history, oratory

Cicero’s ‘Brutus.’ The history of oratory.

1a. M. Junius Brutus (85-42 BCE). In 54 BCE Brutus minted a coin depicting two of his ancestors: L. Junius Brutus, who expelled the kings from Rome, and Servilius Ahala, who killed Spurius Maelius in 439 BCE with dagger hidden under an armpit. RRC 433/2. Images: http://numismatics.org/collection/1944.100.3244

+ Kathryn Tempest’s (@KathrynTempest) Brutus: The Noble Conspirator (2017) = highly recommended! for a stimulating reevaluation of Caesar’s assassin.

1b. On the idea that Cicero’s Brutus (46 BCE) provoked Brutus to kill Caesar (44 BCE)…:

2a. Cicero, Brutus (16). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

I am prepared to make payment of goodwill in full measure, but the debt itself I do not now seem able to pay and for this I ask your forbearance. I cannot undertake to repay you out of the new crop, as farmers do, for all new growth has been checked within me, and drought has burned and withered all that flowering which once promised abundance. Nor can I repay you from the garnered grain of my storehouse; it lies there in darkness and I who alone have the key find every approach to it cut off. I must therefore sow something in soil uncultivated and abandoned, and by careful cultivation make it possible to increase with interest the generosity of your gift; that is if my mind can respond as well as a field, which after lying fallow for many years generally yields a richer harvest.

2b. Sarah Culpepper Stroup, “Brutus: the dialogic personification of the Republican voice,” Catullus, Cicero, and a Society of Patrons (2010), p255:

‘In his stylization of Rome’s oratorical masters as the “ancestors” of Republican Eloquentia, Cicero transforms the abstracted silence of the Republican voice into a personal family tragedy — a tragedy for which he, as the eldest surviving son of the oratorical family, will deliver the eulogy.’

3. Cicero, Brutus (57-59). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

But the first Roman concerning whom there is extant record of his eloquence, and evidence of his recognition for it, is Marcus Cornelius Cethegus [cos. 204 BCE]. The authority for this statement, and an adequate one I fancy, is Quintus Ennius, especially since he had heard him speak and writes of him after his death, so that no suspicion of distortion because of friendship can arise. The passage of Ennius, if I recall aright, is found in the ninth book of the Annals and runs as follows:

To his colleague Tuditanus was added the orator
Marcus Cornelius Cethegus, of the sweet-speaking tongue, son of Marcus.

He calls him orator and adds the attribute of sweetness of speech, a thing you do not find nowadays in most of them—more barking in some than speaking; but what follows is certainly the greatest title to praise in eloquence:

He used to be called by his fellows of that time,
The men who then lived and passed their restless days,
The choice flower of the people—

and well said indeed; for as reason is the glory of man, so the lamp of reason is eloquence, for preeminence in which the men of that time did well to call such a man the flower of the people,

the marrow of Persuasion.

Πειθώ the Greek term, which it is the business of the orator to effect, Ennius calls Persuasion [Suada], the very marrow of which Cethegus was, he claims; so that of that goddess, which according to Eupolis [5th c. BCE playwright, Old Comedy] ever sat on the lips of Pericles, our orator was, he said, the very marrow.

4a. Cicero, Brutus (81-82). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

As for Quintus Metellus [cos. 143 BCE], whose four sons attained to consular rank, you are of course aware that he was esteemed one of the most eloquent men of his time. He spoke in behalf of Lucius Cotta against the indictment of him brought by Africanus. This and other of his orations are extant besides the one against Tiberius Gracchus, which is set forth in the Annals of Gaius Fannius. Lucius Cotta himself was esteemed a practised speaker, but of routine type. Gaius Laelius and Publius Africanus [cos. 147 BCE] however were in the first rank of orators; their speeches are extant, from which one may judge of their oratorical genius. But among all of these, preceding them a little in point of time, Servius Galba [cos. 144 BCE] stood out beyond question as pre-eminent in eloquence. And in fact of Latin orators he was the first to employ those resources which are the proper and legitimate functions of the orator—to digress from the business in hand for embellishment, to delight his listeners, to move them, to amplify his theme, to use pathos and general topics. But for whatever cause, though his pre-eminence in eloquence is well attested, his orations are more meagre and savour more of antiquity than those of Laelius or Scipio, or even of Cato himself. Their colours have become so much faded that they are scarcely still visible.

