The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

844

ORATOR.

public and private, the knowledge of which, though neglected by most orators, seems to me to be neces­sary for the purposes of oratory.11 In his treatise on the Orator, and particularly in the first book, Cicero has given his opinion of the duties of an orator and his requisite qualifications, in the form of a dialogue, in which Lucius Licinius Crassus and M. Antonius are the chief speakers. Crassus was himself a model of the highest excellence in ora­tory : and the opinions attributed to him as to the qualifications of an orator were those of Cicero him­self, who in the introductory part of the first book (c. 6) declares that " in his opinion no man can deserve the title of a perfect orator, unless he has acquired a knowledge of all important things and of all arts : for it is out of knowledge that oratory must blossom and expand, and if it is not founded on matter which the orator has fully mastered and understood, it is idle talk, and may almost be called puerile." According to Crassus the province of the Orator embraces everything: he must be enabled to speak well on all subjects. Conse­quently he must have a knowledge of the Jus Civile (i. 44, &c.), the necessity for which Crassus illustrates by instances ; and he should not only know the Jus Civile, as being necessary when he has to speak in causes relating to private matters and to privata Judicia, but he should also have a knowledge of the Jus Publicum which is conver­sant about a State as such, and he should be fami­liar with the events of history and instances de­rived from the experience of the past. Antonius (i. 49) limits the qualifications of the orator to the command of language pleasant to the ear and of arguments adapted to convince in causes in the forum and on ordinary occasions. He further re­quires the orator to have competent voice and action and sufficient grace and ease. Antonius (i. 58) contends that an orator does not require a knowledge of the Jus Civile, and he instances the case of himself, for Crassus allowed that Antonius could satisfactorily conduct a cause, though Anto­nius, according to his own admission, had never learned the Jus Civile, and had never felt the want of it in such causes as he had defended (injure).

The profession then of the orator, who with re­ference to his undertaking a client's case is also called patronus (de Or. i. 56, Brut. 38) was quite distinct from that of the Jurisconsultus [JuRiscoNSULTiJ, and also from that of the Advocatus, at least in the time of Cicero (ii. 74), and even later (de Orat. Dial. 34). An orator, who possessed a competent knowledge of the Jus Civile, would however have an advantage in it, as Antonius admits (i.59) ; but as there were many essentials to an orator, which were of difficult at­tainment, he says that it would be unwise to dis­tract him with other things. Some requisites of oratory, such as voice and gesture, could only be acquired by discipline ; whereas a competent know­ledge of the law of a case (juris utilitas} could be got at any time from the jurisconsulti (periti} or from books. Antonius thinks that the Roman orators in this matter acted more wisely than the Greek orators, who being ignorant of law had the assistance of low fellows, who worked for hire, and were called Pragmatic! (i. 45): the Roman orators entrusted the maintenance of the law to the high character of their professed Jurists.

So far as the profession of an advocate consists in the skilful conduct of a cause, and in the sup-

ORATOR.

porting of his own side of the question by proper argument, it must be admitted with Autonms that a very moderate knowledge of law is sufficient; and indeed even a purely legal argument requires not so much the accumulation of a vast store of legal know­ledge as the power of handling the matter when it has been collected. The method in which this con­summate master of his art managed a cause is stated by himself (de Or. ii. 72); and Cicero in another passage (Brutus, 37) has recorded his merits as an orator. Servius Sulpicius, who was the greatest lawyer of his age, had a good practical knowledge of the law, but others had this also, and it was something else which distinguished Sulpicius from all his contemporaries—" Many others as well a3 Sulpicius had a great knowledge of the law ; he alone possessed it as an art. But the knowledge of law by itself would never have helped him to this without the possession of that art which teaches us to divide the whole of a thing into its parts, by exact definition to develope what is im­perfectly seen, by explanation to clear up what is .obscure ; first of all to see ambiguities, then to dis­entangle them, lastly to have a rule by which truth and falsehood are distinguished, and by which it shall appear what consequences follow from pre­mises and what do not." (Brut. 41.) With such a power Sulpicius combined a knowledge of letters and a pleasing style of speaking. As a forensic orator then he must have been one of the first that ever lived ; but still among the Romans his re­putation was that of a jurist, while Antonius, who had no knowledge of the law, is put on a level as an orator (paironus) with L. Crassus, who of all the eloquent men of Rome had the best acquaintance with the law.

Oratory was a serious study among the Romans. Cicero tells us by what painful labour he attained to excellence. (Brut. 91, &c.) Roman oratory reached its perfection in the century which pre­ceded the Christian aera. Its decline dates from the establishment of the Imperial power under Augustus and his successors ; for though there were many good speakers, and more skilful rhetoricians under the empire, the oratory of the republic was rendered by circumstances unsuitable for the senate, for the popular assemblies, or for cases of crimes and high misdemeanours.

In the Dialogue De Oratoribus, which is attri­buted to Tacitus, Messala, one of the speakers, attempts (c. 28, &c.) to assign the reasons for the low state of oratory in the time of Vespasian, when the Dialogue was written, compared with its con­dition in the age of Cicero and of Cicero's prede­cessors. He attributes its decline to the neglect of the discipline under which children were formerly brought up, and to the practice of resorting to rhetoricians (rhetores) who professed to teach the oratorical art. This gives occasion to speak more at length of the early discipline of the old orators and of Cicero's course of study as described in the Brutus. The old orators (c. 34) learned their art by constant attendance on some eminent orator and by actual experience of business: the orators of Messala's time were formed in the schools of Rhetoric, and their powers were developed in exer­cises on fictitious matters. These however, it is obvious, were only secondary causes. The imme­diate causes of the decline of eloquence appear to be indicated by Maternus, another speaker in the Dialogue, who attributes the former flourishing

Pages
About | First | English Index | Classified Index | Latin Index | Greek Index

843

844

845
letter/word  
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.