. 64 It is, however, always possible that a  p193 mother may be her son's opponent in a case of less serious import, or at any rate in a way which involves less deadly hostility. Under such circumstances the orator must adopt a gentler and more restrained tone. For example, we may offer apology for the line which we take, and thus lessen the odium which we incur or even transfer it to a different quarter, while if it be obvious that the son is deeply grieved by the situation, it will be believed that he is blameless in the matter and he will even become an object of pity. 65 It will also be desirable to throw the blame on others, so that it may be believed that the mother's action was instigated by their malice, and to assert that we will put up with every form of provocation, and will say nothing harsh in reply, so that, even although strong language may be absolutely necessary on our part, we may seem to be driven to use it against our will. Nay, if some charge has to be made against the mother, it will be the advocate's task to make it seem that he does so against the desire of the son and from a sense of duty to his client. Thus both son and advocate will win legitimate praise. 66 What I have said about mothers will apply to either parent; for I have known of litigation taking place between fathers and sons as well, after the emancipation38 of the son. And when other relationships are concerned, we must take care to create the impression that we have spoken with reluctance and under stress of necessity and that we have been forbearing in our language; but the importance of so doing will vary according to the respect due to the persons concerned. The same courtesy should be observed in speaking on behalf of freedmen against their patrons.  p195 In fact, to sum up, it will never become us to plead against such persons in a tone which we ourselves should have resented in the mouth of men of like condition. 67 The same respect is on occasion due to persons of high rank, and it may be necessary to offer justification for our freedom of speech to avoid giving the impression that we have shown ourselves insolent or ostentatious in our attack upon such persons. Consequently Cicero, although he intended to speak against Cotta39 with the utmost vehemence, and indeed the case of Publius Oppius was such that he could not do otherwise, prefaced his attack by pleading at some length the necessity imposed upon him by his duty to his client. 68 Sometimes, again, it will beseem us to spare or seem to spare our inferiors, more especially if they be young. Cicero40 gives an example of such moderation in the way in which he deals with Atratinus in his defence of Caelius: he does not lash him like an enemy, but admonishes him almost like a father. For Atratinus was of noble birth and young, and the grievance which led him to bring the accusation was not unreasonable.

But the ask is comparatively easy in those cases in which it is to the judge, or even, it may be, to our audience that we have to indicate the reason for our moderation. The real difficulty arises when we are afraid of offending those against whom we are speaking. 69 The difficulties of Cicero when defending Murena were increased by the fact that he was opposed by two persons of this character, namely Marcus Cato and Servius Sulpicius. And yet in what courteous language, after allowing Sulpicius all the virtues, he refuses to admit that he has any idea of the way to conduct a candidature for the consulship.41  p197 What else was there in which a man of high birth and a distinguished lawyer would sooner admit his inferiority? With what skill he sets forth his reasons for undertaking the defence of Murena, when he says that he supported Sulpicius' candidature as opposed to that of Murena, but did not regard that preference as reason why he should support him in bringing a capital charge against his rival! 70 And with what a light touch he deals with Cato!42 He has the highest admission for his hand and desires to show that the fact that in certain respects it has become severe and callous is due not to any personal fault, but to the influence of the Stoic school of philosophy; in fact you would imagine that they were engaged not in a forensic dispute, but merely in some philosophical discussion. 71 This is undoubtedly the right method, and the safest rule in such cases will be to follow the practice of Cicero, namely, that, when we desire to disparage a man without giving offence, we should allow him to be the possessor of all other virtues and point out that it is only in this one respect that he falls short of his high standard, while we should, if possible, add some reason why this should be so, such, for example, as his being too obstinate or credulous or quick to anger, or acting under the influence of others. 72 (For we may generally find a way out of such embarrassments by making it clear throughout our whole speech that we not merely honour the object of our criticism, but even regard him with affection.) Further, we should have good cause for speaking thus and must do so not merely with moderation, but also give the impression that our action is due to the necessities of the case. 73 A different situation arises,  p199 but an easier one, when we have to praise the actions of men who are otherwise disreputable or hateful to ourselves: for it is only right that we should award praise where it is deserved, whatever the character of the person praised may be. Cicero spoke in defence of Gabinius and Publius Vatinius, both of them his deadly enemies and men against whom he had previously spoken and even published his speeches: but he justifies himself by declaring that he does so not because he is anxious for his reputation as an accomplished speaker, but because he is concerned for his honour. 74 He had a more difficult task in his defence of Cluentius,43 as it was necessary for him to denounce Scamander's guilt, although he had previously appeared for him. But he excuses his action with the utmost grace, alleging the importunity of those persons who had brought Scamander to him, and his own youth at the time, whereas it would have been a serious blot on his reputation, especially in connexion with a case of the most dubious character, if he had admitted that he was one who was ready to undertake the defence of guilty persons without asking awkward questions.

