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A Dialogue Concerning Oratory, Or The Causes Of Co

1. Messala describes the presumption of the young advocates on their first appearance at the bar; their want of legal knowledge, and the absurd habits which they contracted in the schools of the rhetoricians.

2. Eloquence totally ruined by the preceptors. Messala concludes with desiring Secundus and Maternus to assign the reasons which have occurred to them.

4. Secundus gives his opinion. The change of government produced a new mode of eloquence. The orators under the emperors endeavoured to be ingenious rather than natural. Seneca the first who introduced a false taste, which still prevailed in the reign of Vespasian.

8. Licinius Largus taught the advocates of his time the disgraceful art of hiring applauders by profession. This was the bane of all true oratory, and, for that reason, Maternus was right in renouncing the forum altogether.

10. Maternus acknowledges that he was disgusted by the shameful practices that prevailed at the bar, and therefore resolved to devote the rest of his time to poetry and the muses.

11. An apology for the rhetoricians. The praise of Quintilian. True eloquence died with Cicero.

13. The loss of liberty was the ruin of genuine oratory. Demosthenes flourished under a free government. The original goes on from this place to the end of the dialogue.

XXXVI. Eloquence flourishes most in times of public tumult. The crimes of turbulent citizens supply the orator with his best materials.

XXXVII. In the time of the republic, oratorical talents were necessary qualifications, and without them no man was deemed worthy of being advanced to the magistracy.

XXXVIII. The Roman orators were not confined in point of time; they might extend their speeches to what length they thought proper, and could even adjourn. Pompey abridged the liberty of speech, and limited the time.

XXXIX. The very dress of the advocates under the emperors was prejudicial to eloquence.

XL. True eloquence springs from the vices of men, and never was known to exist under a calm and settled government.

XLI. Eloquence changes with the times. Every age has its own peculiar advantages, and invidious comparisons are unnecessary.

XLII. Conclusion of the dialogue.

The time of this dialogue was the sixth of Vespasian's reign.

Year of Rome--Of Christ Consuls.

828 75 Vespasian, 6th time; Titus his son, 4th time.


I. You have often enquired of me, my good friend, Justus Fabius [a], how and from what causes it has proceeded, that while ancient times display a race of great and splendid orators, the present age, dispirited, and without any claim to the praise of eloquence, has scarcely retained the name of an orator. By that appellation we now distinguish none but those who flourished in a former period. To the eminent of the present day, we give the title of speakers, pleaders, advocates, patrons, in short, every thing but orators.

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