Latin vs. Philology: Part IV

Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 4)

“Nor was there that much need of literature in pure and undiluted Latinity, since plebiscites and decrees of the senate and laws and the responses of legal experts and the praetorian exceptions and all of the laws, institutes, pacts, and agreements of the city were written in Latin, not grammatically.

Should we suppose that orators in the senate or the forum or among the people used any language other than Latin (that is, their daily and common language), when a speech was to be composed (and Quintilian is the witness here) for the judgment of others, and when one needed to speak among those who were altogether uneducated and certainly did not at any rate know literature?

Even Cicero himself teaches that the greatest fault in speaking is to break from the common mode of speech and the custom of agreed sense.

Livy, a man of singular eloquence, sometimes neglected this maxim, and Asinius Pollio did not hesitate to joke that there was a certain Patavinity in his speech.

A speech, as Cicero said, should be accommodated to the ears of the multitude.”

Gaius Asinius Pollio consul 40 BC

Nec erat admodum opus litteratura in mera ac pura latinitate, cum et plebiscita et senatusconsulta et decreta et leges ac iurisconsultorum responsa et praetoriae exceptiones, et omnia civitatis iura, instituta, pacta conventaque latine, non grammatice, scriberentur.

Num putemus oratores vel in senatu, vel in foro, vel apud populum alia usos oratione quam latina, hoc est quottidiana vulgarique, cum esset componenda oratio, vel Quintiliano teste, ad aliorum iudicia, saepiusque apud eos loquendum, qui imperiti omnino forent atque alias certe litteras ignorarent?

Quin ipse etiam Cicero praecipit in dicendo vitium vel maximum esse a vulgari genere orationis atque a consuetudine communis sensus abhorrere.

Quod eum T. Livius, singulari facundia vir, aliquando neglexerit, non dubitavit Pollio Asinius cavillari patavinitatem quandam in eius inesse oratione.

Est enim ipsa oratio, ut ait idem Cicero, auribus multitudinis accomodanda.

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