75 On the other hand, when we are pleading before a judge, who has special reasons for being hostile to us or is for some personal motive ill-disposed to the case which we have undertaken, although it may be difficult to persuade him, the method which we should adopt in speaking is simple enough: we shall pretend that our confidence in his integrity and in the justice of our cause is such that we have no fears. We must play upon his vanity by pointing out that the less he indulges his own personal enmity or interest, the greater will be the reputation for  p201 conscientious rectitude that will accrue to him from his verdict. 76 The same method may be adopted if our case should chance to be sent back to the same judges from whom we have appealed: but we may further, if the case should permit, plead that we were forced to take the action which we did or were led to it by error or suspicion.44 The safest course will therefore be to express our regret, apologise for our fault and employ every means to induce the judge to feel compunction for his anger. 77 It will also sometimes happen that a judge may have to try the same case on which he has privately given judgment. In such circumstances the method commonly adopted is to say that we should not have ventured to dispute his sentence before any other judge, since he alone would be justified in revising it: but (and in this we must be guided by the circumstances of the case) we may allege that certain facts were not known on the previous occasion or certain witnesses were unavailable, or, though this must be advanced with the utmost caution and only in the last resort, that our clients' advocates were unequal to their task. 78 And even if we have to plead a case afresh before different judges, as may occur in a second trial of claim to freedom or in cases in the centumviral courts, which are divided between two different panels, it will be most seemly, if we have lost our case before the first panel, to say nothing against the judges who tired the case on that occasion. But this is a subject with which I dealt at some length in the passage where I discussed proofs.45

It may happen that we have to censure actions in others, of which we have been guilty ourselves,  p203 as, for example, when Tubero charges Ligarius with having been in Africa. 79 Again, there have been cases where persons condemned for bribery have indicted others for the same offence with a view to recovering their lost position:46 for this the schools provide a parallel in the theme where a luxurious youth accuses his father of the same offence. I do not see how this can be done with decorum only we succeed in discovering some difference between the two cases, such as character, age, motives, circumstances of time and place or intention. 80 Tubero, for example, alleges that he was a young man at the time and went thither in the company of his father, who had been sent by the senate not to take part in the war, but to purchase corn, and further that he left the party as soon as he could, whereas Ligarius clung to the party and gave his support, not to Gnaeus Pompeius, who was engaged with Caesar in a struggle for the supreme power, though both wished to preserve the state, but to Juba and the Africans who were the sworn enemies of Rome. 81 The easiest course, however, is to denounce another's guilt, while admitting our own in the same connexion, However, that is the part of an informer, not of a pleader. But if there is no excuse available, penitence is our only hope. For the man who is converted to the hatred of his own errors, may perhaps be regarded as sufficiently reformed. 82 For there are occasionally circumstances which from the very nature of the case may make such an attitude not unbecoming, as, for example, in the case where the father disinherits a son born of a harlot because that son has married a harlot, a case  p205 which, although it forms a scholastic theme, might actually arise in a court of law. There are a number of please which the father may put forward with becoming effect. 83 He will say that it is the prayer of all parents that their sons should be better men than themselves (for example, if a daughter also had been born to him, the harlot, her mother, would have wished her to be chaste), or that he himself was in a humbler position (for a man in such a position is permitted to marry a harlot),47 or that he had no father to warn him; and further that there was an additional reason against his son's conduct, namely, that he should not revive the old family scandal nor reproach his father with his marriage and his mother with the hard necessity of her former life, nor give a bad example to his own children in their turn. We may also plausibly suggest that there is some particularly shameful feature in the character of the harlot married by the son, which the father cannot under existing circumstances tolerate. There are other possible arguments which I pass by: for I am not now engaged in declamation, but am merely pointing out that there are occasions when the speaker may turn his own drawbacks to good account.

