the year A. D. 170. He wrote a history of Greece, in which he did not confine himself to military and political history; but entered into details with regard to the geography and antiquities of each state of Greece respectively. This history was comprised in ten books, and is still extant. It is regarded as a valuable addition to the history of the times of which he speaks, and the countries he describes.*


Literature of the Romans. Roman orators and miscellaneous writers:

Hortensius, Cicero, Quintillian, Pliny the elder, Pliny the younger,
Lucian, Plutarch.

[ocr errors]

As we remarked in a former chapter, the Greeks were early distinguished for their cultivation of the art of oratory, and for their displays of eloquence, bold, nervous and animated. The peculiar form of their government, particularly that of Athens, favored the improvement of this art, and as all laws, and every thing relating to public matters, were generally discussed in the assemblies of the people, where all had a voice, it became necessary that instructions in oratory should form a part of their system of education. Their orators had an unbounded influence, directing and controlling every public measure; indeed, no measure of importance was decided without them. We find, therefore, that schools were early established for the express purpose of teaching the rules necessary to form an accomplished orator. Throughout all Greece, (with the exception of Lacedemon, where “much speaking” was condemned,) the talent of speaking in public with grace and eloquence, was the most important, next to military talents, a citizen could possess, and was certain to lead him to distinction.

Oratory, as an art, was not cultivated in Rome at so early a period as in Greece; she had, however, her public speakers in the early ages of the republic, and in later times some of her

* Cæsar's Com.; Baker's Livy.; Adams' Rom. Ant.; Kennet's Rom. Ant.; Plutarch's Lives; Murphy's Tac.; Ferguson's Rome; Priestley's Lec.; Enf. Hist. of Phil.; Cours de Lit. par Laharpe, &c.

orators attained to a proud distinction, rivaling, if not surpassing the most celebrated among the Grecians. The relation of patron and client, which existed between the Patricians and Plebeians, afforded opportunities for the former to appear as advocates in the defence of the latter, and thus not only to cement more closely the union which existed, but also to make themselves known to the people in general, and strengthen their popularity. The places where these displays of forensic eloquence were exhibited, were generally the forum, before the tribunal of the prætor, the centumviri and other magistrates, and in the presence of the assembled people. These displays, however, were more the result of momentary excitement, than of studied preparation. In them they were confined by no rules; they were ignorant of the division of the oration into the exordium, the narration or explanation, and the peroration; and it was not until the Greek rhetoricians opened their schools, that they laid aside their natural and unstudied effusions, for the studied regularity and artificial manner of the schools.

The establishment of schools of rhetoric, soon gave a new impulse to oratory, and its rules became subjects of careful study and attention. As these establishments acquired celebrity, the most distinguished of the Roman youth entered themselves as disciples. Among the rest we find Tiberius and Caius Gracchus, who were distinguished as belonging to the family of the Scipios, and for their popular eloquence and seditious practices--practices which, notwithstanding their uncommon popularity with the people, conducted them to an untimely and violent end. Instead of dying gloriously on the field of battle, in a manner worthy of their great ancestors, they fell by the hand of the assassin. To bring to view the various persons who, after this period, distinguished themselves as orators, we should be led greatly beyond our limits; we shall, therefore, content ourselves with a brief notice of Hortensius and Cicero, two of those who were most celebrated, when oratory had attained its highest point of excel lence in Rome.

Hortensius was born 113 years before Christ, and died at the age of sixty-three years. After having studied in the schools of rhetoric, he made his first appearance as a public speaker in the Roman forum, at the age of nineteen, and even at that early age acquired much fame. When Cicero entered on the arena of

Forensic oratory, Hortensius was in the beight of his fame, and no ene had been daring enough to enter the lists as his competitor. Cicero, notwithstanding their rivalship, with that generosity that belongs to great minds, speaks of him as an orator in high terms, and says that he sustained his reputation to the end. Quintillian disssents from this opinion of Cicero, and considers his commendations as undeserved; it should, however, be borne in mind, when weighing these opposite opinions, that Cicero was the contemporary of Hortensius, and Quintillian flourished near a century after. We think, therefore, that more confidence ought to be placed upon the judgment of one who was contemporary, and had not only daily opportunities of witnessing his powers, but who had also felt their force. The manner of Hortensius, in his delivery, was censured by some as being better suited to the theatre than the tribunals of justice, and hence he received the appellation of Dionysia, after a celebrated dancer of the time. None of his orations are extant.

