However, the fact is, (to be brief in explaining my real opinion,) to speak in a well-arranged and suitable manner without good ideas is to act like a madman. But to speak in a sententious manner, without any order or method in one’s language, is to behave like a child: but still it is childishness of that sort, that those who employ it cannot be considered stupid men, and indeed may often be accounted wise men. And if a man is contented with that sort of character, why let him speak in that way. But the eloquent man, who, if his subject will allow it, ought to excite not only approbation, but admiration and loud applause, ought to excel in everything to such a degree, that he should think it discreditable that anything should be beheld or listened to more gladly than his speech.
You have here, O Brutus, my opinion respecting an orator. If you approve of it, follow it; or else adhere to your own, if you have formed any settled opinion on the subject. And I shall not be offended with you, nor will I affirm that this opinion of mine which I have asserted so positively in this book is more correct than yours; for it is possible not only that my opinion should be different from yours, but even that my own may be different at different times. And not only in this matter, which has reference to gaining the assent of the common people and to the pleasure of the ears, which are two of the most unimportant points as far as judgment is concerned; but even in the most important affairs, I have never found anything firmer to take hold of, or to guide my judgment by, than the extremity of probability as it appeared to me, when actual truth was hidden or obscure.
But I wish that you, if you do not approve entirely of the things which I have urged in this treatise, would believe either that I proposed to myself a work of too great difficulty for me to accomplish properly, or else that, while wishing to comply with your request, I undertook the impudent task of writing this, from being ashamed to refuse you.
DEDICATED TO CAIUS TREBATIUS.
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This treatise was written a short time before the events which gave rise to the first Philippic. Cicero obtained an honorary lieutenancy, with the intention of visiting his son at Athens; on his way towards Rhegium he spent an evening at Velia with Trebatius, where he began this treatise, which he finished at sea, before he arrived in Greece. It is little more than an abstract of what had been written by Aristotle on the same subject, and which Trebatius had begged him to explain to him; and Middleton says, that as he had not Aristotle’s essay with him, he drew this up from memory, and he appears to have finished it in a week, as it was the nineteenth of July that he was at Velia, and he sent this work to Trebatius from Rhegium on the twenty-seventh. He himself apologizes to Trebatius in the letter which accompanied it, (Ep. Fam. vii. 19,) for its obscurity, which however, he says, was unavoidably caused by the nature of the subject.