Greek vs.Roman Speech

Plutarch, Life of Cato the Elder (12)

“He spent much of his time in Athens, and a certain speech of his is said to have been brought out, which he addressed to the city in Greek, being an eager fan of the virtue of the ancient Athenians, and having happily become an admirer of the city because of its beauty and greatness. This is not true; rather, he spoke through through an interpreter though he himself was able to address them in Greek, prefering to stick to his old ways and laughing at those who felt such wonder for Greek culture. He mocked Postumius Albinus for writing a history in Greek and asking for pardon on that account. Cato said that pardon should have been given to him if Albinus had persisted in the work under compulsion from the vote of the Amphictyonic Assembly. He said that the Athenians admired the speed and sharpness of his speech. Those things which he said with considerable brevity were rendered by the translator at length through many words. On the whole, he thought that the words of the Greeks came from their lips, but those of the Romans came from their hearts.”

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πλεῖστον δὲ χρόνον ἐν ᾿Αθήναις διέτριψε, καὶ λέγεται μέν τις αὐτοῦ φέρεσθαι λόγος ὃν ῾Ελληνιστὶ πρὸς τὸν δῆμον εἶπεν, ὡς ζηλῶν τε τὴν ἀρετὴν τῶν παλαιῶν ᾿Αθηναίων, τῆς τε πόλεως διὰ τὸ κάλλος καὶ τὸ μέγεθος ἡδέως γεγονὼς θεατής· τοῦτο δ’ οὐκ ἀληθές ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ δι’ ἑρμηνέως ἐνέτυχε τοῖς ᾿Αθηναίοις, δυνηθεὶς ἂν αὐτὸς εἰπεῖν, ἐμμένων δὲ τοῖς πατρίοις καὶ καταγελῶν τῶν τὰ ῾Ελληνικὰ τεθαυμακότων. Ποστούμιον γοῦν ᾿Αλβῖνον ἱστορίαν ῾Ελληνιστὶ γράψαντα καὶ συγγνώμην αἰτούμενον ἐπέσκωψεν, εἰπὼν δοτέον εἶναι τὴν συγγνώμην, εἰ τῶν ᾿Αμφικτυόνων ψηφισαμένων ἀναγκασθεὶς ὑπέμεινε τὸ ἔργον. θαυμάσαι δέ φησι τοὺς ᾿Αθηναίους τὸ τάχος αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν ὀξύτητα τῆς φράσεως· ἃ γὰρ αὐτὸς ἐξέφερε βραχέως, τὸν ἑρμηνέα μακρῶς καὶ διὰ πολλῶν ἀπαγγέλλειν· τὸ δ’ ὅλον οἴεσθαι τὰ ῥήματα τοῖς μὲν ῞Ελλησιν ἀπὸ χειλῶν, τοῖς δὲ ῾Ρωμαίοις ἀπὸ καρδίας φέρεσθαι.

4 responses

    • Actually, that line was cited in a book (in English translation), and it was solely on that basis that I looked up the passage!

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