Marcus Tullius Cicero was born at Arpinum, a town of the Volsci, celebrated also as the birthplace of Marius. During his childhood he is said to have given strong testimony of superior talents, and anticipations of future promise. He studied philosophy and rhetoric under Philo of Laressa, a platonic philosopher, held in high esteem by the Romans. In his eighteenth year he commenced the study of law, under Mucius Scævola, distinguished for his skill and knowledge in the civil law. He made his first appearance as a public speaker, at twenty-six years of age, in defence of Roscius, against the accusation of Scylla. Soon after, under the plea of ill health, but really through fear of Scylla, he left Rome and visited Athens, where he attended the several schools of philosophy. Leaving Athens, he visited Asia, where he availed himself of the instructions of Xenocles of Adramythum, a celebrated rhetorician, and at Rhodes studied under Apollonius, another rhetorician of distinction, who subsequently opened a school at Rome. Whilst under the instructions of Apollonius, it is related of Cicero, that his master not understanding the Latin language, desired him to declaim in Greek, which he done with so much effect, that Apollonius exclaimed, “As for you, Cicero, I praise and admire you; but I am concerned for the fate of Greece. She had nothing left her but the glory of her eloquence and erudition, and you

are carrying that too to Rome.”* On his return to Rome, he applied himself with remarkable diligence to the study of oratory, and soon removed the prejudice that had been excited against him, that he was better fitted for the grave pursuits of philosophy, than the active duties of life. In the year of the city 691, he was chosen consul, and obtained immortal honor by his bold and successful opposition to the conspiracy of the dissolute and desperate Cataline, on which occasion the glorious title of “Father of his country” was conferred upon him, by the almost unanimous consent of the nation.

No one, except Demosthenes, has ever attained the high character of Cicero, as an accomplished orator. These two brilliant lights of ancient eloquence, are still held forth as beacons to guide the youthful candidates to the wished-for goal. The eloquence of Demosthenes was of a character different from that of Cicero. The orations of the former were delivered in the assemblies of the people; those of the latter in the senate house, in the presence of the conscript fathers, or in the forum, before the tribunals of justice. The eloquence of Demosthenes was directed to rouse and influence the passions of a whole people, on subjects in which the interests of a whole people were concerned, and in which all had a voice; that of Cicero was employed to convince the judgment of a limited number of individuals, who were not as likely to be swayed by appeals to the feelings, as a mixed multitude; therefore, the eloquence of Demosthenes was more declamatory and impassioned; that of Cicero more sober and discreet.

The fame of Cicero, as an orator, appears to be established on such solid foundation, that it will endure until

The great globe itself
And all which it inherits shall dissolve.

His orations are all composed with much art, and according to rhetorical rules. In his exordiums he carefully attends to all the requisites for gaining the attention of his audience, and in his narrations his arguments are all arranged in such a masterly manner, that they could scarcely fail of producing the desired result. The powerful effect of his eloquence in no instance ap

* Plut. Life of Cicero

pears to us to have been more apparent, than in his orations against Cataline, when, although his situation was critical and required much circumspection and discretion, he seems to have laid aside the natural timidity of his character, and attacked the desperate conspirator with such boldness, that he was exposed to the daggers of two hired assassins of Cataline. This great man was involved in the proscription under the triumvirate, and was sacrificed to the vengeance of Anthony.

In addition to his "Orations,” he wrote a treatise “On the nature of the Gods;" the “Tusculan questions;” Dialogues on old age;" on "Moral offices;" "On laws," and several other works on "Rhetoric and oratory.”

After the subversion of the republic, and the establishment of imperial rule, and particularly during the inglorious reigns of the tyrannical and blood-thirsty successors of Augustus, the schools of rhetoric declined, and oratory was confined to simple pleadings at the bar. Contemplating the fallen and degraded state of his favorite art, Quintillian attempted to revive its faded glory and restore it to its former splendor. Quintillian was a native of Spain; he was born in the reign of Claudius, and probably first visited the capital of the Roman empire in the reign of Nero. Talents like his, could not long remain concealed, and he soon acquired considerable reputation at the bar, and subsequently attained the honors of the consulship. To rescue the art of rhetoric from the degradation into which it had fallen in consequence of the despotic and arbitrary nature of the government, in the reign of Vespasian, Quintillian opened a school, in which rhetoric was taught according to certain rules, and, in addition to the tuition fees received from his pupils, he obtained a stated salary from the public treasury, the first ever granted to a public teacher; this circumstance serves to show in what estimation his learning and talents were held by the ruler of the empire. To this useful and honorable, though laborious, employment, he devoted twenty years, and, under his instructions we find many became distinguished public speakers; amongst others, the historian Tacitus and the younger Pliny. He retired from public life in the reign of Domitian; his leisure was still employed in literary studies, and in preparing, for the benefit of posterity, a treatise on the causes of the corruption of eloquence, and that celebrated system of rhetoric, which is still studied in

« ForrigeFortsett »