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MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO (106-43 B. C.)

)

ROME'S NOBLEST ORATOR

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EXT in fame to Demosthenes among ancient orators stands

Cicero, one of Rome's noblest and ablest sons. While excel

ling in several branches of literature, in oratory he was supreme, and few men of the past come to us with broader fame and hands freer from guile than this eloquent citizen of the "eternal city.” Cicero was born in times of trouble and turmoil. The foundations of the old republic were breaking up; the leaders of the army were becoming the autocrats of the State ; the freedom of the people was near its end and the Empire was at hand. There were two events of the time which especially aroused the indignation of the great orator. One of these was the cruelty and outrages of the infamous Caius Verres, prosecuted by the Sicilians for atrocious acts of inhumanity and rapine while, governor of their island. Cicero conducted the prosecution and arraigned V'erres in such overwhelming terms that the culprit fled into exile. The orations against Verres were seven in number. Later, while one of the Roman consuls, he detected and exposed the treasonable designs of Catiline, a political leader, who had conspired to seize the chief power in the State by burning the city and massacring his opponents. His designs were foiled by Cicero, who assailed him in a splendid burst of indignant eloquence, so arousing the Senate against him that Catiline fled in dismay from the city. Other orations of equal eloquence followed, and the whole scheme of treason and outrage fell through.

These are the most famous of Cicero's numerous orations, the effect of which was such as to give him unbounded influence in the city. His final outburst of oratory was against the ambitious designs of Mark Antony. There were fourteen of these orations in all, the

MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO

421

first of them one of his masterpieces. His words swayed Rome, but his enemies held the sword, and Antony rid himself of his assailant by having him murdered.

In oratory Cicero combined the powers of the celebrated orators of Athens, uniting the force of Demosthenes with the eloquence of Isocrates. Their classic reticence, however, was replaced by him with a florid exuberance of style which sometimes offends against good taste; but it is atoned for by his melody of language, brilliancy of expression and thorough familiarity with human nature. These give his speeches a charm which still persists, despite the passage of the centuries.

THE TREASON OF CATILINE [Cicero, as is above said, saved Rome from ruin by denouncing Catiline in the Senate with such bitterness as to drive him in dismay from the city. He roused the people against the army which the traitor had collected without by equally eloquent denunciations. We append two extracts from these masterpices of the oratory of indignation.]

How far, O Catiline, wilt thou abuse our patience? How long shalt thou baffle justice in thy mad career ? To what extreme wilt thou carry thy audacity? Art thou nothing daunted by the nightly watch, posted to secure the Palatium ? Nothing, by the city guards ? Nothing, by the rally of all good citizens ? Nothing, by the assembling of the Senate in this fortified place? Nothing, by the averted looks of all here present ? Seest thou not that all thy plots are exposed ?—that thy wretched conspiracy is laid bare to every man's knowledge, here in the Senate ?—that we are well aware of thy proceedings of last night; of the night before ; —the place of meeting, the company convoked, the measures concerted ?

Alas, the times! Alas, the public morals! The Senate understands all this. The Consul sees it. Yet the traitor lives! Lives ? Ay, truly, and confronts us here in council ; takes part in our deliberations; and, with his measuring eye, marks out each man of us for slaughter? And we, all this while, strenuous that we are, think we have amply discharged our duty to the State, if we but shun this madman's sword and fury !

Long since, O Catiline, ought the Consul to have ordered thee to execution, and brought upon thy own head the ruin thou hast been meditating against others. There was that virtue once in Rome, that a wicked citizen was held more execrable than the deadliest foe. We have a law still, Catiline, for thee. Think not that we are powerless, because forbearing. We have a decree,--though it rests among our archives like a sword in its scabbard,-a decree, by which thy life would be made to

BOOK II.

Pulpit Orators of Mediæval Europe

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T is a long journey through time from the period

of the decadence of classic oratory to the revolu

tionary era at the close of the eighteenth century, in which the Demosthenes and Cicero of the far past first found their rivals upon the stage of modern eloquence. In this lapse of nearly eighteen centuries, though the art of oratory survived, its field of exercise was greatly narrowed. In Europe, the home of such civilization as existed, free speech in political affairs was almost a thing unknown. The hand of the autocrat lay heavily upon the neck of the nations, and secular thought was cabined, cribbed, confined.” Only in England, in those periods when the people rose in revolt against the tyranny of their kings, was there any freedom of speech in parliamentary halls. During the extended era in question oratory, as a rule, was restricted to the clergy, to whom the broad domain of morals and religion lay freely open, and to whose care was left such education and philosophy as existed. It is, therefore, in the Church that we must seek the leading orators of mediaeval times. During most of the age in question, learning and thought drifted very largely into the cloister and monastery, while the ignorance and immorality of the people called for strenuous efforts on the part of the keepers of the public conscience, and the leaders in thought and education. All this gave rise to an abundance of ecclesiastical oratory, of which a considerable sum is still in evidence, while secular oratory during the period in question is almost unknown.

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