4b. Cicero, Brutus (93-94). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

They are satisfied with the renown they have, and judge that it will appear greater if their writings do not come into the hands of critics. Still others do not write because they are aware that they speak better than they write—the case frequently with men of unusual talent but insufficient training, like Galba. In his case it would seem that when he spoke, in addition to vigorous intellectual grasp, he was fired by a kind of innate emotion, which produced a style of speaking earnest, passionate, and vehement; then when he took up his pen at leisure and all that storm of emotion had subsided, his language lost its vigour. That would not happen naturally to those who follow a more concise style of speaking, because reason and judgement need not desert the orator at any time, and relying upon them he may write in the same manner as he speaks; but powerful emotion is not always present, and when it has subsided, all that force and fire of oratory goes out. This then is the reason why the mind of Laelius still breathes in his writings, the force of Galba has vanished.

5. Cicero, Brutus (62). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

Of these some are, to be sure, extant, which the families of the deceased have preserved as trophies of honour and for use on the death of a member of the same family, whether to recall the memory of past glories of their house, or to support their own claims to noble origins. Yet by these laudatory speeches our history has become quite distorted; for much is set down in them which never occurred, false triumphs, too large a number of consulships, false relationships and transitions of patricians to plebeian status, in that men of humbler birth professed that their blood blended with a noble family of the same name, though in fact quite alien to them; as if I, for example, should say that I was descended from Manius Tullius the patrician, who was consul with Servius Sulpicius ten years after the expulsion of the kings.

6. Catherine Steel, “Cicero’s Brutus: the end of oratory and the beginning of history?” BICS (2002), p203:

‘In general, then, Cicero seeks to eliminate content from his discussion, or at least the content of deliberative speeches, and to explain success in terms of technical skill. A similar avoidance of content can be seen in the discussion of specific popularis orators. Of the Gracchi, Tiberius is dealt with in 103-4, and Gaius in 125-126, and Cicero makes no secret of his admiration for the talent of both: his praise is strikingly warm. Tiberius had the potential to outstrip, along with his ally Carbo, all others in gloria, and Gaius is ‘a man who combined an outstanding intellect with passionate enthusiasm and a learned education which began in his childhood’ [Brut. 125]. But, at the same time, the uses to which they put their oratorical talents are condemned. In Tiberius, there is a negative link between talent and activity, implied through a wish for better things: ‘Would that the dispositions of Gaius Carbo and Tiberius Gracchus had been as inclined to do the state good as their intellects were inclined to good speaking . . .’ [Brut. 103]And in Gaius’ case too Cicero indicates his actual unsatisfactoriness through a wish: ‘Would that he had wanted to demonstrate his piety towards his country instead of to his brother!’ [Brut. 126] Yet there is no real discussion of the actions which Tiberius and Gaius took.’

7. Cicero, Brutus (8-9). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

Thus, amidst other things far more deplorable, it was to me a peculiar sorrow, that after a career of conspicuous achievements, at an age when it was my right to take refuge in a harbour, not of indolence and sloth, but of honourable and well-ordered ease, when my oratory too had attained a certain ripeness and maturity of age,—it was, I say, a peculiar sorrow that at that moment resort was had to arms, which those who had learned to use them gloriously did not find a way to use them beneficently. Those men therefore appear to me to have lived fortunate and happy lives, in other states and especially in our own, whom fate permitted to enjoy to the end the authority acquired by the renown of their deeds, and the esteem earned by their wisdom.

8. Cicero, Brutus (45-46). Translated by G. L. Hendrickson (1939):

This age therefore first produced at Athens an orator all but perfect. For the ambition to speak well does not arise when men are engaged in establishing government, nor occupied with the conduct of war, nor shackled and chained by the authority of kings. Upon peace and tranquillity eloquence attends as their ally, it is, one may say, the offspring of well-established civic order.a Thus Aristotle says that in Sicily, after the expulsion of tyrants, when after a long interval restitution of private property was sought by legal means, Corax and Tisias the Sicilians, with the acuteness and controversial habit of their people, first put together some theoretical precepts; that before them, while many had taken pains to speak with care and with orderly arrangement, no one had followed a definite method or art.