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May & Wisse - On the Ideal Orator

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On Ideal Orator - Cicero
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  CICERO On the  Ideal Orator  (De Or at ore) T ranslated  , with  I ntroduction ,    N otes , A  ppendixes , G lossary , and   I ndexes BY James M. May Jakob Wisse  New York Oxford OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 2001  ON THE IDEAL ORATOR  B ook  1 2-5  Prologue I: Cicero's personal situation and reasons    for writing De oratore Whenever my reflections and reminiscences take me back to times gone by, 1my dear brother Quintus, it always seems to me that the men of that era were tremendously fortunate.1Living in the best days of our State, and pros- pering in the enjoyment of high honors and the glory of their accomplish-ments, they could maintain a course of life that offered them the opportunity for political activity without peril, as well as the possibility for leisure with dignity. There was, in fact, a time when 1 believed that, once an end had come to my ceaseless work in the forum and to my concern with political campaigning, after holding all important public offices and having reached a turning point in my life,2 I too would have almost everyone's approval for entering on a period of welldeserved rest, in which I could redirect my attention to the splendid intellectual pursuits we both love. But these hopes 2 that I cherished in my thoughts and plans have been foiled by the disas-trous events in our community as well as by personal misfortunes of all kinds. Just when the circumstances promised, so it seemed, to be utterly  peaceful and undisturbed, an enormous mass of troubles and incredibly turbulent storms arose. So, for all my hopes and prayers, I have not been granted the benefit of leisure that would allow me to pursue and revive, together with you, the arts to which we have been dedicated from boyhood.For it so happened that in my early years I witnessed the very disruption 3 of traditional order and morals; then during my consulship, I had to con-front a critical conflict of universal proportion; and all my time since that consulship 1 have spent in trying to break the waves that, while prevented 'Cicero looks back nostalgically to times of greater stability in the State, to which he contrasts the turbulent events in his own lifetime. For further details, see Introduc-tion, pp. 69.2Cicero's consulship (in 63  bc )  was the capstone of his political career. See Introduc-tion, pp. 89.57  58 Book 1 by my intervention from wreaking general destruction, have recoiled upon me personally.3 Nevertheless, despite this difficult situation and these constraints upon my time, I will heed the call of our studies and will devote, especially to writing, as much leisure time as I am afforded by the intrigue of my ene4 mies, the cause of my friends, and my duty to the State. You, Quintus, urge me to do this, and I shall not fail you, for no one's authority or wish could carry more weight with me than yours. To this end, it is appropriate for me to recall something that happened long ago. Though the story is not re-membered in every detail, it is, I think, particularly suited to your request, and you will learn from it the ideas of the most eloquent and illustrious men5 about all the principles of oratory. For as you have often told me, you would like me to publish something more polished and mature on this subject, since the sketchy and unsophisticated work that found its way out of my note- books when I was a boy (or rather a youth)4 is hardly worthy of my pres-ent age and of the experience I have acquired from pleading so many momentous cases. Moreover, when our discussions on occasion turn to this topic, you generally disagree with me.51 maintain that eloquence is founded upon the intellectual accomplishments of the most learned; you, on the other hand, believe that it has nothing to do with the refinements of education,  but is, rather, one of the things that depend on natural ability and practice.6 6-20 Prologue II: The difficulty of oratory;    the ideal orator 6 For my part, whenever I reflect upon the greatest and most gifted men, it always seems that the following question requires an answer: why have more  people come forward to distinguish themselves in every other art than in oratory? Turn your thoughts and attention where you will, and you see a great many who excel in each kind of endeavor—not merely in the minor 3Cicero refers, first, to the period of 91 to 79  bc , with the Social War, the bloody civil wars between Marius and Sulla, and the proscriptions under the latter's regime; then to the Catilinarian conspiracy of 63; and finally to the difficult political circumstances after his consulship, marked especially by his exile in 58. This exile was brought about by Cicero's enemies in the aftermath of the conspiracy of 63, partly as a reac-tion to the role he as consul had played in its suppression; see Introduction, pp. 89.4This work is Cicero's On Invention,  written probably ca. 89  bc , when he was about seventeen (see Introduction, p. 7).5 ... on occasion ... generally ..the Latin is differently phrased, but this is clearly the implication.6Although the wellknown triad (see Introduction, p. 27), theory, natural ability, and  practice, stands in the background, Cicero here modifies it, for he replaces rhetorical theory ( art ) with the intellectual accomplishments of the most learned, and con-trasts this with the other two. This modification reflects the central theme of the work.  Prologue59arts, but in those we might call the most important.7 For instance, should 7 anyone choose to evaluate the knowledge of illustrious men in terms of the usefulness or importance of their accomplishments, would he not grant  precedence to the general over the orator? Yet there is no doubt that, even from our State alone, we could produce an almost endless list of absolutely outstanding leaders in war, but could name barely a few who have excelled in oratory. Furthermore, many have emerged who had the ability to guide 8 and steer the State by counsel and thought—many in our own memory, more in our fathers', and even more in our ancestors'—whereas for quite a long time there were no good speakers at all, and entire generations scarcely pro-duced even a tolerable one.But some perhaps think that this art of oratory8 should be compared with other pursuits, namely those involved with abstruse branches of study and with varied and extensive reading, rather than with the qualities of the general or the wisdom of the good senator. If so, let them indeed turn their attention to these kinds of arts and examine who and how many have dis-tinguished themselves in each. In this way, they will quite easily infer how very small the number of orators is and always has been. For instance, as 9 you of course know, the most learned consider philosophy, as the Greeks call it, to be the creator and mother of all the valuable arts, so to speak.9 Yet even here in philosophy it is difficult to reckon how many people there have  been (so notable for their abundant knowledge and for the variety and vast range of their studies!) who have not only worked as specialists in one sin-gle area, but have embraced all that exists in their thorough investigations or their dialectical reasonings. We all know how obscure the subjects han 10 died by the socalled mathematicians are, and how abstruse, complex, and exact is the art with which they deal. Yet even in this area, so many geniuses have emerged that almost no one who has devoted his energies to master-ing it appears to have been unsuccessful. As to the theory of music, and the study of language and literature so popular nowadays (the profession of the socalled grammarians)10—has anyone really dedicated himself to them7In what follows, it appears that the most important arts with which Cicero first compares oratory are those of war and politics. The minor arts are not mentioned again (these are probably the arts of song and swordsmanship, mentioned in 3.8687, and others like these). Instead, oratory is also compared, in 1.811, with the eso-teric arts of philosophy, mathematics, music, and grammar.8The Latin phrase translated here as this art of oratory (hanc dicendi rationem)  means more properly something like practical oratory based on the understanding of its  principles ; art in the sense of theory is certainly not meant.9This was at least Posidonius' view (cf. Seneca,  Epistle  90); but see also Cicero's own remarks in 1.186190 on the role of dialectic in the development of an art.1(1The (originally Greek) term grammaticus  was used to describe scientific gram-marians as well as elementary teachers of literature. The treatment of poetry was cen-tral to the activity of both groups.
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