84 More arduous difficulties confront us when we have to deal with a complaint of some shameful act which as rape, more especially when this is of an unnatural kind. I do not refer to cases when the victim himself is speaking. For what should he do but groan and weep and curse his existence, so that the judge will understand his grief rather than hear it articulately expressed? But the victim's advocate will have to exhibit similar emotions, since the  p207 admission of such wrongs cause more shame to the sufferer than the criminal. 85 In many cases it is desirable to soften the harshness of our language by the infusion of a more conciliatory tone, as, for example, Cicero did in his speech48 dealing with the children of the proscribed. What fate could be more cruel than that the children of men of good birth and the descendants of distinguished ancestors should be excluded from participation in public life? For this reason that supreme artist in playing on the minds of men admits that it is hard, but asserts that the constitution is so essentially dependent on the laws of Sulla, that their repeal would inevitably involve its destruction. Thus he succeeded in creating the impression that he was discovering something on behalf of those very persons against whom he spoke.49 86 I have already50 pointed out, in dealing with the subject of jests, how unseemly it is to take the position in life of individuals as the target for our gibes, and also have urged that we should refrain from insulting whole classes, races or communities. But at times our duty toward our client will force us to say something on the general character of a whole class of people, such as freedmen, soldiers, tax-farmers or the like. 87 In all these cases the usual remedy is to create the impression that it is with reluctance that we introduce topics which must give pain, while further we shall avoid attacking everything, and even while using the language of reproof with regard to the essential point of attack, shall make up for our censure by praising our victims in some other connexion. 88 For example, if we charge soldiers with rapacity, we shall  p209 qualify our statement by saying that the fact is not surprising, as they think that they are entitled to some special reward for the perils they have faced and the wounds they have sustained. Or, if we censure them for insolence, we shall add that this quality is due to the fact that they are more accustomed to war than to peace. In the case of freedmen we should disparage their influence: but we may also give them credit for the industry which secured their emancipation. 89 With regard to foreign nations, Cicero's practice varies. When he intends to disparage the credibility of Greek witnesses he admits their distinction in learning and literature and professes his admiration for their nation.51 On the other hand, he has nothing but contempt for the Sardinians52 and attacks the Allobroges as the enemies of Rome.53 In all these cases none of his remarks, at the time they were made, were inconsistent with or adverse to the claims of decorum. 90 If there be anything offensive in the subject on which we have to speak, it may be toned down by a studied moderation in our language; for example, we may describe a brutal character as being unduly severe, an unjust man as led astray by prejudice, an obstinate man as unreasonably tenacious of his opinion. And there are a large number of cases where we should attempt to defeat our opponents by reasoning, which forms the gentlest of all methods of attack.

91 To these remarks I would add that all extravagance of any kind is indecorous, and consequently statements which are in sufficient harmony with the facts will none the less lose all their grace unless they are modified by a certain restraint. It is hard  p211 to give rules as to the exact method in which this precept should be observed, but the problem will easily be solved by following the dictates of our own judgement, which will tell us what it is sufficient to say and how much the ears of our audience will tolerate. We cannot weigh or measure our words by fixed standards: they are like foods, some of which are more satisfying than others.

92 I think I should also add a few brief words to the effect that not only very different rhetorical virtues have their special admirers, but that they are often praised by the same persons. For instance, there is one passage54 in Cicero where he writes that the best style is that which we think we can easily acquire by imitation, but which we find is really beyond our powers. But in another passage55 he says that his aim was not to speak in such a manner that everyone should be confident that he could do the same, but rather in a style that should be the despair of all. 93 These two statements may seem to be inconsistent, but as a matter of fact both alike deserve the praise which they receive. The difference is due to the fact that cases differ in character. Those of minor importance are admirably suited by the simplicity and negligence of unaffected language, whereas cases of greater moment are best suited by the grand style. Cicero is pre-eminent in both. Now while eminence in one of these styles may seem to the unexperienced to be within their grasp, those who understand know that they are capable of eminence in neither.

The Translator's Notes:

1 De Or. III.X.37.

2 III.LV.210.

3 Ch. xxi sqq.

4 Falsely accused of having taken a bribe from King Antiochus. See Livy, XXXVIII.51, 56.º

5 See de Or. I.LIII.227 sqq.

6 Pro Arch. i.1.

7 Pro Quint. i.4.

8 Div. in Caec. xii.40.

9 De Cor. 128.

10 From the poem on his consulship.

11 Phil. II.I.2.

12 Pro Cael. ii.4.

13 Brut. ii.8.

14 Pro Arch. viii.19.

15 Pro Mil. xxxi.85.

16 Il. II.225.

17 De Or. iii.1.

18 Cat. 93.

19 Cp. II.XV.30; III.VIII.51.

20 Clodius, the unscrupulous enemy of Cicero. Appius Caecus, his ancestor, the great senator, who secured the rejection of the terms of Pyrrhus.

21 See Pro Cael. xvi.

22 I.e. to visit a relative in prison, Verr. V.XLV.118; cp. Quint. IX.IV.71.

23 Verr. V.LXII.162.

24 Cp. IV.II.25; VI.V.10.

25 See § 14.

26 Div. in Caec. xiii.41.

27 VIII.III.11 sqq.

28 A form of syllogism. See V.XIV.1.

29 See VIII.V.11. "An exclamation attached to the close of a statement or a proof by way of climax."

30 VII.IV.39. It is said that poison was provided by the state of Massilia to serve the turn of such unhappy persons, so soon as they could convince the local senate that their proposed suicide was justifiable.

31 Cp. I.VIII.2.

32 Cp. X.I.22. In 9 B.C. he accused Nonius Asprenas, a friend of Augustus, of the crime of poisoning. Asprenas was defended by Pollio, and supported by Augustus during his trial.

33 The imagined cause would be as follows. The father disinherits the son for an alleged offence. The son accuses the father of madness and demands a curator, etc.

34 VII.IV.24.

35 IV.I.46.

36 See pro Clu. lxi.169 sqq. Sasia was Cluentius' mother.

37 pro Clu. vi.17.

38 I.e. from the patria potestas by a fictitious form of sale.

39 Cp. V.XIII.20. P. Oppius, quaestor to M. Aurelius Cotta in Bithynia, was charged by Cotta in a letter to the Senate with misappropriation of supplies for his troops and with an attempt on his life. the speech in which Cicero defended Oppius (69 B.C.) is lost.

40 See opening sections of pro Caelio.

41 Pro Muren. vii.15.

42 Pro Muren. xxix.60.

43 Ch. 17 sqq.

44 I.e. apologise for refusing to accept his original judgement.

45 V.II.1, where, as here, it is indicated that different portions of a case might be tried by two panels of centumviri sitting separately. The centumviral court dealt mainly with cases of inheritance.

46 See V.X.108 note and with reference to pro Clu. xxxvi.98.

47 The lex Iuliaº de maritandis ordinibus (18 B.C.) forbade the marriage of a senator with a prostitute.

48 Now lost.

49 Cicero argued that it was better that a few should suffer unjustly than that the state should be upset by admitting them to office. But he admitted that their case was hard and suggested that it was better for them to live in an orderly state than run the risks in which revolution would involve them as well as others.

50 VI.III.28.

51 E.g. pro Flacco xxvi.

52 In a fragment of pro Scauro.

53 pro Font. viii.

54 See Or. xxiii.76. In this and the next passage Quintilian does not quote, but paraphrases.

55 See Or. xxviii.97.

Page updated: 12 Nov 04